Oahu is Hawaii’s best known and most vibrant island. In addition to Honolulu, a modern city that offers hundreds of services, Oahu has a beautiful nature, characterized by volcanoes, mountains and pristine beaches. There are so many wonders to discover in Oahu that a month isn’t enough to see it all!
Oahu initially floored me because I was coming from Kauai, a green and lush island, where the jungle prevails over everything; walking through the neighborhoods and skyscrapers of Honolulu made me feel sad. Obviously, I changed my mind very soon because Oahu revealed me its breathtaking beauties and panoramas, and it’s soon become one of my favorite islands in the world!
I had drawn up an intense itinerary that included numerous things to see but, unfortunately, my vacation coincided with the week of July 4th: the island was very crowded; for days the Americans camped in tents on the beaches, sometimes occupying all the available parking spaces. It’s a strong tradition for them and it was really nice to be able to attend the celebrations, but in the end, I was forced several times to change my plans, to find less chaotic places.
I chose the hotel in Honolulu, in order to move around the island by car during the day (I rented a Mustang at the airport via Avis) and, instead, to walk to the center in the evening. I stayed at The Shoreline Hotel, to which I gave 5/5 star rating for the central location, for the large, clean and well furnished rooms, the free drinks service in the lobby, the daily beach towels rental and the private parking (in Honolulu find it is really
This city is lively, there are several shops, restaurants of all kinds and shopping centers with ancient trees inside; it also boasts one of the most famous beaches in the world: Waikiki! Many surfers stand there, watching the sun going down as the sky turns pink with the Diamond Head in the background. Honolulu really becomes magical in the evening. The streets are lit by burning torches and many people flock along
the streets looking for places to dine and shops.
Restaurants I recommend:
Heavenly: American / Hawaiian cuisine, perfect for brunch and dinner; it offers delicious vegetarian dishes.
Il Lupino: Italian restaurant with authentic made in Italy products. I felt like I was at home because the food was divine!
Doraku Sushi Waikiki: Japanese cuisine, rated as one of the best sushi in Honolulu. Unmissable!
Pearl Harbor National Memorial
Having watched the “Pearl Harbor” movie and having heard so much about it, I was dying to visit this historic site, sadly known for the Japanese attack in 1941 on the American base of Pearl Harbor where 2400 people lost their lives.
Not having a reservation (which can only be made two months before on the official website) I woke up very early in the morning, to get at the museum entrance at 06:00. The queue was already very long.
At 07:00 the gates open and only 1300 people can access it per day according to the order of “who first arrives, first receives the ticket with the visit time”.
The ticket to the USS Arizona Memorial is free and includes a 20-minute screening of an introductory film explaining the reasons why Oahu has been attacked and a visit to the monument built on top of the Arizona warship, which sank during the assault . 1177 crew members died on board.
The memorial is not particularly impactful, it is a modern work that stands above the remains of a now rusty ship which, however, almost eighty years later, continues to bring up oil stains on the water. Inside, the names of the victims are carved on the wall and Hawaiian necklaces are placed as a sign of respect.
However, it is worth going there because it represents a pillar of the American history.
Diamond Head is the imposing extinct volcano that can be admired from Waikiki beach; climbing it was one of the most awesome satisfactions I have ever had. It is not an easy walk so you need to be a bit trained. It takes you about an hour to get to the top and the climb is tough, especially the last part. The panorama you can admire once you reach the top is breathtaking: a blue ocean on the horizon and a thousand shades of blue along the Honolulu coast with its skyscrapers. Spectacular! The view is so incredible that in the past the Diamond Head was used by the military to control attacks by enemies.
Doing the trail isn’t free (it costs $1 per person / $5 per car, cash only accepted) and parking in the crater is limited, however, there is the possibility to wait in line for the first place that get released; I parked outside, at the foot of the volcano, but that cost me 1.5 km more to the route!
