Captain Cook’s arrival at Kealakekua Bay in Hawaiʻi Island in 1778 ended Hawaiians’ isolation from the Western hemisphere. Meanwhile, warring factions among kings across the Islands ceased in 1810 with the reign of King Kamehameha the Great, whose strength, intelligence and military prowess unified the islands as one nation, officially giving Hawai‘i international recognition as a kingdom, and later establishing Oʻahu as its central place of government. Today, O‘ahu is the cosmopolitan mecca of the island chain, while also retaining its title as the sun-and-fun capital of the Pacific. Surrounded by tropical flora and warm smiles, the island lives up to its reputation as the “Gathering Place.”
Like all of Hawaiʻi, Oʻahu’s plantation history helped define the melting pot of cultures found across the island: Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Filipinos and Koreans are all well-represented, each sharing a part of their respective traditions to make this place one of the most diverse and multi-ethnic communities in the U.S. Annual festivals take place to recognize these groups, celebrating their people, arts and food. We have Chinatown. We have K-Town, stretching north to south on Ke‘eaumoku Street. We have large pockets of mini Manilas in Waipahu and Kalihi. And everywhere in between, we have native Hawaiians, Micronesians and ex-pat Europeans who live in various neighborhoods, from East Oʻahu to the North Shore.
Any short list of “must-sees” is highly subjective. However, some of our favorites include the expanse of Honolulu from Round Top Drive on Tantalus; the North Shore, whether the surf is up or not; the towering sea cliffs from Hanauma Bay to Sandy Beach; the windward coast as we round Makapuʻu Point; the Koʻolau Mountains as seen from anywhere between Waimanalo and Kahaluʻu; the Pali Lookout where hundreds of warriors leapt to their death during the Battle of Nuʻuanu in 1795; and three truly special attractions: the Bishop Museum, ʻIolani Palace and King Kamehameha Statue. Of course, there are beaches: Waimanalo Bay, Kailua, Lanikai, Makaha, Makapuʻu, Sandy’s and Waikiki.
Spanning 44 miles long and 30 miles across, the island’s contrasting geography ranges from scenic coastlines and dense forests to award-winning beaches and a natural ocean preserve. Seen from miles away, Koko Head Crater is one of East Oʻahu’s most distinguished landmarks. Nearby is Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, a crescent-shaped bay that was declared a protected marine life conservation area in 1967. Kaimuki is the neighborhood that everyone loves: easily accessible, not too rural and not too developed. Gastronomically, it has more restaurants and cafés per capita than most neighborhoods. Windward beaches (Waimanalo to Kailua) rank among the best in the world. And no trip to Oʻahu would be complete without a day spent on the North Shore.