West Side Story: Visiting O‘ahu's Leeward Coast

Posted in: Culture & History, Food & Drink, Things to Do

Once thought of as the “wild west,” this side of O‘ahu has fast become a destination for visitors with hotels, attractions, shopping malls and more. Regardless, one of the best things about the west side is its natural beauty, and how the sun makes its last showing each day to those living and playing along the coastline.

Ko olina Sunset
Stunning sunset views from Ko Olina, showing daily

ON THE WAY: Looking for something deliciously unique to take the edge off your hunger on your way west? Then before you get out too far west, stop at the recently opened 808 Toast food truck located at Waikele Premium Outlets.

“Originally, we had traveled to South Korea and tried the amazing street food sandwiches there,” says Philippe Roque, 808 Toast managing director. “The stalls lining the streets were filled with delicious sandwiches that we really loved. When we came back to Hawai‘i, there was no food similar to it here, so we wanted to try and bring what we had in South Korea to the streets of O‘ahu. Our first sandwich, the ‘808 Special,’ was directly inspired by some of the food we had during our travels.

“My personal favorite is our Number One 808 Special,” he says. “That sandwich holds a special place in my heart because it was the first sandwich we developed when we started out. We spent maybe about two to four months selling only that sandwich. For me, I think it’s a great blend of salty and sweet that is just great for my palate, and hopefully for others as well.”

Yelp reviewers also vouch for the sandwich that started it all. Eggs with corn and cheese folded into ham, pickles, cabbage and kiwi sauce laid out between toasted Japanese white bread. The Loco Moco Toast and Bulgogi Toast are two other top recommendations, and all are available at affordable prices.

According to Roque, it was a long and difficult path to bring 808 Toast to life, but so well worth the effort. He says, “Seeing the enjoyment on the face of our customers is what makes it so rewarding.”

Coral Crater Adventure Park
Coral Crater Adventure Park

Zipline over a 60-foot-deep crater created by the Navy in the 1940s who dug for coral to build runways at Barber’s Point Naval Air Station. You’ll find it—and more family-fun activities—at Coral Crater Adventure Park, created by CEO Jim Owen.

“I think ziplining is a very inclusive activity because it requires a sense of adventure, but not athletic ability,” he says. “I believe we need to encourage people to spend more time outdoors doing healthy things and Coral Crater Adventure Park makes that easy. “We are the only park with an adventure tower,” explains Owen. “This creates an opportunity for guests to challenge themselves.

It’s unusual in tourism, and the result is a strong feeling of pride and satisfaction.” You can also enjoy side-by-side ATVs and the island’s only night ziplining. Owen adds, “Our ziplines are uniquely designed in that when you stand on the platform, you can’t see the landing platform; stepping off requires a degree of courage.”

“All types of visitors to Coral Crater Adventure Park become fast friends on the tour,” says Owen. So stop by and get to know your fellow travelers while getting an adrenaline rush!

Paradise Cove Luau
Paradise Cove Lū‘au

O‘ahu’s only 12-acre beachfront lū‘au has a spectacular sunset waiting just for you. And you’ll find it only at Paradise Cove Lū‘au. Facing the open ocean, enjoy the view and immerse yourself in an evening of family fun when you become part of the ‘ohana (family). Jo-Ann Bayne has been with Paradise Cove Lū‘au for 20 years.

“We believe that a lū‘au is a gathering for family and friends to celebrate special occasions or to just experience a traditional lū‘au and become immersed in the culture,” says Bayne. “To engage our guests in an evening of memories, music, song and dance, it’s something they’ll remember for a lifetime,” she adds. “We have the most beautiful sunsets, and our show is orchestrated by two local kumu hula (hula teachers), Tracie Lopes and La‘akea Perry.”

Highlights of the evening’s activities include a shower of flowers upon arrival, arts and crafts, Hawaiian games, participating in a hukilau (pulling in the fishing net on the shoreline) and viewing the imu (underground oven) ceremony.

The menu has something for everyone—traditional Hawaiian dishes, local favorites and continental cuisine. And as the sun sets, enjoy the Paradise Cove Extravaganza by award-winning performers. Get ready for an evening in paradise!

Wet’n’Wild Hawaii
Wet’n’Wild Hawaii

The original concept behind Wet’n’Wild Hawaii began with Dr. Harrington in 1994 as he swam in the Pacific Ocean after being turned away from the crowded pools at Maui’s Grand Wailea Resort. Wouldn’t Hawai‘i be an ideal place for a year-round water park?

Twenty years later, Wet’n’Wild continues to keep it fresh for its customers with new events such as the “dive’n’movies” at the wave pool and dry movies on the grounds of Chief ’s Luau.

Looking for a white knuckle ride? Then head to Shaka. Reach speeds up to 31mph as you fly on a raft in forward and reverse motions on a giant U-shaped slide, plunging down a sheer 36-foot drop at an angle of 70 degrees—almost vertical!

Not all the thrill rides are “adult only.” The newest and most popular is Waimea Whirl, a two-person, rainbow-colored ride the whole family can enjoy. Gravity keeps riders on the walls as they swirl into a funnel-shaped bowl before being flushed down a long slide that ends in a splash pool.

A fun whitewater rafting experience for the family is Ohana Highway. Slide seven stories down the cliffs of Kapolei, winding over 600 feet along the walls, around sharp turns and descents of more than 40 feet.

What makes Wet’n’Wild THE place for families? The park has 26 rides for all ages and speeds.

Germaine’s Luau
Germaine’s Luau

Get to know the Germaine’s Luau ‘ohana (family) at their original “Backyard-style Hawaiian Luau.” It’s only fitting that Germaine’s is situated on the former seaside residence of the family of Rosalei and William Stephenson, who were known for their hospitality and hosting lū‘au as a regular family tradition.

A world away from the busyness of Waikīkī, your first step onto the grounds will take you to an island paradise where you’ll be welcomed with a Hawaiian shell lei. Hear the deep sounds of the conch shell signaling the start of the evening’s festivities and see the Royal Court of Polynesia make its entrance. Once the kalua pua‘a (roasted pig) is unearthed from the imu (underground oven), it’ll soon be time to savor the all-you-can-eat buffet featuring Hawaiian and American dishes.

Before you know it, your journey throughout the islands of Tahiti, Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand and Hawai‘i begins through a colorful, action-packed performance. Get ready because you might even be called onstage!


[A version of this story apperas in print in the pages of This Week O‘ahu]


Stunning sunset views from Ko Olina, showing daily


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