This January I was able to spend 10 days in Oahu with my high school friends, and it was SO amazing! I had only been to Maui out of the Hawaiian islands, but Oahu is now my favorite of the two! There is so much to do and see on the island! It’s definitely necessary to have a rental car so you can see all the sides of the island. As far as Covid restrictions, make sure and look up current regulations on the Hawaii government website, but when I went the requirement was proof of vaccination, or a negative covid test if you are unvaccinated. Most of what we did was based on recommendations from local Hawaiian friends and frequent travelers of Oahu.
WHERE TO STAY:
We stayed in Waikiki since it was central to everything and there are plenty of shops and restaurants within walking distance. Waikiki beach has beautiful water but is always pretty over crowded, so we chose to drive to different beaches most days and explore the island! We rented an Airbnb condo that was a 3 min walk to the beach. However, if I were to go back I may choose to stay on the east side of the island and rent a house with a group or something! The Four Seasons on the west side was also beautiful.
WHAT TO DO:
There is so much to do in Oahu, 10 days felt like hardly enough time! We mainly explored different beaches, did some hikes, and did one sailboat excursion.
Sunset Beach- on the North Shore, beautiful and was empty on a weekday
Hanauma Bay- nature preserve, good for snorkeling
LaniKai- definitely the nicest beach on the island, super clear water and white sand
Makapu’u Beach- big waves, beautiful mountains in background and tide pools, there is also a lighthouse you can hike to
Koolina Mina- at Four Seasons, man made coves with nice still water
Waikiki Beach- good for surfing
Halona Beach Cove- went here for some drone shots, it is beautiful from above!
Sandy Beach- good waves for surfing
Kahana Bay- we did a photoshoot here, water isn’t as blue but has pretty mountains and trees in the background
Koko Crater- (1.6mi, 886ft elevation) I didn’t do this one but my friends did and said it was very challenging but amazing views!
Diamond Head- (1.8mi, 452ft elevation) a beautiful hike to do at sunrise
Lanikai Pillbox- (1.8mi, 650ft elevation) my friends did this one after I left and loved it!
Manoa Falls- (1.7mi, 633ft elevation) a quick but beautiful hike through jungles and waterfalls! Make sure and wear bug spray! The beginning of the trail was the most beautiful in my opinion. Scenes from Lost and Jurassic Park were filmed here!
Sunset sail- we did this one out of Waikiki and it was perfect!
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden- has the famous street with mountains in the back (photos are no longer allowed here though so there is no way to get out of your car and take them), but there are tons of other photogenic spots in the gardens
Surfing- I tried surfing at Waikiki Beach and it was so fun! You can get a surf lesson there too
Kualoa Ranch- has lots of activities like zip-lining, ATVs, horseback riding, etc
Snorkeling- have heard Sharks Cove and Hanauma Bay are the best
Dole Pineapple Factory
KCC Farmer.s Market- on Tuesdays and Saturdays, so many amazing local vendors and food to try!
Shopping- there is some great shopping in Waikiki and since the sales tax in Hawaii is only 4.5% it’s a good time to splurge on any designer items you may want
WHERE TO EAT:
There are so many amazing restaurants and food trucks on the island! All of these places had great gluten free options as well. We made breakfast and sandwiches for lunch most days at our Airbnb but did dinner out every night! Here are some of our favorites:
Deck- go for happy hour at sunset, amazing drinks and views of Diamond Head
Sunrise Shack- so cute and the best açai bowls and smoothies
Matsumoto Shave Ice- famous shave ice place on North Shore so expect a line, I got the lilikoi with red beans, mochi, and condensed milk and it was so unique and delicious!
Duke’s Waikiki- make a reservation far out! It is the original famous beachfront restaurant with sunset views and live music
Maguro Spot- amazing poké spot, usually has a line
Mina’s Fish House- this was our splurge dinner! It was at the Four Seasons and had incredible views and food
Banan- dairy free frozen banana desserts, amazing with the macadamia nut butter
Ono Seafood- the freshest poké we had
Tommy Bahama- the rooftop has live music and is really nice at sunset, food was all fresh!
Maui Mike’s Fire Roasted Chicken- a great grab and go lunch spot with insanely good chicken and fries
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck- most popular food truck in Oahu, on North Shore
Island Vintage Coffee- great lunch and açai bowls, but always a long line
It was the best trip visiting my friends who I don’t get to see very often, and exploring all that Oahu has to offer! I definitely hope to come back someday! We got to do some photoshoots for portfolio building while there, but it would be a dream to shoot a wedding or engagement session there!
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