Welcome to TravelFREAK by Jeremy Scott Foster. I don't believe in living life on someone else's terms. I believe in making the most out of every opportunity and living life on your own terms. On this blog, I showcase unique stories of transformation, adventure and motivation. Hopefully, it will get you out of the house and trying something you probably never thought you would.
Hawaii is recognized around the world for its famed beaches. And Oahu, in particular, draws surfers after the serious swell and more slothful sunbathers alike.
The island, where sandy shores meet city streets, boasts a wealth of paradisiacal adventures, from high-octane thrills like cliff diving and paragliding to chiller but nonetheless active pursuits like snorkeling and swimming. And, of course, there are tons of Oahu beaches ideal for doing virtually nothing at all.
In fact, Oahu’s culture is largely centered around its beaches—many of which have names more renowned than that of the island itself. Ever hear of Waikiki Beach? What about the North Shore’s Sunset and Waimea Beaches? You’re likely to have heard of these beaches before.
Those aren’t the only beaches the island has to offer though. These 12 beaches in Oahu, some more well known than others, have something for everybody.
1. Kailua Beach: Best Beach for Visiting Year-Round
When it comes to beaches in Oahu, Kailua Beach is somewhere that definitely delivers the full, unadulterated package. Turquoise sea? Check. White sand? Check. Trees leaning into the scene for a postcard-quality vista? Check. There’s nothing quite like sitting, lying or otherwise reclining on a spot anywhere on the powdery sand that stretches 2.5 miles long.
Not a terrible view…
And it's not only good for lounging around— it’s also pretty much the best place for any sort of water sport activity you can name. Thanks to its decent surf and pristine waters, you can go boogie boarding, surfing, kayaking, swimming, kitesurfing, sailing, snorkeling, you name it..
A fun fact: Due to the real estate scene of nearby Lanikai, many worried residents, and associations put up sea walls. But the magic of erosion has taken the sand from the Kailua residents' beach and deposited it neatly at Kailua.
2. Makua Beach: Best Beach for Hiding Out
Imagine a beach in Oahu with no tourists on it. No, seriously, it exists (hopefully still after we spill this secret), and it’s called Makua Beach. It’s one of the best beaches in Oahu because it’s so secluded. You won’t find any tour buses depositing their loads here, which means that it’s never packed and you’ve all the room to BBQ with your friends.
Even the drive there, towards the remote Kaena Point on Oahu’s west coast, makes you feel like you’re heading into the middle of nowhere. To be fair, you kind of are.
Go get lost on this Oahu beach.
So, yes, secluded. Got it. Secondly, it’s very picturesque; the Waianae Mountain Range looms dramatically, making it feel even more like a ‘Land Before Time’ sorta place. The only thing is, since the shelf drops off pretty quick here, swimming is not so good, though you should stick to the shallows..
3. Cromwell’s Beach: Best Beach for Swimming
The chilled out sandy shore of Cromwell’s Beach is a hidden gem and a locals’ hangout. Given how close of a walk it is to Waikiki, you might assume that it gets crowded. But its public access is hidden behind a row of hotchpotch houses and a maze of lanes, which means only the committed kind really trek to it.
If you’re among the dedicated beachgoers, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with golden sands and glistening blue waters. The main attraction here—aside from the beautiful scenery and low-key vibe—is the swimming hole. Take a walk along the rocky wall and you'll discover a set of concrete steps that descend into the blissful crystal-clear water below.
Beach-goers usually head to the cove to jump off of the rock wall, which can stand as tall as six-feet, depending on the tide. Once in the ocean, an underwater world of coral reefs await you. Make sure you bring your snorkel, you’ll want to see the colorful life living beneath the waves.
Further along the beach, the soft sand makes this one of the best beaches for swimming as you don’t have to contend with rocks and pebbles that might hurt your delicate feet.
4. Waimea Beach: Best Beach for Cliff Jumping
Yes, that’s right, cliff jumping. Waimea Beach—on the north coast of Oahu, nestled in a little bay between Haleiwa and Pupukeia—is a great spot for getting your adrenaline pumping by hurling yourself off of a cliff face. Well, it’s not exactly a cliff; instead, it's more of a big rock.
In fact, it's known locally as “Da Big Rock.” You can swim out to it, make the 30-foot climb and take a leap. If you’ve got it in you, anyway.
In the summer months, the water is pretty flat and calm, which is great if you’ve just jumped in since there are no big waves to bamboozle you. But in the winter it's a whole other story.
This place becomes a mecca for pro-surfers who come to ride the famous waves–the same North Shore swell that gives Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach their (more) famous, sky-high waves. At Waimea Bay, they start around 10 to 20 feet and get as high as 30 feet.
Sitting up at the Waimea Beach Park is a great place to watch daredevil surfers zip around the ocean. And when you’re done for the day? Head up to Shark’s Cove and take your pick of the many awesome food trucks parked up there.
5. Lanikai Beach: Best Beach for Kayaking
When you think of a Hawaiian paradise, this beach pretty much ticks all the boxes. Translating as “Heavenly Ocean,” Lanikai is a must-see place on the island. Think translucent waters that slowly fade into the horizon, perfect natural surroundings and white sand. Yep, this is a beach that’s totally worth your time.
While navigating urban alleyways to get here might not be super straightforward, it’s worth the trek. If you’re a keen sun worshiper, this might not be the spot for you; much of the sand has sadly been eroded away over the years, and there are no restrooms, lifeguards or facilities if you plan on lingering for some time. But for kayakers, welcome.
Lanikai is the best beach in Oahu for kayaking as there are huge open spaces, clear seas and panoramic views of the windward coast of the island. Not only are there some spectacular scenes (and wildlife including various birds and seals), you can also head out to explore the Mokulua Islands that aren’t too far from the shoreline.
In fact, from Kailua, you can rent kayaks for a half or full day for about $50-$60 from various kayak rental companies and head to both Lanikai Beach and the Mokulua Islands.
Regardless of how you get about, the raw nature of the islands and the calm beauty of Lanikai Beach make this one of the top beaches in Oahu.
6. Sandy Beach: Best Beach for Boogie Boarding and Bodysurfing
It’s a pretty obvious name, but I guess it beats the mouthful that was proposed in 2014: “President Barack Obama Sandy Beach Park.” Public opposition, however, meant that the proposal was dropped—for better or worse. Aside from that, it’s actually known as Sandy Beach because the sand here is particularly fine and gets everywhere and into everything. Everything.
It’s not the best beach in Oahu for its sand though, it’s all about the boogie boarding and bodysurfing here. That’s because of the breaks that occur right near shore—and the consistent barrels along the beach, making it easy to tumble around in the surf without having to swim out.
Bodyboarders on a wall of water!
This also means that getting caught up, dragged and slammed into the sand is all too easy here. In fact, locals have nicknamed it “broke-neck beach”: for that exact reason. More injuries occur here per year than at any other Oahu beach. The lifeguards obviously know this and call people out who look like they’re about to break themselves.
Perhaps to little surprise, locals don't recommend swimming at Sandy Beach; the rip currents at high tide are actually pretty dangerous. Between this and the ‘broke-neck’ part, it nevertheless remains one of Oahu’s most-loved beaches—probably something to do with it just being an aesthetically appealing beach that’s just plain easily accessible.
Oh, and also the Koko Head Stairs are close by. Koko Head Crater Trail is a 1.8-mile, heavily trafficked out-and-back trail with a total of 1,048 steps from the bottom to the top of the ridge. So hikers make there way often.
7. Electric Beach: Best Beach for Swimming with Turtles
Electric Beach itself is pretty tiny, so it’s not really a spot for hanging out on the sand, but if you’re keen to head out into the water and spot some turtles, then this truly is the beach for you. Called Electric Beach because of the power plant that’s close by, this is one of the best beaches in Oahu for swimming with turtles.
