So, you finally committed and bought your tickets to Oahu, Hawaii. You are stoked!
But what exactly are you going to do once you get to this tropical paradise?
First off, relax. You are almost on island time. Take your time and choose your itinerary wisely.
From the touristy developed Waikiki beach, to ridgeline trails, to the sleepy north shore, there are all kinds of things to keep everyone busy (even your little ones) on the island. Don’t try to do too much. Again, you are on island time. Stop and smell the wild orchids.
Here are a couple highlighted outdoor activities:
1. Honolulu and Waikiki Region
About a 25-minute drive from downtown Waikiki, through a sleepy neighborhood, is access to the Kuliouou Ridge trailhead. This hike feels like a completely different world away from the hustle and bustle of downtown. You will be rewarded with fantastic 360-degree views from the summit.
Descending the trail passing from lush ferns fields back into the forest.
This amazing ridge trail follows one of the backbones of Hawaii to a lookout point high above Honolulu. Every turn encompasses spectacular scenery and forest life surely to amaze. Throughout the journey, you will pass through a variety of biomes. From hiking over gnarled tropical jungle roots, to the softest pine needle-covered paths, to blooming fields of orchids, this trail really has it all.
From the top!
If you are feeling like a hike, and maybe a soak, consider keeping things closer to the ocean. Be warned, the Makapu’u Tidepools are not for the faint-hearted. Down a steep, somewhat hidden side path, the adventurous are rewarded with clear, sparkling tide pools full of vibrant colorful life. Listen for the sound of blowholes spouting crisp ocean mists high into the sky. Once you hear it, you are getting close!
To find the tide pools, follow the paved Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail and keep an eye out for a small path down and on the right about three-quarters of the way to the lighthouse.
A brief word of caution, the ocean is a VERY powerful place. Try to go near low tide and swell conditions. Keep a close eye on the ocean’s situation. Take in the natural beauty for 10- 15 minutes before entering the pools to avoid getting washed out to sea.
Just off the paved trail about to descend to the tide pools.
2. North Shore
From snorkeling in the idyllic summer months, to surfing big waves during the winter, everyone can enjoy the North Shore. To reiterate, the ocean is a powerful place. Before entering the water, take a seat and observe the conditions for at least 10 to 15 minutes. It never hurts to talk to a lifeguard as well. If in doubt, stay safe and relax on the beach. You don’t want to end up being featured on @kookslams!
(Not so) Secret Beach
When you see a poster of a paradise beach, there is a decent chance this is the one. It can be found here. Keep in mind, the Secret Beach is a quiet place and is a privilege to have access to; be super respectful. Pack your trash and be careful not to park anywhere that could annoy local homeowners.
With sea turtles grazing on seaweed and dolphins playing in the surf, this is an ideal summer beach for snorkeling. Or, simply relaxing under a palm tree to soak in the ocean views. This is truly the quintessential image of a quiet, peaceful beach. Even better, you can potentially have it all to yourself!
Sunset Beach is home to the best wave in the world: Banzai Pipeline. It is here where the best and strongest watermen on the planet compete for the wave of a lifetime.
During the summer, you will see an amazing variety of sea life under the calm waters. This place is perfect for a casual swim, snorkel, or beach day.
In the winter, this beach gets an electric feel fueled by the incredible power of the ocean unloading onto the shores. This is when the Banzai Pipeline is at its peak. If you’re in the area during this time of year, grab a beach chair and watch the best surfers in the world put on a show!
A walk on Sunset Beach.
Three Tables is hands down the best place to see colorful sea life. The beach is sheltered from the full power of the ocean and boasts some of the best snorkeling around. Keep your eyes open and you can see all kinds of abundant marine life native to the area. If you are lucky, you will catch a breathtaking glimpse of color-changing octopuses.
Grab your snorkel gear and find some underwater arches to swim through, or lay down a towel and watch for sea turtles napping on the beach!
3. Windward Coast
Relaxing and quiet, this part of the island is often overlooked by most tourists.
Known for its peaceful waters and white sand beaches, Lanikai Beach is a beautiful spot to spend a nice day by the Pacific. Colorful reefs close to the shore make for brilliant blue water, and several small mountainous islands in the distance certainly add to the view. Pack a lunch and watch for kite boarders cruising or flying along this gorgeous stretch of coast.
A drive-by view of Lanikai beach.
Located on the eastern coast, this is one of the best places on the entire island to watch the sunrise. Near the summit of the hike, you will find a WWII-era lookout bunker formerly used for spotting enemy ships. If you are feeling adventurous, climb on top or inside the pillbox and check out the colorful artwork and amazing scenery.
Welcoming a new day along the trail, coffee in hand.
Hawaii is one of the many reasons why Earth is such an incredible place. Apart from the wonderful weather, you will experience dazzling landscapes and wildlife unlike anything else. Hawaii is truly a vacation everyone should aim to do in their lifetime. After experiencing Oahu, a second trip to Maui should certainly be on your radar!
If you keep a close eye on flights, you can definitely find some good deals!