Our favorite things to do in Oahu

When I started planning our trip to Hawaii, there were two things on my “must-do” list: an ATV tour at Kualoa Ranch and a luau. I also have a life goal to visit every Disney theme park and resort, so a stop at Aulani was a priority. From our home base on the North Shore, we were able to drive to all of these destinations in under an hour. As the title suggests, these are some of our favorite things we experienced in Oahu. More coming in the next post!

Kualoa Ranch

I first learned about Kualoa Ranch from the movie “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.” The hilarious ATV scene was filmed there. Many television shows and movies have filmed scenes at the 4,000 acre reserve, including the “Jurassic Park” franchise. It’s also a working cattle farm. They offer a variety of tours, many of which book a few weeks in advance. I made the mistake of not calling to make a reservation until we were already in Hawaii. Luckily, they had a cancellation and could accommodate us on a one-hour ATV tour.

Kualoa Ranch

Horseback riding at Kualoa Ranch

Even in the rain, Kualoa Ranch was one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever seen, and my photos do not do it justice. The tour took us through the woods, up the trail, and into Jurassic Valley. We weren’t allowed to take photos while driving our ATVs, but we stopped in the valley to explore before continuing the tour. Near the end, our guide took us on a trail full of mud puddles just for fun. Today, eight months later, I am finally washing the mud out of my sneakers.

Kualoa Ranch ATV tour

Kualoa Ranch ATV tour
Josh snuck this photo of our group ahead of him on the trail.

Kualoa Ranch ATV tour

While we were at the ranch, we also picked up some fresh ground beef to make burgers for dinner. Grilling burgers on a warm February night at our Airbnb in Hawaii, listening to NEEDTOBREATHE, was a highlight of the trip and one of my favorite memories of my life.

North Shore Oahu Airbnb

Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

Brandon and I drove over to the west side of the island one morning to explore Aulani. We are continually impressed with the high level of theming, cleanliness, and attention to detail at Disney resorts—and Aulani was no exception. It’s beautiful. Day visitors do not have access to the pools or lazy river, but we enjoyed walking around the resort for a few hours.

Aulani Resort

Aulani Resort lazy river

Aulani Resort

Aulani Resort

We picked up two snacks at Aulani: a Mickey Mouse-shaped shave ice and my favorite Disney treat, a Dole Whip. We also had Dole Whips at the Dole Plantation, and I thought the ones at Aulani were better!

Mickey Mouse shave ice

Mickey Mouse shave ice

Paradise Cove Luau

I conducted extensive research before choosing a luau to attend in Oahu. After checking with friends who have attend luaus before, I got the impression that they are largely the same and we’d have a similar experience anywhere. Price was another factor in the decision making process, because they’re all pretty expensive!

We chose the Paradise Cove Luau and selected the base-level tickets, which were around $100 per person. I was anxious about what kind of return we’d get on our investment, but we had a great time! The gates opened at 5 pm and there were Hawaiian games, arts and crafts, and performances to enjoy for two hours before dinner was served and the main show began. We each received a welcome mai tai, a shell lei, and a $12 “Cove card” to spend at the bar or on souvenirs.

Paradise Cove Luau

We picked up drinks; played some of the games; and Brandon, Josh, and Chelsea got fake arm tattoos. We stood in line to have our pictures made holding parrots, which was both ridiculous and fun. The luau was right by the water, and I was thankful for beautiful weather as the sun went down.

Hawaiian shell leis

Paradise Cove Luau
So glad they bought matching Hawaiian shirts to wear. 😉

Paradise Cove Luau

Oahu, Hawaii

Paradise Cove Luau

The luau was crowded, but well-managed. The dinner buffet was very good, and the show was entertaining—the fire dancer was a highlight! I’m really glad we went, but don’t feel like we need to go to another luau on a return trip. Instead, I’ll save my money for something we weren’t able to do—a helicopter tour of the island!

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