What to Do in Windward Coast, Oahu
The Windward Coast is a stretch of secluded beaches that is also known as one of the most beautiful places in Oahu. It is known for its lush and green landscape, maintained by the constant trade winds that bring constant rain to this part of the island. The Windward Coast stretches from Makupu Point to Kahulu. With its beautiful landscape and its rich and colorful culture and history, you will not run out of things to do while there.
The Windward coast is all nature at its finest. Either the sea or the mountains will draw you to this place. Your eyes will feast on the beauty that this place has to offer. Such display of beauty starts from Waikiki onwards to the stretch of coastline known as the Windward Coast.
Needless to say, this stretch of serene, white beaches and craggy mountains is perhaps one of the best places to conduct sightseeing tours. If this is your first time you can start off from the Pali Highway and make your way upwards, going through a road flanked by lush greenery, with a spectacular view of the grand mountains in the distance.
One stop for sightseers is the Nuuanu Pali State Park and Lookout from where you can see the whole windward side island, with the craggy mountains in front and the clear blue waters of the Pacific further out into the distance. You can go to either of the two observation levels of the Pali lookout, with the lower level a great place to see the Koolaus up close. Most tours go downward from here. The drive up and the descent to the Windward Coast is a scenic drive, with lush greenery on all sides, and the green canopies of the trees below. You can stop at any point on the descent to take in the view below.
The next stop would be at the Hawaii Pacific University, which can be reached by going down Pali Highway and turning left in the direction of Kaneohe. Formerly the Hawaii Loa College, it is now the windward campus of the Honolulu-based Hawaiian Pacific College. Just like the rest of the windward coast, the campus sits amidst a swath of green and tall shady trees.
Another place of interest for sightseers is the Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden, which is hidden from the main road except for a little sign. The garden is a great place to drive through. It spans almost a mile, starting with a visitor’s center where tourists can get their maps and see park exhibits, pictures and other information about the garden. The trail has several areas for stops where you can take pictures or just take in the sights.
The visitors’ center is a just a few steps from the pond, which is one of the focal points in the garden. This park is not among the usual tourist stops, which accounts for the very sparse foot traffic evident on the on the garden footpaths. The garden is separated into six distinct areas, among them India-Sri Lankan plants and native Hawaiian foliage. Finally, one of the last stops is the Windward Community College which is the former Kaneohe State Hospital. Smaller than the Hawaii Pacific University, the Windward community College boasts of a wide and picturesque campus surrounded by a number of shady trees.
Surfing and Swimming
Who would miss trying the water activities offered in the many beaches on the island? For surfing, one of the best spots in the Windward coast is Pounders Beach. This has the best waves in the Windward side. However, with the lack of lifeguards and the pounding waves, only the brave or the real experts should brave these waters.
If you are looking for a tamer beach fare, you can go to Hanauma Bay. This is the perfect place for you if you just want a lazy day of snorkeling instead of battling the pounding waves. Just a short distance away is Sandy Beach. While it has waves which are too dangerous for surfing, Sandy Beach is one of the best places to fly a kite on the island.
A few miles up north is Lanikai Beach, known as one of the best beaches in the world. With the heavy tourist traffic, expect parking in Lanikai to be difficult. The beach is part of an exclusive community where tourists can get access of the beach through selected public access roads. From the beach you will see the Mokuluas islands, which sits three quarters of a mile from the coast. You should also make a stop at Kailua Bay or the Kane'ohe Bay. The Kailua Beach park is another beachside recreational area that you and your family will enjoy. One of the best places for swimming, the Kailua Beach park is also a favorite of windsurfers and kayakers. The beach has full-time life guards, a picnic area, restrooms and showers.
You would surely enjoy walking and hiking if you know that beautiful sights await you. The windward side of the island is famous for its botanical gardens. Because of prevailing trade winds, the windward coast is greener and lusher than any other part of Oahu. This makes it the perfect home for the most diverse collections of native flora on the island. Popular botanical gardens you can explore include the Ho`omaluhia Botanical Garden, which is ‘peaceful refuge’ in English. The garden features major specimens of plants from all over the world grouped according to five geographical regions. Another is Senator Fong’s Botanical Gardens, created by the first US state senator of the island. This is a 700 acre family owned garden that boasts of a scenic view of the valley and the plateaus below. You can also try Haiku Gardens, a private garden that is a popular site for weddings, birthdays and other significant occasions. The garden also offers catering services. It features a pond as the centerpiece of the garden and an open-air chapel where weddings are held.
For those looking for more nature trips, the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is one of the best options. Entrance will require about $5 while those coming in cars will need to shell out $1 .00 for parking fees. This nature preserve is the First Marine Life Conservation District in Hawaii.
Because the Windward coast does not have a lot of fine dining establishments right on the beach, finding a good place to eat can be tricky. But not if you are in Pounder’s Beach and other locations where eating shacks cater to the surfing crowd. Bringing a picnic basket for a nature trip or a short stay at the beach is always a good idea, especially for families with kids. With all the sightseeing, it is always better to have something to eat on hand, especially when travelling by car. This does not mean that there are no suitable eating places along the coast. You can try Cinnamon’s Restaurant, Brent’s Restaurant and Lucy’s Bar and Grill if you happen to make a stop in Kailua. You can also try Buzz’s Original Steakhouse in Lanikai, which features staples such as fries and burgers infused with Hawaiian flavor. Another good option is the Crouching Tiger over at Ka'a'a'wa and the Rainbow Diner and Barbeque in Hau’ula.
If you are into golf, you can try a round of golf at the Turtle Bay Inn’s golf course or try your luck at the Pali Golf Course, which is only across the road from the Hawaii Pacific University. There, you can play and have the proud Koolau Mountains as background. A restaurant is a few steps away from the golf course and offers a great view of the ocean.
For a day of relaxation, nothing can beat the quality of pampering offered by the spa services at the Turtle Bay Beach resort which sits on the entrance to the north shore. The resort is famous for its seaweed wraps and their papaya body polish that will leave your skin gleaming. The resort also has a 36-hole golf course and ample space for horseback riding.