When we were planning last April’s Hawaii trip, Mark and I tried to keep a relatively even split between activities at the Aulani Resort and fun stuff around the island. On previous trips we’d visited the Dole Plantation, gone zip-lining, snorkeled in Hanauma Bay, seen Pearl Harbor, taken a helicopter tour, and gone stand-up paddle boarding in the beaches of Waikiki. This time we decided to change it up with some new-to-us activities.
A sunset boat ride with North Shore Catamarans
First up – a sunset catamaran ride off of Oahu’s North Shore. The boat tour departed from Haleiwa Harbor (one of my favorite Hawaiian towns), and lasted from about 5:30-7:30pm. We were visiting right at the tail end of the whale migration season, so we were hoping to catch sight of one cresting. Mark was also hoping to play around with his drone (something that North Shore Catamarans wholeheartedly supports) but it ended up being way too windy.
Regardless, we had a great time. The sunset was spectacular, and we even caught sight of a jumping whale way off in the distance.
Powered hang gliding with Paradise Air
One of the most breathtaking experiences of the trip, hands down, was sunrise powered hang gliding with Paradise Air. The company is run by a husband and wife team, out of the Dillingham Air Field off the Farrington Highway in Waialua.
It was an early call time (and stressful!), as we had to leave the Aulani by 4:45am, and the valet misplaced our car. But, in the end, we were only about 15 minutes late and the Paradise Air team accommodated us wonderfully – seriously, they’re some of the nicest people we interacted with on the island (which is saying something, cause the people of Hawaii are notoriously kind).
They have two powered hang gliders in their fleet, which are piloted by either Denise or Tom. For the flight you get to wear these rad looking jumpsuits, which were nice and cozy, keeping out the rain and wind. But you’re also encouraged to wear layers, as it gets cold up there, plus closed-toe shoes.
The flight itself lasts about an hour, and takes you wherever the whims of the pilot happen to go. I was flying with Denise, who took us up and down the northern coast in search of rainbows (she was my kinda lady, let me tell you). There were patches of rain here and there, which made for some beautiful peek-a-boo sunshine vistas.
Another awesome point: they actually taught you the basic ins-n-outs of flying while you were up there. Denise let me steer almost the entire time, with the exception of when we’d hit turbulence. The flight also technically counts towards your pilot’s license, and when you’re back on the ground they give you a nifty certificate (which we stupidly forgot in our rental Jeep when we dropped off the car).
If you’re worried about safety – don’t be. They’ve never had any incidents in the thousands and thousands of flights they’ve taken, and even if something catastrophic happened (say, the engine blew out) the wings would allow them to simply glide you down to safety.
Mark’s afraid of heights, but he wasn’t scared at all in the hang glider (or so he says, ha). It may be outside of your comfort zone, but I promise it’s worth it – for the pictures alone!
We even saw some skydivers making their descent as we were landing back at the airstrip. Next time, right Mark? (Just kidding, I would never.)
Right after our Paradise Air adventures, we actually hopped back into our rental Jeep and made our way to a private two hour surf lesson on the North Shore. Talk about a full day. It was a fantastic experience (I caught, like, 7 waves!) but we didn’t bring any cameras. That said, if you’re ever on Oahu and want to take surfing lessons, I’d highly recommend Oahu Surf Experience.
Exploring Oahu’s western shore
Last but not least on our grand tour of non-Disney-related Hawaiian activities: some good old fashioned exploring. Mark and had never ventured up the western coast of Oahu, despite it having the closest beaches outside the Aulani Resort. We figured it was about time to give it a try.
The Farrington Highway up the western side of Oahu doesn’t go all the way through, so we drove it until it dead ended at Yokohama Beach Park, where the Keana Point State Park begins. It was a completely different vibe than the rest of the island: very quiet, full of locals, and nary a tourist in sight (besides us, that is).
If you’re looking to experience Hawaii as the locals do, we’d highly recommend this strip of Oahu. It was ever so slightly run down, but the beaches were just as beautiful, and – the best part – EMPTY. Mark played with his drone at one of beach strips, and it was just us and a local couple who were fishing in the waves and playing fetch with their adorable Great Dane.
Well, that’s it from Hawaii this time! Hope you enjoyed reading the last few posts about our Aulani x Oahu adventures. Here’s looking forward to many more aloha vibes and island excitement in the future.