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There are about a million and one things to do on the island of Oahu. I went into this trip with the longest list of things I wanted to see and do, but there’s only so much time in a day, and ya girl needs her sleep. So, here is a list of the things I was able to do and highly recommend!
Let me start by saying we stayed in Haleiwa near the North Shore, and I don’t think we could have picked a better location! Our Airbnb was super spacious and on a farm, which was a super cool experience. Haleiwa is a little more low key and less touristy than Honolulu and Waikiki, which was ideal. It worked out a good chunk of our activities were near this area—bonus!
Lani Kai Pillbox Hike
I am sure the view is beautiful no matter what time you do this hike, but if you do this trek, please do it to watch the sunrise. This means waking up well before the sun comes up, and factoring in drive time and initial hike time to make it to the top while it’s still dark. It takes some extra effort, but the panoramic view you get of the island at the peak with the sun coming up behind the ocean is a sight you will never forget.
This hike was about 3 miles, and I’d call it pretty moderate. If you’re doing it to watch the sunrise, then it’s going to be dark on your way up, so don’t forget a flashlight (like I did). Once you reach the top, there are a couple of military bunkers you can climb on that give you an even better view, and they’re a nice spot to chill while you wait for the main event. Including the 30 minutes of us lounging around it the top enjoying the view, it took us about an hour and a half round trip.
Sunrise Tour with EO Wai’anae tours:
This excursion included snorkeling in crystal clear waters surrounded by wild dolphins and sea turtles! Snorkeling with so many wild dolphins swimming under us was one of the coolest things I have ever experienced. Our guides were absolutely amazing, extremely knowledgeable, and witty. The crew made sure everyone was enjoying themselves, and really went above and beyond to make sure every person got to see and be near the marine life. The boat anchored in water a little over 20 feet deep for the last hour of the three hour excursion. While anchored, lunch is served (which is included), and you’re able to swim, paddle board, and kayak the area. When we booked, they had a discounted rate on Groupon, so make sure you check that out first!
NOTE: If you get the opportunity to island hop I suggest checking out Maui, especially if you enjoy snorkeling. Make sure to check out Molokini Crater & Turtle Town (one of the many awesome recommendations from this ultimate itinerary for 5 days in Maui).
There are tons and tons of luaus to choose from, and I researched a lot before deciding to go with Toa Luau. They had great reviews and the price was good for what was included. For the most basic package, which is what we got, it included:
- a flower lei
- cultural activities
- a kava ceremony
- a luau dinner
- a Polynesian show
- one drink ticket
- admission to Waimea Valley (usually an $18 admission fee)
We went to the luau early to check out Waimea Valley. It was a nice, paved walk through botanical gardens that lead you to a waterfall. This waterfall is pretty touristy and they require you to put on a life-jacket before entering, but it’s a beautiful sight and included in your luau ticket. I’d say it’s worth the look. Luau tickets are a little pricey, but I really do feel it’s something you need to experience in Hawaii. You learn a lot about the history and culture of Hawaii, all while enjoying some truly amazing food, drink, and entertainment. I actually made friends with one of the dancers, and he ended up (attempting to) teach me how to surf later in the week!
Cage Diving with Hawaii Shark Encounters:
Nothing like waking up at the crack of dawn to go cage diving with sharks, right? I highly recommend doing it early in the morning, right when you wake up. That way, you’re still a little delusional from being asleep in dreamland, and the endeavor seems a bit more doable.
The experience was two hours, but it seemed like an eternity riding in the boat with the cage hanging from the back on the way out to what was going to potentially be my last moments on earth (and I’m not being dramatic!). I felt like a total badass booking this excursion, but all I could think of on the boat ride was the movie 47 Meters Down. If you aren’t familiar with the movie and want to go cage diving with sharks, just don’t watch it.
