There’s more to life on O’ahu
From haute cuisine to surf lessons, discover this legendary island
Had your fill of poolside Piña Coladas and Mai Tais? The island of O’ahu is bursting with nightlife, shopping and dining options to fit every taste. Waikiki’s energy is akin to New York City’s non-stop action. Expect to find international boutiques like Louis Vuitton, Coach, and Gucci. Spend your days on exhilarating excursions and your evenings at some of the finest restaurants in the country.
In the heart of it all, you’ll find the flashy Waikiki Parc Hotel. Just steps from the beach and moments from shops and bars, the boutique hotel echoes the island’s vibrancy.
If you crave seclusion, the Kahala Hotel and Resort exudes its rich history. Overlooking both Diamond Head and Koko Head craters, the Kahala was a favorite of Conrad Hilton when it opened in 1964. The secluded sandy beaches and spacious rooms are still popular with the Hollywood set. Photos of Frank Sinatra, John Wayne and many more adorn the walls. When H Texas visited, James Gandolfini from “The Sopranos” and Deborah Lin said “I Do,” in town and celebrated on the property.
Dolphin encounters have become the rage in tropical destinations. The Kahala is home to an on-site dolphin experience. Kids can be trainers for a day, or the entire family can enjoy a family swim.
For more adventure, check out dolphins in their natural habitat. Wild Side Specialty Tours has a staff of marine biologists and offers snorkeling off of West O’ahu. Each day, wild dolphin pods are tracked in shallow resting areas. When the boat gets close to a pod, participants dive in and swim as fast as possible. Even when resting, wild dolphins out-swim humans, so the actual swim only lasts a few minutes. An encounter is never guaranteed, as these are wild animals, not Flipper. On the day we visited, we swam alongside the gorgeous dolphins for over ten minutes.
Kayaking in O’ahu is not for the faint of heart. It involves dragging your kayak across thick sand, entering wavy water, and paddling against the current. As you explore the waters of Kailua Bay, your guide explains how the islands were formed and are still shifting today. Watch out for sea turtles as you fight the current.
Surfers are drawn to Oahu’s North Shore in search of Hawaii’s monster waves. Outside cool cafés and funky swimwear shops, you hear locals discussing the next surge. Hans Hedemann Surf has an office in the Waikikki Parc Hotel. This is where you meet your instructor for quick land lessons. It’s a simple four-step process: arms (push-up), knees (under your chest), front foot (forward) and back foot (underneath your body). Then, stand up. That’s it. There is no better way to learn than to head out and catch a wave. As you paddle, the board is leashed to your ankle. Just getting out is a chore and often requires your instructor’s help. Instructors read the waves, tell you when to go, and push you to surf. After that, it’s up to you to follow the four basic steps. As visions of Cameron Diaz float through your head, it’s a struggle to stand without falling over.
For a unique perspective of the island, check out Segway of Hawai’i. A quick lesson helps you get your “segway legs” as you learn to maneuver the quirky little machines. Cover a lot of ground, see the sights, and make it all the way to the entrance of Diamond Head.
Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, the world’s leader in innovative Japanese cuisine, is now in O’ahu. The dazzling new 7,500 square-foot Nobu Waikiki features a full service sushi bar and private dining area for special events.
Duke’s Waikiki, named in honor of surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku, is well-known for its beach side location and hula pie—macadamia nut ice cream, whipped cream, and fudge atop a chocolate cookie crust.
If you’re looking for a cultural experience, take a tour with Denise Moreland of TourTalk. Her insightful CD-Rom and customized tours explore the spiritual side of O’ahu. The land is magical and Moreland leads you to locations with histories of healing. Find your inner peace at the Makapu’u healing pools, a sacred area used by generations seeking peace and prosperity.
The Kahala Hotel and Resort
Waikiki Parc Hotel
Wild Side Specialty Tours
Segway of Hawai’i, located in the Hilton Hawaiian Village
Storefront, Kayak Photos courtesy Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson; sea turtle photo: laurette veres