Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The archipelago of volcanic islands is a sight so pristine and gorgeously tropical, that it’s hard to believe it’s even real. The state’s biggest city and biggest tourist draw, Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, is home to Pearl Harbor and Waikiki. This urban area of sprawling skyscrapers, winding freeways, and ritzy shopping malls can sometimes be overwhelming to both locals and tourists alike. If you find yourself needing to get away and enjoy more of the area’s natural beauty, why not take a day to explore the island? Here are some of the best day trips from Honolulu where you can truly experience Hawaii’s aloha spirit.
At one point, Hanauma Bay was being destroyed by overtourism, with around 3 million visitors hitting its sandy shores each year. However, the bay’s ecosystem is vitally important and has now been turned into a nature preserve and marine life sanctuary. Now known as Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve, the cove is filled with coral, over 400 species of fish, including the colorful parrotfish, and even green sea turtles, who lay their eggs in the sand. The bay itself is actually the cone of a volcano that’s partially submerged.
It’s a short drive away from the city, and visitors can lay out on the sand or take snorkeling tours of the reefs. Just remember, as a nature preserve, guests need to keep in mind that they’re in the animal’s home. Have a good time, enjoy the warm waters, and leave nothing but footprints.
Valley of the Temples Memorial Park
Located north of Honolulu, on the other side of the Ko‘olau mountains, the Valley of the Temples is a cemetery and memorial park filled with the graves of people from many religions, including Catholic, Shinto, Buddhist, and more. And because of this, the park is filled with opulent memorials from various cultures, as well as manicured gardens, elegant fountains, ponds, and stunning ocean views. The park’s main highlight is its replica of the 11th century Buddhist Byodo-In temple from Japan.
If you’re looking for peace, beauty, and history, this is the perfect day trip for you.
Volunteering with Kāko‘o ‘ōiwi
The nonprofit Kāko‘o ‘ōiwi can provide an unforgettable day of service on Oahu. If you’re the kind of person who wants to really help out when visiting a new destination, why not sign up for one of the organization’s community workdays? Excursions include sustainable taro farming (the main ingredient in poi), maintaining natural habitat for native species, and agroforestry (planting trees that help feed wildlife and provide nutrients to the soil of farmland). It’s an excellent way to get outdoors, make new friends, and truly give back during your visit.
Waimea, North Shore
Waimea, on Oahu’s famous North Shore, home to big waves and surfing legends, is the perfect way to see Hawaiin culture in action. Waimea Bay Beach Park is a gorgeous beach filled with golden sand, palm trees, and really big waves. There are few experiences as genuinely Hawaiian as watching surfers catch a wave on the North Shore. It’s one of the most famous surfing destinations on the planet, and surfers from all over the globe travel to the North Shore to experience it firsthand.
But if you’re more interested in nature than surfing, the park also goes inland, weaving through a tropical jungle, rocky cliffs, and even a botanical garden, all leading the way to the breathtaking Waimea Falls.
The Makapu’u Park offers a one-mile trail that leads to the historic Makapu’u Lighthouse, which was built in 1909. During the hike, you can view migrating humpback whales breaching in the ocean below. You’ll also be able to see the islands of Moloka’i and Lana’i in the distance. The trail is a stunning way to capture insta-perfect panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, as well as a wonderful coastal breeze. Because Makapu’u Point is the very eastern tip of Oahu, it also makes for an absolutely gorgeous early-morning hike to catch an undisturbed sunrise.