Shaka Guide's Oahu Grand Circle Island Tour Itinerary

Shaka Guide

On Shaka Guide’s Grand Circle Island Tour, you’ll make your way to Oahu’s North Shore stopping at cultural sites, famous beaches, a waterfall and some of the island’s most famous foodie spots along the way.

This tour has a total of 21 stops with 121 audio points sharing history and music throughout your journey.

This tour has two main starting points, depending on where you’re staying. These are:

  • Waikiki and
  • Ko Olina on Oahu’s west side

Just select the starting point that works best for you, and the tour will travel in a counter-clockwise loop around the island, returning where you began.

Please note, that this tour cannot be done in the opposite direction. If you are looking to take a tour that gets you to the North Shore earlier in the day, try our clockwise tour around the island, Shaka Guide Legendary North Shore Loop.

grand circle tour

*This sample itinerary starts and ends in Waikiki.*


This tour takes approximately 6-8 hours to complete. We recommend you start the tour early, by 9:00 a.m., if you’re looking to make it to every stop.

Leonard's Bakery

Approximate time: 20 minutes

It’s time to fuel up for the day ahead and what better way than a deep-fried, Portuguese donut, known as a malasada?

We’ll guide you to Leonard’s Bakery, one of O'ahu’s most famous spots for these delicious treats.

Leonard’s features eight different types of malasadas from its original that’s coated in sugar to custard-stuffed varieties filled with flavors like 

  • haupia (coconut)
  • guava, and
  • macadamia nut

There’s usually a line, but don’t let that deter you -- it moves pretty fast.

Byodo-In Temple

Approximate time: 30 minutes

After you’ve grabbed a snack at Leonard’s you’ll begin traversing your way to the North Shore.

On the way, you can stop at Byodo-In Temple, a site that was built in 1968 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.

Nestled under the Ko'olau Mountains, the temple is a replica of a 950-year-old Japanese temple in Uji, Japan, that is listed as a United Nations World Heritage Site.

Please note: Byodo-In is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. General admission is $5 per person, and they accept credit or debit card only.

Tropical Nut Farm

Approximate time: 10 minutes

Make a quick pit stop at The Tropical Nut Farm to try a wide variety of macadamia nuts from Maui Onion and Garlic to Kona Coffee Glazed.

The farm offers free coffee and nut samples so you can try them before you buy.

Mokoli'i (known locally as Chinaman’s Hat)

Approximate time: 10 minutes

Pull into Kualoa Regional Park for a stunning view of Mokoli'i Island. Known for years by its nickname, Chinamans' Hat, the cone-shaped island is a well-recognized landmark on the Windward side. 

This is just a quick stop for the view, but if you’re looking for more adventure, you can come back another day with a kayak to explore the island.

Kualoa Ranch

Approximate time: 15 minutes - 2 hours (depending on activities)

range of mountains with palin grass belowKualoa Ranch, Oahu

Kualoa Ranch is a 4,000-acre private nature reserve with a working farm and adventure haven.

The ranch offers all sorts of adventures, tours and activities including the Hollywood Sites Movie Tour, Jurassic Adventure Tour, and UTV Raptor Tour, plus ziplining, kayaking, and horseback riding.

Feel free to make a quick stop at the gift shop, museum and restrooms today.

If you want to do one of their amazing adventures, we recommend you make reservations and come back another day.

Kahana Bay

Approximate time: 20 minutes

Go for a quiet beach walk at Kahana Bay, a gorgeous spot without any crowds.

There’s also a public restroom if you need a bathroom break.

La'ie Beach Park (also known as Pounders Beach)

Approximate time: 20 minutes

Locals call this beach “Pounders Beach” because of the relentless pounding shore break, making it an ideal spot for body surfing and boogie boarding.

Get out and have a look, but we don’t recommend swimming here.

If you’re getting a bit hungry, feel free to skip this spot to make your way to the Polynesian Cultural Center for a snack.

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Polynesian Cultural Center

Approximate time: 20 minutes

The Polynesian Cultural Center is one of O'ahu’s most visited attractions.

