The Gathering Place
Oahu, nicknamed "The Gathering Place" is the third largest Hawaiian island comprising 597 square miles. Both Maui and the Island of Hawaii (Aka, The Big Island) are larger however Oahu is the most populous with over 1 million people which is approximately 70% of the population of the state of Hawaii. Oahu is home to Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor, and its north shore is famous for its surf and surf culture. Oahu is situated northwest of the Big Island and Maui.
Some people opt to skip Oahu when they visit Hawaii for the first time due to things they’ve heard or read about the traffic and crowds. In our opinion this would be a mistake. Oahu has a lot of things to see and do. Waikiki is known for its shopping, beautiful sandy beach with rolling waves perfect for beginner surfers, wonderful food and an unforgettable view of Diamond Head in the distance. You have to try a mai tai at Duke’s restaurant while watching the surf along Waikiki beach at least once in your lifetime! There is traffic in Waikiki but if you skip the car rental and walk and use the transportation system it’s easy to get around. You can always rent a car for a day when exploring other areas of the island. It’s also easy to get to other islands. So, spend a few days in Oahu checking things out and then hop over to another island or two if you have the time.
If you enjoy our videos click here to
subscribe to our Youtube Channel.
Please note that these videos are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC.
A Few Interesting (or fun) Facts about Oahu and several FAQ's
- The "Hang Loose" Symbol originated in Oahu - This hand symbol originated in the North Shore of Oahu at Laie. A man named Hamana Kalili was a fisherman and construction worker whose legacy included raising money for the building that would become the Polynesian Cultural Center and fathering two Olympians. Hamana Kalilii had lost three fingers from his right hand in an industrial accident. When he waved at somebody, it looked like the hang loose sign.
- The Lowest Temperature Ever Recorded in Oahu - The lowest temperature recorded in Honolulu, Oahu occurred in 1969 at 52 degrees Fahrenheit!
- Home of the World’s Largest Plant Maze - The pineapple maze at the Dole plantation is the largest maze made out of plants in the world. Visitors can utilize a free app on their phones to help the as they wander amongst the greenery.
- Oahu contains the only official royal residence in the United States - Iolani Palace on Oahu was once the home of Hawaiian monarchs. Both King Kalakaua and his sister Queen Liliuokalani ruled from this historic location from 1882-1893.
- Oahu is home to one of the world’s largest wind generators - The windmill is located in the Kawailoa Wind Farm on the North Shore of Oahu.
- Is Honolulu expensive to live in - Honolulu is the fourth most expensive city in the United States to live in according to Rocket Mortgage. For example, the median home price is $1.2 million in Honolulu, nearly the same as San Francisco (#3 most expensive), $975,000 in Los Angeles (#2 most expensive) and $850,000 in New York City (#1 most expensive). Honolulu's housing expenses are 214% higher than the national average and the utility prices are 42% higher than the national average. Transportation expenses like bus fares and gas prices are 26% higher than the national average. Honolulu has grocery prices that are 50% higher than the national average.
- Hawaii is the most isolated population center on Earth - It is 2,390 miles from California, 3,850 miles from Japan and 4,900 miles from China. Gives you an idea why goods can be very expensive to ship to Honolulu!
- What is the size of Oahu - At 596.7 square miles, it is the third largest Hawaiian Island. Oahu has 112 miles of coastline, including some of the world's most beautiful and most famous beaches.
- Waikiki Beachfront Size - It is approximately two miles long and a little over a half mile at its widest point, extending from Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon (also called Hilton Lagoon) in the west to San Souci Beach, Kapiolani Park in the east.
- Why is Spam so popular - It may be because of food shortages during WW2, the answer might be a bit more complex than that, so we would suggest you read "the history of Spam in Hawaii".
- Hotels on Waikiki Beach - There are quite a few, here is a link to a Google Search Results list.
