Touring / Exploration, Oahu
A great way to see more of the island is to get out there and do some exploring. If you are based in Waikiki Beach, why not rent a car for the day, or take the bus to one of the other exciting places on the island.
I've rented a car a few times during our many visits because we wanted the ease of being able to drive around at our own pace and stop and admire the beauty of the island at our own time.
Oahu has some beautiful points of interest and great look out points where you feel you are all alone on the island.
These are just a few of the great places we've seen during our drive around Oahu:
Nuuana Pali Lookout
Ko'olau Montain Range*
I'm a great nature lover and one of the things that I love so much about visiting Oahu is the opportunity to see the humpback whales.
The northern humpback whale migrates to the Hawaiian islands (one of three locations they migrate to) yearly during the fall. Their migration is about 3500 miles which takes them about 6-8 weeks to complete. The whales can be seen mainly off he island of Maui, but you can get a glimpse of them on a few other islands including Oahu.
I've seen the humpback off the shores of Waikiki Beach on a whale watching trip. It was amazing to see these beautiful beings up close and personal.
The migration season is November - May.
The blowhole is an old lava tube that sucks up the sea water and funnels and sprouts it through the hole as a geyser. The blowhole can sprout as far as 30 feet above the rock formation.
Although not advisable you can make your way down to the blowhole for a better look at the spouting geyser.
I respect nature and prefer to admire it from the distance. I wouldn't want to be faced with an unexpected emergency.
The blowhole is located along the Kalaniana Highway not far from Hanauma Bay and Koko Crater.
Aloha. Oahu is more than Honolulu (Waikiki Beach) and Pearl Harbor. Your entire family will enjoy the excitement of Waikiki from the shopping to the soft rolling waves that almost anyone can surf. Great for watching or joining in on catamaran rides or outrigger canoe. The view of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach from beyond the waves is priceless. Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial is a must for those that wish to honor those that died on Dec. 7 1941 and for those that want to see the folly of war. See my Honolulu Oahu tips.
The part about Oahu being more is from the fact that I enjoyed the windward side of the Island with having a home in Kaneohe, next door to Kailua and the beautiful white powder sandy beach, now home to windsurfing. If you are young at heart or have children, you might want to try this water sport. If not, there is Mini Putt for all and a zip line for the entire family in Kaneohe. Take the Pali Pass from Honolulu to get to Kaneohe/Kailua and stop at the Nuuanu Pali Lookout to view the rugged Koolau Mountain Range and the Kaneohe Bay and Chinaman's Hat Island. Everyone gets a kick out of the force of the wind at the lookout, so hold on tight to your hat. See the website:
Also on the windy side is the Haiku Gardens, a hidden tropical gem in Kaneohe, where one of my daughters got married. The gardens are an area of the flora of Hawaii with a great restaurant, Haleiwa Joe's, sitting above on a cliff looking down into the garden and pond. This is a sight your family should remember for their entire life of the peace and beauty of paradise and a meal to boot. See the website: http://www.haleiwajoes.com/
Up the tropical coast are parks to visit with vistas out to sea and to the mountains as well as the Polynesian Cultural Center, where all the cultures of the Pacific are shown in dance and traditions during the day with a Luau at night. Many tourists consider this a highlight of their days in Hawaii. See the website: http://www.polynesia.com/
The North Shore needs no introduction if you or anyone in your family like to surf or like to watch surfers. This is the home of the giant waves in winter and calmer seas in the summer. Waimea Beach is a wide sandy beach with many surfers in the water and a great place to relax on the sand. Across the road is the Waimea Falls Park with the one mile walk to the falls through the tropical jungle and then see the falls or climb up and dive in to cool off. In the world of surfing, Pipeline, Sunset and Waimea are well known. Snorkeling is also popular on the North Shore at Sharks Cove, close to the artsy town of Haleiwa where Matsumoto's Shave Ice is a delight for all. I have gone there since the 1960's and it still is "ono" to me. Try a Shave Ice like locals with ice cream and azuki beans on the bottom. "Brok'da mout". Sorry, slippin' into my local talk just thinking of Matsumoto's. See the website:
Between Honoulu and Haleiwa is the Dole Plantation. Okay, this is the home of the world's largest maze. Let the keikis (children) get the steam out by trying this wild maze while you enjoy their famous Dole Whip at the Plantation Grille. See the website:
Close by to Waikiki is Hanauma Bay Park beyond Diamond Head and Hawaii Kai. This is where the snorkeling is easy as sticking your head into the water with a snorkel mask and see the tropical fish. Nearby is the blow hole, where ocean waves rush into a tube on the cliff and shoots out in a whoosh sound and geyser spray. staying on the road and you will come to Sandy Beach, a body board area that wipe outs are common and many tourists sit and watch the action. See the website:
Well, I could go on and on about the night life of Waikiki. Let's just say that the many hotels bars are full and the dance clubs are jumping. The sunset cruises in the waters off the beach. Sounds of slack key guitars strumming in the many hotels while the ancient art of the hula is performed. The hustle and bustle of the shopping madness even at night on Kalakaua that has one check out their wallet for credit cards.
