On the road in Oahu
When you’re flying into Honolulu, all you can think about is getting to a beach. You’ll find Expedia’s Aussie travellers in hordes at the family-friendly resorts clustered around Waikiki. But there’s only so many rays you can soak up on the average four day trip.
When you need a break from the bikini-clad beauties sprawled on the white sand of Waikiki, and you’ve done your dash around the huge Ala Moana Shopping Center, rent a Mustang (with a GPS) and go for a drive with the wind in your hair.
The island of Oahu has plenty of surprises and there’s a lot more on offer than resorts and beaches. In fact there’s almost too many quirky and picturesque places to stop, so I’ve mapped out a road trip that takes in my top picks.
Start in the right direction
Set off in an anti-clockwise direction. Keep the ocean on your right hand side – the same side your car will be on – so you can easily pull off at little beaches or stop for sudden photo ops.
If you start early, head south from Waikiki on Hwy 72, past Diamond Head, and around the coastline for snorkelling at Hanauma Bay. This has the most fish in one area for all of Hawaii and with clear, shallow water, it’s the most popular snorkelling spot in Oahu. The bay is a listed nature preserve and there’s around a $5 entry fee. We bought $10 snorkels and masks from the ABC Stores dotted all over Honolulu.
But if you don’t have a spare two-three hours to spend weaving your way around gorgeous beaches, cut out the lower part of Oahu and head instead from Waikiki across the Pali Hwy (61) to Kailua Bay. You’ll find several quiet, idyllic beaches perfect for a picnic and a swim.
From Kailua, take the coastal Kamehameha Hwy to Kualoa Ranch. You might have seen the family-owned property on the big screen – it was used in movies including Jurassic Park, Pearl Harbour and 50 First Dates – visitors can take Adventure Tours around the property, on horseback or in ATVs to check out ancient fishing lagoons and movie sets. Allow at least an hour for a tour.
Not far from Kualoa is another place worth stopping at: the Polynesian Cultural Center, celebrating 50 years this year. The interactive park represents seven Polynesian nations, their culture, art and music, all in one place. Walk from Tahiti to Samoa, Fiji and Aotearoa (New Zealand), Tonga and Hawaii. You can book a Show package or hop on an evening tour from Waikiki for dinner and a show.
Continue north on the Hwy and keep an eye out for the shrimp trucks parked on the side of the road. We stopped for lunch at Fumi’s. The original dilapidated truck sits out front, but these days the kitchen is in a bright blue shack near shaded picnic tables and the shrimp breeding ponds.
Now you’re almost at the North Shore, where the waves are huge during Winter (October to March) and only the brave and daring take to them. In summer, this is another gentle beach where you’ll find paddle boarders and young families cooling off.
Take a surfing lesson with the North Shore Surf Girls or just along from here are more snorkelling spots – Turtle Bay and Shark Cove. Don’t worry, there are no sharks!
As you head back down to Waikiki on Hwy 99, stop at the Dole Pineapple Plantation. There’s a little train and fun maze for the kids, plus a fascinating tour of the plantation. Top the stop off with a sweet pineapple snow-freeze ice cream.
If you’ve got time, call in at the Waikele Shopping Outlets for 50 discounted fashion stores or pay your respects to the marines killed by the Japanese at the beginning of WWII at Pearl Harbor, on a Home of the Brave Tour. If you haven’t been here before, and you really want to visit, my advice would be to make this trip at the beginning of the day to ensure you get entry tickets for the sunken USS Arizona, which still holds the bodies of the men and women who died that day.
Now you’re back at Waikiki, park the car and go in search of somewhere lovely to watch the sunset. Have dinner and sigh, “this is the life”.
If you’re looking for somewhere to sleep, the reasonably priced 3.5 star properties along the beach are popular with Aussies. Try Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach, the Embassy Suites Hotel or the Holiday Inn Resort Waikiki Beachcomber.
Images: Steve MacAulay, SuperStock and Getty Images