Oahu Hawaii Vacation
When we decided to go to Oahu Hawaii for our 10-year-anniversary, we knew we had to make every day count.
We have this tradition where we don’t like to go to the same place twice when we travel; there are too many amazing views and places to visit that we don’t want to “waste” a trip and not visit the best spots. I know it’s a unique approach to travel, but fortunately we share this opinion.
On our 5-year-anniversary we went on a Western Caribbean Cruise, and it was amazing. I also happened to be 6 months pregnant with our second kiddo, but we had so much fun and my pregnancy didn’t really keep me from doing any of the activities we already had planned.
Well…now that we are on our way to Oahu, I also happen to be 6 months prego with baby number 4. Yay!
We actually picked Oahu so that I could do physical activities (hikes and snorkeling) as well as hit some of the popular tourist attractions like the Polynesian Cultural Center and Pearl Harbor.
Going to O’ahu has a special place for our family. My mother-in-law and her sister were both born on O’ahu and have lots of family ties and history there. My husband and his extended family went together when he was just 5 years old. Singing mele kalikimaka at Christmas and other fun Hawaiian traditions are celebrated within our family and it is fun to go places where Rory had memories from when he was little.
Ironically, my sister-in-law and her husband decided to pack up and move to Maui for a year; so while we were there she hopped on a plane and came and hung out with us for a couple days on O’ahu! Her hubs had to work or it would have been a double date weekend.
WHERE TO STAY | PARADISE BAY RESORT
We spent a lot of time researching hotels and resorts. We wanted to stay somewhere outside of the busy Honolulu and Waikiki beach area. We had heard the North Shore was the place to be, but we still wanted to be somewhat central on Oahu so we could go to various places without long drives. We started looking for resorts and hotels near Kaneohe and Kailua (North-East Oahu). That’s when we came across Paradise Bay Resort.
It is a small resort and actually located in a residential area, but the views, overall location and amenities were exactly what we were looking for. We stayed in two different rooms while we stayed there because my sister-in-law spent a few days with us and we upgraded to a 2-bedroom suite. The views below are from the balcony of our first room as well as the outside balcony where breakfast is served.
We could borrow the resort’s snorkel gear, paddle boards, kayaks and more. We were able to swim right from the dock. These were just a couple of the amenities that made our stay wonderful. If we ever decide to go back to Oahu (maybe with our kids) we will be staying here again!
We were told this was a MUST during our trip. So we set aside an entire day. We participated in all of the activities, attended the evening’s luau, and the closing show. We loved every part of it. There was a bit of walking, so when I started having a hard time (courtesy of the baby bump) we could sit and watch a show, take a small boat ride, or just go relax and enjoy it. Don’t expect to make this anything less than a full-day experience.
As for our time there, I may have secretly volunteered my husband to get up and learn to hula. He had no idea I had volunteered him until it was all said and done. LOL I did get a video of my Idaho man’s dance moves, but I promised I wouldn’t post it.
If you go though, make sure you meet Mana – he hand crafts wooden creations. We had him make us a custom piece with our family name on it, and a map of all the islands. Hawaii is special to our family, and I’m grateful we brought a piece home to display!
Even though we don’t like going to the same place more than once, I hope to take our kiddos back when they are a bit older and will remember and appreciate the history and experience.
MANOA FALLS HIKE
While we only able to do moderate physical activities we still were able to see some beautiful views and take a couple hikes. There was a short hike at Manoa Falls (Central Oahu), but the scenery on the way in was more breathtaking than anything. Here are a couple shots we snapped along the way. I believe it was only 3 miles round-trip, but make sure you wear comfortable shoes (lots of rock and mud in spots), and your camera!
I know other waterfalls in Hawaii have swimming ponds at the base of the falls, but this one isn’t like that, but there is a place to sit and relax once you get there.
While visiting areas around the island, we wanted to see sites other than just the beaches. That’s when we learned about the Byodo-In Temple. It was built in the 1960’s to celebrate the 100 years since the first Japanese immigrants.
We spent time walking around, enjoying the wildlife, the fish and the beautiful views. We even took turns ringing the bell. It was definitely worth the time to stop and explore.
I was looking forward to visiting the Pearl Harbor Memorial. We made it to the center and were the next group to be ferried over when the Coast Guard cancelled all of the remaining tours due to high winds. So, unfortunately this was as close as we got to the USS Arizona Memorial; but we did spend time visiting the and reading about the many men and women who were stationed there and served.
Just as an FYI – tickets are free, however they are limited. So just to be safe, we reserved ours via the Recreation.gov website HERE. In the end though, we couldn’t use them. We still saw the video and got to see it from the photo below. I’m grateful we were still able to visit the Memorial Center.
MAKAPU’U POINT LIGHTHOUSE TRAIL
My hubs thinks I’m crazy, but I can always spot animals in the wildlife; it’s a gift. On our first hike of the trip, we hiked the Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse Trail (East Oahu). It was fairly steep in the beginning, causing me to stop several times because I started to have contractions. But once we made it up the first stretch, baby went back to being comfortable.
The lighthouse itself is closed and not accessible, but you can get pretty close and there were some new additions to the trail in process when we visited.
The views were beautiful, as you can see below, and the trail offers many spots to pause and look out. As we were hiking back down we kept pausing to look for movement in the water, and that’s when I spotted two melon-headed whales (a type of dolphin). We stayed and watched them for about 15 minutes swim back and forth about 50 yards off the bank.
Though the Dole Plantation is no longer a functioning as a farm, it is an amazing place to just learn about the history of farming on the island. The gardens are beautiful and you have to have a dole whip. It was crazy hot the day we visited so we opted out of the maze, but I imagine that it would be a lot of fun.
Whenever we go somewhere warm and tropical, we always put snorkeling and water excursions at the top of the priority list. Rory (my hubs) would say that it comes in at a tie with food. We probably spent as much time researching and looking for the best snorkeling spots on Oahu as we did on the rest of the things needed for the trip.
We learned a lot and can probably still inform you on the top spots and when/where is the ideal time to go. But since our trip too place in February, we didn’t exactly arrive at the best time for snorkeling certain spots. But let me tell you about the places we did explore!
Of course we hit Hanauma Bay (South-East Oahu). It was crazy busy in the morning, so we actually went about 2-3 hours before it closed. The park was nearly empty, we didn’t even have to pay for entry. When we got down to the beach it was so peaceful. We snorkeled for a couple of hours, saw tons of fish and wildlife, and just as we were wrapping up, the park announced closing hours. It was perfect. It was a great place for beginners, but you could certainly venture further out.
Based on our research, we also found and Shark’s Cove near Pupukea Beach. The water happened to be very choppy the day we went snorkeling there, so we actually spent the majority of the time snorkeling the more shallow areas where the lava rock created a walls and tide pools. As the tide came in the water would raise and lower and continued to unveil new discoveries to us as we swam. An eel even came out to greet us from the rocky barrier, so we swam the other direction. We wish we could have gone into the deeper cove (where the really good snorkeling was supposedly locationed), but it was way too choppy.
We had intended to going to Kahe Point Beach (South-West Oahu), but it was a lot further south from where we were, we didn’t have enough time to get there. So we remembered a beach that someone at our resort had told us about. We headed back towards North Shore and just as you are taking Kamehameha Highway towards Turtle Bay you will pass a little fruit stand by Kawela Camp Road. You will see lots of cars parked on the sides of the road, but not as many people at the fruit stand. You have to cross the road and enter through a walking gate. After about 5 minutes of walking you will find yourself on a somewhat secluded beach.
I have no idea what the name of the beach is called, but it is beautiful! It was warm, quiet, and perfect. We snorkeled for a couple of hours. We saw sea turtles as we were swimming, several types of fish, and then when we spotted a couple of manta rays in the sand below us, we decided it was time to get out. 🙂 It was an awesome hidden beach.
Final thoughts and suggestions…
So I shared a little bit about all the random and fun things we visited and saw during our vacation. But it wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t give you a checklist of restaurants, random facts, or drinks to order… so here we go. 🙂
- You MUST order a Lava Flow at least once. If you don’t drink, make sure you order the virgin version.
- Our favorite restaurant that we went to was Duke’s at Outrigger at Waikiki beach. We went TWICE and it was worth it!
- No one told me before I went… but apparently an over-population of feral cats and chickens is completely normal on the island. They. Are. Everywhere.
- Interesting fact: nothing is indigenous to Hawaii. Totally makes sense, but when you are there and look around to see the variety of life and vegetation – it is pretty awesome!
- Best season to visit (according to various sources I read) is between March and June.
- Winter is the best time to see surfers on huge swells (December through February)
Anyway, these are just some highlights of our awesome vacation. I hope if you go, you enjoy your trip as well. It is Hawaii afterall. 😉