The WanderSeries Ep. 4: O'ahu

Welcome #Wanderers to the Gathering Place! The island of O‘ahu is known for being the most populous island in the Hawaiian Island Chain. It has the relaxed dreamy beaches and world class waves of Waikiki, to the raw power of the infamous Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore. Although one of the smaller islands, this 30 mile x 40 mile island packs in countless ways to experience the culture, learn the history, and appreciate the natural wonders the island can share.

Although I consider O‘ahu my home, I still very much consider myself a visitor of this place, and so whether you're distantly dreaming, or counting down the days until you board the plane, make sure you come with an aloha state of mind and take care to respect both the ʻāina (land) and kānaka maoli (Native Hawaiians), the ocean and all the animals that call Hawai‘i home.


Hawai‘i is well known as the birthplace of surfing, and the father of modern surfing and Olympic swimmer, Duke Kahanamoku. Duke is known for surfing the famous Waikīkī waves on O‘ahu’s South Shore, but O‘ahu is now also known as home to the first ever Gold Medalist for Surfing's Inaugural debut in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Carissa Moore. 



While Duke took home a gold and silver medal in 1912, he also gave surfing exhibitions amongst his travels, transforming a sport developed by his ancestors, with deep, spiritual meaning. While Duke popularized surfing on an international stage, he also argued for the sport’s inclusion in the Olympics. (Bishop, 2021). 

Finally, the year is 2021 and the dream Duke once had not only has come true to have surfing included in the Olympic Games, but Native Hawaiian, Carissa Moore, winning the Gold represents immeasurable meaning. 

“Moore was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, and began surfing by age 5 with her father. By 16, she had become the youngest Triple Crown of Surfing champion, and by 18 had become the youngest surfer ― male or female ― to win a world surfing title, according to her Team USA profile” (Ninhan, 2021). 

How to Get There

The Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) named for Hawai‘i’s late State Senator will be most travelers' entry point to the island of O‘ahu, the state’s most populous island and home to the capital city, Honolulu, HI. HNL is approximately 9 miles to Waikīkī, 25 miles to the North Shore, 20 miles west to Kailua, and 20 miles east to Ko Olina. Travel times will definitely vary depending on traffic. 

It’s likely that rental car shortages will still be impacting travel for months to come. Good news is, there are plenty of alternative methods for getting around the island without a car! 

  • Go Biki - Bike Share is super convenient between Downtown Honolulu and Waikīkī. Just be sure to obey road rules. 
  • Da Bus - Can get you around the entire island! Honolulu has one of the United State’s best bus systems!

 Resident population tops nearly 1 million accordinging to 2018 census information which fluctuates an additional surplus volume of visitors at any given time. What’s been especially interesting is to look at the State’s Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism interactive Dashboard on travel statistics. July 2021 has been averaging around a daily count of 17,000 passengers. Compared to an approximate daily count of 2,000 passengers for July 2020. 

Please remember to check into Safe Travels Hawaii and for the most up to date information related to travel related processes and requirements. We want to make sure our visitors and residents are safe! Mahalo! 

Variety of news articles have surfaced during this summer’s spike in tourism, from residents on Maui being limited water usage to accommodate the influx of visitors to monk seals and turtles being disturbed for photos. These stories may not represent the majority of visitors to these special islands, but I feel that is in our ‘ohana’s kuleana to share in ways to be pono while visiting the islands of Hawai‘i. Please check out this three minute video on how to be pono  in Hawai‘i. 

The Pono Pledge


Where to Stay


Staying in Waikīkī leaves most of your activities within a short walk, biking or bus distance away! You’ll be charmed with easy access beaches, some of the best surfable waves in the world, and plenty of shops and dining options. 

Moana Surfrider - built in 1901 

Outrigger Hotel - Imagine waking up and doing your own surf check from the views of your bedroom! 


Royal Hawaiian - “Pink Palace of the Pacific” 


Queen Kapi‘olani - highly recommend “The Deck” for sunset views of Diamond Head

Surf Spots 

North Shore 

Home to the Seven Mile Miracle and infamous Banzai Pipeline, winter time on the North Shore of O‘ahu packs some serious punch. Experts only when it comes to surfing conditions, but it is also important to be aware and alert to conditions as a beach goer and spectator. Even a shorebreak that appears small may end up in a dangerous situation. 

  1. Always swim with a buddy
  2. If in doubt, don’t go out
  3. Never turn your back on the ocean
  4. Ask a lifeguard or local for the best advice on how to interact with the area! 

Image from 2019 Pipe Masters 


Home to the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational. Waimea offers breathtaking views of the valley behind, and monstrous waves in the bay. This is the spot for Big Wave surfers on O‘ahu. Take some time to read up on who the invitational was named for, and you’ll start to recognize and understand where the “Eddie would go” saying comes from. 

Bonzai Pipeline / Backdoor 

Some say it’s the world’s deadliest wave with massive barrels charging down on dry reef. To say it’s high steaks is an understatement, but it’s definitely a highlight to watch safely from shore. Never have I witnessed such raw power of the ocean than from watching a cleanup set here. It’ll be fun to set up for the Billabong Pipe Masters, set to take place in December 2021.

