• hikari4787

Oahu, Hawaii - What should I do?


Waikiki Beach

Aloha and welcome back to another blog on Oahu, Hawaii. This time I wanted to talk about some of the excursions and experiences you can have on the island. Again, this is in no way a complete overview of everything you can do, but I do think most activities here are great for first-timers. Some of the activities do not have pictures because they were too long ago (and I cannot find them digitally) and before I cared about taking good photos. Oh! And know that I usually rent a car so that I can go wherever whenever on the island. However, travel is not too hard with most excursions offering free shuttles and there are other forms of transportation like the bus and Uber that you can use. I will split it up by location, similar to my previous post on recommended food. ‘Ola iā kāua (“let’s go” in Hawaiian)!

Photo credit: Sylvia Gunde

Honolulu / Waikiki (SOUTH)


Waikiki Beach, view of Diamond Head

Since you will most likely be staying in Honolulu, more specifically Waikiki Beach, I thought I would start here. This is basically the south coast of Oahu. Honolulu feels the most like a city. It is densely populated and has a lot of modern upgrades in comparison to the rest of the island. There are millionaire condos with ocean views, 5-star hotels lining Waikiki Beach, and the downtown shopping area is filled with high rise malls and designer labels. Since most of Oahu's hotels are here, you can access a lot of excursions that either take you out of the city or just off the shore. Note that the waters here are calm and beaches populated, so everything will be family friendly.


Battleship Missouri Memorial at Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor Memorial

December 7 of 1941 is a date that no American can easily forget and every American should know. The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike by the Japanese Navy on the United States Navy base. This led directly to the United States entering World War II by declaring war against Japan on December 8 and against Germany and Italy on December 11 (they had declared war against us and we responded). This part of history is still taught in American schools to this day, but I think visiting the memorial is the best way to learn.


USS Arizona Anchor (foreground) and Memorial (background)

The Pearl Harbor Memorial currently has several assets that you can explore, set up specifically to educate tourists. The USS Arizona is probably the most famous and beautiful exhibit. The battleship was the only ship to be irreparably damaged in the Pearl Harbor attack, sinking to the bottom of the bay with the loss of 1,177 officers and crewmen. You can view the wreckage today through the white structure built over it with all 1,177 names listed beautifully inside. This is the best tour you can take as you first go to the Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater to watch a 23-minute documentary (which is actually my favorite part as it has recently been updated to be more accurate) and then a shuttle boat over to the memorial. The memorial has glass windows and floors to look down onto the wreckage, which gives a strange sorrow feeling to see. It is indescribable. The tricky part of this tour is tickets. You can either get free walk-up tickets if you get there at 7am (trust me, they will sell all 1,300 daily free tickets quickly) or you can reserve a spot online for $1.50/person here (HIGHLY RECOMMEND DOING THIS).


Pearl Harbor Memorial

If you are able to spend a couple hours at least here at Pearl Harbor, I highly recommend just doing a Pearl Harbor Memorial Passport which gives you access to all the best attractions for one low price. The Battleship Missouri Memorial is a short 10-minute bus ride away from the main grounds (they have shuttles leaving every 15-30 minutes). This is the only full battleship you can explore, and they let you explore pretty much every piece of it. They also sometimes have local school bands performing patriotic songs and dances right outside. Very much worth an hour of your time!


Entrance to Battleship Missouri

On Battleship Missouri, watching local school band, USS Arizona in background

Battleship Missouri main deck

The same bus will also take you to the Pacific Aviation Museum, where you can see real aircrafts and helicopters used during the wars. Back on the main grounds, you can go onto the USS Bowfin Submarine and learn about the most decorated submarine sinking 44 ships in World War II. Finally, they added a new Pearl Harbor Virtual Reality Center that gives you a virtual experience of walking on the USS Arizona before it was attacked or even witness the attack yourself. Make sure you leave most of your stuff in the car (they will not allow you to bring in any bags). And bring your own camera! The Pearl Harbor Memorial is definitely a must-see on the island, and you can do self-guided tours or guided tours at every turn.


