What To Do In Oahu (That’s Not The Beach)
When you think of Hawaii, you may think first of paradise beach, clear waters and palm trees. You will definitely find it all on Oahu. You can have a look at our Oahu beach guide to get some ideas. As beautiful as Hawaiian beaches are, you may also want to see other things after a while. And the island has so much to offer, from hikes to water falls and gardens, there is always something new to see.
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Honolulu is definitely not my favourite place, whether it’s downtown or Waikiki. It’s always busy and very touristic. That said, a walk through Chinatown is enjoyable and a must in Honolulu. It’s always fun to walk through the food markets and souvenir shops.
Diamond Head crater hike
This trail goes up to the top of the famous Diamond Head crater‘s edge with views over the ocean and Honolulu.
Lanikai Pillbox hike
That’s another popular hike in Oahu. Most people go to the first pill box and back and that’s what we did. You already get beautiful views from this point. It’s a bit difficult because it goes uphill and there’s no shade on the path but it’s very doable. The view of the neighbourhood and the turquoise waters of Lanikai beach is just fantastic.
Kaiwi Shoreline trail
This trail is a bit less heard of, most people hike the trail to Makapu’u lighthouse that starts at the same place. We chose to go in the other direction and we saw almost nobody else. You get to see varied landscapes, the path goes through dry vegetation and along the ocean. There’s actually a lot of different paths you can take. We walked from Makapu’u beach to Sandy beach where we took a bus back to Hawaii Kai where we were staying.
This is a short hike through a Jurassic Park like jungle with a lush vegetation offering shade. You walk to water falls with an enclosed pool at the bottom where swimming is not allowed anymore for security reasons.
This big botanical garden gathers plants and trees from different continents. There is also an area with Hawaiian huts to learn more about the native Polynesian people. The path leads to beautiful waterfalls where you can swim even if the water is a bit murky.
Koko crater botanical garden
We were still getting used to the sun and tired from a hike, we found just the place to spend some quiet time and take pictures. This large garden counts, among others, a very Hawaiian plumeria plantation, a forest and a cactus garden.
This replica of a Kyoto temple was built to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the Japanese arriving in Hawaii. It has a zen and peaceful atmosphere to it and the great architecture and colours contrast well with the greenery around. The fishpond outside is also home to turtles and black swans. The temple is accessible to the public, it’s very small but impressive with a big golden Buddha.
Try some shave ice
Shave ice is a Hawaiian specialty not to miss. This ice shaved very very thin is topped with syrups and sometimes condensed milk. Some places have their own things like mochi balls or sour spray. The best is supposed to be on the north shore of the island so we haven’t tried any in Honolulu. We did treat ourselves with some at the Manoa Falls and loved it. We were looking forward to Matsumoto’s shave ice in Haleiwa which everybody talks about but we were actually disappointed. We are not sure whether it was the weather or their machine but it seemed that the ice was not as thin and chewing on chunks of ice is not so nice. We also tried the one from Lorenzo nearby and were equally disappointed. In the end, the one from the Manoa Falls was definitely the best shave ice in Oahu for us.
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