I am so grateful that I get to spend every Christmas on a beach, usually in Hawaii. I have nothing to complain about – spending time with my fam and missing out on the snow and cold weather back at home. This is the third year now that we’ve stay at the Marriott’s Ko’Olina Beach Club, about half an hour from Honolulu, and it never disappoints, obviously. The first year we did the super-tourist things like check out Pearl Harbour, Diamond Head hike, shark dive, the Dole Plantation and the Polynesian centre – which are all worth seeing, but I really like exploring the road less travelled. Which, on the islands, is still full of tourists but you can get a closer look at the natural side of Hawaii rather than the ticket-entry areas.
Oahu is my favourite island; the Big Island and Maui are gorgeous too, but we have found a sweet spot for Oahu. There seems to be more options for things to do – beaches, hikes, and Honolulu if you are looking for big city things. What’s your favourite Oahu activity or restaurant? Let me know in the comments below!
UAHI ISLAND GRILL for Guy Fieri’s favourite grilled fish. It’s one of those places that would be hard to stumble upon, off the main road with a lacklustre exterior. But thanks to Diner’s, Drive-Ins, and Dives we were pointed in the right direction. Serving up classic Hawaiian cuisine with a casual, local atmosphere, Uahi Island Grill offers the best dishes from the island, including Guy’s favourite, the Red Curry Grilled Fish. Fresh catch of the day served with a mild Thai red coconut curry, green papaya salad, and rice.
HALE’IWA BOWLS for insta-worthy smoothie bowls. It’s located in Haleʻiwa – a great beach town up at the North Shore – and serves up freshly made smoothie bowls with all sorts of healthy toppings. It’s a little pricey but completely worth it, especially if you’re looking for a light, healthy meal.
ISLAND SNOW for Obama-approved shaved ice. Note – all shaved ice on the island comes with a scoop of ice cream in the bottom, how awesome is that? Island Snow is in Kailua, a small town near where Obama lives, up at the North Shore. He takes his family every Christmas to get shaved ice at this spot that doubles as a clothing store. Kailua is being called the next Waikiki and has plenty of shops and restaurants to check out while you’re there.
Like I mentioned above there is an endless list of things to do and even though we have spent a few years coming back here, we haven’t done anything twice. We have gravitated towards hiking, but there are amazing things to do that don’t involve climbing up volcanoes. Check out my post from last year’s Oahu trip for other things we’ve done! This year we stuck with hikes and accomplished two, explored the towns surrounding, and made it up to the North Shore to watch the surfers.
LANIKAI PILLBOX HIKE
If you’re following any Oahu instagrammers, you’ll have seen the classic photo looking out into the horizon on the roof of one of the two pillboxes at the top. It’s a fairly quick jaunt up the volcano, the most strenuous part during the first 15 minutes as you gain tremendous elevation. Once you get to the first pillbox, it becomes ridge walking up and down the ridge of connecting mountains. If you get lucky and have clear skies (and no rain) the view is breathtaking. It is family friendly and takes about an hour round trip (depending on how far you walk on the ridges) making it a great half day excursion out to Kailua. Uahi Island Grill is the perfect place to grab lunch before heading onto your next adventure. Watch my video of our day at Kailua:
Most famous for the Pipeline, the North Shore is where the big waves are and where the local surfers hang out. We headed to the Pipeline Beach, but you can’t go swimming because the waves are there for the surfers. There are tons of little towns that litter the area, my favourite are Hale’iwa and Kailua, but there are lots of others along the way. If the weather and water cooperate, you can spend all day on the beach watching surfers catch the waves.
If you like to snorkel, Paradise Cove in Ko’Olina is a good spot to start. There are always turtle swimming around there who aren’t afraid to get close to you, they’re a lot fun and who doesn’t like to swim with turtles? There is also a resident seal, Benny, who likes to sleep there during the day.
If I were to describe this hike in only one word it would be muddy. It had the potential to be a really good hike – 4 hours round trip, waterfall at the end, we heard about it from a local – but it turns out the locals don’t always have tourists’ best interests in mind. We concluded the hike would have been okay if there was no mud, but it rains all the time so it’s probably always muddy. I’m talking ankle-deep mud for more than half the hike, up and down. There are much better hikes with much bigger waterfalls at the end. I don’t recommend Laie Falls. If you’re looking for a waterfall hike I would suggest Manao Falls.
A much different experience than Laie falls was, Waimea Falls is targeting tourist families which means there is a fee to get in, and the whole “hike” (it’s really just a nature walk) is paved. The waterfalls are gorgeous at the end, but people can swim in the pool below so the photos are overtaken by bobbling yellow life jackets. It’s very picturesque as you walk towards the falls, and there are signs and an audio tour if you want to learn about Hawaiian traditions and all the different plants and flowers. Most people are there just for the falls, so taking the pathways through the foliage and flora is more secluded and feels less touristy than bee-lining straight for the main event.