The Windward coast is a part of Oahu that spans the Kane’ohe Bay to just before Laie, which is right next to the North Shore. It features some of the best beaches in the island and because it tends to get the most rainfall compared to other ‘parts of the island, it is arguably the greenest, and the most colorful part of Oahu. The Windward coast is one part of the island most tourists overlook, which makes it perfect for those who want to avoid the noisy and touristy crowds. Sleepy towns dot the coast and visitors will be pleasantly surprised to find fruit stands along the roads which provide cool refreshments for tourists on their way to the beach. However, it also tends to be the windiest part of Oahu.
You can make your way to the Windward coast of Oahu by driving east from Honolulu on 61 or the Pali Highway. The road will take you on an ascent up a mountain, one of the most scenic routes anywhere in Hawaii with the roads flanked by green velvet. The final stop is the Nuuanu Pali Lookout form where you can enjoy one of the most beautiful overlooking views of the coastline and the Pacific.
For another good lookout point there is also Makapuu Point which you can reach after a 2-mile walk up from the road. You can leave your car by the side of the road and walk past the gate, which is almost always closed so anyone interested is required to slither through the side to get in. Two viewing perches give guests a fantastic view of the coast, from the blue waters of the Kailua Bay to the waves of Lanikai Beach. This is also the place to watch colorful kite surfers and windsurfers frolicking in the water.
Perhaps one of the best beaches on the island and perhaps in the whole US is the Windward coast’s Lanikai Beach. A picturesque beach framed by tall palm trees is one image of Lanikai beach that you will have with you long after your visit. And despite being a mere 11 miles from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki, you can expect comfortable accommodations and almost anything that you need for a memorable tropical vacation. Bed and breakfasts and rental cottages are very affordable and easy to find on the coast. A typical example is the Beach Lane Bed and Breakfasts and Studios, which is only a few steps away from Kailua Beach and is accessible only through an unmarked road.
You can also check-in at the Turtle Bay Resort, right at the point where the windward coast meets the North Shore. There, you can spend a relaxing day at the resort spa, which is famous for its papaya body polish and its limu or seaweed wrap. You can also play golf at the resort’s 36-hole golf course or learn how to surf at the hotel’s very own surfing school under the tutelage of Oahu surfing expert Hans Hedemann. Cottages all have a spectacular view of the Pacific. You can also snorkel at Kuilima Cove, which is a sandy inlet of calm water inside the Turtle Bay resort. This is known as one of the best snorkeling areas in the windward coast.
Another good destination for swimming or bodysurfing is Pounder’s Beach, known as one of the best bodysurfing beaches in the island. Although it is also a good place for picnics, the beach has no lifeguards and comes with the biggest and strongest waves, especially in winter. So if you do decide to come here, you should exercise caution.
You have the option of going for a picnic on one of the coast’s serene beaches. Restaurants and other eating places dot the coastline too. Among these are Brent’s Restaurant, Cinnamon’s restaurant and Lucy’s Grill N’ Bar.
Other popular places for good eats include Baci Bistro which serves one of the best pastas in town, and Pinky’s Pupu Bar and Grill, which is the place to go to for delicious appetizers and a casual atmosphere.
Places of Culture and History
If you want to know more about the Windward coast, a good place to visit is the old Byodo-in temple, which is an exact copy of a Buddhist temple in Japan, representing the sizable Japanese population on the island. The temple was built in the 60s to commemorate the arrival of the island’s first Japanese immigrants who arrived a hundred years before. Guests are encouraged to ring the three-toned sacred bell while visiting the temple in order to keep evil temptations at bay.
You should also include in your itinerary a visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center, which is a Mormon-run educational theme park that was built to preserve and promote the history of the Polynesian islands from Fiji to Tahiti. The theme park features attractions by island. For example, visitors can witness the Tahitian art of twirling poi balls or be entertained by native Hawaiian hula dancers. This is Hawaii's most popular paid attraction. Expect the Center to be crowded on any given day. You can end the day with a traditional Hawaiian luau followed by a night of authentic South Pacific entertainment.
Another place you will regret missing is the Ahupuaa State Park, which is a living park. This means, you will find families who live there in order to foster local Hawaiian culture in a tropical rainforest setting. There is no other park of this kind in the US, which makes it an attraction that should not be missed. The park also enjoys a favorable location next to Kahana Bay Beach park, which is the perfect place for beachcombing and swimming.
Further along the road is Kamalamalama o Keao church, the oldest Hawaiian chapel on the windward coast. This historic landmark survived a tsunami in 1946 that left surrounding houses destroyed but left it with very little damage.
Because of the amount of rainfall that falls each year, the island is blessed with the bounty of lush greenery and colorful gardens.You should not miss a day at the Haiku gardens, one of the most beautiful nature gardens in Oahu. This is where some of the best examples of Hawaiian flora can be found, from the famous heliconia and birds of paradise. Another nature garden that is worth a visit is Senator Fong’s Plantation and Gardens, created by Hiram Fong who was the state’s first senator. The place is lush with gardenias and ginger plants as well as rows upon rows of banana and papaya.
Heeia State park is also a stone’s throw away, and from there, you can get a spectacular view of Kaneohe Bay and Coconut Island.
A day at the Kualoa Ranch will give you a special experience. Adventure-lovers will love frolicking in one of the family-operated ranch’s all terrain vehicles through the Windward coast’s rugged landscape and canopies of lush greenery that open up to spectacular vistas of the ocean. This is the largest and oldest cattle ranch on the island. It is also a historic place, being the site of the island’s first sugar mill. The ranch spans 4,000 green acres and has yet another claim to fame, this time on the silver screen. The ranch is where major movie productions Jurassic Park and Lost were filmed. Other things to do in the ranch include horseback riding and jungle expeditions. Guests can also hop aboard a glass-bottom boat and do a little bit of underwater exploration without getting wet.