Adventure Hawaii: 5 Must-Do Guided Excursions on Oahu

Hawaii is rife with outdoor excursion options for the die hard adventure traveler. Pick any island in the chain and you could spend a lifetime swimming, surfing, snorkeling, scuba-ing … the list goes on.

Here, we offer our brief list of five guided tours perfect for nature lovers and outdoor junkies just on the island of Oahu alone …

#1: Kayaking Kailua Bay

Kailua Bay
Kayaking Kailua Bay © Varin Tsai

Few things are more quintessentially Hawaii than getting out onto open water. Twogood Kayaks in Kailua has been rockin’ the waters around Oahu for more than 30 years and is among the best in town to help you do just that.

Their guided tour ($125pp + taxes/fees) around calm, reef-protected Kailua Bay is a perfect option for beginners and experts alike. Along the way, the good folks of TK look after, instruct, and teach guests all about the local history, geology, bird and sea life in and around Oahu. At midday, you’ll also have the chance to land and relax ashore on one of two world famous beaches (Kailua or Lanikai) for snorkeling and a picnic lunch.

#2: Bike & Waterfall Hike

Under the Bamboo Canopy of Oahu's Rainforest, Hawaii
Under the Bamboo Canopy of Oahu's Rainforest © Mike Richard

A Bike & Waterfall Hike ($105pp) with Bike Hawaii provides the best of both worlds for nature lovers and travelers interested in more active pursuits. You’ll start with a guided hike through 75-acres of private, protected rainforest land exclusively available to guests of Bike Hawaii. Along the way, you’ll cross numerous wild streams, natural pools and ancient rock formations.

The half-day tour concludes with a leisurely downhill ride along a paved road through five miles of tropical vegetation and numerous scenic overlooks. The photo opps on this one alone are well worth the trip!

#3: Whale Watching + Snorkel Trip

The only thing better than getting on the water in Hawaii is getting under it. For that, check out the Best of the West package with Wild Side Specialty Tours.

This flagship tour ($195pp) provides more than 3.5 hours of time on and under the waters off the West Side of Oahu. It’s a semi-private journey (no more than 6 guests) that feels more like a casual morning ride in a friend’s boat than a tourist-cramped tour. The company offers a 99.9% success rate of marine life sightings, including turtles, dolphins, whales, and more.

On our journey, the crew couldn’t have been kinder, more welcoming, or more accommodating. (Bonus: the captain and her crew are extremely well-educated in marine biology and nature buffs will thoroughly appreciate their encyclopedic knowledge of local land and animals)

#4: Stand Up Paddle Lesson

Kai Lenny, TURTLE BAY SUP Ambassador
Stand Up Paddleboarding © TurtleBayResort

If you’ve never been surfing, stand up paddling (SUP for short) is a great place to start as you could potentially be surfing by the end of your lesson. It’s actually quite a bit easier than it looks and the guides at Waikiki’s Hans Hedemann Surf School will be more than happy to hook you up with a lesson. My guide was extremely patient and, after only an hour, had me surfing (sort of). No matter your skill level, they’re totally adaptive to what you want to do and accomplish.

Their semi-private or fully private lessons are of course the best way to learn (starting around $140pp), but more budget-friendly group lessons (around $80pp) are also available.

#5: Cruise Waikiki Beach in an Outrigger Canoe

Outrigger Canoe Ride, Waikiki Beach Services, Oahu, Hawaii

You’ll be hard pressed to find a boating excursion more Hawaiian than outrigger canoeing. The outrigger canoe ride of today was derived from the original sport beloved by the elite of old Hawaii. Outrigger canoe surfing is a sport that is unique to Hawaii, and, more specifically, to Waikiki.

Take a ride in a traditional outrigger canoe with Waikiki Beach Services ($25pp). It’s simple: you’ll paddle out a few hundred yards from shore, then turn the boat around as quickly as possible to catch the best incoming wave. And repeat. Note though: it’s simple, but not easy. A few hours at it and you’ll likely have forearms like A-Rod when he was still on the juice.

Disclosure: Portions of our trip to Oahu were sponsored by the businesses mentioned in this post.

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