I love to travel and explore new places, and the island of Oahu Hawaii has been on my bucket list forever. With epic, sprawling beaches, green mossy mountains, hiking trails galore, and locals walking around with a surfboard under their arm, it screams “island paradise”. (Plus, driving by Kualoa Ranch – aka Jurassic Valley – screams classic Jurassic Park!).
I was only in O’ahu for a week, but we got up early every morning to go exploring and take in some amazing sights. It’s a great island to explore, because not only are there tons of places to set up camp for the night, it’s also easy to drive around.
Whether you’re after beautiful beaches, good snorkelling spots, or the best food on the island, O’ahu is amazing!
1. Honolulu – the major city on O’ahu still manages to feel like a relatively quiet, island-vibe place, and even while changing a flat tire on the side of the road, we were met with some gently misting rain and an insanely gorgeous rainbow (told you, it’s like paradise!). And the food! We stopped at Sweet E’s Cafe for brunch, and O.M.G. it was the best food and the best coffee I think I’ve ever had in my life! Hit them up FOR SURE if you have a pit stop in Honolulu!
2. Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail – I’ve seen a lot of beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, Europe, and even Ontario, but this section of the island was INSANE. The view from the lookout was incredible. We parked at the relatively quiet beach and watched the surfers roll in on the waves in the bay. Oh, and you can also walk the (relatively easy) trail to the lighthouse for more epic views.
3. Lanikai Beach, Kailua – snorkeling with sea turtles? Yes, please! We rented snorkel equipment for only $15 at Kailua Beach Adventures, stored all our stuff in lockers on site, and then took a sunny 15 minute walk to Lanikai Beach. While I didn’t see any turtles, I was secretly kinda glad cause they’re HUGE and we didn’t have a professional guide (lol!). I did see a sea turtle on the North Shore my last morning in Hawaii, and it was magical! The beach itself at Lanikai has soft white sand, insanely blue water, and just enough of a crowd.
O’ahu has the BEST food trucks ever!
4. North Shore – The beaches on the North Shore are so insanely beautiful, and absolutely terrifying at the same time. We got to the beach just before sundown one evening. The waves went from massive and imposing to downright deadly in a matter of minutes when a storm rolled in. People who surf O’ahu’s North Shore are legit. There were a few times when I thought my friends got sucked into the ocean. (and yes, I totally watched Blue Crush for the first time while in Hawaii, cause when visiting the North Shore, what else are you gonna watch?!)
On a calmer day, the North Shore was teeming with locals going surfing, tourists shopping at the cute boutiques in Haleiwa, and us getting up before the sun to go exploring the beaches.
We also experienced the other best food I’ve ever had at Farm to Barn Cafe. We happened to be there the day before their grand opening. The delicious food, healthy juices and cute boutique were so cool! We even met the owners and chefs and got to chat with them for a bit! (I also spotted a cute couple chilling at the cafe and playing badminton, so naturally asked if I could do an impromptu photo shoot of them. They were visiting Hawaii from Japan for 2 months so they could surf. So cool.)
Also, there are literally roads on O’ahu maps called “Jeep Trail”. If you’re also a Jeep owner you get why that’s exciting.
5. Waikiki – I didn’t even have much of a chance to chill in Waikiki or hit up the beach, but it is seriously beautiful. Driving through, it reminded me of Hawaii in the movies – you know, palm trees, beautiful scenery, and a small-but-big-city feel.
6. Crouching Lion Hike, Kaneohe – The only thing I did in Kaneohe? A steep, intermediate hike to the most beautiful lookout ever. (And I shot an elopement there too!). There were signs at the entrance to the hike that explicitly said no hiking. The trail up was steep and definitely not for beginners. Since it rains on and off constantly in the winter, the hike back down turned into a literal mudslide. It was part-dangerous, part-adventurous, and all parts fun. We were so muddy afterward that we had to strip down to our undies to get into the rental car, and then we obviously stopped at McDs to grab some food afterward…. Because although O’ahu has a ton of amazing restaurants and food trucks, there are very few drive thrus (just FYI). So bring spare pants. And a wet wipe or something.
Each day was busy, and there ended up being parts of the island I didn’t have time to get to. If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii, give yourself a few extra days, especially if you like driving and exploring. Overall, a full week on O’ahu is plenty of time to drive, explore, hike, and eat alllll the good food.
A few things that I was hoping to check out but didn’t have time for were the show at the Polynesian Cultural Centre, tacos at North Shore Tacos (which funnily enough isn’t even on the North Shore), and the beautiful looking Hau’ula Loop Trail hike. If you’ve done any of these things and enjoyed them, comment below and let me know!
I had a blast in Oahu Hawaii and can’t wait to go back! If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it!
If you’ve been to O’ahu or the other Hawaiian islands, what was your favourite part?!