Top 5 Things To Do In O’ahu

While our time in Hawaii was limited to the island of O’ahu, we had no shortage of things to do and see. This is a list of our top 5 activities from personal experience, including some adventure activities and a dining option.

5 – Hanauma Bay Snorkeling

IMG_4028Hanauma Bay is a tourist spot on O’ahu that well deserves it’s reputation as a must-see, if plan on doing any snorkeling on O’ahu then this is where you do it. The entire bay is set up as an attraction, with an entry fee, guides and closing times. We visited quite late in the day – only a few hours before it closed – so the lines to get in weren’t bad at all, despite reviews that said otherwise. Once inside everyone is required to watch a short video on the reef and it’s history, this includes information on how you can protect the reef by not standing on it – not sure some of the snorkelers really received this message.

The guide told us we were there on one of the best days they’d had in weeks. With clear water and an even clearer sky we saw all sorts of colourful fish and even a Moray eel. According to the video there’s much more wildlife¬† to be seen with turtles and sharks but we weren’t so lucky to see either of those.

The bay itself is also a great beach, with fantastic views on the walk down to the sand. The water is shallow in the majority of the bay, allowing you to stand at any point, but you can also swim out beyond the reef where the water gets a little rougher and you have a better chance of seeing some turtles. Hanauma Bay is a great place for families to enjoy a bit of snorkeling, entrance is US$7.50 per person, parking is limited but you can easily catch the 22 bus from several stops in Waikiki.

4 – Udon at Marukame Restaurant

Amazing udon noodles and spam musubiA few days into our O’ahu trip it hit me that we’re going to be spending the next 12 months in Central and South America where Asian cuisine – a definite favourite – is going to be scarce. Luckily, Hawaii has a large Japanese population and an equally large Asian tourist market, resulting in me dragging Will along to many Asian restaurants before we say goodbye to our sushi and gyozas for the next year.

I thought nothing could beat the Ramen noodles in my Top 5 in New York but these udon noodles might just be a contender. Marukame restaurant came highly recommended on Yelp and the universe must have been at work here because it was just around the corner from our apartment. Fresh hand-made noodles in a rich stock with chilli, shallots and an egg on top, simple dish but oh-so-yummy. We also branched out and tried the Spam Musubi – that’s right, Spam –¬† which was passable.

If you want to try something a little more ‘Hawaiian’ though, go for anything with Kalua Pork!

3 – Olamana Hiking Trail

One of the more challenging sections on the Olomana Hike TrailIn the middle of O’ahu island there’s a hiking trail with three ‘mountain’ peaks. It takes an hour to get to the first peak, twenty minutes to the second and nerves of steel to get to the third. Even the first peak is not for the faint-hearted which is where we made it to. The hike should really be called a climb as I’m sure the steep incline and the fact that you’re sometimes on all fours qualify it as such.

However, the challenge is what makes it fun, not to mention the fantastic view from the peaks which you just can’t capture with a photo.

2 – Paddle Boarding

Paddle boardingHow long does it take to learn to surf? ‘It either takes one day or ten years’ was the response one of our hosts – Margaret – gave us. While her partner Kevin fell into the one day category, Margaret is still learning after ten years. Surfing – having originated in Hawaii – is the more popular of the water activities, however, there are still quite a few paddle boarders to be seen dodging the waves at Waikiki Beach, and this is the activity we decided to try.

Paddle boards can be hired for US$25 at many places along the beach, and you apparently don’t need any instructions, the only aim is to stay on the board – and maybe try to ride some waves. We found it more difficult than it looks, but easily something you can enjoy and gain a reasonable amount of skill after a short amount of time.

1 – Get Out of Waikiki – North Shore Shrimp

One of many shrimp trucks by the side of the road that sold fresh shrimp (aka prawns)As our trip to Hawaii was technically just a stop-over we decided not to travel to the other islands. But we do recommend getting out of Waikiki for the day! We hired a smart car – a reasonable $99 for the day – and did the drive over to the North Shore. Apart from me freaking out every 5 minutes over a car with the steering wheel on the wrong side, the car on the wrong side of the road and the massive highways, we had a really enjoyable day viewing the scenery at a few stops.

Sunset Beach was arguably better than Waikiki Beach with the white sand, blue water and lack of tourists. It’s a little more windy here but not so much that it’s distracting. I’m not sure as to where they got the beach got it’s name though as I’m pretty sure the sun sets on the other side of the island. There is another well-known beach further along but the parking there is minimal and you may spend longer trying to park than you do on the beach.

We also drove along a section of road that had food trucks set up every couple of hundred meters. Upon closer inspection we found these food trucks were all selling fresh shrimp. Tables and chairs were set up to accommodate the diners as you chow down on delicious, cheap shrimp and watch the cars whiz by on the highway only meters away.

Need one more? Visit the resort pools

My brother pointed out to us before our trip that all the large resorts in Waikiki are pretty easy to walk into. They’re not technically open to the public but neither does anyone check that you’re a guest at the resort. So if you’re not a guest at one of the fancy resorts there’s no reason you can’t enjoy their pools and hammocks. While we didn’t end up in any of the pools we did spend a few minutes swinging in a hammock at night doing a bit of star gazing.

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