Oh my goodness. I feel like my trip to Hawaii was ages ago but it was only a month ago! If you follow me on social media, you probably saw that I just went to Vegas for the long weekend. I’m actually writing part of this post while I’m still here. Those of you who have been here know in Vegas time, a long weekend feels like a whole week. I’m so ready to come home! Before I can share more about this trip to Vegas I still need to catch you guys up on everything we did in Oahu. What we ate will come in a separate post soon!
First things first I should note that Oahu is the perfect island if you like a mix of city and rural scenery. If you want to visit a really relaxing beach town, I recommend staying on the North Shore or an entirely different island. Personally I find Oahu a little crazy after a week so consider checking for cheap inter-island plane tickets and you can experience more than one.
–Waikiki Beach: This long strip of beaches gets a bad rap however the convenience is unparalleled. If you’re staying in this area, you’re just steps away from several access points to the ocean. It can get crowded on the shore but it’s perfect for swimming. The water tends to be very calm here.
–Float in the Sheraton Waikiki infinity pool: We stayed here for part of our trip and enjoyed the pools. There are pools for kids as well as an adult-only infinity pool. If you’re lucky, snag a yellow bean bag to float on. They even have fitness classes in the infinity pool in the mornings. Or if day drinking is your thing, the bar will bring you a drink right into the pool! *Hotel tip: do NOT stay in an ocean view room if you are a light sleeper. The club Rumfire is super loud and will keep you up until 2 am. The other side of the hotel is much quieter.
–Pearl Harbor: Even if you’re not a history nerd, this is a must visit if you’re going to Oahu. During busy seasons, it can be tough to walk in and get tickets so I recommend booking them online the day before at 7am. (There is a service fee of $1.50 per ticket this way, however the tickets are free otherwise.) There’s a short film before a quick boat ride out to the USS Arizona Memorial during each time slot. It’s surreal to see the oil in the water after all these years.
–Shopping: There’s tons of shopping in the Waikiki area – which may be why some people don’t like to stay here. For those who are used to a higher sales tax (ahem, Seattle) it’s worth noting Oahu has a 4% sales tax. So if you’ve been wanting to buy a designer bag or pair of shoes, this might be a good place to do that! I like International Marketplace at night because it’s partially covered and it has really cute lanterns and even a tree house!
–Manoa Falls: Funny story…we only discovered this hike because Diamond Head was closed for a week due to rock falls. (Who knew? Our Lyft driver took us all the way up for them to tell us the sad news.) The drive to Manoa Falls is a bit longer because it’s in the valley but it’s definitely worth it. (I couldn’t tell you how much it costs because our Lyft driver forgot to end the trip so it ended up being free…)
The hike is under 2 miles so it’s not terribly long however beware of slippery slopes. Your shoes will definitely be getting muddy! Even when it’s not raining, the rainforest atmosphere causes a stark change in the humidity. Moisture wicking clothes and shoes with a good grip on the bottom are recommended. At the end of the trail you’ll see the beautiful falls (though measly in comparison to those in the PNW). Some people swim in the water beneath however there are signs warning against it.
–Diamond Head: This is probably the most popular hike amongst tourists due to its proximity to Waikiki. It’s also fairly family friendly as most of it is paved. The one difficult portion of the hike is a huge set of stairs, that really resemble a ladder, so if you’re scared of heights this might be challenging. The top of the summit is awesome because you get to see ocean views as well as city views. Honolulu as a city is impressive to see from above. If you’re not into hiking, I recommend this over Manoa Falls.
You barely need an agenda for the North Shore. Rent a car and drive either clockwise or counter-clockwise around the island for the BEST views. Pull over and take all the pictures because it’s seriously gorgeous.
–Halona Blowhole: On the way to North Shore stop at Halona Blowhole. There’s a decent sized parking lot compared to most viewpoints. You’ll see coastlines, cliffs, and a blowhole that spews water now and then.
–Dole Plantation: Although this is more suitable for families with young children, I think it’s a must. Aside from Disneyland and a few other spots, where else can you get Dole Whip? There’s a train ride, maze, and a huge gift shop as well. Honestly the train ride was really lame but I’ve gone to the Dole Plantation a few times and felt it was necessary! There’s not much on the North Shore to actually do other than sightsee so you might as well make a pit stop.
-Visit Haleiwa: This historic little town is really cute and the perfect place to get out of the car and stretch your legs, eat some food, and shop. It really is a little beach town with only a few shops and restaurants but you’ll definitely find some goodies here. I’ll share photos in my food roundup post but you have to hit up some of the food trucks, fruit stands, and Matsumoto’s here.
There are a million other beaches and stops to make here. If you’re looking for some luaus on this part of the island, I believe there are a few. The trip before this one my family and I went to the Polynesian Cultural Center. The show was good but the food was mediocre at best. Also it’s worth noting that the PCC is owned by the LDS church so there is no alcohol.
–Kahana Beach: While driving back from the North Shore, we stopped at Kahana beach to catch the remnants of a beautiful sunset. It’s a beautiful spot and seems to be a pretty quiet spot. There are parking spots and you could have a picnic here.
-Take a photo on the giant tree swing: OKAY this is the weirdest spot for a tree swing but if you’re headed this way already, do it for the gram and pull over on this road. Enter this address into your GPS: 53-936 Kamehameha Highway Hauula, Oahu and you’ll get the best Instagram photo spot. The beach is small but it’s probably going to be empty so shoot away! This was on our way but we almost didn’t get there until the sun was almost set. I got a few photos with what little daylight was left!
–Kailua Beach/Lanikai Beach: These are the BEST beaches in all of Oahu! The water is so beautiful and the beaches have nice soft sand. This area is less touristy because it’s pretty residential however that makes parking difficult. Over the years more and more people have found these gems so it’s really not a secret anymore. The downside is how far out it is if you don’t have a car.
–Kayaking: The absolute highlight of our trip was going on a guided kayak tour. I can’t recommend this enough!! Even if you’re a total pro at kayaking, going on a guided tour is fun because you’ll get to learn about the history of the island. Although the water is super calm by Kailua Beach’s shore, the rest of the ocean is not as tame. When we went, there were some crazy swells and we were very glad to have been led by a guide.
Check Groupon for some deals because we got our tours for 50% off! I highly recommend Twogood Kayaks because the company is really awesome to work with. They will pick you up at your hotel in the Waikiki area, provide all of the gear you need (including dry bags and a lunch!!), then drive you back to your hotel. Even if you can’t find a Groupon deal their prices are really reasonable.
We went on the 5 hour adventure and yes, it was really tiring, but the adrenaline will keep you going. There were 8+ foot waves causing some of our group to flip when we launched off the island! I had so much fun kayaking out to Moku Nui and exploring the island. Time permitting you get to cliff dive, snorkel, swim, and check out the cool tidepools. The one below is called the Queen’s Bath because it gets really really salty. We even got to jump in!
Hope you enjoyed seeing some of the highlights of what we did! Let me know if you have any questions about any of these places. I’m going to be working on my “what to eat in Oahu” post soon so stay tuned for that!