Volcanic Activities: Adventures on the Island of Oahu

By  June 07, 2010

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I’m not much of an athlete. I was perpetually the last pick in gym class. I threw up after the mandatory one-mile run, got hit in the head with a baseball bat, and once almost drowned after getting stuck under a waterfall on a lazy river ride. So for the safety of myself and others, I try to avoid swinging sticks, crashing waves, and any activities in which balls might be flying at my face (shout-out to Clueless).

But it’s sort of difficult to escape action and adventure on the exotic island of Oahu. There’s simply too much to see and do on the land and in the water. I had to gather up my (liquid) courage for the sake of life experience. So I ate a balanced breakfast (two mai tais), sprayed on some SPF 70, and packed a first-aid kit. It was time to embrace my inner Sporty Spice. She had to be in there somewhere.

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Hiking Diamond Head
If you find yourself in Oahu, and the forecast is cloudy or cool, don’t despair. Get on your hiking gear, grab a bottle of water, and go to Diamond Head. Created by a single volcanic eruption some 300,000 years ago, the famous saucer-shaped landmark features gorgeous panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. The invigorating hike up to the top totals approximately three quarters of a mile and entails a path of uneven rock, tunnels, and man-made steps. It’s challenging but not daunting. And the sweeping view is worth every heroic moment. Not to mention the calories you’ll burn along the way!

While I felt good about my personal achievement at Diamond Head, I couldn’t be too impressed with myself. There were lots of kiddies happily hiking alongside their parents, and they made it look so effortless. I even spotted a very pregnant woman ascending the steep steps in flip-flops. Now that’s just showing off.

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Snorkeling at Hanuma Bay
I’ve tried snorkeling a few times, but I always get a little skeeved out.  I mean, you’re literally swimming with the fishies. I like to admire their colors, shapes, and sizes, but let’s face it: Most fish aren’t all that cute up close and personal.  But going to Oahu without snorkeling at Hanuma Bay is like eating at the Cheesecake Factory and skipping dessert – it’s criminal. So I put on my flippers and goggles to float with Nemo and his other, ahem, “adorable” friends.

The fish were plentiful, the reef was exotic, and the water was pristine. While the shallow entrance point provides an ideal spot for amateur snorkelers, the ample coral makes it a bit difficult to navigate. Hanuma Bay is definitely a destination to add to your life must-see list, but I would also recommend booking a catamaran excursion – especially if you’re a more experienced snorkeler. There’s a chance you might even see dolphins and whales on your journey. (And you can tell Flipper and Fudgie that Nemo says “hi.”)

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Pretending to Paddle an Outrigger Canoe
Here’s one reason I enjoy canoe rides: You can rely on other people to do the heavy-duty grunt work. I had a blast working up a minimum sweat on a five-person outrigger canoe right on Waikiki Beach. Our instructor showed us the proper paddling technique and then took us out in the ocean. He led us past the break and waited for the perfect wave to come along. Riding the surf was exhilarating – the breeze, the mist, the speed. It was liberating and only a little scary. Waikiki is a surfing hot spot, so we had a few near collisions. And in the man vs. canoe battle, the rowboat will always win. (Add that to the list of reasons I’ll never try surfing.)

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Mastering the Stand-Up Paddle Board
Stand-up paddle boarding became the It activity in Hawaii about three years ago. I remember seeing paparazzi shots of Jennifer Garner, Jennifer Aniston, and other A-listers effortlessly balancing on wide boards in calm tropical waters. They made it look so simple and relaxing. It was like they were standing in line at the grocery store in the middle of the ocean. Easy breezy. I had a feeling that this would be my sport. If the Jennifers could do it, I could do it.

We went to Haleiwa on the North Shore of the island for our first stand-up paddling lesson. The founders of C4, the world’s leading stand-up paddle company, showed us the basics and then set us free. It was a bit windy, and the water was certainly not as static as I anticipated, so it took a few minutes to get my sea legs. I watched as the other beginners momentarily balanced before flailing their arms and falling in the water.  Uh-oh. Maybe this wouldn’t be my forte after all.

I finally worked up the nerve to graduate from my knees to my feet and managed to balance a full 10 seconds before crashing head-first into the water. But I quickly learned that as long as you’re falling away from your board, it’s not too bad. In fact, it’s actually kind of fun. After a solid 20 minutes of standing, falling, standing, and falling, I started to get the hang of it. In fact, I rocked it. I could balance in my semi-squat for hours. I’ve never felt prouder. I haven’t gotten a core workout like that in, well, forever. For the next three days, my derrière, legs, and knees throbbed. It was a constant reminder of my great Oahu accomplishment.

There are so many other athletic endeavors to experience in Oahu. Kayaking, surfing, sailing, and scuba diving are among the other incredible adventures. Whether you’re a brawny pro or a prissy beginner, you’ll relish every active moment. Take it from me: if Jennifer, Jennifer, and I can do it, so can you.