East Honolulu

East Honolulu

There’s a lot packed into East Honolulu. In fact, it’s the second most densely populated area of Oʻahu. East Honolulu comprises desirable, upscale neighborhoods including Kahala, Waiʻalae Iki, ʻĀina Haina, Hawaiʻi Loa Ridge, Niu Valley and Hawaiʻi Kai. It’s also home to the Kahala Hotel & Resort, a luxury hotel known for its secluded beaches and privacy for visiting celebrities and diplomats. It’s also the host hotel for the Sony Open in Hawaiʻi, an annual professional golf tournament on the PGA tour held at the adjacent Waiʻalae Country Club. 

The coastal and valley neighborhoods are connected by Kalanianaʻole Highway. Just as you pass Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, the highway transitions from a traditional multi-lane route and narrows to a one-lane road towering over rugged cliffs, the turquoise waters crashing below as it meanders along the shoreline below. It makes for one of Oʻahu’s best drives. 

While Hawaiʻi Kai is predominantly residential, it contains some of Oʻahu’s most iconic and treasured landmarks, with both kamaʻāina, or residents and visitors. This includes Makapuʻu and Sandy beach parks, popular with bodysurfers and bodyboarders. The eastern tip of the island also features one of Oʻahu’s most popular hikes, the Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse Trail. It’s an easy, paved trail that’s two miles round trip. In the wintertime, this trail also makes a great viewing area for spouting and breaching humpback whales, which migrate to the Hawaiʻi Islands generally from November to March. Hikers and fitness enthusiasts love the Koko Crater Railway Trail, also known as the Koko Head stairs. The hiking path is lined with more than 1,000 railway ties and sure to give you a workout. But the view at the top is worth it, including 360-degree views of East Oʻahu, Waikīkī, Diamond Head and more. 

One of my favorite places in the East Honolulu area is the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. In this large snorkeling area, you can swim up close to Hawaiʻi’s state fish: the humuhumunukunukuapuaa, or the reef trigger fish. The volcanic crater is also home to 450 additional fish species, including octopus, crabs, eels and honu, or Hawaiian green sea turtles. It’s a great place to snorkel year-round. Before you slip on your snorkeling mask and fins, you must first watch a minutes-long film about doing your part to protect Hanauma Bay. My husband Mike and I used to visit Hanauma Bay when it was just a regular beach park, before the pre-snorkel movie, gear rentals and paved roads. We’d head down to the beach in our Volkswagen Beetle and watch the stars. It was fun time with our friends! 

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