“Oʻahu attacks your senses. Tropical aromas and temperatures, turquoise waters, a kaleidoscope of colorful fish, verdant rainforest and sensuous scenery, plus so much to do.” – Lonely Planet
Intrigued much? Well, to say the least Oahu has it all – the perfect blend between island life and urban amenities! From crystal blue beaches to Louis Vuitton stores, from white sands and high surfs to Avocado toasts & Acai bowls, from Snorkeling & Scuba to Hiking in rain forests – all of it in one stunning island of less with 1.2 million people! We were in Oahu for 4 days through Christmas and were based out of Waikiki! We expected crowds in Waikiki during the holiday season – luckily they were really concentrated in the Waikiki region and the rest of the island was tourist free!
Here’s what our itinerary looked like:
Day 1: Diamond Head Hike & Waikiki Sunset
Day 2: Waikiki Beach Sunrise, Manoa Falls, Aihualama trail hike
Day 3: Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, Koko Crater Hike
Day 4: Road trip – Pali Coast & North Shore Oahu: Lanikai Beach, Lanikai Pillbox Hike, Tropical Farms Macademia Nuts, Elephant Shack Food Truck , Turtle Bay Resort / Kawela Bay Beach Park, Hale’iwa Beach
Day 1: Diamond Head Hike & Waikiki SunsetBreakfast at Arvo: You know me and my undying love for Avo toast and a killer latte to start the day! I was dying to visit Arvo from the time I saw their Yelp pictures – and it did not disappoint!
Diamond Head Hike & Waikiki SunsetAfter landing in Oahu and soaking in the 80 degree weather in the afternoon, we decided hike up the Diamond Head Crater and watch the sunset from the summit! The hike really is a 2 mile out & back trail with a paved path all the way to the top.
You can climb about 99+ steps through spiral stairs and a dark tunnel to get to the summit. It was a tad crowded even as it was getting dark but it was fun!
The sunset was glorious! We stayed up till the closing time and ran our way down before the crowds died out! Every direction we looked, the view was breathtaking!
Day 2: Waikiki Beach Sunrise, Manoa Falls, Aihualama trail hikeSunrise Breakfast by the Beach: More Coffee and Avo toast to get the day started! We took our avo toasts & Acai bowls down to the beach around 7am and watched the sun rise over the pink blue skies!
A morning dip in the ocean is just what the doctor ordered!
Manoa Falls: Manoa Falls has to be one of the most fascinating waterfalls on Oahu to be seen! Cascading 150 feet down the mountainside, it will seem more like 1000 feet as you stare up at the endless water falling down the rocks. Not many Oahu waterfalls are easy to travel to, that can also deliver such an impressive show!
The hike up to Manoa was insanely crowded! What was even more interesting was how it POURED through our time there. As we were approaching the rain forest region, the sky turned dark and the showers turned into heavy rain. We weren’t prepared with raincoats but luckily we had our good hiking shoes on. Aihualama Trail: Now here’s where it got really fun! Once we got up to Manoa Falls, which was beautiful to say the least, the crowds did however taint the experience a little. Once up there, we saw a detour to Aihualama Trail – a steep 1600 ft elevation 5 mile long trail that navigates through the middle of the rain forests!
A completely unique experience for us because this trail was like no other! The trail starts off really rocky and slippery, taking you past lush bamboo forests & wild banyan trees with their roots creating snake-like visuals that were seriously freaking us out… we decided to brave it up and go through as far as we could! While hiking in the rain was an incredible experience, its also Really risky. We were prepared with hiking gear, however the entire trail was slushy, slippery and very unpredictable. Flash flood warnings were a real threat anad I highly recommend taking precaution on the hike. We were also the only ones on the hike – so you can tell how freaked out I was as much as I was trying to brave it all! All in all, we made it to about 1000 ft in and it got a little too spooky to continue coz the rain became really heavy, the sky was turning darker and we weren’t able to step on solid ground anymore, so we decided to turn back! Overall, what an experience!!! But – buyer beware 🙂 Margaritas by the beach:We came back down to sunny Waikiki and got margaritas & tacos to get us back into Beach mode!We highly recommend Duke’s in Waikiki beach and Margaritas in downtown – we went to both places and loved em!
