I recently returned from a trip to Oahu, Hawaii. Glorious. Beaches, mountains, culture, food, vast landscapes rich with beauty … all of this made for a fun, relaxing, and healing vacay. Some life experiences are good for the mind, body, and soul; Hawaii certainly qualified. I’ve put together a list of sites and things to explore from my stay, if you’re planning a future visit or wondering whether or not to add Hawaii to your travel list. Note – this list doesn’t encompass all of my Hawaiian adventures, but definitely highlights some great spots!
1 – City Running Tours
While the internet houses a wealth of information about the location, I prefer to immediately explore on foot, to get the lay of the land and know what’s nearby of interest I can easily walk (or run) to. Thanks to an incredibly motivating friend who also loves to run, I opted for a sunrise running and yoga session via City Running Tours my first morning on the island. What an incredible experience!
Yovo, our tour guide, may be the most enthusiastic person I’ve ever met in life. Between his wonderfully warm spirit and energy, to his Go Pro and running selfie stick (mmm-hmm, he got it all on film), I truly felt like he was there to engage and deliver THE Hawaiian experience. And thank goodness for it all, as I was jet lagged and dragging at 6:00am, after being wedged in an airplane for 10 hours the night before. I stayed at Waikiki Beach, but there are running tours throughout Oahu, so be sure to do your research and find what’s best for you.
Here are some photos from the running path …
Yovo took us thru Waikiki and around the infamous Diamond Head, sharing Hawaiian history and culture as we passed by different stopping points. What was supposed to be a 2 miles one way with a “yoga by the beach” intermission and 2 miles back, ended up being more like 7 miles total, thanks to all of Yovo’s enthusiasm and extra details. “Island Time” may be a little different than what you’re used to, so be flexible. [Smile]. Sore, but worth it! This was an excellent way to get my stiff joints moving and start my Hawaiian adventure. If you’re a runner and/or yogi, this is a must do. Replenish yourself with a delicious breakfast at Eggs n’ Things – there’s typically a line around the corner, but you’ll be glad you waited.
2 – Halona Blowhole
On the Southeast side of Oahu, the waters are crystal blue, housing volcanic cliffs you’ll awe over. Halona Blowhole is a short drive from Waikiki and also has a small beach adjacent to the cliffs, should you want to make a beach day out of it as well.
As I mentioned earlier, some experiences are good for the mind, body, and soul. This view was breathtaking. I found several sites on the island a place for purposeful self-reflection and appreciation for creation, life, and this beautiful world we call home. I sat on the Halona Blowhole cliffs for quite some time, listening to the waves crash around me,
taking in the wonder of God’s amazing workmanship. Nature is powerful; it heals, inspires, and rejuvenates.
3 – Byodo-In Temple
Drive a little further north, and you’ll come to the Byodo-In Temple; a replica of an ancient Japanese temple complete with gardens, meditation rooms, koi ponds, and a Buddha statue incense room. You may recognize this temple if you’re a LOST fan like me, as it was the filming place for Jin’s and Sun’s wedding. Fun fact.
The temple grounds are pristinely maintained and will leave you with a serene and peaceful feeling. You’ll pass through a cemetery, prior to arrival, and may see funerals taking place as this is a coveted burial area on the island. There’s a gong you can try your hand at, as well as incense candles you can light, as part of a more personalized experience.
4 – Turtle Beach
As part of the drive to the North Shore, there are several must see stops along the way. The best exploration tool of Oahu is the GyPSy Guide Tour App. An affordable and easy download to your smart phone and then you’re off on your adventure! The app syncs with satellites and will give you directions, history, and information about the sites while you’re driving, along with recommended stops throughout your route. Download and go!
Turtle Beach was the first stop towards the North Shore and it … was … gorgeous. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any turtles, but they’ve been known to frequent this beach, so you may get lucky and see one. This beach comes with some great rock climbing areas, in addition to vegging areas. Part of it is also nicely shaded, so my people (Irish and pale) can get a break from the sun rays.
Feel free to indulge in some sea rock yoga, should you be so inclined.
5 – Banzai Pipeline (a.k.a Pipe)
Probably one of the most popular areas of Oahu and certainly a surfer favorite is Pipe. While I was there, the waves were huge and crashed with a vengeance, but in the winter months, they are grander and much more dangerous. Hard to believe. This beach has thick sand that will literally go to your knees in some areas. Walking along it can be quite the workout, especially when you’re trying not to be pulled out by the current – not the best “wading area”. You’ll see several surfers along your visit; many trying to tackle the fierce waves. I could watch them for hours. Sunset Beach, another popular spot, is a couple miles north where you can also view wave riders. If you’re an advanced surfer, I’m sure you’re itching to get in the water and “shaka shaka” your way towards wave heaven.
