The resort-lined shores of Waikiki and the gleaming skyscrapers of downtown Honolulu may give the impression that Oahu is an island for those who want to kick back and relax without straying too far from big city conveniences. But if you venture beyond the island’s southern shores you’ll find an untamed Oahu, filled with wide open valleys, jungle-draped mountains, and misty waterfalls. There’s a reason Jurassic Park was filmed here, it feels like a land lost in time. From treetop zipline rides sure to test your courage to outrigger canoe excursions that revive Hawaii’s maritime traditions, you can break into Oahu’s untouched outdoors to seek out your own adventure.
Swim with Sharks
Shark-filled waters don’t seem like the sort of environment you’d want to seek out, unless you’re in a protective cage with the pros at North Shore Shark Adventures watching your back. Slip underwater and check out these magnificent creatures up close, all from the protection of a sturdy shark cage. Look for the fins of gray reef, Galapagos, sandbar, and even hammerhead sharks as they glide up from the deep waters of the North Shore.
Tackle Big Waves
Tackle big waves in traditional Hawaiian style with an outrigger canoe adventure on the shores of Waikiki with Big Wave Dave Surf Co. Experienced instructors guide you and your paddling team through the surf, teaching you how to catch breaking sets and helping you look for green sea turtles and playful dolphin pods that might pop up to say hello along the way.
Explore Kualoa Ranch
Get behind the handlebars of a rugged ATV to power off the beaten path at Kualoa Private Nature Reserve. Cruise by the same verdant mountain ranges that provided the backdrop to Jurassic Park, watch out for herds of cattle, and see the WW II bunker used as a filming location for the hit series, Lost. Roll through the Ka’a’awa Valley, enjoy sweeping views from lofty lookouts, and uncover muddy trails that offer a look at Oahu’s wild side. If you’re in the mood for something with a little less horsepower, saddle up an actual horse and check out Kualoa’s serene landscapes the old-fashioned way.
Kayak to Untouched Islands
Let the bustling activity around Honolulu fade into the distance as you leave the city behind and head to Kailua for a serene kayaking adventure to the Mokalua Islands. Explore tucked-away coves and seabird sanctuaries, take a dip in refreshing tide pools, and go snorkeling around vibrant coral reefs that border golden beaches. With a naturalist guide from Kailua Beach Adventures to point out the area’s wildlife and tasty sandwiches to keep you fueled between activities, this is the ideal way to spend an active afternoon out of town.
Hike in the Manoa Valley
Unleash your inner explorer with a leg-pumping climb up into the Manoa Valley. Join E Noa Tours’ naturalist guide to learn about the area’s native plants, scan the treetops for exotic birds, and chat about the area’s pre-colonial history before you reach Manoa Falls. Go for a dip in rippled pools beneath the falls’ thundering cascades, grab a tasty lunch to reward your active day on the trail, and then swing by Diamond Head on your way back to Honolulu to bag sweeping views of Oahu’s wave-washed shoreline.
Test your vertigo on a dizzying zipline course through the Coral Crater Adventure Park. With lines that stretch up to 900 feet (270 m) between treetop perches, you can blur through leafy canopies in search of sweeping views of Oahu’s rugged hills and mountains. Reach speeds of up to 25 miles per hour (40 km/h) and don’t forget to snap captivating photos from your bird’s-eye perspective between rides.