4 Fun Things To Do on Oahu

Three years ago, my husband, younger son and I were fortunate to take a trip to Hawaii. My older son, CJ, was stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii and was due to deploy to Iraq in October 2008. I had the idea that we should go out to see him “just in case something happens.”

I bought a couple tour books and started doing my research. I figured this would be the only time I made it out there and I wanted to make sure we had a good idea of what was available to us. I scoured the books, made a list of all we wanted to see and do, then started narrowing it down – a tough task.

True to my nature, I had made a day-by-day itinerary. Fortunately for me, the guys made me chill a bit so not every day was planned down to the minute.

We didn’t get to do a fraction of the things we wanted to but here are four we did.

Jumping off the 25-foot high rock at Waimea Bay is a 'must-do' activity at the North Shore.
Jumping off the 25-foot high rock at Waimea Bay is a 'must-do' activity at the North Shore. | Source
Sunset at the cottage on Bellows Air Force Station. The beach was about a minutes' walk out the back door.
Sunset at the cottage on Bellows Air Force Station. The beach was about a minutes' walk out the back door. | Source
Me snorkeling for the first time.
Me snorkeling for the first time. | Source

The North Shore

Of course hitting the beaches is the first priority for most people. With the ocean literally within a minute’s walk from our cottage back door, we were able to swim and sunbathe at all hours of the day and enjoyed awesome sunsets in the evening.

If you like to surf (or want to learn), the North Shore is the place to go. It’s famous for its beaches, among them Waimea Bay. This bay was featured in the 1964 movie “Ride the Wild Surf” and has been mentioned in the Beach Boys’ song, “Surfin USA.” It was also one of the filming locations used for the television series “Lost.”

Waimea Bay is also the site of a 25-30 foot rock that people jump from. Technically illegal, it’s ‘jump at your own risk.’ Never comfortable in the water to begin with, naturally I didn’t jump.

Naturally my boys did.

I’m not much of a swimmer (don’t like getting my face in the water) but at the urging of CJ and Sam, I did try snorkeling and loved it! I would definitely do it again if I have the chance.

You can find a map of Oahu with the North Shore beaches here.

Me trying to look mean at the Polynesian Cultural Center
Me trying to look mean at the Polynesian Cultural Center | Source
Opening show at a luau
Opening show at a luau | Source

Play the tourist

One day when the boys went kayaking, Quincy and I went to the Polynesian Cultural Center. We both read James Michener’s book Hawaii ages ago and when I found out about this cultural center, we wanted to check it out (we’re geeky like that!). General admission tickets are about $50 but we were able to buy tickets on base and get a discount.

Polynesia – which means “many islands” – covers a triangular-shaped area of the Pacific Ocean with Hawaii at the northern end, New Zealand in the southwest and Easter Island in the southeast.

The Polynesian Cultural Center is a 42-acre living museum that features the people and islands of Hawaii, Samoa, Aotearoa (Maori New Zealand), Fiji, the Marquesas, Tahiti, and Tonga; as well as a Rapa Nui (Easter Island) exhibit and an1850s-era Christian mission complex.

There was so much fascinating information there, exhibits to see and hands-on activities. If you enjoy anthropology, sociology and history as we do, you’ll love visiting the Center. We only had a few hours to spend there but could easily spend all day.

A visit to Hawaii is not complete without attending a luau. A luau is all about the food and entertainment. At Germaine’s Luau we were served roasted pig (delicious!) and poi (didn’t like) as well as more “traditional” American fare.

The evening’s show began just before sunset with audience participation and comedy shtick. It continued into the evening with a Polynesian Review of Tahitian and Samoan dances as well as the traditional Hawaiian hula.

