While Oahu’s beaches are reason alone to visit the island, no first-time traveler can go to Hawaii without experiencing a luau. The choices are numerous on Oahu, but we like Germaine’s Luau. Featured on ABC’s “Good Morning America” this is the place for a traditional luau that shows you the real Hawaii of over 100 years ago. Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted with a shell lei before being treated to an excellent, all-you-can-eat buffet featuring Kalua Pua’a (roasted pig)—a Hawaiian favorite. Then, sit back and enjoy an exciting performance as the luau takes you on a colorful, musical, and action-packed “journey” through the islands of Tahiti, Samoa, New Zealand, and, of course, Hawaii.
Last but not least, another crucial event in Hawaii’s timeline was the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Nowadays, the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Bowfin, Battleship Missouri Memorial and Pacific Aviation Museum make Pearl Harbor Oahu’s #1 tourist attraction. But don’t let the crowds keep you away—it’s an important part of Hawaiian history and can’t be missed. Plus, The Aviation Museum has an awesome simulator set over Guadalcanal that kids love.
Oahu is beloved for its beaches and there are many of them. Honolulu is your best bet for sunbathing and inexperienced swimmers, while the North Shore is a haven for snorkelers, surfers, and confident swimmers. We like:
- Kuhio Beach: Within walking distance for people staying along Waikiki Beach, Kuhio Beach (along Kalakaua Ave.) is recognizable for the famous statue of Duke Kahanamoku right in front of the area. Yes, it is a popular beach with tourists and can already be quite crowded by 10 AM. But we like it because it has a sea wall that buffers the waves and currents, making it a very safe place for children and for people who may not feel completely comfortable swimming in the ocean.
- Ala Moana Beach Park: For sunbathers and swimmers seeking a quieter beach (weekdays are almost never crowded, though the scene can be different on weekends), head to Ala Moana Beach Park. Across the street from the Ala Moana Shopping Center on the west end of Waikiki, this beach is long and wide with calm waters. It’s also got picnic areas, restrooms, showers, shady areas, and lifeguards.
- Hanauma Bay Beach: We like this beach because it’s one of the best places to snorkel in Oahu and caters to snorkelers of all levels, including beginners. The “inner reef” area is calm and shallow and a great spot to take children. Lockers, gear rental, and picnic areas are all on site, but one word of caution: this beach can get crowded and its parking lot fills up fast. Arrive early and spend the entire day at this beach.
- Kawela Bay/Turtle Bay: This is easily Oahu’s best location to snorkel as it’s protected from large waves and surf. Plus, a honu, or Hawaiian green sea turtles, resides at Kawela Bay/Turtle Bay, and lucky visitors may even spot him!
- Sunset Beach: Experienced surfers simply can’t miss Sunset Beach, spanning from Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline) to Sunset Point. This two-mile length of sand is considered the longest stretch of rideable surf in the world.
- Waimea Bay: Popular with visitors and locals alike, Waimea Beach is world-famous for producing humongous winter waves. In summer, the swells subside for terrific swimming and snorkeling.
Farmers’ markets are a great way to peruse and sample Hawaii’s locally grown and manufactured products. When live entertainment and cooking demonstrations are added to the mix, the shopping becomes even more enticing. Three of the best farmers' markets on Oahu include Kapiolani Community College Farmers’ Market, Ala Moana Farmers’ Market, and the Haleiwa Farmers’ Market.
Food trucks have been increasing in popularity for a while now on the Mainland and it’s no different on Oahu. More than 40 food trucks fill an empty lot in Kaka'ako on the last Friday evening of the month for this local foodie's heaven. Each event has a theme and participating vendors are encouraged to incorporate it into their menus in innovative ways (i.e. Chocolate Caramel Bacon Popcorn during a bacon theme night.). The event is widely popular and crowded, but the atmosphere is festive, the food is fantastic and reasonably priced, and the entertainment runs the gamut from eating contests to poetry readings to graffiti artists painting mini murals.
For those looking to discover new restaurants while on Oahu, here are three Traterra favorites:
2335 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu
Order the Seafood Luau for dinner (scallops, shrimp, fresh island fish, and vegetables in coconut cream, served with steamed white rice). For children, there is a special menu—as well as a Keiki Buffet—daily from 11:30 AM-2:30 PM.
2169 Kalia Road, Honolulu
Open daily for all three meals, this popular restaurant is a hit with locals and tourists alike. Karaoke takes place daily after 9:30 PM, but what kids (and adults, too) especially like about this place is that you have the choice of cooking your own meat for your meal and it’s done right before your eyes.
151 Hekili St., Kailua
The island’s BEST pancakes are at Boots & Kimo’s. If you’ve got wheels for the day, plan on a day trip to Kailua Beach Park, but get satiated at Boots & Kimo’s first. Order the Macadamia Nut Pancakes - they are simply divine and you won’t be disappointed.