Windward Coast, Oahu
Take a short drive from Waikiki and Honolulu over the mountainous Pali Highway to the lush country landscape and white sand beaches of Oahu’s Windward Coast. On the way, be sure to stop at the historic Nuuanu Pali Lookout for a breathtaking preview of the beauty yet to come.
As you exit the tunnels on the other side of the Koolau Mountain Range, it feels as if you’re leaving one world and entering another. A turquoise ocean shimmers in the distance calling you to Kailua, a thriving beach town where you’ll find a host of eats, trendy local shops and a crescent beach that looks like it belongs in a magazine.
From Kailua town, you can head in two directions. Go clockwise around the island to Sea Life Park, Makapuu Lighthouse, Hanauma Nature Preserve and eventually Diamond Head and Waikiki.
Or spend a day exploring the Windward Coast in a counter clockwise direction as it winds lazily around the island toward the North Shore, offering interesting stops along the way.
The serene Valley of the Temples is home to an amazing Japanese Buddhist temple, while the café at nearby Heeia Kea Pier is known for a farm to table menu that’s literally “fresh off the boat.”
Driving along the two-lane highway you can't miss Mokolii, fondly known as “Chinaman’s Hat.” Stop at the park and stretch your legs or have a picnic. Just across the highway you’ll find one of Hawaii’s most seen but least recognized locations: Kualoa Ranch. A generations-old family-owned ranch, its scenic valley has provided the backdrop for countless movies and TV shows, including LOST and Hawaii Five-0. Fortunately, it’s not just for the stars. Visitors and locals alike enjoy horseback riding, ATV tours and host of other activities.
From here, Kamehameha Highway meanders past Kaaawa (“Ka-ah-ah-vah” and yes, there are three As in a row), gentle Kahana Bay, Laie with the Polynesian Cultural Center, the old plantation town of Kahuku and around the northernmost tip of the island to Oahu’s North Shore, home of the best surf spots in Hawaii—and some say—the world.
Windward Oahu Highlights:
- Kailua Beach Park, Oahu
Kailua Beach Park overlooks Kaneohe Bay and the Mokulua Islands and is a great spot for kayaking, windsurfing and other water sports.
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- Makapuu Point Lighthouse, Oahu
Hike to this scenic point on Oahu’s eastern most tip for incredible views and whale watching during the winter.
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- Nuuanu Pali Lookout, Oahu
Nuuanu Pali Lookout is one of Oahu’s most popular scenic spots with panoramic views of Windward Oahu and the Koolau mountain range.
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