Hawaii has such an array of activities to choose from. One could not fit them all into a typical one- or two-week vacation. Maybe you don’t want to. Maybe sitting poolside at one of the many luxury hotels in Waikiki, or enjoying a bed and breakfast somewhere on the North Shore is just what the doctor ordered. Basking poolside or in the warm sand at one of the many beautiful beaches is quite relaxing, and you may have no urge to do anything else.
However, if you do choose to venture out, Hawaii’s weather provides a multitude of activities to do and see. Let’s start our virtual journey with the island of Oahu. If you head east out of Waikiki one of the first popular sites you’ll see is Diamond Head. Known as Le’ahi to the Hawaiians, its name means “brow of the tuna”.
It was the early Western sailors that named it “Diamond Head” because it would look like diamonds were sparkling on the mountainside when they passed by in their ships. You can climb the Diamond Head summit trail for some awesome views. The trail is just under a mile but it is known to be steep and strenuous in places.
Continuing east, the next popular site you’ll see is Hanauma Bay. Hanauma Bay is a marine bay formed by a volcanic cone. If you want to enjoy a day snorkeling next to Hawaiian sea turtles or “honu’, this is a place. A visit for a Haunama Bay snorkeling tour is one you want to plan well for.
You should get there early as the parking lot fills by mid-morning, after which no more cars will be allowed in. You will be required to watch a video before entering in order to inform you of the parks preservation requirements. Just north of Hanauma Bay is Koko Head Park. If you’re into short strenuous hikes with the payoff of some of the best viewpoints on the island this is it.
Immediately past Koko Head is Sandy Beach Park. “Sandy’s” is a dangerous beach. To swim here is not recommended unless you are an expert swimmer, and even then you must be familiar with these types of ocean conditions. Body boarders and body surfers love this spot due to its raging shore break.
The waves break very close to shore. There may be opportunities for a great photo. But always keep your eyes on the waves and keep your distance. Ocean waves are very unpredictable. Again, experienced only. This is one of the most dangerous beaches in Hawaii and has earned its nickname “break neck” beach. If in doubt, don’t go out.
About another two miles past Sandy Beach Park is Sea Life Park Hawaii. Ever wanted to swim with the dolphins? Well you can do that and a whole lot more at Sea Life Park. If a swim with the dolphins is too timid for you why you can nuzzle up with a family of Hawaiian sharks. There’s only a wire mesh between you and these majestic creatures. There’s also a chance to come into close encounters with sea lions and Hawaiian Sting Rays.
For the more reserved visitor there are plenty of shows where you are quite a safe distance from the action while not missing out on any of the adventure. There’s even a mini park for the kids! A visit to Haunama Bay and/or Sea Life Park may take several hours depending on how you plan and by now you may be ready to go back to your hotel room and call it a day.
However, if you wanted to continue east your journey will lead you to the quaint local town of Waimanalo. And just past the town center are some of the most beautiful beaches on the island of Oahu. If you’re looking for a little shelter from the sun while enjoying its warmth, this beach has prime spots in the shade while supplying ample sun for the most serious of sunbathers. This five-mile stretch of beach reaches from Waimanalo beach Park to Bellows Field Beach Park.
It is a windward facing beach and is known for wide stretches of golden white sand. This is a great beach for beginners in body boarding or simply playing in the small waves. Be aware that these waves can sometimes be a bit rough. But there’s plenty of sand so the water generally tends to be shallow for most of the year. Summertime is a favorite time to visit this beach.
As you leave this area heading north it will take you to the two windward side towns of Kailua and Kaneohe. Kailua and Kaneohe Bay are notable wind surfing spots so if that’s your thing this is where you need to be… wind permitting. At this point in your trip you may want to think about time. This trip includes a lot to do and may not be possible to complete in one day. It may be time to head back towards Waikiki.
To get back to Waikiki you simply take the Pali Hwy or the Likelike Hwy. If it’s during rush hour traffic and you’re headed to western Oahu you might think about using H3. On the other hand, if you’re headed to the famous North Shore of Oahu you have two choices. You can take H3 to the H2 and on to Kamehameha Highway or you catch Kamehameha Highway above Kaneohe and take the scenic route. Kamehameha Highway simply wraps around the northern tip of the island from Kaneohe to Wahiawa like the crown of a hat.
Both routes are about the same in distance. The scenic route will take about 15-20 minutes longer. However, if you’re planning on a visit to the Polynesian Culture Center from Kaneohe the fastest way is the scenic route. It is a long drive but definitely worth doing once… time permitting. The Polynesian Cultural Center is the most popular paid attraction in all the Hawaiian islands.
Either way you decide to get there visiting Oahu North Shore is a must. It’s about an hour if you’re leaving from Waikiki, just head straight to H1 West and up H2 North. The North Shore of Oahu is the surfing capital of the world as it is the home to three of the most beloved waves in the surfing community: Waimea Bay, the world famous Bonzai Pipeline, and Sunset Beach. The waves break at these spots mainly in the winter and attract surf enthusiasts from all over the world.
Haleiwa is the town center for everything North Shore. When you reach the historic “Rainbow Bridge” over the Anahulu River you’ll know you’re in town. Haleiwa offers a local feel with local fare so make sure you have time to look around. Be sure to stop by Matsumoto’s Shave Ice and get and get a treat. They’ve been there for over 50 years. They had the best “shaved ice” in 1977 and still do to this day. Rainbow flavored with ice cream in the bottom sounds pretty good doesn’t it?
Just five miles past Haleiwa along Kamehameha Hwy is Waimea Beach. Made infamous with the help of Eddie Aikau. “Eddie would go” is a popular chant because Eddie would “go” out in the biggest waves without fear. He was a courageous waterman and knew the ocean well. As a lifeguard he saved many lives at Waimea Bay.
He was lost to the sea in 1978 when the Hokule’a, a voyaging canoe, capsized south of the island of Molokai. Eddie paddled off to save the crew but was never found. When the waves at Waimea reach 30 feet or more surfers from all around come to honor him in the Quicksilver Waimea Bay Big Wave Surfing competition in Memory of Eddie Aikau.
Five more minutes down the road brings you to Ehukai Beach Park, home to the Bonzai Pipeline. The reef at “Pipeline” serves up a beast of a wave that breaks in shallow water making this wave one of the most dangerous and thrilling waves to watch or ride. Because this wave hits the shallow reef so fast and so hard it often creates hollow, thick waves that will barrel and spit out the most professional of surfers.
Less than a mile further is Sunset Beach. Sunset Beach holds the Duke Kahanamoku Classic surf competition and actually used to be the most well known big wave surf spot before Pipeline. Traveling further east along Kamehameha Hwy brings you to Kahuku and eventually the Polynesian Culture Center from the north side of the island. If you have no desire to make that long drive you will want to turn around and head back to Haleiwa.
Obviously there is a lot to consider when planning what to do with your time on Oahu. There is no way to cover it all. A lot of good tips are given here. The rest you’ll have to see for yourself.
By Hawaii Active