Every time a visitor would come to Oahu, one of the things we do is “Go around the island.” You will hear this over and over again when you visit. Oahu is only 144 miles around so “going around the island” can be done in a day.
If you start from Waikiki, hopefully you’ve already done the short hike to Diamond Head. It’s touristy but it’s busy for a reason–you get spectacular views of the southern coast of Oahu. On a clear day you may even see Moloka’i. I advise you to go early before the crowd, and drink lots of liquid. The hike is short but the over 100 staircase steps under the island heat and humidity may prove challenging to those not used to Hawaiian weather.
From Waikiki, head east towards Waimanalo. Just before you hit Waimanalo, you will pass by Hanauma Bay. Hanauma is a beautiful spot for snorkeling but I don’t advise you to include this in your “around the island” itinerary as you would want to take your time here. Because of its popularity, parking is impossible unless you come just before they open. There’s an entrance fee and a short educational video that guests are required to watch. Thirty years ago, it was free to go to Hanauma and parking was plentiful. But the year by year increase in visitors caused environmental impact to the bay, thus the state has tried to control the number of guests and the impact of visitors to the ocean and its sea life. So far they have done a great job though I noticed that they don’t have as much sea life as they used to but I’m not sure if I’m just remembering this from the prism of my childhood.
A better and much quicker stop is Halona Blowhole Lookout. I previously posted that one of our favorite
Just before you reach Waimanalo, you will pass by Makapu’u Lighthouse which I described in a post and the short hike. We typically save this for another day but you can stop at the Makapu’u tidepools where the water is ridiculously clear with beautiful marine life. But like most tide pools, this depends on whether the tide cooperates that day. The Makapu’u tide pools are across the way from Sea Life Park. The last time I visited the Sea Life Park, I was very young so I don’t remember much about it.
When you go to
Na’uanuPali Lookout, you can still feel the ancient spirits of native Hawaiians. I find this to be a very spiritual visit.
From Waimanalo, there are three directions you can take. You can head toward the coast of Lanikai and do the Pill Box hike or you can hit the beach. Many locals consider Lanikai as the most beautiful beach in Oahu (maybe even the world).
If you want to save Lanikai for another day (which I recommend), head inland toward the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout. The views here are not only breathtaking but this area is an important part of Hawaiian history. When you go here, you can still feel the ancient spirits of native Hawaiians. I find this to be a very spiritual visit.
Your third choice is to head toward Kaneohe, with the amazing mountain views and the rich landscapes. Visit the Hoomaluhia Botanical Gardens to fully appreciate the native plant life and the emerald green mountains.