Planning the Best Day Ever on Oahu
Businesses are slowly beginning to open and change feels imminent. In the meantime, however, we grow restless under persistent stay-at-home orders. To combat the repetition and isolation, we’ve started to fantasize about the future. When things re-open and we can move about Oahu freely once again, what will we do first? What would be the best day ever?
I asked each family member to plan their version of the best day ever with the caveat that we had to stay on the island and it would just be the four of us to keep it simple. I’m sharing the results with you in case you find yourself with a beautiful day on Oahu to fill.
Best Day Ever Plan 1. Snorkeling Windward Oahu
My best day starts early with a drive to Heeia Pier in Kaneohe. The pier isn’t that fascinating itself, but it’s a great launch point for the Kaneohe sandbar, one of my favorites places on the island. From the pier, the kayak/paddleboard armada will make the journey to the sand bar while scouting for turtles, fish, and rays along the way.
This plan is highly weather dependent. Not so much the sunshine (although that’s a definite plus), but the wind. It’s a long paddle and requires a low wind day for a 9 and 11-year-old to muscle their way across the bay. Plus, snorkeling isn’t much fun on a windy day.
Ideally, the trip will coincide with low tide exposing the sand bar so you can rest on solid ground and bask in the sun in between bouts of paddling and snorkeling. After eating all the snacks it’s time to head back. Don’t worry, traveling in this direction is much easier and you can float to shore along with the current.
The next stop is the Waiahole Poi Factory to pick up a Hawaiian plate lunch. So good, but you can’t dive in just yet. Take your food to go and drive to Kualoa Regional Park at the north end of Kaneohe Bay. Here, you’ll make your way to Secret Island Beach where perfectly spaced palm trees await your hammocks. Enjoy your meal with a view.
If energy remains after dining and lounging, paddle out to Mokolii Island (Chinaman’s Hat) or simply explore the bay until sunset. On the way home pick up poke bowls from Tamura’s.
Best Day Ever Plan 2. Snorkeling North Shore Oahu
My husband and I independently came up with very similar versions of the best day, just at different parts of the island. At first, I wanted him to come up with a different plan for more variety, but I really like his version of the best day too.
His day beings early with excess amounts of coffee before the long drive to the North Shore. Keep in mind that the north shore is a chameleon with massive waves in the winter months and calm, deep blues in the summer. This is definitely a summer plan.
On this day, we arrive early enough to beat the crowds and heat and park at Waimea Bay. The clear blue water and the massive expanse of white sand make it idyllic. With cliffs and a botanical garden hugging the bay you feel isolated and far removed from reality. However, all that sun and sand means it gets brutally hot by mid-morning. Bring a canopy, snorkel gear, cool drinks and a paddle board for an epic beach morning.
After you overheat, over-snorkel, or simply run out of snacks, make the drive along the north shore to Turtle Bay for an early dinner at Roy’s Beach House. Afterward, grab your hammocks and follow the path along the beach away from the hotel in search of a small, protected pool against a tree-lined shore. Give the kids fishing nets and goggles and explore until the sun sets.
Best Day Ever Plan 3. From Mauka to Makai
Mila (age 9) has decidedly more expensive taste. She struggled with the logistics of incorporating all of her activities – eating tasty food, horseback riding, zip-lining, snorkeling, and sunset on the beach – into a single day.
If she was a little older and bigger we would be able to schedule a combination of zip-lining and horseback riding at beautiful Kualoa Ranch. Sadly, she’s a year or two away from the size limits. There wasn’t a good zip-lining alternative so I modified her plan.
Her perfect day starts with breakfast in Kailua at Crepes No Ka ‘Oi. With full bellies, we make the long drive to the north shore for a morning snorkel at Shark’s Cove. Although she wanted to end at the beach for sunset, I made some surprise modifications that I know she will love. If the conditions are calm enough we will snorkel out of the cove and around to nearby three tables. Lunch will be an easy trip across the street to the food trucks.
Afterward, we’ll make the drive to Gunstock Ranch with a quick stop for pie at Ted’s Bakery. At the ranch, we’ll saddle up for a private sunset dinner ride that ends with s’mores around a campfire.
Best Day Ever Plan 4. A Break From the Beach
It was more of a struggle to get Micah (age 11) to participate in the best day ever game. I couldn’t get him to think beyond friends, food, and ice-skating.
His best day starts with breakfast at Over Easy followed by a visit to the Ice Palace – an ice skating rink in Salt Lake. Arrive as it’s opening for fewer crowds and clean ice. His plan is to stay until his feet are raw alternating between skating, playing video games, and noshing on musubi and li hing gummies. Only when he is physically unable to skate any more can we leave the noise and chaos of the ice rink for a late lunch of spicy ramen at Golden Pork.
He ended the day there, but I would add one final activity to his best day. He’s been to the Polynesian Cultural Center with school and talks about it all the time, but he’s never been to Toa Luau in Waimea Valley a smaller more intimate show. His best day should definitely end with fire dancers.
So there you have it. Four opinions on the best day ever on Oahu. Does anything stand out to you?
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