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City life intermingles with natural beauty on Hawaii’s Oahu. It’s only the third largest island of Hawaii, but it’s the main tourist destination regardless. Home of Honolulu and famed Waikiki Beach, Hawaii-Oahu is ‘The Gathering Place’, because most of Hawaii’s population is gathered here.
Upon arrival you’ll get leid – which sounds a lot better than it reads – with a Hawaiian garland called a, um, lei. The hospitable attitude of Hawaii-Oahu is contagious. But other than Hawaii-Oahu’s ridiculously beautiful people, you’ll be met by a thriving nightlife, shopping heaven, and beaches that will make your eyeballs pop.
History lovers, you can educate yourself at Pearl Harbor and other memorials. Families, you can drop by Waikiki Aquarium and Honolulu Zoo at Kapiolani Park. They’re relatively small, but still worth it for a family outing. And for those who are too lazy to do anything that requires energy or brain cells, you can sunbake on the beach.
As Lilo & Stitch revealed to us, Hawaiian culture is focused on family: ‘Ohana means family; family means nobody gets left behind’. If that doesn’t make you go awwww, then there’s probably something wrong with your heart. But if it pulled at your heartstrings, then join the ohana – Hawaiians will welcome you with open arms.
Hawaii-Oahu has everything: beaches, history, friendly people, and they even speak English! (Foreign languages are beautiful and mysterious, but they can and do hinder your relaxing holiday.) Not in Hawaii-Oahu! You’ll be whisked away to a tropical paradise that you’ll never want to leave. Welcome and aloha!
Oahu's Top 10
10. Bishop Museum It’s the biggest museum on Oahu, exhibiting natural specimens and Hawaiian artefacts.
5. Iolani Palace The only royal palace in all of the United States! It was the official residence of Hawaii’s monarchy.
9. Polynesian Cultural Center This theme park and living museum has eight simulated villages. Experience Polynesia!
4. Diamond Head A volcanic crater offering a fantastic view over the city.
8. Kailua Beach Park Say hi to the turtles and enjoy the swimming and windsurfing.
3. Hanauma Bay is in the crater of an extinct volcano that opens up to the ocean. It’s got a coral reef, so you can snorkel here and then brag to your friends at home that you’ve snorkelled in a volcano!
7. Sunset Beach One of the longest beaches on Oahu, it’s named for its amazing sunrises (just want to check you’re paying attention).
2. Waikiki Beach Super-busy because it’s so popular. But give it a go anyway. Swim, bodysurf, play around, or just be made to feel vaguely inadequate by the beautiful bodies around you.
6. Lanikai Beach This small beach has some of the bluest and clearest water you’ll find anywhere.
1. Pearl Harbor No, we don’t mean the Josh Hartnett movie. We mean the actual harbor. It still operates as a navy base, but it also has memorials that pay tribute to the fallen of the war.
- Ali’iolani Hale – This historic building houses Hawaii’s State Supreme Court.
- Queen Emma Summer Palace – This was the summer retreat of King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma and now showcases royal treasures.
- USS Battleship Missouri Memorial – Site where the Japanese surrendered, marking the end of WWII.
- olani Palace – This royal palace is rumoured to be haunted by the ghost of Queen Liliuokalani.
- Royal Mausoleum of Hawaii – The final resting place in Oahu for the Kamehameha and Lalakaua Dynasties.
Oahu Art & Culture
- Hawaii’s Plantation Village – Restored buildings portray daily life on a sugar plantation.
- Aloha Tower – Built in the early 1900s and showcasing a Hawaiian-Gothic architectural style.
- Kane’aki Heiau – This preserved sacred site offers a look into Oahu’s religious heritage.
- Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum – Holds the world’s largest collection of Polynesian cultural and scientific artefacts.
- Luau – No trip to Oahu is complete without ogling hula dancers and eating local dishes at a traditional luau.
- Ala Moana Center – An open-air shopping mall with a Hawaiian flavour.
- Ward Farmers Market – Held every Tuesday, this market sells local Oahu produce and foods.
- Kamaka Hawaii – Get your authentic ukuleles here, including the signature pineapple ukulele.
