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The vacation to Oahu is booked. The room at the hotel has been reserved. You’ve made calls about restaurant reservations, activity plans and museum tickets. Everything is prepped for a wonderful vacation in Hawaii. But one problem some travelers encounter once they arrive on island is with the rental car. So you’ve chosen to book a car during your stay, but you’re not quite sure where to go or what to see. Sure you’ve planned on Pearl Harbor, Dole Plantation and Ala Moana, but there’s much more to see and do if you’ve got wheels!
It’s true that Oahu is also the best island to visit if you don’t plan to rent a car- plenty of taxis, shuttles and public transportation opportunities- but it’s also one of the best for car exploits too. You can circle the entire island, explore the city and the country, offshoot to dirt roads, get lost in Chinatown, traverse the coast… whatever you enjoy you can find it on Oahu. Here are five of my favorite exploits on Oahu that you can enjoy in your rental car.
Tantalus. Tucked away in one of Oahu’s deep valleys, this drive winds up a steep mountain and offers unparalleled aerial views of Honolulu and Waikiki. It’s quick and easy to get here if you’re staying in Town, and you can enjoy an afternoon at the grassy park area to make an event out of it too. There are tons of lookouts along the road, so be sure to stop off and drink in the views- they are incredible.
Portlock. On the southeast side of Waikiki is the maritime neighborhood of Hawaii Kai, and on the makai side of this is Portlock. This area is fun to get lost in because you can sightsee the beautiful homes and weave in and out of the streets that sit along the water. If you get lucky, you might even stumble across Dog the Bounty Hunter’s house. There is also a small but wonderful shopping center in this area, where you can enjoy lunch at Kona Brewing, dinner at Roy’s or a refreshing pick me up at Jamba Juice, among many other eateries and conveniences.
The Shrimp Truck drive. The stretch between Haleiwa (Oahu’s North Shore) to Laie (the east side) has some of the best shrimp trucks in the country, and they’ve become notorious for it. It’s popular for travelers to make the trek from Honolulu to the North Shore to take part in the shrimp truck experience because it’s that good. With handfuls of trucks to choose from, each with their own unique flavor or sauce, it’s a fun way to get to know the local culture of the island. Plus the drive itself is wonderful, especially when you get to the coastal parts. The ocean is literally feet away from the pavement, making for an awe-inspiring road trip.
Kaena Point. You can access this from either the west side or the North Shore, both ways provide an amazing drive. But if you’ve rented an all-terrain vehicle or a car with 4-wheel drive, I recommend accessing Kaena Point from the North Shore. This way you can trail blaze on the dirt road that parallels the ocean and take in the scents of the pineapple fields of Dole. At the end of the point is a bird sanctuary, and the public is welcome to walk through the terrain. This is a great time to get out of the car and stretch your legs, plus you’re guaranteed to spot wildlife here too! Keep your eyes open for turtles, monk seals and various island bird species here.
Lanikai. Nestled in one of the most beautiful coastline stretches of Oahu’s east side, Lanikai is an affluent neighborhood that boasts powder soft white sand, turquoise waters and a picturesque view of the Moku islands in the distance. I recommend taking either the H-3 or the Pali Highway to Lanikai, so you can experience the lush mountainous beauty of Oahu’s interior. There are many points of interest along the way to Lanikai too, like the Pali Lookout, various temples and beautiful scenic stop offs.
If you’re planning a vacation to Oahu, rest assured you will have plenty to see and do in your rental car. Just be sure to take time to park and walk around the various locations, they are each very well worth it!