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Oahu, Hawaii

Great Destination:

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Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • The Ala Moana Center is the world’s largest outdoor mall with 290 shops and eateries.
  • Traditional Hawaiian society dictated that men and women didn’t eat together or eat the same foods.
  • Hawaii’s oldest wood frame structure was built in New England and shipped to Honolulu in 1820.
  • Surfing great Duke Kahanamoku grew up in Waikiki and won Olympic swimming medals in 1912 and 1920.
  • All words and syllables in the Hawaiian language end in vowels.

Combining city and surf

For Hawaii visitors who like to break up their beach and nature vacations with urban diversions, Oahu — home to the state capital and biggest city Honolulu — is the logical choice. The island is Hawaii’s economic, political and population center.

Just the same, Oahu has got beaches (125-plus on 112 miles of sandy shoreline), mountains, lush green foliage and sunsets over an endless Pacific, the kinds of things visitors expect from a Hawaiian island. Still more, Oahu’s history (including Pearl Harbor), festivals highlighting Hawaiian culture and wildlife (particularly, dolphins and humpback whales) add to the attraction.

Oahu is a volcanic mass with two mountain ranges, both running northwest to southeast; the Waianae Range is on the western side and the Koolau Range to the east. A plain separates the ranges, and Pearl Harbor is to the south of the plain. Honolulu and its Waikiki beach neighborhood sit on the island’s South Shore.

Beach and water conditions vary by location, contour of the beach and the season. The South Shore, for example, has sheltered beaches for low-key pleasures except in summer when the surf is high; it’s the opposite on the North Shore, which is Oahu’s legendary surfing area, at least in winter and for the expert. The aptly named Windward side (on the east) is favored for sailing, windsurfing and the like. For safety, look for current information on tide and surf conditions at all beaches.

On land, visitors may explore the landscape on horseback, on a mountain bike or by foot. Scenic drives do the trick, too. For birders, hikes have a dual purpose. Regardless of season or activity, the sun can be intense. Remember sunscreen, a hat and abundant drinking water; also, avoid sunbathing at midday.

In museums and theaters, at annual festivals or special events, visitors collect impressions of the uniquely Hawaiian culture. Honolulu, home to historic palaces, also provides the art galleries and museums, restaurant choices, shopping and entertainment expected in an urban center. The city is highlighted further at http://besttripchoices.com/us-cities/honolulu-hawaii

Things to do for Venturers

  • Trek to the 763-foot summit of Diamond Head.
  • In winter, test your skills in the giant surfs on Oahu’s North Shore at Haieiwa, Pipeline, Sunset or Waimea beaches. In summer, find the biggest waves on the South Shore. Or, challenge Oahu’s less raucous waters if the highest waves aren’t your style.
  • Try the windsurfing near Diamond Head or at Kailua beach. Oahu and the winds also accommodate hang gliding, parasailing and windsailing. Also, kite surfing. Make your choice.
  • Take ukulele lessons. If the timing is right, attend the summertime Ukulele Festival in Waikiki. Hula lessons are an option, too.
  • Don the scuba gear and dive at Makaha Beach, but not when the waves are high in winter.
  • Compete in the Honolulu Marathon in December. Then, repair to one of Oahu’s several spas!

Things to do for Centrics

  • Ride the trails, on horseback, at the Kualoa Ranch. Or, paddle a kayak to one of Oahu’s nearby islets.
  • If a birder, devote some hiking time to watching and being entertained by the island’s colorful avian species. Guided birding excursions are available, too.
  • Attend any of several annual festivals that dovetail with your interest in Hawaiian culture. Lei Day is in the spring, followed in summer by hula festivals and in September by the monthlong Aloha Festivals, which showcase Hawaii culture, dance, music and history.
  • Make the pilgrimage to Pearl Harbor. Board the USS Missouri where documents ending World War II were signed. Take the boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial, which sits astride the battleship, which sank in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack.
  • Devote a day to sport fishing for ahi, mahimahi, marlin and wahoo.
  • Take an interest in Oahu’s pineapple and sugar plantation history. Explore that heritage at the Hawaii Plantation Village in Waipahu.

Things to do for Authentics

    Pursue your passion for flowers and gardens. Choices include the 20-acre Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu and the 124-acre Lyon Arboretum in Manoa Valley.
  • Choose a cruise that lets you combine a little sightseeing with whale and dolphin spotting. Swim with dolphins at the Sea Life Park, or participate in other wildlife encounters at the facility, which is located near Makapuu Point.
  • Sample Waialua Coffee and Waialua Chocolates, then buy souvenir supplies to carry home. Ditto for macadamia nuts, which are sold in cookies, covered in chocolate and packaged in a range of other creative ways.
  • For the duffer, Oahu offers dozens of courses to try.
  • Watch one or more hula performances, whether of the traditional kind accompanied by chants and percussion imitative of the wind and surf or a modern iteration with singing and musical instruments.
  • See former residences of Hawaiian royalty — the Iolani Palace and the Queen Emma Summer Palace, both in Honolulu.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau at www.gohawaii.com and click on the Oahu button.