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When most people think of Oahu, they think of the typical Hawaii itinerary: hiking up Diamond Head, touring Pearl Harbor, snorkeling in Hanauma Bay and relaxing on one of Waikiki’s famous beaches. As marvelous as these popular attractions are, Oahu also offers plenty of off-the-beaten-path options for the adventurous or repeat visitor. These offbeat activities not only get clients away from the crowds but offer a glimpse into Oahu’s local life and natural beauty.
“We always encourage visitors to explore Oahu beyond Waikiki. Discovering the island through adventurous experiences makes for great storytelling and memories that last a lifetime,” said Stacey Martin Alford, director of travel industry sales for the Oahu Visitors Bureau.
Among these adventurous options are secret beaches, remote hikes, smaller local towns and countless cultural festivals and events that occur almost any weekend throughout the year.
Alford personally recommends the Honolulu Night Market in the up-and-coming Kakaako district, a monthly block party that showcases the best of Oahu’s authentic urban-island culture. Both locals and tourists rave about this event, where clients can find an abundance of vendors selling delicious food, a beer garden, live music performances, fashion shows featuring the work of local designers, art displays and more. Clients can follow the Honolulu Night Market’s social media accounts for up-to-date information on upcoming vendors and performers.
For another festive immersion in local culture and art, Art After Dark at the Honolulu Museum of Art turns art viewing into an all-out party. The event is held on the last Friday of the month from January through October and is themed according to the museum’s current feature exhibition. Food and drinks are provided and guests dance the night away to live music.
In addition to its rich present-day culture, Oahu is also teeming with history and historic sites. Queen Emma Summer Palace, located in the lush Nuuanu Valley, was the mountain home where Hawaiian Queen Emma escaped from the intense heat of the Honolulu summer with King Kamehameha and their son, Prince Albert. Today, at this National Historic Registry site, visitors can find a display of the Queen’s belongings, royal antiques and memorabilia. A similar collection of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop’s royal family heirlooms and Hawaiian artifacts can be found in Honolulu’s Bishop Museum.
Japanese influence on Hawaiian culture is evident in Byodo-In Temple, located at the foot of the Koolau Mountains. It is a smaller-scale replica of the 950-year-old Byodo-In Temple in Uji, Japan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, the Buddhist temple is non-practicing and invites visitors of all faiths to enjoy its beauty, regardless of whether they choose to worship or meditate.
If clients prefer to do something off the beaten path without leaving Waikiki, Kapahulu, Waikiki’s “neighborhood within a neighborhood,” has a much less touristy vibe and is rich in multi-ethnic and mom-and-pop-style dining options.
Whatever travelers choose to do in Oahu, the Oahu Visitors Bureau has one important piece of advice: simply slow down.
“Many vacationers translate their busy lifestyle back home to a busy vacation itinerary and often miss the chance to schedule in, for example, a beach picnic at sunset,” said Alford.
The Oahu Visitor Bureau’s “Explore Oahu” brochure is a good place to start when planning or selling an Oahu vacation. Lightweight and free of advertisements, it outlines the highlights, both popular and unexpected, of Oahu travel. It is also the number-one printed sales tool for travel agents selling Oahu.
Alford encourages travel agents to recommend lesser-known activities to their clients, saying that by doing so agents will retain customer loyalty and establish their own version of a “good housekeeping seal of approval” in regards to authenticity, local character and value.