By Laura Jemetta
If you’ve ever been to Hawaii, you’ll know what an amazing place it is. Check out my post about why you have to see Oahu here, and my post about the best beaches on Oahu here. But, if you’re looking for a way to make the most out of your time in Hawaii, read on to find out some unique ways to discover beautiful Oahu.
What better way to see Oahu than from the ocean, as the early Hawaiians did? While the Outrigger Canoe didn’t originate in Hawaii, it arrived there around 200 AD, and is now an iconic symbol of Hawaii. In fact, Outrigger Canoeing is actually the official state team sport of Hawaii. Outrigger is a fantastic way for you to see Waikiki Beach, as well as some of the other beaches on Oahu. Paddle out with two experienced Oarsmen and, if you’re lucky, catch some waves in your very own Outrigger; a thrilling way to see the sparkling ocean, the beach, and lush green Diamond Head in the distance. There are plenty of opportunities for Outrigger Canoe tours on Oahu, and it is a unique and relatively inexpensive way to see Hawaii.
Yes, you can experience the island by helicopter, and these tours are a spectacular and thrilling, albeit expensive, way to see Oahu. I have seen Oahu by open-door helicopter, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience on Oahu. You will be stunned by seeing the commanding majesty of Diamond Head from the air – with the ocean to it’s right, and the specks of the city at it’s base. Do almost a full loop of the island in your helicopter, seeing not only Diamond Head, but Waikiki, Honolulu, the Dole Plantation and some of Oahu’s most beautiful valleys from above. It is an amazing way to see the island, and an unforgettable experience in itself. Long pants and a jacket are definitely a must for helicopter tours – while Oahu is generally warm and muggy, it is freezing up there! And remember, closed toe shoes are required to board helicopters, so pack some runners if you want to see Oahu from the air.
Oahu is a very drive-able place, provided you can get your head around driving on the wrong side of the road! Sure, Waikiki is built up, and can be confusing with it’s abundance of one-way streets, but the freeways are well signed, and with a GPS, they can be easy to navigate. When I was in Hawaii, we rented a car and took trips up to the North Shore, driving from beach to beach, and did the same for the East Shore too. This is a fantastic way to explore the real Oahu, and to pack a lot into your days. Rent a car and drive yourself around for a shopping day at the Premium Outlets and Ala Moana, or drive up to the Polynesian Cultural Center for a day of education. You can even drive yourself to Pearl Harbor, though it can be very difficult to find a car park there! My tip for renting a car in Hawaii: try to stay on the road for a full day, so you don’t need to park your car in Waikiki, though if you must, spaces can usually be found at the International Marketplace car park.
If you love animals, consider experiencing Oahu and some of Hawaii’s most beautiful valleys by horseback. I recommend renting a car and driving yourself up to Kualoa Ranch; a 4000 acre private nature reserve and working cattle ranch on the East Shore. There are so many exciting activities offered at Kualoa Ranch, and horseback riding is a fantastic way to explore the ranch, and see Oahu’s natural beauty. Both one and two hour tours with an experienced guide are available at Kualoa, and closed toe shoes are essential.
Also operated from Kualoa Ranch, zipline tours are another way to see Oahu from above, and more specifically, to see Ka’a’awa Valley, which you may recognise from the film Jurassic World. The zipline experience takes roughly three hours, and includes some education on Hawaiian culture and traditions from your experienced guides, as well as some short hikes, before you zip your way through the treetop canopy zipline.