Best Sights to See and Places to Visit on Business to Oahu
Not a Vacation, but Plenty to See
While a lot of people might not like to take business trips because they always involve work, some trip destinations aren't so bad! I'm writing this hub for those of us who are lucky enough to visit the island of Oahu on business. No, no, it's not a two week excursion to the islands sipping Mai Tai's (although sometimes you can do that on business trips too!) and laying on the beach, but there are many great opportunities to be had if you're visiting for a week or so and you've got just a little bit of free time. If you can wiggle your way into getting a weekend you can definitely cram a lot of good stuff in - you'll just have to be willing to endure some long days, but they'll be beautiful! I'm not going to list every possible thing you could do or site you could see on Oahu or the nearby islands, but I've compiled a pretty decent list of stuff that I think you'll find interesting and exciting! I've attempted to include enough options so that you can pick and choose and not have to search all over the internet. Rather than going into great detail about only a few items, I've decided to give you a little less depth per destination in an effort to show you more. Enjoy and please comment if you've been to any of these places or there are some must-see's I should add to the list!
Probably one of the most well-known beaches in Hawaii, even though North Shore might provide some stiff competition depending on what circles you run in, Waikiki Beach lies between central Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean on the southeast side of the island. It is at the heart of Oahu's hotel and resort district, and so can get quite crowded depending on the time of year you visit. There are some great views of Diamond Head from the beach and it's also a decent place to people watch or stop at one of the walk-up bars for a Mai Tai. You can even take a surfing lesson or venture out on Friday evening to catch the fireworks in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village. It doesn't take too long to walk down the main part of the beach, but WARNING, if you're coming from outside of Honolulu during any of the rush hours it will take FOREVER to get to the beach so try to go when traffic has died down. This goes for pretty much anywhere near Honolulu. If you happen to be lucky enough to stay in one of the hotels in the Waikiki area it's only a short walk and I definitely recommend it. Even if you're not a beach body, Waikiki Beach is one of those places you just have to check off the list.
Another 'must see' on the list, but while this one is crowded as well, it's some good exercise and well worth it once you get to the top - the views are unparalleled! It's much better than the treadmill in the hotel gym! If you're a real enthusiast you can park at the base of Diamond Head outside the crater and walk up the road into the basin; however, if you don't want to spend that extra time you can drive up to the crater and park for around $5. Then comes the challenging part of the hike in which you ascend over 200 concrete and metal steps and climb over 550 feet vertically by the time you reach the top. If you're fortunate they'll be a vendor at the top selling 'authentic' certificates that you can buy as a donation to commemorate your feat. You'll see that it gets more crowded as you move upward, but again there's no other place to get these views and there are several good spots for 360° panorama shots. The park says to plan on several hours, but if you're in decent shape you could probably do it in under two with a decent bit of time at the top, just make sure to take some water.
Moving eastward from Waikiki, one of the first bays you run into is Hanauma Bay. Only about 15 minutes from downtown, Hanauma is very peaceful and has some great scuba and snorkeling opportunities. It wasn't always like this in the past, but in the 1990's the city and county of Honolulu decided to clean up the area and keep it that way. Today it's a protected marine environment and has an abundance of sea-life and a thriving coral reef. This is probably a weekend spot if you have the time, but definitely a great spot to get into the water and see some of the undersea beauty! You can rent snorkel or scuba gear on location and the entrance fee is around $5.
Continuing to the southeastern tip of the island, you'll find Makapu'u Point. For someone who wants to get far enough away from the city, yet not drive an hour, Makapu'u Point offers some great scenery, an active lighthouse, and numerous birds. Situated directly south of a bird sanctuary, the Point hike is a great spot to do some bird watching and take a relaxing stroll along this 2.0 round trip paved trail. There's also the opportunity to see Humpback whales just offshore in the winter months! It's much less crowded and has the feel of a short hike a local would take to catch some fresh air. Probably a half hour from Waikiki, this is a great spot for a late afternoon hike after work before going to grab something to eat.
Depending on what your background is you may or may not be interested in Pearl Harbor, but regardless, I hope that you will pay it a visit out of respect for history and the countless lives affected by the attack on Pearl Harbor and subsequent U.S. entrance into World War II. You could literally spend all day (and more) here, but if you're unfortunately pressed for time I'd recommend taking a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial or the USS Missouri. Most importantly, you need to make sure you have tickets for these tours. When I got them I had to get there early in the morning as the memorial opened, but a travel agency might be able to get tickets for you without you personally having to go wait in line. Other options include touring the USS Bowfin diesel submarine, visiting the USS Utah Memorial, or visiting the Pacific Aviation Museum. No matter what part of Pearl Harbor you visit, you'll feel connected to an earlier time and a piece of history. Not that you'll have the option, but if you can stay away from large (noisy) tour groups you'll enjoy your experience even more. Pearl Harbor is probably best suited for a weekend trip, but because of it's importance I would get out there any chance you can get as long as you've got your tickets.
Aloha Stadium Swap Meet
If you need to pick up some bulk souvenirs for coworkers jealous of not being able to come with you or for some of your family members back on the mainland, the Swap Meet at Aloha Stadium is a great place to find some cheaper gift items. Some vendors sell local crafts while others have imported knick-knacks and there's an abundance of t-shirt booths. Keep in mind these people are willing to negotiate so don't take their first (or second) offer. The stadium is located just north of Pearl Harbor and the swap meet is only open on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday so if you're not staying for the weekend try to get over there as early as you can on Wednesday as it shuts down around 3 pm. Parking is around $1 and there are snack vendors, but be prepared to pay the price if you get the munchies at the Swap Meet!
