It is a funny thing how so many people go to Oahu and really do not get much further than the canal that surrounds Waikiki other than going to Aloha Tower and Ala Moana Mall. Waikiki is full of things to do, and many just spend what time they have on island enjoying the beaches and the shopping there. However, Oahu is a gem in itself that offers some great things far past the moat that is the canal.
One of the big travelers’ questions is always if you should or should not get a rental car. Car rentals on Oahu are actually very reasonable in price due to competition. Many do not get a rental car because the price of parking is so high. It’s just one of those factors that is difficult to beat unless you are staying down at the end of the strip towards Diamond Head where there actually is parking towards the park. Those who are military or veterans have a huge advantage in the parking game by using the FT Derussy parking garage. The advantage comes in that if you are going to stay for a couple of days, you can go to the office and pay about 8 dollars a day for a swipe pass. It is a significant savings event by doing so and a huge savings for 4 or 5 days on island.
Though Diamond Head is one of those things that many know about or see – few actually take the coast side road that runs above the ocean and see the view from there. To get there is rather easy, you just continue on past the park at the end of the Waikiki strip. It is a great hike or run, and even easier just to hop in the car and drive it. There are plenty of places to stop and park and take in the view of the rocky beaches and the windsurfers. If you are driving and continue on – you will soon be in Kahala and pass by the mall there and can get on H1 going East.
H1 East is the route to Hawaii Kai. H1 becomes a roadway after Kahala, with plenty of traffic lights. The best time to take the drive out this way is from 8am until about 3pm --- in between Oahu’s traffic cycles. If you know the flows of the traffic – then you can work any trip out past that time – but to be stuck in a paradise traffic jam is the same as being stuck in pone anywhere else. You might want to stop off at Kawaikui Beach park near Hawaii Kai, or at the beaches close to Hawaii Kai that are on Maunalua Bay. These are not the best beaches – but you do get some spectacular views from here and they are very good ones for a picnic.
If you might just happen to want to get something to eat, you can stop off at the Hawaii Kai shopping center on the Koko Head side of the causeway. The Greek Marina there is a great stop for gyros – or just to get the awesome fries they have. Yummy Korean Barbecue is the other quick eat spot there. For a more laid back time – would say try lunch at Kona Brewery there on the lagoon. The shopping center is also where you can find soft serve mango flavored ice cream.
The road out of Hawaii Kai goes up hill, though actually its more up the volcano. The next couple of miles are some of the most beautiful driving sites on island as you hug the coastal lava rocks above the ocean and have one incredible view after another as you pass by H Bay and come up to the Blow Hole parking lot. To the right of the parking lot at the bottom of the ravine is a small inlet beach that is one of the most beautiful on island. To get there is a walk down the large rocks at a point near the road. Its lava rock – so don’t think you can go down it barefoot, but it is a great hidden beach.
Driving to the beach visible from the Blow Hole lookout takes you to Sandy Beach. Sandy is by far the best shore break beach on island – and you will see a lot of local boogy boarders in the water there. The beach has really soft sand and best of all – a lot of parking. There is a shower and a bathroom there as well. This is one of the best places in the Fall to see some very good wave riders and surfers in action. One thing about Sandy though is that in the Winter months and the rougher waves coming in – there is a lot of drag in the water behind a wave – and don’t lose your swimming trunks by not expecting it. Sandy is a beach that is just outside of the tourist rage – and most of the folks you will see are locals from Oahu who are out enjoying the water and the sun. Normally waves here will run at about 3-5 feet, growing larger with passing swells and storms.
The area form Sandy Beach to the pass is more a desert than a tropical island. There are plenty of hiking trails around in this area as well. As you approach the pass – there is a pull off to the right and a small parking lot. From that lava rock walled lookout you can see several of the smaller islands off the other side of Oahu and some spectacular views, as well as seeing para-gliders suiting up and flying from the cliffs. There is always a great breeze there in the day and it is one of the best places to get some spectacular photos. You can not see the light house that is too your right – it is on the other side of the mountain and is visible from the beaches that are down on the other side of the pass.