Mike and I on Battleship Missouri
  • Location: 1 Arizona Memorial Road, Honolulu, HI 96818, USA

  • Hours: 7am-5pm every day

  • Price: $72/person (passport)

  • Website: https://www.recreation.gov/showPage.do?name=landing&landing=/htm/pearlharbor/home.jsp&contractCode=NRSO&parkId=72369

  • Photos: Bring your own camera.

  • WARNING: Please do not be bought into other sites that claim to give you tour and ticket bundles for visiting Pearl Harbor! Yes Pearl Harbor will honor them, but they are usually overpriced and not worth it at all. You will know because they never can include tickets to the USS Arizona on them. If the USS Arizona is NOT included in whatever you are trying to buy, it is NOT WORTH IT!


View from Diamond Head

Hiking - Diamond Head Trail

The Diamond Head Crater is probably the most iconic sight in Hawaii (definitely Oahu I'd say). Diamond Head received its name from British sailors in the 1800s whom mistakenly saw "glittering stones" atop the volcanic crater. This is one of the best hikes because it is easy enough for almost anyone of any age, very short at about 40-60 minutes, and has a breathtaking 360 degree view of the entire southern half of the island.

Beginning of Diamond Head Trail

To get there, make sure you take an Uber or a bus; do not drive yourself. There is little to no parking, but plenty of taxis and Ubers are used to going there and some are already waiting at the bottom for those leaving. On top of that, it costs $5 for a car to park whereas just walking up (or being dropped off) is $1 (CASH ONLY). Also, even though this is one of the easier hikes, I still strongly suggest wearing actual shoes (no sandals) with grip, plenty of sunscreen, sunglasses and a water pack as well.


Trail curving around Diamond Head Crater

At the start, you will see bathrooms, a little food stand and some history on the crater. Just walk past all that towards the clearly paved path going through the trees and towards the summit. Take this path for a bit until you start going uphill on a nicely shaved-down rock path with handrails. If you need rest at any point, there are plenty of zones to pull off from the trail and photo stops with great views.



You will snake around the crater on this for a bit until you come to a staircase that starts your strong ascent. Then comes a dark tunnel to take you on the ocean side of the crater.




You emerge out of the tunnel to find yourself in a tight bunker with your first views. To get the full 360 view though, keep heading up some more stairs to your left until you find a crowded viewing platform area at the very top.



Once you have had your fill, the great thing is that you head down a different path and merge back at the tunnel. This path has more views of the southern tip as well as less crowds than where you came up. Makes the journey down easier. Once back at the tunnel you go through and take the same path down that you took up. Just stick to one side (the right I believe, but follow the crowds).



An hour later, you have had some great exercise and amazing views for very little trouble.

  • Location: Diamond Head Crater Hike, Kapahulu, Honolulu, HI 96815

  • Hours: 6am-6pm everyday (trail entrance closes at 4:30pm)

  • Price: $1 for visitors/$5 for cars to park (CASH ONLY)

  • Website: http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp/parks/oahu/diamond-head-state-monument/

  • Photos: Bring your own camera.


Top platform of Diamond Head Trail

Casual Water Sports - Standup Paddleboarding (SUP), Surfing (beginner), Water Tricycling and Outriggers

Again since the waters are calm, they are perfect for children to play in and take part in some light water sports. Recently I have seen a lot of water tricycles (like big tricycles that sit on the water due to huge yellow floating tires. They are pretty fun for kids since they seat two people and an adult can just pedal a child around the surface of the water. Ever since I was a kid, outrigger canoes have been pretty common as well. These are basically large Hawaiian canoes with outriggers (large projecting structures off the side of the canoe that help it stabilize) attached and guides will take 4-6 people for tours in open water. You assist them with oars as part of the experience. It is a pretty fun and lightly sporty way to take a first look around the beaches.

