Bright sun, blue skies, sandy beaches, hula dancing, palm trees, coconuts, pineapples, leis, surfing…the list goes on of things I would have associated with Hawaii before I visited. Having explored the beautiful island of Oahu I can confirm that all of these things are absolutely in abundance there.
It’s long journey from my home in Northern Ireland, with approximately 19hours of flight time. On the final leg from Los Angeles to Honolulu I was sat on the right hand side of the plane and was lucky enough to have the window seat.
I would highly recommend booking a window seat if you are able, it makes for a fabulous first impression as you approach the island.
Although I would have loved to do a bit of island hopping, particularly to Kauai, we were there for business and agreed to use the time we had to exhaust the sights of Oahu, giving reason to return to the Hawaiian Islands sometime in the future.
We checked into the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa for 9nights which actually didn’t allow enough time to get to see all the island had to offer, despite giving it a good go! My favourite things about the hotel were:
- The spectacular view of Diamond Head from our balcony
- The terrace bar. A couple of things I’d like to mention about the terrace bar. One being that they offer a great selection of cocktails and the option to have yours served in a real pineapple for an extra $8. Sipping on a delicious Pina Colada from a fresh pineapple was absolutely worth the extra $ in my opinion! Secondly, you must ensure you check out at least one Hawaiian sunset on your visit, and the views of the sunset from the Marriott’s terrace bar are second to none
- The onsite Italian Restaurant, Arancino di Mare. I’m a sucker for Italian food, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve had a Spaghetti Bolognese in every country I’ve visited. I wasn’t going to break my trend in Hawaii. Arancino di Mare certainly did not disappoint! They also do takeaway should you fancy bringing a pizza up to your room for a night of relaxation
- The weekly craft fair in the hotel lobby at which I purchased my souvenir for the trip. I love nothing more than bringing original art home with me.
WITHOUT FURTHER ADO…….let me talk to you about some Oahu’s highlights. I have lots of recommendations for you!
Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve
Situated roughly 10miles from Waikiki, and about 20mins in an Uber, is the popular Hanauma Bay.
Here you will find a secluded volcanic bay, home to turquoise sea, sandy beach and an abundance of tropical fish, amongst other marine life. Voted #1 Best Beach in the USA for 2016 and known for its fantastic snorkelling, Hanauma Bay is an experience you won’t want to miss.
Preservation is of utmost importance since the bay underwent a major restoration programme to re-establish it’s delicate ecosystem. Now guests are required to sit through an educational video, designed to protect the nature preserve, before descending down to the beach.
Entry to the reserve was $7.50. You can opt to walk down to the beach, or take a tram for $1.25 each way. It is quite a steep walk down & up. When you get down you have access to the snorkel hire hut. Rental of snorkel gear (mask, snorkel & flippers) cost $20. They even offer prescription masks with a range of strengths available to try. Very impressive!
Hanauma Bay is closed to the public on Tuesdays. This is to allow the fish a day of feeding without interruption. So make sure to plan your trip in advance to allow for a visit here on a different day of the week.
Manoa Falls is a towering waterfall located within Manoa Valley. A short, 10minute drive from Waikiki, this hike is a wonderful way to start the day before heading on to do something more time consuming. Believe me when I say, you will feel like you’re in Jurassic Park.
It took approximately 30minutes of hiking through the dense bamboo jungle to emerge at the waterfall. Manoa Falls is known as being the easiest hike of the island. However, as it is technically in an area of tropical rainforest, it is prone to tropical rain, i.e. flash floods are not uncommon. The trail can get very muddy and slippy! Wear sensible shoes, and bring water.
Diamond Head Hike
Probably the most well known hike on Oahu, Diamond Head offers spectacular 360º views when you reach the top of this 300,000-year-old crater.
Before embarking on this hike I had been told by the locals that this was also one of the easiest hikes on the island. The locals definitely lured me into a false sense of security. Perhaps it was the relentless sun exposure that did it, or the 99 steep steps close to the summit, but I found this hike to be significantly more of a workout, and time consuming (approx. 1hour to reach the top), than Manoa Falls. Saying that, it was absolutely worth the sweating and panting!
I was dropped off in the car park and started my hike from there, where pedestrians are required to pay a very respectable $1.00 entry fee or $5.00 for a car I believe. You are also given a map of the crater that, upon reaching the summit, you can get stamped to mark your achievement. Who doesn’t like a success story?
North Shore Road-Trip
We had heard wonderful things about the North Shore of Oahu and so decided to hire a car and check it out.
Heading off from Waikiki around 10am one morning we had our sights set first on Waimea Valley, and then on Turtle Bay Resort at the tip of the North Shore.
Waimea Valley took around 1hour 15minutes to reach in the car from Waikiki, and my goodness was I glad we went! I cannot find the words to describe the beauty of this luscious, botanical location. It is an absolute must see if you are into exotic flowers and trees.
Admission to the valley is $16 for an adult. You can then stroll (or pay a further $10 round-trip fee to ride the buggy) to the beautiful waterfall where you have the option to put on a lifejacket and go for a swim.
The water is very refreshing, and by refreshing I mean cold! Make sure to wear a bathing suit and bring a towel. Had I have known how vast the area would be I perhaps would have allocated more time to spend here and brought a picnic.
Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. Some of which you won’t miss are the beautifully colourful, wild Roosters which you’ll see all over the island. You’re also likely to see plenty of Gold Dust Day Geckos.
The next stop on our North Shore road trip was to be the Turtle Bay Resort. As we arrived, not only were we blown away by the hotel’s fabulous location, the views and the massive waves, but we also arrived just in time to pull up a seat at their Pool/Cliffside Bar and watch the surfing competition that was underway. The performances were incredibly impressive, and our lunch was just what we needed after our walk through Waimea Valley. I’d highly recommend planning a visit to this hotel around their surfing activity schedule.
Having done my research before we came, I knew all about Kualoa Ranch and the activities it had to offer, and under no circumstances was I leaving the island without getting my fix.
I had my heart set on their 2hour Horse Trekking Tour, which at $130 per adult wasn’t exactly the cheapest option, but I must say it was worth every penny. If that sounds too expensive don’t be deterred, the Ranch has a multitude of tours ranging in price. Simply follow the above hyperlink to find out more. Kualoa Ranch is home to many movie sets, including “Jurassic Park”, “Godzilla”, “50 First Dates” and even the T.V Series “Lost” to name but a few. I saw some pretty iconic features straight from the actual movies.
The horses themselves were a delight, very well trained and gentle. May I add I had never ridden a horse and I found it incredibly easy, albeit a bit stiff when it was time to get off.
My time in Hawaii was coming to an end, and there was one last thing I had to do. It is tradition to cast your Lei into the ocean when leaving the island, thus guaranteeing your return. The modern, environmentally friendly version of this tradition is of course to cut the string and unravel the flowers. So I did just that, and watched as the petals drifted off into the Pacific Ocean. A fitting close to a fantastic adventure!
Aloha Hawaii. A hiki i ka manawa a’e.