Assistant Features Editor
The word aloha has several meanings in the Hawaiian Pidgin language. It is used as hello, to express love, and to some natives, it is a lifestyle. Aloha also translates into goodbye, but goodbye is never right to say after a trip to Hawaii. When a week of kayaking next to sea turtles, volcano hiking, and swimming in waterfalls leaves you eager to explore more, then it isn’t goodbye – it’s so long.
There is without a doubt, a lot to do and explore on Oʻahu, the most populated of the 132island long chain that comprises the eight main islands of Hawaii, the 50th U.S. state. The Hawaiʻi Island, also known as Big Island, is the significantly largest, but Oʻahu, with an estimated one million inhabitants is the largest in population. This is also where the state capital, Honolulu, is located.
When approaching Honolulu in a hotel transfer bus from the airport, a little boy exclaims: “Look mommy, it looks just like Miami!” His spontaneous reaction upon seeing the Honolulu skyline was pretty spoton. The city, located on Oʻahu’s south shore, has numerous white, modern skyscrapers and tons of luxurious boutiques. There is a commercial touch significantly visible in the tourist (and spending) friendly Waikiki Beach, an area that stays crowded from early morning to late night. Waikiki Beach is great for shopping and dining. With food, there is a lot to choose from (try Duke’s and Roy’s for Hawaiian cuisine). But you should be willing to go beyond the shining surfaces of Honolulu and Waikiki; Oʻahu offers many experiences that are hard to find on the U.S. mainland.
One such experience is volcano hiking. Located close to Waikiki Beach lays Diamond Head, an overgrown volcano crater that has not been active for hundreds of years. In fact, it is so unlikely that it will erupt that the U.S. military has built its Hawaii base inside the crater. You get there by taking a local bus or a cab almost halfway to the top, pay an entry fee of $1 and reach the top in 40 minutes to enjoy a spectacular view over Honolulu and the deepblue Pacific Ocean.
Another adventurous idea is a oneday excursion that combines two activities for the price of $7689. (See thenorthshoresurfbus.com for more information.) A local guide with great knowledge of Hawaii picks you up outside your hotel and drives you to the Northwest side of Oʻahu. You then get to choose from a wide range of activities, such as snorkeling, biking, surfing, hiking and kayaking to name a few options. A hike through a botanical forest to a waterfall where you get to swim in fresh water that gives your body a renewing feeling, followed by kayak paddling in a delta inhabited by big sea turtles often come up next to your boat, are two alternatives wellworth the price.
There is time for lunch in between, and you can choose to have that in a botanical garden where peacocks in every green blue shade stroll around your table while you enjoy Hawaiian ahi (a type of tuna) tacos. You could also pick a restaurant in the small town of Haleʻiwa, a very traditional Hawaiian town where both natives and staff are very aloha spirited, meaning friendly, and helpful with a very relaxed attitude.
On Oʻahu’s eastern shores lay many world famous beaches. Kahlua and Lanikai are well known for their beauty, while Hanauma Bay is ideal for snorkeling and Makapuu Beach for body boarding. Beginner surfers would enjoy learning with an instructor at Waikiki Beach in the south shore, while advanced surfers may like some of the north shore beaches better. Hawaii is very surferfriendly and there are waves of all sizes depending on where you go. Where’s a better place to try it? After all, Hawaii is the home of surfing.
And then there are a bunch of free activities, some of which reflect the kindness of the natives. On Fridays and Saturdays, people gather around locals who perform hula shows on the Waikiki Beach boardwalk for free; therefore, you can skip ordering a paid hula show dinner. On Fridays at 7:45pm, there is a fireworks show at Waikiki Beach that follows sunset. The sunset itself is incredible. The Pacific Ocean meets the horizon while the sun quickly lowers towards a multicolored sky in every yellow, red, pink and blue nuance there is. If lucky, look towards the ocean and see if you can catch a glimpse of whales whipping their gigantic tales or water coming up of their blowholes.
Finally, don’t miss going to the Pearl Harbor area, where you can look at the Arizona Memorial, the USS Missouri ship, go onboard the US Bowfin Submarine and look at the airplanes and helicopters the Aviation Museum. Local buses from Waikiki can take you there for $2.50 and the entrance fee will be somewhere between $4560 depending on how many of the attractions you want to see, so there is really no reason apart from comfort to chose a twicetheprice tour that many Hawaiian companies offer.
Oʻahu is a colorful island where many unique activities are offered by a friendly population. A ticket from New York does not have to cost more than $700 (see sites like mrjet.com). When starting to plan a summer trip, keep in mind this unique destination that will be hard to forget.