It features island villages that represent six Polynesian islands:

  • Hawai'i
  • Tahiti
  • Samoa
  • Fiji
  • Tonga, and
  • Aotearoa (New Zealand)

The center also has a luau, night show, and marketplace. Please note that a visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center is a full-day excursion. We recommend you stop by to check out the marketplace and come back another day if you’d like to do the activities.

Pro Tip! You’ll be tempted to grab lunch at the food trucks at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Grab a snack but save room for lunch in Kahuku, a spot with dozens of lunch options. Don’t worry, we’ll guide you there.

La'ie Point

Approximate time: 10 minutes

shore lineLaie Point, Oahu

Stop for a quick view of a breathtaking sea arch at La'ie Point. As waves crash below you’ll see just how this magnificent geologic wonder was formed!

See if you can spot the lizard from the story that the tour describes.

La'ie Temple

Approximate time: 5 minutes

On our way to the next stop, we’ll quickly drive by La'ie Temple.

No need to get out of the car, just listen as we tell you the story of this site that was designed after King Solomon’s temple described in the Bible.

With its gleaming white finish, the temple is dubbed the “Taj Mahal of the Pacific.”

Here you’ll find a visitor center with clean restrooms if you want to make a pit stop.


Kahuku Shrimp Trucks (and Food Trucks)

Approximate time: 30 minutes

Known for its shrimp trucks, Kahuku is home to dozens of eateries serving up warm plates of garlic shrimp.

But, shrimp isn’t all you’ll find. Look out for pizza, plate lunches, burgers, yogurt and huli huli chicken -- another local favorite.

Please note: Most of the food trucks in Kahuku are cash only.

Kahuku Fruit Stands

Approximate time: 5 minutes

As you’re driving to the North Shore, you’ll pass a few fruit stands along the way.

One of our favorites, Kahuku Fruit Stands, is located just past Turtle Bay Resort.

Stop for some locally grown fruit that’s cut, chilled and ready to eat.

grand circle island tour

Ted’s Bakery

Approximate time: 15 minutes

At this point, you might be thinking to yourself, is this a food tour? And, in a way it is!

This tour has some of the best food stops on the island. We hope you saved room for dessert because you won’t want to miss Ted’s Bakery's famous cream pies.

The specialty is their chocolate haupia pie, but they also have strawberry guava, blueberry, and pineapple macadamia nut, just to name a few!

Sunset Beach

Approximate time: 15 minutes

sunset on the beachSunset Beach, Oahu

Even though this beach is a famous surf spot as its name suggests, it’s also a great place to watch the sunset.

At this point, it’s probably too early to stay for sunset without skipping all the awesome things that are left to do on the tour, but we recommend you come back another evening.

If you’re not staying for sunset, you might want to skip this spot and head to the next beach.

Pro Tip! This beach, as well as all the beaches along the North Shore, has large waves during the winter months of October to April. We recommend watching the surfers from the shore. Swimming is dangerous during this time.

Banzai Pipeline

Approximate time: 30 minutes

Officially named Ehukai Beach, Banzai Pipeline is a surfer’s mecca. “Pipeline,” as surfers call it, is known for its quintessential barreling waves that curl like a pipe.

Each winter, surfers from all over the world test their might at “pipe” during the annual Billabong Pipeline Masters competition.

Hundreds of people flock to the beach to catch a glimpse of these athletes in action.

Even during the summer months, when waves have calmed and the surfers have relocated, parking is limited.

If you can’t find a spot, look for street parking. We recommend just admiring the surfers at this beach as it’s not safe for swimming, even in summer.

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Shark's Cove

Approximate time: 1 hour

Shark’s Cove is a Marine Life Conservation District, known for some of the best snorkeling and diving because of its diversity of sea life just below the water.

If you’ve got kiddos with you, to the left of Shark’s Cove is an area of tidepools, perfect for children to wade through the water and paddle around.

A word of caution for all: The lava rocks here are very sharp.

We recommend wearing water shoes and being extremely careful as you enter and exit the water.

If you need snorkel gear, you can rent equipment across the street.

