Learn about Oahu, Hawaii, by
reading Hawaii - Touring the
Island of Oahu by Amy Bednarcik, WTA Staff Member. It
features a mini, but thorough tour of the destination, plus all
you'll need to know to plan your trip including how to get there,
objective information on places to stay and eat, and things to do.
At the end of the article, we've provided a summary of the contact
information for your easy reference. Enjoy!
Hawaii - Touring the Island of Oahu
by Amy Bednarcik, WTA Staff Member
A view of Honolulu
and the Island of Oahu from the top of Diamond Head
early days of flight, the 2090 miles from San Francisco to Honolulu were
among aviation's greatest challenges, the longest unbroken stretch of open
ocean between any two points on earth. Pan Am's giant flying boats began
carrying passengers - just eight at a time - from Alameda in Oakland Bay
to Pearl Harbor on Oahu in 1935. Today almost everyone arrives by air,
mostly on American, United and Continental.
is high season in Hawaii, even though the weather can be warm and humid.
Winter gets more rain, but it's also the season to see more whales and
other migratory denizens of the sea. And while summer waters are more
placid, winter is the time to surf the Banzai Pipeline, the curling,
30-foot waves made famous by the film,
The Endless Summer. Any time of year, Hawaii is sure to be
Beach on the North Shore of Oahu in the summertime.
It’s anything but tranquil during the winter and Banzai Pipeline season
husband Mike and I went out for three weeks in August, not nearly enough
time to see everything in a chain that reaches from the Big Island to
once-strategic Midway, 1500 miles to the west. But, we did our best,
visiting Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island of Hawaii (read Touring the
Outer Islands of Hawaii article at
for an account of our visits to these islands).
most of our time on Oahu. We have friends with the Army who live in
Honolulu, "the world's most remote city" which is the population and
commercial epicenter of the chain. There are so many people in its
immediate environs - from Diamond Head to Waikiki and around Pearl Harbor
- one can barely walk between the houses.
offers some wonderful attractions, though - gorgeous beaches, great
stores, hotels and restaurants, spectacular sightseeing and every kind of
activity. You can paddle an outrigger canoe, surf, swim, golf, sail, fish,
windsurf, run, ride horseback, dive, snorkel, ride a bike or go kayaking,
all in this small corner of the island.
ocean wasn't quite as warm as we expected, but still in the 70's, and the
bluest blue. We saw sandy beaches of every color: black, green, and
brown. The black beaches are soft volcanic ash, not coarse lava with a
risk of cutting or abrasion. White beaches are almost everywhere, but
some are on such rugged coastline they are accessible to most only by
helicopter or boat.
had the luxury of our own personal tour guides and transportation (through
our friends), there are other easy ways to get almost everywhere,
including many excellent tour bus services. Honolulu and Oahu are both
fairly easy to navigate. Honolulu possesses a busy city center. Expect
heavy traffic in and around the city. There are numerous highways around
Honolulu and the island that makes navigation easy.
total island of Oahu is less than 600 square miles, perhaps three times
bigger than Martha's Vineyard, but infinitely more varied. Partly due to
the topography, which like most of the Hawaiian Islands is seriously
vertical inland and around much of the perimeter, it's easy to feel
suddenly very remote and rural at a turning of the road, and many of
Oahu's quaint towns reflect that sense of isolation.
islands have a windward and leeward side, and the windward side gets more
rain. On a mountainous island like Oahu, that sometimes means you can
drive in 15 minutes from a beautiful sunny day into a gray, murky, misty
one, and then back out again.
far the most commercial and congested of all of the Hawaii islands, there
are many attractions to visit. High on the list is the moving and
impressive Arizona Memorial right in Pearl Harbor. Just around the
island's southeast corner is Hanauma Bay, a marine preserve in a volcanic
crater famed for its snorkeling. And the gorgeous North Shore, site of the
world's largest ocean waves in wintertime, includes famed Sunset Beach,
and the excellent golf courses at Turtle Bay Kuilima.
kind of island attraction, especially for diners, dancers, and crossword
puzzle lovers, is the luau. Oahu offers several that are world class,
especially the one at Paradise Cove. At $60-80 per person, they aren't
cheap, but that includes entertainment and dinner, and it's worth every
always possible, when traveling to popular tourism destinations, to find
places or things that allow you to make them all your own. We were lucky
in finding one such location across the street from Waikiki Beach. The
Hyatt Regency Hotel overlooks the beach and surf, and its elevated outdoor
terrace bar turned out to be a great place for a quiet drink before
dinner, especially on a Friday night. Unlike most other beach hotels,
there's no cover charge and none of the usual pressure to keep ordering
(most bars require a two drink minimum). Plus, it features local Hawaiian
talent. Waikiki faces southwest, scene of all the best celestial action at
sunset, and from this vantage the view also includes the famous, elegant,
and surprisingly intimate Royal Hawaiian Hotel right down the beach.
memorable take is Diamond Head, the extinct volcano forming the promontory
at the beach's southeast end. It's a National Park, open from 6 to 6, and
you'll want to go early because it gets very crowded and hot, especially
in summer. It's a rigorous and at times narrow walk over dirt, boulders
and ancient lava flow - literally up the side of the volcano (including
170 stairs to climb!) - so take water, a flashlight (you walk into the
side of the mountain at times so it gets very dark), and a $1 entry fee
snorkeling, Hanauma Bay is a popular spot. There is an entry fee of $3 per
person, reasonable but a sore point with native Hawaiians like our
hostess, who grew up in an era when all the islands' natural delights were
free. Snorkeling gear runs $6 per person, and the reefs truly do offer
great snorkeling. If you're content to just sit in the shallow water, you
won't need the gear to see incredible reef fish of every stripe and hue,
flitting tamely in and out of your limbs. Be sure to get there early as it
gets very crowded and they will stop entry if they reach capacity. Be
prepared for a lengthy and steep walk down to the beach (and back up at
the end of the day!) so keep this in mind with what gear you take to the
beach (there is a tram you can take at a $1 per person, too, if you're not
up for the walk.)
way from Hanauma Bay, drive southeast for about 2 miles on Kalanianaole
Highway and visit Sandy Beach Park. The waves are great for surfing and
boogie boards, and with its steady breeze, is perfect for kite flying.
