Oahu Island Overview: What is Oahu Like?

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Oahu Island Overview: What is Oahu Like?2017-05-18T20:52:24+00:00
Satellite image of Oahu Island, Hawaii

Oahu Island from space. Photo – NASA.

Oahu is Nice! But, Some Drawbacks…

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 two or three 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?



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, hangglide with HangGlidingHawaii (.com) 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.

See Oahu, Hawaii by Google Map

All my moving to Hawaii posts here at Aim for Awesome…

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  1. Matt Porter 04/18/2018 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    Thank you for the information. I’m going to Oahu for a honeymoon. We got an Airbnb West of Waikiki beach, so we can see the city skyline and have a private beach. Hoping to watch some good fireworks during 4th of July. Any places you suggest I take my wife-to-be? We’re quiet people, enjoy our solitude together, but she also likes adventure while recuperating quickly afterwards.

    • Peter Kay 04/18/2018 at 3:09 pm - Reply

      Congratulations on getting married! “West of Waikiki” is far too general but Oahu is not that big anyway so you can drive around. Go through our vacationing section and you might also want to check out the living in Oahu section.

      Enjoy your honeymoon!

  2. Dakota Metcalf 03/12/2018 at 1:42 am - Reply

    So I just used this site to complete an essay for school and I was just wondering, for citing purposes, who is the author of this article?

  3. Patrick McGourty 07/01/2016 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    I’m from nyc ,I’ve been around Ireland ,Mexico, Canada, Aruba, Bahamas etc etc,I just finished a 8 nite stay on oahu (hawaii) .I never been to a more beautiful place .All the people there including other tourists were friendly .This was the biggest shocker for me .Lots of Australians. I think this is the closest I’ve come to heaven on earth.

  4. carrie padilla 05/18/2015 at 4:04 pm - Reply

    Hello. Thank you so much for this information. We are planing to get married on Lanikai beach next year, but are finding that travel agents, and libraries around town do not have much info to provide us with. Travel agent says they send very little info to the agents.
    Would love to read any info you could provide to us.
    Looking forward to paradise! Thank you so very much and have a wonderful evening. Hello Mali!

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