If you’ve never been to Hawaii, then the Hawaii that you’d know (that is, through movies, music and pictures), is most probably of the Oahu Island. Hawaii is an archipelago of islands, and Oahu is perhaps the most famous one yet, home to Honolulu, the capital city of Hawaii. A popular vacation spot for famous people and the usual filming location for various Hollywood movies has blossomed the island into a busy, well-developed and touristy place for everyone to enjoy. Contrary to Big Island, Hawaii that you could read about here, Oahu is a much more modern take on what it means to have an island adventure.
Here are some of the things you can look forward to if/when you visit Oahu, Hawaii.
1. Hang out at Waikiki Beach and its beach city strip
Look, if you didn’t check out Waikiki, were you even in Oahu? If the Beach Boys sang about it, then there has to be a reason for its hype. The beach city strip has everything to offer, from the hotels, restaurants, shopping, yoga studios and bars, all set along the wide, surfing-friendly Waikiki beach. There’s even a Tesla showroom, guys. Certainly overcrowded with tourists, but the upside is you can pretty much everything in one place. I particularly enjoyed the late evenings here, as you get to chill by the beach while watching surfers emerge around the large rolling waves, and as the sun set you get the feel of the city in a whole different light.
Waikiki - A surfer's paradise, but you can also go to the North Shore to see more surfing action
The beachside city strip is well developed and has something for everyone
2. Check out famous movie sets
Jurassic Park. 50 First Dates. Lost. Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Hawaii Five-O. These are only some of the few of our beloved movies and shows shot here in Oahu. Most of these are around the Northern area of the island near Kauai Ranch, where the landscape is much more scenic, giving a faraway-in-a-distant-island vibe. I particularly enjoyed a visit to Hukilau Cafe from 50 First Dates, arguably one my favourite rom-coms. Some of the locations require an entrance fee, but if you ask me, you’d enjoy the free ones just as much.
Hukilau Cafe, 50 First Dates
Forgetting Sarah Marshall filming location
Perhaps my real glimpse into Oahu is from the TV show 'Lost'
3. Go for a hike at its many, many nature trails
There are no less than 20 official hiking trails in Oahu, thanks to its rugged, volcanic terrains. They are not as vast as the ones you’d find in the Volcano National Park in Big Island, but they’ll provide sweeping views of the island. One of the more popular ones is the Diamond Head trail, and easy climb that will reward you with a beautiful view of Waikiki. There is even an old lighthouse at the top.
Aside from hikes, the island also has various other physical activities, such as diving, paragliding, surfing, sky diving and lots more. A quick visit to one of the island’s many information centers will give you more than enough reference for the things you would like to do.
The Diamond Head hiking trail
4. Have a Hawaiian gastronomic experience
Now we’re talking! Brace yourself for some good old American food fiesta, with a dash of tropical zest of Hawaii. Something that is rather popular here and seems to have garnered a cult of its own is the garlic shrimp movement. Sold in food trucks everywhere, they are basically garlicky, juice fat shrimps cooked in butter and served with either fries or rice. The most famous of them all is Giovanni’s Garlic Shrimp, located near the North Shore. You’ll find it easily by spotting the truck with the longest queue. They are certainly worth the hype for me.
Aside from this, other delicacies you should not miss is Hawaiian Haupia pie, a delicious coconut-based cream pie, pancakes at iHop (everywhere in the US actually, but hey, the pancakes make this place worth a mention), and the Hula chicken, which is a roast chicken variation marinated in pineapple juice. I would also like to make a special shout out to a place called Grylt, where I had the best Tuna wrap in my life. The tuna was perfectly seared so it was still juicy and red in the middle, and the whole combo was just something I would remember in a long, long time.
Giovanni's garlic shrimp - we sampled a couple of food trucks, and this is probably the best
The Haupia Cream Pie can be found in a lot of places, but this is the most popular
Perfect seared tuna wrap with chimchurri in a wrap sprinkled with salt flakes
5. Bask in some Hawaiian history
Hey, have you heard of Pearl Harbour? It’s here on this island, and you’d miss out if you don’t check it out and enjoy the free boat tour around the place of the infamous Japanese attack during the height of the World War. You might also catch a distant sound of Faith Hill’s ‘There You’ll Be’ playing somewhere in the background (ok I’m kidding).
But the island’s history is so much more than just the World War 2. The Hawaiian history dates back way beyond that, and during the height of the Polynesian civilisation, there were civil wars between the tribes and the rise and fall of Hawaiian royalties to immerse yourself in. Be sure to get to know some of them, as they would give you a much better appreciation of the archipelago and the story of its people.
You can find a lot of historical sites around the island
It's a different feel without Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett
6. Shop at Waikele Premium Outlets
Shopping is my least favourite thing to do when travelling. But I suppose if there is giant factory outlet with a 70% discount on all items, you’d be a fool to not take advantage of it. Waikele Premium Outlets is so huge that it is impossible to cover in a single day, so much so that it has a map so you won’t get lost or pee on yourself from not being able to locate the nearest lavatory.
Hanging out here is a great option especially if it's raining outside, as much of everything else to do around the island is outdoorsy.