While thousands of visitors flock annually to bask on the world-famous white-sand shores of Waikiki or surf the epic swells of the Banzai Pipeline, Oahu's lesser-known attractions are certainly not to be ignored. Especially if you're looking to escape the tourist hordes.
From snorkeling in reef-protected lagoons on the North Shore and indulging in hearty Hawaiian plate lunches to discovering the island's diverse endemic flora and diving into alluring swimming holes, here are five of the top ways to enjoy Oahu minus the crowds.
Spend a Day by the Warm Waters
With 112 miles of varied coastline, it's easy to find a secluded beach no matter what side of Oahu you find yourself on. So whether you spend the day snorkeling in clear blue, reef-protected lagoons or watching a fiery sunset over the rugged Koʻolau mountain range, pristine sections of white sand await. Some, like Chun's Reef on the North Shore, even offer family-friendly picnic areas to BBQ your own meals.
Take a Sunrise Hike
From casual walks in lush rainforests teeming with bamboo and native flora to imposing ridge trails with sweeping views of the azure blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, Oahu is nothing short of a hikers paradise. Early rises will love the Lanikai Pillbox and Makapuu Lighthouse trails for their unparalleled sunrise views, while outdoor enthusiasts will find their sense of adventure crossing streams along the 2.5-mile hike to Maunawili Falls.
Immerse in Hawaii's Endemic Flora and Fauna
Thanks in part to its tropical climate, Oahu is home to a diverse range of indigenous flora, as well as multiple species of birds and fish that are endemic to the islands. A visit to any of the several botanical gardens that dot the island offers a glimpse into the ecological diversity that thrives on island life—the 2,000-acre verdant botanical gardens at Waimea Valley also provide access to the swimming hole at the base of 45-foot Waimea Falls.
Find Serenity at the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park
Nestled at the base of craggy Koʻolau Mountains on Oahu's windward coast is perhaps one of Oahu's best hidden gems, the Bydo-In Temple. A replica of a 900-year old Japanese temple, the nonfunctional Buddhist temple was built to celebrate the centenary of the arrival of Hawaii's first Japanese immigrants. Koi ponds, meditation niches, a tea house, and small, cascading waterfalls all make for a very peaceful visit surrounded by nature.
Indulge in a Taste of Hawaii in Haleiwa
No visit to Oahu is complete without checking out the island's thriving food truck scene. While you cannot go wrong with a shrimp scampi plate from the renowned Giovanni's Shrimp Truck, head to the North Shore where you're sure to find several colorful trucks lining the two-lane highway serving up everything from poke bowls and Hawaiian plate lunches to pizza and tacos.
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