During the month of August, we are exploring the wide world of places military families are stationed. In this post, Army spouse Chris gives us 8 wonderful places to visit in O’ahu, Hawaii. Enjoy! ~Rebecca
Our family was stationed at Schofield Barracks for three sunny, warm years. There are so many things to do on O’ahu and throughout the state of Hawai’i that we still have things on our bucket list to do there!
Hawai’i is a once-in-a-lifetime vacation for most people, but for military members and their families, a move to Hawai’i means a chance to immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and culture of Hawai’i and learn more about island life. Here are some of our favorite things to do, places to see, and restaurants to visit!
North Shore – Hale’iwa
Hale’iwa rests on O’ahu’s north shore. The town has seen some growth in recent years but has kept a lot of its charm. Take a lazy walk up and down Hale’iwa Road and check out the surf shops, boutiques, and great restaurants. Some of our favorites were Uncle Bo’s (sip on a Bo Tai on their porch and people watch), Bansai Sushi (the menu also offers entrees if sushi isn’t your thing), or enjoy a meal at Hale’iwa Joe’s (sit on the lanai and look out at Hale’iwa Boat Harbor). Hale’iwa Beach Park offers a nice spot to dip your toes in the water while you cool off with a shave ice from the world famous Matsumoto’s shave ice shop.
The history of Hawai’i is rich and complex. Prior to annexation, Hawai’i was a sovereign nation and led by a monarchy. Tours of Iolani Palace offer a glimpse of life in Hawai’i before annexation, provide a history of the monarchy, and detail the months before and after annexation. Parking can be tricky, but a metered lot right behind the palace often has spots available if you’re patient. The parking lot under the Department of Natural Resources building is another option. Be sure to sign up for the Palace’s newsletter to learn more about upcoming events there. When you’re done, visit the Hawai’i State Library next door, or visit the Mission House Museums one block away.
The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum is the Hawaiʻi State Museum of Natural and Cultural History. It is a true treasure trove of knowledge about the state. The museum hosts an ongoing rotation of exhibits and special events ensuring that no two visits are ever the same. The Hawaiian Hall, Planetarium, and Science Adventure Center offer something for everyone – no matter their age. It’s a great spot to learn more about Hawai’i, the land, and the people. Be sure to sign up for their newsletter and follow the museum on social media to get the inside scoop on upcoming events!
Once the favorite surfing spot of Hawaiian royalty, Waikiki Beach is now the central hub of tourism on O’ahu. Pretend you’re a tourist and rent chairs and an umbrella on the beach in front of the Army-owned Hale Koa Resort! After soaking up the sun, walk up and down the beach or take a stroll on Kalia Road and Kalakaua Avenue to people watch and shop. Interested in hearing live Hawaiian music? Stop in for dinner at Kani Ka Pila Grille at the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Resort. The restaurant hosts Hawaiian musicians almost every evening. There’s a small parking lot for military members only that sits near the corner of Kalia and Saratoga Roads, directly across from Fort DeRussy Beach Park – it’s a great low-cost parking option.
The Pearl Harbor Historic Sites includes the USS Arizona Memorial, the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Park and Museum, and the Pacific Aviation Museum. Your military ID provides you with easy access to parking that civilians don’t get. Both the Battleship Missouri and Pacific Aviation Museum are located on Ford Island. When you’ve seen all the museums have to offer, drive around Ford Island and stop at the USS Utah Memorial and the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. When we had guests visiting the Arizona and Bowfin with us, we’d end our visit with a lunch or dinner at Restaurant 604 (previously known as Schooner’s), which overlooks a portion of the harbor.
If movies are your thing, you won’t want to miss Kualoa Ranch. Many films and television shows have been filmed at this working cattle ranch. You can take the bus, ATV, or horseback tours of the filming sites and the ranch itself. Tours will even take you into World War II bunkers built into the mountains. Book your Kualoa Ranch excursions through your on-post Leisure and Travel Services office to get the absolute best rate. Don’t forget to tip your tour guides when your adventures are done!
Hikes and Beaches
For a free adventure that takes advantage of the natural beauty of O’ahu, take a hike or visit a beach! The on-post Leisure and Travel Services office can provide you with lists of nearby hikes and beaches, or check out the book O’ahu Revealed. Caring for the land is an important part of Hawaiian culture, and it’s important to note that many of the beaches and mountain areas are sacred to Native Hawaiians. When hiking or visiting the beach, be careful to clean up any litter you may create and take it home with you if disposal bins aren’t available.
O’ahu’s Neighboring Islands
There is so much to do on O’ahu, but if you have a little bit of extra cash and are curious to see the other islands, you definitely should! Local airlines offer great flash sales to different islands, and many hotels offer military discounts. We found that each island was distinct, with a different “personality,” which made our weekend trips to the neighbor islands genuinely memorable!
If you’re interested in learning more about how to save money while living in and exploring Hawai’i, you can check out my blog post on the topic! Aloha!
Chris Samiran is an Army wife currently living with her family near Fort Bragg, NC. She is a librarian, writer, and marketing professional. Chris writes on her blog and shares too many food photos on Instagram.