Electric Beach is an interesting place because, despite the nearby power plant (which you might think would be bad news for the abundant nature and wildlife surrounding the island), the plant plays a major role in the life here.
Making friends under the sea
In fact, the turtles and dolphins love the cooling pipes that stream warm water straight out into the sea. The warm water and industrial structures of the pipe have created an artificial reef that is literally overflowing with life, too. Make sure you take your snorkel and spend some time exploring around the area.
The riptides here can be fairly ferocious though, so we wouldn't recommend this one for beginners. But if you can push out past the breaking waves, you'll more than find a whole array of fish living on the reef, sea turtles and maybe even a pod of spinner dolphins.
8. Hanauma Bay: Best Beach for Snorkeling
Located just next door to Sandy Beach on the South Shore of Oahu is Hanauma Bay. Now, this isn’t just a beach but, rather, a much bigger nature reserve that’s famous for its marine life. This obviously makes it a prime spot for snorkeling.
Unfortunately, popularity always comes with a price and, in this instance, the coral, fish and other sea life suffer from the impact of tourism.
But we wouldn’t tell you to go somewhere if you were harming the place or its life. If you follow the dos and don’ts (you have to watch a video before you enter the park), then you shouldn’t make much of an impact other than the fleeting memory of a human blur before a fish’s eyes. The video, and you also have to pay an entrance fee of $7.50.
There’s a beach here, too, of course. And it’s nice. But the main point here is to head out with a snorkel and a waterproof fish identification sheet (yep, really) and explore. Without standing on coral like a doofus.
Oh, and it’s also closed every Tuesday. Maybe the fish are out eating tacos or something.
9. Cockroach Cove: Best Beach for Exploring Rock Formations
Why would you want to go to a beach called Cockroach Cove? Surely it’s a cockroach nightmare? Yuck.
Don't let the name fool you, this place is gorgeous! | Photo Credit: Wikimedia
Actually, it turns out it’s a veritable slice of paradise and the perfect spot to spend the afternoon hanging out, exploring the surrounding nature. Nobody really knows how Cockroach Cove got its nickname, but perhaps the locals made it up to keep the crowds away (it didn’t work).
People also call the beach Eternity Beach, after the iconic 1953 movie, From Here to Eternity, filmed scenes here. Likewise, it goes by its real, Hawaiian name, Halona Beach Cove.
Regardless of what you want to call it, the sandy enclave is an incredibly spectacular spot and one of the best beaches in Oahu for rock formations. Huge, black volcanic cliffs shelter the cove, and caves that are perfect for adventures entice you in, while the rocks that form the path to the beach slip off into the sea.
As my horse moves through the tall grass, I lean back and close my eyes for a second, surrendering myself to the delicious late-afternoon warmth. There’s the distant hiss of the surf, never too far away on a Caribbean island like this. There’s the birds’ song.
And there’s the sound of my sister, quietly arguing with her horse.
We’re in St. Croix together, and I have Spirit Airlines to thank for this. Thanks to the newest route in their lineup, we were able to easily hop over here for a getaway.
Spirit has been operating in the area for 12 years, but this is the first time they’ve started running a service between Fort Lauderdale and this remote, heartbreakingly beautiful island in the United States’ Virgin Islands (USVI).
My sister and I got lucky that it’s such a great time to visit, and not just because of the weather. St. Croix is set to explode in popularity, as it’s undergoing a period of rejuvenation and structural investment following damage from two hurricanes.
The second hurricane ripped through in 2017’s unprecedented stormy season. It’s almost impossible to imagine skies as blue and seas as tranquil being lashed by that kind of weather, which is a nice testament to how quickly the island has gotten back on its feet.
No problem, it all seems to say.
Buck Island, just off the coast of St. Croix
Trace your finger clockwise round the curve of Caribbean islands to the east of Cuba, and you’ll find St. Croix just past Puerto Rico and to the south of neighboring St. John and St. Thomas. The British Virgin Islands are to their west.
As for getting here, 2018 has dramatically changed things for the better. Before this year, your options were limited and pricey. While major airlines run routes to St. Croix from a number of major cities, none of them are as frequent or affordable as the new Spirit Airlines route from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
And, when you get here you’ll find that, right now, it’s still quiet. If you time it right like we did, you can get the best in Caribbean hospitality with near-vacant beaches, empty roads and your pick of the best accommodation, restaurants and bars the island has to offer.
St. Croix Isn’t What You’d Expect
The Island Is Small
If you take a trip to the eastern tip of St. Croix, called Point Udall, you are as far east as you can get within the territory of the United States.
Christiansted, one of the island’s two towns, is the most early in the whole of the US. This is the utmost edge of my home country, and, here, everyday things can be a little different.
Take the roads, for example. For historical reasons, everyone on the island drives on the left-hand side; yet, since the cars are mostly American, they’re designed for the driver to sit on the left, as well. Whatever side of the road you're used to driving on, you’ll probably find St. Croix a bit of a challenge.
In St. Croix you drive on the left, even though the cars were built to drive on the right 🤷♂️
Thankfully, there’s probably no need to rent a car (and if you really want a pair of wheels, rent a scooter or just take a jeep tour). The whole island is only 22 miles long and eight miles across at its widest point. There are plenty of taxis available and a bus service that runs between both towns every 45 minutes, from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
That’s right; there are just two towns, one in the east (Christiansted), and one in the west (Frederiksted). They’re often referred to together as the “twin city” of St. Croix, with a sum total of 50,600 inhabitants.
The Weather Is Perfect
There’s the temperature, which will always be a balmy 75 to 85°F (24 to 29°C). Thanks to the stabilizing effect of the maritime climate and the passage of the Trade Winds, St Croix rarely see the extremes of temperature you’ll get on the United States mainland. Unless something’s really wrong with the weather, you’re always going to have a pleasantly warm day.
Then there’s the look of the place. Faded Victorian-era architecture sits alongside modern vernacular structures, and everything is a blur of Dutch, British and contemporary American styles. It shouldn’t work—but somehow, it all makes for a striking architectural casserole that looks like nowhere else, even compared to nearby Caribbean islands
At first sight it’s a little confusing, a bit split-personality. But then you read up on the island’s history, and it all makes sense.
St. Croix Has a Storied History
If you’re a history buff, the history behind this island is reason alone to visit it.
As far as archeology and history can tell, the Kalingo were here first (also known as the Caribs, from which the surrounding sea is named) alongside the Arawaks. These were the native American tribes Columbus encountered when he landed in 1493—just a few centuries after they arrived via their own epic sea journey from South America.
The Spanish never colonized St. Croix, but they certainly had a catastrophic impact and, by the end of the 16th century, the island was regarded as uninhabited.
This is where things get a little crazy.
A lone sugar mill deep within the Cruzan jungle
English and Dutch First
First, the English and Dutch settlers arrived. Then the Spanish invaded and kicked them out. Then the French kicked the Spanish out—until war with the English and Dutch forced the French to flee once more, leaving the island abandoned for another 38 years.
In 1733, the Danish West India Company purchased St. Croix and nearby St. Thomas and St. John, designating them the Danish West Indies. As with so many islands in the Caribbean at this time, St. Croix ran on slavery—up to 20,000 souls at a time, the ugliest chapter in the island’s history. It also saw some famous names, including Alexander Hamilton (now the subject of themed tours of Christiansted), who lived here as a boy from 1765 to 1772 before heading off to New York to continue his education.
The U.S. Bought St. Croix
In 1801, the tables turned again. Britain invaded and occupied the island, but by 1815 and the peace following the Napoleonic Wars, they returned the land to Danish control. A century later, Denmark sold it to the United States. And in 1927, the population of St. Croix formally and finally became U.S. citizens.
