Oahu: The island for go-getters

You came to the Hawaiian Islands for a little R&R, but that doesn’t mean you want lounge on the beach all day. How about some snorkeling and surfing? Shopping and people-watching, and maybe some museum-strolling? And we haven’t even started on nightlife.

Oahu is Hawaii’s busiest island, with most of the activity centered around the city of Honolulu. It’s L.A. meets Fiji — beautiful beaches and interesting sights, all suffused with Hawaiian and Polynesian culture.

How to get there

Alaska Airlines flies 6-8x daily to Honolulu from Seattle, Portland, the Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Anchorage. Alaska offers low fares from the West Coast to Hawaii, but guests don’t have to give up a great onboard experience — think assigned seats with power, 400+ free movies and TV shows, a delicious seasonal menu of fresh ingredients and craft beer. Plus, a Premium Class cabin offering complimentary cocktails and beer, early boarding and snacks. Start your vacation on the plane and get your relaxation onboard, because we know you’ll be on the go as soon as you land with all that Oahu has to offer!

What to see

Ala Moana Beach Park & shopping center

Visitors to Oahu usually make a beeline for Waikiki as their main beach of the trip. Waikiki is lovely and the sand is incredible, but the crowds make it a less than stellar experience. For a more local, less crowded feel, head for Ala Moana. Literally “by the sea”, this beach is just as lovely as Waikiki, with trees and tables for picnicking, tennis courts and concession stands. If you get bored of playing in the sand, head to the open air shopping center for over 300 mainstream and high-end stores, plus Hawaiian specialties like Honolulu Cookies and Hawaiian Quilt.

Diamond Head State Monument

The remnants of a crater, Diamond Head is a prominent feature of Oahu. The historic and popular 0.8 mile trail is a steep but scenic hike, offering views of Waikiki, the interior of the crater and the Pacific Ocean. The summit also has a lighthouse and military bunkers. The park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., but the final entrance to hike the trail is 4:30 p.m. Make sure you have cash on hand for the $1 fee per pedestrian and $5 fee per car.

War museums & memorials on Pearl Harbor

Honolulu played a huge part in the United States’ participation in World War II, and there are many museums and memorials you can visit. The WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument is a memorial to the USS Arizona, the battleship destroyed by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that launched us into war. The Pacific Aviation Museum has a collection of aircraft and artifacts used during WWII. You can also tour the submarine USS Bowfin. The Battleship Missouri, famed as the site where the Japanese government signed Japan’s surrender and ended the war, is now a floating museum.

Iolani Palace & Polynesian Cultural Center

Before Hawaii was a U.S. state, it had its own unique culture rooted in Pacific and Polynesian island life. The Polynesian Cultural Center is easily a full day experience, where you can tour several authentic villages focused on sharing different Pacific cultures. You can also experience a luau, a traditional Hawaiian feast accompanied by music and hula dancing. At Iolani Palace, you can learn of Hawaii’s royalty. The home of Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs, Iolani Palace and its grounds have been carefully restored.

North Shore surfing

Oahu is known as the surfing capital of the world, and nowhere is this better seen than the North Shore. Head to Pupukea or Sunset Beach Park and watch the surfers on the Banzai Pipeline, notorious for its wild waves in winter. If you’re a surfer yourself, this is probably a highlight of your vacation! If you’re not quite ready for the North Shore, numerous outfits on Oahu offer surfing lessons.

For those travelers who are always on the go and love to explore the places they visit, Oahu probably has enough sights for several visits. Kids will love the aquarium and the zoo. Hikers will want to check out Manoa Falls and Koko Head. The young and young-at-heart can enjoy a variety of bars and clubs near Waikiki and Chinatown. Beaches abound, including Hanauma Bay and Kualoa Park. For more activities to fill your calendar, visit our Oahu destination page. Aloha and see you soon!

Photos by Ingrid Barrentine.

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