Aloha friends! Although summer vacation has sadly come to an end and we’re back in school, it’s never too early to be thinking about your next holiday.
Wondering where to go next?
What about the island where volcanoes are in a deep sleep, snoring like tamed beasts, and one can never guess when they are going to wake up and erupt into flaming hot madness?
That’s right, Hawaii! Ah… the ultimate dream vacation destination for many… where you can endlessly daydream with the radiant sun-rays glistening on the hot, soft sand, dolphins leaping across the ever-so-blue ocean, and a magical mix of hues that paint the sky as the sun sets.
Hawaii holds countless amazing spots to visit, dine, see, and experience. Don’t worry if you don’t know where to start: I am here to guide you on all things Hawaii.
Hawaii is an archipelago, consisting of a total of 137 islands, but the eight major islands are the Big Island, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai (nicknamed Pineapple Island), Niihau (privately owned), and Kahoolawe (uninhabited with prohibited access since it was once used as a US military testing site).
This travel guide will focus on Oahu, the most popular destination among tourists. It is the third biggest island, the most populous, and home to the capital, Honolulu.
One of the first places you must visit as soon as you hop off the plane in Oahu is the south shore of Honolulu: Waikiki. Known in Hawaiian as “spouting waters,” the world-famous neighborhood Waikiki was once exclusive to Hawaiian royalty. Today, Waikiki is Oahu’s main hotel and resort area and a lively neighborhood bustling with tourists from all over the world. You’ll find first-rate shopping malls, stores, dining, entertainment, activities, and resorts along the Kalakaua Avenue lined with tall palm trees.
Waikiki is particularly famous for its beautiful beaches and resorts close to the ocean. The calm waves of Waikiki are perfect for surfing, sailing, kayaking, and canoeing. If you want to take a break from the water for a while, the Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki Aquarium, and Pearl Harbor are other locations that are worth a visit.
After enjoying the Waikiki sunset, the fun continues with amazing nightlife and live music in the streets. Gathering places like the Royal Hawaiian Center, the Waikiki Beach Walk, and the International Market Place are perfect for taking an evening stroll, enjoying the warm breeze, and walking off some of the many calories you consumed from dinner.
- Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay, a protected nature preserve, is hands down the most popular snorkeling spot in Oahu. “Hana” means “bay” in Hawaiian and “uma” refers to the curves of indigenous canoes. Hawaiian royalty used Hanauma Bay for fishing and recreation for decades. It is one of the must-go-to places while you are in Oahu, and you can explore the crystal waters and meet a diverse array of sea life.
The bay offers an equally great experience for first-time snorkelers as for avid experts; however, first-time visitors must watch a 9-minute video informing them about the marine life, preservation, and safety regulations in the park. All visitors must also keep in mind that the law requires that they refrain from mistreating the marine animals and from touching or walking on the coral.
Parking space is limited, but there are 3 round-trip shuttles that run daily from many Waikiki hotels. Additionally, note that the park is closed every Tuesday.
- Ala Moana Center
The Ala Moana Center, typically referred to as Ala Moana, is a massive open-air shopping mall; in fact, it is the ninth-largest shopping mall in the United States and the world’s largest open-air shopping center. There are over 350 shops and restaurants, multiple department stores including Bloomingdales, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom, first-class boutiques, and over 160 dining options. There are also hula and ukulele performances that you can stop to watch if your legs get too tired from all the shopping.
- Kualoa Ranch
The Kualoa Ranch is an extremely popular tourist site, which offers all kinds of adventurous activities: ziplining, ATVing and UTVing, electric mountain biking, horseback riding, and kayaking. They also have culinary experience tours, ocean voyage adventure tours, deep jungle expeditions, and, perhaps most renown, the Hollywood Movie Sites Tour. Numerous notable movies were filmed at Kualoa Ranch, including Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, Godzilla (1998), Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017), Kong: Skull Island, 50 First Dates, Windtalkers, Hawaii Five-0, and many more. The tour includes the various movie sites, posters, props, memorabilia, and, if you’re lucky, maybe even catching filming in progress.
I wanted to go there myself, but unfortunately, the ranch was completely full when I called to make a reservation; they are required months in advance due to high demand, especially in the summertime. The ranch is a perfect place to go with your family or a group of friends, so remember to make a reservation when planning your trip to Hawaii.
Don’t forget to bring reef-safe sunscreen with a high SPF, hat, sunglasses, swimwear, and to stay hydrated!
“Hanauma Bay Hours, Pricing and Activities.” Hanauma Bay State Park, hanaumabaystatepark.com.
“Open-Air Shopping Mall in Honolulu, Hawaii.” Ala Moana Center: Shopping Mall in Honolulu, HI | Ala Moana Center, www.alamoanacenter.com/en.html.
Timmons, Bronwyn. “8 Large Islands of Hawaii.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 15 Jan. 2019, traveltips.usatoday.com/8-large-islands-hawaii-108082.html.
“Top Oahu Tours and Activities.” Kualoa Ranch, www.kualoa.com/tours/.
“Waikiki.” Go Hawaii, 29 May 2019, www.gohawaii.com/islands/oahu/regions/honolulu/Waikiki.
Copyright Jenna Park 2019