My favorite thing to do on these calm parts is standup paddleboarding (SUP). These are extra large surfboards that you are meant to stand on while propelling yourself forward using the long paddle. You can basically surf while standing on these boards, or you can just use it as a personal canoe, if you will, in open water. I also strongly suggest you try to surf here as well since the waves are so calm. But if that scares you too much, this is a great alternative. There are rental stops all around Waikiki and even beachside, but take note of where they are because you most likely have to stay within their part of the beach.

  • Board rentals: I strongly suggest Quality Surfboards if you are willing to walk it a block to the beach. Best prices and knowledgeable locals. They even have great lessons for beginners.

  • Outrigger Canoe Rides: Waikiki Beach Services is pretty good for 20-40 minutes of surfing waves while places like Hawaiian Outrigger Experience will take you on 60-90 minute tours to see the sights.

  • Price: Surfboard $20 for the day, SUP $30 for the day, Bodyboard $8 for the day, Outrigger Canoe Surfing $25+tax per person, Outrigger Tour $89-119 per person

  • Photos: Bring your own camera - hopefully someone from the shore can take pictures or strap a GoPro to yourself.

Snorkeling - Hanauma Bay

For your first snorkeling experience in Oahu, you really must try Hanauma Bay, especially if you have little ones. Hanauma Bay is a large nature reserve of coral reefs home to thousands of fish and sea life for your viewing pleasure. While you will have a great snorkeling experience, I do have to warn you on a few things. When planning, note it is closed on Tuesdays to give the fish a rest day from visitors and time to feed. It is very crowded with thousands of visitors every day, so don't expect a private paradise and expect many families just like you trying to witness sea life. Since it is crowded, parking can get annoying so I suggest making a reservation with the shuttle from your hotel. It is a state park, so it does cost something to enter. There are snorkels you can buy or rent (even prescription ones), but I suggest just bringing your own that you are comfortable with. Since you will most likely be there for a half day at least, I strongly suggest bringing your own beach towels, blankets, chairs, umbrellas and cooler with some water and snacks (you can rent some of this from the shuttle but again best to bring your own and save the cost). There is a snack bar there but the prices are pretty high. Most important warning: bring water shoes, especially for the little ones. You will be walking on actual coral reef and sea urchins are everywhere. You will just feel more at ease if you are prepared. Apart from ALL that, it is a great snorkeling experience and you WILL see life and you WILL get some fun underwater photos!

  • Location: 7455 Kalanianaole Hwy, Hon, Hawaii 96825

  • Hours: 6am-7pm every day, 6am-6pm during winter months

  • Price: $7.50/person to enter park, $25 for a round trip shuttle

  • Website: https://hanaumabaystatepark.com/

  • Photos: Bring your own underwater camera.


Parasailing off Waikiki

Parasailing

Parasailing is an easy family-fun activity to get amazing views of the coast from high above the water and it only takes about 1 hour of your day. If you are unfamiliar, parasailing is basically attaching you to an extra large parachute that is being pulled by a boat. You sit in harnesses attached to the parachute (1-3 people usually) and hover 150-500 feet above water. It is relaxing, beautiful and fun, especially if you get a driver that likes to dip you in and out of the water.


1,000 Foot Rope by Hawaiian Parasail

I have used Hawaiian Parasail several times now and definitely recommend them. They have a fun attitude, take a decent amount of photos for you for a small fee, and are very conveniently located to Waikiki. Keep in mind this is definitely one activity you want to do during perfect weather though. You want your photos to be clear and beautiful, as well as the air warm enough since it will be wet and windy.


Water dipping by Hawaiian Parasail

This is usually not a very private event unless you have a big group - they take about 10-12 people with them on each trip. They do have complimentary pick up from hotels on Waikiki if you do not want to walk or drive to the pier. I recommend making your reservation at least a week ahead to get the most preferable time, but you can wait until just a day ahead if you want. Kids love this one since they can do it with a parent and get a nice safe view high above the water, but note they must be at least 5 years old.


