I just spent 10 enriching days on Oahu, full of family, laughter, hiking, running, yoga, swimming and relaxation! Check out the story of my favorite experience on Oahu below and my five-day fitness plan for your next vacation to the Gathering Place Island!
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Violet light was just beginning to peak out from behind the crest of the crater. I stood at the bottom of the old volcano, starring up the ancient railroad tracks that create a steep staircase to the peak of Koko Head Crater. My body tingled with excitement at the thought of ascending the mountain and catching the breathtaking sunrise from the top of the crater.
First step, easy. Fifth step, feeling great. 10 steps in and going strong.
I can feel my hamstrings, glutes and quads working together, flexing and extending, powering me up the mountain. Halfway up my quads are burning, gravity working harder against me the higher I climb. Each step is a strain. My breathe comes in short gasps. Sweat is pouring down my face. I wipe my forehead, flinging warm droplets into the foliage lining the path. I look up, innumerable steps still before me. The higher up I climb, the steeper the path becomes, and the larger the steps. I have to bring my knee halfway to my chest to place my whole foot on the next step, and pull my body upward. I drive forward, forcing my weight to my heels and pushing up through the backs of my legs.
I finally reach the crest, crying sweat, and scramble up the remaining dirt path. I emerge at the top of the crater, just as the sun peaks over the horizon, streaking the periwinkle sky with orange and red. As I catch my breath, the vision of the sun creeping out of the space where the sea meets the sky, casting rays over the east side of Oahu, dulls the memory of the tough climb to the crater top.
The breeze tickles my face and arms. I close my eyes and inhale deeply, sweet endorphins streaming through my blood. I feel whole and alive, a communal sense of peace and invigorated pride filling my body. I look across the island and out over the Pacific, reflecting on the past year and the challenges I’ve faced, probably one of the most difficult years yet.
Climbing the Koko Head steps is a journey I needed, a symbolic ascension. Life’s challenges may break you down, make you curse the heavens and want to turn back in every fiber of your being, but the climb is yours to face and yours to exceed. No one can take the steps for you or force you to persevere if you’re determined to retreat. The feeling of victory upon reaching the peak, the majesty in the view and the sweetness in the breeze, stem from the reawakening of your independence and realization that you contain the power to revive your unique vitality.
Day 1: Hike Koko Head Crater to see the sunrise
Experience: (See description above) Strength and Inspiration. The hike to Koko Head Crater is an empowering experience and a great workout for the quads, hamstrings and glutes!
Workout Length: 13-25 minutes depending on your personal fitness level
Best time of day: Morning before sunrise! It’s crucial to get an early start to hike Koko Head. 1. You want to make sure to catch the sunrise. 2. There is little to no shade on the path, so in the heat of the day the hike will be miserable.
Getting there: Search “Koko Head Crater Railway Trail” in Apple/Google Maps. This will take you to the bottom of the trail where there is a free parking lot!
Other recommendations: Bring water! If hiking the path alone, bring your phone to listen to music. It is a workout so turn on your favorite pump-up tunes to make the climb more enjoyable.
Day 2: Strengthen Mind and Body at Sun Yoga
Focus: Core strength, flexibility and emotional well-being
Experience: Relaxation and Redemption. I never (EVER) shell out for high-end yoga classes, however my hot yoga session at Sun Yoga was one of the highlights of my trip to Oahu and a must-do to get in touch with your best self on vacation. The classes are intimate, heated my state of the art infrared technology and guided by knowledgeable and inspiring yoga professionals. The class begins with a centering meditation to calm the mind, control the breath and foster focus. As the heat of the room intensifies, the session progresses into several different flows that challenge your focus and flexibility and push your assumptions about your body’s capabilities to the limit. As the class winds down, the instructor slowly cools the room, restoring the body to its natural rhythm. The class concludes with light conditioning for abs and arms followed by a 10 minute deep meditation to align body, mind and spirit. Overall, the experience is profound. The flow of the class and integration with deep meditation enabled me to work through my stress, release my anxieties and walk out the door feeling radiant (and it was a great workout!)
Workout Length: 1 hour 15 minutes
Best Time of Day: See Class Schedule
Getting There: Location in Google Maps
Cost: $22 for 1 class. If you’re going to be on Oahu for a week or more and plan on taking 3+ yoga classes, Sun Yoga offers a 1-week unlimited travelers pass for $60, a total steal!
Other Recommendations: Bring a water bottle and $3 cash for a mat rental. Make sure you reserve a spot a few hours in advance!
Day 3: Get a Board and Get on the Water!
Focus: Arms and core
Experience: Sunshine and Adrenaline. You’re in the land of warm, crystal blue sparkling ocean, so ditch your usual arm/back workout at the indoor gym and get out on the water! Surfing and stand-up paddle boarding are amazing ways to experience a unique part of Hawaii’s modern culture and gorgeous natural landscape while getting a great workout and soaking up the tropical rays. While surfing on Oahu, I saw several turtles and got to touch a bloom of friendly moon jellyfish! The muscles required to paddle into a wave or glide through the water on a stand up paddle-board are different than the muscle groups typically focused on at the gym. I work on arms and back 2X per week at the gym and 30 minutes of surfing left my arms sore the next day!
Workout Length: 60 minutes
Best Time of Day: Call ahead to check out the weather and swell forecast for the day and get a recommendation on the best time to go out.
Getting There: For first timer surfers and stand-up paddlers, I recommend booking a lesson through Hawaiian Surf Adventures. The experienced HSA team will take you on a boat ride into the beautiful Mauna Lua bay where you will receive a fantastic lesson to surf the rolling waves and cruise the water to your heart’s content! The Mauna Lua bay is more remote than the beaches at Waikiki and the water is amazingly clear so the overall experience is absolutely magical.
Cost: See Hawaiian Surf Adventures website for a menu of options
Other Recommendations: If you’re not a first time surfer/paddle-boarder, Google equipment rental locations in Hawaii Kai. This is the best location to launch from to experience the beautiful Mauna Lua Bay. Most places require you take a quick skills test to ensure you’re safe to go out on the water on your own, so after you pass you’re good to go! After being out on the water all day, head to Kona Brewing Company for fantastic AhiTuna and some great beer samplers!
Day 4: Run the Edge on the Makapuu Trail
Focus: Cardio and legs
Experience: Exhilaration and adventure. Running the Makapuu trail was the most exhilarating workout experience during my stay on Oahu. I ran the trail early in the morning, just as a massive storm was hitting Oahu. The 1.5 mile Makapuu trail is a newly paved path clinging to steep cliffs, high above the blue waters on the southeastern coast of Oahu. The trail winds around the edge of the island, offering sweeping, unobstructed views of the Pacific, making you feel as if you’re tightrope walking the edge of world. As I ran the trail, fierce winds howled off the water, whipping my ponytail behind my head, and pushing against me so hard I had to lean into the gusts to prevent being blown off the path. The powerful wind and endless expanse of Pacific Ocean stretching out from the path was invigorating and made this run a vivid and enlivening experience. The trail ends with a spectacular view of the entire east side of Oahu, stretching from Makapuu Beach cove to the farthest end of Waimanalo beach, a nearly deserted stretch of white sand famous as one of the longest and most serene beaches in the world.
Workout Length: 3 miles total (1.5 miles out and 1.5 miles back) 25-45 minutes depending on your pace and number of photo stops!
Best Time of Day: Early morning or early evening. The path is not shaded so going at sunrise or sunset is ideal to avoid mid-day heat.
Getting There: Navigate to Makapuu Trail Parking Lot for free parking at the base of the trail.
Other Recommendations: Pace yourself for the initial 1.5 mile climb (I regrettably failed at this). After running the Makapuu trail take the dirt path that leads from the parking lot down to the beach. The path ends at a secluded cove and if you go early in the morning there’s no one else there. This is an awesome place to do some post-run stretching or a little yoga overlooking the turquoise Hawaiian water!
Day 5: Run the Waikiki Waterfront
Experience: Endorphins and sunshine. Confession: Waikiki beachfront is the probably the most touristy place on Oahu, and I love it. The tiled beach strip sidewalk runs along the ocean and is lined with palm trees, surf shops, cafes and bronze statues of ancient Hawaiian kings, queens and warriors. I parked my car at the Honolulu Zoo (free!) and started my run at San Souci beach, headed in the direction of the Waikiki beach resorts. I ran around 8am to avoid the crowds and enjoyed a nearly desolate sidewalk. The run is completely flat (a nice change up from Koko Head and Makapuuuu trail) and is the ideal beach run. My stride felt effortless on the flat sidewalk, the rising shined soft and bright on my tanning shoulders and the view of the calm azure water gently washing up on the sandy beaches of Waikiki created a positive and joyful atmosphere. I ran from Honolulu Zoo to the end of Ala Moana Park, and back, for a total of __ miles. The sun was blazing in the sky by the time I returned to San Souci beach the silky blue water was calling my name. I ran from the sidewalk directly into the sand, kicked off my shoes and socks and sprinted into the water, finishing my run with a heavenly, redeeming splash. After I climbed out of the ocean I used my wet shirt as a towel and lay on the beach with my eyes close, listening to the light breeze in the trees, the birds calling to one another and the waves gently crashing on the shore, immersed in an ideal tropical paradise.
Workout Length: 30-60 minutes depending on how far you choose to run and your pace.
Best Time of Day: Early morning to avoid mid-day heat and crowds.
Getting there: Free Parking on Monsarrat Street adjacent to the Honolulu Zoo. My route is outlined below, however you can start the run at any point along the Waikiki waterfront.
Other Recommendations: Check out Diamond Head Cove Health Bar on Monsarrat for a great post-run meal. I had the best acai bowl of my life here, full of fresh fruits and honey sourced directly from the Hawaiian islands.
Other Fitness Resources:
If you’re really craving a good old-fashioned gym workout while on Oahu (maybe you over-indulged slightly in luau pork and lava cake the previous night…) there are several 24 Hour Fitness locations on Oahu. One is right on the Waikiki Strip and offers spin classes overlooking the ocean. The other is in Hawaii Kai, just outside of Waikiki. I went to this one for a few sessions during my stay and LOVED it. All of the equipment is brand new, the staff is super friendly and the cardio machines have an amazing view of the private Hawaii Kai bay.
Photos: Alex Baker-Brown
Do you have additional workout routines in Hawaii? Let us know in the comments.