The Hawaiian Island, Oahu, is such a phenomenal vacation destination with endless possibilities! Now, before you go “Oh, well I thought you were going to explain to us how to travel for cheap”…um, yes. MOST of my posts will be “cheaper” ways to travel etc. HOWEVER, my husband and I WON this trip so, for us, it literally WAS cheap! Our stay at Turtle Bay Resort was FREE, our round-trip flights were FREE, some of our excursions were FREE, AND we were given $1000 to spend on our trip. So, my advice to you is to enter as many sweepstake giveaways as you can and as often as possible because…people DO win them! I was never a believer in entering theses things UNTIL this happened. Technically, Doug won it (he’s the lucky one in this relationship) but, of course, he got a plus one for free. We won this amazing journey provided by Monster Java. Anyways, as I was saying … there is SO MUCH TO DO IN OAHU and I have compiled a list of some of my favorites that I feel you should all give a go when on this gorgeous island:
ATV through Jurassic Park
Okay, it’s not really called “Jurassic Park” however it is where scenes from Jurassic Park were filmed. The real name is Kualoa Ranch and they offer a multitude of tours via ATV, horseback, bus and more throughout Ka’a’awa Valley. We opted for the ATV tour because we wanted a fast-paced and exciting way to explore all the beauty in this wondrous place. I cannot express enough how much it felt like I had really hopped inside the tv screen and became a part of the Jurassic Park world – it was absolutely mind-blowing. THIS is what I had dreamt of when I had dreamt of Hawaii – the luscious greenery, the mountains surrounding you from every side, the ocean in the backdrop… it was everything! I remember having the biggest smile on my face throughout this entire ride (which I believe was 2 hours long). You’re even able to get off your ATV in unbelievably scenic areas to take photos and to just soak in all the beauty of nature. We even found some fresh passionfruit along our trail and tried a bite (I wasn’t a fan of the texture but it was still a neat experience to pick a ripe passionfruit where it naturally grows). You MUST experience this place when in Oahu!
Go Cage-Diving with Sharks
THIS! This was the most legendary experience I had in Oahu! We went on our dive with Hawaii Adventure Diving. The tour began with us boarding a rather small (for the ocean) boat that took us 3 miles out to sea, hitting HUGE waves and sending us flying in the air along the way. Once at the “shark den”, the captain pulled our boat up to a floating cage surrounded by buoys and told us to hop in! This is the scariest part of the experience because, when climbing into the cage, there is a gap between the boat and the cage where it is possible (not probable) to fall into the open ocean where there were already several sharks circling upon our arrival. Needless to say, we didn’t fall in – probably because I was more cautious than I’d ever been in my entire life. Once in the cage and under the water, all you see is endless blue (we’re in 700 feet deep water) which is so surreal and otherworldly. And then: duunnn dunn… duuuunnnn duun….duuunnnnnnnn dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dunnnnnnnnnnn dunnnn. The sharks appear out of the blue abyss. At first there were two, then three..then, before we knew it, there were between eight and twelve sharks circling our cage with great curiosity. The majority of them were Galapagos Sharks and between the length of 6 to 10 feet. Not only did we get to watch these rad creatures swarm our cage for about an hour, we also had the most magical and hauntingly beautiful experience: we heard humpback whales singing from a distance under the water. We didn’t see them (on this day) BUT holy crap! just hearing their songs while in their habitat was one of the most profound moments in my life. I STILL get goosebumps when thinking back on it. Even though the water was pretty darn cold and the non-stop rocking of the cage was making me a tad uncomfortable, I could’ve stayed out there all day. I can’t get enough of wildlife and the connection I feel with them, its the main reason I love to move all over the globe (in search of such encounters). Please, don’t be afraid to try this adventure when you visit Oahu because I promise you – it is SO worth it! After all, most things you’re afraid of doing are worth it in the end.
