Waikiki Beach and downtown Honolulu are brimming with tourists, and for good reason: there's a lot worth doing. But few visitors realize that Oahu has a wealth of undeveloped, easy-access beaches—more than Maui and the Big Island, and right up there with Kauai.
Even the North Shore—the surfing capital of the universe—is rural and laid back on most days. At nearby beaches like Kaunala (above), you will find no tourists at all, except for surfers from around the globe.
Haleiwa, the biggest town on the North Shore, is totally non-glitz, even though town's surfing beaches are on the pro circuit. The river draws local canoe clubs. Plate lunches and shave ice on menu.
The Mokuleia Coast extends to the west of the North Shore, an eight-mile run of wild beaches and several hiking trails into the Waianae Range.
Windward Oahu, over the Ko'olau Range from Waikiki, is a magnet for wayward tourists and beach-loving locals, but long runs of sand always impart a faraway feel.
Kayakers embark on mini-adventures to several near-shore islands, some of which are close enough for snorkelers to reach.
Beaches north and south of Kailua (the heart of Windward Oahu) offer an opportunity to take a long beach hike—or not.
With two mountain ranges, Oahu has more official trailheads than any other island. Many trails start in suburban neighborhoods, and quickly take you into tropical forests. Other hikes begin in the countryside north of Kailua, and take you into the wilds.
Oahu Trailblazer has all the details on the wild side of the island, as well as the top tourist attractions of Waikiki and Honolulu.