Day 3: Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, Koko Crater HikeHanauma Bay: Personally, Hanauma bay seemed a tad over rated. Sorry, but we had to wait over 1 hr to just enter the beach. The coral reefs start right at the shore so you don’t have to take a boat in to snorkel.You can rent your snorkel gear at the beach, but you need to bring your own life vests if you are not a great swimmer.
We booked a half-day snorkel tour through Viator – totally not worth it! The tour really does nothing. It picks you up at your hotel and drops you at Hanauma Bay ( a mere 20 mis from Waikiki) and they give you snorkeling gear. The only benefit I saw was we didnt have to wait 30 mins to find a parking spot.Over all the whole Bay was Over crowded and I just didn’t think it was as much fun ! We were there around 10:30am! Koko Crater Hike: This is a crazy steep hike – its like Stairmaster for 1000+ steps up to the summit, no shade and no breaks! If you’ve got the courage, you can make it up to the top in 30 mins. Pace yourself coz it ain’t easy! Shopping & Drinking in WaikikiWaikiki is an incredibly upscale area. From Prada, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choos to all the upscale restaurants you can think of – right there for ya! We went window shopping pas a few stores and decided to get drinks at the Mai Tai beach-front bar in the Royal Hawaiian hotel.
Italian DiningAfter a few drinks in and watching the sun go down, we went out to get Italian at Appetito – LOVED their pizzas and pasta! Karaoke at Wang Chung’s: After dinner we decided to walk around and see if there were fun bars to go to. We ended up doing some really fun Karaoke with a ton of locals at a gay friendly bar called Wang Chung’s! The hubby and I sang our hearts out before calling it a night!
Day 4: Road trip – Pali Coast & North Shore Oahu:
Lanikai Beach, Lanikai Pillbox Hike,Tropical Farms Macademia Nuts, Elephant Shack Food Truck, Turtle Bay Resort / Kawela Bay Beach Park , Hale’iwa Beach
I’m not gonna walk you through each spot as its self explanatory… but this was our FAVORITE day in Oahu! We essentially went Beach Hopping! We put on our bathing suits and hopped in the car with coffee in our hands and just went from one beach to another, dipping in the water as we went along.
The whole point of the road trip along the north shore is the number of secluded beaches you can find! We’d pick up macademia nuts and settle down at one beach, dip in the water for a bit and then hop back in the car – off to the next secluded beach! Two important stops until we made our way up to Turtle Bay and then eventually Hale’iwa beach – one was the Tropical Farms – we picked up a TON of macademia nuts & souvenirs for our friends.
Next we stopped by the popular Elephant Shack Food Truck in the Polynesian Cultural Center’s parking lot! Got some yummy Thai food before jumping back in the car and heading up to Turtle Bay ! Finally we made it up to Hale’iwa Beach by around Sunset. This place was cutest – a ton of places to eat, get gelato, drinks and food. And its really only about 45mins back to Waikiki!
Live Music at Jazz Minds: Once we got back to the hotel and showered up, for our last day in Oahu we decided to check out some Live music! While threre are plenty of places to go to our first stop was Jazz Minds – coz we both love Jazz. Dancing to some spanish renditions of some of the classics with sushi – a night to remember 🙂 All things aside, no matter how beautiful the destination, its the company that makes your journey memorable. I’m so fortunate to have closed a fabulous 2018 with the love of my life, his hand around me the whole time as every night we watched the sky turn different colors of purple until we fell asleep in each others arms.Wishing you all had a wonderful year end and are excited as we are to make more memories with our dear ones in 2019 !