Exploring Oahu - Things to Do and See
Hawaii is full of beautiful beaches. It's a wonderful place to vacation. However, sometimes people want a little more than just lounging at a beach all day, particularly children and teens. I lived on Oahu for three years and there came a point when my children would groan at the suggestion of going to the beach again. Honolulu does have the typical zoo and aquarium, but they are nothing to write home about, so I won't be including them here. This page is reserved for the best that Oahu has to offer in terms of attractions.
Sea Life Park
If you go to Oahu you really should not miss Sea Life Park. It's fantastic. Sea Life Park is located on the windward, or eastern side of the island. Admission includes viewing several shows, and seeing the animals. There are several other programs that you can sign up for, including swimming with dolphins. I've done it and it's fabulous. You get to hold onto a fin at the end and ride the dolphin in towards shore.
There are three levels of dolphin encounters depending on your comfort level, budget, and age. The two more intensive programs require that you be 8 years old. However, the dolphin encounter can be done by children as young as three with a parent. I did this with my daughter when she was too young to do the dolphin swim. It was perfect for her as she was a little intimidated by the dolphin and would have never rode it.
Sea Life Park also has a Ray Encounter, which is excellent. You get into a shallow pool with the rays and feed them. They are all over you, it's really fun. There is also a Sea Lion Discovery program and the Sea Trek Adventure, which involves going into the main aquarium and swimming with the eels, sea turtles, and fish in spacesuit type garb.
On the right hand side is a picture of a wolphin. That is not a typo. Wolphins are a hybrid between a bottlenose dolphin and a false killer whale. There are only two in captivity and they are both at Sea Life Park. Even if you don't do any of the extra activities, and many do not, the trip to Sea Life Park is well worth it to see these beautiful animals. Also, the views from the park are absolutely incredible. It is right on the ocean.
When I lived in Hawaii this park was called Hawaiian Waters. It's a waterpark, and it has every element that a great water park should have. I've looked over the brochure on the park under it's new name and it looks like it has been left essentially the same, with a few improvements, like cabana rentals.
The park is on the Leeward side of the island, in Kapolei. We had season passes to this park every year that we lived on island, it is that good. So, if you're sensing that the kids, or you, need to unwind, come to Kapolei and play at the water park! One thing that seperates this park from any other I've been to is the incredibly lush vegetation. It's like having park in a jungle, you know you're in paradise as you float down the lazy river with the tropical flowers lining your path.
Ko 'Olina Dolphin and Turtle Cruises
On the Leeward side of the island there is a fabulous place called Ko 'Olina. They have five perfect lagoons, with seawalls keeping the waves down and the larger sea animals out...hopefully. I swam in Ko 'Olina nearly every single morning, in lagoon two. A honu (Hawaiian for sea turtle) lives there, he's usually on the left hand side among the rocks. I would gaze at him as I did my laps across the lagoon.
The leeward coast, on the western side of the island, also hosts a large population of wild spinner dolphins. The best way to see those dolphins is by boat. There are many cruises leaving Ko 'Olina that will allow you to get up close and personal with the dolphins, some even let you get in the water with them. Also, there is a fabulous place to swim with sea turtles on the leeward side and most tours will combine both the dolphin and turtle experiences. You are not allowed to touch either creature.
Swimming with Sharks
Swimming with Sharks
For the most daring among you, you can swim with sharks on Oahu's North Shore. There's more than one company offering this and you don't have to be an experienced diver. One of the companies offering this is Hawaii Shark Encounters, another is North Shore Shark Adventures. Do this, you won't regret it!
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