Waikiki Beach (Photo: Thinkstock)
Looking to trade in snow for a beautiful tropical adventure? As Americans, we needn’t go beyond our own borders to experience the lush vegetation, rich culture, exotic fruits, island rum, and rejuvenating ocean breezes of tropical paradise, also known as Hawaii.
Although a Hawaiian getaway may seem quite expensive, there are activity options on the popular island of Oahu for every budget, whether you are staying in a backpacker hostel on the North Shore or an oceanfront suite in Honolulu.
Here are some suggestions for the budget-minded traveler:
Visit lagoons on the west side at Ko Olina Resort (FREE)
Public-access lagoons at Ko Olina (Photo: Jackie Laulainen)
These protected, picture-perfect lagoons are open to the public if you can find a parking spot. Once the free spots are filled, you may need to spend a few dollars to park (all the beaches in Hawaii are technically public).
Surf lesson in Waikiki (approx. $60 and up)
The Faith Surf School also has some great surfing lessons. Try out a traditional Hawaiian long board and shaka until you can’t hang 10 anymore. Don’t forget your waterproof camera.
Related: That One Time I Learned How to Surf on Oahu’s North Shore
Standup paddleboard rental (approx. $30 and up)
Try something new, like standup paddleboarding. (Photo: Thinkstock)
The waters in some areas are very well protected, offering the perfect opportunity to try standup paddleboarding (also known as SUP) for the first time. The Faith Surf School in Waikiki offers classes for $65.
Eat at the famous shrimp trucks on the North Shore ($10-$12)
Oahu is crazy about food trucks. There is a themed food truck event every month in Honolulu, but you can find the shrimp trucks on the North Shore hard at work EVERY DAY serving their famous lunch plates. While some trucks may be more popular than others, locals say it doesn’t matter which one you choose, as they are all phenomenally delicious. If you need a great place to start, try Pupukea Grill or Fumi’s.
Standup paddleboard yoga (approx. $40)
Don’t worry about falling in — it will probably happen, and it’ll be worth the memories! Balanced Bliss has classes available for just $40, including the board.
Snorkel and sun at Hanauma Bay ($1 to park; closed Tuesdays)
Hanauma Bay is Hawaii’s most famous snorkeling beach. Just keep in mind you’ll be with 3,000 other visitors per day. You can rent a snorkel for $12 with Hawaii Beach Time or do a snorkel tour with Hanauma Bay Snorkel Adventures.
Kayak out to the Mokulua Islands (half-day kayak rentals approx. $59)
Kailua Bay and Mokulua Islands (Photo: Jackie Laulainen)
Rent a kayak in Kailua at Kailua Beach Adventures, pack a lunch, and go for a tiny island adventure of cliff jumping and exploring these “Twin Islands” off Kailua Bay. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
Related: How I Conquered My Fear of Water by Snorkeling in Key West
Have a cocktail and learn Hawaiian at Olelo bar in Disney’s Aulani Resort (price of a cocktail)
Even if you aren’t a guest at the hotel, you are welcome to have a drink at the Olelo bar. Olelo means “word” or “to converse” in Hawaiian, and the plethora of words on the furniture and walls will surely teach you a thing or two while you sip your mai tai. Have a “noho” and let the bartenders be your guides as you venture into learning the Hawaiian language.
For those with a bigger budget:
Eat lunch at Ama Ama in Disney’s Aulani Resort (market price)
Fresh Catch of the Day with Curry Sauce and Coconut Rice (Photo: Jackie Laulainen)
While you’re on the west side visiting the lagoons and Aulani for your drink at Olelo, head to Aulani’s signature restaurant, Ama Ama, for the catch of the day lunch. The restaurant opens up to the beach and lagoon area of the resort, providing a beautiful backdrop to your fresh catch experience, a chef’s choice plate that will melt in your mouth.
Sail and snorkel with Ko Olina Marina (from $139)
Board a catamaran at Ko Olina Marina for a morning or afternoon of sailing and snorkeling in one of Oahu’s best snorkeling spots. Keep an eye out for Hawaiian spinner dolphins, sea turtles, and, depending on the season, migrating humpback whales. We saw all three on a recent trip, not to mention various types of colorful tropical fish and two naked pirates (ahem, that’s a cocktail). For the extra-adventurous, try snuba, a combination of snorkeling and scuba diving, for an additional $69 per person.
Go ziplining with Climbworks at Keana Farms ($169)
Double ziplines all the way! (Photo: Climbworks)
In the Keana Ahupua’a (you will learn what that means on your tour!), go for a ziplining adventure through the trees and agriculture fields with breathtaking views of Oahu’s North Shore and occasional Hawaiian history lessons. The incredible staff at Climbworks will make sure you experience CLIMB: challenge, learn, inspire, master, believe — a mission that shows in their passion for land, life, and adventure.
Shaka, you’re in Hawaii with pilot Darl. (Photo: Jackie Laulainen)
Blue Skies of Oahu helicopter tour with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters ($233).
If you want an ultimate, unrivaled experience of Oahu and are ready to splurge, sign up for a ride with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. This 45-minute ride is one you won’t forget as you soar over Waikiki, the extinct volcano of Diamond Head, Oahu’s famous Sacred Falls (which can only be viewed by air now that the trail is closed), forested mountains inaccessible by foot, the famous North Shore, pineapple fields, and finally the USS Arizona and Pearl Harbor from above before returning to solid ground.
WATCH: Ghost Ship Found Off Oahu