Like any other place on the planet, Hawaii is a destination soaking in public preconceptions. Just say the name, and it all comes to mind: the warm sand, the gentle breeze, the cocktail in hand, the sound of ocean waves and slack key guitar in the distance. After all, there’s plenty of this to be found, and it represents much of what the majority of visitors spend their time doing here.
But what if you’re not like the majority of people?
Hawaii can almost seem like the wrong scene for those who see “vacation” as more of an opportunity for adventure and excitement, and nothing could be further from the truth. In this article, we’ll take you to Oahu, the state’s most populous (and popular) island, and introduce you to some of the most unique and exotic adventures, not just among the islands but in the world.
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Ride A Scooter…Underwater
Diving below the ocean surface to encounter the colorful marine life off the Hawaiian coast is not overrated - but it is pretty standard. What is not standard is when you have your own underwater vehicle, straight out of a Scooby-Doo cartoon?
In Honolulu, you can do this. Tours often sell out, and we recommend booking as far in advance as you can - but off the capital city coast, brave visitors can step inside what can only be described as a hybrid between a scuba suit and a motorcycle and drive it out into the depths of the ocean.
Swim With Sharks
If mere underwater exploration doesn’t sound heart racing enough, add sharks to the mix. Such tours tend to happen around the island’s iconic North Shore in what is referred to as the “pelagic zone.” Believe it or not, you can choose to descend into this zone inside a protective cage - or without one.
Either way, you’re guaranteed to encounter numerous giant sharks in their environment: Hawaii’s crystal-clear waters. You are unlikely ever to forget such an experience.
Race ATVs Through the Jungle
If you’re looking for something to do outside the water, one compelling alternative is to book an ATV tour through Oahu’s breathtaking inland terrain.
What more needs to be said about this landscape than the fact Hollywood filmmakers have cast it to play the role of the Amazon, Jumanji, Jurassic World, Skull Island, and countless other cinematic locations both around the natural world and beyond it. The appeal of racing through it on an ATV is obvious enough.
Ride In a Helicopter
What if you’re looking for something on neither water nor land?
Perhaps the quintessential “extreme” activity, hopping aboard a helicopter tour, is one of the most mind-blowing ways to experience the island. You’ll see the unforgettable landscape in a way you indeed cannot otherwise.
Flying in a helicopter is also just plain exciting. If you’re a traveling thrill-seeker, it has to be on your bucket list.
Fly-In a Hang Glider
If helicopters seem too comfortable, you can instead fly in a powered hang glider - a machine that, like the submarine mentioned earlier scooter, you might not believe exists if you’ve never seen it.
Powered hang gliders are aptly named; they are tricycles with an engine and a massive sail on top, visually familiar to Mario Kart enthusiasts. These insane contraptions take off on a runway and fly around at great speed and height with virtually nothing between you and the open air.
It is undoubtedly one of the worst ventures for those afraid of heights, but it is one of the best for those seeking significant thrills.
Go On an Adventure…At Night
Last but not least, a whole other world of adventure is available for those willing to stay up late.
Paddleboard downriver to catch a magnificent sunset. Take a ghost tour. Go scuba diving. The list goes on. Oahu’s most popular excursions can be done after dark, transforming the experience completely. The warm climate and soothingly warm water make this experience uniquely accessible on these extraordinary remote islands.
The island of Oahu, like its neighboring islands, is so much more than a place to unwind and take a nap (despite its being one of the very best places to do that also). We’re talking about a tropical paradise with its own culture, language, and an array of unique plants and animals. We’re talking about nature that is constantly used in adventure films.
Oahu still lives up to the hype for those seeking thrills: it is paradise.
Updated 2023 Hawaii Visitor Guides
If you're visiting Hawaii soon, be sure to download a copy of one of our updated 2023 Hawaii Visitor Guides. We've updated the packets with a lot of new great information for potential visitors (and for those who've been a time or two as well).