I travelled to Hawaii through the CIEE Work & Travel Program. In this post, I share my top 10 things to do in Hawaii. I hope you enjoy as I share my experiences to those wanting to explore this small island in a short amount of time.
By Rob Kavanagh
2014 Summer Internship
(1) Diamond Head:
I never heard of Diamond Head before arriving in Hawaii, however, I spent a sizable portion of my time around the crater. On my second day I hiked Diamond Head. Good footwear, water, sun lotion and a camera are a must for this hike. I forgot sun block, went up in the mid day heat, sun stroke for 2 weeks. Lesson learned. I hiked diamond head five or six times on tours the hostel offers. I would recommend taking the tour the Polynesian beach club hostel offers.
Finally, Hawaii’s best kept secret is Diamond Head beach. A 20 min walk from the hostel and a popular spot for surfers, the beach is beautiful. A perfect place to grab some sun and read a book. When I thought of what a beach would look like in paradise (Hawaii), this is what I had in mind.
My Ice Bucket Challenge at Diamond Head Beach: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnkPAb-KERc
(2) Manoa Falls:
No entrance fee. Bring Bug Spray and apply regularly on the walk, you will get bitten! The only tourist destination I have been to twice as I loved this place so much. By bus get the number 8,19,20 & 42 to Ala Moana, cross through the center to catch the number 5 bus. Check this timetable as I was waiting quite a while. The bus drives exactly to the bottom of the road that leads up to Manoa Falls. The bus driver will tell you when to get off for Manoa Falls. Continue up the road towards Manoa Falls and follow the signs. From there you will see the path. You walk through beautiful plants and trees and along a river. The hike itself will take between 3040 mins including taking time to take photos. The falls itself is magnificent. You can walk up on the stones and get great photos. I remember standing on the stones and feeling the pressure of the waterfall hit the rocks which affected by stance. There is also the Lyon Arboretum in the area which is worth a visit.
Skydiving from 12000ft at 120mph in freefall over the north shore of hawaii – it is as good as it sounds. Skydive Hawaii was the company I chose and they did pickup, skydive and photos for just over $200, a bargain if you ask me. Health & Safety are all taken care of and you are re-assured before your jump. Nerves will be soon replaced with excitement. The most nervous part was actually walking over to the plane to get in: at that point your thinking “oh this is it” to put it mildly. Take off and ascend. Take your mind off things as you overlook the mountains, sea and landscape of the northshore of Hawaii. Once you reach 12000 ft the door goes up and you go out. Those 20 seconds of freefall are incredible. On a rollercoster you have time to think, on a skydive you have no time to think. Forty seconds of gliding over the northshore once the parachute goes up for me was the best part. Your heart is racing, you are trying to catch your breath and get your head together, whilst gliding over sea and land and beside a mountain. The photos show half the story. If you want to do a skydive, there is no better place than Hawaii.
(4) Shark Dive:
North Shore Shark Adventures was the company I went with, located in the harbour in the north shore. Note: you will have to organize your own transportation to the site or pay for them to pick you up. A brief introduction and you are soon on the boat heading out to sea. Located around 3 miles off the coast you will pull up beside the cage. The group is split into two groups of six. You will spend 20 minutes in the cage. I would advise going as early as possible. I did the 11am tour and the waves were quite choppy. You’re guaranteed to see sharks. However, there is nothing to be afraid of. They’re are no great whites and none of them pose any great threat. A great experience, one off the bucket list.
(5) Pearl Harbour:
An early start is required for this one. I was up at 5:30am and out the door by 6:00am. I got the bus at around 6:15am and arrived in Pearl Harbor at 07:30am. (You can also take a shuttle; check with the hostel office to make a shuttle reservation.)
Entrance is free, however no bags are allowed. Any kind of a bag/satchel/handbag/etc will need to go to storage at a cost of $3.
Upon entrance you will meet the reception desk where you can purchase tours. This is also the location where you claim the free USS Arizonal Memorial Tickets. Tickets are usally gone by 11:00am, so get there early. Before departing via boat out to the memorial, a brief 10 minute clip is shown on the history of Pearl Harbour. Once finished, a boat will bring you out to the memorial. You are on the memorial for roughly 10 minutes before heading back.
I also went on the USS Bowfin submarine. $10 entry covers both a full tour of the submarine and entry into the war museum.
At Pearl Harbour, I did not see any restaurants. But there is a Hot Dog stall, convenience store and soda drink fridge. On the site there is also a war museum which is open to the public. Pearl Harbour is a great half day trip but make sure you are there early.
(6) Makapu’u Lighthouse & Hike:
The number 22 bus will bring you to Sea Life park. From here you have to walk back along the main road to the entrance of the hike. The hike will take roughly 30 minutes. It is a paved road from the bottom to the top and consists of a gradual incline. There are amazing views along the hike and you will be surprised at just how high the peak brings you. At the peak there is a look out point and you can climb even further up to the war bunkers. After the walk back down you will see a trail to your left hand side which appears to lead out to the sea. Go on this trail. It will lead you to the coastline where there is a beautiful little beach where the waves crash right up against the shoreline. Mackapu’u is one of Hawaii’s little secrets, go.
(7) Koko Head Hike:
Once again, the number 22 bus will bring you. Get off at the stop just before Hanauma Bay, but the bus driver will inform you that this is the entrance for Koko Head. Cross the main road and walk past the gate and down a private road to get to the entrance. Koko Head is quite simply 1000+ steps straight to the top. The most difficult part is the bridge over which I crawled. The top gives a 360 degree view of the most southern part of the island. The pain and sweat is worth it.
Warning: Koko Head is a challenging hike and should be treated as such. Prepare to sweat.
(8) Hanauma Bay:
Number 22 bus will bring you direct. This bus leaves every hour, make sure you get it that hour or
else it is a long wait. It drops you straight into Hanauma Bay. $7.50 entry fee to the bay. You’ll have to watch a short video on preserving the reef. This is the best place in Hawaii to go snorkeling. The beach is also quite nice and a great place to spend the day. Note that the last bus leaves just after 5pm. Also, the bay is closed on Tuesdays.
(9) Aloha Market:
This is the best place to get your souvenirs. Half the price it would cost you in any shop or market in Waikiki. The Market stretches all around the Aloha Stadium, consisting of souvenirs, local produce, coconut, pineapple and shaved ice. If you arrive on a Wednesday, tours of the Aloha Stadium operate at 11am. This is the only time during the week that tours operate. $1 Entry.
(10) Valley Of The Temples:
Graveyard and memorial site to lost soldiers in the war. Located 1 hour via bus outside of Waikiki. $3 entry fee. A walk through the graveyard will bring you to the temple based at the foot of the mountains. The temple is magical with black swans swimming in a lake amongst fish, the temple in the backdrop and complete silence. Tranquility at its finest. You can walk into the temple and light a candle but do not forget to remove your shoes as a sign of respect. Remember to also do this if you ring the bell.
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbOxaeco1wMb12WOmiQAFSA