Great Sights On A Road Trip Around Oahu Hawaii
On our luxury stay in Waikiki Beach, we enjoyed a great road trip around Oahu in Hawaii. This was the perfect first glimpse at what Oahu had to offer.
Our private tour started before sunrise on the East Coast. We travelled counter-clockwise around the island towards the North Shore with several beautiful stops along the way. And then returned through the valley between the two mountain ranges in Oahu to Waikiki. We added many places to our list for a return visit to Oahu.
Planning A Day Trip Around The Island
When we visited new places, we often booked a car and headed off on a road trip on our own. On this visit to Hawaii in the Fall, we decided to look for a private or small group tour instead on our stay in Waikiki. We did not want to be navigating and searching for parking around Oahu. And we wanted some local expertise.
We checked out several different options for Oahu island tours. The large bus tours were instantly discarded. We found several smaller group tours and some tours that specialized in photography. We saw that an 8 hour day trip had many great stops around Oahu.
When Blue Hawaii Photography Tours had a private tour available for the day we wanted, we booked our tour online. We saw so many great sunsets on our luxury stay in Waikiki. So when we found that sunrise departures were offered we immediately took that option. This road trip around Oahu would give us a good first look at the island.
A First Stop For Sunrise At Makapu’i Beach
Jenny picked us up well before the sun was up and we headed along the Kalanianaole Highway to the East Coast of Oahu. There were several great spots to enjoy the sunrise. Jenny stopped at Makapu’i Beach with a view out to the Makapu’i Lighthouse perched on the edge of the dark cliff. In the dark, we carefully made our way out over the lava rocks and found the perfect spot. We watched the crashing waves and off in the distance we saw Kohikaipu Island.
We settled in and watched the sky slowly light up as the sun rose. Jenny and David set up their cameras on tripods for just the perfect wave and sunrise shots. I was happy wandering around with my iPhone. I won’t tell you which pics were shot on which camera!
Before we left we checked out the crescent beach area at Makapu’i Beach. The currents and surf were often strong at this point. So maybe not a great snorkelling beach. But probably perfect for a return visit to watch people enjoying bodyboarding/bodysurfing here. And the easy hike to Makapu’i Lighthouse was definitely something to plan.
A sunrise stop at Makapu’i Beach was a great way to start our road trip around Oahu.
Wander On The Lava At Lanai Lookout
For our next stop, Jenny backtracked a bit and found a spot in the small parking lot at Lanai Lookout. On a clear day, off in the distance the islands of Lanai, Molokai and even Maui were visible. We saw scuba divers in the parking lot ready to climb over the rocks for what must be a fascinating underwater experience.
Behind us stood the Koko Crater. We saw the ridges down the sides that at one time must have been lava flows now covered with greenery. The hike up the Koko Crater was a challenging route along an old tramway. Certainly one of the popular hikes on Oahu.
We found a vast and fascinating lava field that stretched into the sea. In many places, the pounding waves had polished the rocks and the layers were visible. When we looked closely we even found lava rocks embedded in the surface.
When we carefully climbed down to the water level, we found the waves crashing into a tide pool. There we found coral embedded in the lava.
We got such amazing views to start our road trip around Oahu.
Visit The Valley Of The Temples
After a quick stop for a breakfast sandwich, Jenny headed for the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park at the foot of the Koʻolau Mountains. The gardens honoured many different religious beliefs from Christianity and Buddhism. There was also a Japanese WWII cemetery on the grounds. We wound our way through the grounds and saw grave sites on the hill.
Jenny parked by the Byodo-In Temple. This was a replica of Japan’s 950-year-old Byodo-In located in the city of Uji in Kyoto Prefecture. ‘Byodo’ means ‘equal’ and ‘-in’ means a ‘temple.’ It was erected in 1968 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.
As we parked, we saw the first of five large buses start to arrive. So we ran to get ahead of the crowds. We walked across the bridge and got our first view of the Byodo-In Temple behind a large pond filled with Japanese koi carp.
Several people stopped to ring the massive bon-sho or “sacred bell”. This bell was six feet high with a bottom diameter of 57 inches and it weighed over seven tons. It was believed that the unique tones of the bon-sho cleared the mind of negativity, imparted deep peace and brought happiness, blessings, and long life.
We passed by the bell and went inside the temple. We were alone and got to enjoy the peaceful scene around the massive Amida Buddha statue. The statue was constructed mainly of copper and bronze and finished initially with a 24-carat gold leaf. This Amida Buddha represented the infinite life and light that surrounded all beings. We went back outside and wandered slowly around the temple. And were delighted when we found the black swan.
