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Circle Island Tours in Oahu
Oahu is full of surprises. From its vibrant city life in the state capital of Honolulu to the famous pineapple plantation hidden in its center, you'll find the island is a thrilling place to visit.
With hidden treasures at every turn, a Circle Island tour in Oahu is a must for all those who wish to discover the natural wonders of Hawaii.
You'll see historic temples dedicated to Hawaiian gods and learn the harvesting process of macadamia nuts. No trip to Oahu is complete without digging into some meaty shrimp or hiking to lookout points that boast miraculous views over the ocean.
What is the itinerary of a Circle Island tour?
One of the popular day trips in Oahu, Circle Island tours follow a similar itinerary and usually meet early in the morning. Travel towards a macadamia nut farm via a variety of natural attractions, including the Diamond Head Crater and Halona Blowhole.
The drive itself is exceptionally scenic and your driver guide will point out notable sights as you pass by. You may visit a tranquil Buddhist temple or Waimea Valley, and, after you've worked up an appetite, you'll sink your teeth into delicious Hawaiian garlic shrimp.
In the afternoon, you'll pass by several other landmarks and panoramic spots before ending up at the famous Dole pineapple plantation which sells its fruit all over the world. You'll return back to Waikiki in the late afternoon full of incredible memories.
What can be seen on a Circle Island tour?
While many Buddhist temples are ancient with long historic backgrounds, the Byodo-In Temple was erected just over 50 years ago. It was constructed in 1968 to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.
The building itself is a replica of the original Byodo-In Temple which was built over 950 years ago in Uji, Japan. Stepping into the religious site, visitors may come face-to-face with a 5.5-meter statue of the Buddha which is covered in gold and is a true masterpiece.
There is also a 3-ton sacred bell located on the grounds, which was crafted in Osaka. The ringing of the bell marks your entrance into the temple, and doing so is said to bring happiness and prosperity to you.
If you're more interested in nature than religion, you'll find the temple grounds remarkable, with wild peacocks and a clear lake housing hundreds of koi carp. You can visit the temple between 8:30 AM and 4:30 PM daily, and adult tickets cost US$5.
Waimea Valley is a lush verdant oasis on the northern coast of Oahu. The valley is home to over 5,000 species of plants, including many that are rare or endangered, as well as Hawaii's state bird, the nene.
Visitors can explore the valley on a hiking tour that winds through the foliage and passes a number of waterfalls, including the popular Waimea Falls.
Aside from being a tropical paradise, Waimea Valley is also rich in cultural history. The valley was once home to the Hawaiian High Priests, otherwise known as Kahuna.
The religious sites you'll see are dedicated to some of the Hawaiian gods, including Kū, Kanaloa, Lono and Kane. There are 78 archaeological sites within the park that have been rediscovered and show the valley is deeply rooted in the history of the island.
When visiting, you can jump into the icy depths of Waimea Falls after a steep but rewarding hike. The valley is open from 9 AM to 5 PM and you can purchase tickets for US$25.
Halona Blowhole is formed by a lava tube that extends from the shoreline out to sea. As waves crash against the shore, air is forced through the lava tube and erupts from the blowhole with incredible force. Windy days and harsh conditions create a spectacular geyser-like effect that can reach heights of almost 10 meters.
The blowhole erupts every 10 minutes and is most impressive to visit during high tide. Right next to Halona Blowhole is a cove which visitors can swim out to and gain an up-close view of the jets of water as they blast into the sky.
However, for those who don't want to dip their toes in, the view is just as spectacular from the top of the cliffs. If you're lucky, you may even see a green turtle sunning its tummy on the rocks surrounding the blowhole.
Dole Pineapple Plantation
Most people recognize the Dole symbol that you often find when cutting into a pineapple. However, you may not know that Dole Pineapple Plantation is nestled in the center of Oahu, close to the town of Wahiawa.
More than just a pineapple field, you can experience a whole range of attractions at the plantation. These include a pineapple garden maze, the Pineapple Express train tour and a guided walk around the garden.
The plantation is home to a restaurant that serves a variety of dishes that celebrate the sweet fruit, such as a pineapple chili dog. The most delicious and popular treat of all is the Dole soft serve which is a creamy and refreshing way to cool down.
The plantation was founded in 1899 after James Dole moved to the island and began growing fruit. While several attempts were failures, he found great success in growing pineapples and his venture became popular across America, and then the world.
In the 1950s, Dole's business was sending out over 5 million cans of pineapple every day. While the Philippines produces the most pineapples on the planet, 400 million come from Hawaii.
Haleiwa is a small town located on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. The town is famous for its stunning beaches, lush vegetation and laid-back surf culture. Haleiwa was originally named after the hotel of the same name that opened in the late 19th century and had its own railway line running from Honolulu.
Because of its outstanding scenery, the hotel brought lots of interest to the area which led to the creation of the town. Haleiwa translates to "house of the frigatebird" in the traditional Hawaiian language and in the present day, the town is renowned for its impeccable surfing conditions.
Surfing legends such as Duke Kahanamoku and Gerry Lopez have been known to catch some waves off-shore in Haleiwa. If water sports aren't your thing, you can explore the beach boutiques or enjoy world-class shrimp at the many seafood restaurants.
What are the best Circle Island tours in Oahu?
Ultimate Circle Island adventure with Waimea Waterfall
This tour of Circle Island takes you on a whirlwind adventure of the most remarkable spots on the isle. You'll drive to the Diamond Head viewpoint which provides panoramic views across the island and out to sea. You'll also pass by the fascinating Halona Blowhole which sprays water into the air every few minutes.