RELATEDShark's Cove: Your Guide to Snorkeling on Oahu's North Shore

Waimea Valley

Approximate time: 2 hours

This valley features a botanical garden and a one-and-a-half-mile hike to a 45-foot waterfall.

Once you reach the falls, you’ll have the option to swim in the pool below.

This is a great attraction that’s fit for the whole family.

Note: There is an entrance fee to visit Waimea Valley.

Waimea Bay

Approximate time: 45 minutes

beach in hawaii with white sand and crystal blue waterWaimea Bay, Oahu

Waimea Bay is a gorgeous moon-shaped, white-sand beach. During winter, the shore break is fierce and not suitable for casual swimming.

However, when the water is calm, you can jump in the ocean for a dip, snorkel, and, if you’re feeling adventurous, try a 30-foot cliff jump off Da Big Rock. 

Note: Parking in this area can be difficult at times, especially if the surf is up. If the main parking lot is full, look for street parking. Sometimes there is paid parking across the street at Waimea Valley.

Laniakea Beach

Approximate time: 10 minutes

Also known as Turtle Beach, this little beach is a natural feeding ground for honu or sea turtles.

This beach tends to get crowded, and parking is extremely limited. If you can’t find a spot, just keep driving down the road to the next stop.

If you do visit the beach, be careful while crossing the road from the small parking area, and please be mindful to keep your distance from these protected animals.

Getting too close to sea turtles will result in a large fine.

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Hale'iwa Town

Approximate time: 1 hour

Hale'iwa is a seaside town with a beach, river, mom-and-pop shops and loads of local eateries.

While you’re here, step into some of the one-of-a-kind art galleries, shop for unique souvenirs and grab a bite to eat.

You can also kayak, surf, stand-up paddle board and even go diving with sharks.

Matsumoto Shave Ice

Approximate time: 20 minutes

Dating back to the early 1950’s, this dessert spot serves up Hawaiian shave ice in dozens of flavors! It’s a favorite spot for locals and visitors alike.

There will most likely be a long line, but don’t let that stop you -- it moves fast.

Or--cross the road and check out Aoki's Shave Ice, another local favorite.

Dole Plantation

Approximate time: 30-45 minutes

big house facadeDole Plantation, Oahu

The Dole Plantation is a family-friendly spot with several activities, a sprawling gift shop, sweet treats like pineapple soft serve and the Instagram-famous Dole Whip.

While you’re there, you can go on the Pineapple Express -- a train ride through the plantation; weave your way out of a pineapple maze and go on a self-guided garden walking tour.

If you only have time for one activity, we recommend the train ride.

This spot is worth it to shop for a variety of pineapple-flavored treats -- from candies to pancake mix.

The plantation is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Note: The activities at Dole Plantation require an entrance fee, but you can visit the gift shop and cafe (for a Dole Whip) without paying an entrance fee.

Drive Back to Waikiki

Approximate time: 45 minutes

Now that you’ve had your final sweet treat for the day, it’s time to make your way back to Waikiki.

The drive will take about 45 minutes (if there’s no traffic), and we’ll tell you the history of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and the attack on Pearl Harbor along the way.

Final Thoughts

When you’re in Hawai'i, we ask that you act respectfully toward the locals, land and wildlife.

Please pick up your trash; never touch any marine life, plants, or other animals; and avoid spots that are unsafe. Hawai'i’s natural resources are precious. It’s up to all of us to help preserve these resources.

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We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.

Shaka Guide recognizes the use of diacritics in the Hawaiian language including the okina or glottal stop and the kahako or macron. In some instances, these have been omitted on our site to ensure the best online experience for our users since not all online platforms recognize these marks. We understand the importance of these diacritics to preserve the language and culture of Hawaii.

Ready to take the Oahu Grand Circle Island Tour? Here's everything you need to know before you go! 

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Know Before You Go, Shaka Guide's Grand Circle Island Tour

Visiting Dole Pineapple Plantation in Hawaii - Ultimate Guide

Oahu's Ultimate North Shore Road Trip

10 Ways to be a Safe and Responsible Traveler in Hawaii

Haleiwa Travel Guide

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