Taking a cruise along Oahu’s leeward (west) shore is a fun thing to do. There are several companies that offer scenic shoreline cruises with or without the opportunity of snorkeling. If you take an early morning cruise you are likely to see many dolphins since dolphins are usually active in the morning. In the winter months (December to April) you may be able to spot humpback whales. Also, you will be able to a variety of Hawaii underwater world inhabitants, such as Hawaiian green sea turtles, known as honu.
If you are into scenic photography and you would like to capture some of the most popular leeward Oahu beaches, it is best to take a cruise around mid day because the lighting is better.
Waikiki is the most popular tourist area in Hawaii and therefore the most crowded. But if you don’t mind crowds, there are quite a few interesting things to do.
Waikiki Beach is divided into several beach areas (Kuhio Beach, Queen’s Beach, Sans Souci Beach and Kaimana Beach). Some areas along Waikiki Beach offer good swimming conditions, while others are more suitable for snorkeling, bodyboarding and surfing. There are also three sheltered lagoons, which are ideal for novice swimmers and children.
Located along Waikiki Beach are many hotels, restaurants and shops. Entertainment venues include free outdoor hula performances and several festivals and parades throughout the year.
A few interesting attractions besides the beach that you can visit in Waikiki are:
Here is an affordable way to explore some of the most scenic locations on Oahu – rent a car and drive along the island’s southeastern shore. This part of the island is truly amazing because of the unique scenery, beaches and lookout points, many of which are located at sea cliffs.
A short drive from Waikiki and your breath will already be taken away as you stop at Kuilei Cliffs where you will see a pristine cliffy vista of blue ocean, tropical vegetation, colorful flowers, green palm trees and pine trees.
Your tour will continue with a scenic drive through Kahala (an upscale Oahu neighborhood), where you can drive by luxurious homes, surrounded by nicely landscaped gardens. At the end of the road you can stop at a fine sandy beach – Waialae Beach. This Kahala beach is great for sightseeing, swimming and water sports.
As you drive onto Kalanianaole Highway, you are heading towards several scenic beaches that are worth stopping at. The first beach park you will see is Wailupe Beach Park. It is a small park with beautiful scenery. Drive a little further and you will see another nice beach park called Kawaikui Beach Park. The beach park is large and lush and there are benches along the shore where you can sit to relax and enjoy the calm caress of the waves. From here you can see another upscale Oahu neighborhood – Portlock, which is located on a rocky peninsula.
Continue diving along the scenic highway and you will get to Maunalua Bay Beach Park, as you enter Hawaii Kai (also an upscale neighborhood). This is a large park (with a large parking lot). It is a good place for a variety of water sports. You can see kayakers, jet skiers and divers almost all the time. The water is very calm, but the beach park does not have a good swimming beach. The nearshore waters are too shallow and there is a reef.
After you depart from Maunalua Bay, you will approach one of the most popular beach parks in the entire state of Hawaii – Hanauma Bay. The beach is excellent for snorkeling and picnicking. Usually it is very busy, so if you come during the weekend, the parking lot is often times full later in the day. There is also an entrance fee to enter the beach area.
After you pass Hanauma Bay, you enter one of the most scenic drives on Oahu – barren mountains and sea cliffs on your left side and breathtaking ocean views on your right. The road rises up on a cliff and has two good lookouts on the way – Lanai Lookout and Molokai Lookout, from where you can see the islands of Lanai, Molokai and Maui on a clear day. After these two lookout points is the Halona Blowhole lookout, where you can see three attractions at once – Sandy Beach Park (also known as the beach of broken necks, and there is a reason for that name!), a blowhole that shoots ocean water into the air, and the narrow romantic beach, located among cliffs Halona Cove, also known as Eternity Beach, from the movie From Here to the Eternity.
Continue driving to Sandy Beach Park where you can see the waves crashing on the shoreline. You will see many local residents at this beach who have experience riding tough waves. It is not advised to swim at this beach because of the strong shorebreak and underwater currents. Many accidents have happened here (among visitors and experienced surfers alike).
After departing from Sandy Beach Park your next stop will be Makapuu Point – a scenic lookout from where you can see the east shore of Oahu, Makapuu Beach, Sea Life Park, Rabbit Island and the azure blue water. The water is so transparent that you can see the coral reef.
Next you will have the chance to explore Kaiona Beach Park, a truly tropical beach with calm waters for a leisurely swim. The beach is easy to miss because it is located behind beachfront homes. It is right before Waimanalo Beach – another spectacular beach with plenty of shade and fine sands. The water there may look calm, but the waves break close to shore and sometimes small rocks are in the waves, which can hit and scratch your legs. The shorebreak is quite powerful here on some days.
