Photo by Woody Kelly on Unsplash

Photo by Woody Kelly on Unsplash

Which Oahu Driving Tour is Right for You?

Shaka Guide

There’s so much to do on Oahu, it’s hard to narrow it down. The island has hundreds of hiking trails, dozens of beaches, and loads of interesting cultural sites. Having trouble deciding what to do? No worries! We’ve done this work for you with our GPS audio tours. But, you still have to decide which tour to take! Don’t stress -- here’s a guide to help you choose the best Oahu driving tour for your vacation!

  Grand Circle Island Tour East Oahu Shoreline Drive Legendary Northshore Loop Honolulu's Backyard Rainforest Tour
Summary 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. Drive along the island’s scenic roadways. You can hike two inactive volcanoes, explore seven beaches, snorkel at one of the island’s most popular spots, and visit a 400-acre botanical garden. Spend the day on Oahu’s North Shore learning about the island’s surf history and exploring beaches, a cute seaside town, and historic sites. Visit Honolulu’s lush, green forests with miles of hiking trails. You’ll discover Manoa Falls and the Makiki Valley where you can hike to a waterfall, take in Honolulu’s skyline from afar, and stroll through a 200-acre botanical garden.
Number of Stops 23 19 24 10
Approx. Time to Complete 6-8 hours, full-day 6-8 hours, full-day 6-8 hours, full day 2-4 hours, half day
Tour Starting Point(s) Waikiki, Ko Olina and Turtle Bay Resort Waikiki Waikiki and Ko Olina Waikiki
Tour Ending Point(s) Ends where you began Waikiki Ends where you began Downtown Honolulu
Tour Direction Counterclockwise Counterclockwise Clockwise Counterclockwise


Now that you know the basics, we’ve looked at each tour to determine which would be the best for your trip, based on your interests. Check out our recommendations below! 

If You Like History… 

Grand Circle Island or Legendary North Shore Loop

All four of our Oahu driving tours tell the stories of Oahu’s past, but on our Grand Circle Island Tour you’ll visit an ancient heiau (or temple) that overlooks Waimea Bay, learn about surf history while beach hopping to iconic spots, and listen to tales about the Hawaiian monarchy. 

Second Place… Legendary North Shore Loop

We’d also recommend our Legendary North Shore Loop for history buffs! This tour is similar to the Grand Circle Island Tour in content and locations, but travels in the opposite direction around the island. Another key difference: this tour focuses on the island’s surf history. If you’re interested in surfing, sports, beaches, Hawaiian history or all of the above, this tour is the one for you! 

If You Like Hiking... 

East Oahu Shoreline Drive or Honolulu’s Backyard Rainforest Tour 

Our East Oahu Shoreline Drive takes you to three hikes: Diamond Head, Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail, and Judd Trail. Each of these hikes are family friendly, and offer completely different scenery. While you’re on this tour, you’ll also pass Koko Head Stairs if you’re up for it! Just beware: this tour is for experienced hikers only! 

Second Place… Honolulu’s Backyard Rainforest Tour

If you’re looking for hikes through Oahu’s lush rainforest, check out our Honolulu Backyard Rainforest Tour. The best hike on this journey is Manoa Falls. You’ll travel through a mystical forest before reaching a 150-foot waterfall. 

If You Like Surfing… 

Legendary North Shore Loop

Bonzai Pipeline is one of the most notorious surf spots in the world! Waves can reach up to 30-feet in the “winter” months. Visit Bonzai, Sunset Beach and Waimea Bay on our Circle Island Tour. You’ll also learn about the history of the sport and surf legend, Eddie Aikau.

Second place… Grand Circle Island 

As we mentioned earlier, The Grand Circle Island Tour has many of the same stops as the Legendary North Shore Loop, meaning you’ll still visit famous surf beaches and learn a bit about the sport’s greats like Eddie Aikau. 

If You Like Beaches... 

