MAGAZINE

Wanderlust Oahu Travel Guide

Photo by: Ali Kaukas
by Laura Mason | @masonlazarus Tue February 24, 2015 | 12:00 AM

If you're headed to Wanderlust Oahu this week, you're probably pretty hyped to leave your everyday life behind and spend the next 4 days unplugging and centering yourself in paradise. Plenty of activities await you at Turtle Bay Resort, like surfing and stand-up paddleboard lessons (including yoga on surfboards!), eco-hikes, kayaking adventure runs, lectures, and the signature yoga sessions and musical performances Wanderlust excels at. However, if you're hopping the ocean to Hawai'i you'll want to give yourself a few extra days to explore.

Here are 8 spots to check out – all on the North and East shores – in the days before or after you get bendy at Wanderlust.

Kaenapoint Kelsiediperna 2014

Ka'ena Point

Ka'ena Point is the northern-most tip of Oahu. Wild waves crash all around it and ridges rise high above it. You'll feel far away from most of the island's civilization, which is perfect because a huge swath of the area is rightfully preserved as an albatross sanctuary for these huge birds' nesting and egg hatching seasons. Getting there involves an easy hike starting from the Mokule'ia section of the Ka'ena Point State Park along the shoreline that totals about 6 miles round trip. It includes the aforementioned vistas of remote beaches filled with coral, shells, and lava rock; about halfway through, the albatross sanctuary begins, as does a guided pathway so visitors don't accidentally walk into the many surrounding birds' nests. The land here is untouched and beautiful. The path ends at the tip of the island amongst a slew of coral beaches where sometimes, if you're lucky, you'll see extremely endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals sunbathing.

Kualoa Ranch

With over 4,000 acres of postcard-caliber beauty on the northeast shore of Oahu, there's a reason why Kualoa Ranch has had so many films shot on its sweeping grounds. There is so much to do here, from horseback riding to driving ATVs to hiking to ziplining to learning about cherished and beautiful ancient Hawaiian traditions and native species. Kualoa even has its own beach – called Secret Beach – where guests can kayak and stand-up paddleboard. If you're looking to immerse yourself in Oahu's unique natural world, away from the manicured resort grounds, this is one of the closest (and best) places to do just that.

Waimeafalls Thomasshahan 20123

Waimea Valley

Waimea Valley is an important place in Hawaiian religion where ancient people built their churches (known as heiaus) and grew lifeline crops such as taro, bananas and sweet potato. It's also a wonderland of flora and fauna thanks valley's historical nature park, which costs $15 to experience. The botanical gardens boast 35 distinct collections, representing some 5,000 taxa from around the world. It contains one of the finest collections of Polynesian plants in existence, as well as excellent collections of very rare Hawaiian plants you won't see anywhere else on earth. Oh, did we hear you say you want to see some waterfalls? Waimea Falls is accessible by almost everyone, and features an easy 1.5-mile out and back trail. Hop in the cold water surrounding the falls to clean off some sweat – but don't go in if you have any cuts! For a one-two punch, squeeze in a beach hang at Waimea Bay across the street; just be prepared for it to be tourist central.

Pipeline

If you're looking for a more chill North Shore beach session, head past Waimea Bay (which is usually clogged with tourists) and post up at Pipeline. It's enormous enough for everyone – no matter how big the group – to have enough room to spread out, the crystalline water is the best the play in and if you go in the winter, the waves and their world-famous barrels are utterly awe-inspiring.

Beet Box Cafe and Celestial Natural Foods

Whether you're headed into your Wanderlust experience or emerging from it, health and wellbeing will be at the forefront of your mind. Beet Box Cafe is a tucked away, vegetarian and vegan spot where you can indulge at breakfast and lunch without suffering an ounce of guilt. Juices, salads, sandwiches, burgers and tasty plates of gorgeous produce and grains from local farms dot the can't-go-wrong menu, making it tough to decide what to order. No matter what you choose, it'll all be tasty. As a bonus Beet Box is attached to Celestial Natural Foods, which has been around for over 40 years and is a treasure trove of locally grown produce, honey and other delicious goodies from both near and far to stock up on for your trip home.

Giovannis Ericmolina 2009

North Shore Shrimp Trucks

You'd be surprised how much innocent playtime in the famous North Shore surf wipes you out, both literally and figuratively. Come lunchtime, you don't want that sun-warmed, soggy sandwich you packed – head for one of the old-school shrimp trucks that are always staked out near the beaches. Giovanni's, Romy's and Mackey's are all local faves where you can grub on garlic-laced, buttery, spicy shrimp (always cooked in-shell, naturally) and giant scoops of white rice. Plenty kine napkins recommended.

Cholo's Homestyle Mexican

If cheese and alcohol are what you crave after your intense 4 days of yoga, let Cholo's Homestyle Mexican be your guide. This is by far one of the liveliest, most colorful spots in Haleiwa (the main town on the North Shore) so expect crowds at dinner and lunch times. The wait, however, is worth it. The food is fresh, and the margaritas that dominate the Cholo's drink menu will be way better than what they offer at the hotel bar. You'll score major street cred if you try the Li Hing Mui margarita, which is a traditional marg spiked with a super tart, local-style plum powder that adds serious zing to your drink.

Matsumotoshaveice Frontriver 2008

M Matsumoto Shave Ice

We wouldn't call Matsumoto's the best shave ice on the island – for that, you have to head to Honolulu 45 minutes away to Waiola, Shimazu Store or the more new-school Monsarrat Shave Ice – but it is damn good, especially after you've fried under the sun all day. Not only that – it's by far the most famous shave ice spot on the island, which explains the extremely long lines snaking out of the once-upon-a-time general store every day. Once you get to the front of the line, however, go wild. Matsumoto's has dozens of flavors (everything from strawberry to mizore to pickled mango) and the options to add ice cream, condensed milk, or sweet azuki beans – all of which offer the truest taste of Hawaii's most classic snack.

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