Oahu Travel Guide

The Hawaii dream became a reality for me when I visited the Island of Oahu for a friends Wedding. We spent 2 weeks exploring this wonderland by car (only way to do it). Here’s our ultimate Oahu Travel Guide. Where to stay, how to get around, what to eat, and what to see once you arrive on Oahu!

 

 

Related: “Ultimate Travel Guide to Vietnam”

 



Things you should know about Oahu

Getting there: Jetstar often has sale fares to Honolulu and takes around 9 hours from the East Coast of Australia. If you are coming from someone other than Australia I would recommend searching on Skyscanner.com for your cheapest route. 

On arrival: You will need a passport and Visa(Esta) to get to Hawaii, unless you are a US citizen. Learn more about entry requirements HERE.

Population: Over 953,207

Capital: Honolulu

Currency: US Dollar

Exchange Rate: 0.72 USD to 1.00 AUD (Nov 2018)

Language: English and Hawaiian.

When to visit:  Any time of year is a good time to visit Hawaii. The average temperature here is between 24°-29.5° C. Summer, between April and November, is warmer and drier (average temperature is 24°-31° C) while winter, between December and March, is a bit cooler (20°-26° C). Trade winds keep things comfortable year-round. Whale watching season begins in late December and ends in early May. Peak whale watching months are between January and early April. November through February is big wave surf season on Hawaii’s north shores.

Getting Around: Many visitors enjoy taking guided bus tours to conveniently explore the Islands. Shuttles, taxis and public transport are available on the majority of islands. You may also consider renting a car. Reserve your rental vehicles in advance because quantities can be limited on some islands. Australian travellers don’t need an international driver’s licence as major car hire companies accept an Australian licence. In some cases, drivers will need to be more than 25 years of age and in possession of a major credit card.

Where to stay in Oahu

North Shore

Driving along the North Shore of Oahu each morning to check the surf lead to endless inspiration and surreal scenery. I am so glad we spent the majority of our time exploring the North, the mornings consisted of surf checks, followed by acai bowls, admiring the friendly turtles before going on late afternoon hikes. There are so many things to do on the North Shore including hikes, surfing and eating!
We stayed in a beach house with the most incredible view perfect for sunset swims and late afternoon beers- you can find similar accommodation here.
I would also suggest going to Pupukea Grill at least once a day, exploring the magical Waimea Bay and the famous Haleiwa.

TIP: Explore Oahu like a local with these insider tips! 

West Side

The western side of Oahu, known as the Leeward Coast, is home to beautiful beaches and quieter atmosphere than the bustling areas of Honolulu and Waikiki. There are a wide range of water sports and beautiful beaches and is a short drive to Waikiki and Pearl Harbour. Although there are fewer shops and restaurants than Waikiki the charm lays in its unspoilt coast and rugged mountain ranges.

STAY: Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club,  Makaha Beach Cottage, Four Season Resort Ko Olina

East Coast

Oahu’s East Side is an understated paradise that is full of adventure and gorgeous beaches. There are not large hotels or small but instead, you get to see Hawaii in its local and calmer state. The East Coast, also known as Windward Oahu, is located 30 minutes from Waikiki and Honolulu and is well worth touring by car as the coastal drive is scenic and varied.  The region is largely made up of quiet, coastal neighbourhoods and towns nestled between stunning 3000ft mountain ranges and the sea, it is also home to the famous Hanauma Bay and other magical places like Makapuu Point, Chinaman’s Hat, and Lanikai Beach.

STAY: Kailua GuesthouseParadise Palms B & B,

Waikiki

Although Waikiki is the main destination for tourist with crowds consuming every inch of sand possible the beauty is still not lost. We spent the majority of our time exploring other parts of the islands and ended our trip with 4 nights in Waikiki- which was plenty of time.
Waikiki, unlike the North Shore, has gentle waves and is home to water sports and sparkling turquoise ocean. Amazing food and shopping are plenty in Waikiki making it the perfect family-friendly destination. My favourite part though is the walk up Diamond Head. The picture below is the view from the top overlooking the city of Waikiki and its pristine waters. Tip: For a little extra challenge when hiking diamond head start your hike from your hotel instead of getting a bus to the start.

STAY: Alohilani Resort Waikiki BeachHyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa, Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach ResortThe Royal Hawaiian

What to do on Oahu

Hiking

They say that it is the journey that matters, not the destination. I find that the truest when venturing on a hike. Hawaii is home to some incredible walks that suit all fitness levels and ages. My favourite was the challenging Olomana Hike. I’ll be honest if I had of researched this hike before my trip I probably would have been too scared to part take. Instead, I was travelling with 3 males and pretty much just tagged along with whatever they had planned for the day; something I am thankful for. The Olomana 3 peak hike was my favourite experience in Hawaii.

Although a challenging and dangerous hike, you are rewarded with the most unbelievable view. It is around 2.5 km to the first and highest peak (there are three in total), we only did the first one as the course becomes a bit sketchy.

If you like a bit of a challenge, aren’t afraid of heights and can appreciate some moderate rock climbing, then the Olomana hike should be at the top of your list. For something a little less deadly try Hau’ula Loop Trail or Diamond Head.

Explore the Beaches

Crystal clear water against clean white sands makes Oahu beaches some of my favourites. Although North Shore brings in enormous swell making swimming sometimes impossible, it was still wonderful to sit and bask in its presence, appreciating the fierceness and all its beauty. Instead, venture close by to beaches like Lanikai, Waimea Bay and Haleiwa Beach Park for swimming.

The island’s coast boasts rewarding panoramic views of the hills and the waves which are not to be missed. For something, a little extra special be sure you visit Hanauma Bay the islands well-known snorkel beach.

Tip: Because parking is limited, you should arrive as early as possible because after the lot is full, they just turn people away.

Snorkel

Hawaii snorkeling offers some of the best underwater sights, thanks to the protected marine areas surrounding the islands. On Oahu’s east side you will find the magnificent Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. This volcanic crater is a marine life conservation area sheltered from ocean swells and packed full of fish. Needless to say, it’s wildly popular, so be prepared for crowds. The tropical fish, coral and turtles amongst clear blue water make it worth though.

Surf

Hawaii is one of the most geographically isolated places on the planet. For some, that means only one thing: groundswell. Everywhere, in every direction, the currents of the Pacific are churning up the winds, storms and fetch that give these islands their world-class waves. Below is a list of the best places to enjoy them.

Shop

If a little retail therapy is on your vacation to-do list, Oahu’s diverse shopping centres have you covered. There’s something for everyone and every budget, whether you’re looking to splurge on luxury goods, need locally made souvenirs for family and friends back home or you’re a bargain shopper on the hunt. With its mix of outlet stores, cool local boutiques, discount shopping, US chain and department stores you won’t be disappointed. Try Ala Moana Center, the largest and best shopping centre in Hawaii!

Food

When someone asks me how Hawaii was, I immediately start ranting on about the food. In particular my poke bowl from Pupukea Grill, I had on the North Shore. My partner and I loved it so much, we have replicated the poke bowl recipe and it is now a dinner favourite. Fresh produce, variety and large serves are something to appreciate in Hawaii. Make sure you try the ‘fish tacos’ on the North Shore, the Acai bowl from the Purple Food Truck, and the Ramen in Waikiki.

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