Broadly speaking, Crucians (inhabitants of St. Croix) are considered such in two ways: Either as “born here” Crucians who arrived after 1927, currently making up around a third of the population, or “native” Crucians who have roots that go much further back.
When you visit today, you can still see remnants of the island’s multicultural history.
The island’s economy has seen almost as much change as its rollercoaster history. Traditionally it was based on agriculture, which became a heavy focus on colonial crops for export (mainly sugarcane). Then modern industry got a foothold, including the building of a major oil refinery. When this was decommissioned in 2012, St. Croix’s focus turned to tourism and, today, it couldn’t be more welcoming to international visitors.
The port in Frederiksted is open for business! This is the first cruise ship to visit St. Croix since the hurricane.
How to Make the Most of Your Trip to St. Croix
As I said earlier, now is such a great time to visit as the island strengthens its infrastructure and gears its economy around tourism. It’s a perfect mixture of quiet and increasingly luxurious, and hopefully it’ll be that way for a while.
(But in case it isn’t, you should get yourself there as soon as possible.)
Beaches in St. Croix
For such a small island, St. Croix has an astonishing number of individually-named beaches— 33 in total. (But I guess this is the Caribbean.) All of them feature the same pristine white sand sloping down into glowing blue-green water.
To pick the right one on the right day, you should remember how the island’s climate works. Because of the trade winds, the terrain on the western part of the island gets a lot more rain. This means that, yes, it might rain, but it’s also lusher and greener on that side of the island. The east is desert-like in comparison.
For this reason, my recommendation is to head towards Frederiksted and check out the beaches arrayed around the town: Sprat Hill, Rainbow, Fort Frederik and Sandcastle. If you’re happy to cook yourself in rather fiercer conditions with less shade, try the easternmost tip of the island.
Close to Christiansted, The Buccaneer has one of the most beautiful beaches on that side of the island.
The beach at the Buccaneer is one of the best on the island!
Adventure Activities in St. Croix
My top recommendation is to grab a trip to nearby Buck Island, an uninhabited island off the coast of St. Croix that is home to a truly spectacular 4,500-acre coral reef. (Note: Don't confuse this with the other Buck Island and its associated coral reef, which lies to the north in the British Virgin Islands.)
This is an incredible spot for diving, snorkeling and sailing, all of which can be booked Big Beard’s Adventure Tours in Christiansted. (Note: You will need to go through a tour operator to visit the island, since the government protects it as a U.S. National Monument and controls visits strictly.)
Even if you don’t get out to Buck Island (but really, you should), the rest of St. Croix caters for all kinds of aquatic fun, with diving operators spaced evenly out along the northern coastline and clustered in the harbors of both towns.
All I want for Christmas is not to have to hear about Christmas in November. Seriously. I’ve only just recovered from Halloween, and my blood sugar level is still way too high to even contemplate another candy-based holiday.
As soon as November comes around, the world instantly zeroes in on the holidays.
It doesn’t matter that there are still weeks to go, you’re going to hear Mariah Carey on the radio every day. Unless, of course, you flee the scene and head somewhere exotic for an adventure-packed getaway.
Not only will you escape the holiday-mania for a couple of weeks, but you also won’t need to break the bank in doing so.
If you’re ready to escape the cold and seek out adventure, here are seven incredible places to inspire your travels in November.
1. Puerto Escondido, Mexico
Puerto Escondido is the surfing mecca of Mexico, and possibly the whole world. November is the perfect month to visit this coastal town for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the rainy season is coming to an end, so you’ll be blessed with days of glorious sunshine. Secondly, the rainy season hasn’t quite finished yet, which means that, in exchange for a wild electrical storm every few evenings, you’ll enjoy delightfully low prices.
Unsurprisingly, the number one thing to do in a surfing mecca is to surf. Beginners start out on the gentle ripples over at Playa Carrizalillo, while the more confident surfers head over to La Punta.
If you consider yourself a pro then you might want to try the monster waves over at Zicatela Beach. But beware because these bad boys are seriously huge.
Surfs up in Playa Zicatela in Puerto Escondido, Mexico
If you’re not keen on surfing then fear not, there are plenty of other options. November is the best time of the year to see the bioluminescence that grows in Puerto Escondido’s lagoons. As you move your body through the water, the plankton glows fluorescent blue in what can only be described as a thoroughly magical experience.
If you’d rather not be submerged in water, the sun starting to peek through in November makes the boat tours to see dolphins and turtles all the more enjoyable. There are numerous tour agencies in La Rinconada and Zicatela that will help you book yourself on to such a tour.
2. Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile
Few places in the world can compare with Patagonia when it comes to untamed natural beauty. The stark plains, rugged mountains and endless glaciers combine to create incomparable landscapes. It’s the kind of stuff a photographer could only dream of, except that it’s real, and you’re right there looking at it.
While the Northern Hemisphere cools down, the Southern Hemisphere gears up for summer, and Patagonia is no exception. The extreme wind and snow that plague the region in the winter have died down, and the temperature in Patagonia in November is perfect for hiking.
Reflections of Torres del Paine
The most popular part of the region to explore is the Torres del Paine National Park, which is distinguished by its cluster of jagged mountains. The two main trekking routes are the W trek and the Circuit trek. The Circuit trek takes around seven days, while the W trek takes only five—they follow roughly the same route, but the Circuit trek carries on a little further.
Both treks take you along the iconic Tower’s Trail, which stretches between the mountains and gives you unparalleled views of the spiky peaks and the glacial lake that sits at their base.
They both also include the Grey Trail, which snakes along the edge of Lake Pehoe until you reach Grey Lake. From there, a boat takes you across the lake and past the magnificent Grey Glacier.
The Circuit trek and W trek are physically demanding, and you will need a good fitness level, regardless of which option you choose. You should also be prepared for all kinds of weather. While November is generally sunny, there are no guarantees of anything in the wild lands of Patagonia.
3. Palawan, Philippines
November marks the start of the dry season in the Philippines. The temperature is warm but not sweltering, and the Christmas vacation travelers are yet to arrive. So the islands are less crowded and less expensive to visit. This means that you can island hop to your heart’s content without having to jostle for space.
The Philippines is made up of over 7,000 islands, and around 1,700 of these are in the Palawan region. This gives you ample island-hopping opportunity. And, in November, the humidity drops, so you won’t be suffocating within five minutes of being outside.
A: Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, and 7 Commando Beach
B: Snake Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Cudugnon Cave, Cathedral Cave, Pangulasian Island
C: Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine, Secret Beach, Hidden Beach, Star Beach
D: Ipil Beach, Cadlao Lagoon, Pasandigan Beach, Paradise Beach, Natnat Beach, Bukal Beach
Every tour is incredible and, if you have time to do all of them, I fully encourage you to do so.
Rest assured that if you only have time for one or two, every beach has pearly white sands. Just like every lagoon is filled with outrageously turquoise water. And it is all flanked by emerald jungle. While tours A and C tend to be more popular, there’s no wrong choice.
4. Athens, Greece
Despite being one of the most historical and fascinating capitals in the world, from June to August Athens is a ghost town because the heat is unbearable and the city becomes one big dustbowl. Everyone goes off to Greece’s insanely beautiful islands so they don’t suffocate in the capital.
September and October then see a surge of visitors as the weather cools off and, by November, it is quiet again. The difference this time is that, in November, the weather is perfect.
So, you’ve got the city to yourself (sort of) and the sun is shining: What do you do now?
Nothing to see here… Just a gorgeous ancient complex with views over Athens!
Your first port of call should be the Acropolis. In the summer, this historical site is so hot and bright that it is downright unpleasant to visit. In November, you can explore the ruins in comfort.
If you’re interested in history then visit the museum first and then go up to the Acropolis. Otherwise, hike up to the ruins, spend some time walking around, and then come back down again. I’m not usually one for historical sites, but you really cannot visit Athens without checking out the Acropolis and its iconic Parthenon.
