My husband and I went and explored Oahu for 10 days and I still feel like I’m a little depressed since coming home. We saw a LOT and did a LOT and ultimately it was one of the most perfect vacations! And as a bonus we did the whole thing for way less than expected. We got really lucky with how our housing and car rental turned out (stay tuned to a future post to find out how to stay and drive CHEAP when you travel).
Top 10 things to do on Oahu:
1. Stay on North Shore.
Sorry Waikiki- North Shore is the only way to go. If you want to drive along a rode that has jaw-dropping green mountains on one side and the ocean on the other side (seriously the water from the ocean splashed up on our windshield) then you need to head to North Shore. Sure, Waikiki has famous sand and top of the line resorts, but it is also crowded and expensive. Plus a little secret… Waikiki’s sand was imported from Waimea, a beach on North Shore. Enjoy simplicity and beauty and the true Aloha spirit away from the chaos. 2. Polynesian Cultural Center
When I think back to our time on Oahu, our visit to the PCC definitely stands out. Make sure you give yourself the whole day there because there is so much to see and it is definitely worth it. You can learn how to hula, make fire like a caveman, try authentic food from the Islands, watch people climb coconut trees, and ultimately you’ll just end up laughing your head off. I’d get the full package because the Luau and night show was incredible. It’s kinda pricey ,but just keep in mind that the money you spend goes to helping all the students who work there pay for their education. Money well spent.
If you want to go and see about 10-20 sea turtles hanging out in their natural environment then this is the place to be! I could not get enough of the big guys!! It’s not a zoo and they don’t import the turtles to that beach. They come because it is an optimal feeding area and usually there are a couple sunbathing on the beach. There are some volunteers there to keep tourists at bay, but you can always get in the water and snorkel with them!
If you like beautiful sand (as in the same sand on Waikiki because they exported it from this beach) and big waves then this is the perfect beach! It was my favorite beach… I think… there are so many contenders. We went there on our first day and there was a slip-in-slide into the ocean set up on the beach (how cool!). We also jumped off “the rock” a couple times and played in the waves. It’s relatively small and has so much to offer. There is also some incredible snorkeling to do there when the ocean is more calm (summer months). I would suggest taking The Bus there if you go on a weekend because parking can be a nightmare. But a return trip on The Bus only costs $2.50 and can take you anywhere you wanna go! And don’t forget… just jump! It’s not all that bad 🙂
While you are at it (beaching it up in Waimea) head across the street to Waimea Valley. It costs about $16 a person (if you’re a student bring your ID card for a discount) but my husband and I thought it was well worth it. It is famous for a waterfall that you can hike to and then swim under. The hike is paved and short so everyone can go. However, there is so much more. The botanical gardens were out of this world, the stream that ran through it was magical, and there was a really cool old Hawaiian village you could walk through. Plus, the freshwater waterfall feels amazing after being in salt water all day. Tip: I would bring water shoes. You can wear flip flops on the hike but one you start climbing into the water the rocks can hurt. Water shoes would have been nice!
6. Kayak in Haleiwa
Just about ten minutes up the street from Waimea, you will find Historic Haleiwa. It is a really charming town and the biggest commercial center on the North Shore of the island. We rented a two man kayak at Tropical Rush Surf Company and were able to take it up the river AND in the ocean. It was the best of both worlds. Apparently there are usually a lot of sea turtles in the river as well. We only saw one come up for air, but when we spotted him it was awesome! Bonus to Tropical Rush Surf Company… you get a free shaved ice with each rental. Even though the famous Matsumoto’s is just down the road, I personally like Anahulu’s Shaved Ice more. Hands Down. No competition. Try ’em both! 7. Visit Pearl Harbor
We spent almost an entire day at Pearl Harbor, and to be honest, at first I wasn’t happy about it. We got there around 11 am and the tickets we got for taking the ferry were for 2:30. I just wanted to be on the beach. But as we looked around and I learned about the events that transpired on December 7, 1941, I became really grateful we took the time to go. It was a humbling thing to see how so many people gave their lives for the cause of freedom.8. Snorkel Hanauma Bay
Oahu has plenty of amazing coral reefs and snorkeling to offer. You will see them from the airplane as you fly in. It is amazing! So you gotta take advantage of it and go to one of the biggest and best bay’s on the island. It was a bit of a drive from North Shore but we didn’t mind because driving there is like driving through paradise (until you hit traffic in Honolulu). We showed up a little before noon and the parking lot was full. We learned that the first wave of people starts leaving around lunch so if you go around 12:30-1:00 you’ll be able to catch a spot! It costs a few dollars to get in and they make you watch a quick film about preserving the reef but don’t let that stop you!! If you aren’t much of a snorkeler and swimming with fish isn’t your thing- no worries!! They have nice GRASS and soft sand on the beach. So feel free to sunbathe and hang out!9. Visit the Byodo-In Buddhist Temple
Maybe it’s because I miss living in Thailand and all the Buddhist temples like crazy, but this really was an incredible place to visit! The Byodo-In is located at the foot of the Ko’olau Mountains and when you are there you are surrounded by green, peaceful, jungle. You can go into the temple and see the big Buddha, feed the Koi Fish and ring the bon-sho (sacred bell). It costs $3 per adult (super cheap) and make sure you bring some BUG SPRAY! 10. Scuba Dive with Sea Turtles
I wanted to go scuba diving since the day we book our plane tickets to Hawaii. We wanted to do one big thing on our trip and cross off something on our bucket list and our experience did not disappoint. Plus I made Matt a believer out of scuba diving so it was an extra good choice.
Bucket List item #41 SWIM WITH SEA TURTLES- CHECK!! I literally got whacked in the face by a turtle.
To read more about our experience and to see some awesome pictures, click here