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Best hiking, wildlife, crowd free options in Oahu?

Reno, Nevada
Level Contributor
62 posts
Best hiking, wildlife, crowd free options in Oahu?

We're going to be in Oahu for about a week in late November, and are interested in hiking, scenery, and wildlife encounters (and some beach lounging). Ideally when we're out in nature we'd like to be in spots that are beautiful but perhaps off the beaten path, or crowd free if that's possible. Unless there is something that is simply a must-see (I've done Pearl Harbor). Any hidden gems to recommend on the island? Most scenic intermediate/advanced hikes? Best true wildlife experiences (i.e. not zoos or captive marine life)? Any hotels or resorts with "adult only" areas, or areas with age limits? We're young and fit, and looking forward to exploring the island. I am committed to staying on Oahu and I appreciate any recommendations!

Washington DC...
Level Contributor
1,991 posts
12 reviews
1. Re: Best hiking, wildlife, crowd free options in Oahu?

I'd probably look at staying somewhere on the North Shore based on your wish list to be off the beaten path and less crowded. The North Shore may have large waves at the end of November though and more chance of rain than staying South, so you would want to consider if that is okay with you. Do you want to stay in a condo or a hotel? If a condo, take a look at VRBO (vacation rental by owner). If a hotel, take a look at the Turtle Bay Resort (which is the only hotel on the North Shore).

By wildlife experiences, I am not really sure what you are looking for. In Hawaii there are sea turtles (honu), fish, birds, the occasional mongoose, and if you get real lucky you may see a monk seal (which are endangered). For seeing honu (sea turtles) Laniakea Beach on the North Shore is where they tend to beach themselves, the honu are protected, so you have to stay at a distance from them though. There are also whales, but you are a bit too early for seeing them probably (January/ February/ March is whale season) and they are best seen off of Maui.

Take a look through the top questions to the right side of the Oahu forum page (visible on the full web site, not the mobile app). Lots of information in there on sights you might want to see (especially look through the one on driving tours).

Have you been to Oahu before? What did you see then? I would also recommend to get a guidebook, we have Oahu Revealed, and it’s decent, but others might recommend other guidebooks that are good for hiking, etc.

Here are a couple of threads on hiking for you to read through to get you started:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g29222-i37-k516307…

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g60982-i38-k780624…

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g29222-i37-k600645…

California
Level Contributor
49,073 posts
18 reviews
2. Re: Best hiking, wildlife, crowd free options in Oahu?

If you're traveling over Thanksgiving Week ... don't expect a crowd-free environment! Where are you staying?

What do you mean by wildlife encounters? Too early for whales ... but a catamaran sail or snorkeling may do the trick.

"Must-sees" are in the eye of the beholder. You may want to pick up a good map of Oahu and a travel guidebook. Also, reading down through the Oahu Forum ... just scrolling down and reading ... will give you great ideas, include special events. And hikes.

<<Any hotels or resorts with "adult only" areas, or areas with age limits?>> No, Hawaii isn't Mexico or the Caribbean. And if you are coming over Thanksgiving ... there will be kids. Opt for accommodations that have a kid-free pool. If you provide us with your nightly accommodations budget - we can give you some ideas.

Washington DC...
Level Contributor
1,991 posts
12 reviews
3. Re: Best hiking, wildlife, crowd free options in Oahu?

Here is a blog that I read some of from someone who stayed on the North Shore for a month and did quite a bit of hiking, you might get some more hiking ideas browsing through it:

http://hikergalinhawaii.wordpress.com/

Santa Monica...
Destination Expert
for Santa Monica
Level Contributor
23,178 posts
264 reviews
4. Re: Best hiking, wildlife, crowd free options in Oahu?

I really enjoy Oahu's hiking. Among the Hawaiian islands, I find it the island with the most accessible hiking (meaning I don't have to drive hours to get to the trailhead!). My advise is to go early in the morning on weekdays. Do this, and you're likely to see very few people. I've done it during the very busy Christmas season and have encountered few people. First, use the time change to your advantage and plan hikes earlier in your visit, you'll naturally be getting up early anyway. Second, go on weekdays when the locals are at work.

One area that I enjoyed this past visit was the Tantalus-Round Top Drive area and the hiking trails there. The Tantalus drive is tops and a must-do for the spectacular views found at Puu Ualakaa State Park. On the way, there are trails to enjoy:

http://tinyurl.com/kld4ry4

explorationhawaii.com/2012/…

Other hikes I've really enjoyed on Oahu:

Maunawili Falls: Nice jungle hike on the windward side that crosses a stream a few times and ends at a nice waterfall with a swimming hole. We encountered 4 people along the trail; there were about 15 at the waterfall.

