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Exploring: Island Tours > Oahu > Southeast
Beyond Honolulu and Waikiki, the most accessible area of Oahu for exploration is the southeast circle. It begins at Diamond Head, rings the coast to Kailua and returns on the Pali Highway, one of the roads that cuts through the Koolau Range.
You will be traveling through some of the most beautiful and expensive residential areas of the island, though many of the finest oceanfront estates are behind gates and not visible from the road. There's a great deal to see and do.
You can sightsee around the Southeast loop in a day. There are a number of attractions though, so expect to spend a good amount of time here. The beaches alone are worth the trip, and if you fancy ocean creatures of all kinds, you won't want to miss Hanauma Bay and Sea Life Park. Here's what you can see along the way:
Hanauma Bay: A crystalline crater of coral reefs that offers some of the best snorkeling in the islands -- like swimming in a giant aquarium of native fish. The beach and the shallow turquoise waters make it a daily happening for hundreds of people. There are excellent facilities -- lifeguard, restrooms, showers, barbecues, picnic tables, and a food concession. The best time to visit is early on a week day morning. Admission is currently free, though there is a bill pending that would establish a fee to enter the park.
Halona Blowhole: a lava tube, which, depending on ocean conditions, spews a plume of water up to 60 feet high.
Sandy Beach is a great place for swimming and body surfing. The conditions are usually a bit challenging. If you are not a strong swimmer, you may want to just watch.
Sea Life Park: a fascinating marine attraction for folks of all ages. Dolphins, killer whales, penguins and sea lions entertain at the Hawaii Ocean Theater and Whales Cove. There is a 300,000 gallon Hawaiian Reef Tank oceanarium, shark and tide pool exhibits, and the Pacific Whaling Museum. Spend at least half a day there, but be forewarned: the kids won't want to leave.
Makapu'u Beach: another beach that can be challenging in the winter months, but always a great place to picnic. At one end is Makapu'u Point, the black cliff backdrop for that famous scene with Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity. The road up to the point takes you to some awesome views.
Lanikai Beach: a mile-long beach that is undeveloped, with no facilities, and therefore less crowded. Lanikai offers good jogging in the hard-packed sand as well as water that is generally safe for swimming. Mornings are best, as the mountains shade the beach in the afternoon.
Kailua Beach Park: the beach many consider the best on the island. It has facilities and concession stands and a wide, sandy beach with generally safe conditions. Watersports abound here, with diving, sailing, boogie boarding, snorkeling, and wind surfing.
Ulupoa Heiau: the remains of the foundation of an ancient Hawai'ian temple, said to have been built by the menehune. Heiau are sacred to the Hawai'ian people, so don't disturb anything; just take a moment to contemplate the loveliness of the area and its mana or power.
Nu'uanu Pali Lookout: one of the most spectacular panoramas on the island -- the view all the way up the Windward coast. These cliffs, often quite windy, are the site of a famous battle in which Kamehameha the Great forced his opponents to jump to their death -- a decisive defeat for those who opposed unification of the islands.
Queen Emma Summer Palace: a Victorian palace that was the country estate of King Kamehameha IV and his wife Queen Emma.
Now you're back to Honolulu and ready for another tour. How about heading toward the Windward Shore?
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