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Honolulu and Oahu Travel Guide

Honolulu and Oahu Sports & Activities

Although much is written about the water surrounding this little rock known as Oahu, there is as much to be said for the rock itself. It's a wonder of nature, thrust from the ocean floor thousands of millennia ago by a volcanic hot spot that is still spitting out islands today. Hawaii is the most remote island chain on Earth, and there are creatures and plants that can be seen here and nowhere else. And there are dozens of ways for you to check them all out.

From snorkeling on the North Shore to kayaking to small islands off Kailua Beach to stand-up paddleboarding in Waikiki—when you're on Oahu, there’s always a reason to get wet. You can swim with native fish in a protected bay, surf waves in an outrigger canoe, take to the skies in a parasail above Diamond Head, or enjoy panoramic views of Waikiki aboard a 45-foot catamaran. Diving into the ocean—whether in a boat, on a board, or with your own finned feet—is a great way to experience Oahu.

From the air you can peer down into nooks and crannies in the mountains—where cars cannot reach and hikers don't dare. Whether flitting here and there amid a helicopter's rush and roar, or sailing by in the silence of a glider's reverie, you glimpse sights that few have experienced. Or, if you would rather, take a step back in time and take off from the waters of Keehi Lagoon in a World War II–era seaplane. Follow the flight path flown by the Japanese Zeros as they attempted to destroy Pearl Harbor and the American spirit.

But, as with any physical activity, heed the warnings. The ocean is unpredictable and unforgiving, and it can be as dangerous as it can be awe-inspiring. But if you respect it, it can offer you the kind of memories that last well after your vacation.

Would you prefer the ground tour, where you and gravity are no longer at odds? Oahu is covered in hiking trails that vary from tropical rain forest to arid desert. Even when in the bustling city of Honolulu, you are but minutes from hidden waterfalls and bamboo forests. Out west you can wander a dusty path that has long since given up its ability to accommodate cars but is perfect for hikers. You can splash in tidal pools, admire sea arches, and gape at caves opened by the rock slides that closed the road. You can camp out for free on many of these treks and beaches.

If somewhat less rugged and less vigorous exploration is more your style, how about letting horses do your dirty work? You can ride them on the beaches and in the valleys, checking out ancient holy sites, movie sets, and brilliant vistas.

Finally, there is the ancient sport of Scotland. Why merely hike into the rain forest when you can slice a 280-yard drive through it and then hunt for your Titleist in the bushy leaves instead? Almost 40 courses cover this tiny expanse, ranging from the target jungle golf of the Royal Hawaiian Golf Club to the pro-style links of Turtle Bay. There is no off-season in the tropics, and no one here knows your real handicap.

Animal Encounters

Pods of dolphins surround the Islands, and spotting them can be as easy as just getting yourself out in the ocean. They are wild animals, of...

Boat Tours and Charters

Being on the water can be the best way to enjoy the Islands. Whether you want to see the fish in action or experience how they taste, there...

Body Boarding and Bodysurfing

Body boarding (or sponging) has long been a popular alternative to surfing for a couple of reasons. First, the start-up cost is much less—a...

Deep-Sea Fishing

Fishing isn’t just a sport in Hawaii, it’s a way of life. A number of charter boats with experienced crews can take you on a sportfishing adventure...

Scuba Diving

Not all of Hawaii’s beauty is above water. What lurks below can be just as magnificent. While snorkeling provides adequate access to this underwater...

Snorkeling

If you can swim, you can snorkel. And you don’t need any formal training, either. Snorkeling is a favorite pastime for both visitors and residents...

Submarine Tours

Atlantis Submarines. This is the underwater adventure for the unadventurous. Not fond of swimming, but want to see what you've been missing...

Surfing

Perhaps no word is more associated with Hawaii than surfing. Every year the best of the best gather on Oahu’s North Shore to compete in their...

Jet Skiing and Waterskiing

Aloha Jet Ski. Skip across the surface of the immense Keehi Lagoon as planes from Honolulu International Airport soar above you. After an...

Kayaking

Kayaking is an easy way to explore the ocean—and Oahu’s natural beauty—without much effort or skill. It offers a vantage point not afforded...

Whale-Watching

December is marked by the arrival of snow in much of America, but in Hawaii it marks the return of the humpback whale. These migrating behemoths...

Windsurfing and Kiteboarding

Those who call windsurfing and kiteboarding cheating because they require no paddling have never tried hanging on to a sail or kite. It will...

Aerial Tours

Taking an aerial tour of the Islands opens up a world of perspective. Look down from the sky at the outline of the USS Arizona where it lies...

Biking

Oahu's coastal roads are flat, well paved, and unfortunately, awash in vehicular traffic. Frankly, biking is no fun in either Waikiki or Honolulu...

Golf

Unlike on the other Hawaiian Islands, the majority of Oahu's golf courses are not associated with hotels and resorts. In fact, of the island...

Hiking

The trails of Oahu cover a full spectrum of environments: desert walks through cactus, slippery paths through bamboo-filled rain forest, and...

Going With a Guide

Hawaii Nature Center. A good choice for families, the center in upper Makiki Valley conducts a number of programs for both adults and children...

Horseback Riding

A great way to see the island is atop a horse, leaving the direction to the pack while you drink in the views of mountains or the ocean. It...

Jogging

In Honolulu, the most popular places to jog are the two parks, Kapiolani and Ala Moana, at either end of Waikiki. In both cases, the loop...

Tennis

While tennis has given way to golf as the biggest resort attraction, and many of the hotel courts have closed, there are still locations in...

Volleyball

With no shortage of sand, beach volleyball is an extremely popular sport on the Islands. Best Spots There are sand-volleyball courts in Waikiki...

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