OAHU ISLAND, HAWAII
Oahu has the best of all the islands: vibrant city life, lush greenery, beautiful beaches and great historic sites.
Oahu is a volcanic mass divided into sections by two separate mountain ranges. Both ranges run northwest to southeast. Travelers can take one of three tunnels to cross from one side of the island to the other. Between the two mountain ranges is a central plain. To the south of this plain is Pearl Harbor; to the north is the legendary big-wave winter surfing area know as the North Shore.
Residents of Oahu rarely use compass directions to express where things are. Instead, islanders have developed a system of reference points that take Oahu’s unique geography into account. You may be going toward the mountains (mauka) or the sea (makai). If you are on the leeward side of the island heading west, you are going ewa, because the town of Ewa is the southwestern tip of Oahu. If you are heading east, you are going “Diamond Head.”
SHOPPING AND DINING
For handcrafted items made in Hawaii, stop by Shop Pacifica located inside the Bishop Museum. And, of course, you’ll want to save some time to explore the International Market Place, three floors of upscale shops surrounding a towering ancient banyan tree with some of Waikiki’s best restaurants on the open-air third floor Grand Lanai level.
Roadside stands often sell fresh fruit – we’ve noticed that Hawaiian papaya taste best in Hawaii – and sometimes you’ll find some more exotic items to try, such as starfruit, guava, apple-banana, lilikoi, avocado and the famous Kahuku sweet corn. Make sure you carry some US dollars with you; most of these roadside stands are honor system stands. Simply choose the produce you’d like and drop the appropriate amount in the slot.
Oahu is a true melting pot, and you’ll find excellent Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai and Laotian restaurants, as well as some very good Italian ones.
Fresh seafood is plentiful, and it is almost always on the menu. The shrimp trucks and shrimp shacks of the North Shore are practically legendary. Be sure to sample a casual plate lunch consisting of a Hawaiian-style entrée plus scoops of white rice and potato-mac salad.
Do attend at least one luau feast so that you can try some of the delicious local specialties, including pit-roasted kalua pork, mahi-mahi, coconut cake, haupia (a sort of cakelike pudding), and the traditional Hawaiian staple, poi.
Common shore excursions in and around Honolulu include Aloha Tower and the surrounding marketplace complex with more than 70 stores featuring contemporary boutiques and unique local merchandise. Also popular are tours to Pearl Harbor, home base for the USS Arizona Memorial, the Battleship Missouri Memorial and the USS Bowfin Submarine and Museum; the Polynesian Cultural Center and Waikiki Beach.
Driving away from the glitz and crowds of Honolulu takes you to the more peaceful sights in other areas of Oahu. With striking scenery at every turn, getting wherever you’re going is half the thrill.
Follow the coast north to Makapuu Point, where you can see the offshore Rabbit and Turtle islands, as well as Maui on a clear day.
Continue north to Kailua and the Nuuanu Pali Lookout, and on to the Valley of the temples where you can visit the Byodo-In Temple. Senator Fong’s Plantation and Gardens is also in this area.
On Oahu’s northeast corner, you’ll find the Polynesian Cultural Center, while on the northwest side of the island you’ll encounter the famous North Shore, the town of Waimea, and the Banzai Pipeline area that is renowned among surfers for its big wintertime waves.
Haleiwa is a bustling frontier town that serves as the gateway to the North Shore. It has quaint shops, modest restaurants and plenty of art galleries. You can also get some great shaved ice at the M. Matsumoto Grocery Store. Try a local specialty flavor, such as lilikoi (passion fruit), green tea or li hing mui (dried plum).
Some of these places are intriguing enough to take up most of a day, but it is possible to drive the whole circle in a day if don’t stop at the larger attractions – you may even have time to stop at the Dole Plantation near Wahiawa on your way back to Honolulu.
As in Honolulu, Oahu’s biggest recreational draws are beach and water activities. The island has an array of spectacular beaches, most of which are surprisingly uncrowded once you get away from Waikiki.
Oahu has more than 125 beaches. Water temperatures range 75-80 F/24-27 C year-round. Waves range from placid to bone-shattering depending on the particular beach and season.
The coastal waters are also great for various boating options, including Jet-Skiing, wakeboarding, waterskiing, kayaking, sailing and fishing. Back on dry land, good hiking is available on numerous well-kept trails, and the island’s 30 plus golf courses offer all levels of play along with spectacular scenery.
Snorkel gear is readily available for rent, and even beginners can enjoy floating on the ocean’s surface watching the brightly colored tropical fish swim by. If you’d prefer to get underwater, you can choose from a variety of operators who offer both scuba and scuba-dive tours for beginning and experienced divers. PADI certified divers can explore offshore wrecks such as the San Pedro, the Navy ship YO-257 or a Corsair airplane that crashed during exercises in 1945.
Do’s & Don’ts
Do give in to the urge to stop the car at a scenic beach you’ve discovered and just enjoy the moment.
Do dress for sunny and warm weather. Oahu has approximately 159 sunny days each year – and plenty of partially sunny days, too – and the temperature generally remains between a low 65 F/18 C in the winter and a high of 88 F/31 C in the summer.
Don’t go in the ocean unless you’ve verified the safety of the waters. Strong currents and big waves require caution at all times, and shark sightings also occasionally occur.
Do take time to smell the flowers and even the guavas, which are sometimes found on the ground along quieter side roads. However, don’t eat guavas off the ground, as they likely have worms in them: Search for the nearby tree from which the fruit came.
Do display proper surfing etiquette and stay out of the path of someone who is trying to catch a wave or who is already on one.
Do smile. The people of Hawaii are gracious and friendly and will welcome you warmly when you smile.
Do learn to use a couple of common Hawaiian words. Aloha is used as a word of welcome, a term of endearment or to say goodbye. Offer thanks by saying mahalo.
Languages: Primarily English, although Japanese, Hawaiian, Tagalog and other languages are also spoken.
Predominant Religions: Christian (Roman Catholic, Protestant), Buddhism and other religions are also well-represented.
Time Zone: 10 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. Daylight Saving Time is not observed.
Copyright ©2017 Northstar Travel Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Courtesy of: Darla Logsdon
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