LOST IN OAHU
The phrase “picture perfect” must have been created after visiting Hawaii, because the rumors are true: this place is par-a-dise! When I was planning my recent trip to Hawaii I was undecided on which islands I wanted to visit, because they all looked amazing- how do you chose between perfection? After plenty of research and pinterest-ing I decided to make my first stop Oahu. I was a little worried, because I had heard Oahu was quite touristy (and I hate having strangers running into my photos!!)
We planned the trip at the end of January, which I heard was “rain season” but the weather couldn’t have been better with 27 Celsius every day and nothing but sun! See ya later rain!!! We may have just gotten lucky, but ill take it. We arrived on Oahu Saturday morning and headed to our hotel in Waikiki, checked in, changed and hit the beach.
Waikiki beach is the most touristy area on Oahu, but if you don’t have a car rental and are looking for a beautiful beach, endless shopping and great food- it is all here waiting for you! We had rented a car, so we wanted to experience one day in Waikiki and after that, spend days outside the city and our evenings here. My recommendation for an evening in Waikiki is watching the sunset over Waikiki beach (AMAZING!) followed by dinner at Dukes- the best burger I’ve had in a long time along with the STRONGEST mai tai!
There are countless breath taking views and turquoises beaches, but I have come up with a list of my faves. I had 4 days to fit in a lot of great locations and we were constantly on the go, but I did it!!
THE PILLBOX HIKE
Beginning at a residential street in the town of Kailua, the entrance of this hike is a little hard to find, but once you see the sign, you head straight up to one of the most beautiful views, in my opinion! It was a little challenging since it had rained over night, so it was a little slippery at times, and I felt like I was borderline-rock climbing due to the steep elevation. The hike one way took about 45 minutes (after stopping for a million photo ops of course) with picture perfect views of white sand beaches and the two islands called the Mokulua islands. If you don’t have a car, you can also take a city bus to this hike.
KOOLAU MOUNTAIN SUMMIT-AKA THE DEAD MAN’S CATWALK
Firstly, I will say that this is an illegal hike and I was peer pressured to do it, since I’m a bit of a goody-goody. Secondly, ill say it was worth the stress. The beginning of this hike also begin within a residential area and there were countless signs that say “no trespassing” and “do not enter!’ If it was up to me I wouldn’t have done it but I ended up having a “YOLO” moment and hopped the fence(if I ever was to have a YOLO moment, this was the time!) It was HOT, it was NOT shaded, it was a steep elevation, and after we hiked the hill (which took about half an hour-but it was paved) we climbed up another mini hill to the left, hopped through some branches, climbed through a broken fence, headed towards these sketchy looking cellular towers, squeezed through another fence and alas-there it was! The view I had been waiting for! Ab-sol-utely stunning! 50 shaded of blue, the ocean seemed to go on forever, the white sand beaches stretched as long as I could see with the classic “Dead Man’s Catwalk” pointing out towards the sea- what a time to be alive!!!
DIAMOND HEAD TRAIL
You can see diamond head from the famous Waikiki strip and it looks like it might take 10 years to climb all the way up- but the view is worth the sweat! Diamond head is a saucer shaped crater that was formed about 300,000 years ago and is Hawaii’s most recognized landmark. During this hike you actually can walk through a volcanic tunnel, which is pretty cool. My advice is to get there early before the parking lot fills up (I think it was $5 to park or $1 a person to walk in.) Do yourself the favor and drive up to the parking lot- it is quite the hike to the BEGINNING of the hike and it is a lot more strenuous then you may think. You don’t want to get burned out before you begin! There is A LOT of steep uphill climbing so you will burn a sweat- take a mirror or brush if you want to take pics at the top. Once you reach the top there are 360 views of all of Waikiki, the beach, the ocean, the mountains- it’s pretty incredible. We were there during primetime whale watching season, so we saw countless blowhole spouts going off at all times.
Located on the east side of the Island, this beach is what dreams are made of. Soft white sand, bright blue water and not over crowded. Actually, I may have actually been one of about 4 people on this beach. Mid-week in January seemed to be the best time to avoid having to share the sand with any strangers. If you’re lucky, you may even have a sea turtle sighting!
