While Waikiki Beach is excellent and street shopping is abundant, with a little extra effort you can have some really fantastic experiences on Oahu.
Located on Oahu’s east side at the foothills of the islands majestic Ko’olau Mountains, the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park is home to the Byodo-In Temple built in 1968 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. The temple is a replica of a temple in Uji, Japan and it was built entirely without nails! Along with the Byodo-In Temple there are also other attractions including the Bon-Sho (sacred bell), Amida Buddha and other religiously affiliated statues. You might recognize the Byodo-In Temple and the surrounding valley from Lost – it was featured in several episodes of the popular TV show. Learn more.
Kualoa Ranch on Oahu’s east shore has a ton of exciting activities to do on its sprawling property. The ATV ride takes you on a tour of famous movie locations, scenic views of the Pacific Ocean and deep into Kualoa’s secret spots. They also have a Treetop Canopy Zipline Tour and 3 mini hiking nature trails about 5 minutes in length each. You’ll recognize a lot of different sets from movies, including Jurassic World. Kualoa Ranch offers tour bus pick-ups in Waikiki. Check them out at www.kualoaranch.com. Insiders tip: If you drive out to Kualoa, make a pit stop at Waiahole Poi Factory for a taste of some authentic Hawaiian food.
Just a short distance out of Waikiki sits Doris Duke’s Shangri-La – a beautiful oceanfront home designed completely in intricate Islamic art. It’s evident that not a single detail or dollar was spared in the curation of the home and its location on the ocean just behind Diamond Head only adds to its magnificence. Most people who visit Hawaii have no idea that this gem even exists and it’s a shame because it really is a beacon of Islamic arts and culture. Photography is restricted inside the home, so in order to revel in its beauty you really do need to visit in person. Tours are scheduled through the Honolulu Museum of Art
The Moana Surfrider also known as “The First Lady of Waikiki” is the first hotel in Waikiki. The hotels colonial architecture makes it stand out along Kalakaua Avenue and its historic significance to Waikiki makes a must-see. The Moana Memories Museum is located on the 2nd floor of the main building and features a collection of artifacts that tell the story of the hotel and its famous visitors – it even has the original hotel log book on display! The hotel offers tours every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11am in the Historical Room on the 2nd floor. Learn more. Insider’s Tip: The Moana Surfrider offers daily live Hawaiian music in the Banyan Courtyard.
This cactus garden is located on Kapiolani Community College’s campus near Diamond Head and is free to view. It was clearly a passion project, founded by Moriso Teraoka in 1988, who ordered the plants from catalogs and later donated them to the school on Oahu. Now in his eighties, Teraoka still maintains the garden with the help of volunteers. On Saturday mornings from 7:30am to 11:00am the parking lot of the college transforms into a great farmer’s market offering local produce, plate lunches and more. It’s the best way to discover the many unique flavors of Hawaii in one stop, not to mention the perfect place to find Hawaiian gifts to bring back home. Address: 4303 Diamond Head Rd Honolulu, HI 96816.
It really depends on who you’re with!
· Traveling with friends: Sheraton Waikiki
· Traveling as a couple: The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort