Secret places and activities to explore in Oahu now
For such a populated island, it would be hard to think there are only some local or secret places that haven’t been visited by tourists exploring the island. But there are a few places outside of the tourist map that are fun to explore and mostly visited by locals or insiders in the know on the island. Whether or not they are really secret or just under the radar is up to you to discover if you’ve heard or visited any of these places on Oahu before, they are all worth visiting if you happen to be in the same area.
Located on the east side of the island close to Hanauma bay is an area of rugged and layers of Lava rock that butt up directly into the ocean. Known also as Koko Kai Mini Beach Park, there are no sandy beaches but these rugged cliffs and a popular local spot to jump off the rocks and also go snorkeling. There are different levels or ledges to jump off from and you’ll see all different age groups come and jump into the ocean. China Walls is also a great spot to enjoy a beautiful sunset experience if you’re not into doing any jumping fun along the cliff areas.
Tip – only try this at low tide when the water is calm, if the waves are strong, then people can easily get pushed into the rocks and making it very dangerous.
Uncle’s Fish Market
Located in the industrial neighborhood close to the Honolulu Fish Auction, you’ll find the best and fresh local fish of ahi, Mahimahi, Op and other local seafoods served simple and fresh from the boat.
1135 N. Nimitz Hwy., Honolulu; www.unclesfishmarket.com.
Located on the east side of the island under the shadow of Koko Head, Lanai Lookout is surreal with undulating lava and sand formations in colorful patterns. You’ll find beautiful landscape filled with swirls, textures and patterns ranging from vibrant orange sandstone, black lava and some white highlights. It is a fascinating place to explore and photograph and even watch some marine life and migrating whales that pass through the area in season.
On a clear day you can see the neighbor islands of Lanai, Molokai and even Maui in the distance with Mt. Haleakala in the background.
7949-7967 Kalanianaole Hwy. Honolulu, small parking lot area
Located on the east side of the island with a trail leading up to the falls and is about 2.8 miles roundtrip with just a slight incline. The trail is easy to follow and you have to cross the river at different points and can be very muddy and slippery on wet days. The falls are small but you can swim around the base and some people do jump from the rock cliffs next to the waterfall and into the pond.
Tip – Do not attempt to jump off the rocks especially on rainy days when the currents are strong and dangerous in the water area.
Isolated sunset experience on the west side end
Ka’ena Point Natural Area reserve is rugged, wild and lonely, but perfect for those looking for solitude and no crowds. Any time is great to visit but late afternoon into sunset is a great time to enjoy the area, tidepool exploration and watching the sunset from the area.
End of Highway 930, Makua; dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp/.
A small but not crowded farmers market at Kaka’ako
Located at the parking deck of the Ala Moana mall on Saturday, the vendors work the major markets but also are present here including Ma’o Organic Farms and Naked Cow Dairy along with other local food and freshly grown produce
1050 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu;.facebook.com/kakaakofarmersmarket.
Located on the north side of the island on the edge of the Turtle Bay resort, Kawela Bay is a lovely and secluded bay with a reef that prevents any strong waves to hit the sandy shores. The area is quiet and protected from development with huge forested banyan trees the gives the place a mystical and almost creepy vibe. But the waters are calm and great for swimming, kayak or Sup boarding or just have a nice and easy picnic watching a natural place of beauty without the crowds.
Harold Lyon Arboretum
If you love tropical gardens, Oahu has many gems but Lyon Arboretum is really off the beaten path with 12 organized gardens to explore the vast tropical gardens and flora of the area with over 7 miles of garden area and several walking trails. You can also hike to Aihualama Falls which is not as well-known as some of the other iconic waterfalls but just as sweet and without all the crowds finding the best Instagram able spots around the island. You can also visit Manoa Falls nearby and hike the trail to this popular waterfall, a close drive from Honolulu.
3860 Manoa Rd, Honolulu, HI 96822
A true gem, but not so hidden but still special is a visit to Shangri – La the exclusive home of Doris Duke, a wealthy socialite and philanthropist who created this Islamic wonderland on the coastline and collected middle eastern treasures, artwork and architectural details to make this unusual and one-of-a-kind home filled with sculpture, art and collections from Morocco, Iran, and Central Asia. Named after one of the fabled lost paradise, Shangri La exists on this fabled coastline in East Hawaii and worth a visit.
Check out the details to visiting this magnificent home here.
Sherwood’s beach AKA Waimanalo Bay Park
Mostly just a local beach hang out but you have over 3 mile stretch of white sandy beach to enjoy here. The northern end is taken by the Bellows air field station but the south area is open to the public to enjoy with not as many people enjoying the beach scene here in East Oahu.
There’s a string of ironwood trees to hide under the strong mid-day sun and a perfect spot for a picnic or a nice nap with fantastic beach views.
Amenities – ample parking, restroom and showers, grassy areas and picnic tables and pavilions to hang out in.
Check out these other fun Oahu places to visit now
Hike the Makapu’u lighthouse
Have you planned visiting any of these secret places in Oahu?
Please share your thoughts and other recommendations in the comments below with your tips and suggestions for additional transportation around the island.
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