Oahu - Walks/Views

Puu Ualakaa State Park: Watching the sun set into the Pacific from a 1,048-foot hill named after a sweet potato is actually much more romantic that it sounds. Puu Ualakaa State Park translates into "rolling sweet potato hill," which was how the early Hawaiians harvested the crop. Don't miss the sweeping panoramic views, which extend from Diamond Head across Waikiki and downtown Honolulu, over the airport and Pearl City, all the way to the Waianae range. Great photo ops during the day, romantic sunset views in the evening, and starry skies at night.

Nuuanu Pali Lookout: Oahu's best-looking side, the windward coast, can be seen in its full natural glory from the Nuuanu Pali Lookout, a gusty perch set amid jagged cliffs that pierce the puffy white clouds that go racing by. A thousand sheer feet below, the island is a carpet of green that runs to an azure Pacific dotted by tiny offshore islets. You'll feel like you're standing on the edge of the world.

Diamond Head Crater: The view from atop this world-famous 720-foot-tall sleeping volcano is not to be missed. The 360-degree view from the top is worth the 560-foot hike. You can see all the way from Koko Crater to Barbers Point and the Waianae mountains.

Lanikai Beach: This is one of the best places on Oahu to greet the sunrise. Watch the sky slowly move from pitch black to wisps of gray to burnt orange as the sun begins to rise over the two tiny offshore islands of Mokulua. This is a five-senses experience: birds singing the sun up; a gentle breeze on your face; the taste of salt in the air; the smell of the ocean, the sand, and the fragrant flowers nearby; and the kaleidoscope of colors as another day dawns.

Puu O Mahuka Heiau: Once the largest sacrificial temple on Oahu, today Puu O Mahuka Heiau is a state historic site. Located on a 300-foot bluff, the Heiau encompasses some 5 acres. People still come here to pray--you may see offerings such as ti leaves, flowers, and fruit left at the Heiau. Don't disturb the offerings or walk on the stones (it's very disrespectful). The view from this bluff is awe-inspiring, from Waimea Bay all the way to Kaena Point.

The weather on Oahu is usually sunny, with trade winds providing cooling breezes--perfect conditions for a walk. Below are some of our favorites, from city strolls to trails through rain forests.

Diamond Head Crater: Most everyone can make this moderate walk to the summit of Hawaii's most famous landmark. Kids love the top of the 760-foot volcanic cone, where they have 360-degree views of Oahu up the leeward coast from Waikiki. The 1.4-mile round-trip takes about an hour.

Makiki-Manoa Cliff Trails: Just a 15-minute drive from downtown Honolulu, you'll find a walk through a rain forest and along a ridgetop with nonstop views. This somewhat strenuous loop trail is one you'll never forget, but it's more than 6 miles long, gains 1,260 feet in elevation, and takes about 3 hours to finish. The trail is part of the labyrinth of trails in this area. The views of the city and the shoreline are spectacular.

Manoa Falls Trail: This easy .8-mile (one-way) hike is terrific for families; it takes less than an hour to reach idyllic Manoa Falls. The often-muddy trail follows Waihi Stream and meanders through the forest reserve past guava and mountain apple trees and wild ginger. The forest is moist and humid and inhabited by nothing more dangerous than giant bloodthirsty mosquitoes, so bring repellent.

Chinatown: Honolulu's Chinatown appeals to the senses: The pungent aroma of Vietnamese pho mingles with the ever-present sweet scent of burning incense; a jumble of streets come alive every day with busy residents and meandering visitors; vendors and shoppers speak noisily in the open market; retired men talk story over games of mah-jongg; and the constant buzz of traffic all contribute to the cacophony of sounds. No trip to Honolulu is complete without a visit to this exotic, historic district.