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The Island of Oʻahu – The Gathering Place

Oahu Island Honolulu

Top 4 Oahu Attractions

Pearl Harbor

Though some travelers opt for a basic self-guided tour, the full-day Complete Pearl Harbor Experience on Oahu from Pearl Harbor Tours is our recommendation for the most fascinating, in-depth day tour of the area. Guests will receive historic WWII narration from an expert local guide, as well as a visit to Oʻahu’s Pacific Historic Park, Punchbowl National Cemetery, and admission to Pearl Harbor’s top visitor locations, including the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine, USS Missouri Battleship, historic Pacific Aviation Museum, and a deck tour of the USS Oklahoma Memorial. Tours also include round-trip transportation and allow you to skip the long lines as you visit Pearl Harbor, making the most of your previous travel time.

Don’t miss these must-see points of interest:

• USS Arizona Memorial
• Battleship Missouri Memorial
• Pacific Aviation Museum
• USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park

Oahu Island Pearl Harbor


The North Shore

About an hour’s drive from Waikiki, you’ll find yourself immersed in the thick of surf haven USA! It’s all about big, glassy waves in the winter and smaller, gentle waves in the summer; however, this surf mecca is distinctly legendary. If you explore this area, you’re bound to see veterans venturing in and out of the water in just about every place you go.

More than 7 miles of beach, surfing, and legendary big wave surfing action can be found here on the North Shore. The famous Turtle Bay can be found here as well. As mentioned in the beach section above, the Superbowl of wave riding is the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing which happens here in November-December. Wave faces often reach in excess of 30 feet in the winter, so pay close attention to warnings and local conditions before going into the ocean. If you’re a beginner to a moderate surfer, stick to Waikiki when the swell is small. Whether learning to surf on the south side or watching pros on the north side, surfing is definitely one of the more popular Oahu activities.

Some Beaches of the North Shore:

• Waimea Bay
• Ehukai Beach (Bonzai Pipeline)
• Sunset Beach

Oahu Island North Shore


Iolani Palace

According to the National Register of Historic Places, this former home of King Kalākaua and Queen Liliʻuokalani was the only place in the United States to ever be used as the official residence of a reigning monarch. After the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893, the building was used as the capital for the Territory and later the State of Hawaiʻi until 1969. It was restored and opened as a museum in 1978, where it continues to accept visitors, 9-5 PST, Tuesday through Saturday. This is one of the more popular attractions on Oahu.

Oahu Island Iolani Palace


Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

Just a short 30-minute drive from Waikiki is the flooded volcanic crater we call Hanauma Bay. It is teeming with life of all sorts, and the crystal-clear blue waters make this place a snorkeler’s paradise! There is a fee to enter the preserve and a parking fee as well, but it’s a small price to pay to experience one of Oʻahu’s most amazing places. Check out the visitor center for details and a fish identification chart.

Oahu Island Hanauma Bay

Oʻahu is where most people live and work in Hawai`i. Roughly 75% of all Hawaiʻi residents have gathered here on Oʻahu, the third largest Hawaiian island, because of its relatively successful economy, including more jobs, business opportunities, and access to goods and services than the other islands combined.

In January 1778, a member of Captain James Cook’s crew on the HMS Resolution sighted the island of Oʻahu. At that time, the Hawaiian islands were unknown to all but Polynesians. Europeans did not actually visit Oʻahu until February 1779, when Captain Charles Clerke stepped ashore at the base of Waimea Valley. Captain Clerke assumed command of the Resolution after Captain Cook was killed on the Big Island.

Only 162 years later…“Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” — Franklin Delano Roosevelt

The Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor, Oʻahu, early on December 7, 1941. The surprise attack killed many US servicemen and destroyed numerous military aircraft and several naval ships.

Oahu Island Attack

Today, Oʻahu is a shopping and tourism mecca with more than 5 million visitors a year seeking the diverse vacation offerings in this traveler’s paradise. It’s a daunting task to catalog the many beaches, towns, attractions, and historical points of interest on Oʻahu, so we’re going to introduce you to just a few for now.

