5 Incredible Musts when in Oahu, Hawaii

HawaiiOahu, Hawaii  

I knew I would find an abundance of turquoise in Hawaii. I’ve always imagined Hawaii to be a place where houses would be painted turquoise. I was right. From the beautiful turquoise coloured beaches, to the island’s décor, turquoise can be spotted. It would appear that Hawaii’s colour of choice is turquoise. I couldn’t capture all that is turquoise on Oahu. There is turquoise around every corner, which left a permanent smile on my face.

  • Sleep in Paradise on the East CoastHawaii


During my time in Hawaii, I fell in love with Lanikai Beach on the Eastern shore of Oahu. Although every beach on Oahu has something unique to offer I couldn’t help but love Lanikai a little bit more than the others. Its calm turquoise clear water was the perfect place to swim, snorkel, or to just wade in the warm shallow water. Walking along the powder white sandy beach for sunrise with the Nā Mokulua islands in the background was beyond anything I have seen before. Hiking Pillbox for sunset to see the sun magically disappear behind the mountains was tranquil and enlightening. It is no wonder why I love Lanikai. What made my Lanikai experience even better was staying 30 yards from the most beautiful beach on the island at Lanikai Studios (Kailua Beach Rentals).

With the nearest stores and amenities being a short drive (walk or bike ride) away in Kailua town, Lanikai is the perfect getaway retreat to escape from the hustle and bustle.  With Lanikai Beach being a community beach there are no public restrooms/shower facilities or food vendors on the beach. Be prepared to walk to the next nearest beach: Kailua Beach Park for public facilities. The beach has limited road side parking. With a designated bike path throughout Lanikai, biking to Lanikai Beach makes for an excellent day trip from Kailua. Parking at Kailua Beach Park and walking to Lanikai Beach is always an option, plus the walk to Lanikai is spectacular. Part of what I love about Lanikai Beach is that is no commercial activity on the beach, few tourists, and no public buildings. It’s what keeps Lanikai Beach natural, pristine, and beautiful. During the weekends tourists flee to Lanikai Beach to enjoy its wonder, yet during the week Lanikai Beach is quiet and with few people around. Rather than commuting to Lanikai Beach I opted to stay at the beautiful and modern Lanikai Studios (VRBO).

Lanikai Studios is located right in the quaint and quiet beachside community. Lanikai Studios is on the bus route and is in a central and convenient location to travel to the South shore and North shore. With Lanikai Studios being located across from one of the most stunning beaches on the island there was no other place I wanted to be. The non-smoking Lanikai Studios offer 4 furnished studios with anything and everything you would need. Lanikai Studios is truly a home away from home. The spacious modern open-concept studio was exactly what I was looking for when dreaming of an island life. With the windows and patio doors open the fresh beach air circulated through the studio and there was no need to use the A/C.

The property managers Gary and Mary are fabulous! You couldn’t ask for better hosts. They keep the property and studios immaculate and provide the little ‘extras’ which guests always appreciate when traveling. I was happy to know the studio also offered the following FREE amenities: cable TV, linens & towels, beach chairs, floaties, boogie boards & umbrellas, off-street parking, and secure wireless internet. Upon arrival, Mary spent a significant amount of time showing me around the property, walking me around the community, showing me the beach entrance, and providing me with all the information I needed for my stay in Lanikai. In each studio, Mary provides a binder with all the important information guests would want to know (dining, shopping, area activities, amenities, regional facts, about the property, etc…). Mary goes above and beyond the expected duties of a property manager. I was beyond amazed with the service. I would stay at Lanikai Studios again in a heartbeat.

  • Indulge in a Maita’I on the Southern Coast– Not the drink, the CatamaranMaita'i Catamaran


Hawaii is known for its Maita’i’s, yet my experience with Maita’i was not from a drink, but from an experience with Maita’i Catamaran. I was excited to go sailing and snorkeling in Hawaii with Maita’i Catamaran on their Underwater Adventure Sail. Hawaii is known for its snorkeling and ocean adventures and I didn’t want to miss my chance to fully experience Hawaii by being on and in the water. Maita’i Catamaran’s state of the art twin hulled sea vessel got my hair blowing in the wind and had me relaxing under the late morning sun.  Maita’i means excellence in Tahitian and Maita’i Catamaran exemplifies just that. After a short sail from Waikiki aboard their 44 foot catamaran we arrived at Turtle Canyon, a famous diving spot off the Southern shore of Oahu. For what seemed like hours, I had the opportunity to snorkel at one of best snorkeling destinations on the island. I saw thousands of brightly coloured tropical fish and over a dozen green sea turtles (there were so many I couldn’t keep track of how many I saw). It was incredible watching the turtles surface for a breath, pop their heads out of the water, and descend back to the depths of the turquoise sea. With no worries in the world, the sea turtles swam by me as if I wasn’t there intently watching them from a few feet away. I’ve not previously had the opportunity to observe sea turtles in their natural habitat before Hawaii. I feel blessed to have been able to have so many authentic experiences in Hawaii. Hawaii really is a dream destination where I could accomplish so many of my bucket list items. After the snorkeling portion of the tour was over we set sail aboard the cat while listening to traditional Hawaiian island songs. The catamaran quickly sliced across the water with its turquoise sails up cutting through the trade winds for full speed ahead. At that moment, I couldn’t think of a better place to be than to be right where I was. I love being on the water so I felt right at home. With the warm sun on my shoulders and the cool wind on my face I was in heaven. During the sail, I was able to get an incredible view from the water of Waikiki, Honolulu, Diamond Head, and the glistening turquoise water around me. With a cold refreshing Hawaiian guava juice in my hand you could say that I felt right at home.