Close-up of Water Dipping by Hawaiian Parasail
  • Location: 1651 Ala Moana Blvd. Slip 600B, Honolulu, Hawaii 96815

  • Hours: 9am-6pm every day (hotel pick-ups 8am-5pm)

  • Price: $88/person (1,000 ft. line for 10 mins) - You have three other shorter options, but this one gives you the longest time up there and the most height.

  • Website: http://hawaiianparasail.com/

  • Photos: I recommend you bring your own to shoot from the parachute but also ask them to take photos as well (they just give you the memory card at the end of the trip). This way you get both unique views.


Tammy and I on Sunset Booze Cruise (can see another Catamaran in the background)

Sunset Cruises - Booze Cruise and Catamarans

If you are an adult looking to just drink and relax in the tropical paradise that is Hawaii, casual cruises are the best. There are hundreds of options when it comes to cruises you can take from Waikiki that range from simple whale and sunset watching to party drinking and dinner cruises. My favorite is the booze cruise since they usually have really fun crews, young guests and open bar. I personally found no value in doing the more expensive whale watching ones since you have the same chance to see one on a booze cruise as well. Just schedule it for the same time. I have gone twice now and seen humpback whales each time during winter. I feel the whale watching yachts will try to cheat you into a higher price due to "guaranteeing" the sight of whales, but you might as well just pay the same price for free drinks and a livelier crowd on a casual catamaran. If you are a young adult group looking for a change of scenery before dinner time, the booze cruise catamaran is totally worth it. Make sure you just meet them on the beach. They will most likely just be by the catamaran waiting to check in people before departing. If you are a couple looking for something more romantic and private, there are some great dinner sunset cruises that go at the same time (so you could still see whales as well).


Hilton Hawaiian Village Friday Night Fireworks

Hilton Hawaiian Village Friday Night Fireworks

Something fun and free you can do is sit on the beach outside the Hilton Hawaiian Village and watch their Friday Night Fireworks display. They do it every Friday night around 7:45pm/8pm and right off their private beach. They only last 10 minutes or so, but they are FREE to view and why not right?!


Hilton Hawaiian Village Friday Night Fireworks

I highly recommend getting a spot on their beach (get there maybe 30 minutes before or so, plenty of room for all). Or even better getting a surfboard and just sitting on their private bay waters in the above photo. Front row seats! The hotel may try to sell you on paying for their little pool party and private viewing for the fireworks, but it is way too crowded and definitely not worth it. Just sit on the beach for free. It is casual, fun and such a pretty sight before you start your night.


Hilton Hawaiian Village Friday Night Fireworks
  • Location: Kahanamoku Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii 96815

  • Hours: Fridays at 7:45pm September-May, 8pm June-August

  • Price: FREE

  • Website: http://www.hiltonhawaiianvillage.com/resort-experiences/entertainment-and-events

  • Photos: Bring your own camera.


Kapolei (WEST)


Fire Portion of Show at Germaine's Luau

Luau - Paradise Cove and Germaine's

For your first trip to Hawaii, you have to go to a luau. A luau is a Hawaiian party with dinner and entertainment. The dinner is usually kalua pig that has been roasted in an underground oven with lomi salmon, poke, poi and haupia. The entertainment is traditional Hawaiian music and hula dancing. The dancers will sometimes bring attendees on stage to learn a few moves as well. The two I recommend for different reasons are the Paradise Cove Luau and Germaine's Luau.

