Intro to Hawai'i
Hawaii Travel Guide
Best Places to Visit in Oahu
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tropical vacation paradise, is the most popular and well known of the
Hawai'ian Islands. While we think every visitor to the Islands should see
Oahu, we recommend that you also plan to spend some time in Maui or the Big
Island to experience what some call the “real” Hawai'i. Perhaps more to
the point, Hawai'i is a great place for those seeking to get away but,
perhaps, not to get away from everything. Honolulu is the Capital of
Hawai'i and is the state's business center. Oahu is the most urban of
the islands and that means it is just a little less paradise than some
On the other hand, Oahu offers a wide variety of attractions and we cover the best of these in our Oahu Guide. The island’s principal attraction is its beaches and everyone who visits Oahu focuses their plans on sunbathing, swimming and generally lazing about – after all, it is the tropics! The more adventurous will play golf, go snorkeling, surf or windsurf, but almost everyone prefers to find an outdoor activity that takes advantage of Oahu’s delightful climate.
Our recommendation for the Best Places to Visit in Oahu cover the Island’s leading attractions. There are only a few attractions in Oahu that are “must see”, but there are a number of things to do that are fun, pleasant and unique to this island or the Hawai'ian culture.
We have created a new set of maps showing the best places to visit on Oahu. Clicking on the map symbol next to the text will show you the location of the attraction on a detailed map of Oahu. The base maps are from Google and we overlay them with our recommended attractions. The maps include satellite imagery that can be used to see more surface detail than portrayed on a map. In addition, you can route between the locations on the maps. We find this feature useful in determining the distances and travel times between locations.
Best Places to Visit in Waikiki
World War II Memorials
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Waikiki looking south towards Diamond Head
Waikiki at one time referred to a relatively small area of luxury beach resorts. Developed by the steamship lines and the original “Big Five” companies that “controlled Hawai'i”, Waikiki was set-up near the port of Honolulu to attract cruisers sailing on the era’s luxury liners (and to help develop the tourism industry of Hawai'i). Today, while close to something less than an extravaganza, Waikiki has expanded while evolving into a vacation area of international renown that offers all of the amenities that one could hope for in a resort area.
Waikiki is a beach resort area located on the western side of Oahu, south of Pearl Harbor and about ten miles south of the Honolulu airport. The Hilton Hawai'ian Village next to the Kahanamoku Lagoon marks the north end of tourist Waikiki and Diamond Head mark the southern extent. The western edge of Waikiki is two and half miles of beautiful white sand beaches that nestle against the Pacific Ocean. From the Hilton Hawai'ian Village south, along Waikiki’s beautiful beaches, the area is densely packed with hotels that begin to thin near Kapahula Ave and Kapiolani Park. Waikiki is bounded by the Ala Wai Canal on the east. Stretching from both ends of Waikiki is a series of parks, conceived as a 'Lei of Green' that may not live up to its name, but you can get to the shore fee-free all along this part of the city's waterfront.
What makes Waikiki Special?
Waikiki’s beaches are peaceful and the waters of the Pacific here are warm, making them great for swimming and recreational use. Surfing, windsurfing, stand-up paddle boarding and sea kayaking entice many. This is a great place to learn technique, although other locations in Oahu offer more challenging conditions.
Many of the larger hotels are mini-cities that feature multiple restaurants with diverse cuisines. When you tire of hotel fare, the Waikiki area offers a variety of restaurants within walking distance of the hotels. If your are worried that you might see menus filled with rice and fish items, don’t be concerned as most restaurants serve all types of cuisine, including international and Hawai'ian fare. When the hotel restaurants don’t meet your needs, just take a short walk and you will find most of the “chain” restaurants you can find most anywhere in the U.S.
Waikiki has an active nightclub scene, so if you like dining, dancing and a
little drinking, there will be no shortage of opportunities for fun. If
you need a place to get started, try Duke's Canoe Club Restaurant and Bar (the
Barefoot Bar) located at the Outrigger Waikiki Hotel (2335 Kalakaua Avenue
Finally, you can visit nearby islands in the Hawai'ian chain, on day trips, but these will be all-day trips.
Where to Stay?
Resort properties range from the cozy and affordable to the spectacular and extremely expensive. Some of the properties are small while others, like the Hilton Hawai'ian Village , are spectacles, but comfortable, entertaining and worthy of an exploration, Undoubtedly there will be a hotel , resort or a condominium rental that appeals to you. The only advice we give here is that you should stay in Waikiki on your first visit to Oahu. Of course, if you do, you may come back again and again.
What Should We See In Waikiki?
You've been working too hard! Hit the beach, rent a float, eat great
food, but along the way take time to tour some of the classic hotels
Waikiki looking north - The pink building is the Royal Hawai'ian Hotel
If you are in the mood to “take a dive” but don’t want to get your feet wet, we recommend that you consider a ride on the Atlantis Submarine that features views of tropical fish, underwater shipwrecks, sunken airplanes and artificial reefs. The Atlantis submarine that operates out of Waikiki seats 64 and is 100 feet in length. It features large viewports for panoramic undersea views and descends to a maximum depth of approximately 100 feet.
Kid must be at least 36 inches tall to ride the submarine. All riders must be able to descend a near vertical ladder to ride the submarine.
The trip is about 90 minutes in length. It starts with a cruise out to the submarine, followed by an exciting underwater descent. Time is evenly split with 45 minutes on the submarine and the rest being shuttled to and from the Atlantis dock, located beach side of the Hilton Hawai'ian Village. Guests must check-in at the Atlantis Submarines ticket booth located at the Hilton Hawai'ian Village's Ali'i Tower, next to the Tropics Café.
The ride is pricey but very interesting. Atlantis and variety of outlets sell tickets online and you may find a discount available at the official website or click on the Atlantis offer from Viator, below.
At the east end of Waikiki is Diamond Head
Diamond Head, a volcanic cone, is Oahu's signature icon
Open 6am to 6 pm.
Diamond Head, the most well known icon for Oahu, is more attractive from a distance than up close. Diamond Head is a volcanic cone comprised of tuff, a volcanic rock formed of extremely small volcanic fragments that resulted from a volcanic eruption. The tuff settled, compacted and solidified surrounding its volcanic vent. Diamond Head is thought to have formed during an eruption approximately three hundred thousand years ago. The southwestern rim of Diamond Head is higher than the rest of the cone due to the prevailing winds redistributing the ejecta of the eruption. Since that time, erosion by wind and water has cut gullies into the cone, but it remains today looking much like it was in the past.
In the 18th century, explorers thought the reflection of the sun off the minerals embedded in the volcanic cone were diamonds and the area was given the name Diamond Head. Due to its strategic location, Diamond Head was purchased by the United States Department of Defense early in the 20th century and fortified over the following years.
The Kahala Tunnel runs through the south side of the cone and into the crater. There is a parking lot and a trail to the summit that rewards hikers with a panoramic view of Waikiki and the Pacific.
The hike to the rim from the floor of the cone is less than a mile long, but the majority of the hike is vertical. In addition, Diamond Head is a hot environment with little shade, so bring plenty of water for the ascent. Unless you are in good shape, you might want to skip the ascent, as it is quite a workout!. Also, take a flashlight, as you will pass through long, dark tunnels to overlooks that once served artillery fire control stations (spotters) on Diamond Head. If you do take the hike, please stay on the trail and help protect the fragile environment from further erosion.
For more Information about Diamond Head State Monument, see the official website.
What else does Oahu Offer?
If you need information about another travel destination, try our Destination Guide Index or Googling ThereArePlaces.
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