The Heart of Hawaii
Oahu is the political, economic, and population hub of Hawaii. Dominated by Honolulu, Oahu has a unique blend of delights: bustling city life, lush and verdant landscapes, stunning beaches, and fantastic historic sites. It’s a bit of the best of all the islands rolled into one.
Sometimes called “The Gathering Place,” Oahu lives up to its name. Home to the majority of Hawaii’s diverse population, Oahu boasts a fusion of East and West cultures rooted in the values and traditions of the Native Hawaiian people. It’s this fundamental contrast between the ancient and the modern that makes discovering Oahu, from bustling city life to laidback surf towns, so enjoyable. You’ll find plenty of options for exploring Oahu’s different regions, the island’s many activities, eclectic restaurants, and accommodations.
With stunning scenery at every turn, no matter where you go on Oahu, the journey is as much a thrill as the destination.
Honolulu is a unique combination of tropical glamour and bustling metropolis, where sandy shores meet city streets. The state capital and largest city in Hawaii, Honolulu is the racing pulse of Oahu. In this cosmopolitan capital city, you’ll find everything from historic landmarks to fine dining and world-class shopping. Home to the majority of Oahu’s population, Honolulu stretches across the southeastern shores of the island, from Pearl Harbor to Makapuu Point, encompassing world-famous Waikiki Beach along the way.
Take an easy trek to the top of Leahi (Diamond Head) for panoramic views that will take your breath away. Visit the eclectic shops of the Kapahulu neighborhood where you’ll also find some of the island’s best local food.
Historic Pearl Harbor is the largest natural harbor in Hawaii and an active naval base, home to five Pearl Harbor Historic Sites: The Pacific Historic Parks, the USS Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, the Pacific Aviation Museum, and the USS Oklahoma Memorial.
The lush valley between the Waianae Mountains and Koolau range offers a glimpse back in time at Oahu’s history. You’ll see sprawling fields of pineapples at the Leilehua Plateau in Wahiawa. You can learn about the sweet-and-spiky fruit’s legacy on Oahu at the Dole Plantation while you cool down with a delicious frozen Dole whip treat.
The sunny and dry Leeward Coast of Oahu at the foot of the Waianae mountain range lies just 30 miles from Waikiki, but the contrast between the regions is striking. The Leeward side of Oahu is far less developed, with picturesque towns, beautiful off-the-beaten-path beaches, and rural landscapes to explore.
Hike to Oahu’s sacred Kaena Point for incredible Pacific Ocean views. Be sure to stay on the trail because the area is also a bird sanctuary, and bring water and other supplies with you because the remote area doesn’t offer amenities. Leave no trace, and pack out whatever you brought with you in order to respect the land and maintain the pristine natural area for others.
If the perfect wave exists, you’ll find it on Oahu’s North Shore. The towering, winter waves of this legendary surf mecca draw the best surfers in the world, while smaller and gentler summer waves are better for beginners. Stretching for more than 7 miles, the beaches of the North Shore host the world’s premier surfing competitions, including the biggest of them all, the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
The months between November and February are the best times to see big wave surfing. The massive waves can sometimes swell up to thirty feet or more—dangerous even for experienced surfers—so always heed warning signs. From May to September, the waves subside, creating a more tranquil atmosphere for surfing and swimming.
As you drive over the sloping Pali Highway, skyscrapers and the sprawling city of Honolulu give way to lush valleys and country landscapes. Exiting the tunnels east of the Koolau Mountain Range, it feels as if you’re entering a different world and a turquoise ocean shimmers in the distance. A trip to the Windward Coast reveals a slower-paced side of Oahu, and some of the most stunning natural beauty anywhere in Hawaii.
From Kailua town, you can head in two directions. Go clockwise down the coast to Sea Life Park, Makapuu Point Lighthouse and eventually Leahi (Diamond Head) and Waikiki. Or drive north spend a day exploring the Windward Coast as it winds lazily around the island toward the North Shore, offering interesting stops along the way, like the serene Valley of the Temples, which is home to a stunning Japanese Buddhist temple.
Residents of Oahu rarely use compass directions to express where things are. Instead, islanders have developed a system of reference points that take Oahu’s unique geography into account. You may be going toward the mountains (mauka) or the sea (makai). If you are on the leeward side of the island heading west, you are going ewa (pronounced evah), because the town of Ewa is on the southwestern tip of Oahu. If you are heading east, you are going “Diamond Head.”
Explore More on Oahu
Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina Chic and light-filled with vast ocean views
The celestial setting of the Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina makes an idyllic escape where guests can stroll their... read more
Pearl Harbor In honor of those who served and sacrificed.
Pearl Harbor is an active military base, Headquarters of the Pacific Fleet, and a National Historic Landmark that’s home to... read more
Leahi (Diamond Head) Jaw dropping views await atop Leahi.
Leahi (Diamond Head), the iconic, dormant volcano on the island of Oahu offers some of the most awe-inspiring views on... read more