Oahu

Oahu is one-stop Hawaii—all the allure of the Islands in a plate-lunch mix that has you kayaking around offshore islets by day and sitting in a jazz club 'round midnight, all without ever having to take another flight or repack your suitcase. It offers both the buzz of modern living in jam-packed Honolulu (the state's capital) and the allure of slow-paced island life on its northern and eastern shores. It is, in many ways, the center of the Hawaiian universe.

There are more museums, staffed historic sites, and guided tours here than you'll find on any other island. And only here do a wealth of renovated buildings and well-preserved neighborhoods so clearly spin the story of Hawaii's history. It's the only place to experience Islands-style urbanity, since there are no other true cities in the state. And yet you can get as lost in the rural landscape and be as laid-back as you wish.

Oahu is home to Waikiki, the most famous Hawaiian beach, as well as some of the world's most famous surf on the North Shore, and Hawaii's best-known historical site—Pearl Harbor. If it's isolation, peace, and quiet you want, Oahu might not be for you, but if you'd like a bit of spice with your piece of paradise, this island provides it.

Encompassing 597 square miles, Oahu is the third-largest island in the Hawaiian chain. Scientists believe the island was formed about 4 million years ago by three shield volcanoes: Waianae, Koolau, and the recently discovered Kaena. Recognized in mid-2014, Kaena is the oldest of the three and has long since been submerged 62 miles from Kaena Point on Oahu's northwestern side. Waianae created the mountain range on the western side of the island, whereas Koolau shapes the eastern side. Central Oahu is an elevated plateau bordered by the two mountain ranges, with Pearl Harbor to the south. Several of Oahu's most famous natural landmarks, including Diamond Head and Hanauma Bay, are tuff rings and cinder cones formed during a renewed volcanic stage (roughly 1 million years ago).

The northern and eastern sides of Oahu—and of each Hawaiian island—are together referred to as the Windward side, and generally have a cooler, wetter climate. The island's southern and western sides are commonly called the Leeward side, and are typically warmer and more arid. The island's official flower, the little orange ilima, grows predominantly in the east, but lei throughout the island incorporate ilima. Numerous tropical fish call the reef at Hanauma Bay home, migrating humpback whales can be spotted off the coast past Waikiki and Diamond Head December–April, spinner dolphins pop in and out of the island's bays, and the 15 islets off Oahu's eastern coast provide refuge for endangered seabirds.

Oahu is the most visited Hawaiian island because early tourism to Hawaii started here. It's also the most inhabited island today—69% of the state's population lives on Oahu—due to job opportunities and the island's military bases. Although Kilauea volcano on Hawaii was a tourist attraction in the late 1800s, it was the building of the Moana Hotel on Waikiki Beach in 1901 and subsequent advertising of Hawaii to wealthy San Franciscans that really fueled tourism in the Islands. Oahu was drawing tens of thousands of guests yearly when, on December 7, 1941, Japanese Zeros appeared at dawn to bomb Pearl Harbor. Though tourism understandably dipped during the war (Waikiki Beach was fenced with barbed wire), the subsequent memorial only seemed to attract more visitors, and Oahu remains hugely popular with tourists—especially the Japanese—to this day.

Sort by: 35 Recommendations {{numTotalPoiResults}} {{ (numTotalPoiResults===1)?'Recommendation':'Recommendations' }} 0 Recommendations
CLEAR ALL Area Search CLEAR ALL
Loading...
Loading...
  • 1. Bellows Beach Park

    Beach–Sight

    Bellows is the same beach as Waimanalo, but it's under the auspices of the military, making it more friendly for visitors—though that also limits...Read More

  • 2. Fort DeRussy Beach Park

    Waikiki | Beach–Sight

    This is one of the finest beaches on the south side of Oahu. A wide, soft, ultrawhite beachfront with gently lapping waves makes it a family...Read More

  • 3. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

    Beach–Sight

    Picture this as the world's biggest open-air aquarium. You go here to see fish, and fish you'll see. Due to their exposure to thousands of visitors...Read More

