Oahu is truly at the heart of Hawaii. The city of [wiki=904b6f7e29f77065ee9977b30660617c]Honolulu[/wiki] is busy, and its [wiki=085d815d76c8f36d47b771d0c77997ef]Waikiki[/wiki] district even more so. Oahu is home to the only real metropolitan area in all the Hawaiian Islands. For some, this has been both a blessing and a curse for the island.
On the plus side, visitors to Oahu and local Hawaiian residents themselves are not left out of all the amenities and conveniences that only a large city, such as Honolulu, can provide. Days spent dashing about, bustling nightlife, great restaurants, exciting cultural events and establishments, good public transportation, and a variety of shopping and lodging options. Combine this with the city and island's extensive beaches, parks, mountains, recreational areas, and quaint towns and this makes one enjoyable metropolitan area. On the minus side, Honolulu is a big city and has all the big city problems that come along with it, such as traffic, high cost of living, and some crime.
Honolulu may not embody the vision that some visitors have of Hawaii after looking at so many postcards: serenity and relaxation. True, one can relax on Oahu just by going to the right destinations on the island, you just need to know where to look. A calming oasis can be found as there are many resorts located outside of Waikiki that offer less crowded surroundings. Natural beauty can be found in the two mountain ranges, the Koolau and Waianae ranges. Some great hikes are just a short drive into the mountains from Waikiki. Secluded white sand beaches, funky beach towns, pounding winter surf on the North Shore. All of which can be found in other parts of Oahu.
So enjoy Oahu and all it has to offer. But if you don't see the North Shore during the wintertime when monsterous waves pound the shore (think of the opening scene of the 1970s show Hawaii Five-O), then you have really missed something. Brave and experienced surfers attack these waves! If you don't take a drive through miles of pineapple fields, and if you don't take time to visit some of the white sand beaches, mountain trails, and scenery outside of Waikiki, then you really haven't seen all Oahu has to offer.
Two mountain ranges make up the island of Oahu. The Koolau Range ([wiki=250ceb32effcb4dbb107550c88e55252]Hawaiian[/wiki]: Koʻolau) runs along the east side of the island and forms the backdrop for Honolulu; the Waianae Range ([wiki=250ceb32effcb4dbb107550c88e55252]Hawaiian[/wiki]: Waiʻanae) runs parallel to the Koolau Range along the west side.
The majority of visitors to Oahu stay in Honolulu and its Waikiki district. The rest of the island is less visibly touched by tourism, with only a few B&Bs among the houses and natural sites on the Windward Coast and the North Shore.
Flights from all over the world land at Honolulu International Airport just outside of downtown [wiki=904b6f7e29f77065ee9977b30660617c]Honolulu[/wiki]. Free Wiki-Wiki (Hawaiian for "quick") shuttle buses run between the Main Overseas Terminal and Interisland Terminal every 15 minutes. These will eventually be replaced with moving walkways and people movers.
TheBus [http://www.thebus.org/] routes #19 and #20 run between the airport and Waikiki. The fare is $2.50. Exact change is required and space for baggage is limited.
When taking TheBus from the airport to Waikiki, make sure the destination sign reads "Waikiki Beach and Hotels". The westbound #19 bus continues to a military installation (Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam), and Military Police check all passengers for military ID at the gate. Do not get on this bus if you do not have military ID: you will be left at the gates with no way to return to the main highway.
Car rentals are available at the airport and various locations downtown. A car is worth having for visits to the North Shore or if you are staying outside of Honolulu/Waikiki.
The Oahu bus system, officially called TheBus [url=http://www.thebus.org/],]runs between almost all towns and to most tourist destinations. Fare for TheBus is $2.50 adults, $1.25 5-17yr olds.You can make two transfers with one ticket up to the time printed on the top of the ticket, but not round-trips or return-trips. Exact change is compulsory and it will get you anywhere on the island TheBus goes.
There is a 4 day TheBus Tourist pass available from most ABC Stores (like a 7/11) for $35 or $30 for 5-17 year olds. Make sure you 'scratch' it correctly before getting on the first TheBus.
Also available from ABC Stores and other Waikiki-area shops is a very handy guide to TheBus for $2.95.
The Waikiki Trolley system runs several routes (identified by colors); you can by a One-Day All-Lines Pass for $34 or a One-Day One-Line Pass for $18.
The tram-style "Free Shopping Shuttles" which pick up around Waikiki beach will take you to the Ala Moana Center. Be aware that this shuttle will first take you to Hilo Hattie's flagship tourist shop west of the center. It's free, but not a direct route so if you're not interested in stopping off at Hilo Hattie's you may prefer to look elsewhere for transport as this option will add at least 30 minutes to your commute.