Once you’ve had your culture fix, head over to Mount Parnitha, which sits just an hour outside of Athens and offers incredible aerial views of the city. The main route to the summit ranges from the mildest incline to fairly steep, but there’s nothing too challenging about it. The round trip is around 7.5 miles.
5. Cayman Islands
You’ve probably heard of the Cayman Islands. It’s the little British-owned archipelago in the Caribbean Sea where loads of big corporations hide their money. But, the Cayman Islands are good for a lot more than just tax fraud.
In November, the three islands that make up the Cayman Islands play host to the highly entertaining Pirates Week Festival. Each of the three islands hosts a few days of the festival—with Grand Cayman allotted five of the 11 days. Meanwhile, the Cayman Brac and Little Cayman get three days each.
Ahoy there, paradise!
Pirates Week is a slightly tongue-in-cheek (and super fun) celebration of the Cayman Islands’ cultural heritage. And boy do they know how to celebrate. Fireworks, food festivals, parades, dancing, singing and even mock pirate invasions fill the days of the festival, bringing these sleepy islands to life.
Those of you who like to stay active while you’re on the road might want to participate in the 5K run or 5K swim (that’s just over three miles). The temperature will be in the 80s but if you can handle the heat, the races are great fun. Just make sure you register online for the race beforehand.
After months of intermittent rain, Cambodia dries off in November and clear skies are the order of the day. This means you can spend all day outside, exploring Cambodia’s rugged wilderness and spectacular ruins, without worrying about a sudden downpour.
To make the most of this glorious weather you should spend at least some of your time scuba diving. The clear weather makes for perfect visibility and the water will be bath-temperature at least.
The main diving spots are around Koh Rong, Koh Rong Samloem and Koh Koun. Star players around these sites include octopi, stingrays, starfish and seahorses.
You could roam the temples around Angkor Wat for a week and still not see it all!
If you’d rather stay on terra firma, opt for one of Cambodia’s dozens of hiking trails. The Kalai Jungle Trail is a good choice for people who want to be fully immersed in nature, but also don’t want anything too challenging. The entire route is 10 miles through a verdant jungle with the occasional stop for a dip in a natural pool.
For something more hardcore, make the most of the beautiful weather and go on a multi-day trek through the Cardamom Mountains. Through lush rainforest and past green mountains, this route winds through one of Cambodia’s most remote and beautiful regions. The trek can take anything from three to seven days, depending on how much time you’re willing to commit and energy you’re willing to expend.
7. Hong Kong
You will find both comfortable temperatures and reasonable hotel rates in Hong Kong during the month of November. What you will also find in Hong Kong, although this may surprise you, is an abundance of adventure activities.
Hong Kong usually conjures up images of neon skylines and megamalls. But, venture outside the center and you’ll find a natural paradise ripe for exploring.
If you’ve just spent the past six months sitting in your office and want to get your legs moving, the climb up Lantau Peak will do the trick. The path runs for 10 miles through the undulating countryside to the grassy summit of the peak. Go on a clear November morning and exquisite views of where the sparkling coastline meets the jungle will be a treat.
You should also include a stop in the New Territories on your itinerary. Here, you will find adventures in..
The days are shorter, jackets are thicker and our lattes are suddenly full of pumpkin. Fall has finally arrived.
Lucky for you, October is one of the best months to travel abroad. October is off-season virtually everywhere in the world, which means that flights and accommodation hit rock bottom. On top of that, everyone who went away in the summer, or traveled in the shoulder month of September is home now, so you’ll find minimal crowds.
October should be filled with trekking through snow-capped mountain ranges, exploring ancient cities and celebrating dead people (it’s a Mexican thing).
It would be a crime not to take advantage of the cheap travel and fantastic adventure opportunities in October.
1. Hike in Nepal
October is hailed as the ultimate month for trekking in Nepal, as the monsoon rains have dried up and the weather is mild. On top of that, this month often has excellent visibility, making the views of the Himalayas all the more impressive.
The number one adventure activity in Nepal is the trek to the base camp at Mount Everest, the world’s largest mountain. Altogether this trek takes around 14 days with a maximum walking time of five hours per day.
The number of walking hours each day is limited to five to allow you to acclimatize to the altitude gradually. After all, you are hiking up 17,600 feet. Moving slowly and adjusting to the elevation will prevent you from getting altitude sickness, which is pretty nasty.
Gokyo Lake in Nepal
Fortunately, the air is easier to breathe in October since it sits comfortably at around 68 degrees Fahrenheit outside.
If you have more time, there are several detours you can take on the way. One of the most popular is the trek that leads to the stunning Gokyo Lakes. These lakes are the brightest turquoise you have ever seen and are flanked by jagged, mountain tops that are still snowy in October.
The dry air since monsoon seasons ceased in September makes for prime visibility of them, too. But this will add an extra three or four days on to your trek, depending on your pace.
Of course, there are other famous treks you can take beyond Everest Base Camp, as well. Other popular treks include the Annapurna Circuit (about 15 days), Annapurna Base Camp (about 10 days), Poonhill (about four days) and Langtang (about seven days).
2. Celebrate Pride in Taiwan
Every year, on the last Saturday of October, Taiwan plays host to one of the world’s most spectacular Pride parades. Welcoming at least about 80,000 people each year, the capital, Taipei, erupts with color and sound as the parade snakes through the city. It’s the largest gay pride event in Asia.
In fact, in 2017, estimates for turnout were well over 100,000 people, with many attendees even coming from other countries in Asia. The official theme for last year’s parade, the 15th Taipei pride parade, was “make love, not war—sex ed is the way to go.”
Two groups of participants start the parade from Kaidagelan Boulevard, move through the streets of Taipei, and end up back where it started about two hours later. One group heads north and marches down Xinyi Road, Linsen South Road, Zhongxiao East Road, Jinshan South Road and Renai Road before returning to the boulevard.
Taiwan city skyline at twilight is already amazing… add Pride and it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
The other group heads south and parades along Zhongshan South Road, Roosevelt Road, Hangzhou South Road and Renai Road before also finishing its march on the boulevard. The main parade is then followed by a huge dance party in the Gay Pride Village.
The parties will actually rage on over the entire weekend. Some of the most popular of the parties happen on Saturday night at the W Hotel Taipei, where famous DJs from around the world spin music. There are more parties happening in the at all of the gay bars and clubs in Ximen’s Red House District.
Taipei boasts a vibrant nightlife scene with over 20 gay bars and three gay clubs, so Pride weekend is nothing short of a good time.
Be sure to pack something rainbow colored to show support for the parade, and be prepared for a long weekend on your feet marching and dancing.
3. Observe the Day of the Dead in Mexico
Mexico City, known as simply La Ciudad (The City) by Mexicans, is teeming with adventurous possibilities. From its bustling streets to its mountainous outskirts, there’s always something on offer to raise your heartbeat. And, you’ll get to refuel every day with authentic Mexican food, which is every foodie’s dream come true.
The main draw of traveling to Mexico in October is the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), and it’s one of the country’s most colorful and exciting festivals. It starts on October 31th and goes on through November 12.
And while it’s the same day as Halloween, let’s be clear: This is not just a Mexican version of it. Rather than spooks and pranks, the Day of the Dead is an ancient celebration to pay homage to deceased ancestors. Parades of dancers dress up in elaborate costumes and fill the streets in a display that represents remembrance for lost friends and relatives.
Of course, if you can’t make it for the festival, there is a myriad of other activities awaiting you in Mexico’s pulsing capital. October is a prime time to go climbing up mountains because the rainy season will be nearing its end, so the trails will be cooled off and you’ll find far less foot traffic than you will in the summer months.