  • 4. Kailua Beach Park

    Beach–Sight

    A cobalt-blue sea and a wide continuous arc of powdery sand make Kailua Beach Park one of the island's best beaches, illustrated by the crowds...Read More

  • 5. Pupukea Beach Park/Shark's Cove

    Beach–Sight

    Surrounded by shady trees, Pupukea Beach Park is pounded by surf in the winter months but offers great diving and snorkeling in summer (March...Read More

  • 6. Waimea Bay Beach Park

    Beach–Sight

    Made popular in that old Beach Boys song "Surfin' U.S.A.," Waimea Bay Beach Park is a slice of big-wave heaven, home to king-size 25- to 30...Read More

  • 7. White Plains Beach Park

    Beach–Sight

    Concealed from the public eye for many years as part of the former Barbers Point Naval Air Station, this beach is reminiscent of Waikiki but...Read More

  • 8. Ala Moana Beach Park

    Ala Moana | Beach–Sight

    A protective reef makes Ala Moana essentially a ½-mile-wide saltwater swimming pool. Very smooth sand and no waves create a haven for families...Read More

    View Tours and Activities
  • 9. Diamond Head Beach Park

    Diamond Head | Beach–Sight

    You have to like a little hiking to like Diamond Head Beach. This beautiful, remote spot is at the base of Diamond Head crater. The beach is...Read More

  • 10. Duke Kahanamoku Beach

    Waikiki | Beach–Sight

    Named for Hawaii's famous Olympic swimming champion, Duke Kahanamoku, this is a hard-packed beach with the only shade trees on the sand in Waikiki...Read More

  • 11. Ehukai Beach Park

    Beach–Sight

    What sets Ehukai apart is the view of the famous Banzai Pipeline. Here the winter waves curl into magnificent tubes, making it an experienced...Read More

  • 12. Electric Beach

    Beach–Sight

    Directly across from the electricity plant—hence the name—Electric Beach (also known as Kahe Point) is a haven for tropical fish, making it...Read More

  • 13. Gray's Beach

    Waikiki | Beach–Sight

    A little guesthouse called Gray's-by-the-Sea stood here in the 1920s; now it's a gathering place for eclectic beach types from sailing pioneers...Read More

  • 14. Haleiwa Alii Beach Park

    Beach–Sight

    The winter waves are impressive here, but in summer the ocean is like a lake, ideal for family swimming. The beach itself is big and often full...Read More

  • 15. Halona Cove

    Beach–Sight

    Also known as From Here to Eternity Beach and "Pounders," this little beauty is never crowded due to the short, treacherous climb down to...Read More

  • 16. Kahaloa and Ulukou Beaches

    Waikiki | Beach–Sight

    The beach widens back out here, creating the "it" spot for the bikini crowd—beautiful bodies abound. This is where you find most of the catamaran...Read More

  • 17. Kahana Bay Beach Park

    Beach–Sight

    Local parents often bring their children here to wade in safety in the very shallow, protected waters. This pretty beach cove, surrounded by...Read More

  • 18. Ko Olina

    Beach–Sight

    This is the best spot on the island if you have small kids. The resort area commissioned a series of four man-made lagoons, but, as it has to...Read More

    View Tours and Activities
  • 19. Kualoa Park

    Beach–Sight

    Grassy expanses border a long, narrow stretch of beach with spectacular views of Kaneohe Bay and the Koolau Mountains, making Kualoa one of...Read More

  • 20. Kuhio Beach Park

    Waikiki | Beach–Sight

    This beach has experienced a renaissance after a recent face-lift. Now bordered by a landscaped boardwalk, it's great for romantic walks any...Read More

No sights Results

Please try a broader search, or expore these popular suggestions:

There are no results for {{ strDestName }} Sights in the searched map area with the above filters. Please try a different area on the map, or broaden your search with these popular suggestions:

Around the Web