Simply picture Hawaii and what you'll likely see is Oahu. There are palm trees swaying in the sand and surfers on the beach on this island nicknamed 'The Gathering Place'. You can dine on multi-ethnic food, sip a cocktail umbrella drink, or hang out wearing a sarong or aloha shirt. A place where volcanic craters have become snorkelling sites and tropical rainforests are located only minutes from the beach, Hawaii's third-largest island really does have it all!
Modern and buzzing, start your Oahu itinerary in the capital, Honolulu. Home to some of the island's best bars and restaurants, it's also where you'll find the classic Waikiki beach. Take in some history at Pearl Harbor and the Polynesian Cultural Center, then head to the North Shore to catch some big waves, or leave it to the pros and watch the action from the beach. Back on dry land, enjoy expansive views of the island at Nuuanu Pali Lookout or hike through a 192-hectare crater at Diamond Head. After working up a sweat, cool off by snorkelling in the remnants of another volcanic crater at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, or visit Kailua, perhaps Oahu's most serene beach.
Eat And Drink
Though Mai Tai and Blue Hawaii cocktails might be the only things that come to mind when you think of wining and dining in Hawaii, Oahu is home to much, much more. The island's multi-ethnic population means it's a haven for foodies, with some tasty Polynesian, Asian, European and North American treats never hard to find. Look for menus serving the fusion Hawaii Regional Cuisine, as well as farm-to-table ingredients. Along the beach in Waikiki and downtown Honolulu, especially Chinatown, is where you'll find the most places to eat in Oahu. Keep an eye out for Honolulu's growing number of food trucks and lunch wagons. Farmers markets are also popping up in Honolulu, Manoa and Haleiwa, and you can take a farm tour or time your trip around one of Oahu’s food events, like Honolulu’s monthly Eat the Street affair or the annual Hawaii Food & Wine Festival.
Where To Stay
Although Oahu is divided into five evenly-sized regions, the island's south is its tourist hotspot and where you'll find most accommodation and amenities. Some of the best places to stay in Oahu can be found along Waikiki beach, while a few blocks back from the beach are plenty of comfortable options that will suit those on a tighter budget. If you want to stay elsewhere on the island, the North Shore has a handful of options that are especially popular with surfers, while the Windward Coast, on the island's east, is where you can find some low-key B&Bs.
Pack lightly when you visit Oahu. With a real treasure trove of local goods for you to buy, surfers aren't the only ones that think they've died and gone to heaven here. Popular tourist buys include the aloha shirts and ukuleles you'll find along Waikiki beach, while more savvy shoppers should head to the high-end local fashion and designer boutiques in downtown Honolulu. A great place to bag everything in one spot is the Ala Moana Center. The largest outdoor mall in the world, Ala Moana is uncontested for the 'Best Mall in Hawaii' title and has everything from departments and fashion, to Hawaiian gift stores. Other places to check out include T Galleria by DFS and Ward Village in Honolulu; as well as Waikele Premium Outlets at Waipahu, about a 40-minute drive from Honolulu. And when it comes to markets, you can't go past the outdoor swap meet at Aloha Stadium, 20 minutes outside Waikiki.
Oahu Like A Local
If you want to be close to the action, Honolulu is the place to spend your time in Oahu. However, to spend some time unwinding in a greener, quieter and much slower part of the island, Kailua is just the place to be. Approximately a half-hour drive from downtown Honolulu, Kailua is where locals and notable guests come to unwind. With the town home to little more than a few restaurants and a beach, you'll have plenty of time to perfect your windsurfing, kayaking and scuba diving skills. Meanwhile, roughly a one-hour drive from Waikiki is Oahu's North Shore, where unassuming Kahuku shrimp trucks sell heaping plates of garlic shrimp scampi.