Seriously, though, I was extremely nervous right up until the point I was in the cage submerged in water — surrounded by gigantic sharks. It was the weirdest thing, but once I was in there, I felt very calm. The guides pointed over to a boat in the distance where people were actually swimming with the same sharks (Galapagos sharks) in open water — without the cage. By the end of the experience, I felt so comfortable in the water with these creatures that next time I go to Hawaii, I fully plan on swimming with these guys without the cage. (We also got this as a Groupon deal ;).)
My main reason for wanting to go here was wanting to see where one of my favorite movies, Jurassic Park, was filmed. The ranch offers numerous tour package options, or you can book tours individually. I did the ATV package, which included a one-hour ATV tour, a Jurassic Jungle Jeep Expedition, an Ocean Voyage Adventure, and a lunch buffet. The ranch is absolutely beautiful! You get to see a lot of movie scene spots from flicks such as King Kong, Jumanji, and of course, Jurassic Park. I thought the ATV tour was a really fun way to explore and enjoyed it the most out of the three. But like I said, they have a lot more package and tour options, so if you’re a movie buff, I’d definitely scope out their site to see which ones pique your fancy.
Cliff jumping at Waimea Bay:
Even if you don’t want to cliff jump, you should still go to Waimea Bay. This beach was right down the road from our Airbnb, and I couldn’t get over how breathtaking it was. I wouldn’t say I’m terrified of heights, but climbing to the top of the cliff and looking over the edge knowing I was about to take that leap definitely shook my nerves a bit. Even so, the adrenaline I had when shooting out of the water after the jump was so exhilarating that I had to do it several times.
There are a lot of options for paying for a surf lesson experience, but all the better if you can befriend a local who offers to teach you for free! The guys who taught me were so unbelievably patient. I probably spent a total of three seconds standing on the board, out of two hours, but…I had the best time trying. Attempting to surf is just one of those things ya gotta try in Hawaii.
BONUS: Must-eat and Must-drink
In case you didn’t know, the Dole Plantation is located on Oahu! You can get a tour, or you can just go there for Dole whip and chocolate-covered pineapple, which is what I did. I didn’t even know that chocolate-covered pineapple was a thing, but it definitely is, and I have been missing out. Also, if you’re unfamiliar, Dole whip is soft-serve pineapple ice cream…..WHY HAD NOBODY TOLD ME ABOUT THIS?!
Food truck fare:
Food trucks are very popular in Hawaii. It’s common to see several of them congregated in somewhat of a food truck food court. They have really good shrimp and rice dishes, but in Hawaii all the food trucks prepare their shrimp with the shell on, and it is possible to eat the shrimp with the shell on. I tried it, because, well, when in Rome! I was not a fan, but once I peeled all of the shrimp, I really enjoyed my dish.
Bloody Mary at Restaurant 604:
You could say I have somewhat of a bloody Mary fetish. I always look up the best ones in whatever city I go to. This place was less than 10 minutes from the Honolulu airport, and it did not disappoint! If you want a little snack, they also have amazing edamame tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce!
Sushi from Banzai Sushi Bar:
This is truly some of the best sushi I have ever had. We went here numerous times while on the island. The California tempura roll was my favorite. I mean, the whole roll is deep fried — need I say more? Aside from the food, Banzai has a unique atmosphere and offers traditional floor seating if you choose.
Fresh coconut water:
I had an Almond Joy one time when I was young, and have avoided anything coconut ever since. Thank God for me so badly wanting to be a cliche of sipping out of a coconut on the beach. If you haven’t had fresh coconut water right from the source, I’m telling you right now you’re missing out. I’ve ever had anything more refreshing.
Coffee at Arvo Cafe:
Craving a delicious, Instagram worthy latte in the most adorable coffee shop? Make sure you add this place to your list.
Like I said, there are so so sooo many things to do in Hawaii! These are just a few of my personal recommendations based on my life-changing experiences!
If you want a more in depth itinerary for the perfect Oahu road trip look no further!
Share with me your favorite Hawaii adventures in the comments! 🙂
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