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Travel on Point(s) is an independent, advertising-supported website. This site is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites like This compensation does not impact how or where products appear on this site. Travel on Point(s) has not reviewed all available credit card offers on this site. Reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any partner entities.

Oahu’s Leeward Coast

Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism reports that Oahu welcomed over 4.8 million visitors in 2022, 4 million (82%) of which, spent at least some time in Waikiki. So, on this trip, we decided to explore “the side less traveled.” That would be Oahu's leeward coast (western side) of Hawaii’s most populous island. We of course had a gratuitous stop in Waikiki to extract as much value as we could from our American Express Hilton Honors Aspire cards which I'll cover in another post. Come along for the ride….

This trip report on Oahu's side less traveled is a guest post from Jim Fatzinger, The Travel Organizer, and we thank him for putting this great travel guide to Oahu's Leeward Coast for us.

Oahu's Leeward Coast Geography

The prevailing Tradewinds blow onshore along Oahu’s eastern (windward) shore, making that part of the island wetter as the mountains from the Ko’olau mountain range wring moisture from the clouds. Honolulu (and, thus, Waikiki), along with Pearl Harbor, are located on Oahu’s south shore. Because of that they are somewhat protected from windward showers by the lower elevation hills at the eastern end of the Ko’olau range. The smaller cities and towns along Oahu’s western (leeward) coast receive much less rain. Here are a couple of the cities that make up Oahu's Leeward Coast.

Oahu’s Leeward Coast


As we approached Kapolei, I was struck by the uniform appearance of the low-rise buildings with green roofs. I learned that Kapolei’s population mushroomed during the first two decades of the 21st century. In fact, more than half of the homes in Kapolei (Oahu’s second largest city) are less than 20 years old!


gets its name from “wai”, the Hawaiian word for “water” and “anae,” the name for a large mullet that teemed in the waters along Oahu’s western coast, providing a reliable source of protein for early Polynesian settlers. Today, Waianae is “…home to the largest population of Native Hawaiians in the State, and thus the world” according to Sail Hawaii. Sadly, it is also home to the largest homeless encampment on Oahu. In fact, Hawaii has the largest per-capita rate of homelessness in the U.S.! Nowhere is this incongruity more jarring than to see makeshift tent and tarp cities lining the pristine beaches of Waianae.

Picking Up Our Rental Car

The rental car facility at Honolulu is directly across from the Arrivals (lower) level of Terminal 2. You can use the crosswalks outside Baggage Claims 26 and 31. A free shuttle runs frequently from all other baggage claim areas to the rental car facility. All in, our 3-day intermediate rental cost $120.95. If you are checking out Oahu’s leeward coast, and heading down the side less traveled, then a rental car is a must. Lock it in early and then check back often to see if the price has dropped. Many people enjoy that feature from Autoslash.

Where We Stayed On Oahu's Western Coast

We ended up booking the Embassy Suites, Kapolei for our trip. This hotel is located in what appears to be a mixed-use zoning neighborhood. Its construction and appearance are remarkably similar to an apartment complex right across the street. We chose it for two points-related reasons:

  • While admittedly not a stellar deal, my wife was short of the number of Loyalty Points needed to requalify for American Airlines’ status and booking this property through American's hotel booking platform netted 15K AAdvantage Miles and 9.85 Loyalty Points per dollar.
  • My wife and I both had $50 in credits on our Hilton Surpass cards which we could use to offset the $35/night parking fee.

We enjoyed the nightly happy hour which comes with 2 drink coupons and the included breakfast served up great omelets! When we stay at an Embassy Suites, we save a good bit of money by having a hearty breakfast and getting our appetizers and drinks at the hotel’s happy hour. That way we pay for just one meal a day – an early dinner. It is a nice perk of staying at an Embassy Suites. Everyone gets it too, not just elites.

Dining On Oahu's Leeward Coast

Here are some of the places where we had our early dinners.

Monkeypod Kitchen

located almost directly across Ali’inui Drive from the entrance to Disney’s Aulani Resort, was opened in 2011 by celebrated chef Peter Merriman, who has been called the “Pied Piper of Hawaii Regional Cuisine.” Diners rave about their Mai Tais ($18); their house-made gnocchi with macadamia nut pesto ($28) were excellent. They also have a legendary happy hour and multiple locations throughout all of Hawaii. Be sure to check out one of them during your travels.

Note: Monkeypod Kitchen doesn’t have its own parking; you need to pay through Parklinq (either by scanning the QR code in the lot and entering the number for the space in which you park or by texting the lot’s zone number to 42222). Parking rates are $2.50 and hour, in 15-minute increments. Also, this restaurant adds a 4% “service charge” to your bill which is “…distributed to…kitchen staff” if that is a consideration.

Supa Thai

Supa Thai is located in Kealanani Plaza just east of the Walmart in Kapolei. It can be counted on for generous servings of typical Thai fare. I ordered the laksa., an iconic coconut noodle soup to which chicken ($15.95), shrimp, or mixed seafood ($17.95) can be added. My wife opted for the Pad Thai with chicken ($14.95) which can also be served with beef ($15.95), shrimp or mixed seafood ($16.95). Both were way too much food for a single meal, so we left with takeaway boxes to heat up for lunch in our hotel room.

Oahu’s Leeward Coast

Island Shave Ice & Creamery

OK, not really a “restaurant” as such, but this outlet consistently rates among the best places to order this iconic Hawaiian treat on Oahu. We couldn't pass up the chance to have some shave ice.


Here are some great activities you can experience on the Oahu's leeward coast.

