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Top 10 Things to Do on Oahu

Known as the “gathering place,” the island of Oahu is the third largest island of the Hawaiian chain. It certainly lives up to its nickname since majority of Hawaii's population resides here and the island is visited by travelers from around the world. Hawaii is also a melting pot of diverse ethnicities evident in the island's culinary traditions, entertainment, art and even languages. Enjoying fun in the sun on Oahu can mean admiring Mother Nature, hanging 10 in the Pacific Ocean or hiking old train tracks on top of a mountain. In no specific order, here are 10 things that travelers should do while on Oahu.

The Hawaiian culture is a big part of Oahu's identity and the luau at Paradise Cove takes people back in time by creating an authentic experience that shows how the Hawaiian people ate, lived and celebrated. Participate in activities such as stringing a lei, weaving a headband and throwing a spear while learning about Hawaiian history. In Hawaiian, "luau" means to feast and you'll be able to eat food such as lomi salmon (cold tomato and salmon salad), taro bread rolls, cold haupia (coconut jello dessert), and juicy kalua pork. After eating, sit back and relax as entertainers showcase Hawaiian music and hula's progression throughout the decades.

The warm sea kisses the soft sand surrounding the island's coasts, and while it's always great to take a dip in the ocean and bask in the sun, the beauty of the beaches also lies beyond the horizon. When the sun rises to greet the Windward side of the island, the best place to watch it ascend is toward the end of Kailua Beach. From there you will be able to have a panoramic view with the Moku Iki island in the foreground. To see the sunset, view it on the west or south shores of the island. Kahanamoku Beach lies right before Waikiki Beach and is a great place to bid the sun farewell. Take pictures near the boat docks or walk on the rock barrier near the beach's showers.

Surfing was once a sport reserved only for Hawaiian royalty but eventually the boys of Waikiki Beach and Olympic gold-medal swimmer, Duke Kahanamoku were among the many who helped spread the joy of surfing. Hawaii's pristine beaches and excellent wave breaks make it a great place to surf. Gone Surfing Hawaii is a fully-licensed and insured surf school with a team of qualified instructors. Everyone has a different way of learning and Gone Surfing offers private group classes. Whether you are learning to hang-loose on a surfboard for the first time or want to learn new tricks to be a better surfer, Hawaii's waters and Gone Surfing Hawaii will be able to teach techniques that will have you standing up in no time. If you're lucky, dolphins, turtles, whales and maybe a monkseal will greet you at sea.

24 hours a day, 7 days a week, this former home of Hawaiian royalty has undergone a breathtaking renaissance. Today, Waikiki is a vibrant center of activity, a destination that showcases the spirit of Aloha to the world.

Waikiki Water Activities
Begin your visit by strolling along Waikiki's beautiful beaches . Stretching from Duke Kahanamoku Beach near the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa to the Duke Kahanamoku Statue on Kuhio Beach and beyond, you can swim, snorkel , sunbathe or take your first surfing lesson or group outrigger canoe ride.

Who knows, you may even get a surfing or outrigger paddling lesson from one of the real Waikiki Beach Boys, instructors who come from a long line of watermen taught by Duke Kahanamoku himself.

Waikiki Land Activities
After a day at the beach, explore Waikiki by foot, bike or even rented moped. Learn how to strum an ukulele or dance the hula at the Royal Hawaiian Center . Picnic with the family in Kapiolani Park then visit the Honolulu Zoo across the street. There are endless Waikiki attractions to explore. Or venture beyond Waikik i to Pearl Harbor or the North Shore to get the most out of your stay on Oahu.

Beaches of Oahu

Whether you're looking for high adventure on the waves, romantic sunsets or a protected, family friendly swimming spot, Oahu's beaches have it all. And while you may know world famous Waikiki Beach and the high-octane winter waves of the North Shore , there's even more to discover along Oahu's 112 miles of coastline. Explore Oahu's beaches below:

North Shore Beaches:

Kawela Bay/ Turtle Bay : Protected from large waves and surf, this beach, located on Oahu's northeastern tip, past Haleiwa and near Kahuku, is one of the island's best places to snorkel , occasionally offering visitors a chance to see a honu (Hawaiian green sea turtle).

Sunset Beach : Spanning in distance from Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline) to Sunset Point and encompassing a dozen different reef breaks, this two-mile length of sand is considered the longest stretch of rideable surf spots in the world. This is also a venue for the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (November - December).

Waimea Bay : This legendary beach is notorious for producing monstrous winter waves and is one of the first places surfers in the 50's began to ride big waves. In the summer, the swells subside for great swimming and snorkeling. With full facilities, this is a popular beach for locals and visitors.

Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline) : The powerful waves at Banzai Pipeline break over a sharp reef, no more than a few feet from the surface. These massive tubes make this one of the most dangerous surf spots in the world and one of the venues for the VansTriple Crown of Surfing.

Windward (East) Coast Beaches :

Makapuu Beach : Located 35 minutes east of Waikiki , Makapuu sits below the Makapuu Lighthouse on a slope in between the rugged cliffs and jagged lava rocks that contain large tide pools. This is a popular bodyboarding beach for locals.

