Oahu Outdoors

Oahu Outdoors

Hanauma Bay

This beach park and marine life preserve is an absolute must-do on a Honolulu vacation. Buy a straw mat at one of the ABC stores (on every corner) grab a towel and a bottle of water, get up early and spend a great day at the bay. Don’t worry about equipment. For a nominal fee, they will supply the fins, snorkel and mask and even fit them to you. The water is clean and clear in the protected bay and the sea life swimming around the coral reefs is phenomenal. There are more than 400,000 tropical fish, some 150+ species. When you see your first green sea turtle glide by, you’ll know why this is such a special place.

Off Hwy 72, Hanauma Bay, 10 mi. east of Waikiki.
Open Jun-Aug: Wed-Mon, 6 a.m.-7 p.m. (Sat until 10 p.m.)
Rest of the year Wed-Mon 6 a.m.-6 p.m.
Admission: $5.00.

Oahu Beaches

The island of Oahu has some of the best beaches in the best beaches in Hawaii, and arguably, in the World. The island finds the perfect balance of pristine sandy beaches, turqoise water, and rugged scenic hills in the background. The temperatures are perfect for enjoying the beaches year-round and many activities are to be found on the more popular beaches such as surfing lessons and outrigger kayaking. If you leave Honolulu, beautiful and isolated beaches are not difficult to find.

Check out our guide to the top 20 beaches of Oahu.

Manoa Falls

An easy _ mile hike through ferns, bromeliads, magnolias, forty foot bamboo, taro, guava, and candlenut trees to the 100 foot Manoa Falls begins at the trailhead at the end of Manoa Road past Lyon Arboretum. The path next to the Waihi stream can get muddy and sometimes impassable. It’s worth a call (808/587-0300) to see if the trail is open. Also, park in the residential neighborhood and not in the Lyon Arboretum parking lot. And bring plenty of insect repellent for protection against the hungry mosquitoes.

Wiamea Falls

A full day’s worth of activities await at Wiamea Falls Park, an 1875 acre Hawaiian historical and nature park located on the North Shore in the beautiful Wiamea Valley.

For an escape out of the congestion and energetic pace of Honolulu, this combination of Hawaiian culture and nature experience is sure to calm frazzled nerves. There’s a lot to see. Be sure to get a map from the visitor center. Miles of trails lead visitors to 150 acres of botanical gardens containing 5000 species of plants, both native and from around the world, organized into themed areas. Ancient Hawaiian culture is reenacted in the park by cliff-divers, Polynesian games are demonstrated and the ancient Makahiki festival is presented which honored Lono, the Hawaiian god of peace and agriculture. A temple to Lono is also recreated there.

A 3.5 mile self-guided trail leads to the focal point of the valley. Waimea Falls is 40 feet high and has been nicknamed “Wahine” Falls, because it is said the flowing water resembles a woman. This is a park that encourages guest to swim in the pools, especially below the 40 foot Wiamea Falls. Bring a swim suit and cool yourself. Lifeguards are on duty.

Diamond Head

Diamond Head is the most recognizable landmark in Oahu and the symbol of Waikiki. The 760 foot volcanic crater got its name from British sailors who mistook the sparkling white calcite crystals in the rocks for diamonds. It has been an extinct volcano for over 150,000 years and was the site of an ancient temple where the last human sacrifices were carried out on the island.

There is a steep hike to the summit but the incredible view makes it all worthwhile. It takes about 1 _ hours to walk 1.5 miles roundtrip and it’s best to start out early in the day. Take water and apply sunscreen liberally. A flashlight is handy, too for the long, darkened tunnel on the way up. (Those with claustrophobia be forewarned.)

Koko Crater

The 10,000 year-old cinder cone contains a 60 acre botanical garden. The hotter, drier climate of the eastern end of Oahu makes this a perfect place to grow dryland collections of plant species from the Americas, Africa, Madagascar, and, of course, Hawaii. There is a two-mile loop trail that begins with bougainvilleas and plumerias, leading to shrubs, cacti, succulents, herbs, grasses and a spectacular grove of native wiliwili trees. There are no restroom facilities or drinking fountains yet. The walk takes about 2 hours and is free of charge. Open daily from sunrise to sunset. Free parking. There is also a challenging hiking trail to the top of Koko Crater.

Harold Lyon Arboretum

This gorgeous nature preserve is almost 200 acres of exotic Hawaiian native trees and plants in a cultivated rain forest. A 20 minute self-guided hike to Inspiration Point will pass 60 story breadfruit trees, magnolias, quarter-sized yellow orchids, ferns, and bromeliads. At the top there are views of Manoa Valley. Past the arboretum is the hiking trail to Manoa Falls.

3860 Manoa Road., Honolulu.
Open year-round Mon-Fri. 9-4. Sat. 9-3.
Closed Sun. and public holidays.
Suggested donation: $5.00.

Puu Ualakaa State Park

Known for having the best sunset view of Honolulu, Puu Ualakaa provides panoramic views from Diamond Head to Pearl Harbor. There is also the unique perspective of looking down into the Punchbowl National Cemetery. Ualaka’a Loop, a one mile loop hiking trail goes through forest habitat. There is no entrance fee for the state park and restrooms, picnic shelters and water fountains are provided.

Ala Moana State Park

Ala Moana State Park is a 76 acre, mile-long, free public beach park just west of Waikiki. It has been called “quite possibly America’s best urban beach.” It has gold sand and calm water, popular for swimming, body boarding and surfing. With grassy lawns and palm and banyan trees for shade, this is a beach for everyone, whether you want to swim, sun bathe, picnic, play tennis, ride a bike, in-line skate, or use the jogging trails. There are lots of facilities here, including restrooms, showers, picnic tables, and concession stands.

Island Divers Hawaii

Learning how to scuba dive off the coast of Oahu is the specialty of Island Divers. They will teach beginners with introductory dives that start in a pool under the supervision of professional diver/instructors. In fact, theirs is the only scuba school on the island of Oahu with a pool on location. Island Divers Discover Scuba Diving program includes a pool session and two full-length dives at two different dive sites. The dives reach 40 feet and lasts for 40 minutes. The cost of the instruction in the pool, transportation, use of scuba equipment, and boat dives to two Oahu reefs is $175. Participants need to be 12 years or older and in good health. Island Divers offer other dive packages for more experienced scuba divers, including scuba certification and boat charters.

Hawaii Kai Shopping Center,
377 Keahole Street, Honolulu, HI 96825

Kapiolani Park

The “Merrie Monarch,” King David Kalakaua created Kapiolani Park in 1877, naming after it after his wife, Queen Kapiolani. This is really a people’s park, with something to do for just about everyone. With tennis courts, and rugby and soccer fields, big, open green expanses to fly kites and throw Frisbees, jogging paths and exercise stations, and ample picnic areas, there would be plenty to do without having both the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium on the same grounds. The Waikiki Shell also provides a venue for concerts in the park. The Royal Hawaiian Band, originally founded by King Kamehameha III, plays in the park bandstand every Sunday from 2-3 p.m. It is the only full-time municipal band in the United States today.

3840 Paki Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815

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