The island of Oahu, as many visitors know, is the most visited of the Hawaiian islands, and home to 75% of the state’s population. Of the 1.4 million residents of the state, 1 million of them live in Honolulu County.
You all know Honolulu, even if you haven’t been there. Big city, high rises, Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head.
You may have heard of the North Shore, home to mammoth winter waves, or the small towns of Kailua and Haleiwa.
I’ll assume that you’ll start your trip from the Honolulu Airport. From there, I suggest driving to Kailua, the second largest city on the island, home to some chain stores and restaurants, old shops, places to stay and some really nice beaches and attractions.
Once in Kailua, get yourself situated, and then head over to Kailua Beach and nearby must-sees: Sandy Beach, Makapu’u Trail and the Blowhole.
The blowhole is a tourist spot where you can occasionally see water spouting from the rocks, while the Makapu’u Trail is a 1.5 mile (one way) hike up the hill to see the historic Lighthouse.
It’s a must get photo, with two great angles and you get a great overview of the area from up there. Arrive early, as the spot is really popular, and parking goes fast.
How early? Put it this way: when I was there between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., most of the spots were already spoken for.
Sandy Beach is my favorite photo spot on the east side of the island.
On one side you have a traditional sand beach, with blue Hawaiian water, while the other is full of lava rock and crashing waves. It’s here where I shot great sunrises, watching the sun come out of the water, as crashing waves against the rocks joined the shot. During the summer, Sandy Beach gets some pretty awesome waves, so expect to see a lot of surfers.
Now heading north: the swanky Hilton Turtle Bay is the only mega-resort on the north shore and a worthy stop.
If you can’t afford $250-$550 nightly rates, have lunch by the pool for $20, and check out the nearby turtles.
Shark’s Cove is right around the corner and said to have the best snorkeling on the island. It gets so many visitors, there are tons of surf and clothing shops across the street, and places to buy trinkets.
The cutest small town on the island is Haleiwa, home to antiques, Hawaiiana, fun restaurants, galleries and the like.
The best spot to end your island tour is in Sunset Beach, home to–naturally, the best sunsets on the island. During the winter, here’s where you’ll see mammoth waves as well.
Have fun in Oahu!