Oahu Travel Guide

Oahu travel guide
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Oahu is an island in the state of Hawaii, USA. It’s the island on which the State Capital, Honolulu is situated. It’s the place where the US’ only Royal palace stands, too. And it’s also the Hawaiian island that sees the most amount of activity. That’s why I knew I needed to create an Oahu travel guide!

The island of Oahu sees visitors all through the year thanks to its warm climate, its coastal hotspots, natural beauty, & cultural heritage. While most of the visitors to the island come from the mainland, the Pacific island also sees a lot of tourists from Asian countries on the other side of the Ocean.

History

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Hawaiians say that this group of islands in the middle of the Pacific gets its name from the mythical navigator, Hawai?iloa. Polynesian settlers are known to have been the first settlers on the islands. However, there are no written records about when these lands that were created out of volcanic activity began to see visitors. 

Chiefs were said to have taken care of the land & the people of the islands until King Kamehameha I unified the islands. The history of the islands goes on to talk about the arrival of Captain Cook, the sugarcane fields that attracted outsiders to the islands, of the kings & queens of Hawaii, and the power struggles between the royals and the newer settlers. 

Hawaii has been a kingdom, been under a provisional government, been a republic, a US territory, and is now a US state. 

During King Kamehameha’s reign, he had moved his capital to Honolulu and since then it has been an important city on the island of Oahu. It continued to be the capital even when the islands became the 50th state of the US. With Pearl Harbor being a part of the island, Oahu is also a symbol of the US’ participation in the Second World War. 

What to see and do

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To learn more about the history of the islands, its people & culture, the places to visit are the Iolani Palace in Honolulu and Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie in the North Shore area.

Being an island and being surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, Oahu is blessed with pleasant weather, a whole lot of beaches, & great surf. That gives visitors a lot to see and do! Waikiki and Lanikai are some of the most famous beaches.  Go to Laniakea Beach to see green sea turtles and go to Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore to see Oahu’s ideal surf area. Swimming, snorkeling, swimming with sharks, & canoeing are other things you can do on Oahu. 

Another thing that’s a must-do, especially for those visiting here for the first time, would be to pay respects to those martyred in the attacks of 1941 and see USS Arizona Memorial, USS Bowfin & other Maritime exhibits at the naval base. 

On Oahu, there are several mountain trails you can hike on, most of them promising sweeping views of Oahu & its coast. Some of these hikes are pretty treacherous so you might want to look up how difficult each one is and pick the ones that fit your physical abilities. There are hikes to waterfalls in the Manoa area & Laie Falls, and there are the rainforests to enjoy on the Windward Coast. 

You can also see a Blowhole in the South, explore a coral reef in a tuff ring, and hike up and to the middle of a crater at Diamond Head State Monument. Then, there’s Ka’ena Point State Park where native plants & animal life are being protected. And there are also some lighthouses you can hike to. 

Another important thing to do while on the island is to attend a Luau to watch some Polynesian performances and feast on some traditional food.

For even more things to do that aren’t included in this Oahu travel guide, check out my post: Top 10 things to do in Oahu.

Food

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Hawaii is a foodie paradise.  Being placed in the middle of the Pacific Ocean midway between the mainland US and the islands of Japan, you’ll find a lot of American food as well as food from Asian cuisines. 

However, the biggest attraction here is the Hawaiian food. Hawaiian cuisine lies somewhere between American, Asian & Polynesian cooking.

When in Oahu, the local food you must look for are Loco Moco — a combination of a burger patty, rice, gravy & egg; Poi — a dish made of Taro; Laulau — pork/squid cooked in Taro leaves; Poke — seasoned raw fish, and macaroni salad to name a few dishes. A dessert that is a must-have in Oahu is the Haupia, which is a sweet made of coconut. Another thing you absolutely cannot leave out is shaved ice. Hawaiian shaved ice is fluffier than the ones you get on the mainland and the flavors on them are a whole different type and a different range, altogether.

For specific restaurants that aren’t included in this Oahu travel guide, check out my post: Best restaurants in Oahu!

Shopping

There’ll be no problem shopping on Oahu, whatever kind of shopping you want to do. There are some malls & shopping centers in the state capital and in the prime parts of the island. There’s Luxury Row in Honolulu for your premium brands shopping and there’s a premium outlet in the heart of the island. 

For souvenirs to take back with you, you can shop for Hawaiian crafts, Hawaiian shirts, leis, ukuleles, hula accessories, and stone & glass jewelry. There are plenty of small independent shops all over selling gifts you can take back. Or you can head to Aloha Stadium Swap Meet which is an attraction by itself. 

Geography

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Oahu is an island of the Hawaiian Archipelago in the northern Pacific Ocean. It’s the 3rd largest island of the lot. It’s the busiest island, too. 

Being an island, Oahu has a lot of beaches, coves & inlets all around it. It has rocky coastal areas, volcanic craters, lava tubes, a blowhole, rainforests, mountains & waterfalls, too. 

The mountains are mainly in the form of two ranges — Wai’anae and Ko’olau. And in between is a valley that runs through a good part of the island. 

Accommodation

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Tourism is one of Oahu’s largest industries. As such, the island has every kind of accommodation to meet the needs of visitors. There are luxury resorts and hotels in the major parts around the island. 

You’ll find a concentration of hotels, vacation rentals & hostel facilities in the South around Honolulu & Waikiki. 

Transportation

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The way to get onto Oahu is through Honolulu International Airport. Once on the island, you can rent a car to drive around Oahu. Or you can opt for bus tours if you don’t want the hassle of driving. 

However, if you’ll only be spending time in and around Honolulu, you’ll find ample public transport to take you around the Honolulu-Waikiki area. Honolulu also has a tram that is a much-liked mode of transport among the tourists.

Best time to visit

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Oahu has warm weather throughout the year. It’s hottest & driest in the summer and this is when the island gets most of its tourists. So if you’d like to avoid the crowds and the high tariffs, plan your Oahu trip between April & early June or between September & mid-December. 

If you are going to Oahu to surf, winter is surf season. Pro surfers prefer to head to North Shore for the best conditions. And the best time to surf in that part of the island is between November and December. 

If it’s whale-watching that you want to do, December to May is your season. 

Nearby destinations

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Even though this is an Oahu travel guide, there are plenty of places to visit nearby! The destinations near Oahu are the other islands of the Aloha state: Kauai, Moloka’i, Lanai, Maui & Big Island are the places to consider if you want to explore beyond Oahu. 

You can take airplanes to these islands or cruise to them.

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