• Cindi Villard

Hawaii: Is Oahu the adventure for you?

Updated: May 24, 2019

The next vacation destination that beckons you is the adventurous and beautiful state of Hawaii, with so many unbelievable adventures on each island, along with the culture, history, jaw dropping views, and iconic beaches it can be hard to choose which is the right island for you. Take an enticing voyage through Hawaii with Summit to Sand and enjoy this valuable summary of the adventures each island offers to get a taste of which destination fits your style.

First stop, Oahu.

Oahu aerial by @chasefoto on Unsplash

O’AHU- The Heart of Hawaii

As the third largest island in the Hawaiian chain with almost one million people populating the island, roughly 2/3 the population of the entire state, it is easy to see why it is often referred to as “The Gathering Place.”

But, don’t let the sheer amount of people scare you into thinking this is not the island for you.

Past the cosmopolitan capital of Honolulu and its best beaches at the world- famous resort Waikiki, you will find the switch from fast bustling city to rural beach town quiet pleasurable.

Culture and History

In the Capital of Honolulu, you will find a rich blend of ancient Polynesian culture with new age. Be sure to check out these places if you can pull yourself away from the beach and into the city.

  • ‘Iolani Palace the only royal palace in the US

  • China Town

  • Hawaiian State Art Museum

  • Hawaii Theatre on the US National Registrar of Historic Places

  • Pearl Harbor 20-minute drive from Honolulu center

Unless you plan on staying at a resort in Waikiki or Honolulu for your entire trip, it is highly advised to get a rental car to explore beyond the high rises to see some of Oahu’s most beautiful secrets.

Oahu’s Best Beaches

Enjoy the beautiful golden sands and experience the luxury of some of the Oahu’s most famous beaches in Waikiki. Learn to surf where surfing originated, with views of the infamous Diamond Head Crater as it rises above these 2 miles stretch of beach. Diamond Head is a short hike to a panoramic view point of the area. The hour-long jaunt to the crater summit through a journey of bunkers and stairs, is incredibly rewarding, it is here that the world record for the longest land views are held.

If snorkeling is on your list of adventures, then you will love the turquoise and sapphire blue waters of Hanauma Bay only 10 miles east of Waikiki. This snorkeling haven has over 400 different species of fish and some that only exist here in Oahu.

Lanikai Beach in southeast Oahu packs one of the worlds most beautiful beaches into a small mile-long stretch of gorgeous white sand. Lanikai means “heavenly seas” and it is no wonder why it is named so and rated the best all time beach on Oahu.

Kailua Bay Beach is a 2.5-mile-long beach of white powder soft sand and a close second behind Lanikai Beach for Oahu’s most beautiful beach. While the sand is very enjoyable we must highlight the kayaking that can be done from Kailua Bay. You can enjoy the 2.5-mile voyage to uninhabited Mokulua islands off the coast of Kailua via kayak or stand up paddle board. Both islands host bird sanctuaries only the island on the left Mokulua Nui is open to the public, the other Mokulua Iki is for the birds.

On Oahu’s Northern shore Waimea Bay host some of the best surf breaks and professional surfers in the entire world. Get inspired at Sunset Beach (Paumalu) watching some of the best surfers in the world crush big waves in the winter months and after the inspiration head to Pua’ena Point for more of a beginner set of breaks.

Green Sea Turtle photo by Jeremy Bishop @tentides on Unsplash

3 miles NE of Hale’iwa on the Northshore, Laniakea is known for green sea turtles or hona as the natives call them, and you are more likely to see them here than anywhere else on the island. When you get to the beach head right and walk down the beach and you will more than likely see the turtles resting here.

If you are really looking to break away into a quiet more tranquil part of the island than head west to the Wai’anae Coast and make sure to pack a lunch for this adventure to Poka’i bay for the best sand and a gorgeous aquamarine lagoon.

