Oahu is home to Honolulu, a city well-known for so many shows and movies as well as for its history with Pearl Harbour. The long beach of Waikiki is a renowned surf spot and has a lot to offer for everybody. Out of the 3 islands we were about to visit, Oahu was the one I had the lowest expectations for. I thought that maybe it would have lost a bit of its natural magic due to tourism. I was wrong.
We flew through Los Angeles on April 4. The direct flight from LA is 6 hours long and really convenient as it makes you land on the island at 1:00pm, giving you time to enjoy a first afternoon in paradise. Honolulu’s airport is quite small and we stayed stuck on the tarmac 30-45 minutes because our gate was unavailable. Unfortunately, there is nothing to do to avoid this except to know that you might be slightly delayed in your itinerary.
From past preconception, I thought Honolulu was the main attraction of Oahu. After doing a good amount of research online and in my travel book, I realised that this island has a lot more to offer. It is home to the biggest city of Hawaii yes, but it is also flourishing with botanical gardens, paradisiac beaches, green valleys and lush jungle spots.
We spent 2 days in Oahu at the beginning of our trip and 2 days at the end. The first 2 days, we had our own rental car whereas for the last 2 days, we were in a hotel in Waikiki, moving everywhere just by foot.
In this article I will lay out everything we did on this island – visits, food, hikes and beaches.
DAY 1 : Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, Lanikai Beach and the South Shore
Upon arrival, we like to get “in the mood” right after landing. First of all, to avoid jet-lag catching up on us too soon and second of all, to make sure we enjoy a first day of vacation.
The car rental system in Honolulu was almost seamless. Shuttle buses take you to each and every rental car desk. Only a few rental companies are available right outside the international terminal. If you pick Entreprise like we did, you will have to wait a bit for the shuttle to take you to the office.
That being said : let’s dive in!
Our first afternoon on Oahu, we took the car and drove through the island to the Ho’omaluhia Botanical garden : this 400-acres garden is a peaceful refuge to all kinds of plants and animals. You can walk around this quiet place and just forget you were on a plane 2 hours before. Impressive cliffs stand in front of you and give you that “Hawaii feel” immediately. We spent a good hour there, observing the flowers, the birds as well as the Hawaiian mongoose. The small mongoose is an asian species that is very invasive and that you’ll find on Oahu and Maui. Currently only Kauai and Lana’i are mongoose free :).
After that peaceful walk amongst nature, we drove on the south side to grab some dinner and picnic on the beach. We grabbed food at the Kalapawai Market. The market is located not too far from Kailua Beach Park. They have fresh-made sandwiches and salads, as well as cookies. Food was delicious and we were able to dig into some local products right away. After picking up our food and some sunscreen (wise decicison!), we drove down to Lanikai beach to enjoy our early dinner. The beach was not too full, the water was turquoise and transparent and the views on small islands (Moku Iki and Mokulua) made it feel like paradise. It is one of my favourite beaches of the this trip. The sand is thin and it’s full of locals. The crowd is young but you will also see families there.
Right before sunset, we drove all the way around the east of the island to finish our day and see the sunset in Waikiki. A first perfect day to say Aloha to Hawaii.