Hale‘iwa - Ali‘i Beach

During summer or off season swells, Ali‘i beach has keiki learning to surf on the inside waves. Definitely important to be aware of the current just off shore that’ll tend to sweep you farther left than you may want. Good news is that lifeguards are on the watch should they be needed. During the winter, this beach holds a segment of the Vans Triple Crown.

South Shore 

Summer time on the South Shore means lots of surfable breaks for a variety of skill sets! If you’re new to a spot, best to take some time observing where to paddle out. Local pro, Zeke Lau, recently put up a Youtube Video explaining Town Surf Spots Explained. He gives a breakdown performance, typical for long vs shortboard, pecking order, etc. 


An abundance of rental options are available within walking distance, which is a major plus if you didn’t travel with a board. Canoes is great for beginners as it generally has more gentle waves and a sandy bottom. Make sure to snag a pic with Diamond Head in the background!

Rockpiles to Kaisers

A user-friendly, long break lends itself to a variety of skills. Typically longboards find a lot of success, but the Rockpiles peak can pitch up and hollow-out quickly, so you’re likely to see a few local legends shredding up on short and longboards alike. 

Ala Moana Beach Park - South Shore

Ala Moana Beach Park, straight across from the Ala Moana Mall, offers a variety of breaks (most referenced in the Youtube Video by Zeke). Definitely check with a lifeguard or spend some time checking on where it’s best to paddle out. Low-tide can leave you stranded atop the reef. 

Must See! 

‘Iolani Palace

‘Iolani Palace stands amidst Honolulu’s downtown area and hosts an assortment of significance for the history of Hawai‘i. Built by Hawai‘i’s last king, King Kalākaua, in 1882 to serve as the official residence of the Hawaiian Monarchs, the Palace hosted official functions and vibrant parties. In later years, the Palace was known for the imprisonment of Queen Lili‘uokalani during the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, eventually becoming a government building. You can reserve a tour to listen and learn more about these stories by visiting the website. Highly recommend a docent-led tour! 


Bishop Museum 

Another must-see! The Bishop Museum has the largest collection of Hawaiian and Pacific cultural and natural artifacts. Since 2019 the Bishop Museum has committed to eliminating single-use plastics, and you can check out the "Plastic Free Pipeline” by artist Ethan Estess.


Jack Johnson, co-founder of Kōkua Hawaii Foundation,  getting some tube time in the plastic wave. Check out the short Youtube video on the project by clicking the “Plastic Free Pipeline” link in the description above. 

Pali Lookout 

Prepare for some gusty weather, as the Pali lookout can be quite breezy and often misty. If you’re fortunate to stop by on a clear day, you’ll have breathtaking views of the Windward side’s Ko‘olau Mountain Range, but the history of the lookout featured on infographic signs is also worth the stop. Please be sure to obey signage, stay on designated paths and platforms. 


Photo taken at the Pali Lookout July 2021

Lē‘ahi (Diamond Head)

Lē‘ahi, more commonly known as Diamond Head, is an iconic geological structure that stands along the eatern edge of the Waikīkī coastline. You can drive up to the crater and pay a small entrance or parking fee. The hike itself is not necessarily difficult, but does have some elevation gain and staircases to climb. Definitely recommend bringing water on your journey as there’s large portions of direct sunlight. There is a water tap for you to refill back in the crater, plus a variety of food trucks for shave ice or Dole Whip. 


Mālama ‘Āina, Mokoli‘i, and Taste of Kualoa - Kualoa Ranch 

Kualoa Ranch offers a variety of cinematic views (literally, there are so many movies and shows filmed here), and adventure activities like Jeep tours, ATV rides, horseback tours and more. I would encourage checking into some of these alternative options! 

Farmers Markets 

Spending the morning shopping around with local vendors for gifts and goodies not only supports local artists and small business, but also supports local artists and small business! You’re more likely to spend money towards quality items made with care, made on the island, and directly impact the community you’re visiting. There are a variety of farmers markets and events in which you can find exactly what you’re looking for! 

Farmers markets are great places for snacks! Stop in at a market in the morning, and take a journey over towards an Ocean Friendly Restaurant for lunch. There are dozens to choose from on O‘ahu, and you can feel good about contributing to a business committed to making sustainable choices for our oceans. (If you’re packing along your own utensils you are already ahead of the game! Go you!) Our oceans connect us all, and it looks like you can input your own zip to see what Ocean Friendly Restaurant may be near you.


Lessons learned over this last year, is that it is important to take time, to pause, and consider “is this the right time” for this experience? Many of us are anxious to travel again. Many of us are anxious that travel is happening again. Be patient, be kind, gain knowledge, give intention, and live pono. As you do this to others, make sure you give those to yourself as well. You deserve peace and joy, love and aloha. 

To all those #Wanderers out there, mālama pono,


Maria - Staff Writer

Surf Soap Co. Hawaii

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