The far west of O‘ahu is
the driest side of the island, the Wai‘anae coast. What
attracts visitors to the area are the beaches which have some
of the island’s best surfing conditions, a hiking trail
that leads to Ka‘ena Point, and the eerie, mysterious
The westernmost point of O‘ahu is Ka‘ena Point, accessible
from the Leeward Coast only by a hiking trail that begins about
three miles south, at Ka‘ena Point State Park. The whole
trail is about six miles long and is partially on an old railroad
bed. The state park preserves 779 acres of sand beaches, coastal
dunes, and volcanic formations. It is very hot, and there are
no water fountains, so bring water. There is a restroom facility
at the trailhead. Visitors may have the opportunities to see
albatross nesting in the area, or dolphins or sea turtles at
certain times of the year.
South towards Wai‘anae, on the Leeward Coast’s main
road, Farrington Highway, is Keawa‘ula Bay, also known
as Yokohama Bay, where part of the movie Hawai‘i was filmed..
It is a large sandy beach where only surfing and bodysurfing
experts should take on the waves. Visitors and locals are cautioned
to swim only during calm conditions in the summer.
Further south is Makua. On the mauka or mountain side, is the
towering Kaneana Bluff where visitors are enticed by the 100-foot
high, 459-foot deep Makua Cave. The bluff was once underwater,
and wave action of the sea carved out the cave. Light cool breezes
come from inside, but the back opening has never been found.
Further south is Makaha Beach, known for it’s many surfing
contests, and the Wai‘anae area, where many of the Hawaiian
Homelands are situated. There are only a few hotels on this side
of the island. To visitors, the Wai‘anae Coast may look
as if it was lost in time because the area is not as modern as
the rest of urbanized O‘ahu.
Traveling south past Nanakuli, one enters the Ewa Plain and finds
Ko‘olina Resort on the makai (ocean) side of the highway.
Paradise Cove is located there, where live Polynesian shows and
luaus are held nightly. There are four lagoons open to the public.
Many visitors and locals go to the lagoons because of their calm
waters and serene environment.
Once off the Leeward Coast, opportunities multiply. Visitors
might try an outdoor museum in Waipahu, located east of Ewa in
the south-central O‘ahu. Hawai‘i’s Plantation
Village at the Waipahu Cultural Garden near the Waipahu Mill
Town Center gives visitors a sense of the changing lifestyles
of Hawai‘i’s plantation workers on Hawai‘i’s
sugar plantations between the late 1800s and the 1950s. These
workers and their children helped make Hawai‘i a culturally
diverse place. The village features restored buildings and replicas
of plantation houses of different ethnic groups, the community
bath, plantation store, and relics. For general and tour information,
visit their Web site at hawaiiplantationvillage.org.
East toward downtown is Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial.
Visitors can take a daily tour which presents a historical background
on the attack on Pearl Harbor which killed 1,177 people on Dec.
7, 1941. For more information, visit the National Park Service
Web site, nps.gov/usar.
Further south, on the outskirts of downtown Honolulu in the Kalihi
area, is the Bishop Museum. It is home to the world’s largest
collection of Hawaiian and Polynesian artifacts. It also features
themed exhibits and a planetarium. The museum was founded by
Charles Reed Bishop in 1889 in honor of his late wife, Princess
Bernice Pauahi Bishop, a descendant of the royal Kamehameha family.
Hawaiian artifacts and royal family heirlooms of the Princess
are housed there. More information about the museum can be found
at its Web site bishopmuseum.org.
In downtown Honolulu, many tourists and locals like to visit
the Aloha Tower and the Hawai‘i Maritime Center. The tower
was built in 1926 to welcome visitors coming into the harbor.
The building, which is only 10 stories high, was once the tallest
building in O‘ahu. Just south of the Marketplace, is the
Hawai‘i Maritime Center which hosts exhibits of whalers,
explorers, and legendary surfers and includes a huge, rare humpback
whale skeleton, and the Falls of Clyde, the last four-masted,
fully rigged sailing ship in the world. The ship was built in
1878 in Glaslow, Scotland, and in 1899 it was the first four-masted
ship to fly the Hawaiian flag. Visit alohatower.com for more
Also located in the heart of downtown is the only official royal
residence in the United States, ‘Iolani Palace. Visitors
can tour the home of Hawai‘i’s last monarchs, King
David Kalakaua, his Queen, Kapi‘olani, and later, Kalakaua’s
sister, Queen Lili‘uokalani. The palace houses the original
royal thrones, 19th-century furniture, the crown jewels, and
other exhibits. Visit iolanipalace.org.
