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Best of Oahu

This overview tour includes some highlights of Oahu, the third largest of the Hawaiian islands.Each region of Oahu has its own distinct character.


The center of the action on Oahu is unquestionably Waikiki. Waikiki is located just a few miles east of Downtown Honolulu on the southern coast of Oahu. Since the opening of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in the early 1930s, the area has grown to be one of the top vacation destinations in the world, with literally thousands of rooms available. Many people vacation right in the heart of Waikiki and never venture out. Here you can dine, shop, take boat tours and learn to surf, all within walking distance of your hotel. While this is certainly a valid way to experience Hawaii, you miss out on a lot that Oahu has to offer with this type of vacation. Even nearby Downtown Honolulu has some interesting sites if you have the chance to get over there.

You can explore Waikiki in our Waikiki page.


Honolulu is a fascinating city. It includes the oldest Chinatown in the U.S. The Bishop Museum includes extensive collections about the natural and cultural history of Hawaii and offers authentic hula presentations. In the hills above Honolulu, the Puu Ualakaa State Wayside offers panoramic views of Honolulu and Waikiki, and the Manoa Falls Trail and Lyon Arboretum provide a true tropical experience. A few miles to the west of Waikiki and Honolulu is Pearl Harbor, the site of the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941 that brought the U.S. into World War II. The U.S.S. Arizona Memorial is maintained here by the National Park Service, and this is an extremely popular vacation destination. Be sure you visit the NPS website for the latest information before going.

Most of these destinations are listed in the "Attractions" and "Culture" menus at the top of this page.


Heading east from Waikiki, a five-minute drive brings you to Diamond Head State Monument. Here you can hike through the dry crater and up the rim for a great view of Waikiki and Honolulu to the west. Allow several hours for this and check for the best time to go before you do it.

A ten or fifteen-minute drive further east along the coast is Hanauma Bay, a great snorkeling site. Also in this part of the island are Koko Crater Botanical Garden, Sandy Beach, the Halona Blowhole, and the Ka Iwi Scenic Trail at Makapuu Point.


The windward or east coast of Oahu is less densely populated than Honolulu, but several cities line the coast. In the south is Kailua, a charming city that includes Kailua Beach Park and Lanikai Bay Beach. Near Kailua are several gardens. Many people also rent canoes and canoe across the bay to the Mokolii Islands.

The north part of the windward (east) coast includes the Polynesian Cultural Center and Malaekahana State Recreation Area. There are also several hours of small towns along the way. This part of Oahu provides a laid-back vacation experience many people miss.


The north shore area of Oahu is a great place to swim in the summer, and a great place to watch professional surfers in the winter when the waves are up. The main town along the north shore is Haleiwa, which you can reach by driving straight up the main highway 2 and then 99 from Honolulu. East of Haleiwa are the Waimea Valley, the Puu O Mahuka Heiau State Historic Site, Waimea Beach, Pupukea Beach, Laniakea Beach, Sunset Beach (home of the "Banzai pipeline"), and several more. A trip to the north shore makes a nice day trip during a vacation in Honolulu. If it interests you, you can stop at the Dole Pineapple Plantation near Wahiaha in the center of the island either going or coming.

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