- What is the time difference from the continental U.S. - Hawaiʻi follows Hawaiʻi Standard Time (GMT-10 hours), which is five hours behind Eastern Standard Time and two hours behind Pacific Standard Time. Hawaiʻi does not observe Daylight Saving Time, so add one extra hour to the time difference during this period (March through November).
Oahu Map - Oahu Places to Visit
As you can see in this static map, we visited a number of diverse locations, each of them are linked so that you can click on any that you would like to view.
Oahu 7 Day Itinerary
The following is a suggested itinerary based upon maximizing your time on Oahu and proximity to these individual destinations;
Day 1: Arrive at Waikiki Beach
- Get unpacked and get into the Hawaii vibe & timezone. This of course depends on how long it took you to get to Waikiki.
Day 2: Waikiki Beach & Honolulu
- Hang at the beach
- Explore Waikiki beach - the boardwalk is nearly continuous from the Hilton Hawaiian Village south to the Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Statue.
- Explore Waikiki beach - It's a great walking area but if your feet get tired use the local bus system. The Pink Bus is $5 per day.
- Hit Dukes for your first umbrella drink & try at least one Mai Tai. They don’t make them any better anywhere else!
Day 3: Diamond Head & Honolulu
- Hike Diamond Head in the morning, you will need day/time reservations from Hawaii.GOV site
- Go Surfing/Supping/Kayaking or consider visiting Hanauma Bay, or other beach activity. Please note that Hanauma Bay entrance requires advance date/time reservations from the Hawaii.GOV site as well.
- Visit the Jade Dynasty Seafood Restaurant - Legendary Dim Sum! Expect to wait because this place is popular!
Day 4: Pearl Harbor in the morningThere is a lot to see at Pearl Harbor. If you are interested in world war II history then you may want to see everything. Most people want to take the boat out to the Arizona Memorial but all of the sites are worth seeing if you are up for it. Take a look at our Pearl Harbor visit.
- USS Arizona Memorial - requires day/time reservations from the National Park Service site.
- USS Missouri - there is an entrance fee, but it does not require advance reservations and there is bus service from the Arizona site.
- USS Bowfin WW2 Submarine
- Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
Day 5: A bit of driving
- Take the Pali Highway (Hawaii Route 61) to the Nuʻuanu Pali Lookout and enjoy the amazing view of the valley below (you will be 2,000 feet above the valley).
- Make advance reservations at the Polynesian Cultural Center on Hawaii route 83 near Laie. Learn more about Hawaii, eat at the Luau and then take in the show afterward. This is an excellent family outing and great if looking for something to do with a large group. You can obtain tickets here.
Day 6: Enjoy your last day on Oahu however you wantIf you don't have plans consider taking a ride to the famous Oahu north shore. It’s not a “must do” on Oahu as it’s mostly just a laid back surfing area.
- Stop for malasadas in the morning at Paalaa Kai Bakery near Wailua - they are excellent!
- Visit Waialua Bay - in the summer it can be calm and in the winter sometimes there are large waves. It’s a nice beach to spend a few hours. To get info on where the surf is best, click here.
- Eat lunch at a shrimp food truck
Day 7: Return Home
If you have some extra time, or you are looking to add some variety to your own itinerary, here are a few suggestions to consider;
Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Map
The Hilton Hawaiian Village is a beautiful resort and village consisting of multiple towers, restaurants, pools, parking, lagoon, and shopping and it has the perfect location on Waikiki beach. It's right on the beach with a view of Diamond Head in the distance. An easy stroll to waikiki restaurants and shopping and the pink line trolley bus stop is right in front of the hotel. Beach chair, scuba, stand up paddle board rentals, or even surfing lessons are available. We've stayed here numerous times and based on how much we like it, we've never stayed anywhere else!
Waikiki Beach Area
These images were taken on our way to Diamond Head State Park, and as you can see, Leonard's Bakery has a prominent place in this image set. This is because we feel that Leonard's Bakery offers some of the best Portuguese pastries we've had outside of Portugal. We have visited there every time we have been on Oahu, and will continue to do so in the future.