Located right across the street is the famous Kamehameha Statue
to honor King Kamehameha I who unified the Hawaiian Islands.
The statue was dedicated in 1893 as part of King Kalakaua’s
coronation ceremony. It stands eight-and-a-half feet tall.
East, between downtown Honolulu and Kaneohe, the Nu‘uanu
Pali Lookout is located right off Pali Highway. This is where
King Kamehameha defeated the army of the king and added O‘ahu
to his own kingdom in 1795. It can be very gusty, so visitors
should bring a jacket and wear or carry anything loose.
Returning to Honolulu, and heading south again, visitors come
to Waikiki and Diamond Head, or Mount Leahi, are of the top Hawai‘i
landmarks and the most recognized volcanic crater in the world.
Visitors can hike up the dormant crater through the Diamond Head
State Monument at the mauka end of the crater. The trail to the
summit was first built as part of the U.S. Army Coastal Artillery
defense system in 1908. The panoramic view of Waikiki and Honolulu
from the observation post at the summit, is spectacular. In the
1700s Western explorers thought the calcite crystals in the rocks
were diamonds, hence the name of Diamond Head became common.
Visitors should bring water and a flashlight and wear shoes for
this 1.5 hour-long hike.
Southeast of Diamond Head, at the southern end of O‘ahu,
is Hanauma Bay State Underwater Park, the most popular snorkeling
spot in Hawai‘i. Its beach sits on the rim of an extinct
volcano and is home to a variety of tropical marine life. Visitors
can rent snorkeling equipment and enjoy an exhibit about the
Eastward is the Halona Blowhole which attracts visitors because
of its resemblances to a whale’s spout. Depending on how
large the waves are, the spout can reach up to 30 feet high.
At the lookout, visitors may spot whales or sea turtles. There
are no lifeguards on duty, and the Kaiwi channel below Halona
is one of the most dangerous, unpredictable ocean channels in
the world, so visitors are advised to stay on the lookout area.
Further east is Sandy Beach Park, where restroom facilities are
available. Sandy Beach is a popular destination and where many
surfing and body surfing competitions are held.
East and then north around the corner of the island is Makapu‘u
Beach. Beside its surf conditions, it’s also known for
its black lava cliffs and where the popular TV show, Magnum P.I.
was filmed. From here, visitors have a good view of Manana Island,
also known as Rabbit Island.
Bypassing Waimanalo, Kailua and Kane‘ohe, the next stop
could be Kualoa Beach. There, visitors can see Mokoli‘i
Island, known as Chinaman’s Hat. The beach is located on
the windward coast of O‘ahu. The area was at one point
considered sacred by ancient Hawaiians because the whalebones
that washed ashore could be made into jewelry and tools.
Traveling north, past Kahuku and then west, visitors can find
the Pu‘u O Mahuka Heiau State Monument, where O‘ahu’s
largest heiau, or ancient place of worship is located. The ancient
Hawaiian heiau, built high above Waimea Bay, was declared a national
historic landmark in 1962. Visitors are advised to not disturb
the sacred place by touching or removing anything.
Just to the west at Waimea Falls Park, visitors can learn customs
of the Hawaiian people. Entertainment at this famous waterfall
park comprises the hula and a cliff diving show in which professional
divers jump off the 45-foot high falls. Visitors can also take
a tour, hike, go mountain biking, kayaking, horseback riding,
or swim in the pool right beneath the waterfall.
While on the North Shore side of O‘ahu, check out the beaches
where some of the most prestigious surfing contests are held.
For example, the Triple Crown and World Cup competitions are
held every winter at Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay, and Haleiwa.
If visitors continue to travel west, they reach end of the island
on the Mokule‘ia side of Ka‘ena Point. And that’s
where the road ends.