On a trip to O’ahu, a typical tourist would probably stay at a resort in Waikiki – there is nothing wrong with that because Waikiki has everything: beaches, shopping, restaurants, night life – however, it’s not my style at all. While in O’ahu, we spent one day in Waikiki, but I would have felt cheated had we spent any more time there because there is so much more to see and do on the island.
So many people in my world have recently spent time in Hawaii, are in Hawaii now, or are planning a visit soon – which is one of the major reasons I am writing this post.
This blog post was written based on my own experience, if you have had a different experience and know of “things-to-do” in O’ahu, I welcome you to share in the comments below
1. Find & Visit some Hidden Beaches
I found an article on Conde Nast titled “Hawaii’s Best Hidden Beaches ” just a few days after returning to the main land. When reading it, I found excitement because we visited a few of the beaches on the list, however I was also bummed because we would have visited one of the beaches on the list had we known about it while we were there. I guess I’ll have to go back sometime soon to visit that beach -Luckily, we have friends in Hawaii who were able to show us a few hidden beaches!
The hidden beaches are worth looking up and seeking out, trust me. Do some research before you visit the island and plan which ones you’d like to find and visit.
2. Visit the North Shore
There aren’t many hotels on the North Shore, so I don’t think many tourists get up to the North Shore unless they are bussed from Waikiki. While you are in O’ahu, you’re going to need to rent a car, as far as I’m concerned. There is too much to see and do on he island to be stuck in one place without a car.
The North Shore is a beautiful, tropical part of the island, chockful of beautiful hidden beaches, surfers, farms, and lush greenery. It is a part of the island that you should definitely spend time at. Situated on a vast, green farm, we found a little hut to stay in for a few nights. The Hobbit Hut we stayed in sat amongst 2-3 other huts, a few tents, an open-air kitchen, and a yoga deck. We had beautiful views of Mt. Ka’ala, which is the highest point on the island.
If you don’t get up to the North Shore on your trip to O’ahu, you are cheating yourself.
3. Watch the Sunsets / Sunrises
It’s not easy to think about setting an alarm clock and getting up at 5am while on vacation, but it’s WORTH IT to catch the Hawaiian sunrise. We got up on Christmas morning and did the Pillbox hike to watch the sunrise over the ocean. On a different morning, we planted ourselves on the beach (Waimanalo) to watch the sunrise before we went out for breakfast. Makapu’u Point is another place we loved for watching the sunrise -although it was packed with people, we loved it – arrive early!
Our favorite place to watch the sunset was definitely at Mount Tantalus, a short drive to the top plants you in the perfect place to watch the sunset over the city of Honolulu. This is a place that you want to arrive early to, there will be a lot of people there, all racing to find the perfect place to plant themselves for one of the most beautiful sunsets they may ever witness.
There is no shortage of hikes to do while in O’ahu – ranging from “easy” to “dangerous”. It’s like a “choose-your-own-adventure” type situation – you get to choose how strenuous a hike you are up for. Regardless, all of the hikes are worth it. Our favorite hike was the Pillbox hike. When you get to the top, you have close to a 365 degree view of the island – it’s pretty sweet.
5. Seek out the Food Trucks
There are several food trucks on the island, mostly scattered throughout the North Shore. If you drive up to the North Shore, you will surely run in to them. Our favorite food truck was Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. They make some killer shrimp with rice and tons of garlic. If you’re a non-vegan, you’ve def got to check out Giovanni’s. (If you’re a vegan, find Beet Box on the North Shore instead of visiting the food truck – then thank me later)
6. Surf / SUP
There are surfers and SUP’ers (SUP = Stand Up Paddle Board) on several of the beaches we visited on O’ahu, it’s hard to not involve in the activities. Riding the ocean water is an experience that goes unmatched.
If you are the adventurous type, and you’re up for a thrilling experience, do yourself a favor and take surfing lessons. You may or may not get up on the board your first time out, but either way you will have the opportunity to experience some waves.
If you’re looking for more of a leisurely activity, rent a SUP. SUP’ing requires a little balance, and a minimal level of physical fitness, so this is an activity well-suited for just about anyone. a paid-lesson shouldn’t be required to ride a Stand Up Paddleboard – once you’re up on the board, it’s pretty easy to get around.
7. Visit Kailua
Kailua is quite possibly one of my favorite towns on O’ahu. It’s definitely a “nicer” area, it’s close to the beach, and has an awesome Whole Foods! We rented a house via airbnb.com in Kailua, it sat in an adorable neighborhood just about 1 mile from the beach. In the morning, we got up and joked to the beach, swan for a few minutes, and jogged back. In the afternoons we went to Lanikai Beach, which is one of the most beautiful beaches in O’ahu.
If you can find a home to rent here for a few nights, I would highly recommend you do.
8. Indulge in the Local Fruits
Driving along the outer edge of the North Shore, you will find fruit stands along the side of the road that are stocked full of fruits and veggies that you can’t get here on the mainland. A few of my favorite finds were the Ice Cream Bananas and the Purple Sweet Potatoes, both could be compared to candy – they’re THAT good.
If you don’t get a chance to go to the North Shore for the fruits, check out the local grocery store (like Whole Foods) for the local fruits. Eat as much as you can while you’re there, and eat some more for me while you’re at it!
9. China Wall
I would have NEVER known about the China Wall had it not been for my friends that live on the island. I feel lucky because the China Wall was definitely one of my favorite places we visited. Lava rock, and pristine blue, blue beautiful waters make up your experience at the China Wall. We walked along the wall until we couldn’t walk anymore, and we saw people who were perched on the rocks for a “beach” day. There are a few places along the rock that are safe for swimming, and some places where the water is fierce. Had we been more prepared, we may have tried to snorkel around the wall.
10. visit the Coffee Farm
If you are a coffee drinker, you MUST check out the Green World Coffee Farm. They’ve got hundreds of flavors of coffees (or so it seems), and you can sample several of them! They also have a super sweet gift shop and you can tour the coffee garden! I’d never seen a coffee plant before, so this was a neat experience for me. We purchased some coffee from the farm, my boyfriend says it’s some of the best coffee he’s had.
A few other things to do while in O’ahu: drink local Kona beer, eat everything with macadamia nuts, try an acai bowl (you can get them just about everywhere on the island including the coffee farm), and eat at Sweet Home Waimanalo’s (my favorite little veg-friendly restaurant on the island).