Likeke Falls from the golf course parking lot: This is a short hike (you can do it from the Pali Highway, too, look for links that describe that trail). Another waterfall - go beyond it for gorgeous stands of ginger.

These are fairly easy 1/2 day hikes (I prefer an easy to moderate hike followed by an afternoon of boogie boarding at a great beach!). If you do a web search, you will find lots of great hikes on Oahu, many are much harder than my nice little jungle excursions! In fact, Maunawili is actually a 10 mile one way hike, where it's advised one leave a 2nd car at the end of the trail.

In addition to hiking, consider Oahu's botanical gardens. On weekdays, they are quite empty, too. My very favorite is Lyon Arboretum (you can go after a hike to Manoa Falls, which is very popular. If you want to enjoy this fall hike, do so early as buses go there later in the morning). Lyon is just gorgeous. Yet another good garden to hike is Ho'omoluhia Botanical Garden, 400 plus acres with great views of the Koolau mountains.

Don't forget your bug spray! Mosquitos were big and hungry in August.

As to hotels and resorts that are adult only, that's a hard one as Hawaii is very family friendly. You might want to look at the Kahala resort, just outside of Waikiki. The New Otani is removed a bit from Waikiki, which may be quieter as well. Here's a map of Waikiki hotels. New Otani is at the far bottom right corner.

http://www.waikiki.us/waikikimap.html

Chicago
Level Contributor
3,167 posts
66 reviews
5. Re: Best hiking, wildlife, crowd free options in Oahu?

You can check out these two sites that have lots of great info about hiking around Oahu (and other islands)

http://www.unrealhawaii.com/hikes/ - Local photographers/adventurers with great detailed information about the hikes they've done. *Note that some of the hikes they list aren't exactly legal*

www.everytrail.com/best/hiking-oahu-hawaii

Kapaa, Hawaii
Level Contributor
53,550 posts
3 reviews
6. Re: Best hiking, wildlife, crowd free options in Oahu?

Go over to the west side (or take a snorkel cruise on that side) to see dolphins. Makaha and Yokohama Beaches up there will be almost empty during the week day's. The turtles may or may not be at Laniakea because when the surf is large, the turtles aren't there. Check out some of the less known windward beaches such as: Kahana Bay and a bit further north, Kokololio. Again, go on a weekday, these beaches fill up with locals on the weekends.

Reno, Nevada
Level Contributor
62 posts
7. Re: Best hiking, wildlife, crowd free options in Oahu?

Thank you so much for these helpful posts! I'll definitely look into these blogs and links, I appreciate having "tried and true" suggestions as a starting point, as there seems to be a ton of info on hiking options. To answer some questions, we haven't yet booked lodging, but I'd like to keep our budget under $250 a night. We are debating between a large resort that may have some "age restricted" areas vs a smaller hotel that may not attract large crowds-- we'd like easy beach access and even an on-site or nearby beach bar, the latter not being essential. As for wildlife, we like it all-- I've been reading about sea turtles, also would be interested in rays, wild dolphins, even some birding; I realize we are just early for the whale season. I've done Pearl Harbor (twice), North Shore, and Waikiki previously (all briefly), but would be open to returning anywhere (except maybe PH). Thanks!

Vancouver Island...
Level Contributor
1,294 posts
39 reviews
8. Re: Best hiking, wildlife, crowd free options in Oahu?

I have done Kaena Point a couple of times and find it truly amazing. Trail is accessible either from the west or north. West is just past Yokohama Beach. It is off the beaten path as far as tourists go, with nesting sea birds and monk seals at the end. The scenery is beautiful.

I did a trip report both times and have photos in the slideshow that goes with it, if you are interested. First one Nov 2011 and 2nd Nov 2013.

California
Level Contributor
49,073 posts
18 reviews
9. Re: Best hiking, wildlife, crowd free options in Oahu?

The vast, vast majority of accommodations are in Honolulu/on Waikiki. There are a handful of resorts around the Island, but I doubt that you could get a room within your budget. Keep in mind that your room will be taxed, as will any resort and/or parking fees.

Kapaa, Hawaii
Level Contributor
53,550 posts
3 reviews
10. Re: Best hiking, wildlife, crowd free options in Oahu?

There aren't any "age restricted areas" in any hotel that I'm aware of. The Sheraton infinity pool doesn't let anyone under the age of 16 in but anyone can walk right by it!!