Sam (L) and CJ pausing at the concrete landing/lookout on the way to the top of Diamond Head
Sam (L) and CJ pausing at the concrete landing/lookout on the way to the top of Diamond Head | Source
Almost to the top
Almost to the top | Source
View of Waikiki from the top of Diamond Head
View of Waikiki from the top of Diamond Head | Source
CJ and friends climbing Pu Manana, which is rated as one of the most dangerous hikes on the island.  He is the one standing about mid-way in the picture.
CJ and friends climbing Pu Manana, which is rated as one of the most dangerous hikes on the island. He is the one standing about mid-way in the picture. | Source

Hoofin’ it

Hawaii has lots of great places to hike, including a trip to the top of Diamond Head State Park. Ok, technically not a hike in the traditional sense, but a “hike” in the sense it was a bit of a climb.

Diamond Head was formed about 300,000 years ago during a single, explosive eruption that sent ash and fine particles in the air. As these materials settled, they cemented together into a rock called tuff, creating the crater. It got its name when Western traders and explorers mistook calcite crystals in the rock for diamonds. It was once used as a lookout point in the master plan for Oahu’s defense.

Anyone can hike up to the summit – and indeed, many people do it daily – but I opted for us to take a tour with a guide who would share with us how it was formed, the military and geological history behind it, and the fact that most of the vegetation and birds were introduced in the late 1800s to early 1900s. As I said, my husband and I like history, anthropology and sociology and this had it all.

This is a 0.8-mile hike from trailhead to the summit. It starts out at an elevation of 200 and ends at an elevation of 761 feet. The hike is partly on natural tuff surface as well as concrete walkway. Switchbacks, stairs, tunnels and a spiral staircase are all part of the steep climb but the view at the top is worth it.

Stairway to Heaven

Who wouldn’t want to take a hike up a trail with a name like this? The also called the Haiku Stairs, is one of the more popular “forbidden” trails on the island. The narrow stairway has 3,922 steps and climbs 2,120 feet. The stairway was originally built for the U.S. Coast Guard to access the LORAN radio antenna at the top of the mountain. But when the Omega Station ceased operations, the maintenance on the stairs also stopped. The stairs were closed to the public in 1987 but it’s an open secret how to get through the fence to do the climb. In 2003, the stairs were repaired but legal access is still on hold.

My son did climb the Stairway to Heaven as well as this one on Pu Manana, one of the most dangerous hikes on the island.

A "map"of Pearl Harbor and showing the path Japanese planes took from the North Shore.
A "map"of Pearl Harbor and showing the path Japanese planes took from the North Shore. | Source
Plaque citing the location of the signing of the unconditional surrender of the Japanese to the Allied Forces.
Plaque citing the location of the signing of the unconditional surrender of the Japanese to the Allied Forces. | Source

A day that will live in infamy

No self-respecting Navy family would skip a visit to the USS Arizona and USS Missouri. Located in Pearl Harbor, the two ships bookend America’s fight with Japan during World War II.

The USS Arizona Memorial, dedicated in 1962, was built to straddle the remains of the sunken battleship where 1,177 crewmen died on December 7, 1941. That’s when more than 300 Japanese fighter planes came down from the North Shore between Oahu’s two mountain ranges and bombed Pearl Harbor early on a Sunday morning. The raid lasted from 7:53 a.m. until 9:45 a.m. All told, 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed, 2,402 men were killedand 1,282 were wounded.

Nearby is the USS Missouri, which was the site of the Japanese surrender four years later. The Missouri was commissioned on June 11, 1944 and steamed into Pearl Harbor Christmas Eve of that year to join the Pacific Third Fleet. The “Mighty Mo” provided firepower in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. At 9:04 a.m., September 2, 1945.

Japanese foreign minister Mamoru Shigemitsu “By Command and on behalf of the Emperor of Japan and the Japanese Government,” signed the unconditional surrender to the Allied Forces.

Hawaii was never on my list of “must-see” places. But now that I’ve been there, I definitely want to go back!

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Comments 17 comments

Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

Great hub with a lot of interesting facts. I also loved the photos, especially the ones of you snorkeling, trying to look mean at the Polynesian Cultural Center and the one with the rainbow.