Waimanalo Beach : 20 minutes past Makapuu Beach on the Windward Coast , this beach park holds ample parking and is host to many local picnics and parties. This 4-mile stretch of sand, fronting calm, clear waters is a great place to learn how to bodyboard and bodysurf.

Lanikai Beach : Ranked as the world's No. 1 beach by Conde Nast in 1996, Lanikai, nestled in a residential neighborhood of Kailua, features white sparkling sand, calm waters and, for those wanting to be more active, two mini islands called the Mokuluas (Moks) that can be reached via kayak.

Kailua Beach : This beach is just around the corner from Lanikai and is known for its windsurfing, boat ramp and the opportunity to rent sailboards, kayaks or canoes. Ample parking and full facilities make this a popular beach for families.

Kualoa Regional Park : Across from Kualoa Ranch , this beautiful beach park offers spectacular views down the east coast of Oahu as well as Mokolii (Chinaman's Hat), an islet off the Windward Coast.

South Shore Beaches:

Waikiki Beach : The Duke Kahanamoku Statue welcomes you to one of the most popular beaches in the world. Waikiki Beach is host to more than 4 million visitors every year and boasts famous views of Diamond Head (Leahi) . Thanks to its small but long-lasting wave break, this is one of the best places in Hawaii to learn how to surf or paddle a canoe. Waikiki is actually made of a few beaches including Fort DeRussy Beach to the west, Waikiki Beach (fronting the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and Westin Moana Surfrider ), Kuhio Beach (along Kalakaua Avenue) and Queen Surf Beach, home to quieter stretches on the Diamond Head side of Waikiki.

Ala Moana Beach Park/Magic Island : Just minutes west from Waikiki , this half-mile beach is protected by a fringing reef for calm waters. Extending out from the beach is Magic Island, a man-made peninsula with large seawalls and a shallow lagoon, making it a perfect place for keiki (children) to swim. Tables are available for picnics.

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
: A marine sanctuary, this gorgeous bay lies between two dormant volcanic craters on the southeast tip of Oahu, its clear, shallow waters hold a multitude of tropical fish and marine life, making it one of the best places to snorkel on Oahu. Gear rental is available on site.

Sandy Beach : A favorite of Oahu-born President Barack Obama , this stretch of sand is 10 minutes past Hanauma Bay near the Halona Blowhole. A popular local beach, the massive shore break here can be dangerous, so bodysurf at your own risk.

Leeward (West) Coast Beaches :

Ko Olina Resort and Marina : On the Leeward Coast you'll find man-made lagoons created for the Ko Olina Resort, home to the J.W. Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa and the Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa . This is a perfect spot for families. Parking, restrooms and showers are available.

Makaha Beach : Makaha has the best surfing on Oahu's west coast and was a place where big wave surfing was pioneered. Beware of the sloping sand beachhead that can cause backwash and catch unsuspecting visitors off guard.

Yokohama Bay : This is the last sandy stretch on the Leeward Coast, its curvy beach and turquoise waters a great spot to sunbathe as well as watch surfers and dolphins. For the avid hiker, nearby Kaena Point offers a trail with rewarding ocean views.

Note: Heed all warning signs and be aware of changing conditions, strong currents and reefs. Use your own best judgment to determine whether a particular beach is appropriate for you and your ability level.

Snorkeling and Scuba on Oahu

Colorful coral heads. Bright yellow tang. Rainbow runners. And of course, the state fish of Hawaii, the humuhumunukunukuapuaa. Snorkeling on Oahu reveals a whole new underwater world.

On the eastern tip of east Honolulu is Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve , one of Oahu's most popular snorkeling destinations. With clear waters rich with ocean life, this is the perfect spot for first time snorkelers. But come early, the parking lot can fill up quickly. Oahu has a variety of other beautiful beaches with calm waters to explore including Kailua Beach on the Windward Coast . You can also take a snorkel tour or boat charter and let guides help you discover what lies beneath the waters of Oahu.

Learn How to Surf on Oahu

Oahu has many amazing spots to learn how to surf. World famous Waikiki is probably one of the best spots in Hawaii to learn how to catch your first wave. Since the turn of the 20 th century, Waikiki Beach Boys like Duke Kahanamoku have been teaching visitors how to ride the waves on surfboards and canoes. Sign up for a lesson at the seaside booths along Kuhio and Waikiki Beaches, near the Duke Kahanamoku Statue. Some of these instructors have been teaching surfing and outrigger canoe paddling in Waikiki for generations.

You'll also find surf schools taught at gentler breaks in town at Ala Moana, the North Shore and various other spots on Oahu. Lessons run between 1-2 hours and are taught by experienced surfers in gentle breaks. Longboards are used to make it even easier for first-timers and a push from your instructor will help you get started.Another alternative to surfing that is growing in popularity is stand-up paddle boarding. In stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) riders stand upright on wider, longer boards and use a paddle to maneuver. Great for a core muscle workout, SUP is often used for fitness rather than for riding waves. Lessons are highly recommended for your safety and for the safety of your fellow beach goers and surfers.

NOTE: Heed all warning signs. Talk to your instructor about changing conditions, strong currents and reefs. Use your own best judgment to determine whether a particular beach is appropriate for your ability level.


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