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10 Amazing Things to do in O’ahu

After living in Australia for a year and a half, my family has come to visit me and I have gone home to see them but this time we decided to do something a little different and meet in the middle in Hawai’i! It was the perfect half way point between Boston and Melbourne so we decided to go for it. I will be honest and say I’d heard people talking about their Hawai’i trips and talk about how beautiful and magical it was and never really understood why; I always thought yeah, how amazing can it really be? Once we started exploring I very quickly realized how right everyone was! Nothing feels more amazing than snorkeling with turtles with beautiful mountains in the background and not to sound like everyone else who gushes about Hawai’i, I can’t wait to go back. We had four days in O’ahu and another four days in Kaua’i and we had some of the busiest days ever! There was a lot we didn’t have time to do but for now these are some of things I absolutely loved doing!

Hike up to see the WWII bunkers starting at Camp Palehua. You have to pay $10 a person to do this hike but it is absolutely worth it; you do have to call or sign up online to get permission to do the hike. The camp staff were so kind and helpful and they sent us directions to make sure we made it to the right spot. Not sure if we looked like we would easily get lost or if they do this to everyone but they gave us an AirTag just incase. The hike is about 5.5k and took us almost 2 hours and that included some time to explore at the top! The view is unbeatable and we didn’t see a single other person while doing this hike so we had the whole thing to ourselves. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to accurately describe how incredible it was so you’ll have to give it a try for yourself!

Snorkel at Electric Beach. This beach is right next to a power plant so it is not the most beautiful scenery but the power plant has a warm water runoff that attracts lots of sea life. There was plenty of fish and we saw a turtle and a stingray while snorkeling here! The current is strong so I would recommend pacing yourself and bringing flippers if you want to make yourself more comfortable. 

Visit the Mermaid Cave. Once you park you’ll head down to the water and then turn left. You’ll have to walk a couple minutes down the beach, make sure you’re wear shoes as this whole area is rocky and we saw broken glass here too. When you see a few holes in the rocks that allow you to see down into the water, you’ve made it to the Mermaid Cave! I was able to get in and out without any help but you will need some upper body strength to pull yourself out. The water was pretty calm when we went but if the water is rough I wouldn’t recommend getting in and make sure you visit at low tide. This is just down the road from Electric Beach so I would recommend doing these at the same time!

Visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial. I know the history of Pearl Harbor but I didn’t know anything about visiting the memorial before we went! You don’t have to pay to visit the memorial but you do have to pay for parking; we visited at 10:45am on a Saturday and struggled to find a spot. There’s a lot to see on land but the actual memorial is on the water and you have to take a ferry to get there. You can book your time slot in advance or you can get in a virtual queue when you get there and wait for a callback text. There’s a museum to go through and a submarine you can pay for explore so there’s plenty to do if you’re not going to the memorial immediately.

Hike to the Lanikai Pillboxes. There is limited parking at the start of this hike so we had to park down at the beach and then walk to the start of the hike. This hike is not easy, it’s a steady uphill and in direct sunlight so bring lots of water and a hat! Be careful if there’s any loose dirt or gravel because you could fall and I definitely wouldn’t try this hike if it’s just rained! It took me abut 40 minutes total to get up and down then an extra 10 minutes each way to get to and from the car. This is a popular hike so you will see plenty of people here.

Go for a swim on Lanikai Beach. After hiking to the pillboxes, Lanikai Beach is the perfect place to cool off. This beach has perfect white sand and some of the bluest water I’ve ever seen. The view from the beach is beautiful and you can watch people kite surfing on the water. The parking lot is pretty small for the amount of people who come to the beach here so I would suggest getting here earlier in the day to get a spot!

Hike Koko Crater. I had seen this hike on Instagram and I knew it would be hard but I think it was even harder than I originally thought! I will not lie the amount of times I thought about quitting and just going back down is unbelievable but the view at the top instantly made me forget how difficult it was. It’s 700 meters of elevation and it’s literally all stairs. If you love the StairMaster you’re going to love this hike even more! The entirety of the hike is in the sun so bring plenty of water. Be very careful on the way down because if you lose your footing you can fall and really hurt yourself.

Stroll through a farmers market! We went to the Kailua Town Farmer’s Market and you could find a little bit of everything here. We had some fresh fruit, delicious focaccia bread and great coffee! We randomly saw a sign for this market on our way to the Lanikai Pillbox hike but we saw plenty of signs for other markets; even a night market. This is very specific but if you see this focaccia company, snatch it up and don’t share with a soul. We found this focaccia at the farmers market and I was playing defensive to try and get as much of it as possible!

Cool off with some Hawaiian shaved ice. You can find shaved ice all over the island and it’s so refreshing! Don’t get confused Hawaiian shaved ice isn’t the same thing as a snow cone, it’s a lot smoother and creamier and absolutely delicious. You can usually mix and match with all different fruit flavors and some places will put a couple boba and some condensed milk on top. We tried Island Vintage Shave Ice and Kawaii Ice Wave and both were delicious!

If you’re a coffee drinker, stop at Green World Coffee Farm. You can try different types of coffee and grab some as a souvenir too. There’s also a small coffee farm where you can walk around and see how the beans grow. If you’re not a coffee drinker like me, they have delicious smoothies and sweet treats too!

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