On the drive, you can see the beach that is famous for its appearance in the 1953 film "From Here to Eternity." Taking a cultural turn, you'll head to the Buddhist temple of Byodo-In and Mokoli'i Island, which you'll pass by on your way to a shrimp farm for lunch.
In the afternoon, you'll visit the Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden which is home to over 5,000 species of tropical plants and a tumbling waterfall.
The last destination of the day is the famous Dole plantation which grows pineapples for fruit-lovers across the world to enjoy. There is also a store on site where you can purchase mouthwatering Dole Whip and other delicious treats that center around the sweet and juicy fruit.
Grand Circle Island snorkeling adventure
Snorkeling tours in Oahu allow you to see the vibrant underwater world of the island and the species that call the ocean home. You'll start by making your way to Diamond Head lookout, also known as the Amelia Earhart viewpoint, named after the iconic pilot who flew past the crater on her way to the mainland.
You'll witness the thrilling sight of water shooting out of Halona Blowhole before heading to a local macadamia nut farm. Here, you'll try the products which include macadamia nuts, chocolate and coffee.
Sample Hawaiian garlic shrimp, the state's most famous dish, when you stop for lunch at one of the most popular shrimp trucks on the island.
After you’ve eaten, you'll head to Sunset Beach and don your snorkel to get closer to the turtles and shoals of fish that live in the waters surrounding Oahu. You can choose to paddleboard or kayak if you'd prefer.
Lastly, you'll refuel with a refreshing Dole Whip at the Dole pineapple plantation.
Grand Circle Island and Haleiwa tour
This Grand Circle Island tour in Oahu covers many of the same spectacular locations as other excursions. These include Diamond Head, Halona Blowhole, Byodo-In Temple and a macadamia nut farm.
You'll also catch a striking view of the Koolau Mountains at the Nu'uanu Pali lookout point, which has one of the most captivating views on the island.
The difference on this tour is that you'll spend some free time in the town of Haleiwa, which is known as a prime surfing spot. Aside from its fantastic waves, the town enchants visitors with its buildings that date back to the plantation era, boutiques and galleries.
Once you've fallen for Haleiwa's charms, you'll board your bus and travel to the historic Dole plantation which has been growing pineapples for over a hundred years.
Beauty and the feast: A Circle Island experience
This culinary Circle Island tour begins early with a breakfast stop looking out over the Halona Blowhole. You'll try fried Portuguese donuts called malasadas before visiting a macadamia nut farm.
Shrimp trucks are a must-visit at lunchtime on Oahu and you'll have the opportunity to try several variations. In the afternoon, you'll stop at a local fruit stall where you can purchase fresh pineapples and other fruit grown on the island.
Taking a break from eating, you'll head to Waimea Valley and Byodo-In Temple before arriving in Haleiwa — known for its shaved ice. You can choose from a bold variety of flavors such as rainbow shaved ice, and traditional tastes like strawberry or coconut.
Lastly, you visit the Dole pineapple plantation where you can end your culinary tour with a Dole Whip.
How much do Circle Island tours in Oahu cost?
Day tours of Circle Island in Oahu cost approximately US$150 and include entry fees, hotel pickup, lunch and a professional guide. You'll also receive a nature guidebook for the island of Oahu.
You can expect to pay around US$160 for a snorkeling excursion, which includes round-trip transportation with a driver guide and the use of snorkeling equipment.
Circle Island adventures in Oahu that visit the town of Haleiwa include round-trip transportation with a driver guide. You'll also get to sample the famous Portuguese malasadas. Prices start at US$120.
Culinary Circle Island tours in Oahu cost roughly US$170 and include hotel pickup and drop-off, as well as breakfast, lunch and food tastings. Admission fees are included.
What is included in a Circle Island tour in Oahu?
If you're looking at Circle Island tours in Oahu, you can expect to have admission fees to attractions included in the price. Most tours also include lunch at a shrimp truck on the North Shore. If your tour visits a macadamia nut farm, you'll enjoy a sample of its produce.
Your tour may also include breakfast which is often malasadas from Leonard's Bakery. You may also have a tour guide that will provide commentary as you drive around the island. Some tours provide pickup from your accommodation.
Where do Circle Island tours in Oahu start?
Most Circle Island tours start with a hotel pickup which is often included in the price of your tour. If you're staying outside of Waikiki or your tour doesn't include pickup from your accommodation, you may have to meet at a central location, such as a well-known hotel.
You should be prepared to depart slightly earlier than the stated time. It's a good rule of thumb to arrive at the meeting point 15 minutes ahead of the scheduled slot.
How long do Circle Island tours in Oahu last?
Most Circle Island excursions in Oahu last approximately eight to 10 hours and begin around 7 AM. You'll return to your hotel or meeting point in the midafternoon or later. The shortest Circle Island tour lasts six hours.
When is the best time for a Circle Island tour in Oahu?
You can expect Circle Island tours in Oahu to last all day. You'll meet between 7 AM and 7:30 AM, and conduct much of your tour before the hottest hours of the day.
It's best to take this tour towards the beginning of your trip. That way, you can gain a comprehensive view of the island and plan to revisit any sights that you are especially drawn to.
Vegetarian options are available at the shrimp trucks.
If you wish to take a dip in Waimea Valley Waterfall, make sure to bring your swimwear on your excursion.
Circle Island tours in Oahu tend to begin early. If your tour doesn't include breakfast, load up on a meal beforehand.
The temperature in Oahu ranges from 25 to 30 degrees Celsius throughout the year. Ensure you're prepared for the hot weather with plenty of water, a sunhat and sunscreen.