The Best Scenic Drives on Oʻahu
Hit the road to see the incredible panoramic views of Oʻahu, all from your car window. We’ve included some notable stops along the way, but you can easily enjoy each of these picturesque drives all on their own without getting out of your car. Here are the best scenic drives on Oʻahu.
Due to COVID-19, landmarks mentioned may not be open. We recommend checking City and County of Honolulu and State of Hawaiʻi mandates, and facility websites for operating hours, updates, and social distancing measures before heading out on your road trip.
The curvy stretch of Kalanianaʻole Highway along the southeastern shore from Waikiki to Waimanalo Beach passes several points of interest that will get you on your feet. Traveling east from Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel, you’ll pass Diamond Head and Hanauma Bay. If you want a glimpse of the latter, you’ll have to park your car and descend to the popular snorkeling spot. Other landmarks include the Koko Crater Railway Trailhead, Lanai Lookout (where you can spot distant islands Molokai, Lanai, and Maui on a clear day), Halona Blowhole, and Makapuʻu Point. End the drive at Waimanalo Beach, a 3-mile white-sand beach that was used as a filming location for popular television shows Magnum, P.I. and Baywatch Hawaiʻi. Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel to Waimanalo Beach via Kalanianaʻole Highway is approximately 16 miles (34 minutes).
John A. Burns Freeway
Named after the former Hawaiʻi governor, the John A. Burns Freeway runs along a viaduct through Halawa Valley until it reaches the 5,165-foot-long Tetsuo Harano Tunnels. Continue east through the tunnels, which pierce through the middle of the Koʻolau Range, before exiting to a stunning view overlooking Kaneohe and the ocean beyond. Lined with tropical hills, cliffs, and mountainside ridges that spout waterfalls following heavy rains, this freeway drive is not to be missed. Halawa to Kaneohe via John A. Burns Freeway is approximately 11.6 miles (16 minutes).
Kamehameha Highway passes through Oʻahu’s Central Valley before turning northeast and traversing the northern tip of Oʻahu. After a jaunt along the North Shore, the highway curves southeast and continues to Kaneohe. While the western stretch of the highway passes popular destinations like Haleiwa and the Dole Plantation, the eastern passage between Kahaluʻu and Kahuku is one of the most beautiful drives on the island. As you hug the windward coast, you’ll catch glimpses of Mokoliʻi islet, or Chinaman’s Hat, and Kualoa Ranch, “Hollywood’s Hawaiʻi Backlot” made famous from being featured in nearly 50 Hollywood films. Kahaluʻu to Kahuku via Kamehameha Highway is approximately 21.7 miles (40 minutes).
Park Access Road
See Hawaiʻi’s endemic, native, and introduced flora without leaving your vehicle. Park Access Road winds through the lush 400 acres of the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, with sweeping views of the Ko’olau Range. Hawaiian for “a peaceful refuge”, Hoʻomaluhia features plants from major tropical regions including Hawaiʻi, the Philippines, Malaysia, Tropical America, India and Sri Lanka, Melanesia, Polynesia, and Africa. For another scenic rainforest jaunt, take the lush canopy-covered Nuʻuanu Pali Drive. Park Access Road is approximately 2.6 miles long (10 minutes).
Stretching the entire western shore of Oʻahu, Farrington Highway traverses quiet beaches, small coastal towns, green valleys, and the Waianae Range. Just north of the popular surfing beach in Makaha, the road becomes more primitive and scenic before ending at the remote coastline park, Kaʻena Point. Ko Olina Beach Park to Kaʻena Point State Park via Farrington Highway is approximately 19.6 miles (44 minutes).
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