I am not a rookie to the beautiful island of Oahu. I was blessed to visit this island many times throughout my childhood and leading into college, but this time was different. This time I got to play "tour guide" to my husband and my in-laws. They had never been to Oahu (Dylan and I stayed on Kauai for our honeymoon) and my in-laws had never truly been on vacation. I wanted to go big so I did research and created an itinerary for our trip, ensuring that we get to do all of the fun things! Below is my list of the must-see and do places on Oahu!
This is easily one of the most popular hikes on the island. Other than a few sets of stairs, the hike is relatively easy and takes about two hours (round trip). Diamond Head is part of a state park and therefore, entrance in to the park costs $1 per person or $5 per car. I recommend getting to the park in the morning, before the heat of the day. There is limited parking inside the park or you can park nearby and walk. When we visited, there was a shave ice truck in the parking lot so we treated ourselves after the hike.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is a must see place when visiting Oahu. Whether you are an avid snorkeler or just learning the ropes, Hanauma Bay is a great place to see a wide variety of fish and marine life. The beach is pleasant and the water is calm! I recommend going in the morning time (they open at 7:00 am) so you can get a decent parking spot and good spot on the beach. There is a $7 entrance fee along with the option for renting snorkeling gear. You are welcome to bring food and drinks or buy from the snack shop at the park.
A key piece of our country's history that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. I had been to Pearl Harbor as a child when visiting Hawaii with my family, but this memorial meant so much more to me in my adulthood. We toured the USS Bowfin submarine and museum. Such a incredible piece of history! I recommend planning to spend most of the day at Pearl Harbor, that way you get to see all of the memorials and tours possible.
Koko Crater Trail aka "Kokohead"
This trail is known as the "stair master" of hikes. The hike consist of just over 1,000 railroad ties that were used by the military during WWII. The summit was used as a lookout and the railroad was used to carry supplies and food up to those at the top. The hike is strenuous but man, it's worth it! The view from the top is incredible! I recommend starting early, just before sunrise, to beat the crowd and heat. You'll work up a good appetite for breakfast or some fresh Hawaiian doughnuts from Leonard's Bakery. Kokohead is about 20 minutes east of Waikiki.
In the hills of Oahu is a trail, tucked away from town. Drive through the neighborhood to a small parking lot (I believe it's a couple bucks to park). Manoa Falls is a short easy hike that feels a lot like a scene from Jurassic Park. I kept expecting a T-Rex to pop out of the trees! The trail is mostly clay so it can be slippery if wet. After about a mile, you'll reach a gorgeous waterfall where you can take photos or continue on to a longer hike.
When we travel, we like to keep a budget. This trip, I knew going on the sunrise dolphin snorkel tour with Iruka Hawaii Experiences was definitely going to be part of our trip. I had high expectations for this adventure and it did NOT disappoint! We hopped on the catamaran, found a pod of dolphins, jumped in the water and swam with the pod for over an hour! Then, we found a couple of sea turtles around a huge coral reef and later, found a group of reef sharks! It was quite the adventure! The crew was very welcoming and helped to make sure we were comfortable in the water. We were given snacks on the way back to the marina and burgers were awaiting us when we returned. It's definitely worth the money!
Up on the north shore of the island, there's a valley called Waimea Valley. Enter the valley and explore gorgeous botanical gardens ending at a beautiful waterfall. Grab a life jacket from the awesome staff and go for a swim! They also have a cafe for lunch and gift shop for souvenirs.
Lanaikea Beach aka "Turtle Beach
Lanaikea beach is famous for turtle sightings. Everyday, turtles beach themselves for a nap or to lay eggs. The turtles are protected by volunteers so there are ropes to prevent human interaction, but if you are looking to swim near them, check for calm water and enjoy a nice swim!
The north shore is just over an hour from Waikiki and is a great day trip! Take a drive, see the beach (and huge waves), get some lunch in town and walk through the local surf shops.
The Dole Plantation is a MUST when visiting north shore! The plantation opens at 10:00 am and there are plenty of sights to enjoy! Compete against your crew in the garden maze, take a train tour through the plantation and end your trip with some delicious dole whip!
Easily the most popular beach on Oahu and rightfully so, due to it's gorgeous skyline ending with a silhouette of Diamond Head. There is plenty of space on the beach for everyone to enjoy themselves.
For first time visitors, I highly recommend attending a luau. It's truly an experience of local cuisine and cultural entertainment that you won't find anywhere else! We chose Diamond Head Luau for several reason. It's located right on the beach, just next to Diamond Head. Diamond Head Luau is the only one on the island who's cuisine is farm to table so everything is locally farmed and the menu changes depending on what's in season. Lastly, admission into the aquarium comes with the purchase of the luau tickets- the aquarium has a wide variety of marine life! The entertainment was a great representation of island culture and the food was delicious!
What else do you like to do when visiting Oahu?
-The Happy Egg