Hike in Waimea Valley and Swim in Waimea Falls
If you want to experience the local flora and fauna of Hawaii, this is the place to go! Not only is it stunning to see, but it’s FUN and CHEAP. Entrance is only $16 (which is a steal in Hawaii). Once there, you can hike throughout the valley and roam the garden that contains one of the best collections of Polynesian plants, as well as rare Hawaiian plants. Such plants found in the Waimea garden include: hibiscus, bauhinia, araceae, heliconia, bamboo, begonia, ferns and tropical fruit. At the valley’s high end, rests Waimea Waterfall and a small swimming hole that gives you the chance to cool off after your humid hike through the jungle. The ONLY downside to this swimming hole and waterfall is that it is life-guarded and thus, guests are FORCED to wear a life jacket (no matter your swimming abilities and age, etc) AND you’re not allowed to jump off the rocks into the water (bummer!). With that being said, it is still a wonderful spot to swim around and enjoy playing in the Hawaiian nature. EVEN BETTER – visit Waimea Valley on a Thursday and you can shop around the weekly Hale’iwa Farmers’ Market at Pikake Pavilion. We totally lucked out and happened to visit on a Thursday and were soooooo glad we did because this market is the bees knees! There are so many fresh and delicious food and drink samples to try and incredibly beautiful artisan crafts to purchase. We fell in love with coconut macadamia nut butter and bought a giant jar (that we had to finish before leaving Hawaii …and we did, duh! ;-P).
Attend a Luau at Paradise Cove
When in Hawaii, you obviously HAVE to attend a Luau or… why even go to Hawaii? The luau we attended at Paradise Cove was a complete and utter BLAST! I had the time of my life this evening / night (just look at my smile in the photo below – it says it all!). Immediately upon arrival, we were greeted with shell leis and a Mai Tai. Then, we walked around the sweeping beach and found some traditional Polynesian games to play – the games resembled bowling and throwing a javelin at a target (I can’t remember their exact names but they were so fun and I was so awful at them haha!). After playing the games, and grabbing a few more tropical (and of course alcoholic) drinks, I did some arts and crafts at one of the booths and made a braided flower bracelet (from real plants). It was super pretty and such a cute idea! (You can also see all of this in the video at the end of this post – I highly recommend watching it to gain the perspective of JUST HOW FUN OAHU IS!). All the while, there are live bands playing on the beach beside the ocean that I would go and dance by between all the other activities. Once the sun sets (which happened to be BREATH-TAKING that night), Polynesian fire dancers put on a show and the feast begins! You walk up to the buffet with an array of Polynesian cuisine – a full pig roast, poi, lomi lomi salmon, sweet potato, fresh pineapple, taro rolls, broccoli surimi salad, stir-fried vegetables and SO.MUCH.MORE! It was by far the most delicious meal I had in all of Oahu. After dinner, the hula dancers performed along with many other bands and singers. After their performances, whoever wanted to learn hula was invited up on the stage – of course I went up! I then learned to Hula dance in front of the crowd with others and was granted an “official hula dancer certificate” at the end. ALL OF THIS is included in one price and is worth every penny! I learned so much and gained a taste of Polynesian Culture here, among such beauty, love and laughter.
Take Surf Lessons or Stand-up Paddleboard at Oahu’s North Shore
Oahu’s North Shore is famed for it’s sizable waves and is a legendary surf mecca where professional and famous surfers from all around the globe come to ride her waves. With that being said, what better place to learn to surf? We woke up EARLY morning (at sunrise) and started our surfing journey with a walk to a nearby cove where the waves are smaller. Like all surf lessons, we began with learning how to stand on our board on the cove’s beach before hitting the water. This morning was one of those times where everything felt right in the world – after trying to surf and SUP-ing around the cove and over waves for a few hours, I remember paddling out (past all the other people) and just laying on my board – letting the waves take me. I vividly remember the feelings of tranquility and joy that I felt in this precise moment. I travel often, but it’s not often I feel such perfection – such peace with my life and all that is connected to it. I know people say “there’s no such thing as perfect”..but this morning was, no doubt, PERFECT. The sunrise was impeccable, the water was pristine, the coral beneath was beautiful, the sea turtles were fascinating, the air was warm but not too hot and I was just ONE with the sea and cove. Not sure if it’s this place OR if it’s just my particular experience, but either way I HAVE to highly recommend doing this after my flawless experience. Even though, I must say, surfing is more work than fun when starting out and I enjoyed myself more when I was SUP-ing (it came way more naturally to me AND was still fun to ride over the waves with). However, North Shore Surf Lessons offers both – it’s perfect!
