A travel guide to Oahu island
America’s 50th state, Hawaii sits nearly 2,500 miles away from California, and in some ways, feels even farther away when you arrive. Oahu is the state’s third largest island, yet it is home to more than half of Hawaii’s population.
Home to some of the world’s most stunning beaches, Oahu is a tourist paradise that provides guests with surfing, luau parties and rugged landscape. The island doesn’t just house amazing beaches, but world-class attractions such as Pearl Harbor are also located on Oahu as well.
Although many would see Hawaii as a destination that doesn’t fit into the budget traveller’s price range, it can, if you plan wisely.
It may be only the 10th most visited American state, but Hawaii is a place that provides more beach and relaxation than any of its contemporaries. Stretch your legs, walk the sands and say hello to The Aloha State.
Hawaii and Oahu have their roots firmly in Polynesian culture. The Polynesian people sailed from Oceania east toward Hawaii where they settled. These settlers on Oahu set up houses and over the years developed their own distinct culture based on the Polynesian traditions. Religion, food and art were all formed by these settlers on the island of Oahu; and much of it can still be seen or eaten today.
When sailors and other settlers landed on Hawaii, they added elements of their own culture. These items joined the native Hawaiians’ way of life and was integrated to form what you see now.
There are still numerous ways to see traditional Hawaiian culture when visiting Oahu, and often there are shows and other events that exhibit it. From luau parties to dance exhibitions, it is likely you will see Hawaiian culture up close when visiting the islands.
Places to visit on Oahu
Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii, and is located on Oahu. It is in Honolulu that you will find one of – if not the – most famous beach in the world: Waikiki. The beach is picture perfect with clear blue waters that lap up against golden sands dotted with palm trees. One cannot think of Hawaii without the image of
Waikiki’s beaches coming to mind. The beaches aren’t the only thing to see at Waikiki, however. Kapiolani Park is a beautiful green space that contains the city’s zoo and aquarium. There are also areas for sport and exercise in the park.
Hanauma is one of Oahu’s most popular tourist attractions. The beach is everything you would expect from a Hawaiian beach locale. But it is the marine life that lives in the bay that really makes Hanauma stand out. The entire area is great for snorkelling, which allows you to see the amazing marine life. However, the local hills and forest are also great for hiking.
Oahu’s North Shore is a surfer’s paradise. If you want to catch massive waves and ride the current into the Hawaiian beach, then you need to get to Oahu’s North Shore. Perhaps one of the best things about the North Shore is the accommodation. Sure, there are a few big hotels, but you can stay in hostels and guesthouses on the North Shore with no problem, and save yourself some cash.
Although Hawaii’s cuisine is now heavily influenced by mainland America, the state does still enjoy many of its traditional foods. Many of the traditional Hawaiian foods people eat where brought to the area by Polynesians. These foods are still as vibrant, colourful and delicious as they were when they arrived.
Poi is the most famous food you will find on Oahu. The thick paste is made from taro root baked and then pounded. Water is added to give it a yoghurt-like appearance.
Another favourite that also sees the use of taro is laulau. The dish is simple: pork meat wrapped in taro leaves and then cooked underground. Nothing is more Hawaiian than this dinner meal.
What to see?
A trip to Oahu wouldn’t be complete without visiting Pearl Harbor. The most famous of all United States military bases, Pearl Harbor was immortalised when the Japanese bombed it in 1941, drawing the US into World War II. Visitors can tour the USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri while visiting
the harbour. If you love military history, check out the US Army Museum of Hawaii for its great WWII and Vietnam War items.
Diamond Head Crater is another of the iconic Hawaiian sites that is a must-see. The extinct volcano is not only a symbol of the city of Waikiki, but it is home to numerous hiking trails.
Iolani Palace, completed in 1882 for King Kalakaua, is a beautiful neo-classical structure that amazes visitors. Guests can take a tour through the palace and see the former royal family’s residency. It took a mere 11 years for American settlers to overthrow the monarchy, and once that was done, the building became the official state capital for some time.
If you are looking for more greenspace to explore, head to Foster Botanical Garden. Opened in 1853, the gardens are another gorgeous escape for travellers looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the main street drag. It is also a great spot to grab some shade after a morning at the beach. Run, walk or hike through the garden to see flora unique to Oahu.
Many have declare Oahu as Hawaii’s nightlife centre. It is hard to argue with these claims as Honolulu and Waikiki possess some amazing bars, restaurants and nightclubs pulsating with life. Honolulu has a number of great venues and it is easy to find live music from local bands emanating from them. Whether it is modern radio rock tracks to more traditional Hawaiian beats, music is often found in these Oahu hotspots.
Along with local music to go with cocktails, some of Honolulu’s areas – such as Chinatown – offer great art evenings. From local museums to artisan shops, you can stroll around during these art evenings to view great local works. Add in a meal and a few drinks at a local bar, and you have the makings of a great Hawaiian night. You may even find a spot on the beach and search for shooting stars. The Aloha State is a perfect place to find a great budget holiday in a tropical paradise.