Haleiwa and Banzai Pipeline
Haleiwa is a pretty town on the North Shore coast in Oahu; there are souvenir shops, bars, local art exhibitions and especially surf clothing stores. North Shore is in fact well known for the big waves that attract surfers from every corner of the planet; one of the most popular beaches is Banzai Pipeline, which hosts famous surfing competitions during winter. Its waves, more than 10 meters high, can be really lethal and for this reason the locals limit foreigners to surf in this area.
Several companies also leave from the port of Haleiwa, such as the North Shore shark adventure, which organize excursions to admire the sharks from the cage by reservation.
Must try of the area: Haleiwa Joe’s seafood and grill and San Lorenzo shave ice.
One place I loved in Oahu is the Byodo-in Temple: a smaller reproduction of the Byodo-in temple located in Uji, Japan. It was built in the 1960s to commemorate the anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.
Before reaching the temple, you go along an asphalted road surrounded by palm trees, which passes through cemeteries.
The temple is at the base of the Ko’olau mountains, where rainfall is really abundant and the low clouds often create a contrast with the green of the mountains and the red of the temple.
The Byodo-in Temple gardens are enchanting, there are ponds teeming with koi carp, streams, flowering trees, a giant gong and benches to meditate.
Inside you can buy food to feed the Carp, it will surprise you to see how many they are!
Admission is charged, about $ 5, but in my opinion, it is worth the price!
The Kualoa Ranch is a real must on Oahu! Many American films and several TV series (such as Jurassic Park, 50 times the first kiss, Godzilla, Pearl Harbor, Battleship, Jumanji 2, Lost, Hawaii 5’O etc.) have been set here.
It is a huge valley surrounded by beautiful green volcanic mountains … who has seen Jurassic Park knows for sure what I’m talking about!
I advise you to buy your ticket online in advance on the official website, there are several activities and tours to choose from such as, for example, the possibility of crossing the ranch on horseback, on an ATV or old minibuses without glass. I chose this last option (the others were already sold out) and I must say it was a pleasant surprise!
The tour lasted 90 minutes with a nice guide who told us many things about Kualoa Ranch during the whole trip. In addition to the various locations used by Hollywood for its films, they will also show you a military site from the Second World War.
It is a unique place, you cannot miss it! And then … I bet you will want the photo with the dinosaur like mine!
Beaches of Oahu
Oahu, in my opinion, has the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii, with crystal clear waters and easily accessible coral reefs.
The North Shore beaches are the most suitable for surfing, but those who want to learn how to use the board can also take lessons on the famous Waikiki beach in Honolulu. This beach is enchanting but really too crowded for me … I could perfectly listen to the conversations of people around me!
The best bay for snorkeling is Hanauma Bay, a paid nature reserve with very limited parking, you’d better go there very early in the morning!
Kaneohe Bay, Kailua Bay and Lanikai Beach, located in the eastern part of Oahu, are bays with long Caribbean beaches. Unfortunately I visited them quickly, because of the overcrowding of people of those days.
The real discovery for me was Yokohama Bay: it is located in the western part of Oahu, where there are no particular beauties along the coast, and this beach, which is the last one before the road ends, has bewitched me! A piece of my heart remained there. Imagine a deserted beach, white sand dunes, clear blue-turquoise water and green mountains in the background. A real paradise! Still it is not clear to me why it was always deserted… probably because, according to lifeguards, there are rocks on the seabed, making the waves dangerous for bathers. Well, I personally hope it will remain immaculate because it is an absolute marvel!
There are endless other things to do in Oahu but unfortunately the time available is never enough! Next time I would like to visit the Ho’omaluhia botanical garden, do the Crouching Lion Trail and maybe I will also be able to find the famous insta-spot Kualoa Ranch Dock, whose location is not yet known!
I hope you enjoyed my guide to the island of Oahu, Hawaii. If you have any questions, I’m here to answer!
a hug ♥