6 – Food Truck Mecca (Giovanni’s)
The North Shore is littered with food trucks, but Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck is in it for the win. If you’re hungry … even if you’re not … the shrimp here is the most tasty you’ll devour on the island. And their macaroni salad … yes, please! Be sure to pick up one of their ice cold coconuts for some refreshing natural coconut water to wash it all down (happy place).
Drained it dry – all gone! Delicious.
Also on location is marketplace selling local produce and handmade items. I picked up some fresh papaya, coconut, and pineapple from this fruit stand for the rest of the ride along the shore. They will cut it and ziplock bag it for you to go. Perfection.
7 – Waimanalo Bay & Beach
This one takes the cake for me as being my favorite place on the island. Secluded and tucked away in the Southeast side of Oahu, Waimanalo offers a luxurious ocean view with the clearest blue waters, towering mountains, cliffs, and distant mini islands as your ocean backdrop. You’ll find coconuts and the biggest driftwood you’ve ever seen along your walk.
I spent a quiet morning here listening to the waves, warming with the sunshine, and swaying with the breeze. To think, God created all of this vast beauty and still took the time to make, form, and invest in li’l ol’ me. Selah. I was incredibly humbled by His love, in the presence of his amazing creation. Such a great thinking space for self reflection. Healing and inspirational.
My Southern roots were in full swing as my giant floppy hat provided all the Southern feels I’m known for, as well as ample face protection from the ravenous sun rays! Side note – always be sure you’re packing lots of sunscreen and frequently applying. Your skin will thank you! Again … happy place.
8 – Eats & Treats
The island offers several dining choices. A few I visited worth the stop are outlined below. Keep in mind, the island is very crowded so it’s best to make reservations when possible. Otherwise, you could be waiting quite some time and dining late.
– Hotel Haelkulania – House Without a Key
Great food and an unbelievable oceanfront dining view. The patio is first come, first serve, so it’s best to get there before 5pm. You can enjoy a fresh Mai Tai, which will most certainly knock you off your feet (strong)! In addition, you’ll get some beautiful sunsets here – great experience all around.
– Shaved Ice
An island favorite and you can truly get on any corner. I enjoyed a large pineapple strawberry shaved ice combo beachside at Waikiki. A welcomed refreshment after a nice dip in the ocean!
– Brunch at Lulu’s Waikiki
Lulu’s is great for walk-ins, though you may have to wait a while for a seat. And beware of Hawaiian time, as you’ll be amongst all the football fans catching their games at 10am local time. The food is yummy; fruit cups come with fresh coconut shavings and ground macadamia nuts. The atmosphere is open, facing the beach, so you’ll get a fantastic ocean breeze. Enjoy!
– Dinner on the Rooftop – SKY Waikiki
If you want to enjoy a view of Waikiki from the sky, SKY is the place to go. It has panoramic views with lounge areas you can enjoy both shade and sunshine. The food is super tasty and more of a tapas menu. Their cocktails are excellent and beautifully crafted with fresh herbs and hibiscus. You’ll want to make a reservation, as this place books fast! The views are top notch!
– Acai Bowl – Family Roots Cafe
The bowls from this establishment are the best I’ve ever had in life. The acai is that perfect frozen consistency, topped with a variety of fruit, granola, seeds, nuts, and coconut shavings. The one pictured below is a mini bowl and very filling, but I honestly could’ve gotten the large and stuffed myself until I busted …. SO GOOD! The cafe is located in a small strip mall near the Honolulu airport with about two tables and hardly any standing room. I inhaled my bowl on a bench outside. There’s a long line for all the to go orders, as this place does some business! Grab one before you head out, or one for every day on the island. Yummy ……
My Hawaiian adventure was such a treat and one I’ll remember for a lifetime. As much as possible, get out of your comfort zone and enjoy all this world has to offer. Explore and take the time to learn about the history and cultures of the area. You will be enriched and fulfilled when you open yourself to new experiences. Even if it’s not across the Pacific to an island, there’s so much to experience and enjoy in your backyard and surrounding areas. Look for those experiences and seize every opportunity. Be adventurous and be blessed!