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Welcome To Hawai’i – But Don’t Hate On Oahu

Taking Oahu In Like A Kama’ Aina

Before, during and after a recent trip to Hawai’i, I heard, “are you going to Maui, or another island?” Usually that came in a tone that suggested Oahu was a waste of vacation time and had nothing to offer compared to Maui, Kauai or the “Big Island” of Hawai’i. Well I know better! Oahu, is a very special place that has lots to offer beyond the crowded beaches of Waikiki. Oahu has plenty of charms to be found if you step away from the tourist state of mind.

Smart Vacation Tips For Fun on Oahu.

First thing I’d do is not stay in a Waikiki hotel. Sure that is what they pack in the budget offers, but those hotels trap you into the Waikiki experience. Sure you can go shopping at Ala Moana, visit Pearl Harbor and take other package tours, but you are still basically trapped in the Waikikik and surrounding Honolulu area.

Explore Alternate Lodging Options Away From Waikiki

A better idea is to find a place to stay away from Waikiki. If not another resort, check with AirBnB or other reputable lodging resource. Use extreme caution with Craigslist for lodging anywhere, especially in Hawai’i! Nice thing about AirBnB is that most lodging is in local homes where you can gather tips on where to go that isn’t all about tourism.

Rent A Car in Hawai’i For Even More Fun

Hawai’i has a excellent bus system call “The Bus”, but you don’t have all day to get where you need to go on Oahu! The Bus is good for short jaunts, but a rental car is a great took when visiting Oahu. The problem with rental cars is that they are obvious and tend to attract unwanted attention from those that prey on tourist. So what is a tourist to do? Call up the folks at Lucky Owl Car Rentals. “D” and his crew have gently used older cars for rent. No credit card needed, but you have to put up a deposit. I rented a 2006 Nissan Sentra S for a week from Lucky Owl Rental Car, total cost $150 plus a $25 pick up fee since our location was well beyond their free 25 mile pickup zone. Best practice is to set the rental up before you arrive and have Lucky Owl pick you up at the airport. The rental process was fast and painless. I didn’t get to pick my rental car, but what was provided was was clean, ran very well and had good AC. The car looked local, so we were able to “act” local! Gas in Hawaii ran about the same price as the Sacramento Valley. Total gas spent was about $45 for the week!

There Are Better Beaches Than Waikiki!

Oahu is surrounded by beaches. The most difficult one to access is also the most crowded and that is in Waikiki. You don’t have to go far to get away from the crowds though. Starting just east of Waikiki, at the base of Diamond Head Crater, you find beaches that are not crowded with tourists. It doesn’t take much to find a good beach though you must always be aware, if not downright afraid of the ocean. Personally I’d avoid going in any water where there was no lifeguard or where you do not have personal experience with the local ocean and surf conditions. The ocean will hurt you.

There are better places to snorkel than Hanauma Bay State Park

The go-to snorkeling spot on Oahu is Hanauma Bay State Park. That is fine if you want to go to a crowded and abused tourism icon. This is one activity I might opt into a package for because some of the better locations are easier to access from a boat. On the other hand, if you have your own or have rented snorkel gear, head over to the Ko’Olani Beach Park near the Aulani Disney Resort. There are four enclosed lagoons where you can swim and snorkel. Other options are Turtle Bay on the North Shore.

Take A Drive To the End of the Farrington Highway

Since you have your rental car, if you want to see some of the better beaches in Hawai’i and get into the more local side of Oahu, head to the Wai’anea Coast. Also referred to as the Leeward Coast, this is on the same side of Oahu as Honolulu, but this is nothing like Honolulu. The last town on the Leeward side of Honolulu is Makaha. The Farrington Highway pushes west for a few miles before it dead ends at Ka’Ena Point Beach Park. This is about 40 miles from Waikiki, but well worth the effort if you want to “go local” for a few hours.

Enjoy A Local Experience – Hannara Restaurant

A good reason to go adventuring up the Wai’anea Coast is the Hannara Restaurant. This little gem that mixes Hawai’ian, Korean and American food into a menu, is a Leeward coast treasure. I recommend their coconut or banana pancakes. Leave early enough to do breakfast at Hannara Restaurant (Hanara Restaurant Yelp Link) , and then push on to explore the beaches to the west.

Makaha, Yokohoma and Kae’na Point Beaches

Use the Hawaiian Princess building as your first beach landmark. Under the shadow of the Makaha Beach Cabans lies Turtle Cove. This beach looks private, but it is an awesome place to relax away from the crowd. The beach is known for body surfing and on calmer days, snorkeling. It is just west of LahiLahi Point, a place sacred to Hawai’ians. Beach access is between the Makaha Beach Cabanas and Hawaiian Princess tower. A few miles further up, the Farrington Highway ends at a dirt road. This is the “no further” point for rental cars. Don’t bother going further. Instead, turn around, find a nice place to pitch your blanket and enjoy a gorgeous, rural Oahu beach.

Again, always be cautious in the surf. Don’t let an incoming wave slap you silly or break your neck. Also, bring your street smarts to the Wai’anea coast. This is rural Hawai’i, act like you care about the place and most will treat you with kindness.

So much more to Oahu, but you won’t have enough time..

Yokohama Beach, seldom visited by tourist due to distance and lack of touristy resources OahuOn our last trip to Hawai’i we stayed in Makaha which added a little commute time to all adventures. The crew at Lucky Owl Rental Car made life easier by picking us up and delivering us to the airport when our trip was over. Between that we clocked over 500 miles during the week of exploring Oahu. Two trips to the North Shore, an air show at Kaneohe Marine Corp Air Base and one trip around the eastern shore via the Nu’Uanu Pali were the bulk of the longer drives. We spent all of 10 minutes driving through Waikiki and had two shopping expeditions, one to the Ala Moana Mall and the other to the Pearlridge Shopping Center.

Other must see destinations with a rental car included Waimea Falls,  The Polynesian Cultural Center and the towns of Haleiwa as well as the nearby North Shore beaches. Hawaii is full of charms, but don’t hate on Oahu! The bottom line is Oahu is much more than just Waikiki. Have an adventure and explore beyond what you are sold as Oahu!

Getting With The Hawai’ian Program Tip:

Learn to pronounce Hawai’ian words before you go. There are plenty of videos that show you how to say Hawai’ian words properly. Don’t guess, instead learn and respect the culture for a better time on Oahu or any of the other Hawai’ian Islands.