A Week in Oahu: I’m Ready to Move.

When I heard we were headed to Oahu this summer, I was both thrilled and a little skeptical. In my mind, Oahu meant Honolulu—crowded beaches, throngs of tourists, a cookie cutter version of the Hawaii I love. After all, that was the only version of Oahu I had seen 13 years ago in my less than 48 hours on the island, and last summer I was spoiled with the secluded paradise of Kauai.

However, it turns out Oahu has a lot to offer—the same quiet, dense vegetation, and gorgeous seascapes as its northern neighbor, plus the metropolitan bonus of a big city. In fact, most of Oahu feels like the real Hawaii, outside of Honolulu there are fewer resorts compared to Maui or the Big Island, and there really isn’t a bad view to be found.

If you have not considered visiting Oahu, here are a few tips from my week in paradise:

  1. Flying to Oahu is the least expensive of any of the Hawaiian islands. Fares from Northern California consistently range between $300 and $500 per person, half as much as it may cost to reach Kauai during the summer. Likewise, your flight is more likely to be direct.
  2. If big cities aren’t your vision of Hawaiian travel, it is easy to get away from Honolulu. We stayed on the North Shore, home to the famous Pipeline surfing in the winter, and much more reminiscent of Kauai than a metropolis.
  3. VRBO is your friend. We rented a killer house for less than the price of three hotel rooms for eight adults. If you stock up at Costco on the island, you can also save on the food bill.
    Our private entrance to the beach.

    Our private entrance to the beach.

    Our perfectly Hawaiian retreat.

    Our perfectly Hawaiian beachfront retreat.

  4. Maunawili falls is worth the hike and the possible confusion in your search for the trailhead. You get vistas and the chance to swim in a waterfall. Head out early and do not leave valuables in your car. In the few hours we were on the trail, tales of theft and vandalism abounded.
    The hike to the waterfall takes about an hour and passes stunning vistas.

    The hike to the waterfall takes about an hour and passes stunning vistas.

    The chilly waterfall offers plenty of spots to jump in.

    The chilly waterfall offers plenty of spots to jump in.

  5. North Shore Catamaran is a great way to get out on the water and do some amazing snorkeling. They run semi-regular deals on Groupon, so check frequently before your trip. Amazing wildlife abounds. My proudest sighting was a small octopus that rolled up into a ball and winked at me.

    Didn't get to drive the boat this time, but still saw plenty of cool stuff.

    Didn’t get to drive the boat this time, but still saw plenty of creatures at one of the best snorkeling spots I’ve ever visited.

  6. Food trucks are delicious and easy to find. Read Yelp reviews beforehand to help make your selection. I chose a Cajun chicken burger, DELICIOUS.
    Easy to see why this one was Alex's favorite...

    Easy to see why this one was Alex’s favorite…

    Food Truck

    But I preferred the more land-friendly variety from North Shore Dogs & Burgers…

  7. Shaved ice is better than you remember as a kid, however, standing in a long line is not. Check out Yelp and jump in a shorter line with decent reviews. We loved Aloha General Store in Hale’iwa, owned by a friendly Sac State grad.

    My favorite flavors, Blue Hawaii and Passionfruit. Definitely not going to win  any health food awards on this one.

    My favorite flavors, Blue Hawaii and Passionfruit. Definitely not going to win any health awards on this one.

  8. Honolulu is worth a visit, even if you prefer peace and quiet. We visited the International Marketplace where you can negotiate with little old ladies and then enjoy a discounted Tiki drink with beautiful live music in the back of the maze of stalls. You may even feel a little like Anthony Bourdaine surrounded by all the booze and kitsch.
    Not sure what makes tiki bars so appealing, but this place was a blast.

    Not sure what makes tiki bars so appealing, but this place was a blast.

    As much as it pains me to admit, Waikiki is undeniably beautiful.

    And, as much as it pains me to admit, Waikiki is undeniably beautiful.

  9. Stars. Make it your mission to get outside and stare up at the stars away from the city lights. You will probably see constellations you don’t see at home—I can’t remember the last time I saw the Milky Way.
  10. Last but not least, remember to wear your sunscreen. As far as the more natural sunscreens go, I have a new favorite—Burn Out. Blends in much better than many of its competitors and does a great job protecting from the dreaded vacation burn.

It is a tradition for me to want to move after a vacation and Oahu is no exception. I have already researched teacher salaries, credential transfers and rents. Regardless of what the future holds, I will return one way or another. Oahu rocks.

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22 thoughts on “A Week in Oahu: I’m Ready to Move.

  1. Tanya says:

    So I know I’m commenting on this freakishly fast but obvi got excited when I saw the post and already forwarded it to Don. I’m thinking this would be the place to live if we moved there! Near a city and cheap(er) airfare. Weee! Excited to hear you’ve been researching, too 😀 This is such a great travel write-up!

    • oliviaobryon says:

      Not freakishly fast at all 😉 And, I agree, this is the island to live on– much easier to escape tourists while also home to a greater diversity of towns and cities. The airfare is definitely a plus, too. The only sucky part so far is navigating how to bring dogs… Hehe.

      • Tanya says:

        Yes, I was researching that! They make it sooo difficult! Especially if you have a really anxiety-ridden dog :/ yikes. But it sounds like if you have all the paperwork and microchips and vaccines in place it isn’t so bad…just a big headache.

      • oliviaobryon says:

        Yes, doable, just not fun. Poor dogs. I guess they could be sedated through the process… 🙂

  2. Beautiful! Neither Ryan nor I have been to any Hawaiian islands but we’ve been talking about planning a trip now that our babies are less of babies and easier to leave. I totally want a less hectic, more secluded sort of vacation. Thanks for the recommendations!

  3. kingmidget says:

    Vacations are dangerous things … it’s why I still want to live on the Oregon Coast.

    • oliviaobryon says:

      Maybe that’s a good thing though? Shows us how incredibly beautiful and diverse our planet is… I just wish I had the courage to become a nomad and live everywhere I love for a couple years at a time…

  4. Sean says:

    I was going to say, your dad needs to hire a travel photographer to join in and capture all the moments 🙂 But I guess he did. Those shots are great!

  5. jeffo says:

    Glad you had a great time!

  6. I heard of so many people that moved to Hawaii after going there on vacation. Thanks for the info about Oahu. Glad you had a good time.

    • oliviaobryon says:

      So interesting– I’m sure it must happen a lot. A transplant I met from San Diego told me many people go home after three months though, get homesick, I guess. I’d like to think I’d last a few years 🙂

  7. Glad you had a wonderful time! Oh those Hawaiian snow cones! Yum! I am a bit jealous of your trip…hope to make it back to pretty much anywhere in Hawaii sometime soon. And thanks for the tip about the cheapest flight…that is definitely good to know!

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