About 1 mile before the park, is the Halona Blowhole where we watched
swimmers sit next to the blowhole and as the surf comes in, the water
blows up through a small hole in the rocks, pushing them up and out into
the surf. Looked like fun, but tricky.
place to drive through is the public area of Bellows Air Force base and
Waimanalo. The base’s beach, Bellows Beach, has some of the most beautiful
sand and surf in the world and many native Hawaiians live in Waimanalo - a
unique snapshot of native Hawaii.
A view of the USS
Arizona Memorial from the deck of the USS Missouri
The USS Arizona Memorial is among
the most visited sites, and deservedly one of the most famous. It is open
7:30 - 5:00 year round, except major holidays, with the last tour starting
at 3:00. The 90-minute tour is free, and highly recommended. It starts
with a 22-minute movie (again, the key is to go early, or else the wait to
see the movie can be up to 90 minutes), then you board a ferry for a
15-minute visit to the shallow grave of the sunken battleship. Even if you
were born long after World War II, looking at the wall of names of the 900
men who died with the great ship and realizing they lie entombed below
your feet is a compelling and unforgettable experience.
battleship, USS Missouri,
which fared much better in the Pacific War, is now also open to the
public. Owned by a private foundation that charges a $14 fee, and
accessible by tram from the Arizona,
the Mighty Mo's surrender deck displays the documents that put an
unconditional end to World War II. The two ships are near enough to
include both in the same picture, with the wartime home of the High
Commander of the Pacific just behind the Arizona.
hour north of Honolulu is Haleiwa, a terrific quaint Hawaiian town. On
your way here you'll see the Hawaiian countryside with its pineapple
fields. To or from, you can stop at the Dole Pineapple Pavilion for a
tour. We breakfasted at the Haleiwa Cafe that offers great food and prices
and is a real surfers haven. Walk around town and be sure to stop into the
Wyland Art Gallery. You've probably seen Wyland's work if you’ve seen any
of his life-like whale murals in cities across the U.S. When you're ready
for a break, stop in at Matsumoto's Store for a shaved Ice - a real treat.
Outside of Haleiwa is the famed Sunset Beach, home of the Banzai Pipeline
mentioned earlier - well worth the visit.
you're looking to spend a day at the beach, you can go to Waikiki Beach in
Honolulu. Or, about 30 minutes east of Honolulu is Kailua Beach Park. It's
on the windward side of Oahu with beautiful sand and calm water. You can
rent outriggers and kayaks and paddle out to a reef.
the famous word of welcome and farewell, and Mahalo is thank you.
Hawaiians love tourists, and the island hospitality is deservedly a
legend. You'll hear both of these words everywhere. And you'll say them
both when it's time to leave.
Airfare can be expensive depending upon
time of year and the economy. Shop for airfare sales - this is where a
travel agent comes in handy or use
WTA's Travel Booking Service. American, Continental, and United offer
good options and routes.
Where to Stay
There are a number of hotels and
resorts throughout Oahu. Since we stayed with our friends, we didn't stay
in any of them, but utilize travel guides like Fodor's for good
recommendations, then use
WTA's Travel Booking Service to check hotel rates and make
Where to Eat
Haleiwa is a small town, so you won’t miss either of these two eateries!
A bus picks you up from one of six or so Waikiki hotels to a remote,
picturesque spot 25 miles or so out of Waikiki. Reservations are a must
and expect a huge crowd – 1,000 or more! Luau starts at 5:30 p.m. daily.
$60-80 per person.
locals for recommendations of other places to eat.
When to Go
Spring and fall offer the best weather
with warm days (70s and 80s) and nights without the humidity. Summer is
nice without much precipitation, but humidity and higher temps are to be
expected. Winter is the rainy season and usually much cooler, but the
migratory animals are present in Hawaiian waters and the surf is very
active and dramatic versus other times of the year.
A rental car is recommended (use
WTA's Travel Booking Service). Other options include tour companies
such as Polynesian Adventure Tours (808-833-3000), E Noa Tours
(800-824-8804), Home of the Brave Tour (808-391-8112), Honolulu Time Walks
(walking tour – 808-943-0371), Chinatown Walking Tour (808-533-3181), Old
Trains of Hawaii (808-681-5461), or use the Waikiki Trolley
Expect the price of most goods and
services to be higher than what you pay on the U.S. mainland, mainly
because Hawaii has to import much of their products. Gas, food, lodging,
and clothing are especially high.
USS Arizona Memorial
7:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (last tour at 3:00); open year round except for
major holidays; free
$14 for adults; can take a self-guided or paid tour of ship; can take a
tram from the Arizona Memorial parking area that runs every 15 minutes.
7455 Kalaniana’ole Hwy
$3 per person; $6 per person for snorkeling gear
64-1550 Kamehameha Hwy
Open daily from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Free
Head National Park
Open daily 6 a.m. – 6 p.m.; $1 per person
Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau
information is current as of August 2000. It is recommended that you
contact the numbers and/or visit the web sites to determine any changes to