Visiting Oahu, Hawaii? The islands are like a dreamland - with iconic beaches, rugged wilderness, very friendly people, chilled out vibe and adventure in the veins. Nature has been extremely kind to this US state and not only does it have some of the prettiest beaches you'll ever see but also amazing rainforests, live volcanoes, massive cliffs jutting out into the sea, waterfalls, abundant sea life and crazy nightlife. Landing at Hawaii immediately puts you in a holiday mood when you're welcomed in a traditional Hawaiian way, with a colourful lei around your neck.
Hawaii is an archipelago of numerous islands, some of which are uninhabited. Six major islands attract attention from vacationers around the world; Oahu which is home to the state capital Honolulu and also has the maximum population, the Big Island, which is the largest in area, Maui which is believed to have the best beaches, Lanai which has the most opulent resorts and least crowded, Kauai which has some of the most rugged natural beauty and Molokai which is known to have to most preserved traditions and culture.
We visited two of these islands, which are the most popular - Oahu and The Big Island. If you are limited on your time, here are the top 8 places in Oahu that you cannot afford to miss!
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#1 Makapu'u Lookout Point
The drive to this point itself is breathtaking! It is without any doubt that Hawaii has the most gorgeous beaches and coasts I have ever seen. These dramatic landscapes are characterised by deep blue waters, rugged brown hills and cliffs jutting into the sea, and waves so massive that they're a surfers' paradise. This viewpoint located in Oahu, is just off Highway 72, with ample parking space. Overlooking the Makapu'u beach and Rabbit Island, this scenic place is a must-stop for photographers.
The beach itself is lovely and hardly a 35-minute drive from Waikiki. Although in terms of activities available, Waikiki Beach is much more popular and active, Makapu'u Beach is, in my opinion, definitely more scenic and secluded.
This beach was once ranked as the no. 1 beach in the world by Conde Nast and for all the right reasons. Emerald green waters as clear as crystal and white sands make this amazing beach a total treat for the eyes. We went there on an overcast day but this didn't take away from the beauty of this lovely beach. To add to the landscape, a couple of islands are set in the middle of the ocean, reachable by kayaks. We were lucky to find it on a day when it was completely secluded with not a soul in the vicinity.
#3 Kualoa Ranch
This breathtaking ranch is also the setting of the Jurrasic Park movies. With ample activities to choose from, you can spend a whole day here. Two of my favourite activities were - the ATV tour and Ziplining. The ranch has superb views of the gorgeous blue ocean, located in a valley with the backdrop of green hills. Heavenly!
#4 Waimea Beach
The North Shore of Oahu has the most spectacular beaches of this island. It is lovely to see the people jump off the rocks into the water and the surfers riding the huge waves. The water is extremely clear and gorgeously blue, making it perfect even for snorkelers and divers. Or simply, sit back, relax and watch the adventurous people go crazy 🙂
The coastal drive on the North Shore is stunning because of all the amazing beaches.
One of the most popular neighbourhoods in Honolulu, Waikiki is lively and home to most popular resorts. Located on the South Shore, although the beaches aren't as spectacular as those of the North Shore, Waikiki definitely has the best nightlife and some of the most lively spots.
Note: If you're looking for an inexpensive beachfront property, Aston Waikiki Beach is a good option to consider.
#6 Shark Cage Diving at Waialua Bay
Beware! This one is for the very adventurous only. Don your snorkelling gear and jump right into the cage suspended on the surface of the water, with the great white sharks circling around. For the not-so-adventurous, it is totally worth to take the boat trip right to the middle of the ocean and watch the others being lowered into the dark blue shark-infested waters. The activity is thrilling as well as educational and you may buy a video of this amazing experience.
#7 Honolulu Skyline
A lot of people don't know that Honolulu is one of the top 4 cities in the US with the tallest skyscrapers. The high rise buildings with the backdrop of the hills and in contrast to the blue waters present a very pretty picture, especially when captured from the ocean. Take a boat trip from the Waikiki Coast (you could try the parasailing or the catamaran sunset cruise) to capture superb pictures.
#8 Byodo-in Temple
A replica of a temple in Japan that was built 10 centuries ago, this beautiful sight is located in the Valley of Temples in Oahu. A peaceful place which is great for relaxation, the temple stands amidst lush green gardens, waterfalls, ponds and wild peacocks. I would definitely recommend a visit to this little Asian paradise in the middle of Hawaii.
There is so much more to do on this island. Please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comment below.
Suggested budget beach-side hotel in Central Honolulu (Waikiki Beach): Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel