Things to do in Oahu: Where to find the hidden gems
There are a plethora of things to do in Oahu, but here's where to find the hidden gems.
There's an island where the ocean folds into so many shades of blue, you'll give up trying to identify them. Where the jungle blankets jagged mountains that begin where the deserted beaches end. And that sand? It's so powdery that calling it sugar-like is an affront to its softness. This paradise is none other than Oahu, Hawaii; aka one of the most visited islands on the planet.
If you're looking to uncover hidden gems in a very discovered place, to be the only one on the exquisite beaches and to eat the best food — no matter where you have to go to get it — this is the Oahu travel guide for you.
Where to Stay
Leave the crowds in Waikiki and consider renting a place in a smaller beach town. On the windward (east) side of the island, Ka′a'awa (population 1,379, as of the last census) or the bigger Kailua (population 38,635) are both beautiful, lower-key options.
Ka'a'awa Valley \Shutterstock
The Ka'a'awa Valley on this side of the island looks so remote and tropical that it has served as a filming location for Lost, Jurassic Park and Godzilla. And yet it's just a 40-minute drive from the throngs in Honolulu.
Mokule'ia Beach \Shutterstock
Everything is bigger on the North Shore — the waves, the scenery, the beaches. Everything that is, except for the crowds. Check out Mokule'ia Beach Park, a long enough stretch of sand that you may not run into anyone else. Depending on the time of year, the waves can get huge, so unless you know what you're doing on a surf board, it's best to stick to the sidelines.
Keawaula Beach \Shutterstock
On the leeward (west) side of the island, Keawaula Beach, with its jagged green mountain backdrop, may be the most beautiful — and secluded —in all of Oahu. Take the Farrington Highway until you find a pull-off just before the road ends at Ka'ena Point. Keawaula is the northernmost beach on the west shore, and thanks to a lack of development, you could very well have this stunning strand all to yourself.
Wai'anae Coast \Shutterstock
In the Water
While 3,000 strangers are swimming into each other while snorkeling in Hanauma Bay (seriously, it averages 3,000 people per day), you can be snorkeling with dolphins along the Wai'anae Coast. Most visitors to Oahu never come to the leeward side of the island, as it's much less populated and the road doesn't go all the way around. Once you see the unspoiled beauty of this side, though, you will be very grateful that most people stay away.
Take a catamaran snorkel excursion to swim with dolphins. \Shutterstock
Eō Wai'anae Tours promises dolphins on their catamaran snorkel excursions, and, sure enough, you really will be swimming with a pod of wild dolphins, which call this side of the island home. Just try not to swim into a family of Flippers while lost in awe of their cuteness.
Take a Hike
The road heading up the leeward side of Oahu dead-ends at the Ka'ena Point Trail. Hike along the rocky coast to the western tip of the island, where you'll join the Hawaiian seabirds and endangered monk seals. This out-and-back 4.8-mile hike gets incredibly hot and dry, so bring lots of water and sunscreen.
Ka'ena Point Trail \Shutterstock
For lusher scenery, try the 8-mile Koloa Gulch waterfall hike (not far from Laie on the windward side). Wander through the Hau'ula Valley, cross streams (you'll definitely get wet!) and scamper over wet boulders before arriving at a gorgeous, 100-foot waterfall. Take a dive in the freshwater pool because, well, you just hiked to a Hawaiian waterfall and that's what to do after hiking to a Hawaiian waterfall.
Where to Eat
You can't go to the North Shore without hitting one of its exemplary shrimp trucks. Feasting on spiced crustaceans served out of trucks is as much a part of Hawaiian surf culture as riding the waves. The best is the turquoise Aloha Shrimp truck, which you'll find parked next to a convenience store in Hau'ula. The spicy lemon garlic flavor is crave-worthy.
Hawaiian Butter Garlic Shrimp \Shutterstock
The best poke on the island is served out of a tiny strip mall joint in Wai'anae. Aloha Poke (yes, another “Aloha" restaurant; they don't call it the Aloha State for nothing) knows its cubed, marinated raw fish, and the spicy and ginger shoyu varieties are awesome.
Even if you're looking to dodge the crowds and stay out of the city, Palace Saimin is worth the trip into Honolulu. This local's favorite has been simmering saimin — think Hawaii's version of ramen — since 1946. Bonus: a large bowl will only set you back $5.
On March 19, 2020, United operated its first flight carrying cargo without passengers on board. While the passenger cabin was empty, its cargo hold was completely full, carrying more than 29,000 pounds of commodities from Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) to Frankfurt Airport (FRA).
A year later, United Cargo has operated more than 11,000 cargo-only flights carrying more than 570 million pounds of freight. To support the COVID-19 pandemic recovery efforts, United Cargo has also transported more than 113 million pounds of medical and pharmaceutical products on both cargo-only and passenger flights as well as approximately 10 million COVID-19 vaccines, providing global communities access to the items they have needed most.
"At the beginning of the pandemic, we knew we were uniquely positioned to utilize our widebody aircraft and our network to keep commodities moving, so we quickly mobilized various departments throughout the airline to launch a cargo-only network of flights that would keep commodities moving," said United Cargo President Jan Krems. "Thanks to those efforts, United Cargo has delivered millions of items to countries all around the world. We would not have been successful without the steadfast support of our employees, industry partners and our customers."
Since last March, United Cargo has transported almost 850 million pounds of freight on cargo-only and passenger flights. The airline will continue to monitor market trends adjust its cargo-only flight schedules to help ensure we are meeting our customer's evolving shipping needs.
Whether you haven't flown with us for a while or just need a quick refresher before your spring trip, read this list of tips to know before your flight and arrive at the airport travel-ready:
1. Download the United app for contactless bag check, travel assistance and more
Before your flight, download the United app to view your flight status, check in, sign up for flight notifications, locate departure gates, access our free personal device entertainment when available and more. We've also updated our app with new features that can make your trip a little safer, including contactless bag check.
Don't forget to use Agent on Demand for help with any and all questions you may have before your flight. This new capability is available at all our U.S. hub airports and allows you to use your own mobile device to contact a customer service agent via phone, video or chat to help with day-of-travel questions while you're at the airport. Learn more about Agent on Demand here.
2. Check out the Travel-Ready Center
Our Travel-Ready Center makes it easy to get a personalized overview of everything you need to do in preparation for your flight. Just enter your confirmation number or MileagePlus® number and you'll find detailed information on all the documents, tests and more that you'll need for your trip.
3. Read and sign the Ready-to-Fly checklist
Before completing check-in, all United travelers will need to read our Ready-to-Fly checklist and confirm that they understand and agree to our policies. These include:
Acknowledging that you haven't had any symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 14 days
Agreeing that you will not fly if you have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 21 days
Confirming that you will follow all policies regarding face masks, social distancing and other health and safety measures we've adopted
4. Arrive early; avoid the stress
Airports can be busy, especially during peak travel periods like spring break season. The TSA advises arriving at the airport two hours before your flight for domestic travel and three hours for international travel in anticipation of long security lines. This can help ease the stress when navigating busy check-in areas, security lines and crowded boarding gates.
5. Get familiar with CleanPlus
United CleanPlus℠ is our commitment to delivering industry-leading cleanliness as we put health and safety at the forefront of your experience. We've teamed up with Clorox to redefine our cleaning and disinfection procedures and Cleveland Clinic to advise us on enhancing our cleaning and disinfection protocols, like:
Disinfecting high-touch areas on board and in the terminal
Using electrostatic spraying, Ultraviolet C lighting wands and more advanced measures to clean aircraft cabins before boarding
Redesigning our mobile app to allow for touchless check-in and contactless payment, along with enhanced travel assistance features
Implementing high-efficiency (HEPA) filters on our aircraft that completely recirculate cabin air every 2-3 minutes and remove 99.97% of airborne particles, including viruses and bacteria
Studies show COVID-19 exposure risk is minimal when air filtration systems and masks are in use, so you can rest assured that the steps we've taken to keep you safe truly make a difference.
6. Wear your mask
Federal law requires all travelers to wear a face mask in the airport, including customer service counters, airport lounges, gates and baggage claim, and on board during their entire flight. Make sure you review the requirements for face masks, including what an acceptable face mask looks like.
7. Get ready for a safer boarding process
To make boarding even safer, we now have travelers board their aircraft from back to front. At the gate, just listen for your row number to be called – we'll ask a few rows at a time to board, starting with the last row of the plane. This helps everyone maintain a safe distance from each other during boarding without slowing things down. As you step onto the plane, flight attendants will hand each passenger a sanitizing towelette, which you can use to wipe down your seat to ensure it's extra clean.
8. Pack smart
Before packing your bags, check to see what exactly you can carry on and what you should plan to check. You can also copy your confirmation number into our Baggage Calculator tool to learn about the bag allowance included with your reservation, as well as the cost of checking any additional bags.
9. Check your flight status, important notices and weather
Check the United app regularly for the latest updates on weather conditions, flight status, gate numbers and seat assignments. You can also visit our Important Notices page to find essential information and updates about travel waivers, international travel, TSA and security, airports and United Club locations.
10. Relax and enjoy your flight
Once you're on board, it's time to sit back and enjoy your flight. Our flight attendants will be happy to help you with anything else you need.
This week, we were honored to become the first U.S. airline to join the UNICEF Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative to combat the COVID-19 pandemic by transporting the vaccine and other critically needed supplies to underserved areas of the globe.
"We are committed to helping the global community in any way we can, and we all must work together to do our part to bring this health and humanitarian crisis to an end," said Director of Cargo Specialty Products Manu Jacobs.
We will leverage our expertise to transport these critical pharmaceutical and healthcare shipments around the world safely, efficiently and expediently. We are proud to partner with the United Nations to support this global effort and provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Together, we are facing an unprecedented challenge. United Together, we rise to meet that challenge.
Calling all AvGeeks and travelers! Take your next video call from a United Polaris® seat, the cockpit or cruising altitude with United-themed backgrounds for use on Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
Newly added to our collection is a background encouraging our employees and customers to vote. Our mission is to connect people and unite the world — and one of the most important ways to do that is to engage in the democratic process. No matter which party you support, we know our democracy will be stronger if you make your voice heard and vote.
So for your next meeting or catch up with friends and family, download the app to either your computer or mobile device to get started.
To use on Zoom:
- Start here by downloading your favorite United image to your computer or mobile device. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- Next go to your Zoom app (you'll need to download the app to access backgrounds) and click on the arrow to the right of your video camera icon in the bottom of the screen.
- From here select, "choose virtual background" to upload your uniquely United photo.
To use on Microsoft Teams:
- Start by downloading your favorite United image to your computer. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- If you're using a PC, copy the image you want to use into this folder:
- C:\[insert your device user name here]\AppData\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads
- If you're using a Mac copy the images to this folder on your computer:
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- If you're using a PC, copy the image you want to use into this folder:
- Once you start a Teams meeting, click the "…" in the menu bar and select "Show background effects" and your image should be there
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A big thank you to Chicago-based flight attendants Donna W., Marie M., Karen J. and Mark K. for making this proposal come to life.