It’s your second day on O‘ahu, and
you have a job interview. You write down the street address,
go online to mapquest.com, and print out the directions. The
first thing you notice is that you can’t pronounce any
of the street names. You don’t get too worried because
you figure that you could recognize the streets by their spelling.
So you hop into your car and head out. You get lost; the street
names are all spelled similarly and are unpronounceable, and
your map does not show roads you needed to turn onto to get
to your destination.
This actually happened to me. I finally arrived at my interview,
two hours late. Fortunately, I was welcomed with a good laugh
from my future boss. She told me to always have a real map
when driving in Hawai‘i, and you should too.
So, since you’ve moved to an island where interstate highways
don’t go interstate, where lots of streets have unpronounceable
names, and, worst of all, where area names do not show up on
any map, how can you get around?
The island of O‘ahu comprises Honolulu County, and although
it has the largest population in Hawai’i, O ‘ahu
is actually the smallest of the four main islands, only about
600 square miles. The next largest island is Kauai at 622 square
miles (National Association of Counties).
O‘ahu is known around the world for Diamond Head, a large,
distinctively shaped volcanic cone on the eastern end of Waikiki,
for Pearl Harbor, where Japanese bombs got the United States
into World War II, and the North Shore, surfing capital of the
world. These spots are the most frequented by travelers and with
the island directions—mauka, meaning toward the mountains,
makai, toward the ocean, Diamond Head, or east, and Ewa, which
means toward the west—make great landmarks for getting
around the island.
Three main “interstate” highways link O‘ahu’s
major areas: the H1, H2, and H3. The H1 is the longest highway
of the three; it connects west O‘ahu, the leeward Coast,
the island’s dry side, to the southeast side of the island,
which includes Honolulu and Waikiki. The H2 starts from the H1
in Pearl City, just above Pearl Harbor, and ends in Wahiawa,
near Schofield Army Barracks. The H3 starts east of the Honolulu
Airport, intersects with the H-1 briefly near the Aloha Stadium
in A‘iea, and goes northeast through the Ko‘olau
mountain range to the windward side of the island. It ends at
the Kane‘ohe Marine Corp Base Hawai‘i on Kane‘ohe
In addition, on the windward side there is the Pali Highway
which also crosses the Ko‘olaus, from Bishop Street, on the HPU’s
downtown campus to its windward Hawai’i Loa campus, at
the foot of the mountains about two miles down from the Pali
Tunnel, on the windward end of Kamehameha Highway. The Pali continues
into Kailua town, but its name changes to the Kalani-‘anaole
Highway, which begins at the end of the H1 in Kahala, an area
mauka of Waikiki and just north of Diamond Head. It then passes
through Hawai‘i Kai and follows the coast around the
eastern tip of the island, past Sea Life Park, to Castle Junction,
a turn right toward the ocean goes to Kailua and a turn left
goes toward the mountains and the junction of Pali and Kamehameha
Kamehameha Highway circles the island and is its longest road.
Known mostly as “Kam Highway,” it starts by the airport
and it makes its way past Pearl Harbor, through Pearl City and
north through Mililani and Wahiawa in the center of the island,
to and through historic Haleiwa, on O‘ahu’s North
Shore. It then continues around the north tip of the Island past
Waimea Bay and the Turtle Bay Resort in Kahuku, and then back
down along the windward coast into Kane‘ohe where it connects
with the Pali Highway at HPU’s Hawai‘i Loa campus.
The last highway in this brief explanation of how to get around
on O‘ahu is the Likelike, which is another connection between
the leeward and windward sides of the island. It starts at the
junction of H1 and Kalihi Street, near the Bishop Museum in Honolulu
and ends in Kane‘ohe at a junction with Kamehameha Highway,
where it becomes Kane‘ohe Bay Drive.
These seven highways are the most frequently traveled, and
the ones you are likely to need to use most often. They take
from east to west and from north to south. For more information
regarding O‘ahu highways you can visit the state of Hawai‘i
Department of Transportation at www.state.hi.us/dot/highways/oahu/htm.
This map of O‘ahu shows why conventional directions
don’t work well on an island. The Hawaiian people developed
their own system: Makai means toward the sea; mauka is toward
the mountain. The actual direction, of course, changes depending
on which side of the island you’re on: leeward (west)
or windward (east).