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Layover in Honolulu – the ultimate guide 2021

Published by: Bounce27 August, 2021

Hawaii has to be right up there with the top islands of the world when it comes to romantic getaways and attractive tourist destinations. Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport is the primary airport for the entire archipelago, and no matter which of the islands you are heading for, there is a strong possibility that you may have a stopover there.

Situated only ten miles from Honolulu’s famous Waikiki beach and downtown area, there is no reason why a layover should be anything other than a pleasure. To take full advantage of this opportunity, all you need to do is drop your suitcases at a Honolulu Airport luggage storage service and catch the shuttle to town.

6-hour layover in Honolulu


It doesn’t take long to get from the airport to Waikiki, Honolulu's world-renowned downtown and beachfront area. That said, you will still need to allow some time to collect your bags and clear security when you return to catch your onward connection, so don't try to do too much.

On a short Honolulu layover, you are better off picking one or two things to do than you are rushing from one tourist destination to the next without fully appreciating any of them. Waikiki beach is arguably the most famous beach and surf spot in the world, and if you are in the area, it would be almost a crime not to visit. On a six-hour layover, you would have time to walk the beachfront, admire the turquoise blue water, and take in the views of Diamond Head Crater. 

If you feel daring, then take a quick plunge, but if you prefer to stay dry, then think about enjoying a meal at one of the many oceanfront restaurants. A wealth of different nationalities has influenced the island's cuisine, so you can expect a wide range of exotic choices to be available, and most will be of a very high caliber.

  • With a six-hour stopover, the most important thing is not to try to do too much.

  • Waikiki is an almost mythical beach and you will regret it if you don’t pay a visit.

  • On any Honolulu airport layover, store your bags to maximize your enjoyment.

8 hour layover in Honolulu


On short layovers, it’s important not to try to do too much. Once you drop off your bags at a Honolulu baggage storage, you won’t want to waste time traveling too far away. Luckily, there’s lots to do without heading away from Waikiki. If you want to see more what the ocean has to offer, visit Try Scuba Diving right on Waikiki Beach.

As the name implies, this scuba school is geared up for beginners. You could spend an hour taking your first scuba or snorkeling class, or if you’re more experienced and certified, go on a more in-depth adventure. They even offer a playful mermaid photoshoot where you can live out your mermaid fantasies for half an hour so.

  • Try a snorkeling or scuba expedition on Waikiki Beach.

  • If you prefer disable the waves, indulge yourself with a mermaid photoshoot.

10-hour layover in Honolulu


Those few extra hours are always handy for taking off the pressure and allowing you to explore without having to check your watch constantly. With more time on your hands, you will probably still want to spend some time wandering Waikiki as it is such a ‘must do’ part of any visit to Honolulu.

With more free time, you might want to think about moving slightly further afield and including another of the local beaches on your stopover. Within thirty minutes there are a number of beach options, and most of them are pretty tempting. 

Kailua is a three-mile stretch of delicate white sand with lifeguards and shower facilities, so perfectly doable on a short stopover. You might like to explore Kailua village while you are there and grab a coffee or pick up some local crafts.

  • While you will almost definitely want to include Waikiki on any stopover, there are many other local beaches to consider.

  • With ten hours to explore, it is possible to stop off at a couple of beaches.

12 hour Honolulu layover


With a longer layover, you can start looking at doing a wider range of activities, though you will still need to manage your time wisely to maximize your adventure. Do some research in advance so that you are better able to target the tourist sights that most appeal to you. Here are some suggestions.

Hanauma Bay is one of the top three tourist destinations on the island of Oahu. Hana is the native Hawaiian word for bay, while Uma means curve. This curved bay offers some of the most fantastic snorkeling. You will need to book in advance, but there are showers and a snack bar there, so this is one that you could make a day of.

If exploring the great outdoors doesn't appeal or if the weather turns against you, you might want to think about a tour of Pearl Harbor. Just a three-minute shuttle ride from the airport, the visitor center, the National Memorial and USS Arizona will provide a poignant insight into one of the most calamitous events in US military history. 

  • Do some research in advance to make the most of your layover.

  • Make use of a locker or luggage storage service and travel light.

  • Pearl Harbor is close enough to combine with other visits in Honolulu.

24 hour Honolulu layover


An overnight stopover affords you the opportunity to include more in your itinerary and take in some of the nightlife that Hawaiians are so good at. With your luggage safely stowed in a Honolulu luggage locker, you will be traveling light and free of cumbersome bags.

You always need to consider your return journey when choosing a hotel, but with Waikiki so close, you could easily overnight there, take advantage of all that is happening, and still make it back well in time for the connecting flight.

Entering the city, you will have noticed a distinct mountain which is called Diamond Head and is actually an extinct volcano. If you are up for a hike, you can climb this volcano for some of the most fabulous coastal views on the island.

Staying in town, you might like to think about a visit to China Town. This vibrant area has a great ambiance and, of course, is the perfect place to try out some Chinese food with a slight Hawaiian slant to it. 

Finally, as you will be in Hawaii at sunset, plan to be sipping a drink somewhere on the Waikiki beach as the sun dips below the horizon. The area is packed with beachfront cafes and bars, and that sunset will be one to remember.

  • 24 hours in Honolulu gives you the chance to experience several of the more iconic tourist destinations but don’t try to overdo it.

  • Diamond Head dominates the city skyline, so whether you climb it or not, it will make up part of your adventure.

  • Staying in Waikiki is going to put you in the heart of most of the nightlife possibilities.

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