East Oahu Shoreline Drive

The North Shore is known as a surfer’s paradise, but these beaches aren’t the best for the average beachgoer. The huge waves and massive shore breaks make these spots great for surfing, but not so much for swimming. If you want to enjoy some of Oahu’s pristine beaches and actually go for a swim, the East Oahu Shoreline Drive is your best bet. You’ll visit the award-winning beach in Kailua as well as local favorites like Lanikai Beach or Halona Beach Cove. 

If You’re a Foodie…

Tie! Grand Circle Island Tour or Legendary North Shore Loop 

This was a hard choice. All the tours offer some amazing food options, but ultimately, the North Shore has some of the best food trucks on Oahu. Maybe you’ve heard of Hawaii’s famous garlic shrimp? Well, you’ll have ample options to choose from when you visit the Kahuku Shrimp Trucks with Shaka Guide. Yearning for a shave ice? Mutsumoto’s -- one of the island’s top spots -- is in Haleiwa on the North Shore. And, we can’t forget about malasadas, kalua pork, poke or a plate lunch, which you can also find along the tour route for both of these tours. Our mouths are watering just thinking about it! 

If You Like Scenery…

East Oahu Shoreline Drive or Honolulu's Backyard Rainforest Tour

Our East Oahu Shoreline Drive takes you along one of the most scenic roadways on the island. You’ll want to jump out of the car for pictures -- and don’t worry you can! We understand how perfect this drive is for photo ops, so the tour stops at lookout points, white sand beaches, and family-friendly hiking trails. 

Second place.. Honolulu’s Backyard Rainforest Tour 

This tour doesn’t have as many scenic spots as the East Oahu Shoreline Drive, but there’s one spot that gives it the credentials to make it our second choice and that’s Tantalus Lookout. Visit this site to sit high above Honolulu where you’ll take in views of the city’s skyline. 

If You Like Snorkeling... 

Grand Circle Island or East Oahu Shoreline Drive

There are two major snorkel spots on Oahu -- Hanauma Bay and Shark’s Cove -- and both of these tours visit one of the spots. Explore Hanauma Bay on the East Oahu Shoreline Drive or swim at Shark’s Cove on our Grand Circle Island adventure. Both spots have hundreds of species of marine life to see. The choice really depends on your other interests! 

If you’re staying in Waikiki... 

Any! All four Oahu driving tours have a starting point in Waikiki. This means that if you’re staying at a Waikiki accommodation, you’re conveniently located to hit the road and start exploring with Shaka Guide. 

If you’re staying in Ko Olina...

Ko Olina is known for its luxury resorts and blue-water lagoons, but did you know that both our Legendary North Shore Loop and Grand Circle Island tours have a starting point in Ko Olina? You can rent a car at one of the nearby hotels then visit all the beaches, cultural sites, and food stops these tours have to offer. 

If you’re staying on the North Shore...

Staying on the North Shore and looking to get our for the day? Our Grand Circle Island Tour has a starting point right at Turtle Bay! From there, you’ll traverse the island getting an in-depth look at both the North Shore and parts of Oahu’s windward coast! 

Still not sure which tour to choose? Check out our Oahu Tour Bundle! The bundle includes EVERY Shaka Guide driving tour for the island. Added bonus: you’ll also get our two Oahu walking tours that visit the historic neighborhoods of Waikiki and Downtown Honolulu. Learn more here


1. Can I do multiple tours in one day? 

As you can see from the table above, we don’t recommend it. Most of the tours - aside from the Honolulu Backyard Rainforest Tour - take about a full day to complete. If you want to make the most of your day, pick a tour and take your time experiencing the stops and making memories along the way! 

2. What should I pack? 

Great question. You’ve probably seen that our tours have a bit of everything - hiking, beaches, attractions. That can make packing tricky. Check out our packing list here, and remember, you choose what you want to do along the tour route! 

3. Where do the tours go? 

Check out our itineraries below: 

4. I have questions about the app. 

No problem! Check out our app FAQ’s here. And, if you still have questions don’t hesitate to email us at aloha@shakaguide.com.

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