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By Joseph Mains
Sandy beaches, dining and drink, snorkeling, shopping and sun are often on the list when you’re headed to an Oahu, Hawaii hotel. And yes, sometimes there’s nothing better than diving into a book at a rooftop saltwater pool with an ocean sunset view and an umbrella drink. But Oahu is filled with magical and secret adventures just off (or if you like, way off) the tourist path.
1) Mermaid Cave
If you’re ready for a true locals only challenge, try a visit to the secret Mermaid Cave. As Melville says, “It is not down on any map; true places never are.” So, if you want to find Mermaid Cave, keep in mind that most of us are guests on Oahu, and part of the joy of being in on a secret is keeping it special. Test your people skills and see if you can find someone to give you a hint. You’ll be rewarded with an unforgettable secret beach grotto you’ll never believe was right under your nose. If you want a clue to start, begin looking leeward.
This adventure is truly something you won’t find on any map, so embrace the journey and let us know what you find.
2) Lyon Arboretum
Celebrating its 100th year in 2018, Lyon Arboretum connects Hawaii’s history and culture through biodiversity and indigenous flora through research and education. Originally, Lyon Arboretum was only open to researchers and biologists until 1972, when it opened to the public. The 194-acre rainforest boasts seven miles of hiking trails and 12 distinct gardens to explore, including many endangered and rare tropical and sub-tropical plants among its 5,000 examples.
Top off the day with the more popular Manoa Falls hike close by.
3) From Here to Eternity
Head over to Oahu’s East Side to check out Halona Blowhole. Catch amazing views from Halona Point above—the blowhole itself is fenced to keep visitors and locals alike from getting too close to the powerful blowhole—and look out on some of the most treacherous currents in the world as they crash against the island cliffs and boulders, spraying and pulling through the picturesque volcanic tubes. Visiting is safe if you follow posted guidelines, so take the warning signs you’ll see seriously. The area’s current is called Kaiwi, or locally “Molokai Express.” Legend has it those who get pulled away in the current will land on Molokai island, 25 miles east of Oahu across the Kaiwi Channel.
Below the point is Halona Cove, a small sandy beach that has been the site of many famous film scenes and music videos over the years.
4) Kapiolani Community College Cactus Garden
Near Diamond Head on the Kapiolani Community College campus is an amazing homage and home to cacti and succulents admired far and wide.
In 1988, Moriso Teraoka, WWII veteran with the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team and 100th Infantry Battalion, was on a summer stroll through campus. Passing by its beloved “Spirit’s Way” statue, he was struck with a vision to surround the beloved Sean Browne with a growing, living garden of sustainable succulents. For 30 years, Teraoka and his team of volunteers have cultivated the garden, keeping it free and open to the public to share in his unique passion project.
5) Kaiwa Ridge / Pillbox Hike
A challenging but athletic family-friendly out-and-back trail running along Kaiwa Ridge. At just under two miles round trip, this straightforward hike starts out with a brisk climb, then evens out as some of our favorite views of the surrounding mountains, as well as Kailua Bay, Lanikai and the Mokulau Islands.
Bonus: DIY hammock adventure
Sometimes the best way to explore the island is to pack some water and a hammock and wander into your own secret spot. String up your hammock in the shade and let the breeze sway your afternoon away. Drop us a note and share your favorite new Oahu secret spot.
We’ll keep it to ourselves.