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From Honolulu To The North Shore, A Day Exploring Oahu

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Once you leave the Waikiki it’s like you are in a different Hawaii.

There is more to the Island of Oahu than just Honolulu and Waikiki. Sure 75% of the entire population of Hawaii lives on Oahu with 90% of those living in Honolulu. Drive just a little bit out of town towards the north and you start to discover a whole other world and version of Hawaii that isn’t found in the hustle and bustle of Honolulu. Let me  put it like this, Honolulu is like any American city except it is in a beautiful tropical Hawaiian setting. Once you leave Honolulu and all the development you start to encounter the country and a way of life that is fighting more development of the Island. I saw tons of signs while driving from the south to the north and back that read “Leave Country Country”. I have to say I concur, once the magic of Hawaii is developed you can’t turn the clock back. Besides the traffic jams on the two lane highway are already crazy. It wouldn’t be 30 Days In Hawaii if I didn’t explore the wonders of Oahu outside of Waikiki and Honolulu, so let’s go!

Pali Lookout the last battle to unify the Islands of Hawaii under King Kamehameha

Town Hall Team

Like most of my days in Hawaii so far it’s a cloudy and foggy day which doesn’t bode well for photos at my first stop on my adventure Nu’uanu Pali Lookout. I wanted to stop here because this is where you could say Hawaii as we know it became a nation. King Kamehameha I fought a battle here with the ruling Chief of Oahu and won. The King’s men won a decisive victory and by doing so brought all the Islands under his rule. 400 warriors died over this cliff. It really puts the amazing views into perspective, what for me is awesome and breathtaking was terrifying and literally breathtaking for those warriors in 1783. It’s hard to tell in my foggy photo but if you look closely you can see a bay and a tiny island that is shaped and known and the Chinese Hat Island.

Battle of Nu'Uanu Pali

foggy view from Pali Lookout

Well the rain and fog isn’t going to ruin this day for me so I jump back in my car and continue my drive towards the North. My next stop is also a place of historical significance but a bit more modern history. In 1868 the first Japanese immigrants arrived in Hawaii and to commemorate that a replica of the 950 year old Byodo-In Temple located in Uji, Japan was built at the foot of the Ko’olau Mountains in what was called the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. The Byodo-in Temple in Oahu was built in 1968 almost 100 years after the first Japanese set foot on Hawaii. To say the temple is beautiful is an understatement. A Buddhist temple open to everyone to wander, explore and contemplate, it is simply peaceful. Well, peaceful until the large bell is wrung which they encourage you to do.

Byodo-In Temple Oahu

ring the Sacred Bell

The grounds are beautiful and call out for you to slow down and contemplate. There is even a small mediation pavilion overlooking the temple and the ample water features on the grounds.

Meditation pavilion at Byodo-In Temple Oahu

view from the mediation pavilion

Of course you must go inside the temple and say prayer. I’m not sure if mine was appropriate or not, I prayed for sunshine.

please remove your shoes

Buddhist Shrine at Byodo-In Temple

Praying at Byodo-In Temple Oahu

One thing that is definitely abundant at the temple is life. Peacocks are up in the trees ( couldn’t capture one on camera), Koi are swimming throughout the ponds (you can feed them with fish food from the gift shop) and Black Swans are also everywhere you look.

Black Swans at Byodo-In Temple Oahu

Koi in the ponds at Byodo-In Temple Oahu

Ok enough inner peace for me, I want to see some surf and for that there is no better place than the next stop of my adventure the windward side of Oahu, the famous North Shore. Actually before I see some surf I’m getting hungry. It doesn’t help that the road is dotted with little food truck/stands along the way. Coconut stands and Shrimp stands like Romy’s where they raise, catch and cook the shrimp. I tried to eat at Romy’s but the line was a bit too long and the wait was over 30 minutes. I guess I’m not on Island time yet I couldn’t wait. A little further down he road is another iconic food stop on the route called Ted’s Bakery.

Coconut Stand on the drive to Oahu's North Shore

Romy's Shrimp

Ted's Bakery

Ted's Bakery Oahu

An obvious favourite with tourists and locals alike the line up was out the door but thank fully fast moving. It’s kind of a bakery, kind of a fast food joint but 100% it’s about the Hauipa Pie (Coconut cream). I order myself a Teriyaki Beef plate and guess what? I get a free slice of pie with that, Chocolate Haupia pie for me please! It’s very Ono (delicious).

Ted's Bakery it's about the pies

Marc eating a danish at Ted's Bakery

Teriyaki Beef plate

Chocolate Haupia Pie from Ted's Bakery Oahu

Ok with my belly full it’s back on the road. Every five feet I see a new and exciting beach packed with people watching the surf. It is very overcast and windy so the sky is white as is the pounding surf so I’m not sure if my photos do it justice.

a beautiful beach I discovered along my drive to the North Shore of Oahu

People line Sunset beach to watch the surf

There was a surf competition taking place as I was driving along but it was extremely popular and with no parking lot the only place to stop was off the side of the highway. I tried to find a spot to park but after driving for over 3 km I wasn’t able to find a single spot available where it was safe to stop. Too bad because there were some really impressive waves and hundreds of people were lined up on the highway with thousands of dollars worth of camera gear snapping pics. While I was hunting for a spot to park I actually got a text message from a friend that had seen me foursquare check in at Ted’s Bakery. Danica, as it turned out was just at Turtle Bay Resort finishing up her last day at the Wanderlust retreat. Since I couldn’t park anyway I turned around and headed back for a quick visit.

Danica and Marc at Turtle Bay

Surf at Turtle Bay Resort

All in all a great day exploring Oahu. I got to experience some Hawaiian history, said a prayer at the Buddhist Temple honouring Hawaii’s first Japanese immigrants and then soaked up the surf after some delicious Chocolate Haupia pie. Does a day get any better than that? Perhaps a bit of sunshine would have made me a tad bit happier but the grey skies were nothing like the cold damp grey skies of Vancouver so I was still pretty happy. My only regret is that I couldn’t get some of the photos I really wanted. Oh well I guess I just have to go back another time Smile

Pounding surf on the rocky North Shore of Oahu

When you visit Oahu and Honolulu specifically make sure you take at least one day to leave the city and explore the country. I only scratched the surface and trust me next time I visit I’ll be spending more time outside of Waikiki than in.

Thank you to my friends at the Hawaii Visitor’s Bureau for helping make this adventure possible. If you want to have your own Hawaiian adventure there is no better place to start than Go Hawaii, after you read this blog series though first.

beach and surf at Oahu's North Shore

Dining Out For Life

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About Author

Marc Smith is a former event planner turned vagabond adventurer. He loves strong Americano's, great wine, cold beer and zip lining over tree tops. Formerly of Vancouver, most of Marc's time when not travelling is in Canada's largest city, Toronto. Follow along on his nomad adventures and discover places to stay, things to do and where to eat & drink as he explores the world one city and region at a time.


  1. Your photos look great. We also stopped at Ted’s bakery and I’m regretting not getting a slice of pie. Like you, I was too impatient to wait for the shrimp trucks.

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