For many travelers to Oahu, the allure of Waikiki’s surf scene is too great to resist. But with so many things to do in Oahu, we’re here to offer an alternate perspective: Read on to discover the top 5 aquatic adventures beyond the south shore, and where to find them.
Boogie boarding on the North Shore
Despite Waikiki’s claim to fame as the birthplace of surfing in Hawaii, the massive waves along Oahu’s North Shore draw surfers from all over the world. Get your feet wet with an introduction to the North Shore led by The Surf Bus, with a chance to boogie board, snorkel, or surf at one of the area’s action-packed beaches. An afternoon stop at Turtle Beach provides an opportunity to spot the elusive green sea turtle—a symbol of good luck.
Looking to grab a quick bite on the North Shore? Try the raved-about Kahuku Suprette for generous poke bowls. Already reached your raw fish quota for the day? Consider SevenBrothers “At the Mill” for a quick and delicious burger or salad.
Snorkeling near Electric Beach
A strange and fortuitous phenomenon occurs at Electric Beach—a nearby power plant funnels warm water into the ocean through an underwater tube, making the waves along the coast several degrees warmer than their surroundings. The result? Countless tropical species assemble in the shallows, which feel like bathwater. Intermediate snorkelers can join Surf You to the Moon on a snorkeling adventure at Electric Beach near Kahe Beach Park to see parrotfish, damselfish, even spinner dolphins.
After your uncommon snorkeling experience, sample another rare delight—New York-style pizza by the sea! Locals swear by the thin-crust slices at the Pizza Corner in Ko Olina, but it’s the garlic knots that take the cake as the best post-snorkeling snack.
Sailing and snorkeling near Turtle Canyon
Of all the things to do in Oahu, a trip to the Turtle Canyon reef cleaning station—where marine creatures flock to be cleaned by smaller animals—is perhaps the greatest departure from the south shore’s humming hotel zone. Join Holokai Catamaran on a sailing and snorkeling outing to the dive site where intriguing species are known to congregate. Your guides direct you to hotspots where you can see octopi, sea urchins, and hopefully honu—green sea turtles.
In Waikiki for a hot second following the tour? Venture off the beaten path to a family-owned ukulele operation at Kamaka Ukelele. Indulge in a guided tour of the hundred-year-old factory and discover how the instruments are shaped from rough koa lumber.
Stand-up paddleboarding in Kane’ohe Bay
Eager to test your mettle on a stand-up paddleboard? Kane’ohe Bay—the main Hawaiian Islands’ largest sheltered body of water—is the perfect place to learn. Join the guides at Holokai Kayaking Adventure on a stand-up paddleboard excursion through the bay. Revitalizing sea breezes keep you cool during a paddle to a horseshoe-shaped barrier reef, where you can snorkel to your heart’s content. Back at the beach, your guides reward you with a finger-licking barbecue lunch.
Need something sweet? Head to The Local Hawaii on Kailua Bay, where refreshing shave ice awaits. Sample flavors like Kona coffee and crack-seed lemon peel, and then stroll along Kailua Beach Park for a rewarding denouement to your day.
Surfing according to the day’s conditions
For aspiring surfers, it can be tempting to head to Waikiki Beach—where gentle waves provide a watery platform for learning. Don’t be fooled—true experts evaluate the day’s forecast and cruise to the beach that promises the best break. Turn to the pros at Keawe Adventures, whose private surf lessons come with a complimentary surf forecast. In the morning, your guide reads the surf report and takes you to Haleiwa, Diamond Head, East Oahu, or the North Shore—delivering the goods at the region that offers the best conditions.
Whether you stick to the south shore or venture further afield, there are a bevy of things to do in Oahu.
Where would you head for an unforgettable aquatic adventure?