Aloha nerds! I had a fantastic vacation in O’ahu, Hawai’i earlier this year. Naturally, I turned to my fellow nerd and friend, Chris Cruz (@NerdyCruz), on helping me plan out this awesome trip (and much needed break from work) since it’s been at least 10 years since I’ve been to O’ahu. Those who want to go and visit the island of O’ahu, there are a lot of touristy activities that are not cheap, but there are also ways to keep that cost low and stay within (or close to) your budget! Here is just a highlight of my 7 nights in O’ahu, from Waikiki to the famous North Shore!
Waikiki was the home base city for the trip. While everyone was baking in the sun for 3-4hrs, I had a blast at the Honolulu Zoo.
Admission to the zoo is only $14 USD for adults. I spent all morning here at the zoo! It was not too crowded so you can take as long as you wanted (until closing time that is). A couple of the habitats were empty due to the animals not being there. But over all I had a fun time here searching for the animals and reptiles in the heat!
Diamond Head Hike
Another great attraction in Waikiki is the Diamond Head hike! The hike starts at the base of the Diamond Head crater and you hike up 1.1km (0.75 mi) to the top of this volcanic tuff cone. It is super easy to get to via public transit (#2 bus) which is only $2.50 USD (ask for a transfer from the bus driver so you have a “free” ride back into town).
The hike takes about 1.5-2 hours roundtrip with amazing panoramic views at the top! The best part, if you take public transit to this state park, you do have to walk about 15-20 mins to the entrance of the hike and as a result, because you walked, you only have to pay $1 USD for the entrance fee. If you have rented a car, it’ll cost you $5 USD per vehicle (more if you drive a commercial vehicle). But be sure to get to the main entrance before 4:30pm! We just barely made it in in time for the start of sunset! For more information, check out their website here.
And if you get the chance to paddle with a local canoe team, do it. I was lucky enough to meet the awesome people at the Island Paddler (Facebook) store. Eric and Haru were a blast to talk to and very knowledgeable in paddling gear! Outrigger paddling that is.
I bought this pair of Honey Girl (a local brand) swim shorts from them and after one use, look how it turned out. Now that is rotation! But at least I did not get seat burn! And the good thing is that these shorts are reversible, so I get double the wear out of them! Thanks for the suggestion Haru!
Now I’ve been dragonboating for the past couple years and have only done outrigger canoeing once or twice. But it was an honour for me to be invited to join the Lōkahi Canoe Club (Facebook) for one practice session by Haru. They’re based out of the Ala Wai Canal and on this particular practice, it was an early morning start at 7AM and we paddled out of the canal at 7:15AM and into the ocean towards Diamond Head. It was absolutely stunning and breathtaking. If you have some paddling experience and get a chance to join a team for one session, do it. The view from the water, and the experience was just absolutely amazing!
Now how can you beat a view like that?? And it only cost me $7 (that was for the Uber ride to get to the Canoe Club’s starting location, I walked back to the apartment and took in the beautiful scenery).
There are a ton of rentals right on the beach in Waikiki! You can choose anything from surfing, to snorkelling, to paddleboarding! Since my group wanted to paddleboard, and I have never done paddleboarding before, I thought, why not join them? It is a bit on the pricey side, $25 USD for 1-hour board rental. The surf board rentals were slightly cheaper. Let me tell you, it was harder than surfing! I bailed within the first 15 seconds. But overall, that one hour on the paddleboard was so fun!
The North Shore
The famous, maybe even infamous North Shore. Where it is a local and professional surfer’s paradise! I was able to catch a small glimpse of the landscape and scenery while taking the bus to the Dole Plantation and the Polynesian Cultural Center (more on those in just a bit). Here are a few photos of what the North Shore has to offer (including Hale’iwa Beach).
“Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? SpongeBob SquarePants!”
I’m in the land of all things pineapple. Right when you walk through the visitor center doors, you are immersed in pineapples in every shape and form. So naturally, I had to share this with the girls back home and to our friends at Onana Knits!…You get the drift.
Getting into the plantation is free! However, if you want to do one of the activities that are available at the plantation, they do charge a fee for each activity.
I ended up doing the maze! It only cost me $7 USD for the entry fee. It is the world’s largest maze (circa World Guiness Book of Records 2008). You are given a map of the maze and you have to find 8 hidden stations where you stencil in the icon onto a piece of cardstock that is given to you at the entrance of the maze. And then, you are timed. That’s right, you have to find all 8 hidden stations inside the maze. Did I mention they time you to see how fast you can do it? If you find all 8 stations in 10 minutes or less, your name gets written down in their record book! But on average the time is approximately 45 minutes. …I finished mine in just under 1 hour. Not too shabby! Although I must say, a couple minutes were wasted by the guy standing in front of me at the ticket booth where they clock you in and clock you out. It’s a conspiracy I tell ya!
For me, this is a must! I love anything that has to do with history, culture, food, and the water. So it was a no-brainer for me to come here and get a glimpse of the Polynesian culture and way of life. You definitely can spend all day here if you want to see every single village exhibit and demonstration.
Speaking of history, I had to make a pit stop to the Pearl Harbour Memorial. Again, this is another place I could and did spend all day at. I made it in time for the singing of the morning national anthem and was lucky enough to get one of the few tickets to visit the actual USS Arizona memorial site, as they have a limited number of tickets and it is a first-come-first-serve basis. The tickets for USS Arizona are free. Normally there is a Park Ranger available to answer your questions about the memorial. However, I just happened to go on a day where there wasn’t a Park Ranger but a volunteer who happened to be a Navy veteran and one of the few survivors of the Pearl Harbour attacks still alive today.
The USS Missouri, aka. Big Mo, is a battleship that you can actually walk onto her decks and explore all the decks below. There is an entrance fee to enter Big Mo, but I had made a custom Go Oahu card that included a general admission to Big Mo and made the cost a bit cheaper. I didn’t get to see the whole ship, but I saw a good chunk of it with the time I had available.
I took a trip out to Sea Life Park to try the Dolphin Swim Adventure. This was the most expensive activity I did in O’ahu and was worked into my budget. It was a lot of fun to learn about dolphins and just how smart these water mammals are. I probably will not do this experience again due to the price tag, but it was definitely a fun activity. I really enjoyed being in the dolphin tank and was a fantastic once in a lifetime experience!
I had a great and relaxing time at the ranch. There are a ton of activities to choose, ranging from ATV rides, to horseback riding, and everything in between! I chose to do their ranch history and movie sites tour as the Ranch was the location for many movies and TV shows over the years as well as being a cattle ranch.
The one thing I didn’t like about this ranch company was that their customer service person on the phone insisted I needed my ticket printed out on paper because they did not accept mobile tickets on site when you checked in for your scheduled activity, as well as needing to use the public bus service at 5am because the time of my activity did not qualify to be picked up from their shuttle service. I spent a frantic night trying to print off my ticket on paper at the concierge, only to get to the ranch to find out that I could use my mobile ticket at the check-in counter and that I had plenty of time left to spare before my scheduled activity that I could have used their shuttle service to get to the ranch instead of trying to navigate their bus system at 5am.
So, if you plan on going to the ranch, decide if the shuttle bus is for you, but remember, you can use a mobile ticket if you do not have access to a printer and/or want to save a tree and go paperless. Otherwise, the experience of being driven around the ranch, learning its history and seeing just how spacious the ranch really was. It was a wonderful experience to round out my trip to O’ahu!
Many thanks to @NerdyCruz for helping me make my itinerary for me and telling me where to go and what to eat during my time in his home state! Keep an eye out for this week’s Nerdie Foodie as I share with y’all my food ventures in O’ahu!