By: Chloe Suzuki
Pictures by: Maggie Chen
“Lucky we live Hawaii,” is a phrase we commonly use in the islands. As someone who was born and raised on the island of Oahu, I can confirm that living in Hawaii is really like living in paradise. From Waikiki to the North Shore, there are countless places to swim, hike, and simply marvel at the tropical scenery. Keep reading for some of my favorite spots and eats around the island.
Manoa Falls Trail
Manoa Falls is a waterfall nestled in the very back of Manoa Valley. Manoa is a serene residential area, and you would never guess that one could walk to a tropical rainforest and waterfall from their house. It is a little less than a mile from the trailhead to the first waterfall (some locals enjoy climbing to the second and even third falls). The hike itself is not very intense so even those who consider themselves unathletic can enjoy this beautiful trail! One thing to remember: wear mosquito repellent! The warm climate and lush environment make for the ideal conditions for mosquitoes.
When people think of Hawaii, most think of Waikiki. It is the most crowded, but most lively place on Oahu. Lining the calm and beautiful south shore are resorts, shopping, and restaurants galore. Since there are so many tourists in this area, it can be a bit pricey. However, there are things to enjoy that are relatively cheap or even free! Waikiki Beach is always free to enjoy; I recommend walking or driving down towards the aquarium where the beach is less crowded. Right across is also Kapiolani Park, which is huge and gives a great view of Diamond Head! If you don’t want to spend too much money on food, I’d recommend stopping by a local Foodland and picking up a poke bowl. Bring a mat and have a poke bowl picnic in the fresh air and sunshine!
If you like to surf, boogie board, or get pummeled by the waves, Sandy’s is the place for you. Sandy Beach is known for its consistently large waves, no matter the time of the year. It is a bit farther east from Honolulu, so there are fewer tourists and more locals. If you are not a very strong swimmer, I suggest sunbathing or building sand castles on the shore. Although there are trained lifeguards patrolling the area, many people have gotten injured due to the strong current and wave break. For calmer waters, there is Sherwood Beach in Waimanalo further up the road.
Waiola Shave Ice
Although there are many excellent places to get your fill of Hawaii’s shave ice, Waiola Shave Ice is my favorite. They shave their ice to be super fine and fluffy, so that it melts in your mouth with every bite! They also have an extensive list of flavors and you can choose up to three per cup. Some of my favorites are Lychee, Lilikoi (Passionfruit), Haupia (a coconut milk dessert), Green Tea, and Yuzu (Japanese citrus). I also always get my shave ice with ice cream and/or condensed milk – it tastes like heaven. In addition to the shave ice stand, there is also a general store selling crack seed and local snacks. One small note: they only accept cash, so keep that in mind before stopping by!
Lanikai Pillbox Hike
If you’d like to try a little more of an intense hike and see some amazing views, you should definitely check out the Lanikai Pillbox Hike. Located on the east side of the island, this one has a view of the ocean, the mountains, and all the nature in between. Lanikai is known for Nā Mokulua (also fondly known as “The Mokes” by locals), which are the two islets that sit just off the coast. You can get a great shot of them from this hike. The reason why we call it a “pillbox” hike is because of the two abandoned bunkers along the trail. People can climb on top of and into these bunkers and get an epic shot of Lanikai (like pictured above).
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
To experience the slower-paced lifestyle of Hawaii, you have to go to the North Shore. It takes about an hour to drive from Honolulu up North (which is I guess relatively short compared to drives on the mainland!). There are no tall buildings or loud city noises– just friendly people, ono (delicious) food, and great waves! One of the most famous food spots on the North Shore is Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. It is a white food truck serving shrimp in only three different ways: lemon and butter, hot and spicy, or with a mountain of garlic in the famous shrimp scampi. Despite their short menu, their line is anything but. However, that shrimp is definitely worth the wait.
Keawa`ula Beach (aka Yokohama Bay, aka Yoks) is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful beaches on Oahu. Not many tourists venture out to the west point of the island, as it takes even longer to travel there than to the North Shore from Waikiki (about 1.5 hours!) and the road dead-ends at Yokohama Bay. However, this makes it one of the most secluded and pristine beaches on the island. The mountains are absolutely gorgeous with the perfect shade of green and the crystal clear water. This spot is the best viewing point to watch the sunset. The drive to the west side is definitely worth it; you get to witness the sky turn to purples, pinks, and oranges, and watch the sun slowly sink into the horizon. There really is nothing else like it.