The Best of Both Worlds

The breathtaking Laniki Beach

For this city girl, going to the beach for 8 days doesn’t completely excite me. Sure, 2 or 3 days of relaxation are always welcome, but then I am ready to hit the pavement — explore, eat, chase down a crazy adventure. If you’re anything like me, Oahu just might be the perfect spot for you!

Adults only pool at Four Seasons Ko Olina
Hotel room at Four Seasons Ko Olina

The Four Seasons Ko Olina is the ideal base camp. The beach is gorgeous, the rooms spacious, and like all Four Seasons, the service is impeccable. And the breakfast buffet? I have 2 words for you: coconut syrup. As for relaxing, this is the place to do it. The adults-only pool may be the most zen place on earth and the daily complimentary sunrise yoga on a cliff overlooking the Pacific is, well, perfection. The surf is calm, the water clear, the complimentary paddle boards plentiful, and the tanning butler a luxurious touch.

It’s also only a 30 minute drive to Honolulu and less than an hour to the North Shore and other local beaches. So once your wanderlust kicks in and you’re ready to hit the road, get to it! The North Shore is an absolute must. First, check out the surfers at the Banzai Pipeline. The waves are huge and if you’re lucky, you might just stumble upon a surfing competition with some of the top surfers in the world showing off their skills. Then, hit up Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck for lunch (tip: the garlic one is the best), followed by a ginormous serving of shaved ice from Matsumoto’s. Belly full, head back to the Four Seasons and chill at the Naupaka Spa & Wellness Center, a 4-level, 35,000 square foot wonderland. Or blow off some steam on the basketball court or one of the 5 rooftop tennis courts.

Activities guide at Four Seasons Ko Olina
Everyone needs a good tanning butler
Everyone needs a good tanning butler

When you’re ready to roll off your lounge chair and burn some calories, head to Diamond Head and do the 90 minute (round trip) hike to the top of the volcano to see the incredible views. It is quite spectacular, and definitely instagram-worthy. After your hike, grab a much-deserved lunch at either Ono Seafood for some of the best poke of your life (tip: order #7 and don’t forget to grab your free can of iced tea!) or a traditional plate lunch at Rainbow Drive-In (tip: get a side order of grilled spam #wheninHawaii). If you’re craving something sweet, get some more (you guessed it) shaved ice at Waiola Shaved Ice, a colorful roadside stand that rivals Matsumoto’s. Spend the afternoon touring Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona. It is a truly moving and educational experience, and a do not miss.

OK, enough history, exercise, and food (for now), let’s hit the beach for some down time. Spend the morning snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. Parking is limited so go early. Created by a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago, this marine life conservation area is a must when in Oahu. The water is crystal clear, the waves tranquil, the sand a glistening white, and the fish as colorful and beautiful as any I’ve ever seen anywhere. Even the 9-minute video you are required to watch before entering is exquisite and informative.

Snorkeling at Hanuama Bay
Snorkeling at Hanuama Bay
View from the top of Diamond Head

Then head to Lanikai Beach, consistently ranked one of the best beaches in the world. Be prepared, you might think you’ve died and gone to heaven. Or at least to the South Pacific. The turquoise sea, white sand beaches, and warm water temperatures are unlike any other beach I’ve ever experienced in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Kailua, the town nearby, is also completely adorable if you need a shaved ice fix. Then work it off by doing the Lanikai Pillbox Hike (Ka’iwa Ridge Trail), a relatively easy hike that leads to old military bunkers. And a great view, natch.

By this time, you’re clearly starving so head back to the big city for dinner, where the food and craft cocktail scene is booming. There’s a lot of farm to table type action happening here. You must check out: The Pig and the Lady in the up and coming Chinatown neighborhood for a very ambitious, creative menu of modern Vietnamese food (tip: get the Burmese salad and octopus sausage); Tsukada Nojo, in a nondescript mini mall for incredibly inspired and remarkably fresh Japanese food (tip: get a hot pot); Mud Hen Water in Kaimuki, for it’s modern interpretation of traditional Hawaiian food (tip: order the beet poke and fried chicken and definitely get a cocktail here!), and Side Street Inn for heaping plates of some truly traditional local food in the heart of Honolulu (tip: be sure to save room for the deep fried pound cake for dessert. Yeah, really. Deep. Fried. Pound. Cake). Or don’t go anywhere and stay at the Four Seasons for a memorable Italian meal at Noe (tip: get the Porterhouse steak for 2).

Traditional Hawaiian plate lunch at Rainbow Drive-In
Colorful and delicious shaved ice at Matsumoto’s, North Shore.

Whatever you’re interested in, there’s a lot of it. To most people, a Hawaiian vacation brings to mind gorgeous sandy beaches and lounging at the pool at some of the best resorts in the world. And for good reason, the Four Seasons Ko Olina is a world class property. But Oahu offers that and more… a hip foodie vibe with tons of out of the way beaches and hidden gems to please even the most discerning adventurer. Aloha!

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