The island of Oahu in the State of Hawaii draws millions of vacationers from far and wide because of its diverse cultures, verdant landscapes and thriving capital city of Honolulu. But some of the greatest aspects of Oahu can be found right off the main highways. If you plan to spend a full day on a road trip on Oahu, we recommend driving east from Honolulu to the North Shore heading and along Kalaniana’ole Highway and then north on Kamehameha Highway where there a number of fabulous roadside attractions and pit stops you will not want to miss.
East Oahu: Driving on Kalaniana’ole Highway towards the east side of Oahu offers a number of great roadside stops. You can stop by Haunama Bay, a secluded but highly popular marine sanctuary to view a wide range of undisturbed ocean life. The swimming and snorkeling here are suitable for people of all ages and skill levels. Past Haunama Bay is the Halona Blowhole where you can see sea water gushing out of an ancient lava tube like a geyser. Past the blowhole is Sandy Beach, one of the best places on the island for bodysurfing. But don’t try bodysurfing here if you are a novice as it can be extremely dangerous. If you are less of a swimmer and more of a hiker, go for an early morning hike at the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse for breathtaking views of neighboring Rabbit Island and Black Rock islet. Here on a clear day, you might also catch a glimpse of Molokai and sometimes whales during their migratory season.
Waimanalo: Heading along the Kalaniana’ole Highway immediately past Makapu’u Point is town of Waimanalo. Here you can find the popular marine wildlife park, Sea Life Park, where you can see seals, ocean birds, dolphins and native Hawaii reef fish on display. Waimanalo also has a highly rated beach at Bellows Field Beach Park along with some great places to for a snack or something to eat, like a fresh smoothie or some delicious fish tacos.
Kaneohe: In the town of Kaneohe are the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens and Byodo-In Temple. The picturesque Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens showcases a wide range of tropical plants from throughout the world. The Byodo-In Temple is a scaled down re-creation of a world famous temple in Japan that has also served as the backdrop for a number of television series in Hawaii like Hawaii Five-O and Lost. For a fresh look at Oahu’s natural scenery, stop at these lush green places and fill your lungs with their refreshing cool, clean air.
Kualoa: Past the town of Kaneohe on Kamehameha Highway is Kualoa Regional Park and Kualoa Ranch. Kualoa Regional Park is a great place to lie on the beach, soak in the sun and then go for a short swim. Across the beach is one of Windward Oahu’s most prominent landmarks, the islet of Mokoliʻi, popularly known as Chinaman’s Hat because its shape resembles one. Across Kualoa Regional Park is Kualoa Ranch, a private ranch and nature preserve, which offers horseback riding, ATV excursions and features areas where movies such as Jurassic World, Godzilla, You Me & Dupree, 50 First Dates and many others were filmed.
Laie: Although this would not so much of a roadside stop, but more of an experience that could take all day, we would be remiss in not mentioning, in any journey on this part of Kamehameha Highway, the world renowned Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie. The center showcases the rich cultures, foods and heritage of Polynesia, including places like Hawaii, Samoa, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Fiji, Tahiti and Tonga.
Kahuku: Nothing says casual roadside stop in Hawaii like visiting an old sugar plantation town, as would be in the case in historic Kahuku. The sugar plantation days are long gone and the town is now better known for its locally grown shrimp. So it’s no surprise that there is a long line of food trucks that serve this great tasting, fresh and locally sourced crustacean. Because they are so fresh, you won’t have to substitute quality for convenience in food truck establishments like Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp, Giovanni’s Aloha Shrimp, Romy’s Kahuku Prawns and Shrimp and more. All serve up scrumptious portions of buttery, garlic-infused shrimp caught fresh daily. Here you’ll be licking your lips and asking for more.
North Shore: The North Shore includes famous surf spots such as Sunset Beach, the Banzai Pipeline and Chun’s Reef where huge waves can be seen during the winter season. But on other days, particularly when the surf is not up, you can also see an occasional honu or green sea turtle snoozing on the beach. If you really want a good glimpse of these creatures, stop off at Laniakea Beach, which is called “turtle beach” by many because of its abundance of honu. Be respectful of these creatures and keep a fair distance as it is illegal to touch or come close to these turtles. If you still have time, you can visit Waimea Valley, located directly across beautiful Waimea Bay, which is a botanical garden and Hawaiian heritage park that features a beautiful waterfall. Before you hit the road again, stop in for a treat at Ted’s Bakery near Sunset Beach and make sure you don’t leave the North Shore without visiting Matsumoto’s ever-in-demand shave ice flavors.