Travel Guide - Oahu Top 10 Things To Do


It may have taken me a while, but I've finally finished going through and editing the hundreds of photos I took during my vacation to Oahu. This is my 2nd time on the beautiful island of Oahu in the last 12 months, so instead of my typical photo diary, I thought I'd put together my top 10 for this destination. Keep reading to see my top 10 must-do's on Oahu, as well as some general tips on vacationing in Hawaii at the end.

1. Drive around the island
Oahu is definitely a destination you want to get a rental car at. Just get in, drive, and explore! The island in itself is beautiful, and the juxtaposition of mountain-meets-beach-meets-ocean as you drive along is amazing. You definitely don't want to be tied down to one location.

2. Snorkeling
The waters around Hawaii are crazy clear, and the snorkelling there is better than the Caribbean! Although you can quite literally go snorkelling anywhere where the water is calm (perfect example of this is Milos Cove near our resort in Ko Olina, which was literally just 20 feet of "beach" and the most amazing snorkelling the entire trip), my recommendation would be to head to Hanauma Bay. The bay is a caved in crater that is just full of coral and fish. Check out this photo of a colourful Parrot Fish from my last trip! Hanauma Bay is protected, so you have to watch an educational video before entering, but it's well worth it.
I've never been to Shark's Cove, but we drove by it and it was packed with people pointing and gesturing, so I'm guessing it's a good spot as well.
*Note: snorkelling is NOT going to be good after a storm, or during big swells. Hurricane Hilda was off the coast of Hawaii while we were there this time, and because of Hanauma Bay's location, the wave action made for poor visibility. So keep your location + surf swell directions in mind!

3. Giovanni's Shrimp Truck
Giovanni's is world famous for a reason. A very delicious reason. Despite smelling like garlic for a good 48 hours after my lunch, the garlic shrimp plate was well worth it!. Don't be alarmed by the long line, as it moves really quickly (unless you go for the lemon-butter shrimp, as those take longer because they have to be steamed). It's so popular that they have 2 locations, both along the Kamehameha Highway: Right before Turtle Bay travelling west along the north shore, or in historic Haleiwa. You can smell it a mile away, so it's hard to miss!

4. Climb Koko Crater
I don't entirely feel right recommending this, because I don't think I'd ever do it again...but you just have to do it! Koko Crater had a military bunker at its peak during WWII. It is now abandoned, but the railroad tracks that were used to haul ammunition up there are still in place, and every day hundreds of people, locals and tourists alike, start climbing. Locals use it as a workout, and as I was coming down there was this one guy on his SECOND trip to the top (I'm pretty sure he was cray cray). I felt like I had a minor heart attack, but the view at the top was worth it. Hey, if this out of shape gal can do it, you can! Just make sure to bring LOTS of water, a snack, and go first thing in the morning before it gets too hot.

5. Yokohama Beach
Yokohama Beach is probably my favourite spot on this entire island! It's on the southwestern-most tip of the island. Basically, just drive west from Honolulu as far as the road will go. When the road ends, you're there! There can be some pretty crazy surf action at Yokohama, but not so much that it's unsafe to go swimming. The breaks are more intense in one area (which attracts local surfers), and a little less intense just right of the lifeguard tower. It's also calm enough to go snorkelling all the way to the left of the lifeguard tower. Pack a lunch and spend the day getting tossed around by waves (see, doesn't this look fun?!?). There are also showers and washrooms, so you don't have to spend the drive home salty and sticky.

6. Grab a surfboard at Waikiki
I took a surfing lesson during my last trip to Oahu, but didn't plan to take another this time. We stopped at Waikiki one day and found out its only $15 for an hour! It's a fantastic steal, as you'll probably be exhausted after an hour anyways. Or spend $20 for 2 hours and split the time with whoever you're with. Just be careful as you'll probably have to dodge tourists who aren't paying attention once you do catch a wave.
*Note: I don't recommend taking lessons at Waikiki because of how crowded it is. We used Kai Sallas Surf School for our lessons last year. They take you to Eisenhower Beach which is kinda sketchy, but the ocean is totally empty and there are perfect waves for learning.

7. China Walls
This was one of my recommendations to check out this trip, and while my folks were apprehensive at first (and we got a little lost), it was definitely a highlight! The surf actually runs perpendicular to the cliff's face, which makes to safe for jumping into the ocean! It may seems a little scary, but was really fun (as evidenced by this photo). Surfers ride the waves right along the cliffs and when the surf hits rocks that jut out, the spray makes for some gorgeous photos! Special thanks to the nice local who showed us the best place to jump in, and also the best place to climb out :)

8. Eat Acai Bowls
I definitely got hooked on acai bowls while in Hawaii. They're available at most health food restaurants (as well as Island Vintage Coffee), but the best was hands down Haleiwa Bowls on the North Shore. Everything was so fresh and delicious! The fruit is all local, and the little hut on the side of the road (right across the street from Matsumoto Shave Ice) is quaint and has a great vibe.

9. Watch the Honu
Up until this trip, I'd only caught a glimpse of a Hawaiian Sea Turtle swimming far out in a wave. All that changed when I asked a lifeguard in Kailua where the best place was to see Honu (Hawaiian for sea turtle). Laniakea Beach was magical! The Honu come right up with the surf to eat the sea grass that grows on the rocky bottom. We also walked down a bit further where you could safely enter the water and swam with them! They don't even care that people are in the water and just float around, grazing on rocks on the bottom. It was really nice to see volunteers on the beach reminding people that the Honu are protected and that it is illegal to touch or feed them. Touching them can have harmful effects on their natural flora that keeps their shells free of algae that can kill them. So if you see a Honu, admire their beauty but remember to be respectful.

10. Watch a sunset
Sunsets in Hawaii are amazing, and we looked forward to watching the sun set every night. Always have your camera because the colours are slightly different every night. Bonus points for taking a pre-requisite photo of the sunset with palm trees in the foreground ;)

Now my top 3 tips for vacationing in Oahu:

1. Don't stay at Waikiki. While being downtown can be convenient, it's crazy busy and all the good stuff is outside of Honolulu. We stay at Disney's Aulani Resort with our timeshare, which is in Ko Olina. I'd definitely recommend Ko Olina as it's quiet, has great beaches, and has some nice restaurants and shops nearby. I'd also definitely recommend stay somewhere with a kitchen. This way you can stock the fridge and pack a lunch for your day of exploring!

2. Head to WalMart and buy some cheap beach equipment. We actually brought one big suitcase that just had 3 sets of snorkel gear, 2 beach chairs, an umbrella, a beach mat, and a beach tent. WORTH IT! But if you don't want to bring your own stuff, find the nearest WalMart or Target and pick up some cheap beach chairs, umbrella and beach mat that will last you juuuuust long enough to get you through your last day (...maybe).

3. Explore! I already recommended getting a rental car, and I'll do it again because it's a must. Oahu is full of places to explore and you should take full advantage of that. All beaches in Hawaii are public, so if you see a cute little strip of sand along your drive, make it yours for the day! Adventure is out there!

Anyone headed to Oahu any time soon? I'll probably be back in Fall 2016! :)



  1. Great recap Kris! I'm hoping to make it to Hawaii someday soon, and I'll definitely be referencing this post!

    La Petite Noob


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