  • Swim with Sharks in the NorthNorth Shore Shark Adventures

As some of you may know, I have a huge love for the ocean and a fascination for its creatures. Nothing says marine life experience better than swimming with Galapagos Sharks in Haleiwa, Hawaii with North Shore Shark Adventures. My ultimate dream would be to go in a shark tank in Africa with the Great White Sharks. My shark experience in Hawaii is preparing me for that thrill. North Shore Shark Adventures shark encounter begins at Haleiwa Small Boat Harbor to sail 3 miles from Haleiwa Bay to the deep blue waters off the North coast of Oahu. The anticipation of leaving the boat to enter the cool water to meet the Galapagos Sharks face to face was both thrilling and nerve wrecking.

Once the boat reached its off-shore destination, I immediately saw large dark figures swimming just under the water’s surface around the boat. I was anxious and excited to get into the tank to face the beasts. Although scary, I’ve always been curious about sharks and I was extremely excited to see them up close. The Galapagos Sharks live miles off the North coast of Oahu in the deep waters naturally. The sharks most typically seen on the tour include the Galapagos Shark and the full of attitude Grey Reef Shark (less common but sometimes spotted are the Sandbar Shark and Hammerhead Shark). I was lucky enough (or not so lucky enough) to see a very large barracuda! That scared me more than the sharks because I knew it could fit through the bars of the cage if it wanted to. Luckily, it slowly swam away.

The sharks are habituated in the area where North Shore Shark Adventures does their tour because the sharks are used to the shrimp boats commonly in the area. When the sharks hear the engine of the tour boat they assume it’s the shrimp boat. North Shore Shark Encounters do not ‘bait’ the sharks nor ‘chum’ the water to attract the sharks. The sharks naturally swim curiously around the tour boat thinking it is a common shrimp boat. The fishermen often throw their leftover bait and dead shrimp back into the water before heading back to the harbor.  The sharks were hoping for a snack from the shrimp fishermen when we arrived, but we were only there to observe them in their natural habitat. Many of the smaller sharks are too timid to rise from the depths of the sea to observe the action at the water’s surface.

North Shore Shark Adventures have two boats, Anela and Abunai, which both do multiple tours per day. Knowing that North Shore Shark Adventures do this every day made me feel more confident about knowingly getting into shark infested waters. Once I entered the shark tank and put my head below the surface I immediately saw a dozen or more sharks swimming calmly around the tank. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Was I really up close and personal with a 12 foot shark? As I moved around the tank looking around in every direction I saw the beautiful (yet slightly scary) creatures swimming effortless around me. There is something about sharks that makes them so mysterious and intriguing. I didn’t want to ever leave the tank. I could have stayed there forever observing the misunderstood creatures.

  • Do Sunset SUP on the North Shore

    Rainbow Watersports Adventures

    GoPro on and ready to catch the sunset!


My new favorite water sport is now Stand Up Paddling, otherwise known as SUP! I’m ready to go out and buy my very own stand up board! I’ll be sure to also buy a wetsuit which I will need to wear during the colder months in Canada. I tried SUP for the first time in Haleiwa, Hawaii on the North Shore of Oahu with Rainbow Watersports Adventures during their sunset paddle. With my lesson beginning at Haleiwa Beach Park two hours before sunset, the sea turtles were active all around me as I made my way to one of Oahu’s most beautiful rivers. I could relax throughout my the two hour lesson because it took place on a protected bay and calm stream; I didn’t have to worry about the waves crashing down on me during this experience.

Rainbow Watersports Adventures began in 2008 and is known as the original stand up paddle school on Oahu’s North Shore because the founders, Nate and Heidi Burgoyne, have been long time investors in the sport. Nate authored the first ever published book on stand up paddling: The Stand Up Paddle Book, and is the founder and editor of Stand Up Paddle Surfing Magazine. Heidi is one of the instructors at Rainbow Watersports and has regularly placed in the top 3 in local paddle races. With all of Heidi’s previous experience teaching various water sports she continues to be one of the most positive and passionate instructors out there. Both Nate and Heidi have taught people from all over the world how to stand up paddle. Their enthusiasm for the sport is contagious, that’s probably part of the reason why I was hooked on SUIP from the moment I stood up on the board.

I took my SUP lesson from Jodi who is originally from Maui and she is absolutely incredible! Her love for Hawaii is overflowing from her. Throughout my private lesson we had great conversations, good laughs, and moments when we were both left speechless by the beauty around us. I couldn’t have asked for a better instructor for my first lesson. I knew my life was in good hands when I learned that Jodi is a Certified Personal Trainer, Health & Fitness instructor, and Certified Lifeguard. Her other accomplishments include being a competitive scholar athlete in multiple sports, fitness modeling, appearing on multiple TV shows (including The Oprah Show and Wheel of Fortune), being certified with the Aerobics & Fitness Association of America, and founding her own personal training solutions company. All of the instructors at Rainbow Watersports Adventures are extremely talented.

During my first lesson I learned the basics of SUP: getting on and off the board, standing on the board, paddling (and the various types of paddling), turning, and transporting the board. I paddled 2 miles throughout the first lesson and I could have continued for hours. SUP is an excellent full body workout, yet you can go at your own pace and make it what you want. Included in my lesson were free pictures! Throughout the lesson Jodi took pictures of me paddling (yes, she caught me on camera after I fell off)! Very few companies include free pictures for their guests. I couldn’t have asked for a more positive experience trying SUP for the first time.

  • Swim with Wild Dolphins on the West Coast

    Spinner Dolphins

    Spinner Dolphins with Wild Side Specialty Tours

Wild Side Specialty Tours gave me the experience of a lifetime. With their Best of the West tour I was taken on a three and a half hour journey beyond what I could have ever imagined. The semi-private custom tour leaving the Waianae Small Boat Harbor just after sunrise on the 34 foot powerful Alaka’i provided me an opportunity to see wild dolphins in their natural habitat. Not only to see wild dolphins, but to have an opportunity to swim with the dolphins. The beauty of seeing baby spinner dolphins swim hyperactively alongside their mothers while showing off for the boat is beyond words. I can’t even count how many dolphins I saw. From every direction, I was amazed by the beautiful creatures racing alongside the boat. The dolphins were dancing in the water and doing acrobatics in front of the bow. I can’t truly express the experience I had with Wild Side Specialty Tours because it literally left me speechless.

The view of the Western coast of Oahu from a distance was incredible. With no hotel in sight, all that can be seen are the sacred Hawaiian mountains meeting the ocean’s waters. With the sun glistening on the calm water and the dolphins swimming alongside us, there was no place I would rather be. I was so excited to get in the water to experience what swimming with dolphins should be like–natural, humane, and sustainable. An opportunity to swim with wild dolphins in their natural environment is once in a lifetime. I didn’t know if I would see any dolphins when I left the harbor, yet Wild Side has a 99.9% marine mammal sighting rate. Tori, owner of Wild Side, and facilitator of my tour, easily located where the dolphins were on the calm morning. As a researcher, she is extremely knowledgeable about the ocean, marine life, and especially dolphins. She has an amazing intuition to know where the dolphins are. I am amazed by all that I saw.

Wild Side raises awareness about sustainable marine tours and provides their passengers with an enlightening interactive tour. All tours are in small groups which enhances the experience with the marine life. Wild Side goes above and beyond to accommodate their guests experience in the water. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and provide all the information you need to have a successful swim with the dolphins, including pre-encounter briefings on the boat. Wild Side’s near-shore swim with dolphins provides the longest dolphin time of any dolphin tour in the water… and it’s in their environment. Prior to the tour, Wild Side provided me with multiple electronic information packets to prepare me for my swim (spinner dolphins, what to expect (FAQ’s), how to swim with dolphins, sane and safe for both you and the dolphin). When it was finally time to get into the water I knew what to expect and was ready to become a part of the pod.

Swimming with five wild spinner dolphins off the coast of Waianae in Hawaii was both magical and heavenly. I love being in the sea and I especially love observing the ocean’s marine life. It’s as if I connect with the ocean and its creatures better than I do with people on earth. There is nothing better than being a part of the aquatic world by being welcomed into a pod of wild dolphins–my new best friends. I swam quickly and as “dolphin-like” as possible to keep up with them. I didn’t want the experience to ever end. This is an experience I will have forever.

Visiting Oahu, Hawaii was a dream come true and I can’t believe it has been a year already since I left. I can’t wait to go back. 

14 thoughts on “5 Incredible Musts when in Oahu, Hawaii

  1. What a dream. Hawaii is on my bucket list for a while. I still did not take action since it is a pretty long journey. And I always get stuck in California 😉 But I really want to go there. Nature must be incredible!

  2. Swimming with the sharks off the north shore was one of the best experiences of my life! We were lucky enough to see Tiger sharks the day we went. They were so beautiful and graceful swimming up to the cage. Such great memories! I too would love to see a great white one day! Great post 🙂

  3. Pingback: Countries Visited | Turquoise Compass

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