OAHU - THE HEART OF HAWAII
Home to Waikiki, Pearl Harbor and the North Shore, its no surprise that Oahu is the most visited of the Hawaiian Islands. If you are travelling to Hawaii for the first time, we suggest staying on Oahu and exploring all there is to offer, there are literally thousands of things to see, do and eat here. For return visitors who want to see more of the islands, we still suggest taking some time out on Oahu at the start or end of your trip, there are always new things to do and you cant go past Oahu's shopping and dining options.
Oahu has a couple of main tourist regions that are very different to one another. From the high energy Waikiki to the laid back North Shore, over to the newly emerging Ko Olina for Disney's Aulani and 5 star luxury, there is something for everyone on Oahu.
The Island is relatively small, you can drive around the whole island in a day, this makes it really easy to get out an explore and still spend time relaxing on the beach.
The main tourist area of Oahu, and really the entire Hawaiian Islands, Waikiki makes a great base for first time visitors and those who want to explore the entire island.
Waikiki is busy! But don't mistake that for lacking in culture or relaxation opportunities. There are an abundance of things to see and do in Waikiki, all within walking distance, and a lot of the time they are free or low cost.
One of our favorite things to do is walk towards Diamond Head to find beaches that people often don't venture to, only a few minutes down the beach from Waikiki proper. Or walk towards Ala Moana beach park, again, to a quiet (and often empty) beach.
There is the Waikiki Aquarium, Hula competitions at the Royal Hawaiian shopping centre and on the hula mound at Kuhio beach. The Honolulu zoo is a fun day for the family and has lots of indigenous animals on display. There are shopping and food options for all budgets and great nightlife including bars right on the beach, often with live Hawaiian music.
There are day spas in most of the hotels, all of which offer traditional Hawaiian treatments including the famous Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage.
Stretching across more than 11km of shoreline, the North Shore of Oahu is home to some of the worlds best beaches including the Banzai Pipeline and the world famous Waimea Bay. In the winter, between November and February, you can find some of the biggest surf in the world. Best left to the processionals, the various surfing competitions draw massive crowds but the beaches are still great places to sunbathe and stroll along the shore. In the Summer the waves a much tamer and great for beginner surfers.
Located a little more than hour from Waikiki (nothing is really more than an hour away on Oahu) is the town of Haleiwa, the main town on the North Shore. Haleiwa is quintessential Hawaii 'country' with small shops and restaurants, surf camps and road side food trucks.
Turtle Bay resort is the only real 'resort' on the North Shore and offers a range of accommodation options including renting at the privately owned Turtle Bay Villas. There are also lots of holiday rental options as well as a couple of small privately owned hotels like Ke Iki Beach Bungalows located directly on the beach.
There is also the Polynesian Cultural center, where you can spend the day exploring the rich heritage of the Pacific Islands. Set on 42 acres of tropical gardens there are 6 different 'lands' to visit and enjoy, each offering cuisine and traditional hands-on activities. Dine like royalty at an authentic Polynesian luau and top it off with a wonderful evening show.
KO OLINA / KAPOLEI
Ko Olina is the newest resort destination on Oahu and is home to Disney's Aulani Hotel and Resort as well as the Four Seasons Ko Olina. There is also the Ko Olina Beach Resort made up of lots of vacation rental units.
Ko Olina is known for its beautiful lagoons that are often home to turtles and sea lions and its magnificent sunsets and makes a great place for a family to spend some time away from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki. It also makes a great mid way point to be able to get up to the North Shore as well as being close to Waikele Outlets.
Kapolei is located as short drive inland from Ko Olina and is home to many shops, restaurants and amenities including Costco and Target.
Oahu has an abundance of things to explore for every type of traveler. Well known sites such as Pearl Harbor are a must do for all visitors, as is the North Shore. But there are plenty of not so well known things to see and do throughout Oahu, that both the first time visitor and the seasoned traveler will enjoy.