Paradise Cove

Located on the public Paradise Cove Beach on the southwest coast, the Paradise Cove luau is above all my favorite on the island. Not only is the location beautiful (it is right next to Disney's Aulani Resort if that is any indication of quality) but the luau itself has everything - a great amount of food and entertainment for the price in comparison to all others. If you are willing to dedicate an entire afternoon and night to a luau, this is the one. There is transportation from your hotel, which I highly recommend because the guides on the bus always have extra insider information, the luau starts with the arrival of the designated buses so you are on time no matter what and you get better seats. Once you get the luau, you have so many options of entertainment until dinner and the show. Depending on your package, you are welcomed with picturesque photos and drinks. You can enjoy the live Hawaiian music on the stage, play some traditional Hawaiian games (similar to carnival games), do arts & crafts (usually making leis), take hula lessons, snorkel or surf off the coast, or shop at their cute stand full of Hawaiian-made jewelry and wares. One of my favorite necklaces is still from here - a red rose made out of coral reef. The best pre-show event is the shower of flowers. One of the entertainers will climb a coconut tree and shower everyone below with plumerias. If you catch one, they say you will be lucky in love. I caught one when I went to this luau my first time and I still remember it! Super cute event. Then you sit down for dinner and the show of professional hula dancing. The dinner is buffet style, but I usually like to pay a little extra for a waiter to bring you food (they bring you plenty). There are hundreds of people lined up and I hate crowds. I find hula dancing so beautiful and athletic. Hula dancing always tells a story of early Polynesians that settled on the Hawaiian islands. At the end of the night, you can retrieve your photos that you took at the beginning and head back to your bus. It is a beautiful, fun night with a group of any size.

  • Location: 92-1089 Alii Nui Drive, Kapolei, Hawaii 96707

  • Hours: 3:45pm pick-up, 4pm check-in for drive-out guests, 5pm event begins

  • Price: $97/person for basic package, $130/person for everything, $177/person for best package with table service

  • Website: https://www.paradisecove.com/

  • Photos: Bring your own camera, but they will take one commemorative photo at the entrance that you can buy later.


Imu Ceremony at Germaine's Luau

Germaine's Luau

Germaine's Luau is my second favorite if you want a much simpler night. It is a basic Hawaiian luau with the necessities: beachside on a private beach, imu ceremony (removing the kalua pig from the ground oven), buffet dinner and beautiful hula dancing that takes you through the history of the Polynesians and the various cultures. They still pick you up from your hotel and drop you off at the end of the night as well. Germaine's just does not have as many events or extras as Paradise Cove, but you will still have a beautiful night.

  • Location: 91-119 Olai St, Kapolei, Hawaii 96707

  • Hours: 4pm pick-up, 6pm event begins

  • Price: $85/person for basic package, $118/person with reserved seating, $155/person for best package with table service

  • Website: https://www.germainesluau.com/

  • Photos: Bring you own camera, but they will take one commemorative photo at the entrance that you can buy later.


Commemorative Photo from Germaine's Luau

Kailua / Kualoa (EAST)


Kayaking on river that leads into Kailua Beach

As mentioned in my previous blog, the east coast of Oahu is filled with beautiful regional parks and small coastal islands that offer perfect scenes for outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, horseback riding and zip lining. So that is exactly what you should do here! Kualoa Ranch in particular is definitely a mentionable stop. This is where all the movies have been filmed at. The location is a remote, gorgeous valley filled with lush hills and peaceful animals. I highly recommend doing at least one activity at this ranch if you can. They have lots of activities to choose from, but below are the two we tried and loved!


Kayaking on river that leads into Kailua Beach

Kayaking

There is a spot on Kailua's coastline where you can easily kayak on a large river in a residential area as well as kayak in open ocean. It just requires a short walk in between the two across Lanikai Beach. The place we rented the kayaks from was friendly and very reasonably priced. You just have to walk your kayak towards the beach where you will find a pathway to the river to your right and the open ocean to your left. What is also fun here is the destinations you can kayak to in the ocean. There are two mini islands: one flat island very close to shore (Popoia Island) and two larger ones with cute little beaches (Mokulua Islands). Just be careful and respect the birds here; both are state seabird sanctuaries. Very fun way to spend the afternoon. I highly recommend booking online (you get 15% off) and rent their dry bags for $5. I would bring your own cameras, towels, sunscreen, and water/snacks.


Pulling kayaks towards Kailua Beach (one block away)

Kayaking towards Popoia Island
  • Location: 130 Kailua Road, Kailua, Hawaii 96734

  • Hours: 8am-5pm every day

  • Price: $59/half day for single kayak, $79/half day for double kayak, $89/half day for high performance single kayak (you get 15% off if you book online)

  • Website: https://www.kailuasailboards.com/activities/kayak-rentals-2/

  • Photos: Bring your own underwater camera.