Just two hours from the city center is the formidable Iztaccihuatl Volcano (don’t even bother trying to pronounce that). Iztaccíhuatl’s mountain was called “La Mujer Dormida” (which translates to “The Sleeping Woman”) because it bears a resemblance to a woman sleeping on her backside.
The hike to the top of it takes three hours and is challenging, so you’ll need a decent level of fitness to get to the snow-capped summit at 17,159′ feet.
4. Visit Dracula in Romania
Where better to spend Halloween than Dracula’s motherland? Romania is gradually rising in popularity among the travel community—and rightly so. But, it is still one of the lesser-visited countries in Europe, meaning you will find cheap prices and virtually no crowds year-round.
The draws of visiting Romania in October are numerous, but the main benefits are the cool weather and the spookiness of Transylvania at Halloween. Transylvania is a region in central Romania that’s known for its medieval towns full of bloodthirsty vampires, howling wolves and castles like Bran Castle, a Gothic fortress associated with the legend of Dracula.
Dracula’s Castle sits on the border between Transylvania and Wallachia. You might have convinced yourself that Dracula is just a fictional character, but you will certainly leave the castle with a “what if…” floating around in your mind. And what better time of year to spook yourself than October?
Fall landscape, creepy castle, stories of Dracula… Does traveling in October get any better?
The hike up to the castle, from the parking area, is along a very steep slope and takes around 10 minutes. But, the views of the lush valley that surrounds the castle will distract you from your burning glutes. To the east of the castle are the Carpathian Mountains, “the land beyond the forest,” so the views are worth it.
Yes, Transylvania is most famous for its association with Dracula, but once you venture into the heart of it, you'll find that it’s actually one of Europe's hidden gems.It also hostst to some of Romania's most interesting historical cities, like Timisoara, Brasov, Arad, Sibiu and Sighisoara. It’d be wise to rent a car and drive around the region for a few days.
5. Party for Oktoberfest in Germany
Weirdly enough, Oktoberfest starts in September (but it goes until October 7th, so fret not!). The beer festival originated in Munich, Germany, and it has since spread all over the world—though Munich’s is still the largest and craziest of them all. We’re talking six to seven million visitors every year who consume over six million liters of beer during the event.
Admission is free to the 35 participating tents. Just remember that no cash can be exchanged in the tents. So you'll need to purchase beer tokens (Biermarken) from outside the tents.
Beer starts flowing every weekday at 10 a.m. and weekend day at 9 a.m. At 10:45 a.m. on the first day of the Oktoberfest, the brewer's parade travels through the city to Wiesn. That's where they tap the first keg.
An epic aerial view of Oktoberfest from St. Paul Cathedral. It's NOT just about drinking beer!
And last call isn’t until 10:30 p.m. That leaves you more than 12 hours to make probably poor decisions with your buddies. Those who may be traveling with you and those who you’re sure to befriend while there.
As Oktoberfest partiers will still be taking over Munich in early October, the entire city feels alive. The beer halls hum with drunken energy and the parties are world class. Yes, you will wake up with a hideous hangover every day, but it won’t be anything a bratwurst can’t fix. Or a little hair of the dog.
Even after Oktoberfest ends, there are still loads of opportunities for you to drink delicious German beer to excess. Beer biking might look silly, but you won’t care by the time your second glass of beer comes around.
Picture eight adults sitting around a table on wheels that they are pedaling around the city while they drink beer. Yes, it’s a real thing and yes you can do it in Munich.
6. Witness the Wilderness in Jordan
Jordan is a pocket of calm in an otherwise chaotic region, and October is a shoulder season, which means that the temperature is manageable and you should be able to find some delightfully cheap flights.
You are going to want at least two days to explore the enormous Wadi Rum. It's a protected desert wilderness in southern Jordan. It’s uniquely full of prehistoric inscriptions and carvings in rocky caverns and steep chasms. Red sand dunes simply beg for you to drive over them in a big, powerful jeep. And that’s exactly what you should do.
Spend your days riding through the immense desert. Stop at famous landmarks (without all the tourists!) such as the dramatic sandstone mountains. These include the Jebel Um Ishrin and natural arches such as the Burdah Rock Bridge. The Burdah Rock Bridge is the tallest natural arch in Wadi Rum.
When the sun sets, settle into a Bedouin camp and watch the stars twinkle overhead. The weather for stargazing will be perfect in October. It ranges from the high 70s to high 90s and some wind to cool you off.
Sitting on the top of the Monastery in Petra, Jordan.
Have you ever visited one of the Seven Wonders of the World? If you haven’t, now is your time to change that. Petra, also known as the Rose City is an archaeological site that dates back to around 300 BC. The site is surreal to behold, which means that it sees a lot of visitors during other peak tourism months.
The builders designed the main temple into the face of a pinkish brown cliff. Gigantic rocky mounds surround it. Wander through leisurely or get your adrenaline pumping by leaping across the rocks of Petra. The choice is yours, and you’ll practically have it all to yourself.
Then, you have the Dead Sea, which is technically a lake. Regardless of the time of year, no trip to Jordan would be complete without bobbing around like a cork. This body of extremely salty water.
Cover yourself in exfoliating mud, bake yourself in the sun and then rinse off in the water. It’ll feel good to take a dip. The weather can get quite hot in October. And you won’t have to worry about drifting into strangers’ personal space. That's because there are sure to be less of them.
7. Surf in Tahiti, French Polynesia
This paradise island belongs to the French Polynesia Archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean. In fact, Tahiti is the largest island in French Polynesia. And October is the very end of Tahiti’s high season, so the number of tourists is beginning to dwindle, but the rainy season is still at bay.
Tahiti really only has two distinct seasons: winter and summertime. Temperatures in Tahiti are balmy year-round, but Tahiti's winter season enjoys far less humidity and less rain, The summertime (November through April) can be hot, sticky and rainy.
The months between May and October make up Tahiti's dry season when average temperatures lull around the upper 60s to the mid-80s. Of course, there is a downside to optimal beach weather, however: tourists and peak prices. So go in October when everyone else starts to head home.
As with most island destinations, there are dozens of water-based adventures available to you in Tahiti. Surfing is great in October especially, which usually sees impressive waves. Taapuna boasts three- to 10-feet-tall..
We all know someone who’s been to Thailand. Even my mom has been to Thailand! But there’s a big difference between spending two weeks in a state of semi-conscious drunkenness on a party island (not what my mom did, just for the record), and really experiencing Thailand.
Instead of regaling your friends with stories of when you drank five buckets of red bull and vodka while a fire dancer almost lit you ablaze, wouldn’t you rather have some more unique tales?
What about telling them about the time you went cliff jumping, or hiked through remote villages in the hills of Northern Thailand?
Sure, indulge in a couple of Chang beers as the sun sets or treat yourself to a bucket of poison at the Full Moon Party. But, if you want to really experience Thailand, then you need to avoid the daily hangovers and seek out adventure.
Form the concrete jungles to the actual jungles to the beautiful beaches, there is always something on offer that will get your adrenaline pumping.
So, you’ve got one month to explore. Spontaneity is a key ingredient. But if you go to Thailand without any kind of plan, you can easily get sucked into watching locals box each other into oblivion in Koh Phi Phi bars every night, getting lazy with Thai massages in Chiang Mai or making one too many questionable decisions on Bangkok’s famed Khao San Road.
What you need is a Thailand itinerary to gently guide you, while leaving room for Tom Kha Kai coconut soup runs and those times you’re convinced to hop on the back of a motorbike for a party.
And that’s exactly what I’ve made for you. Get ready for seriously legendary one month in Thailand.
Thailand Itinerary Day 1-3: Bangkok
Your first stop on your Thailand itinerary will be Bangkok. As you leave the arrivals section of the Suvarnabhumi Airport, the cheapest airport and largest hub for flight into Thailand, and step into the tropical heat, you will be instantly immersed in a whirlwind of color and sound. Welcome to Thailand.
