Oahu, whether blanketed in full sunshine, softly illuminated under a vibrant sunset, or sparkling beneath a star-filled sky, is the picture of paradise. Almost all Hawaiian visitors fly into the Honolulu Airport continuing on to the other islands of Maui, Kauai and Big Island on an interisland flight. An aerial view of the island near Honolulu is dominated by hundreds of sky-high hotels lining famous Waikiki Beach, the most popular tourist center in Hawaii. The white sand beaches and excellent shopping opportunities are the main focus during a visit to Waikiki.
Honolulu has plenty to offer travelers aside from the celebrated beach and shopping areas. Many of the best Oahu attractions are found in and around the city and definitely deserve a look. The most predominant attractions is Diamond Head Crater, an unmistakable landmark seen from Waikiki Beach. At the top of the list for many visitors is a tour of Pearl Harbor where dual waves of attacks took the lives of thousands during WWII. Hanauma Bay is another of the stunning natural attractions near Honolulu enticing those interested in Oahu snorkeling adventures, swimming and many fun water sports.
The bulk of luxurious Oahu resorts are found along Waikiki Beach (one of the iconic subjects of Oahu beach pictures) as well as many affordable hotels and a wide variety of restaurants and shops. The Bishop Museum offers a wealth of cultural and natural history about Oahu and displays numerous permanent and traveling exhibits covering local native artwork, science displays and much more. Sea Life Park is a favorite of families and grants many opportunities to interact with Oahu wildlife such as dolphins, monk seals and many other fascinating marine animals.
A ride along the west coast of Oahu highlights the less developed Leeward side of Oahu, home to the Ko Olina Resort & Marina, Nanakuli Beach Park, the Makaha Resort and Golf Club and Makaha Beach. Makaha Beach is the best Oahu surfing spot on the west coast. It's a great place to watch surfers master monster waves crashing into the shore. The Aloha Flea Market is one of the best places to shop for local arts and crafts, Hawaiian souvenirs, jewelry and many other items. It's also a great place to try traditional Hawaiian eats. The west is also home to the highly acclaimed Paradise Cove, known as much for it's beauty as it is for featuring one of the best Oahu luaus on the island.
The North Shore is the true model for Oahu's rugged and pristine natural allure. It's the prime Oahu surfing area, presenting the ultimate surfing conditions in the winter months, attracting thousands annually for world class surfing competitions. Banzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach and Waimea Bay are among the numerous northern Oahu beaches that feature colossal waves and big breaks. The North Shore is also known for much more then just surfing.
The North Shore is one of the most popular areas for Oahu helicopter rides, taking visitors to new heights to experience the true beauty of an often unseen side of the island. Aerial views are magnificent and display many untouched parts of Oahu, meandering mountain ridges, lush valleys and abundant rainforests. The Polynesian Cultural Center is one of the biggest attractions away from the coastal region and is an excellent place to learn more about Hawaii's many fascinating customs and traditions. Renowned Turtle Bay Resort is situated along the North Shore and due south of the central coastline is the Dole Plantation, site of the famous pineapple factory.
Oahu's East Shore is more commonly referred to as the Windward Coast and is known for its striking tropical beaches favored by windsurfers and sailors. The east is home to Kualoa Regional Park, Kailua Beach Park and Makapu`u Beach Park which is known for its big surf and ferocious shore break. The east coast beaches are some of the most beautiful on Oahu and much less crowded than the southern beaches.
The best way to get around the many interesting areas of the island is by rental car. Visitors who opt out of a car can experience many attractions through a myriad of affordable Oahu tours. To experience the exceptional ecology and geography of the island, Oahu nature tours are the best choice. The most efficient way to get around the Waikiki area is via foot or public transit. The Waikiki trolley offers three lines all stopping at the most popular tourist attractions. When driving, avoid Honolulu during rush hour at all costs as the city becomes complete mayhem revealing the only undesirable side of Oahu!