Windward Coast, Oahu on a budget
The Windward Coast is one of the less densely populated areas in Oahu. However, the place is blessed with spectacular views and lush greenery that make it a destination for those who want to get away from the touristy traffic and explore a quieter and more peaceful side of Oahu. However, peace and tranquility do not often come cheap. Still, if you do a little homework and exert a little effort, you can enjoy the windward coast on a budget.
Accommodations on the Cheap
The Windward Coast lacks the hotels and resorts that characterize other parts of Oahu, but finding accommodations that are affordable will not be hard to do. One option is to rent in Waikiki and from there commute to the Windward Coast. Waikiki has a lot of accommodation options to choose from, from beachfront cottage rentals to condos in the busiest part of town. Hawaiian Beach Rentals and Pat’s Kailua Beach Properties are just two of the places to start with when looking for affordable accommodation options in Waikiki or the Windward coast.
County inns and bed and breakfasts are the most common forms of accommodation in the Windward coast. A good place to stay in would be Schrader's Windward Country Inn in Kaneohe.
The windward coast is dotted with eateries and grill houses that serve authentic Hawaiian food. Most are known for their laid-back and casual atmospheres and are good places to meet and greet island locals. Those who want to stick to their budget will find the best and yet the most affordable steaks at Buzz' s Original Steakhouse, which has been serving tourists and locals since the early 60s. While Buzz' may be more upscale than most local eateries, this is definitely one of the eating places where tourists can get their taste of burgers and steaks infused with local Hawaiian flair. Another good place to stop for grub is the Crouching Lion Inn, a popular stop for the tour-bus circuit and known for their extensive menu. This food place has been around since the 1920s and is known for its vintage wood-shingle architecture. Pounders Beach is another good place to find grungy eateries that serve hearty yet affordable meals for the bodysurfing crowd.
Activities on a Budget
There are a lot of fun activities you can do in the Windward Coast even if you are on a budget. The Windward Coast is lined with numerous nature parks , gardens and great look-out points that provide the greatest views of the Pacific. Plain sightseeing is not the only thing that goes for cheap in the Windward Coast. You can also snorkel, fish, go horseback riding, ride ATVs, parasail and do other fun activities without going beyond the holiday budget. Here are some few options for starters.
This should be the first stop for any budget trip through the Windward Coast. The park is just 45 miles from Waikiki and is one of the best places to view the Koolau Mountains as well as of Mokolii Island, which is more known to locals as Cinnamon Island because of its distinct cone shape. If you like to picnic you will enjoy the beach and the lifeguards present there every day of the year. However, the area is also known for deep and strong currents as well as deep holes, so despite the presence of lifeguards, swimmers are cautioned to swim at their own risk. The place is accessible from Waikiki by taking Kapahulu Avenue to H-1W and from there to Kamehameha highway, and from there to the right side of Kahekili Highway, which will lead to the park entrance.
Another stop is the Ahupuaa State Park which can be reached by going to Highway 83W. This park is unique because it features real live families which live according to the traditions and cultures of native Hawaiians in a tropical forest setting. Tourists can follow nature hiking trails from where they observe the park's inhabitants go about their daily activities. Ahupuaa State park also enjoys a good location right next to the Kahana Bay Beach Park, which is a good place for a family picnic and swimming and beachcombing. The park also features a great view of the Huilua Fishpond. This is a nature park so tourists can expect the occasional mosquito and mud.
For a little bit of religious history, tourists can drop by the KamalamAlama o Keao Church, a historic church that sits right next to the Sacred Falls Park. This is the oldest Hawaiian Chapel in Windward Oahu and was even made more significant during the 1946 tsunami, which destroyed surrounding dwellings but left the church intact. Guests can make a quick stop here but longer stays are not allowed due to the frequent occurrence of fatal landslides.
Another cultural stop is the Polynesian Cultural Center which is one of the busiest cultural centers in Oahu. The Polynesian Cultural Center features a Hawaiian-style theme park that showcases seven model villages designed to recreate ancient Polynesia villages. The cultural center will ask for a minimal entry charge. After taking the tour, guests can dine at the center's restaurant and enjoy an authentic Hawaiian luau as the sun sets.
From here, those who still want to do more sightseeing while learning about Polynesian culture and history will enjoy a visit to the Hawaii Temple or Ulupo Heiau, where they can marvel at the 30 foot temple made from stones. Or, they can make their way up the top of the Heiau where they can observe endangered birds in their natural habitats in Kawainui Marsh. Another place to visit is the Heeia State Park, where tourists can see the Valley of the Temples, stroll through the Hoomaluhia Botanical Gardens or through Senator Fong's Plantation, gardens which hold some of the most beautiful flora that can only be found on the island. Tourists walking through the Heeia State Park will get spectacular views of Coconut Island just across the water and Heeia Kea Pier.
Die hard bodysurfers will love this next stop. Pounders Beach is one of the most popular bodysurfing beaches in the island and is known for its strong and often deadly waves. There are no lifeguards, so swimmers are advised to swim with caution.
For a more leisurely day at the beach one can head to the Malaekahana Bay, a quiet, wooded white sand beach. They can reach nearby Goat Island by wading, but take note that there are no lifeguards in the area. Crossing to and from Goat Island must only be done on calm and low tide days with proper water footwear.
For those who want to spend a lazy afternoon on a secluded beach, there is no better alternative than the Kuilima Cove, which is located inside the Turtle Bay Resort. This stretch of white sand is one of the best places to swim and snorkel in the Windward coast because of its calm waters. The cove can be reached on a detour on the way to the resort grounds. Guests are advised to wear proper footwear as the inlet has a coral bottom.
The beaches in the Windward coast are for the most part peaceful and serene, making them perfect choices for family swimming activities. Snorkeling, kayaking and windsurfing are just some of the popular watersports done in the Windward coast, and they often will not cost anything if guests bring their snorkeling or kayaking gear with them.
Finally, this might not be free, but a day at the 4,000-acre Kualoa Ranch is an activity that no one should miss. From ATV rides through the Windward coast's mountainous terrain that will lead to the most spectacular views of the valley and the ocean beyond, to horseback riding and leisurely lunches, the Kualoa Ranch offers a day of Hawaiian adventure that is still very affordable.