Beach Highlights:

  • Waikiki’s 9 beaches

  • Hanauma Bay

  • Lanikai Beach

  • Kailua Bay Beach

  • Sunset Beach (Paumalu)

  • Laniakea Beach

  • Poka’i bay

Good to know Hawaiian directions

Makai - ‘toward the ocean’

Mauka - ‘toward the mountain’

Hiking Adventures

While visiting the western coast of Oahu do not miss a sunset hike to Ka’ena point. This four-mile round trip hike will reward you some of the most scenic views you will possibly see on your entire trip. It is below Ka’ena point that the highest waves in the world are recorded. When the coast is clear you can even make out Kauai and be sure to spend most of your time searching for humpback whales who are easily spotted during winter migration months, if luck is on your side you may see some hona or monk seals.

Surrounding the Honolulu and Waikiki area you’ll be frozen in time by the views of the Ko’olau Range to the northeast and Wai’anea Mountains to the west. These mountain ranges were formed by two Volcanos almost 3 million years ago. Be sure to adventure on the shaded Manoa Falls trail through rainforest and native Hawaiian foliage, this short one mile hike will lead you on an unforgettable journey to the gorgeous 150’ falls.

Looking for a hike that will lead to you unbelievable sweeping views of the island and Pacific Ocean with a hike that won’t take up your entire day? In the cool of the morning before heading to enjoy the most famous beach in Oahu; Lanikai, head “Mauka” or toward the mountain and enjoy the unbelievable views from the Lanikai Pillbox Trail. The trail offers rewarding views of Kailua and Waimanola and the Mokulua Islands and if the weather is clear you may even be able to see the island of Molokai.

View of Mokulua Islands

The drive up the Windward coast to the north shore is a sight not to be missed while visiting Oahu. Hau’ula is a small coastal town, 24 miles from Kailua, it is here that you will find the 3.5-mile Hau’ula – Waipilopilo Ridge Loop Trail that is open to hikers as well as experienced mountain bikers as it is not heavily trafficked. From the view from the top of Waipilopilo Ridge you can see Hau’ula from on the right and the town of Laie to the left, as well as views of the North Shore and the Ko’olau mountain range.

Want to mix a little Hawaiian history, culture and botany with your hiking? Check out the Waimea Valley and the Waimea Falls Park and Botanical Gardens that lead you on a short one-mile hike on one of Oahu’s highest rated trails to a cascading waterfall. At the waterfall feel free to get adventurous and dive in and swim up to the 30’ falls.

Be sure if you are adventuring to any of the waterfalls to go after rainfall so that you won’t be disappointed with a trickle of water during dry season. If it is dry season this may not be the place for you, this trip.

5 of the best hikes on Oahu highlights:

  • Ka’ena point

  • Manoa Falls

  • Lanikai Pillbox Trail

  • Hau’ula – Waipilopilo Ridge Loop Trail

  • Waimea Falls Park

Hold on one minute, before we get to all this adventuring we ARE talking about Hawaii, right? One of the coffee bean capitals of the world, the only place in the United States allowed to commercially grow coffee?

First things first before any of the amazing exploration mentioned above we must start with the elixir of life. Find some of Oahu's top roasters and coffee shops in our coffee blog Talk Java to Me Hawaii.

After hearing about the adventures, culture and magnificent views on Oahu, I am sure you are sipping on your coffee either dreaming or packing your bags currently for this unbelievable destination.

Don’t forget these extra things in your luggage:

· Light-weight rain jacket

· Hiking shoes with good traction

· Sunscreen, sunglasses and a sunhat that doubles for hiking

· Binoculars for the surfers and the marine life

If you want to do something different and give back an hour or two of your time during your vacation, then check out the volunteer opportunities available at www.honoluluweekly.com/calendar

Even though most of Hawaii’s population lives on the island of Oahu, and it is the most popular for travelers for endless good reasons, you will still find quiet tranquil slices of heaven all over this 597 sq. mile island gem. Life as you knew it will never be the same and a part of the heart of Hawaii will forever live in yours.

Don't save the adventures to yourself, tell your favorite traveling friends about these awesome secrets in Oahu today via Facebook or email. Or you could just tell them to pack their bags at this price.

Stayed Tuned Kauai Island on deck.

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