It’s old news that I hate “touristy stuff,” but usually those attractions become so popular because there’s something great to see. Instead of completely avoiding them, I try to “game” the traps and am careful from diving in blindly to every up-sell or tour. Oahu is known for being a vacation destination, so there are a few must-see spots if you vacation.
- Hanouma Bay Snorkeling: This state park is busy, but for a good reason. You’ll have to get there early (like 7am early), in order to park and go through a little educational seminar about the reef. And then, the real magic happens… the little bay (which is typically beautiful) is actually an old crater that has since been flooded, and filled with coral reef. I’ve snorkeled roof in Key West, and it was unimpressive. This felt like being in Finding Nemo. How to “game” the tourist trap: bring your own snacks so you don’t get roped into paying the concession prices, and definitely go early to get into the parking lot.
- The Dole Plantation: The big appeal of the Dole Pineapple Plantation is the train that runs through the pineapple fields. I skipped this. Instead, I got there early in the morning, got myself a Dole Whip Float from the concessions for breakfast, and bought a ticket to the gardens. Since everyone else was on the train, I had the gardens to myself to sip my float and wander. The weather was perfect and it felt much more magical to take in the Hawaiian fauna alone and peacefully.
- Pearl Harbor: This is just one of those must-see memorials for Americans. I am the opposite of a history buff, and having lived in DC, have a pretty blase attitude towards memorials. Pearl Harbor is truly humbling, even with crowds of people. I opted out of the boat tour (which costs extra) and still got a solemn, educational experience. The smell of the leaking gasoline from the ship right under your feet still sits with me.
For my top hikes in Oahu (touristy and not) check out my thoughts here!