Oahu: Beaches, Hikes and Mai Tai’s

Beautiful beaches and picture perfect sunsets, that’s the image that comes to mind when one thinks of Hawaii, and this archipelago of eight major islands is that but also much much more. Planning a family trip we had to narrow it down to two islands, Hawaii (or big island), Maui, Oahu and Kuai each has something unique to offer, we decided on a more urban experience of Oahu and the more laid back Maui. We flew in from Seattle to Honolulu (Oahu), the early morning flight meant that we reached the Daniel K. Inouye airport at Oahu around noon. After some research we had decided to stay at Waikiki beach, which although very touristy has beautiful beaches and lots of amenities. The good folks at the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel let us check in early, the hotel rooms were a bit dated but the staff were exceptional, and you cant beat the location! We had lunch at the Tiki Bar and Grill, the food was good and the portions were quite big, it was also conveniently located in the hotel premises. We had a few meals at the place, including my mom’s birthday dinner, I would highly recommend the place, their Mai Tai’s are a must have and you get to keep the glass! After a little rest, we went to the beach, its a very pleasant stroll and a great place to take in the scenery or just people watch. For dinner we went to the barefoot cafĂ© right on the beach, their pineapple smoothies are served in a whole pineapple and there’s always a local band to liven things up.

The next morning we had planned to hike up Diamond Head Peak but after a late evening it was hard to get up before daybreak which is the ideal time for the hike. We had breakfast at the Coconut Club at the hotel, and then headed out to explore the east island. The first stop was the Halona Blowhole, when the waves come in there is an impressive jet of water coming out of the blowhole, one does need to be a little patient to see a impressive display, highway 72 which it seems is the main drag this part of the Island gets pretty busy during summer and it is slow going. It was on to the Makapu’u Lighthouse. Its an little bit of a hike (its an out and back hike that takes about an hour) to get to the lighthouse or at least the viewpoint which is a little above where the lighthouse is located. We had lunch at the Ono Steak and Shrimp Shack at Waimanalo Beach, the food and the serving size were pretty good. Our final stop for the day was Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, there are separate areas for South Asian, East Asian, African, Polynesian and Hawaiian flora, its a wonderful experience and I would definitely recommend it. It was time to head back to Waikiki, we spent the rest of the day exploring the area which is quite a bit touristy. We had dinner at the Cheeseburger in Paradise, not the mainland Jimmy Buffet owned chain (now defunct) but a Hawaiian outlet with a couple of branches, they serve good comfort food.

What says Hawaii more than a pineapple, and when in Oahu, a visit to the Dole Plantation is a must. So the next morning we made a beeline for the plantation. One needs to get there early to beat the crowds, specially the long lines for the tour, after a short trip and the of course getting some swag at the store (including a Dole Whip) it was time to head out and explore more of the north island. We were headed to Waimea Beach, but there was a slow down and we made a short detour to the surf town of Haleiwa, with its many quirky shops and of course the food trucks. We had huge bowls of fresh fruit, walked around the town before heading back to the highway. It was on to Shark’s Cove, the cove is nice and a good spot of snorkeling, but it was too crowded and more importantly we did not have water shoes, and there are really sharp lava rocks, so we did not stay long but all in all its a nice place to stop for a little. For lunch we stopped at the Turtle Bay food trucks, despite it being really warm we had an enjoyable and relaxing lunch, next up on the itinerary was Kaneohe Bay, we stopped at one of the beaches, got caffeinated and headed back to Waikiki. After a little rest, we headed to the Tiki’s Bar and Grill for mom’s birthday dinner, more Mai Tai’s, Pineapple glazed ribs and some great flan capped a fun filled day.

Our final full day on the island was spent exploring the west side of the island. After a hearty breakfast at Cheeseburger in Paradise, we headed out. First stop was electric beach, (the name is for a power plant across form the beach), the beach itself is ok, for some reason there are lots of stone markers on the beach, could not get much info on these, from there we went looking for the mermaid caves, not sure if we got to the right spot but there were some nifty caves near Nanakuli beach. The next stop on the itinerary was Ko Olina lagoons, lagoon 4 provides the easiest access if one is not staying at one of the resorts at the lagoons. Our final stop going north west was Ka’ena Point State park, there is no public access if one want to go around (military access only), however there are several challenging hiking trails. On way back we stopped for lunch at the Beach House at 604, this nice restaurant and bar is at a military base and a military ID is needed to park inside. However one can access the place with a govt. issued ID, the food and drinks were good and the view were just amazing. This was our last day on the island, so we stayed up late and chilled at Tiki’s. We spent the next morning visiting downtown Honolulu, including the Iolani Palace. Later that day we took a flight out to Maui…

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