So, you’re staying in Waikiki during your Hawaii vacation and you’re looking to get away for a day trip on another part of Oahu. Where should you go?!
Well, if you look to the east of Waikiki, you will find a number of activities that can be worth your while if you like hiking, beaches, snorkeling, and nature! And, if you’ve chosen Hawaii as your vacation destination, there’s a good chance that you like at least one of those things… which means you just may find something you like on East Oahu! 😉 Most are free things to do, but a couple are paid activities.
When you hear reference to windward Oahu, that’s referring to the east side of Oahu. If you hear leeward Oahu, that’s the west side of Oahu.
Here’s the quick list of things to do on the east side of Oahu:
- Koko Head Hike
- Hanauma Bay
- Makapuu Lighthouse Trail
- Makapuu Beach
- Lanikai Pillbox Hike
- Lanikai Beach
- Kailua Beach
- Puu Maelieli Trail
- Byodo-In Temple
This list goes pretty much south to north along the east coast. This is the direction you’d be going when you’re coming from Waikiki to East Oahu following the southern coast.
It would be unreasonable to try to do all of these activities in a single day even if you’re ambitious, but many of these locations have opportunities for scenic overlooks nearby if you’re in the area.
Map of East Oahu
Here is a map of East Oahu to explore! These types of maps are best explored from a computer. But if you are arriving from Pinterest on mobile, first open this page up in your web browser, and then click on the map!
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gifts for travelers under $25 | gifts for hikers under $25 | gifts for runners
what to wear hiking | what to wear snorkeling | what to wear on a cruise aka tropical vacation
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1. Koko Head Hike
This is a popular hiking trail on Oahu among fitness enthusiasts. Even if you’re in good shape, the Koko Head Hike will give you a good workout! It is pretty much a straight climb up a set of stairs to reach the summit. And when you reach the summit, the views will be great! This is a pretty convenient hike to get to from Waikiki by bus.
2. Hanauma Bay
This is one of the most famous snorkeling spots in Oahu. It is 1 of 3 marine life conservation districts on the island which means that it’s a protected area. Hanauma Bay does have an admission fee. This is another place that can be easy to get to by bus from Waikiki.
3. Makapuu Lighthouse Trail
If you’re on Oahu during whale season, the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is a good spot to try and catch a glimpse of a whale if you don’t want to go on a whale watching tour. Whether or not it’s whale season, this paved hiking trail will give you amazing coastal views pretty much the entire time you’re on the path.
4. Makapuu Beach
Many people pass by Makapuu Beach on a circle island driving tour, but not as many people stop to enjoy the beach here. This beach is known to be good for boogie boarding because of the powerful waves. But that also means that being in the water here comes with increased risk, so be careful!
5. Lanikai Pillbox Hike
Lanikai is where you can go to get views of the Mokulua Islands that you may have seen in pictures. The Lanikai Pillbox Hike is a popular hiking trail because of the coastal views you get when you reach the pillboxes at the top. You have the option of making this a shorter hike (the popular option), and you can also make it into a longer hike by hiking the full ridge trail.
6. Lanikai Beach
This beach is famous for its white sand beach, and it’s been named one of the best beaches in the world. You get the view of those famous Mokulua Islands from sea level.
7. Kailua Beach
A trip to this beach also gets you on a white sand beach. Kailua Beach is just down the street from Lanikai Beach, about a 15-20 minute walk. Kailua Beach is a proper beach park which means it has beach facilities and a lifeguard on duty. The town of Kailua is the main town in the area. This is also the area that President Obama and family would stay during their Hawaii vacation.
more: kailua beach by bus
8. Puu Maelieli Trail
This is a less frequented hiking trail by tourists. But the views at the summit of the Puu Maelieli Trail are worth putting this hike on your list of considerations of things to do on the east side of Oahu.
more: puu maelieli trail
9. Byodo-In Temple
This temple is located in the Valley of the Temples with the scenic mountain range backdrop. It’s just across the street from the Puu Maelieli Trail. You can consider a trip to Byodo-In Temple to be somewhat of a nature walk, and it represents a part of the Japanese culture in Hawaii. There is a small fee to enter the temple grounds.
East Oahu to the North Shore
After you’ve gone past Byodo-In Temple coming from Kailua, if you keep going north following the coastal path, you’ll reach the North Shore!
So next, continue on your circle island tour, and find some things to do on the North Shore!
HAPPY EAST OAHU PLANNING!
More things to maybe pack for active travel!- This popular water bottle that'll keep your drinks cold, and it'll keep you hydrated and SAFE!
- OR (since that's heavy and $$$) this travel-friendly water bottle that you can fold up in your bag when it's in transit
- One of these types of chargers so you don't have to worry about your phone dying in the airport or out on the hiking trails
- These types of small backpacks so you can have plenty of snacks with you for energy!
- This phone case so you can waterproof your phone for cheap.
- And these popular packing cubes can help you quickly find everything that you packed away in your suitcase luggage set! ;)
Your footwear is important too!- Walking: These types of hiking sandals. For walking in hot weather, they are more breathable than shoes, while still giving you necessary traction on the trails. Also see these travel sandals.
- Beach: These types of beach shoes. For beach walking and wading in the water, they can prevent cuts from hidden rocks under the sand or when bumping into coral reef.
see more: what to wear hiking - best shoes for hiking - what to wear snorkeling
And for your beachwear + more...!
- anti-glare sunglasses with uv protection
- natural mineral sunscreen without harsh chemicals
- swimwear, swimsuits + cover-ups --
- cheap maxi dresses
- casual summer dresses