Capital of all the islands, Oahu suits beachcombers, honeymooners and adventurers of all ages.
With its perfect weather, tropical flowers, pristine valleys, rainbows and waterfalls, quiet beaches and fiery sunsets, it’s truly a jewel. Honolulu, the capital, is surrounded by beautiful white sandy beaches and attracts some seven million visitors each year. It offers plazas, five-star restaurants, nightclubs, world-class shopping, great art and architecture, exquisite hotels and friendly people with old fashioned Aloha spirit. Enjoy all the convenience of city living with the ambience of the tropics.
A great way to get an overview of Honolulu is to take the Historic Waikiki Trolley Tour, a two-hour narrated tour on a turn-of-the-century designed trolley which stops every 15 minutes at 20 locations allowing you to spend time at as many stops as you like before rejoining the route. Stops include Honolulu Zoo, Chinatown, Aloha Tower Marketplace and the Hawaii Maritime Centre, King Kamehameha Statue, Restaurant Row and several shopping locations.
There are more than a dozen specialised walking tours in Honolulu and many focus on historical sites such as the Kawaiaha`o Church, Hawaii’s oldest. Chinatown has many buildings with architecture reminiscent of a bygone era. Stroll through the arcades past the exotic herb shops and see the famous open market. More than one million visitors a year experience a taste of old Polynesia and the charm and beauty of the seven South Pacific villages at the Polynesian Cultural Centre. While there, visit the Imax theatre, experience a luau and see the spectacular Polynesian show.
Take a nostalgic trip to Pearl Harbour where you can visit the USS Arizona Memorial or step aboard the USS Bowfin, a real WWII submarine. You can learn more about this compelling wartime attack by visiting the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Centre displaying WWII naval history and see a film about the attack.
Outdoor attractions include Sea Life Park on Oahu’s South East Shore which has the world’s only ‘wholpin’, offspring of a false killer whale and an Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin. Waikiki Aquarium houses several endangered and rare species, interactive exhibits and a world famous collection of tropical fish.
At Waimea Valley Audubon Centre on the North Shore experience Hawaiian cultural and ecological treasures in a natural park. Numerous cruises offer the opportunity to see the spectacular Waikiki/Honolulu coastline and whale watching cruises are a highlight in season. Another way to sightsee is in a glass-bottom catamaran in Kaneohe Bay on Oahu’s East Coast, where you can enjoy the sail and make viewing stops along the coral reefs. A safe and interesting way to see the natural wonders of the reef is to take a trip in a high tech Atlantis Sub to a depth of 30 metres and see a visual feast of reef fish and mysterious ocean predators.
Other Oahu ‘musts’ include a visit to Diamond Head crater which has a one mile hiking trail leading to the 231 metres summit where there are spectacular views of Waikiki and Honolulu. No visit to Hawaii would be complete without a swim or at least a walk along the promenade at famous Waikiki beach. Surfboards and boogie boards are available for rent with the option of lessons for the novice ‘guaranteed to get you up’. Other activities on Oahu include wind-surfing, sailing on catamarans, kayaking, waterskiing and jetskiing.
Parasailing under the direction of an experienced captain is a great way to view Honolulu and Waikiki from a new perspective, nine to 91 metres above the ocean flying tandem or by yourself. The Hanauma Bay Marine Preserve, Hawaii’s most famous snorkelling spot, aims to preserve nature and educate visitors about the fragile ecosystem.
As well as having unlimited activities, Honolulu is a gourmet’s paradise with cuisine that is a blend of the spices of Asia and the Pacific with European styles and sauces.
It is also a shopper’s paradise with everything from the International Marketplace ‘souvenir heaven’—built around a 100-year-old banyan tree—to famous Ala Moana, one of the largest open-air shopping centres in the USA. With nearly 50 new retailers, the Waikiki Beach Walk is the largest development in Waikiki’s history. Nearly three hectares along well traversed Lewers Street is a colourful show-case and gathering place. This outdoor entertainment plaza includes several dining establishments and hotels, and benefits from the island’s cooling trade winds and year-round excellent weather.
Where else in the world can you snorkel a crystal lagoon, climb a dormant volcano, surf huge waves, kayak along a pristine coastline, picnic on a sandbar, soar in a glider over tide pools, scuba dive over sunken aeroplanes, play golf at a championship course and sail into the sunset?
The island is full of shopping malls, so you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to shopping. You can buy international brands as well as local garments like aloha shirts and skirts, as well as a number of locally made accessories and trinkets. There are waterfront marketplaces and flea markets if you wish to go shopping without going away from the beaches. There are also some themed contemporary retail malls and galleries that you should check out while in Oahu.
Gambling is illegal and the laws against it are pretty strict, so refrain from engaging in any such activities to avoid problems.
If you do not feel like doing much while in Oahu, you can simply head to the beach, lounge around next to the sparkling ocean, enjoy local food or a nice drink, and watch the sun set on the island. All the shopping and tourist areas are well connected by public transport.
Hawaiian cuisine is a mix of local, Chinese and Japanese style of cuisines and cooking methods. Most of the snacks and food items are very unique to Hawaii, so make sure you try as many as you can on your visit.
You can buy shrimp from the many highway trucks for an inexpensive yet tasty meal. A plate lunch is the most common local meal which includes either fish or meat, two scoops of rice and a pasta salad. A Luau is a traditional Hawaiian feast, which is an elaborate buffet with entertainment like hula dancers and local music.
A few local specialties that you should not miss trying are, Lomi salmon, an island salsa, Haupia, a coconut milk based dessert, Ahi, season and cut raw fish, shaved ice in your choice of flavor is great to beat the heat and Saimin, the local noodle soup. Snacks include dried salted plums, dried seafood, dried and picked fruits and macadamia nuts. Beer is the most common drink, with locally brewed varieties available.
Oahu, being the heart of Hawaii, has a lot of things to see and do when you visit. Here are some of its attractions that you absolutely cannot miss.
The Honolulu Museum of Art has an old local style building with an enviable collection of Asian art along with local artists’ collections. The Bishop Museum has the world’s largest collection cultural and natural artifacts from all over the Pacific.
At the Polynesian Cultural Center, you can experience the culture and art of the various islands of Polynesia along with local Hawaiian culture.
Lolani Palace is the sole royal palace in all of United States and is the place where the Hawaiian Parliament now sits. A cemetery buit in the volcanic caldera of a dormant volcano, The Punchbowl is a beautiful yet solemn place. Over the years, it serves as a cemetery for martyrs of the United States armed forces.
Beside these attractions, you can also lounge about on the many beaches on the island, surf, snorkel and even dive in the Pacific waters.