Bangkok is a big city and, for first-timers, it can be pretty intimidating. Taxis jostle each other to navigate the dizzying traffic (don't fall any scams!). Glittering temples like Wat Arun and Wat Pho (home to a 151-foot-tall reclining, gold-leaf Buddha), the ornate Grand Palace, and towering mega malls line the streets.
Sprawling markets like the Chatuchak Market, crawling with people shopping for food, clothes and artisan-made trinkets, stretch endlessly.
The Marble Temple in Bangkok
You will find a lot to love in Bangkok, but it will take you a day or two to get an idea of how the city operates before you’re ready for some adventures.
There’s a lot more to the Thai capital than just street food and shopping, of course. Right in the heart of the city is Siam Paragon, a mall with an aquarium. Sure, looking at fish isn’t that adventurous, but what if I told you that you can jump into the shark tank and dive among these fearsome creatures? Suddenly, the aquarium doesn’t look so pedestrian, eh?
Alternatively, you could try your hand at wakeboarding at either Taco Lake or Thai Wake Park. The former is the cheaper, easier option, while the latter is more geared towards those with some wakeboarding experience.
When night falls, pick your poison. Soi 11 is the main nightlife neighborhood with bars and clubs galore. Khao San Road, Thong Lor and Ekkamai also boast some of the craziest night spots in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, over in Soi Cowboy, you’ll be able to find something a little naughty.
Thailand Itinerary Day 4-6: Kanchanaburi
Just two hours from the capital, Kanchanaburi might as well be on a different planet. Boasting seven national parks, the province is brimming with adventures. You could probably spend your whole month in Thailand enjoying the natural beauty of the region. But, I’m only giving you two days, so let’s make them count.
There’s not much adventure to be found in Kanchanaburi Town, as this part of the province is reserved for historical sites. After all, the town is well known for its role in World War II. It’s the site of the Death Railway, a railroad that prisoners of war and civilian laborers built under Japanese orders in hellish conditions to connect Thailand and Burma.
Waterfall exploring in Kanchanaburi—This is one of many epic levels of the falls.
You can ride along the railway from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok these days, but just outside of the city are some seriously impressive waterfalls that you shouldn’t miss
One popular day trip is the Erawan National Park to see its eponymous Erawan Falls. The Khao Hin Lan Pee Nature Trail leads from the park HQ to the fifth tier of the seven-tier waterfall and takes around two hours to walk each way.
The park is also home to various caves, such as the closest and most accessible Phra That Cave, which has stalactites and stalagmites galore, and Ta Duang Cave, which features a number of rock paintings. Note that the Erawan Park is often fairly crowded. For a more secluded trip, I recommend visiting the Huay Mae Khamin falls, which are just as beautiful.
Thailand Itinerary Day 7-18: The Thai Islands
There are two clusters of Thai islands. Those in the Gulf of Thailand (east of the mainland) and those in the Andaman Sea (west of the mainland). While it’d be ideal if you had the time to visit both clusters in one trip, there’s too much to see in a single month—and the weather tends to play favorites depending on the season.
Both sets of islands are warm and sunny all year round, with the temperature ranging between 85 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. However, what differs between the clusters is the rainfall. The rain is heaviest on the Andaman Islands from May to October and on the Gulf Islands from October to January. You may want to use this to help you decide which side to visit.
Fortunately, whichever side you choose, we have the perfect itinerary for your trip.
From Kanchanaburi, head back to Bangkok and beeline straight for the train station. From there, take a night train down to Suratthani, a port city in the south of Thailand, where you can embark for Koh Phangan in the Gulf.
Book yourself into first class on the train. It’s worth paying a bit extra for this, and you’ll get your own bed and a curtain for privacy. The train will have a restaurant carriage. Vendors regularly wander through the aisles selling cookies, fruit, soft drinks and other treats.
It’ll be like living in luxury—well, kind of. Night trains in Thailand are an adventure in and of themselves. And they are far cleaner and more comfortable than anywhere else in Southeast Asia. (I’m looking at you, Vietnam!)
Once you’ve gotten to Suratthani, hop on a ferry (be sure to get to the port early because they don’t run too late) to Koh Phangan. Despite its fame as home to the Full Moon Party, which attracts upwards of 30,000 people, there's far more than just partying here.
My first port of call in Koh Phangan is always the total wipeout course, The Challenge Phangan, on Laem Son Lake. This obstacle course consists of inflatable balls, climbing walls, monkey bars and a trapeze. You might as well get used to getting your butt kicked for the Thai boxing class you’re taking later on… Yea, we’ll get there.
Once you’ve acted like a big kid, enjoy the island’s nature by trekking to Bottle Beach. This jungle trail takes about an hour and a half and leads from Coconut Beach all the way to Bottle Beach. If that isn’t enough for you, you can also hike up Khao Ra, the highest peak on Koh Phangan, which is a three-hour round trip journey.
If you opt for Phuket on the Andaman side, the first thing you need to do is take the night train from Bangkok to Suratthani. From there you can hop on a bus that will take you across the Sarasin Bridge, which connects the mainland to Phuket.
Once you’ve arrived on Phuket and you’ve taken a second to drink in your surroundings (and maybe a banana shake), it’s time for some adventure. If you’re comfortable on a surfboard, head over to Kata or Kalim beach. The waves here are fast and can get pretty big—hence why the island is a mecca for surfers from all over the world.
If you would rather be under the water than on it, there are plenty of dive shops in Phuket. The diving here is a little more expensive than in Koh Tao, but the beauty of the underwater scenery more than makes up for the extra few dollars. Popular dive sites in Phuket include Racha Noi, Racha Yai and Shark Point, which is home to leopard sharks, blacktip reef sharks and turtles.
Those seeking a real adrenaline rush can hop on an ATV and race around the circuit located just outside of Phuket’s main town. The route runs past tiny waterfalls and under the warm canopy of the jungle. You’ll take in some fantastic sights and get your heart racing – what else could you ask from an adventure activity.
Koh Phangan’s smaller, quieter neighbor Koh Tao has a lot going for it. The ferry between the islands only takes one hour and 15 minutes, so you could feasibly visit as a day trip. I recommend giving this island a lot more love, though.
Koh Tao is renowned as being the cheapest place in the world to get your PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) or SSI (Scuba Schools International) diving licenses (along with Utila in Honduras). With this in mind, it would be a shame not to go diving at least once while you’re there.
Sunsets on Koh Tao don't disappoint! In fact, you'd be hard pressed to see a crappy sunset on your Thailand itinerary!
The PADI and SSI Open Water courses take three days to complete and, whaddya know, you’ve got three days here!
There’s a reason why Koh Tao is such a popular place to learn to dive—and it’s not just because it’s so cheap. The coral reefs that ring the island are sublime, and abundant with visitors like angelfish, butterflyfish, bannerfish and stingrays.
Chumphon is one of the best dive sites and barracudas, mackerels, big eyed jacks and, if you’re lucky, whale sharks frequent it, too.
Koh Phi Phi
From Phuket, Koh Phi Phi is just a short ferry ride. This island gained international acclaim when it starred in The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio. Maya Bay was chosen for the main filming location and one of the top activities to do on the island is to visit said bay. It is outstandingly beautiful, if a little crowded with starstruck tourists.
You can also explore Phi Phi Le National Park, in which the bay is located. This is a top spot for snorkeling, diving or just chilling out in the sunshine. Craggy cliffs loom over dazzlingly turquoise water and the whole place feels like paradise on earth.
Ah Hawaii—just the name summons visions of deserted beaches, cascading waterfalls, palm trees replete with fresh coconuts, rainforested valleys and volcanoes oozing lava. It’s a dream destination, and there’s no better place to kickstart your dream island adventure than Oahu.
Oahu is Hawaii’s third-largest island and home to the state capital of Honolulu.
