There are so many things to do on Oahu, the “Gathering Isle” of Hawaii, that it can be overwhelming to plan an itinerary. Some of the more heavily advertised tourist spots are overrated, but there are some experiences you truly won’t want to miss. Here are three you should fit into your schedule, no matter how long or short your visit to the island is:
- Horseback Riding in the Country
Honolulu is a major city, with the metropolitan area housing well over 900,000 people. But once you take a short ride out of the densely packed urban core, you’ll be amazed at how peaceful and laid-back the island is. At most of the places offering horseback riding on Oahu, the experience you’ll get won’t remotely resemble a mainland-style trail ride. If you plan ahead, you’ll be able to find a spot that caters to your experience level, even if you’re a complete beginner. But if you’re up for a bit more adventure, you can also choose guided rides that allow you to canter across the lush beauty of Oahu’s back country. Note that the local bus system (actually called TheBus) can be somewhat unreliable, so it’s best to book transportation with a tour service if you want to make your scheduled ride on time.
- North Shore Shrimp and Shave Ice
You can take your pick of either guided tours or a more free-form experience of the North Shore, one of the world’s most famed surf spots. You can see the honu, sea turtles, on Turtle Beach — just don’t try to touch them, as they’re endangered — or enjoy the fine, light gold sand at Waimea Bay. The North Shore is also known for its casual but delicious culinary experiences, so you won’t want to miss out there. Pick up some shrimp from one of the several lunch trucks in the area, and satisfy your sweet tooth with a shave ice (if you want to avoid looking like a tourist, make sure you don’t call it “shaved” ice).
- Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Tours
No trip to Oahu is complete without a Pearl Harbor visit, whether or not you have a sustained interest in military history. Even if you generally prefer to just soak in an environment, rather than visit specific attractions, this solemn site offers education tours and quiet contemplation that make a Pearl Harbor visit both inspiring and humbling. The USS Arizona, over which is built the iconic bridge-like memorial, is the final resting place for many of the 1,177 crewmen who lost their lives in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack.
What besides horseback riding, North Shore and Pearl Harbor visits are you considering for your Oahu vacation? Discuss or share your favorite local spots in the comments.