Diamond Head State Monument Map
Diamond Head is a volcanic tuff cone on Oʻahu and known to Hawaiians as Lēʻahi. The Hawaiian name is most likely derived from lae (browridge, promontory) plus ʻahi (tuna) because the shape of the ridgeline resembles the shape of a tuna's dorsal fin. Its English name was given by British sailors in the 19th century, who named it for the calcite crystals on the adjacent beach.
Diamond Head is part of the Ko'olau Range of volcanoes that began erupting below sea level over 2.6 million years ago. A single eruption around 300,000 years ago created the crater. The crater encompasses 350 acres. The crater is much larger than its rim as it was formed explosively.
Our goal for this visit to Diamond Head was to hike up the trail to the top, where the views of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean are just stunning. From the parking lot on the crater floor, the trail to the summit is 0.8 mile one way and climbs 560 feet in elevation. There is a paved concrete walkway for a distance of 0.2 miles at the start of the hike, but the trail becomes uneven and steep, requiring caution and appropriate footwear. Portions of the trail involve steep stairways and another portion of the trail goes through a long, narrow tunnel which is lighted.
Reservations are required and can be obtained online here. The fee is partially for entrance and partially to park inside the parking lot. Reservations are for a specific date & time, so that the park does not become over crowded.
NOTE: There is a rest room and a small gift shop adjacent to the parking lot, there are no facilities anywyhere on the trail.
Hanauma Bay Map
We drove here after completing our Diamond Head hike because it is only 8.4 miles south. There is quite a bit of parking here, however you are required to pay a small fee to use the parking lot. The bay area itself requires reservations, click here to learn more. We did not walk down the hill to the shoreline as my legs were still screaming from the Diamond Head hike.
Hanauma Bay is only 2.3 miles north of Sandy Beach which generally has some interesting surf - but a word of caution as the shore break there can be rugged and has caused a lot of injuries. Enjoy the locals body boarding there but be careful if you go into the water. The Halona Blowhole Lookout is just .5 mile before you reach Sandy Beach, and it too is well worth a look.
Pearl Harbor Map
We visited the USS Arizona (BB-39) Memorial and then took the bus over to visit the USS Missouri (BB-63). The Missouri is one of the four Iowa class battleships that were built late in WW2 (BB-63 entered service on 11 June 1944). The Navy had originally ordered six ships based upon the Iowa ship class design of which four were completed ( USS Iowa BB-61, USS Missouri BB-63, USS Wisconsin BB-64 and USS New Jersey BB-62), and two were cancelled ( USS Illinois BB-65 and USS Kentucky BB-66) in order to build more aircraft carriers.
The USS Missouri played a significant role in World War II, particularly in the Pacific Theater, and was the site of the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945, which marked the end of the war. After World War II, the USS Missouri was decommissioned and then recommissioned several times, serving in the Korean War and the Gulf War, among other conflicts.
The Iowa-class battleships were indeed a remarkable feat of engineering and design, and they were built to be formidable warships capable of engaging in naval battles on a large scale. It's unlikely that we will ever see such large and heavily armed battleships again, as modern naval warfare has shifted toward smaller, more agile ships with advanced technology and weaponry. Nonetheless, the Iowa-class battleships remain a testament to the technological achievements of their time and their significant contributions to naval history.
NOTE 1: The USS Arizona Memorial requires advance purchase day/time tickets/reservations - which can be found here. Note that because the USS Arizona site is maintained as a National Memorial, there is no cost to visit it. If you obtain your access tickets online, there is a one dollar fee for handling.
NOTE 2: The USS Missouri BB-63 tour does not require advance reservations, but it is a per person fee to board the ship. Tickets can be purchased online here.
NOTE 3: The USS Iowa BB-61 can be seen at the Los Angeles World Cruise Port Terminal.
NOTE 5: The USS New Jersey BB-62 Museum and Memorial is located at 62 Battleship Place, Camden, New Jersey.