This is a sampling of attractions on Oahu. For more detail on attractions in Honolulu proper, see the Honolulu article.
Helicopter tours allow you to see parts of Oahu inaccessible by foot. Overfly famous North Shore surf breaks, Waikiki Beach, Kualoa Ranch and more. [url=https://paradisecopters.com/oahu-helicopter-tours-hawaii/]]
*Try windsurfing, surfing and body-boarding at Waikiki and (less crowded and more scenic) North Shore and Kailua Beach. - see Oahu Surf Conditions, Radar, and Forecasts [url=http://www.oahusurfforecast.com/[/url]]and Girls Who Surf [url=http://www.girlswhosurf.com[/url]]for lessons.
*Snorkeling and diving trips leave from Waikiki and most hotels.Oahu especially great for wreck diving as many ships and airplanes sunk during World War II.
*Enjoy horseback riding on the North Shore and Windward Koolau Range
*Explore hiking all over the island: in particular, Diamond Head State Park (excellent view of Honolulu and the surrounding area). Also visit Lanikai's Pillbox (leftover from WWII sitting above Lanikai). Gives spectacular view of Waimanalo, the Koolau Mountains, Kailua and the Mokulua Islands sitting in the distance.
*Kayak on the Windward side to the Mokulua Islands which are a bird sanctuary and also offer encounters with turtles which have made a huge comeback in the Windward bay area. It should be noted that it is against state law to violate the sanctuary area. The beach on the islands is not part of the restricted zone, however.
*Circumnavigate the east half of the island: From Honolulu, take H1 east until it turns into Route 72. Follow Route 72 around the southeast corner of the island. Then go on Route 83, which goes along the east coast of the island around the northeast corner to the North Shore. Return to Honolulu along Route 99, Interstate H2, and Interstate H1. Unfortunately, it is not possible to circumnavigate the entire island, because there is no road between the North Shore and the Leeward Coast around the northwest corner of the island.
*Driving tour around East-side of island gives spectacular views. Stop several times along the route to see blowhole, swim in secluded cove, hike up to the Lighthouse for amazing views or check out ancient Hawaiian drawings and Heeiaus.
*Driving tour over the Pali Highway; be sure to visit the Pali Lookout.
*Drive up to the Round-Top Forest Reserve. (excellent view of Honolulu and the surrounding area)
*Snorkeling and sun bathing at Hanauma Bay
*Viewing Marine Wildlife (the best 1/2 of Oahu is underwater!)- see Wild Side Specialty Tours [url=http://sailhawaii.com/[/url]]to sail with whales, dive with dolphins, and snorkel coral reefs with turtles and tropical fish.
*If the hot weather is too much for you, go ice skating at the Ice Palace in Honolulu (see [[Honolulu#Ice_Skating|"Do"[/url]] in the Honolulu article).
*Stand up paddle board at Ala Moana Beach Park near Waikiki. The water is protected by an outer reef making it calm everyday of the year.
See the [wiki=a85df3d66bde576d3b62caaf527f2daa#Eat]Eat[/wiki] section in [wiki=a85df3d66bde576d3b62caaf527f2daa]Hawaii[/wiki] for more details on island food in general. Honolulu and Waikiki in particular offer a vast array of dining options for tourists. On the North Shore be on the lookout for shrimp trucks which patrol the highways and offer plate lunches for under $10.
Waikiki offers numerous bars, and Kuhio Avenue in Honolulu is home to most of that city's bars and nightclubs.
Within Honolulu, and particularly in [wiki=35dca85baaa7876ad8cc5fec7369a172]Waikiki[/wiki] there are a vast number of lodging options. Outside of these areas there are very few hotels on the island, but there are vacation rentals. Due to zoning regulations some vacation rentals only accept stays of 1 month or longer.
Some areas, including parts of Downtown/Chinatown, Pearl City, Waianae, Nanakuli, Waipahu, and Kalihi, are not very safe after dark. Officers from the Honolulu Police Department are extremely helpful to visitors and will steer you away from potential problems.
To get to the other Hawaiian islands, fly Hawaiian Airlines [url=http://www.hawaiianair.com]]or go! Airlines [url=http://iflygo.com/[/url]]from Honolulu International Airport [url=http://hawaii.gov/hnl[/url].]Or in the case of traveling to the smaller islands (Lanai and Molokai), use Island Air, Mokulele Airlines, or Pacific Wings at the commuter terminal of Honolulu Int'l.