When my boyfriend and I decided to take a vacation this summer, we were both pretty overwhelmed with all of the information available. There are so many places to choose from and it can be hard to decide what is the right fit for you.
After doing a lot of research, we finally decided on Waianae in Honolulu Country, Hawaii. This turned out to be the perfect decision for us!
We were able to enjoy the beautiful natural scenery and hike some of the most amazing trails, all while spending time on some of the best beaches in the world. This trip was definitely one of a kind and we would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an amazing vacation destination!
In this article, you can find the top 6 things to do in Waianae based on natural beauty, user-friendliness, price, and overall experience. The overhyped tourist traps did not make the list!
So here we go, my top picks all in one place!
#1. Ka’ena Point State Park – Sacred Bird Sanctuary and Trail
We decided to hike this trail from the north shore. It was an easy hike following a dirt road, and it took us about an hour and a half with picture breaks.
We did the hike early in the morning, which made it the perfect jungle experience. In the silence, all I could hear were the waves crashing into rocks, different birds calling out, and the trees moving. I loved it! We saw turtles and seals lounging on the beach- it was priceless.
My favorite was the actual bird sanctuary. I saw so many bird nests and even some strange-looking (but cute) baby birds. The information signs were helpful and informative, with information about common animals and plants at the site.
This park is my number one pick because it shows off the area’s beauty. It is not too challenging and can be done by the whole family. It is a free activity if you hike or come by car (you can also rent four-wheelers).
Note: Hikers should bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and head protection. The trail is exposed to the sun most of the day.
Here’s why it’s my #1 pick:
- You can enjoy the bird sanctuary by taking a nice hike or driving.
- This trail has many types of animals and plants to see – including turtles and seals.
- This is a jungle experience with many exotic plants and bird sounds.
- This is a safe and family-friendly activity.
#2. Puu O Hulu Trail (Pink Pillbox/Ma’ili Pillbox) – Best Hike and Sunset
I loved this trail because you don’t have to be a hiker to hike to the top! All you need are comfortable shoes and goodwill. The hike took us about 35 minutes (we are not advanced hikers). Also, the views from the pillboxes are remarkable. There are a few different pillboxes and artifacts from World War II, and they make great shade.
But let’s be clear. You must visit because of the sunset.
We timed the hike to arrive at the top half an hour before sunset. We brought a small blanket with food and drinks and spent about an hour relaxing. This sunset was the prettiest on our trip. The water looked like glass from a high view. In short, you get a panoramic view from Ko’Olina to Kaena Point.
I took some of my most memorable pictures on the trip here!
If you plan on making this hike please do it in the morning or the evening. There is no real shade, and the sun can make you miserable. We did see some children participating in the hike (age maybe 8 to 10 years old), so consider this a family-friendly experience.
It is a must-visit place because:
- You will see the prettiest sunset on your trip! Take some beautiful pictures here.
- The hike is relatively easy and family-friendly.
- This is a great place to have a picnic and some drinks.
- This is a free activity, open to the public.
- Take your dog, because this is a pet-friendly place.
#3. Mermaid Caves – Hidden Gem by the Beach
This gem is a must-visit when the tide is low! Imagine an exotic underground cave with a small sandy beach, coral, and turquoise water – this is that place! I was reminded of National Geographic pictures that I wish I could visit.
We made sure to arrive when the tide was low (for us this was after an early breakfast). Getting into the cave area took a bit of time and I am glad I wore swim shoes.
Once down on the beach, we explored the lava rock and sea bottom. I searched for sea shells, and we both took a short swim. There is a small tide pool area, so we mostly soaked and relaxed there.
I loved the picture we took here. You can have someone from the top take awesome pictures through the entrance or down in the cave. They all looked great.
Please keep in mind that there are no lifeguards here. You need to feel comfortable and make sure you are safe. I would not recommend this for children.
Check out the Mermaid caves because:
- You can spend a few hours in an exotic tropical cave, there is a beach below too!
- You can take some great pictures at this spot.
- There are tide pools and cliffs to jump off of (for those looking for excitement!)
- It’s a pleasant place to relax in the shallow water or explore the coral.
- It is usually not crowded.
#4. Ma’o Organic Farms – The Above and Beyond Tour and Meal
If I could, I would have every meal (and special) this farm offers!
This farm-to-table organic farm and restaurant are the biggest on the island (31 acres). Apart from offering the most delicious food and the best tours, this lace also provides assistance to the homeless and disabled communities in their area.
We took the Farm to Table tour, and it lasted a little over 2.5-hours. The tour started with learning about indigenous crops and their cultivation. We got to harvest some of our own exotic fruit and herbs and taste everything. The farm has a lot of animals. I enjoyed feeding the sheep and chickens, but there are also pigs, ducks, and even bees.