Hawaii Nautical (Oahu, West)

Hawaii Nautical offers the experiences below out of the Wai’anae Small Boat Harbor which is around 25 minutes north of Kapolei:

  • 8:00: Morning Wildlife Watch and Cruise, Sun, Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat, year-round, 2 hours, $65-$99/pp
  • 9:00: West Oahu Dolphin Snorkel Sail2, Daily, year-round, 3 hours, $99-$1841/pp
  • 10:45: Morning Wildlife Watch and Cruise, Sun, Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat, year-round, 2 hours, $65-$99/pp
  • 1:30: West Oahu Ocean Playground, Daily, April-November, 2 hours, $65-99/pp
  • 1:30: West Oahu Whale Watch3, Daily, December-March, 2 hours, $65-$99/pp
  • 5:00: West Oahu Sunset Cruise (winter schedule), Mon-Fri, September-March, 2 hours, $65-$1041/pp
  • 5:30: West Oahu Sunset Cruise (summer schedule), Mon-Fri, April-August, 2 hours, $65-$1041/pp
    • 1 = includes transportation
    • 2 = dolphin sighting guaranteed
    • 3 = whale sighting guaranteed

From the list above, we chose the following:

Oahu’s Leeward Coast
Dolphin Snorkel / Swim:

The western shore of Oahu, from Wai’anae north, is home to multiple resident pods of dolphins, which you are guaranteed to see on this excursion. Lest there be any misunderstanding, you will not be swimming with the dolphins. The snorkeling you do will take place at a predefined location.

Sunset Cruise

Sunsets tend to be spectacular on Oahu’s western shore and few experiences are more romantic than watching the sunset from a catamaran. You get that view while admiring Mount Ka’ala, the highest peak in the Wai’anae Range and on the entire island of Oahu.

Oahu’s Leeward Coast

Kahumana Organic Farms & Café

A visit here is about as far away from the glitz and glamor of Waikiki as one can get and still be on the island of Oahu, but it’s a visit more should make. I can’t begin to say enough good things about the 3 hours or so we spent here. Kahumana Organic Farms & Café defies easy description.

Oahu’s Leeward Coast

It’s a non-profit organization with effective programs for combatting homelessness and life skill building opportunities for adults on the autism spectrum. Kahumana is aworking organic farm with a variety of innovative programs to reduce food waste. It’s a restaurant serving deliciously fresh farm-to-table fare Tuesday-Friday for lunch and Saturday for brunch and dinner. And a stop here – whether for their farm tour, which concludes with a 3-course meal in their Café, or an ala carte meal alone, is a rare opportunity to support a worthy cause while having a memorable experience.

Ko Olina Pools / Lagoons (Cover Photo At The ToP)

If you search online for “top attractions in Kapolei,” the Ko Olina lagoons are #1 on almost every list and they are drop-dead gorgeous! One of these man-made coves fronts Disney’s Aulani Resort & Spa (where a segment of American Idol was being filmed!), but all are open to the public.

If you want to make a day of it, you can rent everything from snorkel gear to an all-inclusive package which includes lounge chairs, umbrella, cooler with ice and non-alcoholic beverages, and a paddle board from Royal Hawaiian Beach Services at Honu Lagoon (just south of Aulani). The price includes setup and disassembly when you’re ready to leave. Alternatively, you can have Beachtime deliver gear delivered to any beach, hotel, or vacation rental on Oahu.

Note: Plan to arrive early as parking (which is free) can be a challenge. We parked at Ulua Lagoon, which has the most spaces, and walked on the paved path which connects all 4 lagoons.

Oahu’s Leeward Coast

Kaneana (Makua) Cave

Kaneana (Makua) Cave derives its name from the Hawaiian god, Kane, who is associated with creation and procreation. For some, Kaneana Cave is regarded as the place where humankind originated. It is also sometimes referred to as Makua Cave because of its location in the Makua district. The cave can be spotted easily driving south on Farrington Highway (HI 93) but there is a historical marker designating its location as you drive north. Parking is in a sandy area on the makai (toward the water) side of the highway. Bring a flashlight and sturdy shoes if you want to explore.

Ka Makana Ali’i Farmers’ Market

Ka Makana Ali’i Farmers’ Market is held in the center court of the shopping center on Kapolei Parkway which gives it its name. Weather permitting, it is held twice weekly:

  • Wednesdays from 3-7pm
  • Sundays from 11am-3pm

Plan to arrive early for the best selection of vendors and handicrafts.

Stars above Hawaii

Travel “To the Edge of the Galaxy and Back”, peer inside the moon’s craters or gaze in wonder at the rings of Saturn at one of these public star shows. The shows take place on the 6th floor tennis courts at the Naupaka Spa & Fitness Center. It is part of, but a separate building from, the Four Seasons Oahu Resort & Spa. You can park for free at any of the Ko Olina Lagoons’ parking lots if you enter before sunset. Shows are offered Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, year-round. The tickets cost $49 for an adult, $45 for a senior (age 67+) and $39 for a child (ages 4-12).

Oahu’s Leeward Coast: ToP Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed a peek at the side less traveled, Oahu's leeward coast. If you want a more authentic experience on your next visit to Hawaii then this should foot the bill. If you prefer to be more in the hustle and bustle of it all, then be sure to check out my upcoming guide on 2 nights in Waikiki. Let us know if you have ever been to Oahu's west coast over in the ToP Facebook Group.

If you enjoyed this trip report then be sure to check out some of my others:


We promise to keep things short, sweet, and packed with awesome insights!