exploring Oahu

In this post, I share some of the things I like about the island of Oahu–apart from the delicious chocolate! You’ll find our chocolate travel discoveries in this post about Hawaiian chocolate.


Sunset Beach is a favourite of surfers in Hawaii.

Oahu is a very easy island to drive. No crazy roads like the memorable “Road to Hana” over on Maui. The highways are remarkably good, traffic manageable, and scenery breath-taking. The island is the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands with a total land area of about 567 square miles.  It’s approximately 44 miles long and 30 miles across at its widest point, so easy to do a day drive away from the crowds of Waikiki or Honolulu.

oahu, hawaii off the beaten path

Most people do come to Oahu for Waikiki Beach, its most popular land mark. Waikiki is situated within the bustling city of Honolulu, the Hawaiian capital. The city and county of Honolulu boast a population of nearly one million residents and 4.5 million tourists each year. That’s a lot of people! But if you want to get away from it all, and see the natural beauty for which Hawaii first became known, head to the island’s North Shore, where waves can reach as high as 40 feet! They weren’t nearly as high as that when we were there on this trip, but I do recall on previous visits where we witnessed surfers enjoying the thrill of riding the big ones.

exploring oahu, hawaii is sure to please your palate

While we were on the North Shore, we dropped into the charming village of Haleiwa and had lunch at the Beet Box Cafe, a cool little hideaway in the back of Celestial Natural Foods (a health food store) that offers an interesting selection of healthy local options for lunch or a light meal. My choice was the “Beet Goes On” salad adorned with fresh steamed beets, walnuts, kale or spinach, and goat cheese or feta. (I’m sure mine had kale and goat cheese, but I see that the website says spinach and feta, so I imagine they use what they have.)


“The Beet Goes On” salad at the Beet Box Cafe.


We also enjoyed a tour of the Waialua Estate as part of our Chocolatour. See the vibrant red pods pictured above. You’ll find more about growing Hawaiian cacao in this post. Very near the Waialua Estate you’ll find the Island-X Hawaii, a locally run store filled with Hawaiian specialties such as Waialua coffee and chocolate, and kukui oil (a natural oil that has been used in Hawaii for centuries to heal and nourish stressed and damaged skin.) I also picked up a CD by a local Hawaiian talent and enjoyed some freshly made shave ice flavoured with locally grown passion fruit (known as lilikoi in Hawaii.) I could definitely go on, but I think you get the idea that Oahu is not just about Waikiki and the urban amenities and density of Honolulu.

Here’s the link to a lovely guide to Hawaii by RV Lifestyle that might help with your planning.

Have you enjoyed time exploring the island of Oahu? Have you tried surfing the waves on the North Shore or snorkelling at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve? Have you tried kukui oil on your skin? Please share your thoughts and experiences here.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

50 Responses

  1. Kim Lucas says:

    Hi Doreen,

    I’ve heard of The Beet Box Cafe in Haleiwa and that their Life Food’s burger is a must try!

    By the way, your post will be of great help to tourists who wish to visit some of Oahu’s not so known destinations during their vacation. Especially the traveling foodies looking for delicious finds, minus the crowd.

    There is indeed more to Oahu than Waikiki and the busting Honolulu metro. I for one prefer to break free from the crowd and instead head to lesser known spots. But of course, it’s still nice to visit the popular attractions. And sometimes, even with the crowd, it’s still worth it. πŸ™‚

  2. What a lovely place. I want go there i wish. Thanks for sharing this great blog.

  3. What a trip, I’m always on the lookout for good islands and places to explore!

  4. Linda says:

    I have been devouring information about the Hawaiian Islands since I was about 16 (think Elvis and Blue Hawaii – I think it was called), so I really enjoyed reading this. So far my dream is not achieved, but from what you write I can see that there are still plenty of reasons to want to go, even at the age I am now!

    • Doreen says:

      Absolutely, Linda! the Hawaiian Islands really do have something for everyone. I always suggest starting with Oahu, as it has the historic sites such as Pearl Harbor and the beautiful North Shore. But each island has its own personality and appeal, so do your research before you book your trip.
      Doreen recently posted…in search of Hawaiian chocolateMy Profile

  5. I haven’t been to Hawaii either, but would love to go one day. Now I “visit” by watching “Hawaii 50” on TV!
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…A Tribute to My Brother, Albert PaladinoMy Profile

    • Doreen says:

      I used to love the old HI ’50 series, Jeannette. Haven’t really tuned into the new series, although I’m sure the scenery is awesome. I used to love watching Magnum PI: watching Tom Selleck would have been good enough, but the scenes of Maui were always there to tempt and entice you. πŸ™‚
      Doreen recently posted…poll #1: separate or combine?My Profile

  6. Agness says:

    To me, this place looks like a very cozy destination to spend one or two days on the beach. I am not a fan of sunbathing, but digging into a local dish would be definitely on my list! πŸ˜€
    Agness recently posted…First 5 Impressions of IndonesiaMy Profile

    • Doreen says:

