Oahu is the most populated island, and at first we were going to skip it. We sure are glad we didn't! It is absolutely beautiful. It is easy to see why people were so drawn to this island and settled here.
We hated the traffic - big busy freeways, just like LA. But we loved the scenery. The mountains rise out of the middle of the island like a green velvet curtain, topped by clouds that hang onto the tops of the mountains like whipped cream on an ice cream sunday. The roads from one side of the island to the other go over and through these mountains on pretty roads that rise into the clouds and take you through tunnels.
It is windy, but not too windy. Beautiful beaches ring the entire island - some a bit rocky, some better for surfing than swimming, but many with soft sand and clear turquoise water. We stayed in Kailua, which is on the east side (windy side) of the island. The beach here was one of the prettiest beaches on the whole island - miles of white sand, and softly rolling waves. It was windy enough for kitesurfers and sailboarders,
but not too windy for families (and us) to enjoy. In fat the breeze coming off the ocean made the beach a perfect place when the town was too hot. The rest of the east side of the island had lots of beach to explore too. And traveling north from Kailua, it got pretty deserted - lots of parks and beaches, but few people. A few road-side stands selling fruit, shrimp, and a guy who carves wood statues and masks etc and sells them from his home on the highway.
Of course we checked out famous Waikiki in the south west, but Honolulu was so crowded and the traffic and parking was impossible. It was nice and calm, but not the long stretch of sand that I expected. It was broken up by rock walls separating various sections - some for snorkeling, some for surfing, a shallow place for beginner swimmers, and some regular beach. Grassy park areas were nearby, and lots of places to buy or rent gear, food, whatever. Really commercial. Honolulu was a big city, with lots of high rise buildings, and tons of high-end designer retail stores. Definitely not what we were looking for on
a vacation, so after having a look, we stayed away from there. The rest of the island was more normal - busy, but not crazy.
The South shore has breathtaking scenery, with beautiful sandy beaches as well as rocky areas. The surf was a little high for us to play here, but there were lots of people out with their surfboards and bodyboards playing in the water - especially on the weekend when the locals were off work. Hanauma Bay is also here, a spot famous for its snorkeling. More on that later.
The north shore is the place where the big surf is up and surfing competitions are held in the winter. By late April, the waves were down to beginner waves - beginner surfer waves that is - still not really safe for people like us. But really pretty beaches, and you could play in the waves there too if you were careful. Really windy there all the time though, which made it the perfect place for the Dillingham airfield, where gliders can be seen taking people for silent rides over the tops of the mountains on the north west side of the island. Colorful parachuters
can also be seen floating down from their planes onto this airfield.
We took a day and drove the west side of the island, north of Waikiki. We found out that this is the place where people live out of their cars in camping areas along the many beaches here. I don't know why it is allowed, as it looks like the shanty towns that you can find outside of places like Mexico city. Crowded, dirty, barefoot kids and dogs, garbage, tarps strung out from the sides of old rusted out vans, toys, lawn chairs........you get the picture. Wow. We were warned to lock everything up and not to leave anything valuable in our vehicle if we got out and left it. The warnings were the same on Maui's north shore too - but here, we really took it seriously, and decided not to venture far from the car. It just didn't feel safe here. Too bad - such an ugly place on such a pretty island.
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