The explorers who discovered Diamond Head must've been upset when they learned they'd found calcite crystals not real diamonds.

How lovely that your whole family was able to take this trip to be with your oldest son before he deployed to Iraq. I bet that's one decision you were all glad about.

Thanks for sharing this. Am voting it up across the board.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

This is a great hub, Danette with lots of wonderful photos. Wouldn't you just love to live there for about a year or so to further explore those places. I think you made a great choice on those four adventures, and I'm glad the guys made you ssslllloooowwww down a bit!

Voted up and across like HBN did-


Liola Lee 5 years ago

Really enjoyed this. I have been lucky enough to visit a few of the Hawaiian Islands and each time Oahu was included. We love Hawaii and one day hope to return. There is a wealth of information here. Thank you for taking me on a trip down memory lane!!


SJKSJK profile image

SJKSJK 5 years ago from delray beach, florida

I love Hawaii and will keep this for my next trip. Thanks


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thank you all for reading my hub. I was wishing I was back in Hawaii as I wrote it - it brought back such nice memories.

@ HBN & Dee - thanks for the votes

@ Liola Lee - I would love to go to Maui or one of the other islands and do some hiking. We did make a trip to the Big Island and if I can find my pics, I'll write a hub on that side trip.

@ SJKSJK - I truly hope you did find some helpful ideas here. Thanks for reading.


puertoricoistheplace 5 years ago

Great pictures and ideas!


Matty Says profile image

Matty Says 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Voted up and AWESOME! Beautiful photo with the rainbow, city and surrounding nature. I've never been to Hawaii, but it's on the list and I think it just moved up on the priorities, after reading this hub. Great work...your writing is going to cost me a fortune! :)


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks Matty. It's so beautiful out there. I had been looking for other photos of that trip and just came across them. It was a trip we took to the Big Island. That will be my next hub.


Rose West profile image

Rose West 5 years ago from Michigan

This is a great list! I loved hiking up Diamond Head (what an amazing view), but when I got to the top, I just wanted to jump straight into the ocean to cool off! Pearl Harbor is a beautiful memorial now, and it really is worth taking the time to visit. Thanks for the hub!


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks Rose for reading and commenting. I would dearly love to go back for another visit. I'm curious how you you happened to move to Hawaii. I get the impression you are not a native of the state.


Rose West profile image

Rose West 5 years ago from Michigan

Hi again, Danette - we moved here for my dad's work about five years ago, and I've been here ever since! Never thought I'd live in Hawaii :)


europewalker profile image

europewalker 5 years ago

Nice hub, I would like to visit this beautiful state. Waimea Bay looks gorgeous!


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks for reading, Europewalker. It is a beautiful state and I'd love to go back.


chateaudumer profile image

chateaudumer 2 years ago from Northern California and the Philippines

A very informative hub. I have been to Maui, Kauai and the Big island but not in Oahu except during a stopover in the airport. The Hawaiian Islands is similar to the Philippines in terms of vegetation and climate, so I really have no desire to visit Hawaii in the future. Have a good Day and again thanks for commenting on my second hub about eating fresh oysters!


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 2 years ago from Illinois Author

Chateaudumer, thanks for reading. I've only been to those two islands in Hawaii. Years ago, when my husband was in the Navy (well, at the time, I was to0), he went on a West Pac (W. Pacific) with the USS Grey. We made arrangements for me to meet him in Subic Bay for a few days, then we met up again in Thailand and Singapore. It was a good experience for me. Not sure I'd ever go back to that part of the world, only because there are so many other places I want to see - Ireland/Scotland, Italy, many places in the US, several S. America countries and Australia. *sigh* Maybe someday :)


chateaudumer profile image

chateaudumer 2 years ago from Northern California and the Philippines

Whenever you and hubby are ready to visit Marinduque, Philippines, just let me know ahead of time. I will be glad to be your official tour guide in the Marinduque Island-our second home.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 2 years ago from Illinois Author

Will do Chateaudumer!

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