North Shore of Oahu
If you look at a map of Oahu, the "North Shore" is pretty much where you would expect, it is the entire north end of the island. We wanted to traverse Haleiwa, Waimea Bay and then continue on around the north end and then south to Kaneohe so we could come back to Honolulu via the Pali Pass.
The North Shore of Oahu is a beautiful and iconic stretch of coastline that spans approximately 7 miles along the northern coast of the island of Oahu, Hawaii. It is famous for its big waves, pristine beaches, and lush tropical scenery. The North Shore is also a popular destination for surfers and water sports enthusiasts, as it boasts some of the world's most challenging and rewarding surf breaks.
Aside from its surfing fame, the North Shore boasts stunning beaches, including the peaceful Ehukai Beach Park and the scenic Turtle Bay. The area is also rich in cultural history, with the charming town of Haleiwa serving as the cultural and artistic heart of the North Shore.
Hale'iwa Beach Park
This was the first beach we arrived at after our malasadas stop, and it is near the area of Haleiwa. Very large beach, quite a bit of parking and restroom facilities. An adjacent park and picnic tables also make it a great location for a barbecue. Be sure to try the local favorite, “shave ice,” from nearby Haleʻiwa Town.
Waimea Bay Beach Park
Waimea is famous for its 30-foot waves in the winter and is a top place to watch some of the world’s best and bravest surfers. During summer, the water calms considerably and is a great destination for swimming, snorkeling and diving.
Sunset Beach is considered to be one of the longest stretches of rideable surf in the world. The wide sandy beach provides families a great place to play in the sand. In the winter months, you can watch big-wave surfing with swells up to 30 feet tall, along with the world's premier surfing competitions, including the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (November-December) and the Big Wave Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau.
Tropical Macadamia Nut Farms
We stopped here (just north of Kaneohe on route 83) as we had heard about these guys and they offered macadamia nut flavored coffee, which sounded interesting. They also offer free samples of various types of macadamia nuts, all of which were tasty! You will also find a variety of sauces, t-shirts, hats and other coffees.
Getting to the North Shore from the Hotel was straight forward; North on the H-1 to the H-2 and then exit onto route 99 to Haleiwa. We hung out awhile at the beach there, and then drove further north on route 83 (Kamehameha Highway) to Waimea Bay. Route 83 begins to swing south at Kawela Bay and we continued south to Tropical Farms Macadamia Nuts , where we stopped to purchase some nuts and enjoy their coffee. From there we continued south to route 61 that took us back to Honolulu via the Pali Pass.
Byodo-in Temple Map
The Byodo-in Japanese temple can be found on the windward side of Oahu in Kaneohe on route 83. The temple is a scale replica of a temple in Uji, Japan. It was constructed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Japanese immigration to the Hawaiian islands. The temple and grounds are picturesque and it’s worth stopping for some photos and to appreciate the temple and grounds on your way to or from that side of the island.
The temple's architecture is a masterpiece of Japanese design, featuring a stunning crimson pagoda and tranquil reflecting pond surrounded by vibrant gardens and towering trees. Visitors are greeted by the towering "Phoenix Hall," which houses a breathtaking nine-foot statue of the Buddha, casting a sense of serenity over the surroundings.
The Byodo-in Temple is not an active place of worship but serves as a contemplative and educational destination, inviting people of all backgrounds to appreciate the beauty of Japanese culture and spirituality. The temple grounds offer a sense of tranquility, making it a popular spot for meditation, reflection, and photography. It's a unique and spiritual oasis, providing a glimpse into the rich tapestry of Japanese heritage while offering visitors a peaceful escape from the modern world.
Nuʻuanu Pali Lookout Map
Nuʻuanu Pali is a section of the windward cliff of the Koʻolau mountain located at the head of Nuʻuanu Valley on the island of Oʻahu. It has a panoramic view of the windward (northeast) coast of Oʻahu. The Pali Highway (Hawaii State Highway 61) connecting Kailua/Kāneʻohe with downtown Honolulu runs through the Nuʻuanu Pali Tunnels bored into the cliffside.