      Hi Agness and thanks for sharing your thoughts. You don’t have to be a beach bunny to enjoy Hawaii. There is a lot of history on the islands. I never got into that at all on this trip, as I’ve visited Pearl Harbor and other historic sites on previous visits. And the nature is spectacular on all the HI islands. Plus, superb snorkelling, surfing, boogie boarding, hiking for active travellers. So … trust me. I’m sure you’d find a lot (in addition to the delicious food and chocolate) to satisfy your appetite for memorable and inspiring travel. Cheers!
      Doreen recently posted…Write on! The writing process blog hopMy Profile

  7. Cheryl says:

    I have yet to visit Hawaii, but I would love to one day. I look forward to reading about your chocolate discoveries there.
    Cheryl recently posted…Grandmother Diaries UpdateMy Profile

  8. Oahu’s North Coast can be great fun! Loved Haleiwa! Btw I also just followed you on Twitter. Great blog! Looking forward to connect!
    MightyTravels recently posted…Review: American Express Platinum credit card – earn 40,000 points at sign-UpMy Profile

    • Doreen says:

      Hi Torsten: Thx very much for your comment, and for following!

      We are so fortunate to be able to have these travel adventures. I wouldn’t change my life (other than escaping winter forever) for all the tea in China. πŸ™‚
      Doreen recently posted…exploring OahuMy Profile

  9. Catarina says:

    Sounds, and looks, like a wonderful place, Doreen. Have never even been to Hawaii but if I go, I will make sure I visit Oahu.
    Catarina recently posted…Would you like a Golden Ticket at Goldman Sachs?My Profile

  10. I wish I read this post before we visited Haleiwa. We had a decent Mexican lunch there, but that beet salad would have been more my cup of tea. There is also a plethora of traditional Hawaiian shrimp trucks which our menfolk were wanting to try before it started raining during our visit 2 weeks ago. The one thing I would take issue with is your assertion that the traffic is “manageable”. It is manageable on some of the roads in the less populated areas of Oahu, but it is a commuting nightmare anywhere on the way to and from Honolulu. According to one of our taxi drivers, Honolulu has the second worst traffic in the country, surpassed only by Los Angeles.
    Suzanne Fluhr recently posted…β€œIf You Want to Make God Laugh, Tell Him About Your Plans.” Honolulu, Hawaii EditionMy Profile

    • Doreen says:

      Hi Suzanne: I definitely agree with you that the traffic in and around Honolulu can be crazy. I was referring to driving around the island when I said that “Oahu is a very easy island to drive” as this post is about exploring the rest of the island, not the city of Honolulu.

      Yes, we’d thought of stopping at one of those shrimp trucks along the roadways. They sure looked tempting, but that was the day that Suzanne wasn’t feeling too well, so we didn’t want to take any chances with the unknown. The Beet Box Cafe had been recommended to us by a local friend, so we knew it would be good. Cheers, and enjoy the rest of your time in Paradise. πŸ™‚
      Doreen recently posted…Write on! The writing process blog hopMy Profile

  11. Michael says:

    We were in Oahu a few weeks ago and loved exploring the island. While obviously all the action is in Waikiki, the islands beauty is in the surrounding area. The beaches also have a lot less people so that helps!
    Michael recently posted…Great Places to Eat in Waikiki Hawaii #LuxeHawaiiMy Profile

    • Doreen says:

      Hi Michael: Checked out your blog. Your places to dine are all different than the ones we tried while in Waikiki. One thing for sure about Waikiki. You will never go hungry! There are myriad choices of places to eat and drink, and you can even dine on a budget with some pretty fine light meal choices at ABC Stores! We tried some terrific cold shrimp they had there, that provided an affordable delicious meal that we could enjoy on our lanai with some wine. Cheers!
      Doreen recently posted…Write on! The writing process blog hopMy Profile

  12. yum yum yummy .. the Beet goes on – a great play on words and looks so tasty
    Heather – the kiwi travel writer recently posted…Girls guide to rugbyMy Profile

    • Doreen says:

      Right on, Heather! and if you click on the link for the resto, you’ll hear variations of the Sonny & Cher song playing in the background. Nice touch of nostalgia. Thx for stopping by my blog.
      Doreen recently posted…exploring OahuMy Profile

  13. Josie says:

    Hi Doreen,
    I want a “Beet goes on” salad! Love the name especially. Glad you went off the beaten path to find this gem of a place. Ahh, warmth, sunshine, and beach — my winter here in Michigan has been so brutal and your post injected a good bit of summer to my morning. Thanks!
    Josie recently posted…Home Exchange vs. House Sitting: Which is Right for You?My Profile

    • Doreen says:

      Thx for your warm comment, Josie. Yes, our winter in MB has been even worse than yours in Michigan. But hopefully, it’s almost over.

      Re the resto, it was a recommendation from a local friend in Hawaii. That’s always how you find the best places!
      Doreen recently posted…exploring OahuMy Profile

  14. ben says:

    I spent my honeymoon to Hawaii and it was amazing! It was lot of fun, my wife and I really enjoyed our stay there. πŸ™‚ But we haven’t tried visiting the island of Oahu. We will try next time.
    ben recently posted…Havasu Falls – An Uplifting ExperienceMy Profile

  15. Oahu is one of my favorite places! Last July, I went skydiving on the North Shore and spent a lot of time on Kailua Beach — one of the best beaches in the world!