Paradise Cove Luau
There are several good luau's on the island, but this is the one I'm familiar with so I'll tell you about it. Located on the south-western shoreline, Paradise Cove is nestled next to a couple brand new resorts behind a guarded gate. Packages cost anywhere from $80-$140 with the important difference that I noticed being the number of 'free' drinks you got with each package. Regardless of which package you choose, you'll enjoy a Mai Tai as you enter, some traditional Hawaiian games, several feast-oriented ceremonies, live-Hawaiian music and dancing the entire night and don't forget the all-you-can-eat roasted pork buffet! They have chicken as well along with a variety of trimmings and of course poi. Also, the sunset was amazing! This is an all evening trip, but I'd definitely make room for a luau if you've never been to one. The other luau that I'd heard good things about was at the Polynesian Cultural Center - very good from a cultural perspective, but without the alcohol offered by the other luaus.
All the pineapple that you'll ever want to see. The air even smells like pineapple when you're getting close to the Dole Plantation! In the heart of the island, just off the H-2 Highway, the Dole Plantation sits on acres and acres of fertile soil populated with endless fields of pineapples. You can tour around on foot walking through the Pineapple maze touted as the 'world's largest maze' or take the Pineapple Express train ride through the pineapple fields and hear a rich history of the plantation and Hawaii in general. There are many family oriented things to do here and you could spend quite a while at the plantation, so if you are short on time and by yourself the Dole Plantation may fall to the bottom of your list. However, if you do have some extra time the trip is definitely unique and entertaining. It's free to park and enter the plantation, but you'll have to pay to partake in any of the main attractions - around $5-$8 dollars per. As you're driving up H-2 be watchful, you may recognize a place where dinosaurs once roamed (hint hint...Jurassic Park).
Home to some of the most famous surf in the world, North Shore is a great place to visit no matter what time of year it is. North Shore actually covers quite a bit of shoreline on, you guessed it, the North side of the island. It includes places like Waimea, Shark's Cove, Banzai Pipeline, and Sunset Beach all a short drive from each other. During the winter months, the conditions are right for gigantic surf and consequently the beach will fill with waveriders from around the globe waiting to catch the next crest. If you're an avid surfer you *might be able to handle the surf in the winter months, but if not I wouldn't attempt it outside the summer. Either way, there's plenty to take in on North Shore whatever month you're there. At the southern stretch of the beach, the town of Haleiwa offers some quaint shopping and a pair of dueling Hawaiian shave ice locales you won't want to miss (that's right, they're battling over shave ice, it's Hawaii!). Check out Matsumoto's Shave Ice or Aoki's Shave Ice or both if you really want to get the experience. They're both great and you can also pick up some unique souvenirs and t-shirts.
Just northeast of Haleiwa lies a little less crowded beach called Turtle Beach (or by it's official name Laniakea). Its namesake belongs to the Honu who daily visit the shoreline feeding off the tasty algae found growing on the rocks. Typically you'll see them bobbing up and down in the water feasting on their green delight or coming up on shore for a little sunbathing. The turtles catch a lot of paparazzi as many people don't get to come this close to them in the wild. Fortunately, they don't mind it much and local volunteers are usually on hand to rope a 'no-go' area off around the turtles so they can have some relative peace. The turtles are beautiful creatures to watch and catching the sunset here isn't so bad either! Keep in mind that these are wild creatures going about their own business so if you do go here and see someone not giving them their space tell them to back off!
Macadamia Nut Farm
Possibly the highlight of any trip, the Macadamia nut farm is a can't-miss Hawaiian experience. Most likely one of the least known places in the list, the Macadamia nut farm (or Tropical Farms Hawaii as it's officially known) offers tour-goers a Hawaiian guided tour via short green buses through a part of the farm's fields. All along the way the open air bus stops and you get to sample fresh fruit right off the plant! You also get a flat bottom boat ride in the lagoon next to the farm and an entertaining 'presentation' about a little bit of Hawaiian culture. You'll hear about how many movies have been filmed on location and about how many coconuts a Hawaiian can crack in a minute :) The best part is the tour guides themselves - they are hilarious, particularly if you get the chief as your guide. Not only is their knowledge extensive, but they're humor is something you'd pay for in a comedy club. They have a small gift shop with some of the most addictive covered macadamia nuts I've ever eaten. If you have the time, I'd put this item somewhere near the top of your to-do list. On Kamehameha Highway on the east side of the island, there is no shortcut to get here, but it's well worth the scenic drive and the $15-$20 entrance fee. If you get the chance to go, don't do what I did - buy enough macadamia nuts to last you for a long time so you don't have to pay the premium to get them shipped to you from Hawaii!
As you can see, there's plenty of places to visit on Oahu, but I've probably just scratched the surface and I really didn't include anything about Honolulu which is full of things to do and places to eat and shop. If you like military history there's numerous military bases all over the island in addition to Pearl Harbor. Also there's numerous other nature parks, overlooks, coves, and towns that offer different pieces of Oahu and Hawaii. If nothing else, just take a drive around the island! It's about 120 miles to cover most of the island with the exception of the west and northwest areas. As with most 'vacation' places you could spend a long time exploring, but if you're on business hopefully this list will guide you to a few places outside of the city that you can take advantage of on a non-vacation schedule. Aloha and Mahalo for reading!