5 Things to Know About Oahu

A junior at the University of Hawaii at Manoa shares what it's like living on the island of Oahu and all it has to offer students, from beaches and local attractions to popular eateries and local transportation.

Going to college in Hawaii has always been a dream of mine, and not too long ago I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to study there. As with most new places, it’s always helpful to have a list of things to know about that particular place so the visit will be more comfortable. So here is a list of things to know about living on the beautiful island of Oahu and all it has to offer.

A view of downtown Honolulu from the residential area of the University of Hawaii at Manoa

1. Beaches

This has to be the #1 reason most people vacation here in Hawaii: the breathtaking view of the ocean. The beaches of the Hawaiian Islands are really that blue in real life. Students have been known to study on the beach because of the atmosphere and the gentle breeze of the Pacific Ocean. Many of the beaches in Oahu are crowded, especially those that are located in the central area of the island. It is best to avoid the beaches in the Waikiki and Hanauma Bay area (famous for snorkeling with colorful fishes and turtles) and instead explore areas like Waimanalo Beach, Sandy Shore (great for surfing), and Diamond Head Beach Park. The best thing about the beach is that it is the perfect place to enjoy a wealth of water activities, like surfing, body boarding, and paddle boarding. And if you just want to sit back and relax, it costs no money whatsoever, which is music to college students’ ears.

Ala Moana Beach

Another view from Ala Moana Beach

2. Food

If you happen to love Asian food, Hawaii is the place for you. Because Hawaii is a literal melting pot of different cultures, such as Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese, there are tons of options when deciding where to eat. If you’re a fan of curry as much as I am, then check out the Curry House, which has many varieties, or even this awesome place called Sanoya Rahmen—great food, great customer service, and it stays open till three in the morning!

Outside of Asian food, there are also Western-type restaurants all over the island that cater to everyone’s tastes. There is the Greek Corner, just a block from the University of Hawaii, which has excellent Mediterranean-style food. If you just want a snack, you can go to Bubbies Ice Cream. Bubbies has a lot of mochi flavors, but I would definitely recommend the green tea mochi. (Actually, anything green tea-flavored is excellent to try!) There are also plenty of restaurants around campus that are moderately priced for a student's budget, so you never feel like you’re breaking the bank just to eat out. 

Giovanni's Famous Shrimp Truck in North Shore

3. Cost

Let me just put it out there: Hawaii is a pretty expensive destination to visit, let alone to actually live, so be prepared when you see the prices. As someone who visited more than once, I was well aware of how things can get pricey. But that is nothing to take away from enjoying yourself. As with any other area, you learn to adapt to the local prices and avoid places that could put a dent in your wallet. Be aware while grocery shopping, as fruits and vegetables can be pretty expensive since they have to be imported to the island. Stick to farmers markets around the city—they tend to be less costly than local grocery stores. When I needed essentials for my campus apartment, I would go to Longs Drug Store (your typical Walgreens or CVS on the mainland) because the prices were way cheaper than anywhere else. Or head downtown to Wal-Mart, where you can buy both groceries and basic necessities.

4. Local attractions

As a college student, you want to get the most for your money. One place you can do that is the Polynesian Culture Center. You can experience great cultural events from a variety of islands that include Fiji and Samoa, walk around the park and see different activities for each destination, and most importantly enjoy a buffet after a long day of walking around. You cannot leave the PCC without seeing the “Breath of Life” performance that is held later in the evening. It is well worth the money, and you get a taste of Hawaiian mythology and culture. Another important place to visit is the Pearl Harbor Memorial and Museums. The highlight is touring the wreckage of the USS Arizona, which every person who visits Oahu should definitely do. The tip is to go earlier in the morning when they first open so that you get free walk-in tickets, as they only give out a certain number each day.

View from the halfway point of the Kuli`ou`ou Ridge Trail 

There are many fun activities to try out around the island, like hiking for those who enjoy the great outdoors. One of the easier hikes is Diamond Head, where you not only get great views of Honolulu but also the gorgeous blue ocean. If you want more of a challenge, head out to Koko Head, a popular destination known for its steep uphill climb and views that overlook Hanauma Bay. Also, check out the Dole Plantation and get lost in the World's Largest Maze. When you get tired of walking around, you can take a trip on the Pineapple Express to learn about the agriculture of the pineapples. The absolute best part is eating their delicious Dole Whip after a long, hot day in the sun.

View from the end of the Kuli`ou`ou Ridge Trail overlooking the eastern side of Oahu

5. Transportation

The Bus is the best way to get around the entire island at any time for a low price. If you are a student of UHM or other area colleges, it is free since the price is included in tuition. Do take advantage of that, because the Bus can really save you a lot of money versus a car. Besides the Bus, using other forms of transportation like Uber has become a thing for students. Cheaper than your average taxi—Uber starts at $2.50 versus $3.50 for taxi fare—and much safer as the drivers have been checked, Uber offers a more personable ride for its passengers.

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About Tiffany Lovings

Tiffany is a junior majoring in Asian Studies. She hopes to someday make a career out of travel writing. She spends her free time dreaming of traveling the world, watching Youtube, listening to music, and binge-watching television shows on Netflix, her favorite pastime. A self-proclaimed beach bum, Tiffany hopes to eventually live on the beach in some exotic location.


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