Top Recommended Layover Activities:
1. Kailua Beach
Kailua Rd and S Kalaheo Ave, Kailua, HI 96734 · 808-923-1811
Set along Oahu's windward (east) coast, this beautiful beach is ideal for swimming and for windsurfing. It affords amazing views of the area and isn't as crowded as some other island beaches. A stream bisects the park and adds another dimension to aquatic activities. Lifeguards watch over the beach, and you'll also find picnic areas, a volleyball court, restrooms and showers, food services, a bike path, and equipment rentals.
2. Lanikai Beach
Eastern coast of Oahu, Kailua, HI
Set on Oahu's windward coast, this gorgeous beach offers incredible waters and the picturesque presence of two small, offshore islands. About a mile long, the beach varies in width, although its entire stretch provides soft sands and beautiful vistas out towards the ocean and of the Koolau Range. Along with swimming and snorkeling, kayaking and windsurfing are popular pastimes. The beach is protected by an offshore reef, making the waters calm on this quiet stretch of coastline.
3. Battleship Missouri Memorial
11 Arizona Memorial Rd, Honolulu, HI 96818 · 808-973-2494
In commission from 1944 until 1998, this imposing battleship, nicknamed "Mighty Mo," saw her share of protection and peacekeeping missions. Today, not far from the USS Arizona memorial, she rests in retirement and invites visitors to browse her decks. To reach her mooring point off Ford Island, guests must first purchase tickets at the USS Bowfin Submarine and Museum site.
4. Waimea Bay Beach Park
61-031 Kamehameha Hwy, 5 miles northeast of Haleiwa, Haleiwa, HI 96712
Deceptively beautiful, this scenic cove - home to some of the planet's most unforgiving surf - can mean death to naive swimmers. That is, in winter, anyway, when the waves churn up and some of surfing's best talents take to the sea to prove their mettle. In this season, rip currents are strong, and waves can rise to thirty feet. Summer brings calmer waters, however, and even mere mortals can enjoy the beauty of Waimea. Then, they're under the protection of lifeguards and can take advantage of picnic areas, restrooms, and showers.
5. Sea Life Park
41-202 Kalanianaole, Waimanalo, HI 96795 · 808-259-7933
Fun for everyone and ideal for children, this marine park lets you get up-close with all sorts of creatures who live in, or depend on, the sea for their well-being. Dolphins and killer whales regale audiences with their antics, and penguins clown around with each other. You can also watch trainers feed fish and interact with the animals. A number of different arenas and programs are sure to provide hours of delight, and you'll also discover children's play areas, souvenir shops, restaurants, and facilities to treat injured creatures. Fifteen miles east of Waikiki.
Top Weekend Getaways And Day Trip Excursions:
1. Diamond Head
off Diamond Head Rd, east of Waikiki, Honolulu, HI
Widely recognized as the symbol of Hawaii, this extinct volcano crater was known to ancients as Leahi, which means "brow of the tuna" and referred to its appearance from the west. Its more familiar name came from 19th century British sailors, who mistook crystals in the soil for diamonds. Through the years, its crest was the site of altars and military installations, and today, folks often hike up the crater for awe-inspiring views of Oahu. The hike is manageable for most, although you might want to bring along a flashlight since some portions of the journey run through darkened passages.
2. Sunset Beach
59-104 Kamehameha Hwy, Sunset Beach, HI
This North Shore beach is a favorite with folks who follow the surfing circuit. During the summer, its two miles of white-sand shores are relatively safe, and you'll find swimmers and snorkelers frolicking among milder waves. Come winter, though, the surf runs high, and rip currents can be deadly. At this point, it's best to leave the imposing waves to experts and simply watch experienced folks tackle the ocean from a safe perch on the beach.
3. Dole Plantation and Pineapple Garden Maze
64-1550 Kamehameha Hwy, Wahiawa, HI 96786 · 808-621-8408
Documenting the history and production of pineapples in the Hawaiian islands, this plantation educates visitors via displays and presentations. The facility also offers guests the chance to navigate the Pineapple Garden Maze (recognized as the world's largest in 2001), which spreads across two acres and is created with thousands of native plants. Terrific souvenirs, including a host of pineapple products (and even fresh pineapples!) can be purchased as well. About a 40-minute drive from Waikiki.
4. USS Arizona Memorial
1 Arizona Memorial Pl, Honolulu, HI 96818 · 808-422-2771
Commemorating the service men who laid down their lives during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, this memorial is a sobering experience for visitors. Prefaced by onshore exhibits and a video remembrance of the attack, tours also include a ride to the sunken battleship in the harbor, where 1177 men still lie entombed in the ship's remains. In the visitors' center, a gift shop and food services are available. Visitors are advised to arrive early in order to be assured of tickets.
5. Waimea Falls and Waimea Adventure Parks
59-864 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712 · 808-955-8276
The beauty of the Waimea Valley serves as the backdrop for the activities these parks host. A throwback to ancient days, the events include cliff-diving from one of Oahu's most spectacular waterfalls, hula and language lessons, craft and weapons demonstrations, and shows of warriors' skills. You'll also find a playground, botanical gardens, and an old Hawaiian house, complete with artifacts and narration. If you crave more activity, rent horses, mountain bikes, kayaks, or ATVs, and explore on your own. Food is available. Located on 1800 acres on Oahu's North Shore.