It's chock full of natural goodness and a world away from the mainland, which means it’s a secluded slice of paradise. There’s no shortage of adventures in Oahu, which are what attract the growing millions of visitors each year.
Visitors come from all over the globe to experience the chilled out vibe and vibrant energy of this awesome island. The locals nicknamed Oahu “the gathering place,” as it’s famous for super-friendly multicultural communities. And, seriously, there’s so much to pack into an Oahu itinerary that your only problem will be figuring out what not to do.
Because it’s so popular, Oahu is the most expensive island to hang on, but there are loads of options when it comes to eating, drinking and accommodation, so you’ll be able to shop around and find the perfect places and pads for your budget.
Plus, the public transportation is easy to use, though I recommend hiring a rental car to explore the island and get to some of its lesser-known gems. Then you can also take your own sweet time.
In fact, take your sweet time all the time—there’s so much to do here that you could easily spend months exploring. But if you’ve only got two weeks in Oahu, then this itinerary will help you check off the best highlights.
Days 1-3: Top Things to Do in Waikiki
You probably want to start off your Oahu adventure in Waikiki. It’s the most cosmopolitan part of the island and the perfect place for an intro to Hawaii for your two weeks in Oahu.
International travelers, honeymooners, beach lovers and party animals alike gather in flocks here because Waikiki is home to many of the island’s best-known sites and attractions. Make sure to check these must do’s off your Oahu itinerary.
Hit the Diamond Head Trail
The Diamond Head trail on Oahu’s South Shore is the island’s most popular hike. That’s because the 1.5-mile round-trip hike, which summits on top of a volcanic cone, leads you on a merry trail across loose gravel and dirt paths. Then it kicks you in the gut with some steep sets of stairs 560 feet up to the top.
Once you get your breath back, it’ll be taken away again by the jaw-dropping 360-degree views out over Waikiki. You can see it all—towering high rises, the glittering Pacific Ocean and the volcano’s ancient crater that formed 300,000 years ago.
The Diamond Head hike time is between 40 and 60 minutes. It's considered easy and safe for young hikers, the golden-aged and everyone in between, so there’s no excuse to not get up and give it a go and have a bash at it.
Hike to the Manoa Falls Waterfall
Because the Manoa Falls waterfall is Oahu’s most accessible waterfall, the Manoa Falls trail is a busy one.
Sunrise is arguably the best time of day in Oahu, and if you want this gem all to yourself, I recommend an early morning rise. Nothing spoils a beautiful location like a hundred other tourists.
A 1.6-mile trip up and back, the trail takes you through thick bamboo and dense eucalyptus forests, and across gravel paths and boardwalks before landing in front of Manoa Falls.
The waterfall isn’t the biggest one out there, but it does dramatically cascade down 150 feet into a pool surrounded by ferns and trees.
The sweet-smelling guava trees and wild gingers make the Manoa Falls trail even more enchanting. It’s no wonder the original Jurassic Park movie and the TV series, Lost, shot scenes here.
Surf at Waikiki Beach
This internationally famed, two-mile strip of sparkling white sand is the island's most famous beach and definitely deserves a visit during your two weeks in Oahu.
Surfs up at Waikiki
Surrounded by fancy, world-class resorts, you’ll never have to wander far from your room in search of the perfect wave. The water here is calm, making it a great spot for beginners to sign up for some surf and paddle board lessons.
If you’d rather people watch and take in all of the action of Waikiki Beach from afar, wander along the nearby Waikiki Beach Promenade.
Make sure you are on the beach in the evening to witness the gorgeous beach sunset. Waikiki Beach deserves a spot on your Oahu itinerary.
Fly Over Oahu in a Robinson R-44 Helicopter
If you’re a baller, or just want to feel like one for a little while, treat yourself to a helicopter ride. It’s one of the most adventurous things to do in Waikiki.
Marvel at the turquoise water and glistening white sand; zoom past Diamond Head’s ancient crater and zip over to view Waikiki’s skyline.
You’ll all have two-way intercom headsets so you can communicate with your pilot about what you’re seeing, and most tours will offer you professional aerial photography and videography to take home.
Hike the Pali Notches
This is a trail for the badasses—seasoned hikers and climbers only. The Pali Notches is a hike that consists of two deep, narrow mountain passes. These were carved into its ridge by badass ancient Hawaiian warriors to place cannons here in the 1700s to protect Nu’uanu Valley.
The hike is famed for its difficulty, so you’ll earn full bragging rights for completing it—especially the second notch, which requires a vertical climb down with few sturdy handholds.
This short but highly intense trail that requires you to clamber across narrow ridges sandwiched between sheer cliff drops is exhilarating—or terrifying, depending on your attitude.
Things get real fast, so don’t be an idiot and try this with gusting winds, which can knock you right off the cliff. Equip yourself with a pair of sturdy hiking shoes that's got lots of grip.
Staring in awe at Pali Notches.
If you make it past the second notch and onwards to the Chimney, sick views over the blue waters of Kaneohe and its lush greenery will be waiting for you.
For an adrenaline-pumping experience on your two weeks in Oahu, take a hike to the Pali Notches.
If you’re looking for a place to stay near or in the center the action in Oahu, mere steps away from the beach and its nightlife, then Waikiki is it. But be warned, a stay in this region of the island doesn’t come cheap.
The property's rooms are air-conditioned for those sweltering hot summer days and equipped with furnished kitchens so you have the option of saving a few bucks by cooking at home. A reception is held every Monday and guests are encouraged to come mingle with fellow travelers while munching on free appetizers.
This hostel is a favorite among backpackers who are beach bums by day and party-goers by night, as it’s located in the heart of Waikiki. The property is surrounded by shops and restaurants, so you’re spoiled for choice. Seaside Hawaiian Hostel Waikiki offers free coffee, tea and toast to start your day off with, as well as boogie boards and snorkel gear to take to the beach. They also have cheap surfboards for rent, in case surfing is on your Oahu itinerary.
Just steps away from Waikiki Beach is the luxury resort of Moana Surfrider. It has its very own private beach area as well as a freshwater pool. Dine at one of the many onsite restaurants for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner, and book yourself in for a spa or custom facial at their Moana Lani Spa.
Day 4: Hanauma Bay: Best Snorkeling in Oahu
For thousands of years, Hanauma Bay was where Hawaiian royalty went to party and fish. This crescent-shaped bay was formed inside a volcanic crater as a result of explosions tens of thousands of years ago. “Hana” means bay, and “uma” means curved.
The volcanic eruptions ultimately formed the crater on the seafloor, and then the ocean eventually filled the circular bay with water and life. That’s why you’ll find some of the best snorkeling in Oahu here in Hanauma Bay, on the southeast coast of the island.
The underwater wonderland is a protected marine life conservation area that boasts colorful coral reefs, turtles and over 400 species of fish, including Hawaii’s state fish the humuhumunukunukuapua‘a!
Plus, Hanauma Bay limits visitors to preserve the area, and it focuses its efforts on educating..
There’s no special day to book flights—booking on a Tuesday doesn’t magically make prices drop.
And, contrary to popular belief, browsing in private, using a VPN or clearing your cookies doesn’t make that much of a difference in price. You might save 30 bucks, but when I’m hunting for cheap flights, I’m not trying to save tens of dollars—I’m trying to save hundreds and sometimes even thousands.
If you want to save the big bucks, you need some pro-level flight hacks to find cheap flights.
I’ve been booking flights for over a decade and, over the course of this time, I’ve saved a lot of money using a variety of tricks.
But you won’t master these overnight—it may take some time. So bookmark this page and come back to it before you book your next flight!
1. Look into Hidden City Ticketing
Say you want to go from New York to Dallas but the direct flight costs $300. But, there’s a flight from New York to Las Vegas with a layover in Dallas which only costs $200. Book yourself the cheaper flight and simply walk out of the airport in Dallas.
