When you have booked a Disney vacation for more than a few days, sometimes you just want a day, here or there, to explore and do your own thing. Last time we looked at Three Day-Trips Outside of Disneyland, exploring the wonders of Southern California. Today we are going to look at three day-trips you can take outside of Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa to soak up the unique tranquility of Oahu, Hawai'i.
Day Trip One: Dole Plantation
Originally opened as a fruit stand in 1950, the Dole Plantation opened to the public in 1989 and quickly became a popular tourist attraction. This trip will take you around 30 minutes with plenty to do on site once you arrive.
Take the Dole Plantation Garden Tour and wander through one of the site's eight gardens. The mini Gardens include North Shore, Hibiscus, Native Species, Lei, Irrigation, Bromeliads, Ti Leaf and Life on the Plantation. The different gardens give you a closer look at some of the island's most famous exports, from tropical fruits to coffee and even the cacao pods that are turned into Waialua’s signature chocolate.
Take a deep breath. Depending on the time of year you visit, you may also be able to smell the intoxicating aroma of lei flowers in the air. And just in case these gardens have not yet tantalized enough of your senses, download the Dole Plantation app on your smart device and listen to the folklore of old Hawaii while you explore. The app is available for iPhone or Android and is free. The garden tour is $7.00 for Adults and $6.25 for Children 4 - 12.
If you have had enough of the sun, take a seat on the Pineapple Express Train for a tour through fields and the background on the pineapple in Hawaii. The fully narrated, 20-minute, 2-mile journey tells the story of James Drummond Dole and how he started a company that would later become a household name all over the world. Listen out for the spectacular musical stylings of Manoa DNA, a local award-winning music group who will have you singing the whole way back to Aulani. Do yourself a favor and pick up the CD for $5 in the gift shop on the way out and take a little bit of Aloha home with you. The train tour is $11.00 for Adults and $9.00 for Children 4 - 12.
That's not all this place has to offer — check out the Pineapple Garden Maze with over 14,000 Hawaiian plants lining two and a half miles of pathway. The maze covers nearly three acres of land and hosts eight secret stations for you to locate. Download the free Dole Plantation app on your phone, and you can track your progress as you go. The Maze is $8.00 for Adults and $6.00 for Children 4 - 12.
Once you have worked up an appetite, visit the Plantation Grill for something yummy to eat. If the heat is getting the best of you, try the original Dole Pineapple Whip!
Day Trip Two: The North Shore via Waikele Premium Outlets
Everyone loves a good shopping adventure, and while some visitors to Oahu might be all-too-familiar with the sales of a Premium Outlet location, others travel halfway around the world to grab some of the bargains and brands that aren't available where they live. I recommend heading to Waikele just for kicks. For additional discounts, create your free account on the Premium Outlets website to download your own coupon book voucher. Redeem on site for the coupon book and watch the savings add up.
Now that you have done some shopping, let's head north to the famous North Shore of Oahu. First stop is Haleiwa Town, where you can check out the culture, local art, and shrimp shacks. This part of Oahu has a much slower pace and its own take on Hawaiian culture. Embrace the local attitude and take your time. Choose a shrimp shack on the beach and order yourself a selection of indulgent flavors.
My favorite is Fumi's, which is a little further up the coastline though it is worth the extra drive. While you are headed up, see if you can visit Turtle Beach, locally known as Laniakea Beach. Parking is no longer available at the beach itself, so you will need to park further down the road and walk to access it. This majestic spot is home to the green sea turtles that can be seen enjoying the sun here on most days.
As you venture your way back to Aulani, be sure to pay attention to the beautiful beaches along the way including the famous Waimea Bay. Once you return to Haleiwa, make a stop for shave ice at Matsumoto Shave Ice. The word on the street is to ask for a single scoop of vanilla ice cream in the bottom of your glass.
Day Trip Three: Waikiki
Despite the high volume of tourists, Waikiki is a stunning beachfront location where you could easily spend an entire day just wandering around, snacking and enjoying refreshing beverages by the ocean. The beaches here are lovely, and if you are traveling with small children who want to swim, there is a more sheltered area at the south end of Kalakaua Avenue. Additional parking can be located at this end as well, as many people come to visit the Honolulu Zoo, Aquarium or to go hiking around Diamond Head.
You can never arrive in Waikiki too early as mornings are a calming blend of quieter streets and the unstifled sounds of the ocean. It's all just a bit beautiful. If you are looking for a place to have breakfast, check out Tiki's inside the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel or Lulu's just outside the Park Shore Hotel, both of which have open-air seating areas that overlook the water.
If browsing around in the shops doesn't sound appealing to you, organize (in advance) a boat or catamaran cruise. Traveling with pirate enthusiast kids? Climb aboard Hawaii Pirate Ship Adventures! With a ruckus crew of pirate guides, your family can sail the waters of Oahu searching for treasures and mysteries.
Before you know it, lunchtime is here, and you absolutely must visit the Banyon Tree Bar located in the Moana Surfrider hotel. Offering light meals and specialty drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails available), this dining area provides shady umbrellas, live music and is right on the sand — perfect to sit and relax with friends and family.
If you want to make plans ahead of time, check out the dates and times available for the Royal Hawaiian's ‘Aha‘aina Luau. This is a more expensive experience but one that includes a comprehensive drinks service, elaborate local food offerings, live entertainment and so many memories. 'Aha'aina translates to "gathering for a meal" and is a celebration of the history and culture of the island. Sharing this with family or loved ones makes it all the more special, so make inquiries ahead of time and reserve your seats!
Those are our top three day-trips to help you explore the wonders and heritage of Oahu outside of the Aulani resort. There is so much to do and see on this island that I am sure you will be planning your next trip before you even arrive home. Next time we will look at three day-trips you can make when taking time out from the Walt Disney World Resort. Till then, Aloha & Mahalo.