Aside from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu, Oahu has some amazing and eco-friendly places of interest that visitors should not miss. From under water adventures to hiking in the Ko’olau mountains, experiencing the greener part of Oahu is not only easy to imagine, but also easy to do.
One must-see is Oahu’s most popular snorkeling site, Hanauma Bay. This unique nature preserve and living reef attracts Hawaii’s tropical fish by the hundreds. Twenty years ago, the state laid out a plan to restore the Bay’s ecosystem by implementing visitation limits and establishing an education program. On the second Saturday of every month (as well as the fourth Saturday during summer months), the Bay stays open past dark for a special evening snorkel opportunity.
Whale watching is an activity that can be experienced either by boat or by walking certain coastal trails. Many tourists take advantage of the reasonably priced ($2 per ride) commuter boat called “The Boat,” which travels between Aloha Tower Marketplace in Downtown Honolulu and Barber’s Point in Kapolei every morning and late afternoon. The best season for whale watching is between November and April. If you prefer to stay on land, you’ll probably have the best luck spotting whales from the Makapu’u lighthouse, which is reachable by foot along a paved path (about a 30-minute walk) off the Kalanianaole Highway.
If you prefer a hike that ends at a refreshingly cool waterfall, the Maunawili Falls is the perfect trail. Located off the Pali Highway in the Ko’olau rainforest, the large swimming hole at the end of the trail is fed by a waterfall over twenty feet tall. There’s a secret rock slide just past the waterfall itself, and if you’re really daring you can jump into the pool from various places on the cliff. Just be sure the water level is high enough before jumping! The hike itself takes no longer than two hours round trip, and is suitable for small children.
Finally, the best organic food and farmers market is held on Saturdays from 7:30-11 a.m. in the parking lot of Kapiolani Community College. Nearly 50 local businesses and private vendors set up stalls to sell homegrown produce, homemade products, or home-cooked meals. The market has everything from Kona coffee and Hawaiian avocado to plate lunch specials and ginger drinks served in biodegradable plastic cups. It’s a perfect place to pick up your weekly produce or your Saturday picnic brunch.
The key to preserving and appreciating Oahu’s unique blend of ocean, mountain, and everything in between is to be respectful of the living nature around you by not touching the reef, fish, or turtle and not picking plants or going off the trail. Please “kokua” (take care) to leave no trace as you enjoy all the island has to offer.