how to spend a week on oahu

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I spent a week staying with a friend on the gorgeous island of Oahu, the third largest in the cluster that makes up the state of Hawaii.

How to Get There

Coming from Vancouver’s rain and cold, I was excited to jet off to a warm and tropical destination, and my bag was packed with shorts, swimsuits and t-shirts in which to roam about the island. We flew with West Jet direct from YVR to HNL on a 6-hour flight.

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What to Do

Honolulu’s massive shopping centre Ala Moana is often bustling with tourists, and they’ve done a nice job of combining the outside vibe that Hawaii is so famous for with walkways lined with trees and ponds of koi.

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A bit of a drive north of Ala Moana on your way to Kailua on a highway surrounded in lush greenery brings you to the stunning view point at Nu’uanu Pali where both the wind and the view will knock you off your feet.

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Getting up at 3am guaranteed us a prime parking spot at the Surfing World Cup up at Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu. We crowded into the beach for sunrise and spent the next nine hours tanning on the beach while enjoying the crowd vibes and watching world champion surfers take on the waves to compete for three world titles. Gabriel Medina and Julian Wilson took home the big trophies, which basically made for the coolest day ever.

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This little tree house perched on the top of Tantalus looks out over Waikiki and the surrounding area with stunning views of the Diamond Head Crater. The climb is scary and the route across to the platform is nerve-wracking, but the view is well worth it.

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We drove through Tantalus and stopped in at Puu Ualakaa State Park with gorgeous panoramic views over Oahu. The almost 360 degree views of the island were jawdropping.

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Where to Hike

One of the hidden treasures of Lanikai is the breathtaking Pillboxes Hike where we caught one of the most incredible sunrises I’ve ever been privy to witness. The hike starts at Kaelepulu Drive and ends about half an hour later at large concrete pillboxes overlooking gorgeous Lanikai Beach and the Moku Islands off in the distance. Sunrise from such a view is truly worth it.

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A short hike down the Judd Trail leads to Jackass Ginger Pools – an ice cold cluster of natural pools, slides and waterfalls. The water was beautifully clear and it danced gently over the rocks. In the Hawaiian heat, even in the middle of December, we were completely dry just a few minutes after leaving the pools.

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Very near to the Jackass Ginger Pools there is a little gap in the overgrowth that is easily missed. It leads to a path of wildly overgrown and beautiful bamboo that leads up to the Kaniakapupu Ruins. Built in 1847, it was only in use for a few decades before it was abandoned.

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One of Hawaii’s most famous hikes, Diamond Head sits just outside the bustling metropolis of Honolulu, and allows hikers to climb an actual crater. It’s easily accessible by bus, and we also passed plenty of direct shuttle buses coming from the hotel district. The whole thing is 1.5 miles round-trip but there is no shade so it’s incredibly hot the whole way up. Also, you’re meant to pay a $1 entrance fee but we didn’t see anyone in the ticket booth even after waiting five minutes, so we ended up just walking in! If you have a car, parking is $5.

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Must-See Beaches

We took advantage of cheap transfer bus fares and took the bus around the northern coast of Oahu in search of the beautiful Sunset Beach on the North Shore. The main beach was unfortunately blocked off with yellow caution tape, but we found a tree that was beautifully shaped for some neat photos.

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Hopping back on the bus from Sunset Beach took us to Waimea Bay to catch the afternoon sun. Probably the least touristy of all the beaches we visited, it was quiet and relaxing.

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I was so excited to visit beautiful Lanikai Beach. Given that this is my first time visiting a tropical destination, it was absolutely breathtaking to experience turquoise waters, pure white sand and breezy palm trees in real life.

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Kailua Beach is Lanikai’s lesser-known neighbour that has more of park vibe than tropical beach front. The sand is more filled with shells and pebbles, but when it began to rain, the overcast clouds created a stunning, moody backdrop.

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On the eastern side of Oahu lies the beautiful Sandy Beach, probably my favourite that we had a chance to visit. Between sporadic bursts of rain we wandered in and among the rocks and watched the sunset and I felt completely in awe of the beauty sprawled peacefully out before us.

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It’s fascinating seeing the ‘tourist’ side of Hawaii in the form of the Waikiki Beach strip with jam-packed all-inclusive resorts and beaches but I’m so glad I had the opportunity to see Hawaii for what it really is.It was still fun to resort-hop the length of the Waikiki strip, wandering through the expensive resorts and hanging out on the Hilton’s hammocks.

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Owned by one of the beachfront resorts, the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon is popular with children seeking water-sport thrills.

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The most stunning sunset of the entire trip seemed to light the Ala Wai Yacht Harbour on fire.

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Where to Eat

Of course, our very first stop when we woke up on our first day was an acai bowl – something that Hawaii is more than well-known for. A delicious blend of frozen acai berries topped with all sorts of treats, makes for a beautiful bowl that can be eaten at any time of day for any meal.

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For a treat we headed to the well-known Waiola’s for delicious rainbow shave ice with condensed milk toppings.

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Probably the island’s best acai bowls are created from scratch out of a beach hut in Haleiwa on the north shore.

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We hit up Andy’s Bakery in the centre of Manoa Marketplace, a delicious place to grab acai, sandwiches and other fresh deliciousness.

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We finished off a day of beach adventures and sandy explorations with a fresh poke bowl from Ono’s, a hidden hole in the wall in Honolulu that the locals know well.

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The 678 BBQ in Honolulu is amazing because they bring you a whole pile of raw stuff (meats, eggs, veggies, side dishes, sauces, everything) and then you cook it right on your table top!

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Heading Home

I had an evening flight booked out of Honolulu so that I could make the most of my last day. Incidentally, as I was flying out of Oahu, President Obama and his family were flying in on their holiday! My week was an absolutely wonderful time and I am so grateful for the chance to explore such a beautiful place. The people I met were so laid-back and the whole place inspired me to eat healthy and be active and go exploring and adventuring. Hawaii, I’ll be back.

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*Including photos by Celine

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