- Aloha Tower Marketplace – Enjoy harbour-front shopping and dining whilst listening to live entertainment.
- Aloha Stadium Swap Meet – Find bargains on just about any island-style product from hundreds of vendors at this weekend market.
Gay & Lesbian Oahu
- Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand – Hawaii’s most famous gay bar tops the list as a cheery, open-air watering hole.
- Fusion Waikiki – The fun at this gay bar and dance club doesn’t stop until 4 am every night. Wang Chung’s – Sip lychee cocktails and sing your heart out at this gay- friendly karaoke bar.
- Venus Nite Club – The dance floor is often packed and sweaty, and there are drag shows on Saturdays.
- Aloha Lambda Weddings – A resource for planning gay, island-style spiritual unions and commitment ceremonies.
- Queen’s Surf – There’s no outright gay beach in Oahu, but an area here is usually gay friendly
- Ala Moana Beach Park –Ala Moana Beach Park attracts many ocean swimmers and surfers.
- Diamond Head State Monument – Hike to the top of this 232mmountainous crater.
- Hawai’i Nature Center – Offering educational outdoor programs, hikes and activities for the family.
- Waikiki Beach – Sink your toes into this lovely 3.2km stretch of white sand.
- Keaiwa Heiau State Recreation Area – Trek through native ohia lehua and koa trees.
- See professionals surf at the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing in November and December.
- Snorkel among Hanauma Bay’s large fish population.
- Dive the waters at Sharks Cove.
- Golf at the challenging Turtle Bay Palmer Golf Course.
- Catch spectacular views of Oahu whilst you parasail on Maunalua Bay.
As the capital of Hawaii, Honolulu has lots to offer. The most famous beach here is Waikiki, but if you don’t like crowds, go elsewhere. You can also explore military memorials in Honolulu. Visit Pearl Harbor and the Pacific Aviation Museum are must-sees.
Honolulu has a worthy shopping scene. There are the typical malls like the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center and DFS Galleria (Duty Free Shops), but try the International Market Place for something a little different. Where else can you find market stalls amongst banyan trees?
Central Oahu isn’t that well-known, which pineapple lovers the world over are doubtlessly disgusted about. The Dole Pineapple Plantation is not only noted for its pineapple farming also for having the world’s largest maze. It’s a great place to take children to. Meanwhile, the Pineapple Variety Gardens are more educational – you can see the pineapples at various stages of growth.
For those in search of Hawaii’s natural beauty, you’ve found it on the Windward Coast. The coast stretches across Oahu with isolated beaches, imposing mountain views and attractions like the Valley of the Temples, with its Japanese Buddhist temples. For the best view, climb to Nuuanu Pali Lookout. You’ll be glad you did – and the exercise can help you work off all those pineapples!
Hawaii isn’t noted for its frenetic pace, but Oahu’s North Shore is the most laidback of the laidback. Which is one reason why it’s so popular with surfers. The other reason, which, come to think of it, may be more significant, is the BIG waves. Catch them with the pros at Banzai Pipeline. Best time to go is winter, when the waves can reach up to 12 metres. Invest in a brown wetsuit.
The North Shore is more than a surfer’s paradise. You can hike through lush foliage in Waimea Valley and see natural rainforest beauty at its finest at the Kualoa Ranch. The ranch has been the setting for quite a few Hollywood blockbusters (including Jurassic Park and Pearl Harbor – and this time we do mean the Josh Hartnett film!).
Like its culture and lifestyle, Oahu’s culinary world blends various cultures together. From traditional Hawaiian to American and Asian-Pacific flavours, you’ll be amazed by the variety and the fusion of so many cuisines.
La Mer Acclaimed restaurant with a neoclassic French menu and dazzling views of the ocean. Fine dining at its best.
Orchids is a seafood restaurant serving contemporary cuisine with a décor of beautiful orchids. Known for its Sunday brunch.
Morimoto Waikiki Japanese food cooked by a celebrity chef (an Iron Chef, no less)! Say no more… Waikiki.
Roy’s At this Hawaiian fusion eatery you’ll get tastes of Europe and Asia all in one.
Hy’s Steak House Get your fix of New York Strip, Porterhouse T-Bone, Delmonico or Filet Mignon at this popular meat chapel.
Alan Wong’s Restaurant is the most sought-out restaurant on the island. The service is lacking, but the food is first-class and the celeb-spotting opportunities are priceless.
Ocean House Restaurant at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach Hotel serves fresh and tasty seafood.
Hiroshi Eurasian Tapas You had us at ‘Eurasian Tapas’! This award-winning fusion restaurant serves Asian-inspired tapas.
Nobu Waikiki Restaurant Sure it’s a chain, but it’s a high-class chain!
Chef Mavro Award-winning modern Hawaiian cuisine at a restaurant where the menu changes quarterly. For good reasons. Not because the chefs keep getting fired.
Most of Oahu’s events centre on summer, so you’re in luck if you’re here around June! The Annual Pan-Pacific Festival Parade is a prime example. Entertainment includes traditional taiko drummers, dancers and floats.
In June, the King Kamehameha Celebration Floral Parade honours King Kamehameha, who first established the unified Kingdom of Hawaii.
In July, the Prince Lot Hula Festival is when the Hula Halau (troupes) perform the hula for you. Get up early to reserve the best spot!
Hawaii is home of the ukulele. The world’s most irritating instrument when not played properly. The world’s most versatile when played well. Plenty of the latter should be on display in July’s Ukulele Festival Hawaii in Kapiolani Park
Then in September, the Aloha Festival Floral Parade will have you astounded by the flora of Hawaii. And even more astounded that an event takes place in a month not beginning with J. Floats of Hawaiian flowers start at Ala Moana Beach and end at Kapiolani Park.
In December, celebrate the start of the holiday season at Honolulu City of Lights. The tropical Christmas festivities include Christmas trees, wreaths and gingerbread houses. Incongruous, but cute!
When To Go
Hawaii-Oahu only has two seasons: winter and summer.
Temperatures are between 19°C (66°F) and 32°C (90°F) for most of the year in Oahu.
Rainfall is heaviest in winter between October and April.
Summer is drier and hotter than winter, because the sun is almost directly overhead.
Getting There And Around
Most people will arrive in Hawaii at Honolulu International Airport.
Getting around in Oahu is best done in a car, especially if you’re exploring the island beyond the city centre. But if you’re staying in Honolulu or Waikiki, you could also opt for TheBus Fares are $2.50 and you’ll need exact change. If you’re off for a shopping stint, take the Free Shopping Shuttle. It’ll pick you up around Waikiki and will drive you to the Ala Moana Center. It takes you on a little detour to Hilo Hattie’s flagship tourist shop, though.
What To Miss
Avoid Downtown, Pearl City, Waianae, Nanakuli, Waipahu and Kalihi after dark. Luckily, the police officers on Hawaii are very helpful.
Get away from Honolulu if you don’t want to be in the bustling city. There are many other areas that are better for a tranquil and relaxing beach holiday.
Hawaii Oahu Information
Home to Honolulu, the most exotic state capital in the United States, in addition to legendary Waikiki beach and Pearl Harbor, the island of Oahu epitomizes what Hawaii vacations are all about. The shield volcano island is the most populous in the state and has a plethora of brilliant natural wonders to exploire. The seductive confines of the Pacific Ocean coast draw most travelling visitors to the likes of Waikiki Beach, Ala Moana Beach, Lanikai Beach and Waimanalo Beach.
With many landmarks left over from the old Kingdom of Oahu, the island also offers rich cultural heritage to travellers in search of some depth beyond the typical tourist attractions. Iolani Palace and the Polynesian Cultural Center are two prime examples. The Bishop Museum in Honolulu contains a premier collection of natural specimens from the Hawaiian Islands, in addition to historic Pacific cultural artifacts. The Waikiki Aquarium and Honolulu Zoo are well worth a visit as well and round out a vast array of diverse attractions in Oahu.
Attractions & Activities
Restaurant & Nightlife
The temperature hovers between 19°C and 32°C for most of the year in Oahu, with heavy rain between October and April.