Kapolei is best known for being home to Ko Olina. When you search for information about what to do in Kapolei you will invariably be driven to Ko Olina. Thanks for stating the obvious Tripadvisor.
The problem, is that Ko Olina is a manufactured paradise. The resort community is planned from head to toe, from palm frond to fallen coconut. The golf courses are so green that you’d swear they were painted, and its lagoons are so perfectly carved into the coast that they are indiscernible from one another. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as many visitors prefer the comforts of a resort experience. But some of you want to escape the trappings of on-site amenities to explore the area without having to venture too far. Is there anything cool to do in Kapolei? Oahu’s “Second City” does indeed have other well-known attractions and hidden gems that are worth checking out. Read ahead to learn more.
5 Things to Do in Kapolei Besides Hanging Out at Ko Olina All Day
Get Wet ‘n’ Wild
It’s hard not to balk at a recommendation to visit a waterpark on an island surrounded by an idyllic ocean. But then again, the ocean doesn’t have a 240-foot raceway that launches riders from over 40-feet high and down slides at speeds of more than 20 feet-per-second. Wet ‘n’ Wild is Kapolei’s biggest local and visitor draw, with over two-dozen thrilling attractions that are installed within nearly 30-acres of lush tropical landscaping. From kiddie pools to “you’ve gotta be kidding” there is something for everyone. The park also stays true to its island roots, offering an evening luau and other Hawaiian dining options in addition to an on-site surf shop. This isn’t your typical mainland water park! Get directions in Kapolei here.
Experience the West Side Beaches
Oahu’s west side beaches in or near Kapolei are different than those found around the rest of the island. They may be a little rough around the edges but that’s part of the appeal to locals and frequent visitors. Begin by checking out Hawaiian Electric Beach Park which is down the railroad tracks from Ko Olina. It boasts some of the best snorkeling on Oahu, with the warmest water and greatest diversity of sea life. Further north away from Kapolei is Nanakuli Beach Park. When the tide and swell conditions allow, Nanakuli Beach reveals a cavernous area where the sea meets the jagged rocks of the coast, known as Mermaid Caves. If you choose to explore beyond Mermaid Caves you will end up getting deeper into Waianae territory. That’s a whole other story.
Coral Crater Adventure Park
By looking at this outdoor adventure park, you’d think that you’re in the thick of the jungle, but it’s located in the heart of Kapolei. It’s actually sandwiched somewhere between the Hawaii office of the Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI) and Kapolei High School, so be on your best behavior. Anecdote aside, Coral Crater Adventure Park features zip lining, rock climbing, an aerial obstacle course, a wall with a 50-foot free fall, and ATV off-road experiences. Coral Crater Adventure Park supports Hawaii Ecotourism Association principles of sustainable tourism, so we’re happy to recommend them as a “thing to do” in Kapolei. Get directions from your hotel or vacation rental.
Surf, West Side Style
We may be an authentic Hawaii travel guide, but we’re also surf adjacent when it comes to our recommendations of things to do. Surfing and Hawaii are synonymous after all. Therefore, we’d be remiss to dismiss mention of one of the best surf shops on Oahu. Kapolei’s Surfboard Factory Hawaii has the largest locally crafted surfboard inventory in the state. For fans of Hawaiian surf culture, a walk through the shop is an adventure in itself. If you’re not in the market for a shiny new board, you can rent one (or take a lesson) from Surf HNL Kapolei. From there you can ride the waves at Kalaeloa Beach Park which is a concealed gem that’s located around the southern corner from Ko Olina. Another surf spot on the Kapolei-Waianae border is found at Electric Beach Park, named Power Plant. Power Plant is a reliable reef break that has waves at nearly any time of the year.
Visit One of the Coolest Art Studios on Oahu
In this list of the best art galleries on Oahu there is one unique studio that has its patrons raving – Gecko’z South Sea Arts. But instead of a traditional gallery, this space is more akin to a Polynesian escape. The home-based studio is located in Makakilo, a suburban neighborhood that is essentially a part of Kapolei. Once you step within you are whisked away into a dim lit South Pacific haven. The walls are lined with rows upon rows of authentic tiki mugs, one-of-a-kind ceramic masterpieces, intricate carvings, and other pieces that defy definition or comparison. The artisan Gecko is renowned around the world for his work in the tiki genre, yet despite his accolades he is a down to earth man that exudes aloha to all he meets. Better yet, if you buy one (or more) of the unique pieces from the South Sea Arts studio you’ll be invited to hang out and enjoy a cocktail (or two) from the collection of rum found behind the in-studio bar (pictured below). Email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your visit, and get directions to Gecko’z South Sea Arts from your hotel or vacation rental.
Do you have any questions about the Kapolei attractions above? Leave a comment below. We reply!