Take a walk, spot wildlife and drink fresh coconut milk from a roadside fruit stand
Okay, this one is pretty much FREE and oh so fun to do! (The coconut costs like $4 – but WOAH is it amazingly tasty and refreshing). We took an evening stroll along the trails near Turtle Bay Resort (where we stayed) and encountered so much more than we had expected. Upon hopping from rock to rock on the shore, I LEGIT almost hopped right onto a giant, napping MONK SEAL! WHAT?! How does this even happen? I am so lucky for two different reasons, 1) that I did NOT step on her and 2) that we happened to get this close to an endangered and enchanting species. I immediately backed off a bit as she raised her head and woke from her nap – she proceeded to look out to the surf as Doug and I proceeded to watch her in total awe. We then noticed that she was watching her two pups playing in the waves (ahhhh, could this moment get any better??). After watching these beautiful creatures for a good while, we continued on our walk and saw a giant Banyan tree (which was featured in the TV show “Lost”), several blow holes and found a fruit stand nearby where we bought our coconuts and drank their milk from a straw. OH MY …I almost forgot…at this fruit stand (near Turtle Bay Resort) the owners had a baby boar as a pet and I got to hold him and pet him and he was the CUTEST little guy EVER! (Yes, I’m aware they’re probably going to eat him when he grows up but I don’t like to believe that story). For those who don’t know me, I’m kind of obsessed with pigs (boars are similar sooooo…) this encounter up’d my joy THAT MUCH MORE. After ALL of this excitement, we found a private spot at the end of a little peninsula to watch the sunset together. All of this made for an amazing time and it was so easy – just get out and explore with your eyes and heart open to whatever comes your way!
Tour the Western Coast via Catamaran (and jump off said catamaran)
Board a private catamaran charter (or do a group one – but that’s not guaranteed the same freedom) at Ko Olina Marina along Oahu’s west coast. Set sail at sunrise to see the scenery in her prime and to have the best chances of spotting dolphins and whales (we saw both – this was my first time seeing humpback whales in real life …this was before Iceland). After touring the mountainous coastline and seeing all the wildlife, our catamaran anchored down in a nearby cove, allowing us to jump into the waters from the upper deck, snorkel, swim and even kayak all around. They also provided us with lunch and beverages. I especially loved jumping off the top deck into the ocean – it’s not very high but it’s just dam* FUN! LOVED LOVED LOVED just spending the whole morning into the afternoon on this boat – making new friends with the locals and getting a tan – creating memories to last a lifetime! I’m really not sure on the price of this exact excursion because it was provided in our sweepstake winnings – but there are a ton of options from Ko Olina Marina. I definitely recommend touring the west coast due to the weather – it rains much less here and is home to many off the beaten path beaches. It’s the perfect way to see the GORGEOUS, MOUNTAINOUS COASTLINE of Oahu. The only other way to get these incredible views is by air.
Hike the “Stairway to Heaven”
So this epic scenic hike was on our to-do list while in Oahu however, once we arrived, we read and learned that it is ILLEGAL to hike these steps due to liability issues and land access problems (it’s pretty unsafe apparently?). With that being said, since we were representing Monster Energy Drink, we decided it was unwise to break the law and risk possible arrest. BUT, I have since seen MANY people complete this hike and take photos and videos of their experience doing so…therefore, IS IT REALLY ILLEGAL? I’m seriously confused. Either way, next time we go to Oahu, Doug and I will be completing this heavenly hike, 100%. And I urge all you daring, risk-takers to take this hike as well! I’m sure it’s worth the slap on the wrist you’ll receive IF you get caught. Just be careful, that is all! 😉
Visit Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial Tour, jump off Laie Point (in the movie “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”), and hike Nuuanu Pali Lookout.