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Home to the state capital of Honolulu, the iconic stretch of Waikiki Beach, the somber history of the Pearl Harbor Memorial, and the awe-inspiring power of North Shore breaks, Oahu remains a popular destination on the Hawaiian Islands.
The most populated of the islands, Oahu still retains much of Hawaii’s traditional culture and iconic tropical beauty while also being the epicenter of new local talent and culture. Shopping options are numerous, the dining scene perpetually evolving. Oahu’s diversity, combined with the island’s laid-back attitude and more than enough majestic natural beauty, makes this a getaway destination where you can still feel connected to the world.
Flying into Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) offers a convenient entry point, with numerous airlines servicing travel to and from Oahu. Downtown Honolulu is just a 10-minute trip from the airport, so whether you’re jumping into a taxi, hailing a rideshare service (located on the second level), or renting a car, you’ll find arrival a fairly painless process.
The island of Oahu has a multitude of bus tours that deliver visitors inland and along the coast, but a rental car is highly recommended, because it permits a greater deal of flexibility to explore beyond the city limits of Honolulu.
Most of Oahu is graced with pleasant temperatures that have made the Hawaiian Islands the definition of paradise, typically hovering between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The western Leeward Coast is drier, while the greener Windward Coast on the eastern side receives more precipitation. Waikiki is mostly dry and sunny, but the sudden appearance of intermittent drizzle or light rain is not uncommon, so bringing a lightweight jacket while exploring the island is never a bad idea.
Besides the highly developed strip of Waikiki Beach, there’s no more iconic site on Oahu than the 300,000-year-old Diamond Head volcanic cone standing over the city. The park’s small fee (for Hawaii nonresidents) allows visitors to trek up scenic trails and a series of stairs along the exterior slope of the crater, rising to a panoramic view of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean below. The journey up can become crowded, so plan to arrive early before the tour buses, and remember to bring cash for the walk-in entry fee.
A short boat ride brings visitors from the shore right up to the remnants of the USS Arizona, the site where 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines perished during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. This place of solemn remembrance which includes the USS Arizona Memorial program, the visitor center, and museums, is free to all visitors.
In winter the Banzai Pipeline (or Pipe, as it’s colloquially known) along the island’s North Shore regularly produces titanic waves that break to form equally epic tubes for surfers to brave. Even if you’re not a fan of surfing, the majestic power of these waves is sure to impress.