Oahu Island Overview: What is Oahu Like?

Satellite image of Oahu Island, Hawaii

Oahu Island from space. Photo - NASA.

Oahu is Nice

Oahu is incredibly beautiful, and the most visited of all the Hawaiian islands. Oahu also has the most visitors. Can you say crowds? During rush hours the traffic is pretty horrible. The major highways and streets are clogged and it’s not advised to be driving around during that time. That said, there are a number of really amazing things about Oahu and you shouldn’t miss this island at least for 2-3 days of your Hawaiian vacation.

When you finally see the Hawaiian islands under your plane you’ll be thankful that someone invented guidance systems on airplanes. You’re WAY out in the Pacific. Landing on the runway that you probably won’t see until it magically appears under you is also a great way to get the blood flowing to the nervous system. Take note – that’s the most stress you’ll have for the duration of your Hawaii vacation. Hawaii eases stress – even on Oahu.

The airport is not so modern and yet serves its purpose – get you on your way. Probably you’re staying in Waikiki which is in Honolulu County. The entire island is in Honolulu county. During the trip to Waikiki you’ll see some of the worst views Oahu has to offer – you’ll drive under a multi-level highway and probably there will be some traffic. You’ll wonder if you did the right thing by paying so much to come to Hawaii. Is this what Hawaii is all about?

NO!

Waikiki

Once you’re in Waikiki you’ll see it’s a big city like any other major tourist destination beach city. It’s filled with hotels, restaurants, and shopping. Waikiki beaches are pretty safe for children but keep a close eye on them. The waves are bigger in the summer after May and very small in winter.

Waikiki is a central place to stay and from there you can get tours to anywhere on the island or to the other islands easily and for competitive prices. Nightlife too is centered in Waikiki and there are plenty of nightclubs to visit. Drinks are expensive.

What to See on Oahu?

Oahu has many things to see. Starting with driving up to see the north shore

The first stop is the Dole Pineapple plantation. It’s worth a quick stop mostly for the pineapple ice-cream they serve – awesome!

There are coffee stands lining the highway leading down to the north shore where you can buy bags of freshly ground, local coffee.

If you’re lucky and come during winter you might see 30-40 foot waves at Waimea or Sunset beaches. “Pipeline” will be much too dangerous to surf but someone might be out there anyway. There are really beautiful beaches on the north shore – and some of them without people. If you’re not into surfing – no worries, most of the places on the north shore are not surfer spots- just a few.

Haleiwa town is a small surfing town and has world-famous Matsumoto’s Shave Ice that you just have to stop by and have. You haven’t been to north shore if you haven’t had the experience.

If you drive west you’ll end up at Dillingham Air Field where you could skydive or take a glider for a spin with a professional pilot. Or, if you go east you’ll see rugged landscape and the area of Kahuku. There is a small store, Kahuku Superette, that has really amazing and fresh Ahi Poke shoyu or Ahi Poke Limu (with seaweed). Get a quarter or half pound of each and eat like true locals. It’s an addictive taste and don’t blame me if you love it and don’t ever see it again in the mainland. Ahi is tuna. Raw tuna blocks. Poke contains Maui onions, garlic, chili water, salt, scallions, and ginger mixed in and it really hits the spot.

The Polynesian Cultural Center is up that way – nearly across the street from Kahuku Superette and you might want to stop there – most tour buses do.

The northeast is the windward side – meaning it catches the brunt of the wind. The waves are usually choppy because of this, but there are some beautiful beaches in Kahana – see Chinaman’s Hat here, Kaneohe, Kailua, Bellows, Waimanolo,  Makapu’u, Sandys, and eventually Diamondhead and Waikiki again.

From here we’ll start driving again to the west, more south-west.

At the Ala Moana mall area is Ala Moana park – a large park with many trees that locals and tourists alike use for picnics and there’s even some surfing and bodyboarding during the summer months. A must see!

You’ll drive up the highway and past the airport on your left. Soon you’ll see signs for Pearl Harbor which you’ll probably want to see. It’s the reliving of history, not what you’ll see that will be so spectacular. It’s a good place to get in touch with what happened to all those soldiers and civilians that died.

Continuing west you’ll find Waipahu, Wianaiae, and other places you won’t want to leave your car! LOL. Just kidding, but not so much. These areas are the locals spots and there are some places you don’t want to be for sure. I hate to say avoid them, but maybe someone can be more helpful in the comments section about what tourists might safely see in these spots.

If you continue up highway 93 you’ll reach a beautiful state park called, Ka’ena Point State Park with an excellent beach.

A friend and I bicycled from Dillingham Air field down around to this beach and watched as some locals came in from spear fishing off their kayak. They had speared a couple large (4 foot+) Mahi Mahi! There are many locals at this park – but, it’s very safe from what I’ve experienced.

Your journey by car is finished as there is no safe way to get around the west side of Oahu except on bike or walking.

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About Vern Lovic

Aloha! I'm "Vern". I created this site to focus on Hawaii - all the islands - Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Big Island and even Molokai and Lanai and Kahoolawe when I can find information on them. I love living in Hawaii, and I think you would too. I hope you come away with something positive as a result of visiting Aim for Awesome. Feel free to add comments or contact me through email. All written content on this site by Vern Lovic. Contact me at Google+. Best of Life to You in 2013 - Aloha!

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