Oahu is a small island consisting of many different areas to explore. Waikiki is the commercial hub of Oahu and on the south west of the island. Obscenely tall hotels in clusters accommodation thousands of tourists. Here you can find shops from Gucci, Prada and Tiffany to more local stores like ABC which sells food and clothing. The main road is well laid out, lined with trees and contains no shortage of restaurants however with so many people here, some do have queues outside. Where the ocean meets land there are pockets of grass to sit and relax at. The ocean is accessible for swimmers here and the water is calm in comparison to other parts of the island. There are bus companies which allow you to explore the area without the need to walk. I didn’t use these preferring to walk and stop where I like.
Not far from Waikiki is Pearl Harbour infamous for its part in World War 2 in which it was bombed. Today it has a visitors centre with a museum, submarine, ship and memorials to explore.
The North Shore of Oahu is different to Waikiki. The ocean and current are much stronger and ideal for surfers who can be seen paddling out to some amazing waves. Some beaches don’t provide access to the water as they have coral or rocks which would be unpassable or painful to cross into the water. Surfing and paddle boarding competitions are held at Sunset and Banzai beaches and attract spectators. The beaches have the golden sand seen in most of the island providing a great place to relax. There are shacks alongside the road to buy food (mostly shrimp) and drinks. Further north is the Turtle Bay area which has a golf club and a hotel overlooking the beach. The golf club is surrounded by condos which have access to swimming pools and appears to be an area of wealth for second home owners and investors. Visitors can access the Turtle Bay Hotel bars which make a delicious Monkeys Lunch cocktail consisting of banana, Baileys and crushed ice.
Not far by car from Turtle Bay is Waimea Bay and Valley. Waimea Valley is lush with green plants and flowers. There are free range roaming jungle-fowl and peacocks here and Polynesian buildings with information about the past lives of native people. A 45 minute walk takes me to a waterfall. The lifeguards provide advice and free life jackets so that I can swim in the 30 feet deep water to the waterfall. The Valley is opposite Waimea Bay the first surfing bay on Oahu.
To the east side of Oahu is Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck in Haleiwa, a truck selling the most amazing shrimp packed with garlic and served with rice. $15 buys a good serving but the queues can be long as is the wait time. There are other trucks/shacks here too providing food for locals and tourists. Tables to sit at are readily available and you will have the company of the hens and chicks who roam freely. Here you will find a small supermarket with a limited selection of groceries.
Unlike the north of Oahu, the east has parades of shops including the American food chains and some clothing stores. There are plenty of beaches on the east which have areas for parking with ease at no cost. I stopped at Kaneohe Bay which has a view out to the Chinaman’s Hat, a small island which can be kayaked to and then walked up.
Also in Kaneohe and worthy of a $3 visit is the Byodo-in Temple. A replica temple build to celebrate 100 years of Japanese immigrants welcomed to Oahu. The temple provides an escape to a quiet place with ponds containing Koi Cars, plants and animals including frogs and turtles. The grounds contain a three ton peace bell which can be rung by visitors and provides entertainment for children (reducing the peacefulness somewhat). Inside the non denominational temple is an 18 foot tall Lotus Buddha and behind the temple are views of the Ko’olau mountains.
For the last five of the twelve days of my visit to Oahu I stay in Haleiwa. This is on the north west of the island. I am in a residential area and a two minute walk to what is often a deserted beach with only crabs and the odd dog walker passing by. There is a small village near that has an old sugar mill now used as a soap factory. The roads in some directions become dust tracks. Next to the road I observe a man sitting on a chair with a sign offering his knife sharpening services.
From Haleiwa I drive to Dillingham Airport and then hike to Ka’ena Point State Park. The day I choose to hike is wet. The hike to the point is 2 and a half miles over rugged terrain and alongside the ocean containing an enormous swell. I am aware that the ocean may at some point reach up and cover the ground I am walking on. The ground is saturated and when I get to the point I am covered in mud. I have reached the bird sanctuary in which are protected Laylan Albatross containing 99% of the worlds population. At the point is a look out tower and a stroll to the beach on which today is a huge sleepy Hawaiian Monk Seal scratching his tummy. The sun joins me here and provides a completed rainbow overhead. The 5 mile round trip takes around four hours.
A shorter hike I complete a few days later is from the opposite side of the point. This walk starts after an hours drive around the nature reserves and past Makaha Beach. The three mile round hike today is completely different and I start early as it is a hot sunny day. There is a path to follow which at times is covered in mud pools that need to be scooted around (this is not easy). Along the way some of the path has be washed away into the ocean requiring a climb up and along a few precarious pieces of path. On the hike I am joined by lots of walkers (I was one of only four brave enough to venture on the previous hike) and school children who congregate in the bird sanctuary at Ka’ena Point to watch the Albatross and observe the three Hawaiian Monk Seals basking in the sun. The visitors and heat (29 degrees) have made me appreciate the previous hike in the rain and mud with fonder memories. I can however today cool off in the ocean at Makaha Beach.
The area of Makaha is more deprived than other areas of Oahu. Here I observe homeless people camping out on the beaches (and what a great place to camp) and large family groups eating together. The people here are friendly and helpful. When I bought something from a store a lady rung a bell, welcomed me and gave me a small gift of chocolates for being a new customer.
Being new to Oahu I hadn’t expected the weather which happens on a small island. Driving from one area to another can change the weather you experience. One side of the island can be dry and sunny with the other side wet and grey. The advantage of this is that you can choose the weather you want to experience. Oahu has Vog, a volcanic smog which travels from the Big Island and is seen as a low level cloud. It can (and did) cause eye and breathing irritations similar to hay fever.
Accommodation on Oahu is expensive. HomeAway have an app which I used to find less expensive accommodation however be aware of the cleaning and services charges which are added on. Hotels can be found on Booking.com although costs may not be transparent with resort fees and taxes not shared. A more cost efficient way maybe to camp here as there are plots available on the beaches.
Oahu offers great beaches, weather, nature, surfing, people and shrimp. It is expensive and at times commercial. My expectation to see girls in grass skirts and flower garlands was not forthcoming instead I observed the influence America has had on Oahu. McDonald’s, big trucks and commercialism are prevalent here. I have been told that the other islands including Maui are less commercial although I confess that Oahu is a beautiful island to visit and I will definitely return.