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Top things to do in O’ahu

Top things to do in O’ahu

O’ahu, the third largest of the eight Hawaiian islands, boasts pristine and palm-lined beaches that make for a blissful place to unwind but it’s also a place full of activities as Rachel Grunwell discovers.

Top things to do in O’ahu

Travel and fitness writer Rachel Grunwell visits O’ahu, Hawaii for the first time and shares her top recommendations for what to do when you’re there.

1. Get a surf lesson from an expert on how to harness those waves. It’s such a buzz! There’s nothing like moving on water while looking out to those beaches, palms and tall glistening buildings. If I can do it, others likely can!

I joined a group lesson with instructor Errol Kane at Waikiki Beach Activities and we practised surfing techniques on the beach before getting into the water. Tips included where to stand on the board, how to go from tummy position to standing and where to plant your feet correctly when riding a wave.


I learned tricks too like how to go faster (lean forwards) and how to head in the direction you want to go without falling into the drink. It’s a safe place to learn as the waters are shallow for quite a stretch. It’s a great spot too for lots of waves to catch. Everyone in our group successfully surfed – a testament to the great lesson. I had so much fun I surfed again the next day.


2. Taste traditional Hawaiian food at Hula Grill Waikiki at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, which overlooks Waikiki Beach. Their ‘Aloha Friday Lunch Luau Hawaiian Plate’ has traditional Hawaiian luau (Hawaiian party or feast) foods including lau lau (pork and fish in taro leaf), poi (cooked taro dish), kalua pig (pork cooked underground), poke (delicious raw fish) and pipikaula (similar to beef jerkey). There’s also a dessert with purple Hawaiian sweet potato in a middle layer. Meanwhile, I stayed at this resort where this restaurant is based and I can recommend its facilities, beach location (close to surf lessons too at the Faith Surf School). It’s also on the doorstep of great shopping and the spa on the penthouse floor, Infinity Massage, has a stunning sea vista. I had the intuitive massage here where a skilled masseuse rubbed my body while guiding my breathe which was extra effective for relaxation and muscle therapy.

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3. Free fireworks are at The Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort every Friday night (you don’t have to be a hotel guest – anyone can watch from the beach).

Fireworks over Waikiki

4. Experience the fresh and flavour-full dishes (and buy some Hawaiian treats and teas to take home) from Chai’s Waikiki Cafe and Market. Ask for one of Chef Chai’s local and famous dishes; you won’t be disappointed. I’d recommend trying Frankie’s Nursery Honey Cream Pineapple – it’s small, sweet and has little acid content and so “it won’t cut your tongue” (that’s what Chef Chai promised me and the taste he delivered). Apparently one of these pineapples sells for $60 each in Japan. I took home his ‘Signature Pikake Blooming Tea’. You put one of the balls in a cup of hot water and it opens up slowly and reveals a flower. As you drink the tea its flavour also unravels. It’s bloomin’ good!

5. Hop on one of the Pedal Bike Tours. You get out in the fresh air and get to discover hidden spots (like Magic Island, which is adjacent to Ala Moana Beach Park where our group stopped their bikes for a break). A guide explained the historic landmarks and local history on this tour. The tours give you a broader view of this place rather than just seeing the tourist hot spots i.e. we got to peak into local gardens along the way.


6.Head to Kualoa Ranch. On horse-back, you get amongst jagged and rocky high mountain peaks and into beautiful lush-green bush scenery. Lots of Hollywood blockbusters and TV series have been filmed here. I felt like I was in the TV series Lost here – where some of this series was filmed.


7. If you’re after luxury then seek out The Kahala Hotel and Resort, which attracts top celebrities like Kim Kardashian to American TV host Ryan Seacrest and even the American president himself, Barack Obama. The place is decadent with its furnishings and chandeliers. It has breath-taking views of the Pacific Ocean and boasts dolphin shows at this hidden and private place (yet it’s only ten minutes drive from the world-class shopping of Waikiki). The spa treatments here focus on beauty on the inside and out, from meditation to facials.


The restaurant Hoku’s has food that looks like art – and tastes divine. I savoured the most heavenly feast here full of Hawaiian, Asian and European flavours. I’ll never forget that giant seafood offering – the freshest I’ve ever had. It’s easy to see why the stars swarm here.

Tuna for web

8. Hear the call of the wild on a boat trip with Wild Side Specialty Tours. A biologist is on-board who pointed out lots of whales (and their young) and giant turtles. She put a device under water and I could also hear the whale calls: Incredible. Another highlight too was snorkelling among brightly-coloured fish and beautiful coral. It was blissful on the boat too under the sun.

Wild Side5

9. Get your Groove on with a DJ and under 40,000 lights at The Modern Honolulu’s nightclub ADDICTION. Make sure you dress sexy here; Everyone else does and that’s refreshing.

Air New Zealand flies direct to Honolulu Airport (about an 8-hour-flight that doesn’t mess with your body clock). Watch three movies and your’e pretty much there.

For more activity ideas in O’ahu

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