You’re in paradise amidst the tropical island sunshine, multi-hued landscapes and ocean-scented air, so why would you stay indoors? Take your dream vacay in Oahu to thrilling new heights with these adventures. Practically no other activity is more synonymous with Hawaiian culture than the art of surfing. Not only did the ancient Polynesians invent surfing, but it’s believed to have been refined by the early Hawaiians, so it definitely tops my bucket list to catch a wave in the very waters where the idea of surfing for sport likely originated.
Whether you’re a complete newbie as I am or in need of another lesson or two before you hit the big breaks, Waikiki is one of the best locations to do so because of the shallow but lengthy swells, so it is here that I take my first surf lesson at the Faith Surf School (faithsurfschool.com), which has a location just outside my Sheraton Waikiki hotel. After receiving a thorough run-through of surfboard protocol on dry land, our class is ready to test our skills on the actual waves. To my surprise, the biggest hurdle isn’t hanging ten on your board but paddling back out to the breaks. Luckily, the school has friendly instructors on hand to help tow the struggling paddlers (mainly me) back out to sea. And after several enjoyable runs on the board, I can see how surf culture will lure you in for the long haul—I am already envisioning my new life as a former journalist-turned-surf star before I even touch shore again.
With the taste of my first surf thrills still lingering, we go to view the competitions at the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (vanstriplecrownofsurfing.com) in Oahu’s North Shore, which runs annually in November and December. On the beaches of Waimea Bay, Pipeline and Sunset Beach, the waves can climb more than 30 feet tall in the winter months. Needless to say, after observing the feats and athleticism of these real surf stars, reality comes crashing down on my wanna be surfer fantasies like one of the 30-foot waves. Another sport popularized by Hawaiian culture is stand-up paddle boarding (SUP). The Hans Hedemann Surf School (hhsurf.com), located inside the North Shore’s Turtle Bay Resort, hosts my first venture into SUP. But if water sports aren’t your thing, the resort also offers several other activities, such as horseback riding, Holo Holo bike tours (holoholobicycles.com), Segway tours, sea tour with Hawaiian Ocean Adventures (hawaiianoceanadventures.com), trail runs and hikes, tennis and even helicopter tours.
In the end, whether you’re an adventure enthusiast or seeking a departure from the typical beach chair–bound vacation, Oahu is the perfect scene to explore the great outdoors in exhilarating fashion. But if running, biking, hiking and surfing and the like aren’t your bag, then you’re free to pick up a shopping bag instead. Luckily, Oahu also has an acclaimed open-air shopping strip of everything from high-end stores to craft markets. And we all know that bargain hunting can be an adventure in itself.
Words: Nina Hemphill Reeder
Photos: Sheraton Waikiki, Oahu Visitors Bureau; Dukes Waikiki, JW Marriot, Jared Reeder