Manoa Falls Trail

Hiking - Maunawili Falls and Manoa Falls

There are beautiful hiking trails all over Oahu, but these two stand out to me. Maunawili Falls is one of the most popular and highly recommended hikes you can do. It is moderately difficult (very muddy and slippery, bring good shoes) and is about 3 miles one way. The journey is well worth it though as you hike along a river and end at one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Oahu with a swimming hole. I regret to say I have yet to do this one personally, but I have had friends do it and have read up on it on several sites. Seems well worth it. Here is a site I like to use to assess hikes and a video my friend Sylvia made of her hike (about 3 minutes into the video is the start).


Manoa Falls Trail

Manoa Falls is my current favorite that I have actually done on Oahu. It is good for all skill levels, 1.5 miles one way, and has one of the most beautiful trails. I am used to doing hikes for the destination, but this one you will probably enjoy the journey more. On this one, it is the hike itself that I love rather than the final destination of Manoa Falls (small and you cannot swim here). The hike takes you through a very lush forest where big productions were filmed like Jurassic Park and LOST.


Manoa Falls Trail

Similar to Maunawili Falls, it is very muddy and can be slightly slippery, so bring good shoes and expect them to get very dirty. Also, bring bug spray! There are lots of bugs and I cannot stress that enough. This trail is technically still in Honolulu, so it is a very short drive and only $5 to park in the lot at the beginning. Truly worthwhile.


Manoa Falls Trail

Manoa Falls Trail

Kualoa Ranch

Ziplining - Kualoa Ranch

I finally went ziplining for the first time this last trip in April and loved it! If you want height and speed, then I hear CLIMB Works that goes through Keana Farms on Oahu is the best. I have to admit, it was a tough choice. Since this was our first time and it was in tropical paradise, we decided to go for beauty which made Kualoa Ranch the winner on all the sites. It was definitely a picture perfect scene for ziplining since it was through lush, movie-quality forests and grounds with gorgeous green mountains and the ocean as a background. To top it all off, it was a stormy day that made it faster and more fun!


Zipline at Kualoa Ranch

At Kualoa Ranch, you meet at the main check-in and take a bus into the valley where your zipline guides are waiting. The bus is more like a great tour of the whole valley as well (where movies are shot and fun facts), which adds to the value. When you get to your guides, they help you put on your gear and you start the very short hike to your first zipline. The guides are wonderful; fun, energetic and knowledgeable as they take you through each line and talk about the history of the valley. They also always go right before you to check everything is ok and are there to guide you through every step. Usually two go at a time, but if you are alone they will let you go alone so that your photos are how you want. This is a perfect zipline for beginners and especially groups of two.


Suspension Bridge at Kualoa Ranch

Suspension Bridge Photo

They always tell you where the cameras are and give you pose ideas. And there are a couple suspension bridges to mix up the experience and take a good standing photo on. At the end, you can look through your photos on iPads and choose what you want to purchase. If you like more than two, they give you the better price option to just buy them all (cheaper than buying only three). We had fun taking our own videos and photos as we did it, but they also get angles that are impossible for you to get. All in all, very very fun and well worth it!


Kukui Nuts for Game on Zipline at Kualoa Ranch

You have to throw one into the metal bucket while you zipline across!

To get a good time, make sure you make a reservation pretty far in advance. Make sure you get there at least 30 minutes before your reservation time. You need time to get through main check-in line and check in with the bus driver, whom will take your weight (you must weigh between 70 and 280 pounds) and have you fill out safety form. Finally, wear closed toe shoes (tennis shoes or trainers), no loose clothing (similar to rock climbing since you'll be in a harness) and girls bring a hair tie. You will be wearing a helmet and you just want your hair out of your way. They take about 10 people each time so you will have a relatively small group with you. They will have water stops along the way to keep you hydrated. It takes 2.5 hours so go to the restroom before you leave! And think up some gooooood poses before you go! I wish I had thought of some!