  16. Pat Bodman says:

    Do you remember our road trip to Hana? The lovely jeep that had no gas cap and how lucky we were that someone flagged us as there are no gas stations on the road. We had to stuff it with a rag I think!!! We were so lucky to have ended that trip with the penthouse suite at the Hilton by Diamond Head for our last night which happened to be Valentine’s. Bern and I have done one other trip to Oahu but we do love Maui and would like to go back again soon.

    • Doreen says:

      Pat, you have an amazing memory! Now that you mention those details, I vaguely remember them, but they were not in my memory banks until you revived them.

      Would love to meet you back in Maui. Happy Anniversary for tomorrow!
      Doreen recently posted…exploring OahuMy Profile

  17. I was first in Oahu almost 30 years ago (could still wear a bikini and look OK) and then about a dozen years ago (had burned all of the bikinis and now dress in shrouds) and was amazed at the changes in Oahu. It’s become so populated although I agree that the North Shore is still a bit of a haven. I love the name of The Beet Goes On restaurant! Looking forward to hearing about the chocolate!

    • Doreen says:

      Thanks, Kay. I will indeed get to the chocolate, but wanted to mention a few observations, as it had been SO long since my last visit to the island. Have got to build the climax to the good stuff!
      Doreen recently posted…exploring OahuMy Profile

  18. I think I might like beets ALMOST as much as I like chocolate!

    • Doreen says:

      So funny you should say that, Irene, as Manitoba’s finest chocolatier actually makes a beet truffle that is one of my favourite chocolates. It’s hard to imagine the combination, but it works!
      Doreen recently posted…exploring OahuMy Profile

  19. I’ve never been to Hawaii as it seems a very long flight from Toronto and there are beaches much closer south.:) But I’m intrigued by your report on the out of the way finds you came across on your travels. The kukui natural oil sounds amazing as does the Waialua coffee and chocolate. It seems as though Oahu is much more than just beaches.

  20. Nancie says:

    Okay! Between the views and the salad, I can’t make up my mind why I am drooling on my keyboard! WOW! Enjoy the surf, sand, and food and everything else you find.

  21. Jeri says:

    I’ve had a few students who wrote papers about Oahu. If I was going to go to Hawaii, this would probably be the island I’d pick. The more off the beaten path the better.
    Jeri recently posted…What is the Use of a Book without #Illustrations? by Leora WengerMy Profile

    • Doreen says:

      Thx to Donna, Marilyn, and Jeri for the lastest comments.

      Jeri, I just wanted to clarify with you: Oahu may not be the island to pick for you if you were truly looking for “off the beaten path.” It is without question, the busiest and most populated island. But with that said, it probably offers the biggest contrast of experiences. If you REALLY want solitude, serenity, and away from it all, I think you’d prefer Lanai. I have not been to this island, but hear it is one of the most tranquil of the Hawaiian islands.
      Doreen recently posted…Write on! The writing process blog hopMy Profile

  22. I’ve been to 48 states, but never Hawaii…I need to get in gear!!

  23. Thanks for letting me know about the delights of Oahu off the beaten path. I’ve never been to Oahu, but will want to head to the places you mentioned when I do get there.
    Donna Janke recently posted…Butterfly ExhibitMy Profile

  24. It was a beautiful island though very crowded in some places, as you pointed out with the population statistics. The water is wonderful. The beach is beautiful. Beet Box Cafe was a well-hidden treasure. Memories for a lifetime. πŸ™‚

  25. noel says:

    There’s definitely some good dining options in Oahu including some chocolate diversions that I’m sure you were able to discover and taste, thanks for sharing them Doreen.
    noel recently posted…Airport art in San Francisco,Travel Photo Mondays #37My Profile

  26. Michelle says:

    I’m glad to hear you enjoyed Oahu and that it’s not difficult to drive! I have visited 3 islands in Hawaii and driven on Hana Highway. I was worried that I would be one of those people who would need a helicopter out πŸ™‚

  27. Doreen says:

    Thanks for your comment, Viv. Yes, when we travel for a living, it’s hard to get back to the places you like, as there are always new and exciting places calling your way. I’m glad I finally made it back to Oahu.
    Doreen recently posted…Write on! The writing process blog hopMy Profile

  28. Viv says:

    It has been many moons since we visited Oahu, but the North Shore was one of our favorite parts of the island. Would love to go back soon and will definitely be sure to visit Waialua Estate.
    Viv recently posted…Get Ready For Africa With Getting StampedMy Profile

  29. I’ve been to Hawaii but not to Oahu. Our stays were on Maui. I have always wanted to go to the other islands, but haven’t yet made the effort. That beet salad is making me very hungry. I do love beets and this looks scrumptious. I’ll bet the tour of the Waialua Estate was really cool. I would love to do that some day. πŸ™‚
    Susan Cooper recently posted…Lucky Coin: StoryMy Profile

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