Oh, Oahu! For those who haven’t been, it truly is a spectacular Island of Hawaii, United States. When people think of Oahu or Honolulu, they seem to think of Waikiki beach… however, there are so many hidden gems where you can experience a more authentic Hawaii.
Lanikai and Kailua:
The Lanikai and Kailua area is my absolute favorite! Think aqua blue water, stunning hikes and very little tourists, especially Lanikai. Wandering the back streets along Lanikai beach, there are many small passageways leading down to the water. There isn’t much sand in this area compared to Kailua but that also means no people. I think I saw about two people when my friend and I went there! You will also have a beautiful close view of the two famous Na Mokulua Islets. You can even do kayak trips out to these which would be spectacular!
If you’re staying in Waikiki like we were, you can easily get a bus to Kailua beach. We actually got off at the wrong bus stop and ended up wandering the back streets of locals houses. This was stunning in itself and why I always say not to be afraid of getting lost! There are so many beautiful plants and palm trees in locals gardens with huge mountains nearby. From there (facing the beach) turn right and head over the bridge, follow the road and you will eventually get to Lanikai Beach. There are numerous entrances to the beach and if you don’t have a car be prepared for about a half hour walk. Personally, I think walking the best way to do it, and it’s so quiet and peaceful along the road.
Pipeline Beach! It is definitely worth spending a few days on the North Shore! Pipeline is a famous beach for all the big wave surfing tournaments. I was there at the wrong time of year so it was very flat. However, if you go in the winter (November – February), you will see crazy big waves which can reach 20+ feet. Of course, you won’t be able to swim here during that time.
Also on the North Shore is Waimea bay. This is a great beach which can get crowded but there is also plenty of space. And of course, lots of people like us went for the cliff jumping! You can’t miss the high cliffs that everyone is jumping off (20-40 feet high depending on where you jump from).
Turtle Bay (Lanaikea Beach). Sea turtles are Hawaii’s treasured animal. If you haven’t seen one already, definitely take a trip to this beach on the North Shore. They are huge beautiful creatures and look out carefully because they are often mistaken for a rock. You may see them lying on the sand or swimming with you in the water. Most common is the Green Sea Turtle which is the largest hard-shelled sea turtle. They are a protected species so be respectful and don’t get too close.
To get to the North Shore from Waikiki is also easy as there is a bus direct between the two. Click here for Oahu’s Bus Timetable and routes.
Alternatively, you can easily arrange a day tour that takes you around to all these places plus more (approximately US $100 including lunch).
Makapu’u is another spectacular hidden gem! You really need a car to get there easily but it is definitely worth it. The untouched beautiful beaches surrounded by rocking landscapes, greenery, and huge mountains will get you some amazing photos!
And of course, Waikiki beach. If you’re looking for a night out or drinks/dinner by the beach, then Waikiki is a great place to come. It will be crowded but has a great atmosphere especially during the evening and a beautiful sunset. If you’re just looking for a beach day, while it’s a beautiful beach worth checking out, there are plenty of better and less crowded ones as earlier mentioned. I stayed in Waikiki as most people do but I would definitely prefer to stay on the North Shore next time.
If you enjoy hiking (even easy small ones), I would recommend staying more than 1 week on Oahu! Between all the hikes and beaches, we didn’t get a chance to do all the ones we wanted to do. There are limitless hikes to do in Hawaii and you don’t have to be super fit or an experienced hiker – I’m certainly not!
Kailua Pillbox Hike:
As I have already mentioned, I love this area of Oahu and this would have to be a favorite hike. It is steep and rocky, so wear sturdy shoes, but you can be at the top within about 20 minutes. The views were absolutely spectacular of the two Islets of Lanikai and the bright aqua ocean, maybe the best I have ever seen! And of course, for those of you interested in the history, there are also the two military pillbox bunkers near the top. I would also recommend doing this hike at sunrise, as I have heard it to be an amazing view of the sun rising near two islands. Otherwise at least go early in the morning, I went about 11 am and it was already way too hot to be hiking at that time in Hawaiian temperatures.
Aka Stairway to Heaven. The most amazing thing I’ve ever done but not for the faint hearted! Beware that this hike is actually now illegal and can be quite dangerous so I wouldn’t recommend this hike. However, if you are like me and have had this on your bucket list since you saw your first picture of it, then it is the most liberating experience!
It has 4000 stairs, many of which are basically vertical. Because the hike is blocked off, it took us about 2.5 hours to actually find and get to the stairs. That is a whole other post in itself! You have to start early (3-4am) so that you are climbing up near the top at sunrise for the amazing views. Don’t do what I did and leave it until the last day to decide it’s now or never, choose a clear, sunny day! We ended up walking through the night in pouring rain and mud which whilst this was not ideal we actually had so much fun. Life is an adventure! Our views weren’t as good because of the fog, however, it was still the most amazing magical feeling and the fog made it look like the path just drops off into thin air in all directions. It really is the stairway to heaven, and it’s sad that it is illegal and difficult for people to do. There has been talk of them opening it again and charging customers, but we don’t know if it will happen or not. All I can say is that if you are going to do it, please be quiet and respectful of the land and don’t leave any rubbish.
I would also recommend doing a waterfall hike! They are absolutely beautiful in Hawaii! I recommend Lulumahu Falls or Manoa Falls. But be aware you will get wet and muddy so dress accordingly!
I did a Luau in Maui, rather than Oahu but it really doesn’t matter! There are plenty of opportunities to do a Luau in Oahu and I would definitely recommend doing one somewhere on your Hawaiian trip! It’s a great night watching authentic Hawaiian dancers, they include dinner, drinks, and many more activities!