This is always a fun place to visit because of the views, but also because the winds are always strongly blowing! The trade winds blow through the valley between the high mountains on either side, forming a strong wind tunnel of sorts. Wind speeds of up to 74 mph have been recorded here, and it is nearly impossible to walk upright against winds like that! My wife was nearly blown down by the winds that day, after I went forward and we both groped our way to the lookout area - because together we could safely navigate the winds.
NOTE: There are some interesting hikes in this area, click here to visit an "All Trails" Website page that can give you more hiking information about this area.
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific Map
The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (informally known as Punchbowl Cemetery) is a national cemetery located at Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu, Hawaii. Since it is located in the same general direction of the Pali Lookout, we stopped here on the way up to Pali Pass. In addition, one of Celeste's uncles (James Serrenho) has his name inscribed on the memorial wall. Mr. Serrenho was aboard the USS Morrison (DD-560) during the invasion of Okinawa when the ship was sunk after repeated kamikaze attacks on May 4th 1945.
This is a beautiful cemetery with excellent landscaping throughout and it has seriously good views of Honolulu below, and Diamond Head in the distance. When you realize that all of these grave sites are occupied by WW2 heroes, it is a beautiful tribute to the price they paid to our country.
Jade Dynasty Seafood Restaurant Honolulu Map
We were searching for some Chinese food and Celeste found this restaurant, and since it is highly rated, we decided to give it a try for lunch. WOW - we sampled several dishes from their dim sum menu and everything we had was excellent! We had to wait a few minutes, as this is a very popular restaurant in Honolulu - have patience because you will enjoy the food here!
The food here is very good, or should I say we found it to be good. Apparently a lot of Honolulu residents like it too, because there was a line of people who were waiting to have a meal. Their menu is varied and extensive and can be found here.
Bishop Science Museum Map
Our goal in visiting the Bishop Museum was to be able to view their extensive Polynesian artifacts, which is the world's largest collection. Now you might be saying to yourself "hmm, we don't like museums" but this one is unique and it has a huge amount of Polynesian "way of life" exhibits and I promise you that you will find a visit here to be educational and entertaining.
For those of you who might not be familiar with the "Polynesian Mystery", there has been a mystery for some time now about how over ten million square miles of the Pacific Ocean were discovered by voyagers sailing in large double-hulled canoes. Part of the mystery is "how did they navigate" across those huge distances? For example, it is 2,628.72 miles from Tahiti to Hawaii and there is ample evidence that there were numerous voyages between the two islands. Christina Thompson's book "Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesian" is a very good description of the Polynesian people, who and where they came from, and how they navigated around the Pacific Ocean. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Polynesian history - I've read it and it is an engaging and in depth account of Polynesian history.
Polynesian Cultural Center Map
The Polynesian Cultural Center is Hawaii's #1 visitor attraction, has 6 island villages representing the unique island cultures of Hawaii, Fiji, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Samoa, Tahiti, the Marquesas Islands and Tonga. Set on 42 acres along Oahu's North Shore (Laie Oahu), the Polynesian Cultural Center has a lagoon that hosts daily canoe tours.
Scenes Around Honolulu
Duke's Waikiki Restaurant Map
An iconic establishment in Waikiki, Duke's Waikiki celebrates an atmosphere that encompasses surfing, the spirit of Hawaii, and live music on the beach. They make excellent mixed drinks, we had Mai-Tais and macadamia nut hummus and both were excellent. If you are interested, click here for their menus and drink list.
Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are Affiliate Links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, that we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. So we would appreciate any click throughs, if you are inclined.
Note: All images on this page are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.
Note: If you are interested, click here to view our European Travel Tips & Warnings. Or to take a look at our methods for planning, click here to view our Trip Planning Page..
To review any of our content, make suggestions and/or comments, please click the "Info" menu button at the top of this page. You will find our "Contact Us" link on that drop-down menu.