Two other popular beaches that follow are Kailua Beach Park and Lanikai Beach. Kailua Beach Park has a large grassy area and many trees on the beach. A good spot to view the entire beach is from a scenic lookout point located on the road to neighboring Lanikai. Keep walking on that road and you will see the upscale Lanikai town with many luxury homes. To get to Lanikai Beach, you will need to find one of the few public access walkways to the beach, which are located along the street. Once you get to the beach, you will see another postcard-perfect scene – the Mokolua Islands surrounded by azure blue tropical waters.
Now, after a day of unforgettable sightseeing memories, it is time to head back to Honolulu or Waikiki. Take the Pali Higway and be amazed once again by the lush tropical vegetation you will see along the way. There are a few good lookout points here as well, including the Nuuanu Pali Lookout, from where you can see the town of Kaneohe and a large stretch of Oahu’s windward coast, all the way to Chinaman’s Hat, another small island located at the northern end of Kaneohe Bay.
Hawaii is sunny and warm year round, so whenever you decide to visit the islands, it is considered to be a good time. However, even warm year round, the weather here varies a bit during the seasons.
Hawaii is generally very humid and humidity could be feel most during the month of October, right before the winter starts, so if you don’t like humidity, that’s not the time to plan a Hawaii vacation.
The summer months May to August are usually busy on the islands. That’s the time when many tourists plan their Hawaii vacation. The most busy of all gets the island of Oahu and especially Waikiki. One evening in August while I was in Waikiki, I wanted to buy a bottle of water from an ABC store and I was shocked to see the store was entirely packed with people and I even was not able to get it. So if you would like to enjoy a Hawaii vacation in Waikiki between May and August be prepared to see many tourists. Often times you may also need to wait from 20 to 60 minutes to get sited in restaurant. The other islands of Maui, Kauai and the Big Island are overall not so busy, so you may want to consider them for your summer vacation.
Christmas time also gets pretty busy in Hawaii. Also flights to the islands are more expensive around the holidays.
June to November is the hurricane season in Hawaii. If you plan vacation during that time, don’t let this scare you off. Hurricanes hardly ever occur in Hawaii. And even if one hits Hawaii, the state is prepared to accommodate visitors and citizens.
Personally I would recommend February to April as a best time to visit. That’s the end of the winter in Hawaii and you can enjoy nice sunny weather and less humidity.
If you stay on the island of Lanai you can enjoy world-class golf, horseback riding, swimming and snorkeling and much more. You can also take a half-day or a one-day private Lanai tour that will take you to some scenic and unique places on the island.
We booked a half-day tour with Neal Rabaca Tours. Our day began at 9 am when our tour guide Bruce met us in front of the Koele Lodge (where we stayed at). After we introduced each other our tour began. On the way to our first stop The Garden of the Gods we were already impressed by the comprehensive knowledge Bruce had about the island of Lanai. We learned about Lanai’s pine trees, about Lanai’s pineapple history and the island’s people. When we arrived at the Garden of the Gods, Bruce took us to a scenic lookout point from where we could see the canyons of the garden all around and the islands of Maui and Molokai in the distance. Our guide showed us some interesting rock formations resembling figures and he gave us in-depth information about the stones and the area.
After our Garden of the Gods visit we left for the northern part of the island to visit Shipwreck Beach. On the way, while driving on Keomoku Road, we learned about dramatic historic events that occurred in this area in 1778 when warriors of the king of the Big Island of Hawaii, Kalaniopu‘u, invaded Lanai and killed almost all of Lanai’s around 4,000 inhabitants.
As we approached Shipwreck Beach we could see the Au‘au Channel that lies between the islands of Maui and Lanai. Once we got to Shipwreck Beach we walked on the beach and even saw a green sea turtle (honu). She did not seem shy and she let us take some pictures of her while sunbathing on the beach. We saw interesting lava rocks and stones on the beach as well.
After we enjoyed some time on Shipwreck Beach we headed to our third stop – Munro Trail. Our guide drove very slowly because the dirt road has some rough areas. He also told us more about the plants and trees in the area.
Finally we ended our tour with a drive through Lanai City. We saw some places of interest and after that we were dropped off at our hotel around lunch time.
Even though the tour was only three and a half hours long, it felt much longer because we saw and learned so much! I myself have been working in the Hawaii tours industry for the past five years and have been to many tours and activities. The tour with Bruce on Lanai was one of the best tours I have ever taken! The service was very professional and we saw a lot! Just like Bruce said, many people may think there is nothing to see on Lanai, besides the elaborately-manicured hotel gardens and golf courses. But it depends on how you define the word “nothing.”