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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Food trucks are delicious and easy to find. Read Yelp reviews beforehand to help make your selection. I chose a Cajun chicken burger, DELICIOUS.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.