By Gavin Arucan | Staff Writer
With Spring Break starting, it’s the perfect time for exhausted, bored students to explore the beautiful island of Oʻahu. Since most KCC students live close to campus in town, the west side of of the island is generally untouched by KCC students, and that’s no surprise. My hour and a half long commute back home to Waipahu through traffic is daunting, so most “townies” don’t care to make the long drive to the west side. Not to mention, the west side is known for being unsafe compared to the populated streets of Honolulu.
It’s a shame that not a lot of people spend time on the west side, because it’s a genuinely beautiful place with the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. The drive, when there’s no traffic, isn’t that bad either. It’s only 25 minutes from Honolulu to Waipahu on a good day. Plus, it’s mostly free of tourists.
While a lot of the best attractions on the west side are kept under the radar so that tourists don’t go poking around anywhere they shouldn’t, there are still several things to do on the west side during Spring Break.
Spend the day (or night) at Ko Olina Lagoons and Hotels
This is an easy one. Everyone knows about Ko Olina, but it’s still a worthy first addition to the list. If you’re used to spending a beach day at Waikīkī, Ko Olina gives off a similar vibe, but it’s a nice change in scenery from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu life. There are four lagoons with limited parking, so be there early. The fourth lagoon has the biggest parking lot, so it’s usually safe to bypass the first three and head straight for the fourth. For anyone looking for a staycation, Ko Olina also has some of the most popular hotels on Oʻahu, including Disney’s Aulani Resort. There’s a golf course nearby as well as several restaurants, although most of them are higher class and expensive.
Snorkel and fish at Electric Beach
A bit farther up Farrington Highway from Ko Olina is Electric Beach, which is my favorite fishing spot and a phenomenal snorkeling and diving area. The reef just off shore is abundant with marine life and is perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. It’s common to see honu or a pod of dolphins in the the glistening blue waters of Electric Beach. There is a power plant directly across the street from Electric Beach, hence the name.
Don’t forget your lunch at Tanioka’s
No day at the beach is complete without a picnic comprised of take-out food. Tanioka’s in Waipahu (94-903 Farrington Hwy.) is the most popular place to buy food for any social gatherings on the west side. The fried chicken, lumpia, hash patties, and musubi make a perfect lunch, and there’s also a variety of poke to choose from. Tanioka’s does get very busy and sells out fast on weekends, holidays, and before the Super Bowl, so it’s best to go early.
And while you’re there, get the best manapua on the island at Honolulu Kitchen
Right next to Tanioka’s is the home of the fried manapua: Honolulu Kitchen (94-861 Farrington Hwy.). This restaurant serves various flavors of the special deep fried manapua. No other manapua on the island is as deliciously juicy and affordable (only around $1) as the one at Honolulu Kitchen. The best flavors are pork adobo, pastele stew, orange chicken, and, of course, the classic char siu pork. There are also flavors like haupia and sweet potato to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Get your Filipino food fix at Seafood City
While you’re in Waipahu, why not stop by Seafood City and its surrounding stores. Seafood City is a supermarket that has everything a lover of Filipino food could want. Grill City inside serves Filipino favorites like dinuguan, longganisa, and even balut. Magnolia’s Ice Cream, which is known for its ube ice cream, as well as Jollibee are located inside Seafood City, so it really has everything. You’ll only ever see Filipinos shopping here, though.
Whithin the same shopping center as Seafood City, there is a Miami Grill, Koa Pancake House, Shakey’s Pizza Parlor, and my favorite, Poke Stop. Any of Poke Stop’s plate lunches is a worthy purchase, but the eggplant fries are a must have.
Shop, eat, and watch movies at Ka Makana Aliʻi
For the shoppers who can’t stand to be half an island away from Ala Moana, Kapolei recently opened its first major shopping mall near UH West Oʻahu. Macy’s, H&M, Victoria’s Secret, and the newly complete Hollister are the popular stores to browse through. There’s a California Pizza Kitchen, Five Guys, and several other places to eat, but the best eateries at the mall have yet to open. Cheesecake Factory is opening on the west side along with Applebee’s. Yes, Applebee’s. There’s already one open in Ewa, if you can’t wait that long.
Ka Makana Aliʻi is also home to ʻŌlino by Consolidated, which is a movie theater that offers an extensive menu and reclinable seats. There is a similar Regal theater at Kapolei Commons with reclinable seats as well, but ʻŌlino holds 21+ screenings every night for those who want to drink during their movie.
Have fun in the sun at Wet’n’Wild Hawai‘i
There’s lots to do with friends and family at Oʻahu’s only water park located in Kapolei. While most islanders only go to Wet’n’Wild once every couple of years because of the admission prices, it’s still a welcome attraction on the west side. Admission costs $50 unless you’re a child or senior, who only need to pay $38. However, the kamaʻaina is only $37. Thrill seekers will enjoy rides such as the Tornado and the Shaka, and those just looking to relax can float along the lazy river for hours. There’s also giant pool that generates its own waves from time to time, which is a fun twist to a normal swimming pool.
Hike the highest point on Oʻahu at Mt. Kaʻala
Located at the beautiful Waiʻanae Valley, Mt. Kaʻala stands as the highest hike in Oʻahu at a little over 4,000 feet. This hike can be dangerous, so it’s only recommended for experienced hikers, but it offers a great view and a diverse floral landscape.
Or stroll the westernmost part of the island at Kaʻena Point
What better way is there to enjoy the west side than to go to the westernmost tip of Oʻahu? Kaʻena Point is a beautiful wildlife reserve located at the very end of Farrington Highway. It’s a short hike with entrances from both Waiʻanae and North Shore, but the Waiʻanae entrance is considered the authentic route to take. Along the way you’ll encounter the endangered albotross seabird and possibly one or two monk seals. If you’re lucky, you’ll also spot a whale of the coast. Since most of the wildlife at Kaʻena Point are endangered species, please be respectful and careful when walking.
Relax on the beaches in Waiʻanae
It’s hard to go wrong with any of the beaches along Farrington Highway. Every beach you’ll encounter is good for either swimming, snorkeling, surfing, or fishing. There’s a beach with some tidepools at the entrance to Kaʻena Point, which is very convenient. All you need to do is drive along Farrington Highway until you find a beach that fits your preference. The entire west side of the island boasts a beautiful blue and unpolluted ocean. Just remember to take any valuables with you because car break-ins are common at certain beaches.
And, of course, you can’t leave Waiʻanae without that yellow sauce
That signature yellow sauce from that the west side is obsessed with, from what I can tell, originated from Tasty Freeze in Waiʻanae. The location is now Faith’s Place (85-859 Farrington Hwy.), but you can still get that special sauce on your hamburgers and fries. Apparently the sauce is served at the majority of drive-ins on the west side. The recipe for this sauce is a bit of a secret. Some say it’s mustard and mayonnaise, some says it’s honey mustard with mayo, and some say it’s just honey mustard. I’ve made each of these combinations but none of them live up to the glory that is the west side yellow sauce.