The drive across the Koolau mountain range is one of Oahu’s most beautiful. You’ll encounter lush scenery whether you take the H-3 Freeway, Likelike or Pali Highways from one side of the island to the other. If the day is gray with showers, don’t be disappointed; there are delights to discover on the drive over. Heavy clouds lend an air of mystery through the Koolau mountain range and you may even see ribbons of water falling amid the mountain ridges.
The community of Kailua has become a routine stop for visitors with a variety of unique island shops and a range of cafes and restaurants to satisfy every palate. The beautiful Pacific Ocean is only steps away, as well as two world-renown beaches—Kailua (it’s pet friendly too) and Lanikai. Both have topped many a “best beach” list. From both beaches, you can kayak out to Popoia or Flat Island, a four-acre State Seabird Sanctuary used by isle seabirds that include the wedge-tailed shearwater. Further out are two islands, the Mokulua Islands.
A must-stop for Chinese food is Kin Wah Chop Suey in nearby Ka¯ne‘ohe; Boots & Kimo’s in Kailua for hearty breakfasts (be prepared to wait!); and the original Cinnamon’s in Kailua, a favorite breakfast stop. Take a bite into juicy, grass-fed island beef burgers at Mahaloha Burger.
The island’s only winery, Oeno Winemaking, is located here as well. Sample locally produced wines and create your own personalized bottle to take home.
Drive toward Kahaluu along Kahekili Hwy. and you’ll come to Byodo-In Temple in Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. It’s not visible from the road, but if you’re looking for tranquility, it’ll be worth your while. Walk through the temple and see wild peacocks and koi (Japanese carp). Admission is $3/adult, $1/child, cash only; open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
Further north, find Kualoa Beach Park and Mokolii Island, otherwise known as Chinaman’s Hat. Stop for pictures or a leisurely picnic. And right across the street is popular Kualoa offering lots of family-friendly activities.