It’s happening, it’s actually happening. Slowly but surely, travel restrictions are lifting and many people are planning for their first trip in a year and a half. Where are you planning to go first?
I know where I’m going: Hawaii. Because I’m getting married! And to a Hawaiian, so it only makes sense to have a celebration there. And finally, it looks like we will pull it off and boy did I have my doubts. If I’ve been quieter on the blog lately, it’s because I’m in the final months of wedding planning plus my job has gotten kinda intense, so some of my hobbies have had to take a back seat.
I visited the island of Oahu four years ago with my fiancé and I can’t wait to go back in a few months. For an island smaller than Rhode Island, there’s A LOT to do – stunning beaches, epic drives, a variety of hikes, and a rich history and culture. Today, I’m going to take you through my top five favorite spots if you are planning a visit. This is by no means an exclusive list because it was hard to pick only five!
1. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Strap on a snorkel mask and go to Hanauma Bay – here, right below the surface of the water, you’ll see coral reef teeming with lots of fish! It’s magical to see so many so close. When (if?) you’re tired of swimming with the fish, you can relax on the sandy shore and enjoy it as a beach. It also just reopened to tourists and locals, check the website for details. Bring reef-safe sunscreen, which is the only legal kind in Hawaii. Also make sure to have a decent snorkeling mask, mine kept slowly filling up with water which caused me to slam my leg into the reef as I tried to fix it. Not only is this harmful to the reef, it hurts! The bay is great for snorkeling and seeing wildlife, not so great if you’re looking for a swim.
2. Diamond Head State Monument
Inside the Honolulu city limits you’ll find Diamond Head, a dormant volcano crater that you can summit in a short hike for stunning views of the Honolulu skyline and coast. The hike is under a mile but a steep incline to the top, and keep in mind that there is not a lot of shade on the path. It is frequented by tourists but it’s worth it for the views. Bring water, sunscreen, and a hat and consider going earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the midday heat.
3. Manoa Falls Hike
If you enjoy a relaxed stroll in a lush rainforest with a waterfall payoff at the end, this hike is for you. Located in Manoa Valley, this hike ends at the beautiful Manoa Falls. Unfortunately when doing the research for this post I found out that the trail is currently closed due to rockslides, but it will undoubtedly reopen in the future and when it does, it’s definitely worth it! Rest assured, there are other great hikes on the island for all levels of hikers (see some recommended ones here).
4. Polynesian Cultural Center
The Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) is undoubtedly touristy. It’s a giant center, located on the North Shore, dedicated to teaching about Polynesian cultures, primarily for tourists. You can easily spend a day there hopping from Hawaii to Fiji to Aeoretora (the Maori name for New Zealand), watching cultural dances and learning about Polynesia. They throw a great luau at the end of the day where you can sample Hawaiian food and enjoy a dance show.
There are many reasons I liked this attraction. First, it is a great opportunity to learn about the different Polynesian cultures in one place. Second, you can experience the Hawaiian luau at the same time. And third, most of the people who run the cultural exhibitions (ie, the dancers and guides) are students at Brigham Young University-Hawaii coming from the Polynesian islands to study in the US. The center provides employment and internships for these students as they get their degrees.
5. Ocean Kayaking
Rent a kayak and take it out into the Pacific Ocean! You can visit Flat Island, a tiny quarter-mile stretch of rock that is also a bird sanctuary, with great views of the coast. If you’re up for the challenge, you can go all the way out to Mokoli’i island, commonly known as Chinaman’s Hat due to its shape. Be careful – remember you are kayaking out into the Pacific Ocean, so know your limits, listen to locals, or go with a guided group. We stopped at Flat Island because we didn’t think it was safe for us to reach Chinaman’s Hat by ourselves. We returned to the beautiful Kailua Beach, which is a lovely beach to visit in general and also a nice spot to relax after your kayaking trip.
I hope you enjoy Oahu as much as I did! Did this post get you in the mood for a piece of Hawaii? Try some of these Hawaiian-inspired recipes: