4 – Oahu

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Aloha and E Komo Mai

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O‘ahu – Click to enlarge

Oahu has so much to offer, from historic Honolulu and the excitement of world-famous Waikiki to the surfing legends and secluded beaches of the North Shore. Visitors to Oahu, the heart of Hawaii, are invited to envelop themselves in the Aloha Spirit — a way of life in the islands that will leave you longing to return – wherever you decide to “hang loose”.

Oahu at a glance

Principal City: Honolulu

Climate: From 21-29°C with variable rainfall in different parts of the island

Nickname: The Gathering Place
Population: Almost 900,000
Visitor Information: Oahu Visitors Bureau, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

For those enjoying the cityscapes of Waikiki and Honolulu, a short drive out of town in any direction will soon unveil a wealth of undiscovered beaches, natural wonders and beautiful scenery.

The island of Oahu looks forward to welcoming you to paradise found. Hele Mai to our Paradise – come enjoy Oahu.

  • With its fine harbours, Oahu has gradually become the state’s political, economic, military, educational and cultural centre.
  • Honolulu Harbor, discovered before 1800, became a key Pacific port for whale, sandalwood and fur traders. Pearl Harbor – one of Hawaii’s favourite visitor attractions – became famous when the nation set about establishing strategic military bases in the early 20th Century. The harbour is best known for December 7, 1941 – the “Day of Infamy” – when a Japanese attack brought America into World War II.

  • hawaii kaneohe bay
    © Oahu Visitors Bureau

    The island’s stunning scenery can be enjoyed both on land and in the ocean, whether you choose to hike through rainforests, bike along mountain ranges, horseback ride through lush valleys, parachute or glide over the dramatic landscape; swim, parasail, scuba dive, snorkel, kayak or surf in the azure blue waters of the Pacific
  • Another means to truly soak in the essence of Hawaii is to enjoy one of the many specialised spa treatments that combine the ancient techniques of massage and healing with local ingredients, such as kukui nuts, sea salt, seaweed, noni, ti leafs and coconuts. Oahu offers a wide spectrum of spas, with most resorts – the Na Hoola Spa, Ihilani Spa, Serenity Spa Hawaii, Mandara Spa, Spa Halekulani and Abhasa Spa to name just a few – offering a range of signature treatments designed to rejuvenate both body and mind.
    hawaii - Ke Iki Beach, North Shore, Oahu
    © Hawaii Tourism Japan

  • The North Shore is famous for its surfing contests, which are held in the winter at Waimea Bay, Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach. The Leeward coast of Oahu offers miles of stunning beaches, the most extensive coral systems in the state and pristine areas far off the beaten path. On the other side of the island – the ‘windward side’ – lush tropical beach settings prove favourite locations for wind, kite and sailing enthusiasts alike.

Oahu Regions:

Central Oahu

  • The 1,000ft high Leilehua Plateau is situated in the middle of the island of Oahu. Legend has it that this bountiful agricultural region, planted with pineapple, coffee, papaya as well as other fruits and vegetables, is in fact the birthplace of Oahu’s rainbows.
    hawaii - pineapple field, oahu
    © Oahu Visitors Bureau

  • Pineapples were introduced to Hawaii in the 19th century and the Wahiawa fields on the Leilehua Plateau are home to the bulk of Oahu’s remaining 11,500 acres of pineapple fields.
  • Wahiawa, a small 100-year-old town, is the region’s commercial hub with the Wahiawa Botanical Gardens located nearby, filled with an exotic blend of beautiful flora from Africa, Asia, New Guinea and Australia.
  • If you are in the area be sure to visit the Dole Pineapple Plantation and Maze as well as Hawaii’s Plantation Village, where you can see displays of immigrant life from Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Okinawan and other cultures.
Leeward Oahu

  • hawaii - ke iki beach 2
    © Hawaii Tourism
    Past Pearl Harbor, Aiea and Waipahu, the leeward coast is an expansive area to be found on the coastal side of the Waianae Mountains. The leeward coast boasts miles of white sand beaches, excellent swimming, snorkelling and fishing spots as well as magical evenings, when the sun melts into the Pacific Ocean’s horizon.
  • One of the first beaches to be explored on the leeward coast is Kahe Point Beach Park, known for its tremendous shore and spear fishing. Further on you will come across Makaha Beach, one of Hawaii’s most famous summer surfing spots and the site of an international surfing competition every year.
  • At the end of the road is Yokohama Bay, the last stretch of soft white sand beach on the leeward coast. With virtually no buildings or developments in this area, the idyllic environment and tranquillity takes you back to a time of untouched Hawaii. And experienced divers will brave the often challenging current conditions to enjoy the rock formations.

hawaii - surfers, oahu
© Oahu Visitors
North Shore

  • Known the world over as the Surfing Capital, the North Shore of Oahu stretches from Laie to Kaena Point. Laie is home to the Polynesian Cultural Center, Hawaii’s most popular paid attraction. Approximately 38 miles from Waikiki, Laie Point is a great place to view the North Shore.
  • Down the road is Turtle Bay, a prime spot for whale watching and home to one of Oahu’s most isolated beaches.
  • Starting at the Makahoa Point, adjacent to Malaekahana State Park, the shore stretches five glorious miles and visitors will often be treated to a footprint-free experience as they find their own private paradise.
  • Next comes Kahuku and beyond you’ll find Oahu’s famed surfing beaches.
  • West of Turtle Bay is idyllic Kawela Bay, perfect for swimming thanks to its sandy bottom and coconut tree-lined, crescent shaped beach.  
    hawaii - surf rentals, oahu
    © Oahu Visitors Bureau

  • The Banzai Pipeline, Sunset, Ehukai and Waimea Bay are locations famous amongst both the amateur and professional surfer alike. While many sites are visible from the Kamehameha Highway, some remain a secret of local surfers, passed on only through word of mouth. During the winter months, massive waves sometimes pound the North Shore of Oahu, thrilling visitors and the kamaaina (local residents) who come to watch one of nature’s greatest spectacles. During the summer, the roaring ocean transforms into a calm body of water making it ideal for fishing, diving, snorkelling and swimming.
  • Further on from Sunset Beach, on Pupukea Road, is Puu o Mahuka Heiau State Park, a national monument and state historic site.
  • Past Pupukea Road lies Waimea Bay, an excellent spot to indulge in some spectacular surf watching in the winter.
  • Further west is the historic town of Haleiwa, the quintessential beach and surf town on Oahu’s North Shore. This quaint locale is a mecca for beach lovers, surfers, fishing enthusiasts, craftsmen, artists, clothiers, holidaymakers and Hawaii residents.
South Shore

  • hawaii - diamond head, south shore, oahu
    © Oahu Visitors Bureau
    The south shore of Oahu encompasses Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Ala Moana, Waikiki, and Diamond Head. Named after the oysters once harvested there, Pearl Harbor, located in the Ewa District of Oahu, is the largest natural harbour in Hawaii.
  • This is where on 7 December, 1941, the Japanese famously bombed Pearl Harbor and attacked U.S. Navy ships based there, thereby forcing the United States into World War II. Because of the many lives that were lost and the destruction that had occurred, Pearl Harbor was the only naval base in the United States to be designated a National Historical Landmark. The base is home to the USS Arizona Memorial, a solemn memorial for many of the servicemen that died during the attack.
  • 10 minutes east from Pearl Harbor, along Nimitz Highway, lies Honolulu International Airport and another few miles away is downtown Honolulu.
    hawaii - leis, oahu
    © Hawaii Tourism Japan

  • Home to Iolani Palace, the only royal palace on United States’ soil, historic sights abound throughout downtown Honolulu. Stroll through Chinatown and take in the vibrant colours, sights and sounds of the small lei shops which line the streets.
  • In contrast, just a short drive away is Ala Moana Shopping Center, one of the largest in the world, boasting more than 200 stores.
  • About 85,000 visitors find their piece of paradise daily between Ala Moana Beach Park, Magic Island and Diamond Head in Waikiki (meaning “spouting water”).
  • Known for its fabulous climate, multi-cultural lifestyles and beautiful beaches as much as its shopping, ethnic festivals, special events, galas and nightlife, Oahu’s south shore is the playground of the Pacific, ensuring that Waikiki continues to attract tourists from around the world.
  • Just five minutes away is Diamond Head Crater, Hawaii’s most famous natural landmark.
Windward Oahu

  • Hugging the Koolau Mountain Range, the windward coast of Oahu begins at Koko Head and ends at Kahuku, the gateway to the North Shore.
    hawaii - makapuu beach, oahu
    © Oahu Visitors

  • Before curving around the southern tip of Oahu, Hanauma Bay’s white sandy beach stretches 2,000 feet and is lined with coconut trees. The crescent-shaped nature of the bay ensures swimmers and snorkellers are protected so that even beginners can enjoy the vibrant sea life.
  • A few minutes down the road, along the dramatic southeast Oahu coastline, Halona Blowhole sometimes spouts a powerful sea spray up to 50 feet in the air. The backdrop for Sandy Beach is a lava outcrop known as Pele’s chair or Pele’s throne, Madame Pele being the volcano goddess.
  • The rural countryside of Waimanalo is home to a largely Hawaiian community of over 9,000 people.
  • Waimanalo Beach State Park and Waimanalo Bay are known for exceptional sunrises which seem to magically appear out of the ocean.
  • The windward side is aptly named because of the steady and reliable trade winds that bless the shore and provide ideal weather for wind and kite surfing, as well as parasailing.
  • Northward, Oahu is at its tropical and rural best.

Things not to be missed:

  • Take a surf lesson: Surfing was once exclusive to the kings of Hawaii, amongst whom the sport originated. Today, Hans Hedemann Surf School teaches the art of surfing at six locations around the island while the Hawaiian Fire Surf School offers surfing lessons on a secluded sandy beach
    hawaii - waikiki beach
    © Hawaii Tourism Japan

  • Go on a guided excursion: Oahu Nature Tours provides tours to discover Oahu’s unique native bird and plant species amongst spectacular settings. Discover Hidden Hawaii Tours also offers a variety of fascinating eco-tours led by expert tour guides who teach local legends, geology, history, flora and archeology along the way.
  • For the more independent hiker, Oahu has many well-marked trails which cater for all levels. Diamond Head is one of Hawaii’s most recognizable features, with a trail that climbs to a 763-foot summit and boasts unparalleled views of the Honolulu area (be sure to bring a flashlight for the tunnel). Other popular hikes include Makapuu, Old Pali Highway, and Manoa Falls.
  • Take a ride on a traditional Outrigger canoe. Outrigger Hotels & Resorts’ Outrigger Catamaran rides go out four times daily.
  • If you head from the Pali Highway towards Pali Lookout, gaze in awe as the entire Windward coast unfolds.

  • hawaii - hanauma bay, oahu
    © Oahu Visitors
    Visit Iolani Palace – the only royal palace in the United States. Painstakingly restored, the Palace is reminiscent of the grandeur of Hawaii’s monarch period.
  • Visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. The Memorial was constructed above the sunken battleship, the USS Arizona, to honour those who lost their lives on December 7, 1941 in the Japanese attack on the United States naval fleet.
  • Learn about the Pacific Culture at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Located on Oahu’s North Shore, the centre features seven Pacific Island villages across its 42 acres, allowing visitors to enjoy hands-on cultural experiences. Visitors can also enjoy a canoe pageant, hula show, luau and the spectacular evening show, “Horizons!” for a full day’s treat.
  • Take a scenic drive out to Oahu’s famous North Shore and hop aboard a glider plane at Dillingham Airfield. With Glider Rides, you’ll soar above the island on a three-seater sailplane and enjoy stunning views over the northern coastline.
    hawaii - traditional canoe, oahu
    © Oahu Visitors Bureau

  • Sailing offers a great way to enjoy the ocean and to get a different view of Oahu. Honolulu Sailing Company provides everything from short cruises off Honolulu to full-day charters along the North Shore.
  • Movieland: Located in the lush Kaaawa Valley and with sweeping views of Kaneohe Bay, Kualoa Ranch & Activity Club offers activities which include a range of horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking as well as a movie set tour. Films like Jurassic Park and Pearl Harbor where shot here, as were scenes in the recent LOST series.
  • Have a Plate Lunch: The cuisine on Oahu is as tantalizing and unique as the many different ethnicities and people who make up the island. Plate lunch is very much local to Hawaii and after a five minute wait about five dollars will buy you an entrée (beef teriyaki, roast pork, shoyu chicken, hamburger steak, beef curry, mahi mahi or meat loaf) plus white rice and macaroni salad, all smothered in a rich savoury gravy.
  • Go celebrity spotting: The Hanohano Room, located on the 30th floor of the Sheraton Waikiki, is a Hawaiian regional dining experience favoured by the cast of “Lost.” Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake, meanwhile, are among the celebrities that count surfer Hans Hedemann as their mentor while on the Windward side Drew Barrymore, David Spade, and Robin Williams have enjoyed kayaking off Kailua and Lanikai beaches, often paddling to offshore islands thanks to the kayak rental services available.

Be sure to scroll down to read more about this module’s sponsor.

Sponsored by Ocean Resort Hotel Waikiki and Queen Kapiolani Hotel

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Ocean Resort Hotel Waikiki

Two-towered hotel located on the Diamond Head end of Waikiki, one block from famous Waikiki Beach. The hotel’s location offers easy access to many restaurants, activities, entertainment and shopping. Accommodations range from affordable hotel rooms to spacious studios with kitchenettes, all with air-conditioning. Hotel rooms offer accommodation for up to two persons and all rooms have mini refrigerators. Studios offer a mini microwave, coffee maker, compact refrigerator, 2-burner hot plate, cookware, dishes & utensils.

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Hotel exterior

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Deluxe studio

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Queen Kapiolani Hotel

Located in Waikiki near majestic Diamond Head, the Queen Kapiolani Hotel overlooks the 108-acre Kapiolani Park and is just steps from famous Waikiki Beach, shopping, dining, activities and great entertainment. Accommodations range from affordable hotel rooms to rooms and studios, many with scenic views of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach. All rooms are air-conditioned and offer coffee makers and mini refrigerators. Studios also include a 2-burner stove, toaster, cookware, dishes and utensils.

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Hotel exterior

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Superior room

All the answers to the following questions can be found either on this page or on the Oahu section of be sure to read up before answering. Good luck!


Header images, left to right: 1: Lava, © Big Island Visitors Bureau / David O. Baldwin | 2: Kaneohe Bay, © Oahu Visitors Bureau | 3: Kokee State Park, © HVCB / Ron Dahlquist | 4: Molokini, © HVCB / Ron Dahlquist

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