Final Zipline at Kualoa Ranch

Lastly, I strongly suggest setting up a couple things to do at Kualoa Ranch. I feel the way we did it was good. We did this in the morning and the ATV tour in the afternoon, which left us with plenty of time to get back to Waikiki for cleaning up, dinner and night life. You are pretty far from anything else so might as well get your fill of the ranch in one day!


First Zipline with Photo at Kualoa Ranch
  • Location: 49-560 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, Hawaii 96744

  • Price: $159.95/person for 2.5 hour tour

  • Hours: Reservations are available 8:30am-2:30pm every day

  • Website: http://www.kualoa.com/jurassic-valley-zipline/

  • Photos: They take professional photos for you but bring your own camera as well.


Cows on Kualoa Ranch

ATV Tour - Kualoa Ranch

The ATV tour was a perfect way to end our day at Kualoa Ranch. We had a great tour guide - retired military and Hawaiian local with extended knowledge on the island and history of the war. You go through a bunker with Pearl Harbor equipment, so going with him was extremely in-depth and interesting. You also get to learn more about the movies shot at Kualoa Ranch and see some real props (as well as touch some and take pictures if the tour guide is nice haha).


Single-Passenger ATVs at Kualoa Ranch

Again, the weather was stormy which made this more fun but much more dirty! I was so muddy by the end of it. But they give you fun camouflage coats to wear and helmets. Oh! Bring your own sunglasses or eye protection if you do not want to wear their goggles. You have to wear something to protect your eyes.


First Photo Opp on ATV 2-Hour Tour at Kualoa Ranch

I would like to point out that we did the 2-hour tour, which had less people and was much more inclusive and worth it. The 1-hour had way too many people and you really do not get a good feel for the valley that way. We got lucky with the weather scaring off most, so our group was only four guests including us and one tour guide. With less people, you can go at a better speed and have more fun with it, and spend more time at photo opps. I mention the speed because you have to know that since this is meant as a tour and not sport, they keep you in a line the whole time. Thus you can only go as fast as the person ahead of you (probably 8-10 mph). We were able to go the max speed with less people.


Jurassic Park Photo Opp on ATV 2-Hour Tour at Kualoa Ranch

Truly beautiful valley and riding ATVs was such a fun way to see it all! And do not worry about drivers license - as long as you are 16 years old you can drive your own ATV. Just like the ziplining, you must wear covered shoes and sign a liability waiver.


Kong Skull Island Photo Opp on ATV 2-Hour Tour at Kualoa Ranch

Kualoa Ranch
  • Location: 49-560 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, Hawaii 96744

  • Price: $129.95/person for 2-Hour Single-Passenger ATV Tour

  • Hours: Reservations available 8:30am-3:30pm every day

  • Website: http://www.kualoa.com/toursactivities/atv-tours/

  • Photos: You must bring your own camera.


Sunset Beach, North Shore

North Shore / Haleiwa

I did say before that my favorite place to be on Oahu is the North Shore. It has the most beautiful beaches on the island, clearest waters, and everything is more local and relaxed. You can actually do pretty much anything on the North Shore, but honestly I spend most of my time just relaxing on their beaches here. Keep in mind the waters here are technically more dangerous - more life (sharks, turtles, etc.) and bigger waves (usually warnings on beaches for casual swimmers and children). I wouldn't say this is the best for children and families, but for young adults it's perfection. Below are some brief things that I like to do on the North Shore.


Banzai Pipeline

Surfing (advanced)

Ok, I am not a surfer in any way and in fact the act scares me most of the time. The times I have tried and gotten up, I feel out of control (OCD me cries) and like I am going too fast (when it is like the tiniest wave and I'll be fine haha). Surfing is just not for me personally, but I absolutely love taking photos of surfers. They are so in their element and the sport looks so elegant when they know what they are doing. Watching them barrel and turn on water leaving a trail behind them just looks so beautiful to me.


