A glittering metropolis, bodacious waves, ancient heiau (temples)—like the Koolau Mountain mists , which transforms sunlight into rainbows, Oahu refracts the Hawaiian experience into an extravaganza of sights, sounds, and pleasures.
This may be the most famous – and action packed—beach in the world. Just over a century ago, only Hawaiian alii (royalty) could cavort in these bathtub-warm, rockaby gentle wavelets. Today, surfside frolics remain center stage. One activity you shouldn’t miss in Waikiki is the outrigger canoe ride, offered by various water sports concessions along the beachfront. It’s absolutely exhilarating!
If you prefer to ride the waves of fashion, head
For a change of pace, head to Kapiolani Park. Jog under the monkey pod and royal Poinciana trees, or fly a kite. The park is also home to Honolulu’s leading attractions, the colorful Kodak Hula Show. Performances are given regularly and admission is free!
If you love to hike, call the Hawaii Nature Center and ask about their guided weekend expeditions to various trails across the island. For visitors, it’s the best way to explore marvelous places such as the Manoa Cliffs, zigzagging through groves of koa and kukui-nut trees to thickets of white ginger—all this just 15 minutes from Waikiki.
Contrary to popular beliefs, Waikiki and downtown Honolulu are not one and the same. Downtown—or “town” as residents call it—you’ll find a montage of old and new: sky-high office towers and Chinatown alleys hemmed by lei makers, open-air markets, and herbalists.
Honolulu also comprises Hawaii’s historic heart and soul. Built for King David Kalaku, Hawaii’s “Merrie Monarch,” Iolani Palace is the only Royal Residence on American soil.
After touring, you may head to the waterfront and the Hawaii Maritime Center, where you can board the Falls of Clyd; the world’s only surviving four-masted, full-rigged ship. From adjacent Aloha Tower, you’ll have a lovely panorama of Honolulu harbor. Then explore Aloha Tower Marketplace, a shopping and dining complex.
A somber reminder of history awaits at the nearby U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, which commemorates the victims of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Visitors shuttle by boat tothe memorial, which spans the sunken vessel lying only eight feet below the surface.
Around the island
Just 15 minutes from Waikiki, you’ll encounter another world. Windward (eastern) Oahu is characterized by thickets of mango and guava trees, waterfalls, secluded beaches and the striated ridges of the Koolau Mountains. You’ll also find some of Oahu’s most popular attractions here, including Sea Life Park, Senator Fong’s Plantation Gardens and blue-emerald Hanauma Bay, where friendly fish eat right out of your hands. Arrive early—crowds “outschool” the fish after 10 a.m.
Learn about the different cultures that contributed to the Hawaiian melting pot at the Polynesian Cultural Center, where you can tour re-created villages of seven South Pacific nations. Then, rediscover Eden at Waimea Falls, a steep-cliffed valley etched with lily ponds, bamboo-shaded glens and a 45-foot-tall cascade.
Continue along the north shore and watch the experts surf at Banzai Pipeline and nearby Sunset Beach: 30-foot monster waves often roller coaster to shore in winter. Soothe the adrenaline rush with a shave ice (similar to snow cone) from Matsumoto’s in the new-age surfer town of Haleiwa.
Back in Waikiki, you’ll have one of the best sunset views aboard a cocktail/ dinner sail. The classiest dinner voyage is aboard the sleek Navatek I, with a unique twin-hull design that assures stability. In addition to a five-course meal, there’s a lively floor show.
On another day, you might head west coast, where you can watch surfers at Makaha Beach or swim at Pokai Beach Park. Ready for some pampering? Massages, hydrotherapy, and other treatments, as well as fitness and relaxation programs beckon at the resorts and spas. Come evening, make plans to join the Paradise Cove Luau on the neighboring beach. In addition to a traditional feast, you can learn to string a lei and dance the hula.