The third-largest Hawaiian island in size but first in population, Oahu is also known as the Gathering Place. Its 600 square miles contain more than 125 beaches, along with two mountain ranges, including Waianae in the west and Ko’olau in the east. Familiar to most as the location of the state capital and main marine port of Honolulu, Oahu is also home to the historic resort town of Waikiki, with its world-class accommodations, dining, and shopping. Although visitors also flock to attractions such as Pearl Harbor and the Diamond Head volcanic crater, this island has far more in store for those interested in exploring…
Spend a day on the laid-back North Shore, home to several legendary big-wave surf breaks! A 45-minute drive from Waikiki past the pineapple fields of the Dole Plantation leads you to the town of Haleiwa, where you’ll find restaurants, shops, art galleries, and even a surf museum, as well as the Haleiwa River, which provides an opportunity for stand-up paddling. Swim with an abundance of friendly honu (Hawaiian sea turtles) at nearby Turtle Beach, and continue north to see iconic Waimea Bay, Banzai Pipeline, and Sunset Beach. During the summer, you may also want to make time for snorkeling in Shark’s Cove, despite its somewhat off-putting name.
On the east side of the island, start the morning with a two-mile hike on a paved trail to the Makapu’u Point lighthouse, which offers stunning views of the Koko Head crater, Sandy Beach, and Rabbit Island. During the winter months, the lookout also serves as a great vantage point for whale watching. Next, head to Waimanalo Beach for a long walk in a gorgeous setting, or relax on the white sands of Lanikai Beach, often voted one of the best beaches in the world. From Lanikai, take a kayak trip to the Mokulua Islets, known among locals as the Mokes, where you can also give cliff jumping a try!
After a few far-flung adventures, why not spend time soaking in some history in Honolulu? The only royal residence in the U.S., Iolani Palace had electricity before Windsor Castle, telephones before the White House, and flush toilets before any other royal home in the world. The beautifully-restored home and grounds of the last two monarchs of the Hawaiian Kingdom are open for guided or self-led tours Monday through Saturday. As another option, tour the Bishop Museum any day of the week to see impressive collections of both natural history specimens and objects, documents, and photographs relating to Hawaiian and other Pacific Island cultures.
With its natural beauty, restaurants and shopping, activities and attractions, history and culture, Oahu offers an ideal vacation destination with its own unique Hawaiian charm.