Oahu's east part is called Windward, for the locals; it signifies everything that lies east of the Koolau Range. From here, Kailua and Kaneohe are a drive away from Honolulu downtown when traveling for twenty minutes in the Pali Highway. This part of the island is very different from downtown Honolulu. It is more rural and country. The pace is very slow and laid back, as residents lifestyles can attest to this relaxing way of living or hanging loose.
The vegetation here is also different, it is greener and lush as the winds and rain gets here from the east, and the mountain range serves as a wall to hold the clouds. There is more rainfall in this part of the island, but it is also more green and beautiful. This side offers many bed and breakfasts' to stay and very nice vacation rentals - some of the best in Oahu.
The beaches have white sand, and you can hike through the Valley of Temples to the Sacred Falls. These gorgeous and amazing waterfalls are one important attraction in the area. The north shore is home to Mormons, and you can get to know their customs, but here you can also find the Polynesian Cultural Center. At this center, all the islands of the Polynesia are exhibited.
Some of the best bays for windsurfing are found at the windward side. Lanikai sand beach and many golf courses are found here as well.
In Kailua, you will find some of the best beaches in Oahu - the finest. You get here after a short twenty-minute drive on the Pali, unless you hit rush hour and be delayed by traffic.
One great attraction of the area is the Kailua beach park, a famous park that offers the best windsurfing. Here you can find the necessary gear rentals and even a surfing school. Tours can be booked from Waikiki.
Lanikai Beach offers safe calm waters to the visitor, year-round. Here you can swim, sail or sunbathe to your content. The country allure of the area is perfect for people who work in town, but still prefer this way of living. Here you can find some great bed and breakfasts and vacation rentals.
Curiously called the bedroom town, Kaneoche serves to many commuters, as home. Military personnel also live here. One of the most attractive places in this area is the Kaneohe Bay. The waters are calm, clear, and reef protected. Gilligan's island was filmed in the tiny island that sits in the middle of the lagoon.
If heading outside Kaneohe, and taking route 83, you will be able to stop and visit the Haiku Gardens. In addition, the Valley of Temples is also in that direction. The Haiku gardens date back to the mid 1800s. Here you will find ponds, gorgeous flowers, and ornamental trees. The area is popular to celebrate weddings, but also popular with tourists who love strolling the beautiful grounds that offer a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere.
One unique place to visit is the Valley of Temples. This place is a cemetery, which houses the remains of Christians and Buddhists. To the left of the beautiful sanctuary, a Christian church sits, and a Buddhist temple sits inside the valley. This temple is a replica of the old Byodo in temple of Uji, Japan, which was nine hundred years. It was built one hundred years after the first immigrants from Japan arrived in 1968.
Ka'aawa to Laie
Ka'aawa coast extends to the Turtle Bay Hilton, as a series of continuous beaches. The only road there is conveniently located winding along the coast, and you can pull over and enjoy the views, take pictures of them, or just stay a while and go for a swim. A few small towns are located throughout the coast going up to the North Shore.
The drive up the coast is pleasant, and you will be able to stop at the Kim Taylor Reece's Gallery. The photographer offers one of the best renditions of Hawaiian life, Hawaii's Hula, and the local customs, captured with his lens. There is a sign at the left side of the road if you look for the place. Contact number is 293-2000.
Laie translates to Leaf of the Vine. It was founded by missionaries. The Mormon missionaries built a temple and so they built what is known today as the Bringham Young University campus. Mormon rules are strictly enforced here. Visitors are not allowed to smoke, drink alcohol or caffeine drinks, or wear any offensive or revealing articles of clothing. This church manages the Polynesian Cultural Center, and the same rules apply. The temple is white, was built in 1919, and is now open to the public from 9 am until 9 pm.
The most popular attraction on Oahu has to be the Polynesian Cultural Center. Here visitors can get information and learn about the heritage and richness of the Polynesian culture. An exhibit displays each Polynesian island. The Polynesian Cultural Center is very large. During the day, you can visit the shows and exhibits and during the evening, you can enjoy a peaceful canoe ride on the river. You can also buy souvenirs at the interesting marketplace. One great evening presentation takes place at 7:30. This is when the Polynesian islands are presented in a huge dome, featuring traditional music, and dancing. This is a very popular place to visit in Oahu - a must see on your vacation list.
The Polynesian Cultural Center is open every day, but not on Sundays. The hours are from 12:30 pm to 9 pm. It is important to mention that Laie is the last stop visitors will hit before heading to the North Shore that has a supermarket, a bank, and a few restaurants.
The Beaches and Parks
This is the perfect beach for its beautiful surroundings. This beach features turquoise waters that are calm, palm trees, fragrant pine trees, and the finest white powdery sand. The sunrise in the early morning hours complete the perfect picture. If any beach is worth spending your total vacation is this one. You can stay at the Sunrise studios.
The Valley of the Temples
Just as mentioned before this is a replica of the Bodo-Yin temple that was built on the 100-year anniversary marking the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. The temple has been featured in the television series Magnum P.I. Here the groundskeeper is very friendly and will be delighted to show you his fish, birds, and gorgeous wild peacocks, with which he has a friendly camaraderie and they seem to obey his commands. A great place to visit.
The Kailua Beach
This is another beautiful beach and one that is very popular with the visitors; however, it only gets very crowded during the weekend. During the week, it is not as busy. Lanikai is the southeast end, and many neighborhood families like to frequent this part. It is a great picnic spot due to the many shade trees and the wide lawns. Nearby, at mere steps away from the beach you may find many vacation rentals and some great bed and breakfasts. This is a more calm side of the beach.
On the other side, there is the north end and this is where all the water action happens. Here you can windsurf and swim to your content. The water is very clear and inviting. There is a windsurfing school nearby that offers classes and all the necessary windsurfing equipment.
The Moku Lua islands are nearby. These are small islands situated off Kailua Bay. You can rent a kayak and paddle to the small of the islands, which is accessible to visitors. Here you will encounter a variety of sea turtles and wild life.
The Kualoa Park
This beach park offers a great view of the coastline. In the 1980's it was remodeled and now it offers wide lawns, picnic areas, restrooms, and beautiful palm trees around it. Coral and sand make for a beautiful beach, and only at a distance of six hundred yards, you can see Molulii island, also popularly known as Chinaman's Hat. This island can be accessed by renting a kayak, or even on rafts or a surfboard. There is a small beach, that most likely is deserted and a cave.
The Kualoa Ranch
This is another great spot to visit and you will find the entrance after the Kualoa Regional Park, shortly after it and on the mauka side. Here you can enjoy a variety of activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, water skiing, tennis, mountain biking, or just admiring the beautiful surroundings. There is a petting zoo and an original Hawaiian village here as well. One important thing to mention is that some scenes of the popular movie Jurassic Park were shot in this area.
The entrance to the ranch is shortly after the Kualoa Regional Park on the mauka side.
The Maleakahana Beach Park
You will find this park just ahead from the Cultural Center, up the road. The park is only one mile long and you can camp here. There are good campground facilities and the forest offer great shade from the rain and the wind. The beach sand is white and here you can swim all year round. If you are camping, a permit is needed to put up a tent. You can also rent a vacation home if you are not in camping at the beach mode. There is a uninhabitated island off Maleakahana Bay. The locals refer to it as Goat Island. Here you will find three small beaches that are white and sandy. If there is very low tide, you can walk from the shore; however, caution is important, as it can be rough sometimes, depending on weather conditions and tidal waves.