O’ahu is probably the first island where you will land as its airport is the most international of the islands and serves as an interisland hub also. Do not just stay at Honolulu’s airport but take the opportunity to visit this amazing island for a few days.
There are many reasons to pay a visit: the varied American-Asian fusion cuisine, the liveliness of Waikiki beach and nightlife, the snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, the surfing and its laid-back atmosphere in Waimea Beach, Pearl Harbor history and significance and, of course, the hidden beaches of the Southeast and Windward O’ahu. It all depends what your interest is. I found peace, a good vibe and natural gorgeousness. O’ahu is a definite must.
Starting with the least impressive of all sites is Waikiki beach. It is a thin but long strip of golden sand with crystalline calm blue waters at the near shore and surfer-crowded waves beyond the rocky barrier. It is a touristic point, a place offering surfing classes for beginners and late-night dinning, drinks and dancing. It was my first Hawaiian beach and even though I was not impressed, a rewarding feeling of knowing I had made it to Hawaii took over me when looking out of my hotel’s balcony. I was, however, impressed by the tasty Mai Tais and mouth-watering POKE dish we had at a local bar.
Going up my O’ahu beauty scale is Waimea Beach on the Northwest of the Island. It is the surfing mecca, where the most renowned surfing competitions take place in winter at The Banzai Pipeline and the most beautiful sunsets of the island can be enjoyed from Sunset Beach. I experienced these beaches in summer and saw no impressive waves but road signs telling me to be aware of them. Although seas were calmed, there were no many bathers, perhaps because the water currents are still strong. I did not visit Halei’wa Ali’i Beach Park or Waimea Bay beaches due to lack of time but during summer they are supposed to be inviting for snorkeling and offer a nice hippy vibe.
Where I did snorkel was in Hanauma Bay Natural Preserve, my most impressive snorkeling beach in Hawai’i. If you would like to be part of a living aquarium, then head there very early in the morning to guarantee space to park and to relax on the later crowded sand. The geography of the Bay keeps the waves away from the shore and allows the snorkelers to swim over the corals where numerous colourful fish reside. However, the water currents are strong so if you are not a very experienced swimmer, stay close to shore. Information about the natural preserve’s fauna and flora is given in a short video at the entrance and also displayed on a stand at the centre of the beach. The view of the bay from the very top is postcard-perfect! And the view of the corals and fish behind your goggles are worth the expense of your water-proof photo camera. It is a luxury to the eye!!!
The top of my O’ahu beauty scale is saved for the jewel of all beaches. Its pristine waters, soft shining white sand and the clean ocean horizon with two random peak-shaped islands make this beach the perfect travel agent poster, the cover front of all Hawai’i travel guides, the place where once you see it, you will not want to leave. This is my number one O’ahu and Hawai’i spot: LANIKAI BEACH. The photos and videos online I had seen about it prior to my visit did not pay justice for its breath-taking beauty. It is paradise. It is charming, relaxing and soul-soothing. It is a beach for romance. A beach to stare into the horizon, stop mind-wandering and allow happiness to take over you: you are living the dream!
Exploring Berry Traveling Tips:
- Renting a car is essential to enjoy the island to the fullest! If you rent in advance to your arrival, you will get better deals!
- Sleeping in Honolulu or Waikiki Beach is most convenient for visiting the South East and Windward O’ahu. The majority of the hotels are here. If you are planning on spending a considerable amount of time on the Northeast of the island, stay in Waymea Beach.
- If you want quietness and staying for a longer period of time, it might be ideal to rent a holiday house in Kailua Beach (you will have close access to Lanikai Beach!!).
- If you haven’t packed any snorkeling gear, Waikiki beach is the place to purchase it and take it with you to all the islands. It will be difficult to find later and most beaches do not have gear rental stalls.
- The same goes for sun-screen creams. There are plenty of stores in Waikiki Beach and not so many easy to find stores in rest of the islands (Except for in hotel lobby stores).
- If you are not a surfer but are curious about it, take a lesson on Waikiki Beach.
- Take cash with you for paying the entry fee of Hanauma Bay Natural Preserve. Take also food and plenty of water as there are no food or beverage stores once at the beach, only at the entrance of the park (and there is quite a hill to go back up).
- There are many local bars and restaurants along Waikiki Beach to enjoy a nice meal, live music and a drink. Do not just stay at the hotel’s restaurant. You will have plenty of chances for this on the other islands where nightlife entertainment and gastronomy variety are much more limited.
- Again, it depends on your traveling interests and objectives…but allow for more than one day on this island! I only stayed 1-1/2” days and I regretted it!