Sneaky, isn’t it?
You saved yourself $100 and you have the satisfaction of knowing you cheated the airline. Perfect.
But let me caveat this option by explaining the risks:
First of all, this only works if you have carry-on luggage. Checked baggage will be checked all the way to the final destination so you’d eventually have to go to Vegas to pick it up (not ideal).
Secondly, airlines do not like this at all (especially United). If you do it too often with the same airline they’re likely to notice and might take measure to punish you. They could invalidate your membership points, ask you to pay the difference for all flights you’ve taken, close your frequent flyer account, bump you off flights, or outright refuse you service.
If you don’t use hidden city ticketing repeatedly on the same airline and the same route (in essence, if you don’t establish a trackable pattern), Skiplagged is the site to use to find these fares.
2. Book an Open-Jaw Flight
Open-jaw flights are flights that fly into one airport and return from a different one. For example, if you are planning on traveling across Europe, you might want to fly from New York to London and then back from Athens to New York.
If you draw the flight path on a map, it’s basically an open triangle, or you might see that it resembles an open jaw.
With open jaw flights, you can take advantage of the cheapest possible flight instead of limiting yourself to only flying into or out of one airport.
For example, New York to London might be the cheapest flight you find from the States to Europe, but Paris to New York might be the cheapest flight back. Instead of booking a round-trip, make your way to Paris and fly from there instead!
Because these tickets are priced as round-trip fares even though they’re not exactly round trip, you won’t have to pay extra fees, like fuel surcharges, twice. These additional charges can sometimes add hundreds onto your ticket cost.
So how do you find open-jaw flights? The simple way is to use the “multi-city” option when you book on Google Flights, Skyscanner, or your OTA of choice.
The more complicated, but significantly more comprehensive option is the ITA Matrix.
Oh, snap—found a cheap flight!
With the ITA Matrix, instead of letting the OTA software tell you what flights you can book, you get to tell the OTA what specific flights you want. If you know how, you can search for hidden flights or force connections that the computers don't want you to make.
You can use these advanced features to do things like “segment runs” to help you reach status with a frequent flyer program—and that’s only the beginning. The options are literally endless, and if you want to dive deep into travel hacking, studying the ITA Matrix is the best thing you can do for yourself.
It’s important to note, however, that you won’t be able to book flights through the ITA Matrix. Instead, take the flight numbers and plug them into another booking site to make the purchase, or try BookWithMatrix.com, a tool designed specifically for booking flights from the ITA Matrix.
3. Look for Mistake Fares
Surely an airline would never be so foolish as to publish a mistake fare though…right?
Actually, airlines make mistakes all the time! I mean, have you seen the headlines recently?
I’ve seen round-trip flights from the U.S. to New Zealand for under $500. I also have a friend who flew to Spain for $150. Mistake fares are real, and they are amazing.
Prices for airline seats aren’t determined by someone sitting at a desk. They’re determined by a piece of software that automatically updates their websites. But, due to the complexity of pricing airfare, this software is known to glitch.
Luckily for us, there are websites who report solely on these mistake fares. Try these ones to start:
It’s a myth that you’ll always get the best deal by booking a round-trip ticket with the same airline.
“Hacker Fares” might sound like some kind of nerdy computer magic, but they’re actually quite simple. Instead of booking a round-trip ticket, you book two one-way tickets with two different airlines.
For example, you fly New York to London with United because you found a really cheap one-way ticket, and then you fly back with Norwegian because, again, it’s the cheapest flight.
I don’t know why they gave such a simple process such an advanced-sounding name, but this is one of the easiest tricks to execute with the least amount of research involved.
Some flight search engines, such as Travelocity, automatically include hacker fares in their searches. But, regardless, if you’re booking each leg with a different airline, you’ll need to book them individually.
And if they aren’t included in your search, you’ll have to go lone wolf and find the fares for yourself.
5. Search the Local Airlines That Serve Your Destination
A lot of big search engines do not list low cost, local carriers, often because, in order to keep costs down, these small airlines don’t want to pay commission.
This means you’ve gotta do the research yourself.
Google the airport to which you are flying, and make a list of the small or lesser-known airlines that fly in to it. Then, search on the airline’s website directly. You might find a flight that’s pleasantly cheap!
Admittedly, this option requires a little more effort. There’s no cheat to get around it, but, it’s worth it for the money you save.
6. Book One Passenger at a Time
This doesn’t always make your flight cheaper but it’s worth trying, especially if you are traveling in a group. If you book five tickets all at once, you may find that the price per person is higher than if you booked one or two at a time.
Because airlines price out seats differently based on a slew of external factors, some end up drastically cheaper than others.
Flight search engines aren’t able to combine differently priced seats in your booking, so all five seats will come at whichever price has enough availability—not necessarily the cheapest.
If you have the time and patience to book flights one person at a time then this increases your chances of getting the best flight for each person.
7. Book Multiple Legs on Your Own
If you aren’t pressed for time and you have an iPad filled with movies, there’s no harm in spending a little longer in transit. Especially if it ends up saving you a sizeable stack of cash.
Often, flying direct is more expensive than flying with a layover, and most search engines will show you both direct routes and those with a change so you can compare the price.
Alternatively—and this is where things get really fun (and cheap)—you can do it yourself.
If you want to fly from New York to Copenhagen, for example, it might be cheaper to fly to London first. From there you can usually find a cheap flight with a low-cost carrier that will take you to Copenhagen. It’s a little bit more work—and you’ll have to recheck your baggage—but again, it’s worth it if it saves you money.
But, I offer this advice with two words of warning:
Really long layovers are hellish. I’m talking 15 hours in a small airport that you can’t leave with a bad WiFi connection and limited snack options. In these cases, it might not be worth it. Stick to large airports and get yourself a Priority Pass for access to a lounge.
Short layovers can be dangerous, especially if you are transiting through the U.S. A friend of mine recently flew from London to Dallas to Cancun, with a two-hour layover in Dallas. This was a big mistake. With her British passport, she had to join the “other” queue and ended up waiting three hours to get through customs. This resulted in a missed flight, a night in the airport and a miserable start to her vacation.
In the case of flying internationally, when you have to clear customs, I recommend three hours as the minimum time for a layover.
8. Book Round-Trip Tickets and Only Fly One Way
While aforementioned hacker fares are perfect if the airline sells cheap one-way tickets, not all airlines work like this.
Let’s For example, say you wanted a one-way, direct flight from London to Lima, Peru with British Airways. If you try and book this as a one-way flight it will cost you the equivalent of about $1,600. However, if you book a return flight the price drops to about $700… total.
It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense on the face of it, but such is the world of airline pricing.
This isn’t exclusive to British Airways, though. A lot of airlines charge significantly more for one-way tickets. Sometimes one-way will be cheaper and sometimes a round trip will be. You’re going to need to check both.
A round-trip ticket is more convenient for the airline when it comes to scheduling (they know you’re going to be on that plane coming home).
One-way fares tend to appeal to business travelers whose tickets are paid for by corporate departments that care more about convenience than cost.
Round-trip travelers are usually tourists who are more interested in finding the cheapest fare, so the airlines cater their prices appropriately.
The next time you see an extortionate one-way ticket, see if the price drops with a return ticket. If it’s cheaper, purchase the round trip and then abandon the return leg.
Or, if you have open plans and aren’t sure of your return date, it might still be cheaper to keep the return flight and just pay the change fee once you know.
9. Sign Up for Credit Cards on a Regular Basis
Credit card bonuses are the easiest way to rack up large amounts of points and air miles with the lowest amount of effort. Credit cards regularly offer 50,000-100,000 points just to sign up for a new credit card, which is, conservatively, equivalent to a round-trip flight from the U.S. to Europe.