Don’t stay in Waikiki
There are plenty of hotels, resorts, and rentals available outside of Waikiki on Oahu. A local and tourist favorite is Turtle Bay on Oahu’s fabled North Shore, sitting right next to Haleiwa. This area has plenty of beaches and local restaurants that even locals love.
Take the scenic route, not the highway
Don’t take the highways because they are dirty and congested. Instead, take the beautiful scenic route around the island to explore hidden beaches and hikes. The stunning alternative is a coastline that is one big connected beach with blue waters and white sand.
Watch the sunset on the west side
Most people will tell you to stay away from the west side because it is “dirty.” Please don’t judge this lovely book by its cover. It has some of the most amazing beaches and the best sunsets in the world. The sun sets right over the ocean and turns the water a dreamy orange and pink color.
Hike toward hidden waterfalls
Instead of hiking to waterfalls that the hotels and guidebooks suggest, try to find a waterfall that doesn’t get as much traffic and is just as impressive. There are plenty of east side waterfall hikes because it rains so much. Look at the mountains to see where the waterfalls are and venture into the jungle!
Kayak to the Mokulua Islands
Lanikai Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii, but it can also be very crowded. Instead of sitting on the packed coastline on the weekend, paddle to the islands in the background. It is completely legal to hike at Moku Nui, the bigger of the two islands. See tons of colorful reefs and wildlife along the way.
Lanikai Beach, Kailua, HI, USA, +1 808 261 2727
Stay at an Airbnb
If you are on vacation, staying at an Airbnb is the best way to feel like you’re at home while on the islands. Airbnbs are easy to find and allow you to completely relax in a home-like setting. Try renting one on the North Shore or east side.
Eat at hole-in-the-wall restaurants
Although they may look unappealing, most of the delicious food in Hawaii comes from hole-in-the-wall restaurants. They also aren’t as crowded as popular restaurants in the touristy areas. Some favorites include Rainbow Drive-In, Uncle Bobo’s, and Fresh Catch.
Visit the beaches on the east side
The east side is one continuous beautiful beach. You are bound to find some peace and quiet at one of the sandy shores if you can escape to them. Try to find a secluded beach near Chinaman’s Hat; this area is particularly relaxing.
Don’t do wildlife tours—snorkel on your own
Don’t pay to go on a wildlife tour where you’ll be on a boat full of other tourists. Swim with the turtles or dolphins by yourself by swimming from the shoreline. These animals usually live close to the shore, so you don’t have to swim very far to have amazing interactions with them.
Ask for a local’s opinion
If you are having a hard time finding non-touristy activities, then ask a local where to go! Hawaiians are very friendly and are usually always up for helping new friends find places to explore. They might even go on an adventure with you if they have the time. The aloha spirit is alive and well, so don’t be afraid to ask for help!