By definition, a day trip is an excursion that begins by leaving one’s accommodation in the morning to spend a full day immersed in another destination before returning at night. Upon return participators should feel content, if not triumphant, and perhaps a little exhausted. So when we see travel guides suggest the likes of Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Pearl Harbor, or even a luau on their lists of the “Best Day Trips on Oahu” we can’t help but chuckle. We even saw one suggest a submarine scooter adventure. Don’t ask. While these may be fine activities and attractions (submarine scooters aside) a day trip (from Waikiki) they do not make. If you have to purchase a ticket, it doesn’t count. As an alternative, we’re going to send you on an authentic adventure. The rules? No tickets and no itinerary. Just get up early and go have fun.
Top 5 Adventurous Day Trips on Oahu to Take from Waikiki Beach
1. Spend the Day on the North Shore of Oahu
This is one obvious day trip from Waikiki that we can’t ignore. However, how you spend your day on the North Shore is very important to the level of satisfaction that you’ll feel by the time the sun sets on the seven mile miracle. For this reason, we have created detailed guides for different people. Choose the one that best suits your party:
- How to Spend a Day on the North Shore if You Have a Car
- How to Spend a Day on the North Shore if You Don’t Have a Rental Car
- How to Spend a Day on the North Shore if You’re a Surfer
2. Explore Waimanalo
We’ve chosen this painting from within Waimanalo’s Kalapawai Market as the featured image because we feel it best captures the essence of the community. That said, the miles of white sand stretching from Waimanalo Bay Beach Park and Waimanalo Beach is the biggest draw. It’s easy to spend a half-dozen hours along the shore without getting restless. Due to its size it rarely gets crowded which makes it perfect for individuals, couples, and families who enjoy their own company. Waimanalo Beach Park is also one of the top five beachcombing spots on Oahu. Lastly, the beach’s proximity to eateries such as Ono Steaks and Shrimp Shack and the above-mentioned Kalapawai Market allows you to refuel as needed before getting back to your sandbox.
3. Kayak to Moku Nui Island
This one is for the especially adventurous. Moku Nui island is one-half of the duo that make up the Mokulua Islands. It’s a mystery unrealized by most beachgoers who frequent Kailua and Lanikai, but since you’re up for a proper day trip you won’t be one of them. Instead, you’ll grab a kayak from nearby Kailua Beach Adventures and paddle your way to an experience you’ll never foget. In addition to a shoulder-churning calorie-burning workout you’ll discover a tide pools you can bathe in and a hidden cliff jumping spot on the far side of the islet. Read our Editor’s article on Kayaking to Moku Nui and this detailed guide for everything you need to know about what to do, see, and expect from this incredible day trip.
4. Hike Ka’ena Point Trail
Ka’ena Point is a relatively flat hike, but its remoteness makes it feel more adventurous than all others on Oahu, Haiku Stairway to Heaven excluded. Unless you’re coming from the resort community of Ko Olina, it will take you about an hour to get to the trailhead. Between the travel time to get to Ka’ena Point, and the time it takes to complete the trek around its arrowhead shaped shoreline, it makes for a day trip indeed. Along the lava rock encrusted trail you will find basking sea turtles and monk seals. If you arrive in the late winter and early spring the point offers one of the best and nearest views for watching humpback whales spout and breach. Here is everything you need to know about the best coastal hike on Oahu.
5. Kualoa Regional Park
Kualoa Regional Park in Kaneohe may be best known for its proximity (across the road) to one of Oahu’s biggest tourist draws – Kualoa Ranch. While the Ranch is the best place to see Hollywood film locations, we promised that we’d leave ticket sales and long lines out of this list of the best day trips. So why visit Kualoa beyond the allure of Jurassic Park and 50 First Dates anecdotes? An island named Mokoli’i, more crudely known “Chinaman’s Hat”, is located across the reef from Kualoa Regional Park’s narrow beach. Unlike Moku Nui island (above) you don’t need a kayak to get to Mokoli’i. On a calm day when the tide is low you can slip on a pair of reef shoes and walk most of the way. During high-tide confident swimmers are able to make the crossing in 20-minutes. Most people bring a small kick-board or boogie-board for added confidence. The latter is a good idea when the current gets frisky. Once on shore there is lots to explore for such a small islet. You can hike to the top for an incredible view of Kualoa Ranch. After soaking up the vista, climb down to relax in a small cove which is located on the outward facing side of the island. It is not uncommon to be the only person on the island, but on a sunny weekend there may be others there with you. That said, it’s never crowded. View our guide to getting to and exploring Mokoli’i.
To get more out of your day once you’ve returned from Mokoli’i, consider having a picnic at Kualoa Regional Park. Alternatively you can walk across the highway to Kualoa Ranch and grab a bite at the on-site eatery. You don’t need to book a tour to dine at the Ranch. You can also spend a good hour in the expansive gift shop, picking up island-style snacks and souvenirs to commemorate your day trip. To conclude the affair, take your time driving back along Kamehameha Highway as Kaneohe has a lot of cool roadside things to see.
Do you have any additional questions about the above day trips from Waikiki? Leave a comment below and we’ll get right back to you!