When we think of Oahu, we almost immediately think of Honolulu. But if you’re heading to Oahu and looking for a relaxing time away, Waikiki is not the only place to visit. The nearby Leeward Coast provides an excellent opportunity for a getaway, thanks to its many small, sleepy towns that have been largely untouched by tourism. Route 93 runs up the entire west side of the island, making the Leeward Coast perfectly accessible for a fun weekend road trip. Here’s how to spend a long weekend on Oahu’s Leeward Coast—whether solo or with the whole crew!
Day 1: Pearl Harbor and Maili Beach
Fly into Honolulu, rent a car, and hit the road. Kapolei, where you’ll find several upscale resorts, is only half an hour from Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, so if you haven’t had the chance already, stop by the Pearl Harbor Historic Site. Visit Ford Island to explore the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum and the Battleship Missouri Memorial, hop back on the westward H1, then exit onto Route 93 towards Maili.
As soon as you pass the Ko Olina Golf Club at Honokai Hale, you’ll reach the Leeward Coast with stretches of beach to your left and green gulches to your right. Once you reach Maili, head to its quiet, uncrowded beach!
Day 2: Hiking Ka’ena Point
When you’re through with your relaxing beachfront cup of morning coffee, hit the road again and follow the coast towards Kepuhi Point (where you’ll shack up in the evening). Make a pit stop here to stock up on drinks and snacks for your hikes so that you don’t get too hungry or dehydrated. Pass Makaha Beach Park (or stop for a dip!) and then park at the oceanside pullout across the street from Kaneana (Makaha) Cave. A steep ascent leads to the mouth of the cave with a stunning view of the ocean and mountains.
When you’re done snapping photos of the landscape, continue driving north to Keawaula Beach. Here, you can park and begin the hike to Ka’ena Point; the trail starts near the car park at the northernmost end of the beach. To reach Ka’ena Point State Park at the end, it’s a 2-mile (approximately 40-minute) trek along a sandy, road-like trail.
Explore the rugged, storied volcanic history of the island when you reach the end, and don’t forget to look for Hawaiian monk seals among the rocks! Ka’ena is five million-year-old former shield volcano that ended up forming around 15% of the island in its active days, so these lava flows are the oldest in Oahu.
Keep going eastward for a little while until you reach the other end of the trail, but at that point, you’ve left the Leeward Coast. Backtrack to Keawaula Beach to catch the sunset; you’re facing west, so you will be treated to a spectacular sight!
End the day with a restful stay at Makaha Valley Towers, an open-concept and a comfortable stay.
Day 3: Ku’ilioloa Heiau
Wake up to the sun rising behind you and take it slow; you’re back-tracking today, so you can hit anything that you missed on the way up. Stop at Ku’ilioloa Heiau for the view and to experience a sacred relic of Hawai’ian culture. Ku’ilioloa means “the long dog Ku,” who is said to be a protector of travelers. Then, head back down to Maili and don’t leave town without stopping at Alejandro’s Mexican Food for some unbeatable tacos!
Head back into Honolulu for your final night, and book a stay at the budget-friendly Airport Honolulu Hotel. If your flight is heading out that day, head straight to the airport and flip through your photos of sandy beaches, lava flows, sunsets, and leafy jungles. It’s safe to say the Leeward Coast beats the concrete jungle of Honolulu any day!
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