This post is guest written by Leslie Schipper
When I tell Seattleites I moved here from Hawai’i, my statement is met with a variety of questions and facial expressions.
- “Did you grow up there?”
- “Why did you move here?”
- “Did you hang out at the beach and surf every day?”
No, I didn’t grow up there – just fell in love with it, and lived there long enough to call it home.
Empty beach at Waipouli Beach Park. Photo by Leslie Schipper.
I can honestly say that I never actually partook in the big tourist attractions that some consider a “must” when visiting the islands.
I did, however, do everything else:
- hike insane mountain ridges
- go shark diving
- caught countless sunsets on empty beaches
- go sailing, surfing and shell diving
- ate fresh ahi poke whenever possible
- along with pounds and pounds of mango, papaya, and pineapple
In short, I got off the busy roads of Waikīkī and onto a different, less-traveled path.
Gentle waters make this a perfect secret spot. Photo by Leslie Schipper.
Hawai’i is much more than the tall buildings and bustling city of Honolulu. There’s a world of quiet and pristine beauty just waiting for the curious traveler. If you look closely, you’ll have the time of your life exploring the intricacy of the land and the Pacific Ocean.
So hop into that rented car and hit these local gems.
An Insider’s Guide to O’ahu
O’ahu’s most beautiful beach isn’t Lani Kai, and it’s not Kailua.
It’s Yokohama Bay.
Yokohama Bay, O’ahu’s most beautiful beach. Photo by Inna Borovik.
A two-hour drive from Honolulu will get you to this northernmost beach on the island’s west side. The longer drive is worth the remote beach with sparkling clear water and pristine sand. The Wai’anae mountain range in the background makes this beach as pretty as a postcard.
Tip: There is no shade at this beach and no where to buy food or water, so pack accordingly. I used to get there later in the afternoon to avoid the morning heat and stay well after sunset until the stars came out.
Diamond Head and Mānoa Falls are two of the most popular trails on O’ahu. Mellow and suitable for all ages, they are worth checking out, but don’t expect a huge soar in your heart rate.
The top of Diamond Head boasts a great view of the city in the distance. Photo by Ashlee Hammrich.
For adventures looking for a little extra thrill, start moving up Olomana. This trail spans three peaks, each getting progressively more difficult and advanced, and has an elevation gain of over 1,600 feet. Getting to the top of the first peak alone gives you 360-degree views and is a perfect rest point.
Conquering all three Olomana peaks is a major triumph. Photo by Emma-Lisa Pettersson.
If you’re feeling up for it, continue to the last two peaks!
Tip: Before starting on this hike, do your research. Although it is a popular trail and you’ll see many people scaling the peaks, it is still incredibly dangerous. Never hike alone and don’t embark on a trail you’re not comfortable with.
I mentioned eating poke any occasion I could and it is the food I crave most now that I am away. A poke bowl after a surf or long day on the beach is my idea of heaven and I ate my way through a lot of raw fish during my time there.
The poke bowl at Banzai Sushi Bar. Photo by Carolann@TheTwoYearHoneymoon.
My favorite poke stop has to be at Kahuku Superette. Tucked away on the north shore, this unassuming little grocery store has the best and most fresh fish to offer. Take your pick between shoyu, spicy or limu poke. Or get all three and share!
Tip: On the north shore, skip the shrimp trucks and head to Sharks Cove Grill. Get the fresh ahi sandwich on taro bread. Take a seat in the plastic chairs facing the water and chat with the local surfers and other visitors dropping by for a tasty lunch.
Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and make your way out to the Mokulēʻia Islands from Lanikai or Kailua Beach.
Kayaking out from Kailua Beach. Photo by Carolann@TheTwoYearHoneymoon.
The trip out to the islands won’t take very long, depending on your pace, and is a really fun way to spend time on the water. You can jump out and snorkel (and probably see a few sea turtles!)
Tip: Pack a lunch and plenty of drinks to hydrate yourself. Paddling can wear you out!
I hope that my insider’s guide provides a new perspective to Hawai’i and conveys that some of the best sites are away from the crowded beaches.
Don’t be afraid to put the guidebook down, get lost and ask for suggestions or answers! Contrary to popular myths, locals are some of the nicest people I’ve met.
I know I’ll return back to the islands, and I’ll get straight to work on my second edition of “A Local’s Perspective.”