Finding the Hidden Oahu (part 1)

Oahu might have changed a little from what I remember when I lived there, but we still found a few hidden places I never even knew were there. That’s why I thought for our second day I would show you some of the hidden Oahu. Places not all tourists go to. This is part one of four, there is so much to show you we could not do it in one article.

To start off we didn’t make it to the Mermaid Cave this morning since it was high tide. We will try again in a couple of days. So with that we decided to venture out to the North Shore. We found out about a place near Haleiwa that is said to have the best shaved ice on the island. Hopping into the Mustang we put the top down, towels and camera’s in the trunk and we were on our way. Driving through old Wahiwa brought back memories for me as I had friends who lived there that I would visit from time to time. I remember we used to buy the best fireworks there but we never found the building where they used to make them.

Waialua Sugar Mill

We found the Waialua Sugar Mill just west of Haleiwa. We didn’t know what to expect but it was quite interesting.

The front entrance of the Waialua Coffee Company in Haleiwa, Oahu, Hawaii

The entrance into the Waialua Coffee Company. It didn’t look like much from the outside but the inside had all the things I love about Hawaii

Waialua Sugar Mill Soap Factory

At the Waialua Sugar Mill there are also a few other shops like this Soap Factory that had the most fragrant smelling bundles of cleanliness. I’m not sure what this cone looking building was once used for but it was very interesting.

We met the owner Bill Martin and some of his employees and all I can say is what great people they are. They love this business and it shows. First chance they have they gladly show you how they grow coffee beans and cacao which is where chocolate comes from.

Waialua Sugar Mill area where they grow coffee

We taken to a small area behind the store where we were given a small tour of the plant. Here they grow Hawaiian coffee and Cacao for chocolate. It’s a tiny display just to educate you how its grown and what both plants actually look like.

coffee plant with beans growing

There were only a few plants but look at all the coffee beans that come from one little plant. This is just one small branch. Once matured the beans are harvested then roasted to give Hawaii’s specialty coffee the best flavor possible.

Cacao pods growing on trees in Hawaii

We found it very interesting that cacao pods don’t grow on the limbs of the tree but right out of the trunk. Never seen anything like it before!

Cacao pod on tree

A closer look at a cacao pod on the tree.

An opened cacao pod so you can see what the beans look like inside

They opened cacao pod so we could see what it looks like on the inside. You would never know that future chocolate is right inside that slimy mess you see. It was ooey-gooey but they insisted we take a taste before getting to the bean. Know what? It wasn’t bad at all. It was a little sweet a little tart, it was a new taste for our mouths to savor.

Cacao beans

Once you rinse off the slime you get the bean. Next they need to dry the beans to get ready to process

Cacao beans drying out in long vats

To dry the cacao beans they put them in open vats where a little sun and air can dry them out. Once the beans are dried then starts the processing system that brings the beans to the delectable chocolate we all love.

This was a fun little tour that only took about 10-15 minutes at most. After the tour we went back inside where we had the chance to try the coffee and chocolate for ourselves. I can tell you both were excellent and so good we bought both to take home to our friends and family. We enjoyed our visit here especially since they were not bombarded with tourists. There are special tour buses that stop by from time to time but we had the whole place to ourselves.

Inside the Waialua sugar plantation store

The Waialua Sugar Mill store has just about everything you would want from Hawaii. Of course there is coffee and chocolate, but there is also island teas, jams, syrups. Favorites would be passion fruit, mango, lilikoi and coconut flavors. Lovely fragrant perfumes for local flowers, nuts and even local Hawaiian fashions found here.

Inside the Waialua Sugar Mill on Oahu, Hawaii

A look inside the store

Wooden surfboard from Haleiwa Surfboards hanging in the Wailua Sugar Mill

You might think this surfboard is just decor. In a way you would be right. This surfboard was shaped and created by Dick Brewer of Haleiwa Surfboards. He doesn’t do just surfboard, he makes works of art, something you display in your home. Take a look at some of his work here. You won’t believe the craftsmanship and beauty of the woods.

Making a shaved ice at the Waialua Sugar Mill in Hawaii

Now for the reason we came to the Waialua Sugar Mill, we heard they have the best shaved ice on the island! Homemade syrups without chemicals or additives, just pure fruit. Here is mine being made, its Lilikoi and passion fruit and know what? I think it was the best shaved ice I’ve had. You can also order yours with a milk/cream which is very popular. I tend to like just the fruit.


Haleiwa Town and Swim

Just a few minutes from Waialua is Haleiwa famous for big winter surf and now a fun place to hang out for an hour or two. It’s still very small but a great place to stop for an ice-cold drink and slow down for a while. Haleiwa has a lot of old-time character mixed with modern convinces.

Haleiwa city sign

Have to love this sign that let’s you know Haleiwa is a popular surfing destination.

small store in Hawaii

One of the many cute little stores in Haleiwa.

From here we went to a little bay in Haleiwa known to have sea turtle year round. Would we see any? Will they come close to the shore or run away if we do? Take a look at the bay where all the sea turtles love to come and forge for food!

Haleiwa Bay on Oahu, Hawaii

Just look at this bay, doesn’t it beckon you to come sit and relax a bit? So, did we see any turtles?

Sea turtle swimming in the ocean at a Haleiwa beach in Hawaii

You bet we did! Just look at this lovely creature! BTW there is a second one just behind him. This curious fella was close enough to touch. This totally made my day!


Waimea Valley and Falls, Oahu

Haleiwa was a lot of fun for us but its time to move on. Where did we go next? Waimea Falls may not be a hidden treasure, but many tourists seem to miss this as one of the most beautiful walks on the island. It’s changed a lot since I lived there, archeologists have found that a group of Hawaiians settled in that valley hundreds of years ago. Remnants of their homes and wells have been dug up and now recreated to show us how they once lived. It’s about half way up to the falls. For non-hikers don’t worry the walk is easy to moderate. If you prefer not to walk they have a little shuttle that takes you up to the falls.

Tropical pond with waterlily's and rocks at waimea falls park on oahu, hawaii

After paying our entrance fee of $16 first thing we saw was this tropical lagoon. Loved the waterlily’s in the background.

Tropical grass hut Hawaiian's used to use hundreds of years ago in Hawaii

One of the grass hut structures that was rebuilt to show us the history of the islands.

Tropical rain forest with mossy rocks and tree roots

One of the pretty scenes along the way.

Colorful tropical flowers in Hawaii

Look at these beauties! I don’t know what any of the names but I like to call them “Happy Flowers”!

waimea-pink-stalk-flaower waimea-red-flower

Bird of Paradise flowers before it blooms

Then I found this Bird of Paradise that actually looks like a bird!

Bird of Paradise in bloom

After the Bird of Paradise blooms this is what the foliage looks like.

We made it up to the falls, time for a swim! Unfortunately I remember the days we used to jump off the cliff into the water. I guess there have been a few people in recent history that jumped and missed the water so they closed it down and now have lifeguards on constant watch. They also require you to wear a life jacket included with your entrance fee into the park.

We made it up to the falls, time for a swim! Unfortunately I remember the days we used to jump off the cliff into the water. I guess there have been a few people in recent history that jumped and missed the water so they closed it down and now have lifeguards on constant watch. They also require you to wear a life jacket included with your entrance fee into the park.

The time went by quickly on North Shore. We still missed a few things that tourists don’t see when visiting Oahu but we will be back here in the next couple of days to show you the rest. But I will leave you with a stunning sunset at Shark’s Cove a popular place for locals to swim during low surf.

Sunset at Shark's Cove on Oahu, Hawaii

A great way to end an adventurous day on the North Shore of Oahu

Time to head back to our condo then off to the Aulani for drinks and entertainment! Oh how we love Oahu! Part 2 coming soon!


For more info on Waimea Valley click here


  1. Amazing nature!Seems like this place has it all.

  2. YUMMMMMY. Shave ice!

  3. Looks like an ideal type of day – I love coffee tours and those sea waters are so dreamy!

  4. Didn’t realise you actually lived here. We were here this time last year and I absolutely loved it. We did the trip right up the eastern side and also to North Shore. Loved Haleiwa, it was one of my faves. We stopped there for coffee in the morning and then returned to Cholos for some awesome Mex at lunch.

    The Waialua Sugar Mill was a great stop for us. My Dad has worked in the Australian Sugar Industry for 50 years so this was of special importance to us.


      Yes I live on Oahu when I was younger. I have so many great memories over the years I lived there.
      I can see why you would visit sugar mills. It would be fun to see if they are different from where your father worked. And, to stay with the business for 50 years he must have seen many changes with the industry. Just have to ask, did you ever get tired of eating sugar cane? 🙂

  5. When I’ve been to Oahu, I’ve mostly stuck to the main tourist spots, so I love these ideas for an alternative trip! I hope I can make it back to Hawaii soon.


      You can never spend enough time in Hawaii. These were just a couple of idea’s if you want to do something different than stay in Waikiki. Wait until you see the hidden beaches we visited, it will put Waikiki to shame! HA! Hope you get to make it back to Hawaii soon Kirstie!

  6. Carolina Colborn

    We did this drive through Oahu’s North Coast . We thought it was all Honolulu but found out Oahu is just as lovely as the other islands!


      So happy to hear you made it out to see a little more of the island. I agree once you hit the North Shore and beyond it IS as beautiful as the other islands. In fact there are places I feel are even more beautiful!

  7. I’ve never been to Oahu but would love to! I love finding hidden things as well and would definitely love to try the best shaved ice on the island 😛

  8. Hawaii looks incredible, especially Oahu, I have to visit at some point. The words are very similar to some of the places in New Zealand. I guess there is a similarity in the Maori and Hawaiian language. They’re both descended from Polynesians if I’m not mistaken!


      Yes, the Hawaiians were descended from the Polynesians. They are related but ended up on a different island far away. The history is very interesting!

  9. Wow that garden is beautiful. Cool little secrets in there 🙂 Thanks!

    Crystal recently posted… Budget Guide: Cuba


      It was fun to walk through and find so many unique tropical flowers. Love those little hidden gems so many travelers tend to miss.

  10. Great post with cool ideas on what to see and do. Thanks for sharing!

  11. This is the first time I’ve seen the inside of the cacao pod, how interesting.

    To be honest I’m having a hard time pronoucing the names of the places in Hawaii hahaha… But the places you’ve been to sure looks beautiful especially that bay in Halei. I’d love to see a sea turtle myself, I haven’t seen one yet.


      I know, unless you have lived in Hawaii for awhile, its hard to pronounce the words. One hint is the vowels are rarely silent. Swimming with the sea turtles was one of the highlights to the trip! Hope you have the chance to swim with one sometime!

  12. You actually just saved my life! I was in Bali almost a year ago on a whitewater rafting tour and they stopped to feed us some random fruit off a tree. They never told us what it was (pretty trusting of us, huh?!) but i’ve been searching through so many different ‘tropical/exotic fruit’ google searches to find out what it was and turns out all along it was the cacao pod! Those weird little white slimy things! Thank you!!
    On another note, i’m travelling to Oahu in August and I am absolutely loving your hidden Oahu series. Keep up the good work!


      LOL, you were very trusting with that fruit! 😀 Yeah the inside of cacao is very strange and amazes me that it turns into such lovely chocolate! Of all the places I wrote about I hope you make it to the Mermaid Caves, it’s one of those experiences you will never forget!

  13. This place is so wild! It must have been wonderful living there..

  14. Beautiful photos. What I love is when you get somewhere new and see totally different plant life that you’ve never seen. Happened to us earlier this year in South Africa and we were just amazed by the crazy variety of plant life and colors. I’ve never been to any of the Pacific islands and would love to spend some time there just for that (and the wildlife).

    Frank (bbqboy)


      Thanks! South Africa must be amazing for colorful plants. Would love to go there someday and see for ourselves.

      Maybe after you visit Japan you can visit some of the Island. You will probably be ready for some real R&R by then!

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