8 Adventurous Things to Do in Oahu Beyond the Beach
When you think of Oahu, you automatically think of beaches, and for good reason: There are tons of gorgeous ones to be found, from bustling Waikiki to snorkeling haven Hanauma Bay to local surfer spots on the North Shore. But the island also provides visitors plenty of opportunities to find adventure beyond the sun and sand. Here are eight to put on your radar.
1. Kualoa Ranch: With 4,000 acres of gorgeous scenery, it’s not hard to see why numerous movies and TV shows (Lost, Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, Jumani, and Kong Skull Island, just to name a few) chose Kualoa Ranch as a prime filming location. The private nature reserve and cattle ranch, located on the east side of the island, is dedicated to educating visitors about Hawaiian culture and preserving the natural environment. Pick your favorite way to explore — whether it’s by kayak, ATV, horseback, jeep, trolley, or foot — and take in dramatic mountains, rainforests, and ocean views all in one place. To spend a leisurely day, book one of the all-inclusive packages, which includes multiple tours and a buffet lunch. (Photo via Lesley Chen)
2. Hawaiian Legacy Tours: For a truly unique eco-experience that will allow to also give back, take a Hawaiian Legacy Tour at Gunstock Ranch on the North Shore, where you can plant your own legacy tree. The ranch is part of the Hawaii Legacy Reforestation Initiative, an organization whose goal is to restore the natural ecosystem of the island through conservation and reforestation efforts. Take a helicopter, ATV, or horseback tour, and then plant a native koa tree with your own two hands. Each tree is tagged via RFID technology so you can track your tree online and watch it grow over the years. There is also a Legacy Forest located on the island of Hawaii.
3. Diamond Head: Get a bird’s eye view of Waikiki from the top of Diamond Head, a volcanic crater. The trail to the peak was formerly part of the US Army Coastal Artillery defense system and is less than a mile, though it involves switchbacks, a tunnel, and steep stairs. But the 360-degree views of the coastline from the summit, especially at sunrise, are more than worth it. Gates open at 6am (cars line up before then, and the cost is $5 for cars and $1 for pedestrians to enter) and close at 6pm. (Photo via Lesley Chen)
4. Koko Head Hike: If you’re looking to get a stair workout in, the Koko Head Hike will give you that in spades. The 1,000+ “stairs” on this hike are former railroad tracks on the side of a volcanic crater, used by the military to transport supplies during World War II. You’ll forget all about your tired legs when you see the views of east Honolulu from the top. (Photo via Getty)
5. Polynesian Cultural Center: Experience the Polynesian Cultural Center, which has six different island villages representing locations that have influenced Hawaiian culture (Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji, Tonga, and New Zealand). Spend a day here getting to understand the Hawaiian people: Learn a little history, participate in various activities and crafts, watch a water or fire show, and feast on traditional food at an authentic luau. (Photo via Polynesian Cultural Center)
6. A Taste of Oahu: Sight-seeing can definitely work up an appetite. Snack on some refreshing Hawaiian shave ice at Waiola or Matsumoto, or indulge in a Portuguese donut (no hole) at Leonard’s Bakery. Track down Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck for some amazingly fresh seafood and pick up some local goodies at Kaka’ako Farmers Market on Saturdays. For something truly splurge-worthy, head to the 16-seat Sushi So inside the Ritz Carlton Residences, the first restaurant outside of Japan by acclaimed sushi master Keiji Nakazawa. Sit back, and let the chef surprise and delight you with an omakase-style dinner. (Photo via Getty)
7. Dolphin Quest: How often can a hotel say they have resident dolphins? At the Kahala Resort, located in a quiet neighborhood of Kahala, there are six that live in the hotel’s ocean water lagoon. Spending some time swimming with the dolphins by booking a Dolphin Quest experience, which is managed by veterinarians and supports marine mammal conservation and research. (Photo via Dolphin Quest Oahu)
8. Iolani Palace: See how Hawaiian monarchs lived at Iolani Palace, which was built in 1882 and served as the official royal residence (and is the only royal palace in the US). The monarchy was eventually overthrown in 1893 and the Palace was used as official government headquarters before being restored in the 1970s. (Photo via Getty)
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