The tour was well worth our time and very worthwhile.
Still, the 3-course meal in the open area was amazing, and one of the most delicious I have had in a long time. (I love food, so you trust me on this!) To begin with, I chose a mixed veggie soup, chicken and brown rice with mango salsa was the main dish, and Lilikoi Cheesecake was the dessert! My boyfriend had the Greek salad instead of the soup, and that looked tasty and fresh.
Do not skip this tour. It is even better than I can describe it. It’s on my list because:
- The educational part of the tour is super hands-on with picking and tasting the crops.
- There are many farm animals to feed and visit.
- You get to taste many delicious herbs, vegetables, and fruits.
- The meal will be one of the best on your trip.
- The farm does amazing work. It is good for the people and the earth.
#5. Mauna Lahilahi – Best Short Hike for the Family
This hike is a pleasant walk, no longer than 1 mile in and out. In addition to the amazing views at the top, this is a pleasant walk for the whole family. You can even take your dog on a leash. We enjoyed some bird and wildflower watching. The trail was not busy when we visited.
We brought snacks and drinks to enjoy the view. The view from the top is breathtaking at sunset or sunrise. It was a beautiful beach view, and I enjoyed the secluded feeling. If you are not afraid of heights, there is a great place to take pictures right at the top.
There is a small rock climbing part, so wear comfortable shoes and long pants. The trail is not well defined in all areas, so do not wander at night. Bring a hat for shade!
Here is why you should check out this trail:
- This is a short hike and doesn’t require a lot of skill or equipment.
- This is a dog-friendly trail (must be on a leash).
- The view from the top is beautiful and you can enjoy a sunset or sunrise.
- An excellent picture-taking opportunity.
#6. Waianae Farmers’ Market – Best Local Food Vendors
Skip breakfast on Saturday morning and head to the farmers market (at least, that’s what we did)! This market is a great place to meet the locals and their families. This market is small outside but with a lot of local vendors. They offer flowers, fresh produce, handmade products, and cooked food to eat.
After browsing the stands and smelling all the fresh produce, we bought some fresh fruit to take to the beach with us. We sampled some food from several vendors for breakfast and decided on the acai bowls and smoothies. There is also Thai Curry, BBQ sticks, Filipino food, and plenty of snacks like garlic fries or macaroons.
It is a great opportunity to support the local people. There is a lot of locally grown and organic produce here. Also, the crafts and artwork are one of a kind.
Every shop closes at noon, so don’t be late.
Here’s why this is a must-stop for you!
- Spend an hour exploring local, organic, and fresh produce.
- Grab some tasty breakfast or brunch from the many food vendors.
- It’s an opportunity to hear local music and try street food.
- The jewelry and artwork are one of a kind.
The only regret about this trip was that I wished I had more time. There are so many great things to explore in Waianae. This town is naturally beautiful, filled with exotic plants, animals, and amazing food. The locals are kind and helpful.
For hikers, there are several great trails. For my foodies, there is a farm-to-table option!
I really hope you enjoy my photos. And add a few more of your own.
The most effective way you can help me is by sharing my article. So please pass it on to your friends.
Until next time!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
What can you do in Waianae for free?
Waianae has some great beaches and hiking trails that are open to the public and free. If you love to hike, I recommend Ka’ena Point and Puu O Hulu Trail (Pink Pillbox). These trails are suitable for most hikers and have incredible views. Some of the best beaches are Pōkaʻī Bay Beach Park and Māʻili Beach Park. These sand beaches are great for swimming and trying watersports.
What is Waianae known for?
Waianae is known for its crystal-clear waters and rich marine life. The waters here (and beaches) are full of turtles, dolphins, and tropical fish. There is also a lot of interesting coral to see if you enjoy snorkeling.
Is Waianae a good area?
Waianae is a safe area for tourists. The city and coast are well patrolled, and the beaches usually have lifeguards. There is a nice evening vibe, and most restaurants work late. Regardless of safety, tourists should always use caution, especially when traveling alone or at night.
What should I avoid in Oahu?
When visiting Oahu and the Waianae area, please keep in mind you are a guest. As such, it is critical to respect the local rules and culture.
When visiting, you should not litter, disobey park and beach restrictions, and ensure you are not harmful to wildlife. Keep in mind that many species of wildlife are struggling, and we need to keep our distance – to keep them safe.
Also, try to make the absolute most of your trip. Don’t just stay in your resort when you’re on the island. Explore the city and area. The most convenient way to do this is to rent a car or take a tour.
Last Updated on January 10, 2023 by Brigitte