People rave about Hawaii, and with good reason. When we got back from our week in Oahu in May, I was ready to quit my job and try to make a living selling shaved ice on the North Shore. There’s just something about the beauty, mixed with the easy going way of life, that’s irresistible to our schedule-obsessed culture. We want to help you get the most out of your time in Oahu, but to be honest, we loved everything so much, we had a hard time narrowing it down to make this list. The good news is, it ensures what’s on here, is TRULY quality.
1. Paradise Helicopter Tours
We got the chance to do a doors-off helicopter ride over Oahu and it was the experience of a lifetime. We departed from Turtle Bay Resort, and flew over stunning beaches, mountains, and even landed in the valley where Jurassic World was filmed. Although it’s pricey, it was not just a trip highlight, but one of the coolest things we’ve ever done.
2. Exploring Chinatown in Honolulu
Disclaimer- I am usually not a big fan of Chinatowns. I didn’t like it in New York (except for the blessed soup dumplings) and I wasn’t a fan in Los Angeles. But Chinatown in Honolulu is a different story. For starters, if you want beautiful, inexpensive leis, this is the only place to go. David and I had a blast picking out leis from their wide variety of fragrant blooms. Secondly – CHINATOWN IS MANGO AND AVOCADO HEAVEN!! If I could marry produce, this would be the one.
3. Rent kayaks at Lanikai Beach
Lanikai has some of the prettiest waters in Oahu, and is a great place to kayak. We took our kayak to the Mokulua Islands off the shore, which was an amazing experience because you get the feeling of being on a private island, without the price tag of a private island.
4. Eating at the different North Shore food trucks
Whether it’s the famous Giovanni’s Original Shrimp Truck for sticky garlic shrimp, The Elephant Truck for some of the best Pad Thai you’ve ever had, or The Kahuku Grill for Macadamia Nut Crusted Shrimp, the North Shore is famous for its food trucks. We recommend being gluttonous like us — and sharing one dish from each.
5. Staying at Turtle Bay Resort
We stayed at condos on the grounds of Turtle Bay Resort, and we could not recommend this magical place highly enough. They have recently undergone a massive renovation, and it shows. But what really makes this place special its not the building, but the grounds. Turtle Bay is the only resort on the incredibly special North Shore, and is secluded and rich with real Hawaii.
6. The Windward Side
The beautiful panorama view of East Oahu from the Pali Lookout is one of the windiest spots we’ve ever been, but also holds some of the most breathtaking scenery. Pair it with a trip to Lanikai, and the Byodo-In Temple, which are also in East Oahu.
7. Hike Diamondhead in Honolulu
This is iconic for a reason — the views from the top of this ancient volcano are spectacular, and the climb is easy enough for most parties. We recommend going as early in the day as you can handle so that you can find a parking spot, and an uncrowded trail.
8. Spend an afternoon visiting Aulani
It wouldn’t be us if we didn’t pitch SOMETHING Disney related. But we think that even non-Disney freaks would enjoy exploring this stunning resort. For an added bonus, have dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, AMA’AMA.
9. Spend a day on the North Shore’s beaches
We think the best beaches on the island are on the North Shore, with the crown jewel being Waimea Bay during the summertime. Our number one tip for a successful Oahu vacation is to not spend your whole trip in Waikiki — the island has SO much more to offer, especially as far as beaches are concerned!
10. Waimea Valley
Waimea Valley was my lazy girl idea of a hike. No incline, breathtaking scenery, and a huge waterfall at the end that you can swim under. This was hands down one of David’s and my favorite place we went. They also hold a great farmers market every week where you can stock up on coconut scones or goats-cheese cheesecake.
We hope you enjoy exploring one of our favorite places in the world, and that our list makes it a little easier! And if anyone ever makes it big by quitting their jobs and starting that shaved ice business — let me know.