Beach bunnies are sure to get their fill of the sand and surf on Oahu's beaches. From Waikiki to Waimea, the island's variety of beaches cater to everyone from sun-tanned socializers to serious water-sports enthusiasts. While it is more difficult to find secluded stretches of sand on Oahu's shores than on some of Hawaii's less-populated islands, not all of Oahu's beaches are as packed with bodies as Waikiki. If you're looking for an uncrowded beach, try Malaekahana Bay or Lanikai Beach. For swimming, Kailua Beach is a favorite. Swimmers should keep in mind, however, that the surf can be unpredictable and lifeguards' warning signs should be well heeded.
Some of the world's best surfing can be found off Oahu's famous north shore, at places like the Banzai Pipeline. During winter months, visitors can safely watch both local and professional surfers from one of many beaches along Waimea Bay. If you're a beginner, the best place to learn to surf is on Waikiki Beach. Board rental and lessons are available.
Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
The most popular place to snorkel on Oahu is Hanauma Bay, on the island's south shore. Tour operators in Waikiki run excursions here, and public bus service is available to and from the resort areas. Go early to avoid the crowds.
The caves and ledges at Three Tables and Shark's Cove on the north shore and Makaha Caverns on the Waianae Coast also make for excellent underwater exploration. For serious divers and snorkelers, boat charters are available to many other fantastic dive sites. Marine lovers will enjoy exploring Oahu's bountiful underwater and shark life.
Kailua Beach Park on Oahu's Windward Coast is indubitably the island's most popular windsurfing spot, though it does take some level of expertise to fully enjoy the sometimes high winds here. Experts also like to go to Diamond Head and Fort DeRussy Beach in Waikiki. Of course, windsurfing lessons are available all over the island, and instructors will gladly point beginners in the direction of the best beaches to suit their skills.
Oahu's sheer, mountainous terrain and steady thermal winds are great for hang gliding. Much of the action is located in the southeast of the island in the Koolau Mountains, and the best place to watch experts soar through the air is atop the 1,200-foot Makapuu Ridge. Beginners can safely learn the sport at the Hang Glider Simulator at John Morgan's Kualoa Ranch.
Mahi-mahi, sailfish, blue marlin, striped marlin, broadbill swordfish, and tuna are just some of the fish found off Oahu. Fishing boats are available for charter from numerous locations, including Haleiwa on the north shore and Honolulu on the south.
If you're staying in Honolulu, Diamond Head is a conveniently close hiking area. Other great hiking spots include the trails through the Makiki Valley area with its views of the city and valleys; the lush rain forest of Manoa Falls Trail located just above Waikiki; the Moanalua Trail, which goes deep into a valley; and the Kaena Point Trail, which follows the coast along the westernmost point of Oahu. Also try Sacred Falls State Park, Keaiwa Heiau State Park, and the trails through Kahana State Park.
Golfing is popular on Oahu. Some of the island's top courses include the 18-hole course at Makaha Valley Country Club and the West course, both in Makaha Valley. Also check out Ko Olina at Ewa Beach, the courses at the Turtle Bay Hilton, and Pali, the municipal course in Kaneohe.
The idea of horseback riding along a beach at sunset resonates within the hearts of most romantics, and Oahu has the facilities to fulfill the fantasy. Trail rides are available through Kualoa Ranch, which offers rides in Kaaawa Valley or on the beach. The Turtle Bay Hilton has guided sunset and other rides, and the Sheraton Makaha Resort also rents horses.
Honolulu is the center of nightlife in Hawaii. All kinds of dance clubs and music venues here play everything from top-40 hits to jazz, Polynesian music, and rock and roll. Hawaiian-style entertainment includes shows put on by the hotels along the Waikiki Beach strip and Hawaiian luaus. Usually held on a picturesque beach, a luau includes traditional food, drinks, hula dancing, and other Hawaiian-theme activities.
For a relaxing night out, visit Waikiki's IMAX movie theater, where breathtaking images of Hawaiian vistas are projected onto a domed screen five-stories high.
Ubiquitous island mementos include colorful floral-print clothing, T-shirts, traditional arts and crafts, jewelry made from coral, enamel, and precious metals, feather and flower leis, and a host of take-home foods, which include everything from exotic fruits to coffee and macadamia nuts to Maui potato chips.
While Waikiki is packed with touristy shops, the best places to find bargains are in outlying areas. The Hula Supply Center in downtown Honolulu offers a range of reasonably priced souvenir items, while the Foundry Arts Center and the small outdoor stalls in Pine Grove Village are great places to find locally made jewelry, ceramics, stained glass, and metal sculptures.
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