You Haven't Seen This Side Of Oahu
Big City, Small Island
Oahu is perhaps the most famous of the Hawaiian Islands, that isolated string of islands in the middle of the great blue Pacific Ocean, known to many as paradise on earth. Home to the state’s capital of Honolulu, Oahu is a geographically small island with a cosmopolitan city and therefore a population of approximately 953,000 people. Its inhabitants comprise an ethnically diverse mix of backgrounds, making the cultural makeup of it the island rich, complex and exotic. There’s good reason why Oahu translates to “the gathering place,” for it is indeed an island where a vast mix of cultures have come to gather, share their customs, beliefs and traditions. For this reason and more, a visit to Oahu is unforgettable.
Upon arrival on the island, you’ll land in Honolulu, the only truly cosmopolitan city in the middle of the Pacific. Here you can shop ‘til you drop, take in the world-class arts scene, or spend your days exploring intriguing historical landmarks such as Iolani Palace, the only residence of royalty in the entire U.S. Honolulu is a warm and vibrant city that merits much curious exploration. For the food lover, it’s a cultural extravaganza. Be prepared to sample Alan Wong’s famous farm-to-table cuisine at monthly ‘farmers dinners.’ The experience is beyond palatable. For art lovers, the city is ripe with galleries and museums. For the marine biologist in the family, there’s the Hawaii Maritime Center, which explores the entirety of Hawaii’s maritime connections from its discovery by Captain Cook to epic surfing feats. There’s also a classic Chinatown, with its noodle shops, herbal centers, buddhist temples and lively markets. There’s good reason why Honolulu has been on the world’s best cities lists in terms of quality of life year after year.
No visit to Oahu would be complete without feasting your eyes on the infamous Pearl Harbor. Even if you could care less about WWII, the largest natural harbor in Hawaii, (named for the pearl oysters once harvested here) is a site to behold. If you are historically inclined, there are five historic sites here to immerse yourself in - the Battleship Missouri Memorial, U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, the Pacific Aviation Museum and the U.S.S. Oklahoma Memorial. An array of ticket passes and tours are available. You can spend anywhere from two hours to two days or longer - you get to choose!
Even if you’ve never been to the ‘gathering place’ you’ve probably heard of the famed Waikiki, Oahu’s beachfront district just outside of Honolulu. Diamond head, Oahu’s most well-known natural landmark lives in Waikiki, and offers a picture-perfect place to witness awe-inspiring sunrises and sunsets. Waikiki is home to a number of gorgeous beaches, cultural centers and even the Honolulu Zoo. Spend at least one afternoon exploring this dreamy neighborhood of endless palms and sand.
Drive an hour north from Waikiki and you’ll land on Oahu’s north shore - THE place to be if you’ve dreamt of meeting the Big Kahunas of the surfing world. In fact, the north shore is aptly referred to as the “surfing capital of the world.” It' the winter months that bring the most awe-inspiring waves and you’ll want to stop at the Banzai Pipeline, to witness expert surfers glide their way through the middle of a wave. Not only a surf mecca, Oahu’s north shore is also home to small towns, shrimp shacks, roadside fruit stands, and even a bird sanctuary. It’s a world away from the cosmopolitan hub-bub of Honolulu. Head to the north shore when you need a dose of the island’s quietude.
Stepping Into Nature
As you wind your way around the island, be sure to treat yourself to a shave ice - that ubiquitous Hawaiian blend of finely shaved ice and sweet, syrupy bliss. Like the other islands, Oahu is a nature lover’s paradise, too. While most hikers explore the trails winding along the coast, there’s a hiking trail inland worth exploring. The Aiea Loop Trail in Keaiwa Heiau State Recreation Area spans four and a half miles of pretty terrain. From the trails you can take in breathtaking views of Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor and even Honolulu (on a day when the skies are impossibly blue).
The entire island is full of scenic drives, and Oahu’s southeast coast is one of them. This area winds about along magnificent cliffs and valleys. You won’t want to miss the Hanauma Bay Natural Reserve, where turquoise waters offer sublime snorkeling. The reserve is dedicated to protecting and preserving the marine life - and you’ll want to do the same after you’ve swam through its colorful waters full of sea turtles, yellow tang and trumpet fish. You may even spot the state fish of Hawaii, the Humuhumunukunukuapuaa - (try muttering THAT as your mantra while you swim).
Oahu is an island full of many pleasures. After one visit you may find yourself selling all your belongings on the mainland and shipping out to sea. Just don’t forget your sunscreen and your inherent Aloha Spirit!
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