"Oahu: Home Sweet Home in Paradise" Top 5 Page for this destination Oahu by AKtravelers

Oahu Travel Guide: 4,109 reviews and 10,146 photos

It's hard to skip Oahu

Almost everyone who visits Hawaii stops in Oahu. It's home of Honolulu and most of Hawaii's people. Many of Hawaii's most famous tourist sights (Waikiki, Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, etc.) are located on this small island. It's also covered with military installations, which means many of those serving in our armed forces will be passing through here. While some of these things may detract a little from the island's Hawaiian feel (National Geographic Traveler rated Oahu low in its list of islands), they also present a strong argument for spending some time here. In fact, if you go to Hawaii and miss Oahu, you've missed a lot. Oahu has great diversity, amazing beaches, spectacular hikes and a warm welcoming heart.
At the same time, the best of my Hawaii trips (I made 16 and I now live here) have been the ones during which we've gone to another island. So, while you shouldn't skip this most important island, you should also get out and visit the other, less urban islands as well.
Furthermore, in October 2006 Oahu became my home (yeah, I arrived just in time for the earthquake). So now I can offer two perspectives -- one of a frequent visitor and one as an inhabitant. We hope these differing viewpoints will help you on your visit (virtual or otherwise) of this small tropical speck in the middle of the great big Pacific

Oahu's Natural Side

Even though Oahu is Hawaii's most urbanized island, it's still possible to encounter some of the unique nature that is Hawaii. The Windward coastal town of Kailua still has the old Hawaiian small town feel and beaches without hotels. The North Shore beaches are sufficiently wild that I have encountered the endangered Hawaiian monk seal and the endangered Hawaiian green sea turtle basking on the sand (sadly, I didn't have my camera when I saw the seal, who was the subject of a chapter in one of Diane Ackerman's books). Aside from wildlife, the North Shore also reveals the explosive power of the sea -- a drive to Sunset Beach during the winter season is a must to wow at the surf! Sadly, the Oahu ecology is under a great assault from invasive species, whose arrival began with the Polyneasians 1000 years ago and accelerated with the advent of western settlement. You'll get a much better appreciation for the nature of hawaii on the other islands.

The People of Oahu are Diverse

In many travel magazines, Hawaiians are rated among the friendliest people on earth. This is often true -- almost everyone I have met has been warm and nice. Cynics say it's because they're all in service industries, but I think a lot of it is genuine, too. People truly live with the spirit of Aloha here.
As you can see from the photo, Moe would certainly agree! Everyone Moe met liked him. You'll see more of Moe as you look through the remainder of the photos -- he had a better time than me!
Be warned, however, about some people. A small portion of native Hawaiians still resent the US annexation of the islands in 1893, which dispossessed them of their land. I have walked into places where I have felt unwelcome. This is rare, but it can happen, particularly on the western side of the island or by military bases where the "occupying power" presence is felt most keenly.
But, if you stay in Waikiki, you may never interact with a native who is not in the service industry. In fact, in Waikiki, you'll be more likely to meet people from around the world than you will locals. Depending on your desires, this could be great or disappointing. Moe doesn't care -- he likes meeting people from anywhere!
Happily, almost everyone has been very friendly in my move to Oahu.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Good restaurants, unique sights, fine beaches, people from all over the world
  • Cons:too touristy, too urban, car theft
  • In a nutshell:The start, but not end, of a Hawaiian visit
  • Last visit to Oahu: Mar 2012
  • Intro Updated Mar 18, 2012
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Reviews (94)

Comments (14)

  • Feb 14, 2012 at 7:39 AM

    I've only ever been to Oahu, and next time I make out to Hawaii, I definitely want to visit some other islands. That said, I still love it there. One of my favorite things about it is that mix or urban and natural. If you want to go shopping, you can. If you want to play a few rounds on Oahu golf courses, you can. If you want to go hiking in a rain forest, or scuba diving, or waterfall jumping, you can. I think it's fantastic and offers very diverse activities to suit anyone.

  • Mar 16, 2011 at 10:58 PM

    Thank you so much. We used your info religiously while on Hawaii. Our last night in Waikiki happened to be the night of the tsunami evacuation. We loved your info, we loved Hawaii. Mahalo!

  • Allydreams's Profile Photo
    Jul 11, 2009 at 4:28 PM

    Thanks so much. Your page is really great and useful. Feel like I am much better prepared for my upcoming trip. So many great tips. Mahalo!

  • jadedmuse's Profile Photo
    Apr 9, 2009 at 10:51 AM

    Shiver! Takes cojones, that one! Oh and unless there's a Pauli (vs. Pali?!) Girl waiting with frosty mugs of meade, I think you mean "winch" not "wench"...

  • Freebeacher's Profile Photo
    Jul 27, 2008 at 12:18 AM

    Topfree for females in Hawaii is perfectly legal as long as the beach is not a STATE PARK beach. Nude bathing not intended to be offensive is legal. A court case, HI v Kalama that decided this was from Polo Beach.

  • Feb 1, 2008 at 7:19 AM

    A lot of information!

  • eviltooth's Profile Photo
    Nov 15, 2007 at 6:42 AM

    We've BBQ on the beach on Christmas! :D

  • keida84's Profile Photo
    Oct 2, 2007 at 6:03 PM

    I enjoyed your off the beaten path & local customs tips. Very easy read & informative as well as interesting. Thanks, Kat

  • mariaschmidt's Profile Photo
    Aug 3, 2007 at 10:59 PM

    Interesting and enlightening pages - beautiful photos - thank you for sharing - Maria

  • aventurera's Profile Photo
    May 16, 2007 at 1:48 AM

    I lived in Waikiki 10 years ago and reading your Oahu pages bring me back a lot of nice memories. Great!!!

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