Oahu: A pocket guide

Surfers at Sunset Beach on the North Shore of Oahu.

The island of Oahu has the fitting nickname of the Gathering Isle and is the metropolitan hub for the islands. Oahu is home to the vast majority of the islands’ residents and has a very diverse population, ranging from traditionalists to modern business people. On Oahu you will find an attractive fusion of eastern and western cultures rooted in the values on traditional Hawaii, giving travelers the best of both worlds. You can explore the thriving city of Honolulu, have a beach vacation on the north shore, educate yourselves at Pearl Harbor, and engulf in local values and teachings at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Planning Your Trip

When it comes to climate and local weather, Oahu is generally drier on the south shore of the island and wetter on the north shore. Pleasant temperatures can be found year-round in the resort areas of Waikiki and on the north shore of the island, also home to the famous pipeline and world-class surfing. Big-wave season for surfing begins in November and ends in February, meaning all the big surf competitions happen during the winter months on the north shore. During the summer, however, the waves calm down, making the water very pleasant for snorkeling and other beach activities.

The geography of Oahu is made up of two major mountain ranges—the Waianae range and the Koolau range—that were once shield volcanoes but are now extinct. These ranges separate central Oahu from the east and west sides. Cliffs and gorgeous rock faces populate the east side of the island while the west side provides a more green jungle feel. From the Nuuanu Pali Lookout you can see breathtaking views of the Koolau cliffs and surrounding valley.

Discovering Hawaii’s History & Activities

Waikiki was once the playground for ancient Hawaiian royalty until the English settlers came. It was many decades before traditional Hawaiian values were valued again and brought to new heights. Oahu is generally most famous for Pearl Harbor, which contains five historic sites memorializing the December 7, 1941, attacks. President Obama also is from the island and frequently vacations with his family on Oahu during the winter months.

Oahu is a very diverse island and perfect for travelers that want a metropolitan feel to a cultural experience. Honolulu features some terrific museums and multicultural areas like Chinatown. Meanwhile, sports enthusiasts flock here during the NFL Pro Bowl. On Oahu you will enjoy the best shopping, cuisine, beaches, and nighttime entertainment, but also the trademark beaches, hiking, snorkeling, and surfing that Hawaii has to offer.