A hui hou, Aloha'oe.:-)
Every resort has its own special quality; so it's worth it to check them out. Differents shops, bars, restaurants and attractions can be found at each property. It's also a nice way to scout out your next hotel choice when visiting the island.
My wife and I enjoy exploring different resorts and comparing their offerings. Our most recent trip we explored several different resorts and found our next hotel stay.
Doing a dive in a sub is a cool experience. The atlantis crew were really good and everything went like clock-work. We got picked up and dropped off at our hotel so not worry on the transport side. The dive took around 60 minutes so was a good idea to visit the gents before taking the plunge so to speak.
The dive is at Waikiki and goes around some preset sites that have coral formimg on them and plenty of fish to ooh and ahh at. We went to a depth of approx 110 feet and had a really good commentary from a rather excited sounding lady who talked us through the highlights, types of fish we were seeing and how the ocean floor was prepared for the tour.
The cost was $120 each adult and $50 for the wee ones (ours was the sub with the big windows - there is another tour with a smaller sub for approx $110). You save a few dollars if you book online - see the link below.
Headed out of the hotel to the east shore of Ohau. The folks at the front desk has mentioned a paved walk that provides beautiful views of the ocean and if we were lucky, the opportunity to see whales breaching. There is a reasonably steep walk to the top, a good workout for sure and it's doable in about 60-90 minutes round trip..
Something we did that was pretty fun for the whole family was a scavenger hunt in the downtown area. It took a couple hours and we had fun doing the puzzles while learning a little about Hawaii history. Its called Urban Adventure Quest and you can Google the website to check it out. You get your clues on your cell phone over the internet. The cost is per team, not per person. My family enjoyed it.
Here's a suggestion for a day trip if you are staying in Honolulu or Waikiki. Drive the eastern end of Oahu and take in the various coastal sites. This route offers many opportunities to view the eastern coastline, stop at lookouts, beaches, local shops, and eateries.
Start by driving east on the H1 until it turns into Kalanianaole Highway (route 72). Go through Hawaii Kai and stop at the Halona Blow Hole parking lot near Koko Crater. The blow hole is viewable from the outlook adjacent to the parking lot.
Continue to, and stop at, the Makapu'u lookout. The view from this lookout provides views of the Windward coast including the beaches of Makapu'u and Waimanalo.
The drive will take you through Waimanalo. Stop at Kenekes for plate lunch and/or shave ice. Kenekes is "local dive" in a red and white building on the right as you enter the town of Waimanalo. There is also a shrimp truck and 'ice cold coconut' sold at various road-side stands here.
Turn left at the Pali Highway (route 61) and continue up the mountain towards Honolulu. Stop at the Nu'uanu Pali lookout at the top of the mountain. The turn-off for the lookout is about half a mile past the tunnels near the top of the pass.
Return to Honolulu by continuing down the Pali to the bottom of the mountain.
Total driving time is about an hour and a half, excluding time for stops along the way.
I took The Bus both times I was in Waikiki, to go to Sea World and to revisit Turtle Bay resort: www.turtlebayresort.com/ - do check out both the bus ride and the resort! You can also drop by the Polynesian Cultural Center enroute!
For $60 a pop, P.G. and I hopped on an E Noa mini bus for the “Majestic Waterfall & Circle Island Tour”. With our Irish-Hawaiian tour guide named Shannon O’Brien (I kid you not) we were treated to a great orientation of Oahu - local style.
