Oahu is where I was born and raised, and where I lived for my first 24 years. Because I still have family there, I visit every few years, and I’ve been fortunate enough to share my favorite parts of the island with my mainland-born husband and son. I’ve reviewed a few sights below, but a more complete ebook about Oahu, featuring some lesser-known sights, is now available on amazon. I profile various beaches, tourist sights, and different types of “local” food. Because I’m a former resident or “local,” I present a different viewpoint from other travel guidebooks.
Photos and reviews of famous locations like Waikiki and Hanauma Bay are included, but so are other lesser-known areas like Chinatown and Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden. See my son jumping off the rock at Waimea Bay on the North Shore, posing with a turtle at Turtle Beach, eating Waiola shave ice in Kapahulu, hanging from a Banyan tree in Kapiolani Park, ringing the bell and feeding the fish at Byodo-In Temple in Kaneohe, and swimming to Flat Island at Kailua Beach.
You can use the “look inside” feature at amazon to see the Table of Contents of my book A Hawaiian Family Vacation: Oahu. That’s my son eating Waiola shave ice on the cover!
I will describe some sights I’ve visited on Oahu below, but cannot cover every inch of the island. I would refer you instead to what I consider the best series of books on the islands (with excellent maps!) by Andrew Doughty (amazon link to Oahu Revealed below). I would use his book in conjunction with mine. His is a more comprehensive reference book, whereas mine is much more visual. As with any advice from anyone, please use common sense when exploring and don’t do anything foolish just because you read it somewhere.
Waikiki is what most tourists think of, when they think of Hawaii. Waikiki Beach, with its gentle waves, is on one side of the main drag (Kalakaua Avenue), while high-rise hotels are on the other side. Visitors here are literally from all over the world, and speak all different languages. Waikiki comes alive at night with street artists doing everything from break dancing to classical violin playing. And of course, there are shops selling every kind of souvenir you could imagine, from clothes, to trinkets, to $10,000 art gallery paintings, so there’s something for everyone and every budget.
Hanauma Bay is one of the most well-known snorkel beaches on the islands, and is so popular that it closes every Tuesday to let the water refresh. Because parking is limited, you should arrive as early as possible, because after the lot is full, they just turn people away. Hanauma is a Marine Life Conservation District, which means no fishing is allowed, and there are consequently lots of fish. The only downside to Hanauma is that because of its popularity, it’s not really a “natural” experience, with just you and the fish, since so many other people are there. But there’s an educational center and video that newbie snorkelers should watch. Please do not stand on the coral–it’s a living organism and you kill it when you step on it.
Shark’s Cove, Three Tables, and Turtle Beach, North Shore
These beaches on Oahu’s north shore have good snorkeling. They’re usually not as crowded as Waikiki, and are a nice alternative to snorkeling the sometimes crowded Hanauma Bay. Shark’s Cove, shown here, is a bay with fairly clear water and a good assortment of coral. Three Tables down the road had quite a few fish, but was a little cloudy since we were there in the afternoon and there was already some wave action. Turtle Beach was so cloudy that we got out of the water because we couldn’t even see anything snorkeling. BUT, you don’t even need a snorkel if you want to see turtles. They crawl out of the ocean and sun themselves on shore, oblivious to all the tourists who stop to get their pictures taken with them on the beach.
Hawaii is a true melting pot of cultures, and you’ll find every type of cuisine available. In the ebook, I profile local “plate lunches,” along with Hawaiian, Chinese, Korean, and shave ice locations.
If you’re anything like me, you will eat to your heart’s content while in Hawaii, buy a few cases of chocolate covered macadamia nuts to take home to friends and relatives, savor the last bite back home awhile later, and remember the good times you had while visiting. Hopefully, you’ll come back and visit another island on your next trip!