Travel Guide North America USA Western United States Hawaii Oahu

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Introduction

View from Diamond Head, Oahu

View from Diamond Head, Oahu

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Oahu is the main (but not the biggest, that's Hawaii Island), of Hawaii. It's where most travellers arrive by air and therefore sees most visitors. The interior of the island is mountainous and the edges have fine beaches to explore, including famous Waikiki Beach in Honolulu.

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Geography

Oahu is the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands and the most populous one. Including small close-in offshore islands such as Ford Island and the islands in Kaneohe Bay and off the eastern coast, it has a total land area of 1,545.4 km2, making it the 20th largest island in the United States. In the greatest dimension, this volcanic island is 71 kilometres long and 48 kilometres across. The length of the shoreline is 365 kilometres. The island is the result of two separate shield volcanoes: Waiʻanae and Koʻolau, with a broad "valley" or saddle (the central Oʻahu Plain) between them. The highest point is Mt. Ka'ala in the Waiʻanae Range, rising to 1,220 metres above sea level.

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Cities

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Sights and Activities

Beaches

Waikiki Beach is a 3-kilometre stretch of white-sand beach. You can engage in watersports, soak up the sun, enjoy some snorkelling or if you get there early enough, enjoy a peaceful stroll. Other beaches include Ala Moana Beach, Hanauma Bay, Kaneohe Bay, Ko Olina Beach, Park, Kailua and Lanikai Beach, Sandy Beach, Sunset Beach, Waimanalo Beach and Waimea Bay.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Honolulu Museum of Art
  • Pearl Harbour

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Events and Festivals

  • Irish locals celebrate St Patrick's Day with a parade at Waikiki on 17 March.
  • The International Bed Race in April is a popular fund raising event culminating in a bed pushing race through Honolulu's streets.
  • The King Kamehameha Hula Competition takes place late in June, attracts dancers from as far away as Japan.
  • Hawaii International Jazz Festival - this celebration of jazz takes place in July.
  • The Honolulu Marathon is run in early December attracting over 30,000 competitors.

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

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Weather

Honolulu in the southwest enjoys a tropical climate, moderated by the California Current. Average daily highs are 27 °C in January and 31 °C in July. Temperatures rarely exceed 32 °C. The southwest has only between 20 and 50 mm of rain during most of the year, more so from November to February. It is quite unusual for to have the wettest time of year coincide with the slightly cooler months. Oddly enough, the possibility of a tropical storm or even a hurricane is higher from May to November, opposite to the wetter months. Still, such storms are less frequent compared to for example the Caribbean or west Pacific. The northeastern part of the island, although comparable regarding temperatures, is much wetter.

This website gives a fantastic summary with climate charts and maps of the 4 main islands, which show the differences on each Island, ranging from pretty dry on the main popular coastal areas, to extremely wet on the other side of the islands and even more so on some of the mountain ranges.

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Getting There

By Plane

Most visitors come to Oahu by air, as it's the main hub to the Hawaiian islands from mainland USA and several other pacific nations.

Honolulu International Airport (Airport code: HNL), 3 miles (5 kilometres) northwest of the city's CBD, is the main airport in Hawaii and the principal hub of Hawaiian Airlines. There are direct routes to Honolulu's airport from Asia, North America and the Pacific.

Dozens of international destinations are served, among which many cities in the US, such as Los Angeles, Seattle and New York City. Other destinations include Vancouver, Auckland, Fiji, Taiwan, Micronesia, American Samoa, Seoul, Melbourne, Sydney, Manila, and quite a few cities in Japan, including Tokyo and Osaka.

Domestic flights to and from Honolulu include Hawaii (Big Island), Maui, Kauai, Lanai and Molokai. Airlines include Hawaiian Airlines, Mokulele Airlines, Island Air, Mesa Airlines and Pacific Wings.

To/from the airport
TheBus (Honolulu) routes 19, 20, and 31 stop on the upper (departure) level of the airport. Routes 19 and 20 connect the airport to Pearlridge Center (20 only), Hickam AFB (19 only), Downtown Honolulu, Ala Moana Center, and Waikiki. Route 31 connects the airport to Tripler Army Medical Center, via Kalihi Transit Center. Routes 9, 40, 40A, 42, and 62 run on Nimitz Highway within walking distance of the airport.
Taxis, limousine services, (hotel) shuttles and rental cars are all widely available, some of them requiring advance reservations.

By Boat

There aren't any ferries anymore between Oahu and some of the other islands like Maui.

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Getting Around

By Car

  • H-1 is an interstate freeway that runs from Kahala in East Honolulu west, through downtown Honolulu, past the airport and out to the western suburb of Kapolei where it joins Farrington Highway. H-1 is the busiest and most heavily used freeway on Oahu.
  • H-2 is an interstate freeway that runs from the town of Waipahu through Mililani to the town of Wahiawa in Central Oahu.
  • H-3 is an interstate freeway that runs from the suburb of Aiea, through the windward communities of Kaneohe and Kailua, to the gate of Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
  • Moanalua Freeway/H-201 is an interstate freeway auxiliary route that serves as an alternative route for H-1. It runs from the Middle Street Merge (H-1, H-201) in the community of Kalihi in West Honolulu to the H-1, H-3, H-201 merge in Aiea. Some freeway signs may still label Moanalua Freeway as Route 78, even though Route 78 has since become H-201 in 2004.

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

By Bus

The Oahu bus system, officially called TheBus, runs between almost all towns on the island and to most tourist destinations. One-way fare is $2.50 adults, $1.25 youth, with exact change required. There is also a 4-day tourist pass available from Waikiki ABC Stores for $35; also available from ABC Stores and other Waikiki-area shops is a very handy guide to TheBus for $2.95.

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Accommodation in Oahu

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Oahu searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Oahu and areas nearby.

Oahu Travel Helpers

We don't currently have any Travel Helpers for Oahu

This is version 18. Last edited at 10:02 on Jun 12, 19 by Utrecht. 7 articles link to this page.

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