Now I know what you're thinking. How touristy is that!? Ok, sure, but here's my take on it. We were gonna circle the whole island, and knowing how much I complain about my boyfriend's aggressive driving habits, we would've spent most of the time arguing rather than enjoying the scenery. Nah, for this Hawaiian experience we were gonna leave it up to the pros. Added bonus was the fact that our guide was great!
So rent a car and go on your own (and risk arguing with your partner on the drive) or purchase a tour package, but circling the island is definitely a must do! And if you do decide to take the E Noa Tour, ask for Shannon, he's entertainment in and of itself. You're guaranteed a great time.
Tour highlights include meandering the island coastline, which affords you excellent scenic views, driving past pineapple fields, stopping at Waimea Valley, visiting the Byodo-In Temple, spotting turtles on Turtle Beach (if you're lucky), and many other things.
Note: Tip originally written for Jan. 2003 visit to Oahu.
This chapel was built in 1865 and was once the mausoleum for Hawaii's royalty, but now Kings Kamehameah II-V are interred in underground pits on the grounds (pic #2). Surprisingly, the chapel was constructed of coral "bricks" and not stone as it appears.
The original King Kamehameah is missing from this royal depository because he was buried traditional style--his body was stripped of flesh, then his bones were hidden in caves throughout the Hawaii (the big island).
There were some unusual trees surrounding this 3 acre plot: a huge Kukui nut tree, African Sausage Tree and Breadfruit Tree. Plumeria and Bougainvillea added hues of pink and white to the landscape.
Hours are 8:00 am-4:30 pm.
Hold onto your hats when you explore Pali Lookout--because the trade winds whip through this area!
This is the site of King Kamehameha's victory leading to his conquering of all the Hawaiian islands. The bones from 400 souls were found at the base of this mountain. When road construction was necessary, another 400 skeletons were unearthed. Those who lost the battle here either fell or were thrown off the mountain--as you can see it would have been a long way down!
The vista was breathtakingly beautiful! To reach Pali Lookout, we snaked along old Pali Highway passed folded mountains and through a tropical rainforest (pic #2).
At the lookout entrance, a cheeky rooster with his hens foraged in the brush( pic #3), a scene you'll only come across in the rural areas.
Secreted behind the Oahu Cemetery (down a little from the Royal Mausoleum) and along a nature trail through the cool woods, you'll discover a shallow cave sheltering petroglyphs from the 1700's depicting a woman giving birth and a dog (pic#2). Further on you'll spy a small waterfall called Kapena Falls, which is about 15-18 feet high.
Once you follow this trail to the end, a natural pool appears. When we visited, dozens of young people were using a long chain fastened to a tree branch to swoop over the water and drop. Our guide said locals have been using this location for years.
Indian Banyon trees, Cook Pine (or Hawaiian Christmas Tree), African Tulip Tree and others shaded the pathway, while boulders of all sizes lined the narrow stream. It was a pleasant nature walk only about 10 minutes one way.
Pali Highway is considered the most beautiful road on Oahu and it will lead you to the Nuuanu Pali lookout from which you can get one of the most beautiful views on the island. The road that leads to the lookout is going through a rich forest that gives you a feeling of a 5-minute drive through a green tunnel with occasional sun rays that break through the leaves of the giant trees.
Not always has it been just a nice lookout, Nuuanu Pali is one of the most important historical points of Oahu. In 1795 King Kamehameha I and his men won a battle against the army of Oahu Island after which the islands of Hawaii were united. Kamehameha I brought the enemy to this very place and sent them to their death, falling down the steep “pali” which literally translates to “cliff” from Hawaiian. There are plenty of signs and pictures on the site that show the story of the battle.
The views from the lookout are really astonishing. On your left you’ll see endless green mountains, the mighty ocean and the China Man’s hat will be just in front of you, and on your right you’ll see the most scenic road, H-3 road, with two of its bridges (viaducts) that run through the jungle-like nature. This road is considered, by many, a real engineering achievement and, even if you’re not on your way to Nuuanu lookout, take this highway just to appreciate the beauty of it.
Nuuanu Pali is a real magnet for tourists, but it shouldn’t be avoided. To me it was the most beautiful lookout I’ve ever been to.
There are two things to remember, it is ALWAYS very windy and may be a bit chilly, so bring something with long sleeves, just in case. And, for some reason this place is full of bees, so if you’re allergic remember to carry your atropine with you.