Travel Diaries: Hawaii Pt. 1- 72 Hours in Oahu

One of the great things about traveling in Hawaii is the ability to island hop. Each island has its own personality, and once you’ve bothered to fly all the way to one you’d might as well take the opportunity to check out a few different spots!

We stayed at the Marriot Ko Olina Beach Club, which was easily one of the coolest hotels I’ve ever experienced. Aside from having amazing pools and beautiful views, the hotel is also right on the edge of a series of lagoons that are great for snorkeling! Along the lagoons are little outcroppings of lava rock that have really cool little tide pools on top. We walked out one night and had a lot of fun checking out all the little fish and crabs living there.

If you only have 72 hours in Oahu, there are 3 key things around which I would recommend you plan your days.
1. Pearl Harbor
2. Waimea Valley
3. Diamond Head State Monument

1: Pearl Harbor

If you have any interest in history at all, I strongly recommend spending a day at Pearl Harbor. Get there early and plan to stay for the whole day, because there is a lot to see! If you’re a hard core history buff, you may want to plan for two days here. Spring for the all access Passport to Pearl Harbor pass, which includes a comprehensive audio tour and admission to everything at Pearl Harbor, including the Battleship Missouri and Bowfin Submarine (plus you can bring your ticket back and receive a second day of access for only $10). At most of the sites you visit, there are docents offering free guided tours. These people really know what they are talking about and the tours are excellent.

Wear comfortable shoes, layers and sunscreen as you’ll be doing a lot of walking and it can get pretty toasty in the middle of the day.

2. Waimea Valley

There is no better place to experience the incredible natural beauty of Oahu than the Waimea Valley. This is another place where it is completely worthwhile to take the free tour with the local docents, who have a wealth of knowledge about the indigenous plants and the history of the region.

The valley is accessible via paved pathways that are handicap accessible, so I wouldn’t call this so much of a hike as it is a stroll. However, there are some dirt paths that go off to the sides for those who want to explore a bit more. In the valley you can find an example of a traditional Hawaiian village and, if you’re lucky, even spot a rare endangered bird species called the ’alae ’ula.

The vegetation in this area is absolutely astounding. Plants that I have in my home look completely different when thriving in their natural habitat. Golden Pothos, philodendrons, fiery colored crotons and Monstera Deliciosa with leaves the size of car doors flourished everywhere around us. This is a truly magical place.

3. Diamond Head State Monument

Don’t let the length of this trail fool you- this is not an easy stroll. Much of the trek at Diamond Head consists of stairs inside old military bunkers, and they are quite steep. I would recommend hitting this trail early in the morning, but not early enough for sunrise. This is a pretty popular trail and those who venture out for sunrise or who come later in the morning and likely to find themselves waiting in line to get to the top.

The views from the top are absolutely beautiful, and the hike is short enough that you will easily be finished with it in a couple of hours, even if you spend time wandering around at the top. Reward yourself with a pineapple smoothie or some Dole Whip from the fruit stand in the parking lot, and then leave yourself a leisurely afternoon for some snorkeling or lounging on the beach.

Other notes:

If you are looking for great dining on Oahu, it’s hard to find something better than MonkeyPod Kitchen at Ko Olina. They have a ridiculously great wine list, creative cocktails and incredible food. I had a pizza with rock lobster and mushrooms so delicious I could have cried. Everyone in our group ordered something different, and the response was universally ecstatic.

When you visit Hawaii, be sure to invest in learning about the history and indigenous culture. These beautiful islands are rich in traditions that have been endangered by colonialism and the destruction of Hawaiian sovereignty by the United States. Take the time to look beyond the natural beauty, tropical drinks and enticing beaches. Experience the true roots of Hawaii and respect the sacredness of these islands.

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