We escaped the temple as the crowds descended. Jenny drove us up through the gardens up to the Oceanview Terrace. From the top we got our first view out towards the Kualoa Ranch over the graves on the hill.
It was a great stop at the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. We sure wished we saw the original Byodo-In Temple when we visited Kyoto. But we were so glad we saw it in the Valley of the Temples on our road trip around Oahu.
Different Views Of The Kualoa Ranch
We got our first view of the Kualoa Ranch on our stop at the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. As we moved closer, Jenny had a few more stops for other views. The Kualoa Ranch nestled under the Koʻolau Mountains is a 4,000-acre private nature reserve and working cattle ranch. This site became famous when popular TV and movies were filmed there – Jurassic Park, Lost, and Hawaii Five-0.
Jenny found a spot on Kāneʻohe Bay and we looked out over the water. From there we got another distant view of the Kualoa Ranch. And our first view of Molokai (also referred to as the “Chinaman’s Hat Island”).
We moved next to Kualoa Regional Park. And got an even closer look at Mokoli’i. The Koʻolau Mountains loomed above us on this stop. And Jenny even brought her own dinosaur so we could re-create a Jurassic Park scene.
On this road trip around Oahu we did not get closer to the Kualoa Ranch. But there were many fun activities to book there on a return visit.
Sea Views On A Road Trip Around Oahu
As we drove along the coast, we got amazing views from the car. On one side we saw ocean vistas. And on the other side we found different mountain ranges. Whenever we stopped, we were amused when we saw the scattering of wild feral chickens.
Jenny had one more stop for us on the east side of Oahu. She found a parking spot by Laie Point State Wayside Park and we walked out on the lava. In the water we saw the naturally formed arch or “Lizard Rock”. The hole in the arch was punched through in 1946 during a tsunami. The rock punched out sat on the shore with a plaque that explained the story. A local legend suggested the rock represented a giant lizard that once patrolled that section of the ocean.
We wandered up along the rocky shore. And then looked along the bay. The ripples of the mountain range sat above.
We loved the variety of the shore views we got on our road trip around Oahu.
Visit The North Shore
We cruised north from there and went through the beach town of Kahuku. We were running late so we missed the stops at the shrimp trucks we passed. That was definitely something we would return for!
We saw our first surfers when we wandered along Waikiki Beach. But Jenny had a few surfing beaches on the North Shore she wanted to show us. The waves on this side of Oahu were at their peak for surfing in the winter. So we were a bit early to catch the wild waves. But it was a great time for people to practice on the smaller waves.
We stopped at the Haleʻiwa Aliʻi Beach Park and found a large grassy area. Jenny took us to the water to see the infamous sea turtles. We had images in our mind of a beach covered with lounging sea turtles. But all we saw was a large number of turtles in the water with their heads popping up. We saw a few snorkelers at this spot and more surfers enjoying the small waves.
We knew we visited Oahu at the wrong time for wild surf on the North Coast. And one day would return in winter for a surfing treat. We knew there were lots of spots for turtle viewing that we missed on this tour. But we were still glad we got across the island to the North Coast on our road trip around Oahu.
Enjoying The Local Products
We had one final stop on our road trip around Oahu. We have tried coffee around the world and did not want to leave Hawaii without sampling some local coffee. And when we stopped at Waialua Coffee Mill we even got a treat. The coffee and cacao were grown on the Waialua Estate. The coffee plant we visited was located in the Old Sugar Mill Waialua. They even dried and roasted the cacao on-site.
We passed on buying coffee or cacao. We really wanted to try the Hawaiian shave ice. I had the strawberry and still found the natural flavouring too sweet for my tastes. But David had his with dark cacao and coffee flavouring. And that was just the perfect mix for him!
Our trip home took us on the highway that ran through the middle of the island. We went past the Dole Plantation and did not stop for the tours or the Dole Whip that was available. But we did pull over and saw rows and rows of pineapples growing beside the road. We were fascinated when we learned that none of the pineapple farmed was exported out of Hawaii!
It was fun to see some of the local products on our road trip around Oahu.
Much To See On A Road Trip Around Oahu Hawaii
We had a perfect day for a road trip around Oahu. We started early in the day with some great sunrise views. Each stop gave us yet another amazing sea view.
We were glad we visited the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park and enjoyed the Byodo-In Temple without the crowds. Our visit to the North Shore gave us a view of the surfing waves with a stop for some local products.
This was a great first excursion on our fall visit to Hawaii. We found many places to visit on a return trip to Oahu.
Have you done a road trip around Oahu in Hawaii? What other road trip stops did you make?
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