woman on beach at sunset

Beyond Honolulu: Oahu's Highlights

7 February 2017

It’s easy to spend an entire holiday lazing in Honolulu, Hawaii, but those who set out to explore the rest of Oahu will find retro charms, laidback beaches – and a touch of Hollywood glamour. 

Location: Oahu, Hawaii

Distance: 290km

Highlights

  • Take the kids to meet Mickey Mouse
  • Cool down with a shave ice
  • Stroll among turtles on a North Shore beach
  • See where Jurassic Park was filmed
  • Track down Eternity Beach

Day 1 & 2 Honolulu to Ko Olina

You’ve slurped mai tais at Waikiki Beach, paddled an outrigger canoe and watched the hula dancers at Hilton Hawaiian Village’s rooftop luau. Now it’s time to grab a rental car and explore the rest of Oahu. Honolulu’s traffic can be hellish, which makes it all the sweeter once you pass the city limits and hit the open road. Families can point the wheels westwards towards Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, 38km away at Ko Olina on Oahu’s western shore (the route passes near Waikele Premium Outlets if the urge to shop strikes). The resort offers waterslides, a lazy river, a romantic infinity pool overlooking the beach and a saltwater snorkelling lagoon stocked with thousands of colourful tropical fish. As you might expect, beloved Disney characters such as Mickey and Minnie Mouse and Goofy also put in an appearance. 

lagoon and bay from hotel room hawaii Ko Olina is a peaceful paradise away from the buzz of Waikiki.

Day 3 Ko Olina to Turtle Bay Resort, Kahuku

Turtle Bay Resort is the only large hotel complex on Oahu’s fabled North Shore, with 452 rooms, suites, villas and beach cottages (otherwise, stay in a holiday apartment or B&B). Embrace the North Shore’s laidback lifestyle and potter along to Haleiwa, 19km away, for a shave ice (snow cone). Aoki’s and Matsumoto’s are both popular. Matsumoto’s avant-garde flavours include sour apple, cotton candy, green tea and pickled mango. If you can’t decide, order the rainbow shave ice (strawberry, lemon and pineapple). 

surf shop with boards out front hawaii north shore Hawaii's North Shore is surfer territory. (Image: Katrina Lobley)

Day 4 Turtle Bay Resort to Laniakea Beach

The North Shore is famous for monster waves – Banzai Pipeline is probably the most famous of them all - but they roll in only from November to February. For the rest of the year, the North Shore’s waves are tame enough for amateur and pro surfers alike. To see a different kind of surfer, head to Laniakea Beach where green sea turtles swim straight onto the beach to bask on the sand. For lunch, sample what the North Shore’s active food-truck scene has to offer. One of the best is Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, which serves plates of garlicky prawns with rice in Haleiwa and near the turn-off to Turtle Bay. Seafood lovers will also find plenty to like at the resort’s own Pa’akai restaurant: think iced seafood platters with King crab and sashimi, and seared snapper and clams in a coconut curry.  

horses with hawaiian mountains behind Known as Hawaii's "backlot", Kualoa Ranch has starred in Jurassic Park, Godzilla, Lost and Hawaii Five-O.

Day 5 Turtle Bay Resort to Kailua Beach via Kualoa Ranch

It’s time to pack the bags, farewell Turtle Bay and start travelling down Oahu’s east coast. Thirty kilometres from the resort is Kualoa Ranch, a working cattle farm better known as “Hawaii’s backlot”. The ranch, with its dramatic mix of rainforest, cliffs and open valleys, has been used as a backdrop for more than 50 movies and TV shows – including Jurassic Park, Godzilla, Lost and old and new versions of Hawaii Five-O. Climb into a vintage bus and set off to inspect the iconic locations. The ranch also offers horse-riding and treetop zip-line tours. Spend the night at a B&B in Kailua Beach, where Barack Obama and his family like to holiday. Pick up a shave ice from Island Snow, frequented by the president.  

small beach between rocky outcrops Be sure to stop off at Halona Beach, otherwise known as Eternity beach for its famous film scene.

Day 6 Kailua Beach to Honolulu via Eternity Beach

Halona Beach Cove, on Oahu’s south-eastern tip, is nicknamed Eternity Beach – for this is where Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster famously embraced on the sand for the Oscar-winning 1953 film, From Here to Eternity. After perhaps re-enacting the scene (it all depends on your travel companion), start heading back to Honolulu. Make one final stop at Diamond Head State Monument – the volcanic crater that overlooks one end of Waikiki Beach. The monument is least crowded between 1pm and 4pm. The 2.5km round-trip hike to the summit is steep – it involves climbing 327 concrete and metal stairs - but hikers say the view from the top is worth the hard work. 


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Katrina Lobley

Katrina first travelled to Peru 20 years ago as a backpacker. Although she loved the diverse experiences – such as trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, flying over the mysterious Nazca Lines and overnighting with a family living on Lake Titicaca – she was underwhelmed by the food. Recently she returned with Peruvian-raised chef Alejandro Saravia and, with his guidance, discovered the country’s food scene has undergone a radical revolution.