Fully vaccinated travelers can now visit Hawaii without pre-travel COVID testing, and many are taking advantage.
Oahu’s iconic Waikiki Beach is as popular as ever. A majority of the island’s accommodations are in Waikiki, but there’s a long list of other spots on Oahu worth those precious vacation days.
Our travel enthusiast Dana Rebmann explains what you need to know if you’re considering making a trip:
Oahu has always been a popular summer vacation destination.. and this year is no different. In July, Hawaii started allowing fully vaccinated U.S. travelers to visit without a COVID test. Unvaccinated travelers are still required to provide a negative test conducted by one of the states verified testing partners.
But all travelers are being encouraged to put a little more thought into how they spend their time when visiting the Hawaiian Islands.
The Malama Hawaii program — Malama means to care for — is a group of non-profit organizations that offer easily accessible volunteer opportunities. At Oahu’s Kualoa Ranch — where scenes from the Jurassic Park movies were shot — you can spend the morning donating your time and caring for the land.
That could mean weeding a taro pond that’s used in educational programs or working to clear a clogged stream so water can flow freely from the mountains to the valleys.
It’s not glamorous work, in fact you should count on mud, but you’ll also learn a great deal about Hawaiian culture that you likely would have otherwise missed. As an extra incentive to volunteer, guests of select Outrigger hotels can earn free nights for rolling up their sleeves.
If you’re interested in learning about Polynesian culture, the Polynesian Cultural Center is essentially a cultural theme park. Go for a canoe ride, see how the experts climb coconut trees, and weave palm frowns.
The 42-acre park is broken into six Pacific cultures or villages. So in addition to learning about Hawaii, you can also explore traditions and customs in spots like learn Tonga, Samoa and Tahiti.
The Polynesian Cultural Center puts on the most impressive luau and show I’ve experienced in my recent travels to Hawaii.
Oahu is loaded with hiking opportunities, for a variety of ages and fitness abilities. The Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse Trail (mak-ah-puh-ewh) is a fully paved, two-mile out and back excursion that delivers amazing shoreline views. The historic lighthouse dates back to 1909; its red roof against the bright blue water makes for some amazing photos. From November through May, this trail is also an excellent place to spot humpback whales.
On the North Shore, the Ehukai or Sunset Pillbox Hike is more of a moderate hike, especially when rain creates muddy conditions. Around two miles, roundtrip the climb up is mostly shaded, but when you reach the World War two bunker at the top, you can catch your breath while taking in fantastic views of the North Shore.
Kaena Point is located on the western tip of Oahu.. and the only way to get there is hiking. There are two trailheads: One from the north side and one from the south side of the island. Along with sand dunes, and stunning beaches, this three-and-a-half-mile stretch offers wildlife opportunities. Keep a lookout for monk seals, whales during winter months and in the Natural Reserve area, nesting seabirds like albatross.
There’s plenty of opportunities to go beyond the beach when visiting Oahu and not feel like you’re missing out.
For more about Dana’s adventures and writing, follow her on Instagram @danarebmann and Twitter @drebmann. You can also visit her website.