See Oʻahu Map

Top 5 Oahu Beaches

Keep in mind that many of these beaches are the perfect spots to do a family portrait shoot.  There are many family photographers in Oahu with the talent and experience required to find the best spots while capturing moments you’ll want to frame.  

Waikiki Beach

Oahu Island Waikiki Beach

This is one of the most popular Oahu beaches with more than 4 million sunblock-laden beachgoers every year. The postcard-famous views of Diamond Head from Waikiki Beach are synonymous with a Hawai`i vacation. This 2-mile-long beach is well known for its long-lasting wave break, which is ideal for learning to surf. Of course, this beach gets crowded and people-watching is a daily activity. It’s also a great place to watch Hawaiian watermen surf in Canoes. There is an endless supply of nearby facilities, resorts, restaurants, and activities.


Sunset Beach

Oahu Island Sunset Beach
This photo was actually taken at nearby Waimea Bay in the shorebreak during the Eddie Aikau.

Another 2-mile stretch of beach awesomeness starts at Sunset Point and goes all the way to the Banzai Pipeline (Ehukai Beach). During the summer, it’s a family-friendly swimming and snorkeling beach, and in the winter, it’s a surfer’s heaven. Sunset Beach is considered by many to be the longest stretch of rideable surf in the world, which is just one reason the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing event (Nov. – Dec.) pops up here every year.


Lanikai Beach

With white sand and calm waters, it’s no wonder why Conde Nast ranked Lanikai as the world’s No. 1 beach in 1996. Lanikai is hidden adjacent to the residential neighborhood of Kailua and features two small islands called Nā Mokulua (locals call them “The Mokes”). This picturesque beach is the perfect setting for sunbathing and is ideal for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and sailing, but parking is limited.

Lanikai Pillbox, Beach & the Mokes Video

Kailua Beach Park

Oahu Island Kailua Area

Not far from Lanikai, Kailua Beach is popular with families, windsurfers, and sailboards. There are plenty of things to do here, including 35 acres of light-colored beach sand, a park setting, picnic areas, and a volleyball court. This beach park and boat ramp have facilities to rent water sports equipment and plenty of public parking.


Waimanalo Bay Beach Park

With nearly 5 miles of soft sand, it’s no mystery why so many people love Waimanalo Beach. This Windward Coast beach park has plenty of parking, and it’s picnic-friendly! Waimanalo is one of the longest beaches on the island of Oʻahu and is ideal for long walks on the beach, fishing, and boogie-boarding, according to locals.

A Tale of Two Towns


Oahu Island Downtown

This internationally famous town is the most populated city in all of the Hawaiian islands. Honolulu is also the capital of Hawai`i and has a population of more than 395,000 people. On the south shore of Honolulu, you’ll find the world-famous neighborhood of Waikiki, a mega-shopping metropolis. Adjacent to Waikiki, one of the world’s most famous beaches awaits visitors from all over the world—Waikiki Beach. Honolulu is a cosmopolitan town with an amazingly diverse selection of world-class entertainment, unique cultural events, and fabulous performing arts.


Oahu Island Haleiwa

In contrast to Honolulu is the charming little town of Haleiwa. Grab a rental car, it’s only about an hour’s drive from Honolulu, but it’s worlds apart. Far from the skyscrapers and busy highways, Haleiwa has remained a laid-back surfer town in appearance, but it also has a remarkable country ambiance and local style. Here, in this easy-going, artistic hub of the North Shore, you’ll find all the little art galleries and unique boutiques you were looking for in this island paradise.

Shopping Superpowers, ACTIVATE!

If shopping is on your Hawaiʻi bucket list, then Oʻahu is your own personal paradise! There’s simply no way we could NOT mention the incredible shopping experience on Oʻahu. There are numerous open-air malls, such as Ala Moana Center, which is one of America’s largest outdoor malls. You will also find plenty of high-end retailers, large department stores, charming little boutiques, and local specialty stores in and around the main shopping areas in Waikiki and Honolulu. The endless shopping options in Oʻahu are sure to make your visit a shopping adventure.

Oahu Island Shopping


Oahu Hawaii Map