As we’re getting ready to leave, we wanted to share some of our favorite things on Oahu. It’s not easy to sum up all the highlights of the past 3 years, so we’ve broken it down to our top 5 for each category. When we look back on this chapter of our lives, these are the things that stand out and the memories we want to hold onto the most.
Top 5 Favorite Easy Hikes
- Makapu’u Lighthouse – One of the first hikes that we did when we arrived, and then became our favorite go-to for an easy sunset hike when we didn’t have a lot of time together. I also love bringing visitors to hike it – I love seeing their reactions to the views at the end, looking North up the Windward coast!
- Kaena Point – The best hike for wildlife viewing! We’ve seen whales, seals, albatross, pheasant, and all sorts of fish or eels in the tide pools at the end.
- Old Pali Highway – this hike had so many highlights. History, lush forest, a paved walk, hardly ever busy, waterfalls, and views of Kaneohe and the Windward coast. It’s great to do both when it’s sunny and when it has rained recently — there’s adequate shade to keep you cool, and the paved road is safer than all the other dirt trails in the Ko’olaus.
- Mt. Tantalus System Trails – There are so many paths you can take, it’s easier to sum up all these trails into one category. There are many different starting points and ways you can create loops around this area — check out AllTrails to see what I mean! We personally liked the Nu’uanu-Judd trail up to the lookout, and the Manoa Cliffs trail.
- Pu’u Ma’eli’eli — There are many pillbox trails on this island, and this one is less busy than Lanikai or the Pink Pillbox on the West side, making it one of our favorites. On sunny days, it’s a great place to enjoy views of the Kaneohe Bay sandbar, contrasting with the bright blue ocean water.
Top 5 Favorite Difficult Hikes
- Aiea Ridge – The conditions of this hike on that particular day were just perfect, which makes it my favorite hike we’ve done. We were all alone on the entire ridge trail and had spectacular views all around.
- Kulepeamoa Loop Ridge Hike – This is more of an unsanctioned trail, but it was a fun experience to climb up to the Ko’olau summit on one ridge, hike a ways on the Ko’olau Summit Trail (KST), and down another ridge, making a giant loop. Again, the views that day were good and we were alone for the majority of this hike.
- Makaua Falls – This is one of Curtis’ favorite hikes, which I cannot say I completed. Most waterfall hikes on this island have disappointed us in some way or another (usually because they were crowded and would end with a bunch of people swimming in the pool) but this one was more challenging and technical, and led to a truly impressive waterfall in a box canyon. You need to go after a good rain though.
- Konahuanui – After spending over a year gazing up at the highest peak in the Ko’olau mountains, we finally took the chance to climb it on a clear day, and it certainly lived up to the hype!
- Ka’ala – Unlike Konahuanui, we weren’t prepared for how much of a challenge this hike would be, and once we were done we knew we wouldn’t likely be back. However, the views to the West of the peak while hiking are unmatched, and if you’re a fan of scrambling climbs and using ropes, this hike is for you!
All that to say, all 4 of the ridge/summit hikes were done on clear, relatively cloudless days – days which Oahu does not have in abundance. If the ridges are clear, head to the peaks.
Top 5 Favorite Beaches
- Kailua Beach – This may seem like our favorite by default because it’s closest to us, and in a way that’s true. We aren’t ‘beach people,’ but since it took no effort to get here, we visited frequently and really did enjoy it. The water is calm and warm, the sand is fine, there’s space to walk and swim, and beautiful mountain views in the distance. Lanikai beach isn’t far away, but we didn’t visit that one nearly as much as Kailua.
- Kawela Bay – Kawela is a small bay just to the West of Turtle Bay on the North Shore. There’s a short walk to the beach that takes you past a huge banyan tree which is well worth seeing. It’s not too difficult to find a shaded spot along the bay, and the water here is calm in comparison to other North shore beaches. But we don’t always stop here — there are other trails between here and Turtle Bay Resort that take you to other beaches. The effort always pays off for us because we’re able to find large stretches of empty beach where we can let Charlotte run around and hunt for crabs.
- Bellows AFB Beach – We came here several times for picnics with families from Curtis’ boat, but also brought friends and family here to swim. The waves are bigger here and it’s great for swimming and boogie boarding.
- South Waimanalo Beach – We didn’t come here often, but this one makes the list because 1) I love the views of the Southern Ko’olau Cliffs and Makapu’u Lighthouse from this area, and 2) This was the first place that we swam with turtles!
- Kaena Point (West side) – We only visited this beach once, but at that time it was Curtis’ first experience snorkeling and I had only been to Hanauma Bay, and it was hard to find snorkeling to live up to this experience. We (along with our friends) were the only ones there in the water, and there were so many colorful fish and the coral was so healthy. The only reason we didn’t return is because we don’t enjoy driving to the West side of the island.
Top 5 Favorite Regular Activities
- Walking the Kawainui Marsh Trail – since it’s walking distance from our house, we visited at least once a day. A fun place to walk Charlotte, and a great way for us to unwind and walk together after a long day.
- Sunsets at Kailua Beach – I enjoyed walking the beach while Curtis metal detected.
- Hiking to the Makapu’u Lighthouse or the Old Pali Highway – easy hikes that weren’t far from home, that ended with great views of the Windward coast.
- Playing PokemonGo in Kailua Town – an easy way to get to know a large community of people!
- Visiting Botanical Gardens – We visited Ho’omaluhia a lot, but Koko Crater was always our favorite!
Top 5 Favorite Foods
- Poke – There are a lot of great places that serve this here, we especially enjoyed the poke nachos at Nico’s. But when we wanted delicious poke for a lower price, we would get it at Foodland and make our own rice at home to go with it.
- Kalua Pork everything – tacos, breakfast burritos, and nachos. We loved Kono’s and Killer Tacos. This inspired me to start making BBQ pulled pork and putting it in my own breakfast burritos (tortilla, eggs, and salsa) and this flavor combination was life changing!
- Malsadas (aka Portuguese donuts) – Besides their storefront location in Honolulu, Leonard’s Malsadas has several food trucks conveniently located on our way home from different hikes, and we can’t say no to their Li-Hing flavored malsadas. We also liked Penny’s food truck on the North shore, though they don’t have the Li-Hing flavor.
- Shave Ice Cream – You’ve heard of Hawaiian shave ice, but have you tried shave ice cream?? Just like the name implies, it’s ice cream instead of just ice with flavored syrups, so you’ll never end up with either too much sugary syrup or flavorless ice at the bottom of your cup. The two places we’ve tried that have this are the Snow Factory (food truck in Haleiwa and store front locations in Mililani and Honolulu) and Frost (Honolulu).
- Garlic Shrimp – I’ll be honest, we only got Giovanni’s famous garlic shrimp once, but it was enough to fall in love. Since then, we learned to make it ourselves to save money and time (because there’s always a long line, and really 10$ a plate?!) All you really need are garlic salt and lots and lots of butter to fry the shrimp, then we’d enjoy it with rice and pasta salad, traditional Hawaiian plate lunch style!
Top 5 Favorite Memories
- Hiking to the summit of Mauna Kea, the highest point in Hawaii
- Watching the sunrise while backpacking in Haleakala National Park
- Reaching the summit of Konahuanui (K2), the highest point in the Ko’olaus
- Hosting our families – how great is it that we were able to have our families & friends come stay with us and get to experience this beautiful island without having to pay the high costs of a hotel or rental?!
- Buying/Owning our first house – a more personal milestone in our lives, but this house that we’re leaving now holds so many memories – both good and bad, of happy times together, difficult times working through the stress of Curtis’ job, and lonely times when I was alone.