Our last full day on Oahu we drove along the southern shore to experience a few natural wonders both on land and in water.
We set out while it was still dark and drove to Hanauma Bay so we could park, walk down to the beach, and set up our space in the sand in preparation for our morning snorkeling.
There were only a handful of people there when we arrived so it felt like we had the cove to ourselves for what turned out to be a dark, mysterious and beautiful sunrise.
The water was a little choppy so I wasn’t sure how our snorkeling adventure would unfold, but things cleared up and settled down by the time the sun was up and we were able to get our gear.
Sometime between 7-8 a.m. the gear rental shop opened and we were able to get fins so we could head out into the water. There were lockers, restrooms and showers nearby as well as a lifeguard on duty– it was easy to get what we needed and then get out in the water.
Although we are scuba certified and pretty confident with our masks and snorkels, this was the first time either of us had actually snorkeled. We had to combat the waves a little, but for the most part we were able to swim around, uninhibited, and view the wildlife.
Unfortunately the coral is long since past its prime and lacking any of the color or vibrancy you would expect from an active reef. Still, there were quite a few fish of various shapes, sizes and colors to observe, and the absolute highlight for me was a sea turtle that approached us and grabbed a snack underneath us before swimming along!
We snorkeled for a fair portion of the morning before returning to shore for a break, only to discover that everyone else had finally arrived. We decided it wasn’t worth fighting the crowds to go back out in the water so instead we showered, returned our gear, and hiked back out of the cove to our car so we could continue east to a few other destinations on our list.
If Hanauma Bay is on your list, I recommend doing just as we did and getting there early– we had no trouble parking, we were there before they were running the educational videos they make everyone prior to beach access, we had a peaceful and semi-private view of the sunrise, and we had a few hours of snorkeling relatively uninterrupted. It was definitely worth beating the crowd!
It was later in the morning than I had anticipated when we left the Bay so we decided to skip the Koko Head Stairs hike, which we understood was a bit of a climb and about a two-hour trip, and instead headed on toward the Makapu’u Lighthouse Hike trailhead.
This three-mile roundtrip adventure ended up being perfect– we were still a little damp from our snorkeling adventure and this hike gave us plenty of time to cool down and dry off.
The trailhead parking lot was busy and there were people from every walk of life completing the hike– families stopping to take in the sights along the way, fit young guys with their dogs jogging the entire thing, and couples leisurely making their way to the top.
It was a little overcast, which was perfect for hiking. We had beautiful views out over the ocean, and we saw a few whales spouting near shore thanks to some other people pointing them out and remarking on their path along the coast!
Unfortunately the lighthouse was under repair so we weren’t able to actually view the lighthouse itself, but we were able to hike to the highest point of the trail, experience the amazing view out over the ocean and coastline, and snap a few photos of the surrounding area before making our way back down the trail to our car.
It was early afternoon by the time we finished with our hike so we decided to take a leisurely ride back to our resort on Waikiki Beach.
We ended up driving along the coast and over to Diamond Head Crater where we were able to take Diamond Head Road out around the base of the old volcano for beautiful views of the ocean to our left and the volcano to our right. It was amazing the number of people walking along the road and preparing to hike!
Lunch was on both of our minds so I went back to my planning list to see if there was anything recommended along our route back to the resort. Sure enough, I had noted a place called Jawaiian Irie Jerk Chicken that was supposed to be a top lunch destination along our path so we decided to check it out. It ended up being a really disappointing experience from top to bottom– we had trouble finding it, we had trouble parking, they weren’t open when we arrived (we waited for 20 mins after their opening time because someone ran out and begged our patience while they continued to set up for the day), and ultimately the food and service weren’t worth the trouble.
I was really disappointed because I loved the story behind the place and was excited about all the rave reviews they had received online for their food and service. Perhaps it would have been a different experience had we been on true island time and had they not been rushed trying to open, but the other couple dining when we were there didn’t appear impressed either.
We left unsatisfied and a bit upset– I wouldn’t recommend it. However, one good thing did come from our experience, and that’s this great picture of Brian!
We headed back to the resort for an afternoon siesta and final night on the town to mark our last day of vacation. It was a great day outdoors exploring Oahu’s southern shore, and I highly recommend building some time into your itinerary to check out the various hikes and beaches along the southern coast!
Bonus: Boots and Kimo’s
Although not *technically* on the southern shore, if your Oahu adventures take you anywhere near the south eastern side of the island and Kailua, you absolutely MUST check out Boots and Kimo’s for breakfast/brunch.
We drove over the morning of our last day for a final meal before heading back to Honolulu to catch our flight home, and it was one of the best last-minute decisions of our trip.
A former work colleague of mine recommended it and said she and her husband still dreamed of the macadamia nut pancakes years later so we had to check it out.
Go there. Get the pancakes. You will not regret it! Bon appetite!