Located super close to Waimanalo beach and in the most adorable town called Kailua. This beach is much like Waimanalo beach with the blue waters and soft white sand, but also has a lot of opportunity for snorkeling as well as water sports. You will know you reached it when you see the Mokulua islands.
WAIMEA BAY BEACH
Located in the famous North Shore, This beach is home to many surfers, so be ready for the show! One of my favorite memories from Hawaii is sitting on the beach amongst hundreds of people all watching the surfers dominate the crazy waves- everyone taking photos and videos of these extremely brave souls. During the day I was able to swim in the wavy waters, although you always need to be aware of the currents, which can be strong at times. If you are on the north shore this a beach not to miss!
Obviously at some point in life you have heard of Waikiki beach. Lined with hotel after hotel, this is the beach that does not sleep! It is a great place to book a hotel, with tons of places to eat and shop along the water; there really IS something for everyone. The sand is golden the water is warm and inviting- you may not even notice all the tourists! Yes, it gets busy but it kind of gives it charm. Don’t forget to say hi to Duke- the monument of Duke AKA The Big Kahuna, standing tall and surrounded by Lei’s. There is a ceremony each evening where they light all the torches along the Waikiki strip starting at our friend Duke. Lastly, be sure to catch a sunset along the beach- I genuinely have never seen SUCH a beautiful sunset in my life!
OTHER MISCELLAENOUS REASONS WHY I LOVE OAHU
THE DOLE PLANTATION- it is kind of in the middle of nowhere however if you have a car it is about 35 minutes from Waikiki. Try the famous Dole Whip, take a tour of the plantation, check out the rainbow eucalyptus trees in the front and of COURSE- try a pineapple. NEVER had a better piece of fruit in my LIFE!
HIT UP A LUAU- Okay if you go to Hawaii without ever checking out a luau you haven’t lived! There are a bunch located throughout the island, however the most famous one is located at the Polynesian cultural center. Dinner and a show is about $100.
ALA MOANA SHOPPING CENTRE- can you say shopping heaven??? Named the largest outdoor shopping mall in the world- this place will not disappoint if you are looking for somewhere to rack up a credit card bill! My favorite discovery is the “Cinnamon Girl” boutique!
Yes this place gets crowded but YES this is the place for snorkeling!! I was told not to go here since it is very touristy, however I don’t usually do what I’m told, so why start now. We arrived as soon as it opened so we beat some of the crowds. By 11am it was bumpin’ in here with tons of tourists however we were finished our snorkeling expedition at this point. We saw countless tropical fish and coral reefs since we ventured pretty far out. If you stay close to the shore you most likely wont have the best luck. Watch out though- the corals can be shallow in a lot of areas and you may end up cutting yourself! Try and stay within the deeper areas! ALSO-note that when we were leaving at about 11:30am the lot was full and security was turning people away so my advice is to go early!
THE NORTH SHORE-HALEIWA
This surf town is adorable and full of cute shops and food trucks (Try a Hula Dog with the pineapple relish!) You don’t want to miss out on the refreshing Shave Ice from Matsumoto, which essentially is a fancy snow-cone, but is still delish! Take a swim in Turtle Bay Beach, where I had a run-in with a sea turtle and got up close and personal with an octopus! Watch the sunset on “Sunset Beach” and see where this beach got its name. Venture through the Waimea valley and dive into the Waimea waterfall. The north shore is a day all on its own- you wont run out of things to do!
This temple is a little slice of Japan, dropped onto Oahu! Located about 30 minutes outside of Waikiki, this temple is a non-denominational shrine dedicated to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. You don’t need a long time here, however it is quite a site to see, nestled below the towering mountains and surrounded by a bamboo forest and koi pond.
In my opinion, Oahu is the PERFECT vacation destination! The bustling streets of Waikiki give you endless dining and shopping options in the evening after the sun goes down then during the day, hop in the car and drive away from the crowds to find countless empty beaches and hikes free from tourists. Whether you go with your friends, children, lover or a bachelorette party-the flight to this speck in the ocean will not disappoint. Oahu, we will meet again!