Explore. Experience. Engage.

Road Trip Oahu

Author: Amanda K.
Date of Trip: March 2007



As I took my seat on the airplane that would take us from Orlando to Houston and then to Oahu, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would be able to withstand the 10-hour flight. Soon after take off I shut my eyes and realized I hadn’t had this feeling in a long time, the excitement and anticipation of exploring a new destination. The 10-hour flight suddenly became just a blip on the radar compared to what I was about to experience on the island of Oahu.

Shortly after deplaning at the Honolulu Airport, my boyfriend and I boarded a shuttle that took us to our rental car. One week driving a jeep, for just two hundred and fifty dollars. What a steal! Our hotel for the week would be ResortQuest Waikiki, but we didn’t plan on spending much time lounging by the hotel pool.

Hidden Treasures On Oahu’s Eastern Shore

On our first full day we decided to drive east and see what we could find along the way. Driving, jeep top down, along Kalanianaole Highway we were thrilled to come upon Hanauma Bay, a well known volcanically formed nature preserve. The fee to enter the preserve was minimal, and parking was plentiful. The bay was formed by volcanic activity, like many of the beautiful landmarks of the Hawaiian Islands.

The view of the bay from the look out point above was amazing, and once on the beach it became even more incredible. Just walking in the shallow surf, we saw tropical fish that can only be found in Hawaii. Our underwater camera proved to be a great investment.

Not far down the road from Hanauma Bay, we found Halona Point, an overlook that also reflected the beauty and strength of Oahu’s volcanic past. A steep lava hillside led us down to the raging Pacific Ocean. I envisioned the lava and ocean meeting in fierce battle long ago, and as the sea crashed upon the rock it seemed the score had not been settled. Loose gravel covers the steep hillside at Halona Point so be sure to bring along your tennis shoes.

Our next stop was Sandy Beach, 35 minutes from Waikiki, on Oahu’s East Shore. To our surprise it was almost completely deserted except for what looked like a few single tourists and a handful of locals. One local told me that even on a cloudy day, it’s likely the sun will be shining at Sandy Beach. The waves were nothing like I had ever seen, although only about six feet high. Both of us being strong swimmers, we decided to venture out and enjoy the water. Lifeguards are on duty daily from eight to five, and it’s always important to obey their posted warning signs. There are no shops or restaurants near Sandy Beach so make sure to pack a lunch or eat ahead of time.

Kayaking On Oahu’s East Shore

The following day’s adventure began with a 35-minute drive to East Oahu’s Kailua Beach Park. The drive on Pali Highway from Honolulu, traverses up Nu‘uanu Valley, passes through the Nu‘uanu Pali Tunnels and descends to the major windward community of Kailua. Astounded by the splendor of our surroundings, we accidentally passed right by our final destination, Kayak Adventures. We decided to find a good place to turn around and stumbled upon Lanikai Beach, rated number one Hawaiian beach by many a travel expert. Reachable by our kayak, we decided to head back and explore the beach later. The water at the Kailua Beach Park, our kayak launch point, was exceptionally clear. Two stunning, offshore islands known as the Mokuluas, add to the tropical atmosphere of the area. A short kayak trip from Kailua Beach Park will take you to the shore of Lanikai, the Mokuluas and another small island known as Flat Island. We were able to paddle our kayak to Flat Island, but an impending storm cut our trip short. On a calm day, the islands and Lanikai Beach could be easily reached within a four-hour kayak rental.

Experience Of A Lifetime On Oahu’s South Shore

On our third morning, we decided to stay in Waikiki and enjoy a catamaran trip. We boarded the boat at the Outrigger Waikiki Resort at eight in the morning and were greeted by our crew. The captain and our instructors were very knowledgeable and made us feel like we were out for a boat trip with friends. There weren’t many restrictions aboard the boat, just the regular safety requirements that boaters are expected to follow. Once we were about a quarter of a mile out to sea, the boat was anchored at an area known as Turtle Alley. The seven passengers aboard the boat, including us, jumped into the water with our snorkel gear. I was nervous at first, but was soon enamored by the exquisite fish and sea life surrounding me. The water was about 15 feet deep, and it wasn’t long before I spotted a large sea turtle in the distance. I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo, but the sight was amazing. Not long after that, what the instructor told me was a Black Tip Shark swam by below. He informed me that the Black Tip Shark is native to warm climates, is non-aggressive and would be unlikely to attack humans without stimulus. Thankful for the information, I snapped a photo of the shark. After about 45 minutes of snorkeling, we boarded the boat and headed further out to sea.

The water rushed below the net of the Catamaran and the bottom was still visible even a mile out into the water. The crew had a champagne bottle ready for a toast and pastries for a treat. The panoramic view of Waikiki and Diamond Head from our distant location off the coast was definitely toast-worthy. We arrived back to shore around 10 am and knew the fifty dollars per person cost for the trip was well worth it. Nothing could compare to the Catamaran trip, so we decided to lounge on the beach in Waikiki for the remainder of the day.

The Big Kahuna - Oahu’s North Shore

Our North Shore journey began bright and early as the drive from Waikiki is about an hour and a half. We took Highway One West to Highway Two North, and then continued to Kamehameha Highway. About 40 minutes into our drive, we passed by the Dole Pineapple Plantation. We made a quick stop for a photo but didn’t enter the plantation. Not far past the Dole Plantation, we had a beautiful view of Waimea Bay. We continued on Kamehameha Highway to the Bonzai Pipeline, an infamous surf spot, where we thought we would be able to see some monstrous waves. The locals dubbed the break there, “Pipeline” because of the massive “tube” that forms from the curling wave.

To our surprise there were cars everywhere. We ended up parking down the road at Sunset Beach. Sunset Beach is considered to have the longest stretch of rideable surf spots in the world. We trekked down the beach until we reached the Bonzai Pipeline. A huge surf competition was taking place. We sat and watched for a while and got some great photos. We then walked along the highway admiring the beach bungalows that I’ve always imagined calling home.

We continued on Kamehameha until we came upon Turtle Bay Resort. Interested in scoping out the resort we asked the gate attendant if we might enter to get a bite to eat. To our surprise, we were advised that the public beach area was open, and the cost of parking was only two dollars for the day. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at the resort’s beach side grill and then ventured onto the beach. A large area was sanctioned off in the water where guests were enjoying the wide array of sea life living in the large reef. Yellow tape surrounded a Hawaiian Monk Seal, which was resting on the beach. A resort employee told me that the Hawaiian Monk Seals are an endangered species, and come ashore on sandy beaches for rest and recuperation. Unlike other species of seals, Monk Seals are solitary, both in the water and onshore. The beach was spacious with only a few beachgoers. We enjoyed a relaxing afternoon before driving back to Waikiki.

Hiking Diamond Head

Our final day on Oahu consisted of an early morning hike up Diamond Head, one of the most famous volcanic craters in the world, located on the South East Coast of Oahu at the end of Waikiki overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Diamond Head is a crater that has been inactive for one hundred fifty thousand years. Be ready to climb, the trek up and back totals one and three fourths miles and there are two sets of stairs, one with 99 steps and one with 76 steps. There is also a 225-foot unlit tunnel. Diamond Head’s website states that the hike is classified as easy to moderate in exertion. Although it was tough, it was definitely worth it to see the breathtaking view of the west side of the island spanning from Waikiki to Koki Head. As we looked out over the coast, I had a satisfied feeling knowing that we had utilized our time on the island to the fullest. In only a few days, we were able to witness some of the world’s most beautiful and natural creations.

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