Home to beautiful beaches, rich historical sites, and world-class shopping, O‘ahu offers something for everyone. Stick to more obvious tourist spots in Honolulu and Waikīkī, however, and you may miss out on the other marvelous sights that O‘ahu has to offer. Just as you cannot simply read the cover of a book, there is much more about O‘ahu waiting to discovered—if you know where to look.
Text by Kaycee Macaraeg | Image by A.J. Feducia
Adventure into the morning: Get a jump on mid-morning heat and afternoon crowds by starting off bright and early with a hike. With so many trails on the island, it may be difficult to choose, but one, easy, beautiful route is a hike to Mānoa Falls. North of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, it opens at 8 a.m., is just under a mile, and takes only about an hour (though parking costs $5). While the trail can be considerably muddy after a rain, Mānoa Falls is worth the trip to explore a location where Jurassic Park and Lost previously filmed—but rest assured, there are no dinosaurs or polar bears. If you want a more urban hike with an incredible view, take O‘ahu’s Diamond Head Summit Trail. For a real bun-burner that ends at a waterfall-fed pool, try the Maunawili Falls trail in Kailua (though it will also be very muddy after rain!)
Travel through art: The Honolulu Museum of Art is a world all its own. Located in the heart of Honolulu, this museum takes you through historical and cultural art from Asia to the Pacific while offering a peaceful environment with fountains and several lush courtyards. Discover 20th century Japanese erotic art in the spring at the Modern Love exhibition (through March 15) and local works at the biennial Artists of Hawai‘i showcase featuring eight Hawai‘i participants during the summer and fall (July 2 through October 25). Admission also includes free same-day entry to Spalding Heights in Makiki, where you can explore sculpture-filled gardens overlooking Honolulu and five contemporary art galleries. Go on a picnic and nosh on Mediterranean-accented fare from the Spalding House Café while enjoying the museum’s sprawling grounds.
Take an afternoon tour: For those staying in Honolulu or Waikīkī, a trip to the north side of O‘ahu might seem a little out of the way, but if you go the Pali Highway route, it makes for a charming roadside view of the ocean on the way to Kahuku Farms. Open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on all days except Tuesday, the farm offers a grand tour of their fields to see how local produce is grown, along with samples of fruit and vegetables. You can also opt for a smoothie tour that includes—you guessed it—a delicious smoothie at the end of the tour. If you can’t get enough of Kahuku Farms’ local flavor, sit down for beverages and a sandwich at the farm’s café (which is worth a stop on its own). Across Kamehameha Highway is also Romy’s shrimp truck for those in the mood for seafood.
Check out the waves: Since you are already on the north shore, continue on Kamehameha Highway past Turtle Bay to O‘ahu’s famous seven miles of stunning beach and surf breaks. On calm summer days, sign up for surf lessons; in the winter, you may catch sight of thrilling competitions such as the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (November through December). A great place to watch the sun set is at Turtle Bay’s Hang Ten Bar, which is next to both the pool and ocean and is open until 10 p.m. If the thrill of surfing is not for you, Hale‘iwa offers quaint shops, art galleries, and delicious shave ice for a relaxing day in the country.
End the day with a bang: On Fridays, if you hurry back before the sun goes down and make the one-hour drive back to Honolulu, you can catch a free fireworks display in Waikīkī at 7:45 p.m. Hosted by the Hilton Hawaiian Village, the event lasts about 10 minutes, but it is certain to make your day a memorable one.