Banzai Pipeline

The North Shore is home to some of the best surfers in the world - look for the Volcom House on Sunset Beach and you will find some of the best sponsored surfers out in the waters near it. You can definitely hang out and watch them from the shore, but be respectful if you plan to go in the water. Best to just stay clear of them and their waves.


Banzai Pipeline

Also, keep in mind lots of locals surf here as well. If you wish to surf these waves at all, be respectful of surf culture. "Ask permission" to surf with the others by throwing up a shaka sign with your hand. If they respond in kind, you can surf with them.


Sunset Beach

Body Surfing / Boogie Boarding

This is an addition to the above for the young ones or those who do not want to surf like me. Sunset Beach is also a perfect spot for having fun in clear waters with decent waves. Definitely not a place for those that want to just float on calm waters as the waves here are meant for surfers. However, even if you do not surf, you can have a lot of fun body surfing, boogie boarding and even cliff diving (although this one can only be done at Waimea Bay). You can rent them nearby in Haleiwa or bring them with you from Honolulu.


Galapagos Sharks

Shark Cage Diving

The North Shore is home to many friendly sharks and thereby many shark-friendly efforts to protect them. I have only done this once so far and we wanted to start slow, so we did shark cage diving as opposed to swimming with sharks. After doing the cage, I would definitely do the swimming. Locals recommended One Ocean for this.


Shark Cage on Hawaii Shark Encounters

Hawaii Shark Encounters made this such a pleasant, smooth and educational experience. I highly recommend using them as well if you plan to go. They are locals that grew up on the island and fell into the family business of protecting sharks. To fund their efforts, they offer shark cage dives every morning to visitors. You go with a group of 10-12 on their boat. I highly recommend the earliest slot at 7am. It is a pain to get up that early and get out to the North Shore at 6:30am, but I swear it is worth it. You get to see them set up the cage for the day, see a beautiful sunrise on the way out and the most sharks are out this early.


Hawaii Shark Encounters sign

Don't worry. The cage is completely safe with protection all around it and they heavily supervise you and the sharks the whole time. Also, these are sharks they personally know. They have tagged them and know almost every shark they see every morning. The water was cold, but it is Hawaii so really not that bad. They offer GoPro cameras for a price, but honestly just bring your own to make it easier.


Galapagos Sharks

They split you up into two groups that go into the cage separately, after you get your snorkel gear (they lend you one for free or you can bring your own). I have to admit, you need a good group of nice people with you. The cage is small and the sharks mainly stayed near the back of the boat so you could really only see them from one part of the cage. Luckily we had a nice couple with us that let us in their spot after a few minutes. The crew gives you plenty of time to be in there to take all the videos and photos you want. We got lots of photos and video, and even time for some last minute selfies. When you get out, they wash you off and now you wait for everyone else to finish. Make sure you brought a towel and possibly some dry clothes, whatever you would bring to the beach.


Galapagos Sharks

The galapagos sharks themselves were so cool to watch. They are intimidating in a beautiful way. They hover pretty close to the cage but not in an aggressive manner. The coolest was when one went below the cage and I could almost touch him with my foot. It was scary but I love adrenaline rushes. While in the boat waiting for the other group, the crew educated us on sharks - behavior, which ones to look out for, why they attack, how they need our help, and more. Truly a memorable experience to start out the morning. It's only 2 hours so you still have the whole day and now you are already by all the best beaches before they fill up with tourists!


Mike in Shark Cage

Mike and I in Shark Cage
  • Location: 66-105 Haleiwa Rd, Haleiwa, Hawaii 96712

  • Price: $115.50/person

  • Hours: Reservations at 7am, 9am or 11am every day

  • Website: http://hawaiisharkencounters.com/

  • Photos: They have GoPros to rent, but better to bring your own waterproof camera.


Photo credit: Sylvia Gunde

Well I think that is all I can talk about on this island! I know it is a lot, so please just reach out if you have any specific questions! I am sure I forgot some details, but tried to mention what I felt you needed to know! Thank you for reading!

Photo credit: Sylvia Gunde

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