The Ultimate Hawaiian Adventure Guide to Oahu and Kauai

When thinking about Hawaii, you often picture cocktails, beaches, and relaxation. However, Hawaii can also be a thrilling and adventurous destination. There are plenty more things to do than golfing green pastures and sipping Blue Hawaiians, especially on Oahu and Kauai.

Oahu

Atlantis Adventures

Since 1988, these sustainable battery-powered submarines have been a great family-friendly and mellow way to explore the sea. During a recent trip to Hawaii, I took a dive at the Waikiki location, where artificial reefs have been installed to create more areas for fish to inhabit. There are also reefs that have grown over old wartime aircraft remains.

Atlantis Adventure is a good option for those who do not want to or can’t scuba dive. You get to see the ocean in the comfort of air-conditioning with a host to lead the tour. Also, how many times can you say you have been in a submarine? You descend to 100 feet underwater for closeup views of some turtles and a variety of fish that don’t normally visit the surface.

‘Iolani Palace

For those who want to take in a bit of Hawaii’s history, ‘Iolani Palace will take you back to the Kamehameha Dynasty (the 1800s). Be sure to opt for a guided tour to get the full scope of the royal residence and how it came to an end. It is one of the oldest and best-known buildings in Hawaii. Its story is grand and contains dark memories, including the imprisonment of the native Hawaiians’ own Queen during her reign due to great opposition from her own subjects. She was overthrown, stripped of future claims to the thrown, sentenced to hard labor, and confined to her own palace bedroom for almost a year.

Moniz Family Surf

Prior to visiting Hawaii, the extent of my sea explorations was snorkeling in Costa Rica and bodyboarding in San Diego. Moniz Family Surf made my first surfing experience a great and memorable one. The whole Moniz family is known for their surfing skills and educational lessons.

moniz surfing class
Moniz Family Surf

My time with Moniz Family Surf was magical thanks to the warm Hawaiian waters and the really helpful surf instructor. I was a bit scared to fall, but my instructor eased me into being comfortable with my board, sitting down, and riding the waves before standing.

UTV Raptor Tour at Kualoa Private Nature Reserve

Another first for me: UTV (Ultra Terrain Vehicle) riding! UTVs are four-wheel-drive, open-air vehicles that are pretty simple to drive. This is a guided tour with a group of other riders. Once you are all geared up with goggles, masks, and helmets, you feel like something out of a Mad Max movie. The tour is a peaceful, hour-long trek that takes you across the Ka’a’awa Valley, which looks like Jurassic Park with all its lush greenery and imposing hills. In fact, the park is dotted with filming locations from Jurassic Park.

Some tips for going on this tour: make sure to wear something you don’t mind getting dirty and bring a change of clothes if you plan on going anywhere directly after. It is also really helpful to have some face wipes because your face, neck, and arms will be caked in dirt. Also, I recommend bringing a camera that can handle a little dirt, too — even your phone will do. There are plenty of opportunities to get some photos along the way.

Kauai

Waterfall Tour with Kauai ATV

If you are really itching for a bit more intensity, then this ATV tour has what you need. Four hours may seem like a lot, but when you are having this much fun, it really goes by.

adventure guide to hawaii oahu and kauai trip 2019 gp 132955
Genevieve Poblano/The Manual

You arrive at a barn that is filled with ATVs and some pretty humorous staff members. They provide you with the precautionary but necessary goggles, helmet, and handkerchief to keep all the dust out of your eyes and mouth. Trust me, you definitely need these items. Again, wear clothes you do not care about getting permanently stained by dirt.

adventure guide to hawaii oahu and kauai trip 2019 gp 161705
Genevieve Poblano/The Manual

You start off the tour driving through Kauai, stopping by some places of importance like a tunnel that was essential to the sugar cane industry, a bomb shelter where some of the remnants from Pearl Harbor still remain, and several areas where various blockbuster action and adventure movies were filmed. Lunch is provided at a rest stop alongside a waterfall and swimming hole. There is a cliffside where you can jump off of into a swimming hole to cool off and wash off some of the layered mud.

Kipu Zipline Safari with Outfitters Kauai

If you enjoy a little adventure in your life, you definitely want to do some kind of ziplining or kayaking. This Kipu Zipline Safari tour starts off in a little shop in a strip mall then shuttles you out to a spot for the first activity: kayaking down the Hule’ia River for about two miles until you reach a spot in the river where you continue the journey on foot.

adventure guide to hawaii oahu and kauai safari tour trip 2019 gp goprostill 1
Genevieve Poblano/The Manual

Next comes a guided hike down to a couple of waterfalls and a swimming hole. This was another first for me, jumping off a swinging rope to dive into a watering hole. Further along the scenic and lush green Hule’ia River, you will recognize some plants that you may have in your home but nothing compares to the size of those plants in their natural habitat.

adventure guide to hawaii oahu and kauai trip 2019 gp 132840
Genevieve Poblano/The Manual

At the end of the hike, you take a wagon ride across Kipu Ranch for lunch at a rest area with a view of a valley and get to partake in lunch. This is where you get geared up for the main attraction: ziplining.

adventure guide to hawaii oahu and kauai trip 2019 gp 102516
Genevieve Poblano/The Manual

I am a fan of zip line rides and love the thrill of hanging from a harness, zipping across a canopy top getting a view that you can’t get anywhere else. On this tour, I was able to hang upside down from the harness.

After the main attraction, there was still one more thrill: an over-the-water zip line. This was pretty epic because not only do you get to hang off of a zipline, but you also get to let go and take a plunge into a pool of water. It took me a few times to become comfortable, but it was still pretty thrilling.

The final activity on this tour is a relaxing motorized canoe ride through the Hule’ia River back to the van. Here, you dry off and reflect on an awesome day.

Ultimate Kauai Adventure Tour with Sunshine Helicopters:

The most unforgettable memories I made in Hawaii were from this helicopter tour, which covers the Waimea Canyon and the entire island of Kauai. The views are astounding — probably the most beautiful thing I have seen, ever. Imagine closing in on the waterfalls, random mountain goats, and the deep blue sea along moss-covered cliffs.

The helicopter is climate-controlled and enclosed, so there is no need to layer up. There are multiple tour options, as well as different pricing for different seats. You can purchase footage of your actual flight, but definitely have your phone handy for some once in a lifetime photos. Or just soak it all up.

Editors' Recommendations