I have travelled to Oahu three times and absolutely love it! If I had to pick one other place to live in the world, I would pick here. Hawaii is truly beautiful and so are the people. Oahu is quite a large island with so much to do. Here are a few tips that I can give you to have the best experience you can have.
WHERE TO STAY?
I enjoy the simple life. Waking up bright and early in a small beach shack, just a quick bike ride to the beach is how I could live for the rest of my life. On Oahu, this place is the North Shore. While the winter months are packed with people to witness surfers taking on the enormous heavy waves in world-known surf competitions, the summer months have calm, gentle wave breaks making it perfect for beginner surfers. It seriously has the best of both worlds. The North Shore is very under-developed compared to Waikiki, with only one main Supermarket and a couple of Food Trucks along the highway. Besides the couple of nice resorts in the area like Turtle Bay Resort, don’t expect to be staying in anything too flash.
If you’re looking for somewhere more touristy and alive, your best bet is to stay in Waikiki. Busy bars and restaurants, nice high-rise hotels, excellent shopping and a beautiful beaches all within walking distance. There are also many tours you can do that all leave from Waikiki so if you’re thinking of staying around here, you most likely won’t need a car.
Just this August, My partner and I rented a car with Thrifty for five days. We were originally quoted US$160 and after all the add ons were included it came to around US$380. BE CAREFUL when renting cars as they always add on taxes, insurance, etc. to the price when you get there. We got pretty ripped off and had a lot of drama with Thrifty and probably wouldn’t rent with them again.
TIP: Make sure that the person who is driving the car has a credit card in their name for a deposit. We only travel with commonwealth debt money cards so this was an issue for us.
On the plus side, having a car on Oahu is definitely a good idea! We were able to go visit all the places we wanted to see easily and quickly. The roads are pretty hectic to drive on (especially when you are use to driving on the other side of the road) but you do pick it up quickly. I would suggest investing in a GPS to help navigate you around. Even with one, we still managed to get lost everyday!
Visit the town, Haleiwa
Haleiwa, the first stop along the North Shore is a relaxed beach town filled with local style surf shops, boutiques, cafes and restaurants. In the summer months the streets are filled with heaps of food trucks that are always super busy.
TIP: I recommend getting an acai bowl from Haleiwa Bowls!
Sunset beers on beach
Beers on the beach up at North Shore was a highlight for me and we did this everyday we were there. Maybe because of the fact that we can’t do this quite a easily back at home in Australia but also because the sunsets are just simply beautiful!
Snorkel at Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay is well known for its spectacular reefs and marine life. When you’re in Oahu I would recommend putting this one on your To Do List. Make sure you come early though because like any kind of paradise, it’s spoiled by massive crowds of people.
TIP: Make sure you bring money with you as it costs US$7 per person to get in.
The Pillbox Trail was an intermediate, short steep hike along the Ka’iwa Ridges. From the top you get spectacular views looking over Oahu’s east coastline. It wasn’t a hard hike, but the track isn’t marked out well and has no guardrails so could be a bit dangerous for children. If it’s been raining the rocks could get super slippery too so just be careful. I loved this hike and would definitely do it again.
Getting there- The entrance to the trail is located on the same street as the Mid Pacific Country Club (on the right). Make sure you are aware of the no parking areas. As you walk up the street you will see a dirt trail running along a fence. This is Kaiwa Trailhead.
Drive down the east coast from Sunset Beach to Hanauma Bay
This is my most favourite drive on Oahu because of its stunning mountain range on one side of the road and its beautiful coastline on the other. There are heaps of little places to stop along the way including La’ie Lookout, The Chinaman’s Hat and Halona Blow Hole. TIP: If you time it correctly, you can walk out to Chinaman’s hat on low tide which is something we never got the chance to do but would like to do it next time. Otherwise it’s also accessible by kayak or surfboard.
In between all the tanning and shopping on your holiday to Oahu, I would recommend you sparing a couple of hours to go visit Pearl Harbour. For those of you who don’t know, on 7th December 1941, hundreds of Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbour and the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Today at Pearl Harbour, USS Arizona Memorial commemorates the attack and encourages everyone to visit the site in memory of those who served the Country. I visited Pearl Harbour in 2012 and still remember the tour well. It was very well-organised and enjoyable. I found it to be overall a very emotional experience and would recommend going there.
Drive the west coast
I have only done this drive once and I was truly surprised by it. Whilst most of Oahu is filled with lush green mountains, the west side is brown and dry. It also seems to have a lot of poverty in the area, with homeless people sleeping in tents on the beach and living the extra simple life. Although it doesn’t sound too great, the beaches are amazing! A long stretch of white sand and crystal clear water that hug the west coastline, are hidden by the wind and make it the perfect spot for a day at the beach. Not many tourist go down this side of the island either so there is a good chance you will have a whole beach to yourself!
OTHER THINGS TO DO IN HAWAII
Cheesecake Factory, Waikiki – best food, super popular, book in advance!
Haleiwa Bowls, Haleiwa – best acai bowl in Hawaii!
Waikele Outlets – great bargains!
Ala Moana Shopping Mall – massive shopping centre, huge range of shops
Sunset Beach, Pipeline, Waimea Bay, Waikiki beach
Shark’s Cove – snorkelling