Oahu Travel Guide
Find out why they call Oahu the Gathering Place…
Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor, and North Shore surfing make Oahu the most visited Hawaiian island. While many scoff at the crowds and traffic, most cannot resist visiting this island paradise for the nightlife, history, and beaches. Oh, those gold-sand beaches of Oahu.
We called Oahu our home for two years and it was hard to leave. Oahu is full of hidden gems and remote beaches that will leave you daydreaming of your next trip back. Let us show you around our old home.
Everything you need to know about planning your trip to Oahu is here:
Trying to pick the best Hawaiian island for your trip?
I get it, there is a lot to consider on what island to pick. Most people are choosing between Oahu or Maui, check out this article to help you decide: Oahu vs Maui (from someone who has lived on both)
🍍 Honolulu is the largest city in the world, in geographic size. Every island or atoll that hasn’t been designated to another Hawaiian island defaults to the jurisdiction of Honolulu, per the state’s constitution.
🍍 Oahu is home to over one million residents.
🍍 Billboards are illegal in all of Hawaii so they don’t crowd the ocean views.
🍍The record low temperature in Honolulu is 52 degrees.
🍍Waikiki attracts 72,000 visitors a day, making up around 40% of all the state’s tourist revenue.
🍍 The only Royal Palace in the United States, Iolani Palace, is located on Oahu. It had electricity before the White House did, and was the first palace in the world to have flushing toilets.
🍍 Duke Kahanamoku, a Native Hawaiian, was raised in Waikiki. He is a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming, actor, Sheriff of Honolulu for 13 consecutive terms, entrepreneur, and the father of modern surfing. Say hello to his statue when visiting Waikiki.
🍍 While the nickname “the Gathering Place” makes sense in the present time as Oahu is the most populated island and home to the capital, there is no ancient Hawaiian connection to this nickname.
Where to Stay on Oahu
Oahu is shaped like a diamond due to two massive shield volcanoes forming the Wai’anae mountain range to the west, the Ko’olau mountain range to the east, and a valley in between.
With a population close to a million residents, 72% of the population of the state, 81% live within the Honolulu urban area. Therefore, there is a lot of green, open land to explore on Oahu. Ko Olina Resorts are situated on the leeward (dry) side of Oahu, home to Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa.
Free Where to Stay Guide
You have options when it comes to where to stay on Oahu. The vast majority of folks stay in Waikiki but are you looking for something different? Download our free one-page Where to Stay Guide here to solve the biggest decision of your vacation! You will get the Where to Stay Guides for Maui, Big Island, and Kauai too.
Oahu’s Main Airport
You will fly into Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) on the southeastern coast, just west of Honolulu. From HNL, Waikiki is a 20-minute drive with no traffic or a 30-minute drive to Ko Olina.
Oahu has three resort areas: Ko Olina, Waikiki, and Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore. If you are staying for a week or longer, we recommend starting in Waikiki and then trying another part of the island.
Check out our article below to choose the best area to stay per your vacation plans.
Honolulu and Waikiki get a lot of heat for being the Manhattan of the Pacific, but few regret visiting this part of Oahu as it is rich in history, culture, and things to do.
Oahu Travel Tips
From navigating the island to finding the local beaches, check out the articles below to plan your Oahu vacation.
When to Travel to Oahu
As with all the Hawaiian islands, the lowest prices, best weather, and smallest crowds are during the shoulder seasons of September to mid-November and March to May.
Our favorite month to visit Oahu is October. It checks all the boxes for the cheapest time to go, great weather, and the least crowded month.
If you can’t get away during the school season, then late May and June is a good time to go during the busy season.
The weather on the leeward side is a paradise all year long. During the winter, the North Shore can get large surf, hence big wave surf competitions, making swimming and snorkeling dangerous or not possible. Waikiki gets a little more rain during the winter months but rains usually happen in the morning with the sun quickly following.
Oahu’s Best Things to Do
Our favorite, off-the-beaten-path activities, are going to Chinatown for dinner and the lounges, Leonard’s Bakery for malasadas, Electric Beach near Ko Olina for snorkeling, kayaking out to the mokes near Lanikai Beach, and Waimea Valley for a waterfall swim.
🍍 Pearl Harbor
🍍 Bishop Museum
🍍 Hike Diamond Head
🍍 Lanikai Beach
🍍 Iolani Palace
🍍 Historic Chinatown
🍍 Leanard’s Bakery for malasadas
🍍 Snorkel at Electric Beach (watch our video on the 5 Best Oahu Snorkel Spots)
🍍 Waimea Valley
🍍 Haleiwa Town on the North Shore