Oahu's east side, locally known as the Windward Side, consists of the town of Kaneohe, Kailua and Waimanalo. This is the lush and green side of the island, where you'll see tall vertical cliffs with waterfalls cascading down, pastureland, white sandy beaches and an eclectic collection of shops and eateries. Just a short drive across the H-3 Highway, which in itself is an attraction as it weaves through lush mountains, the east side is an easily accessible and gorgeous place to visit. For a day on the east side, you'll need basic beach gear, a camera and an appetite for all of the wonderful food.
Breakfast at Boot's — Photo courtesy of Boots & Kimo's
Begin your east side adventure with breakfast at Boots & Kimo's Homestyle Kitchen. Serving up American fare for breakfast until 2 pm, this place is popular with locals which often creates a wait on weekends. . .but it's worth it. Breakfast here has a local twist, and the macadamia nut pancakes with "mac nut" sauce are amazing, a must-try.
After breakfast time, swimming and snorkeling at Lanikai Beach are in order. Roughly one mile of fine, white sand with often calm waters that are perfect for swimming and snorkeling, Lanikai is by far one of the most gorgeous beaches on the island.
Getting here mid-morning after breakfast is a good idea, because you get to enjoy the softer morning sun and light winds. Bring water and sunblock as well as a boogie board and snorkel gear to make the most of it. If you'd rather sit back and relax, this is the spot to do it. Get comfortable on your towel with a book and soak up the sun.
Gorgeous Lanikai — Photo courtesy of Bsterling
After two hours here, move on down the road back to quaint Kailua Town to Haleiwa Joe's at Haiku Gardens. Nestled in a lush setting at Haiku Gardens, a four-acre botanical garden in Kaneohe, Haleiwa Joe's at this locale is the east side sibling to Haleiwa Joe's on the North Shore. Take a quick walk through the gardens before enjoying lunch at the restaurant which has a chart house style with a Pacific Rim and Asian twist infused. Enjoy seafood, steak, ribs, burgers and appetizers like calamari and salad.
After lunch, head up to Nu`uanu Pali for the best possible view of the east side. A high point in the Ko`olau Mountain Range, the mountains that separate the east side from the south side, you can see a panoramic view of the land and the ocean. History tells us that in 1795, King Kamehameha I and his men drove opposition warriors over the cliffs in the fight for Hawaiian unification. The locale, accessible via a hike up the mountains, has a tendency to be chilly, and winds whip up as well, so dress accordingly.
This half day tour will show you the best of the east side, so don't forget the camera. When you're done you'll have enough time to explore the other side of the island for dinner and entertainment.