I love to entertain my friends and family when they come to sunny Oahu, Hawaii! They are all amazed with this beautiful island paradise, pointing to the lush mountains and cool ocean waters as some of the most fantastic landscape they have ever seen. I cannot disagree. I love Oahu and I love to show people around my little diamond in the sea. Of course, there is never enough time to see everything my island has to offer, though there are a few places that everyone has to visit. Some people even fall in love with Hawaii on their first trip, and wind up deciding to live there permanently. After my friends make the long trip to see me in Oahu I have to reward them with something spectacular, and these five destinations in Oahu never disappoint!
1. Diamond Head State Monument
Just near the heart of Oahu, there is the Diamond Head State Monument. It is a park which includes the stunning remnants of a volcanic crater. This crater is called “Leahi” by Hawaiians because the crater’s ridgelines resemble a tuna’s dorsal fin. It is remarkable to see it silhouetted against the ocean and towering in the background of Honolulu. The volcano went extinct about 150,000 years ago, but its raw power and majestic beauty are still easy to recognize. I also really enjoy the hike which leads to the crater’s rim; it is not a very tough hike, and lasts about two hours roundtrip. Bring a water bottle and some sunscreen, then climb that crater to the top!
2. Waikiki Beach
The name Waikiki means “Sprouting Fresh Waters” to Hawaiians, and it is easy to see why: the ocean here is clear and blue. Locals claim that Waikiki beach is the birthplace of surfing, it being where legendary surfer Duke Kahanamoku began teaching tourists to master the sport. There is also an aquarium and a zoo for kids who want to stay out of the water. Waikiki is a great place to start an exciting day. From Waikiki Beach, you can see the Diamond Head crater looming in the distance. This beautiful beach is also popular for both swimming and shopping. Sometimes my friends and I will split up, with one group going down to the beach to swim and another hitting the high-end stores like Dior and Prada on the nearby avenues. The colorful area has street vendors and performers, as well as some excellent quick eats.
3. Pearl Harbor National Historic Landmark
Nobody can come to Oahu and avoid a visit to Pearl Harbor; on top of being an active Naval base, it is also home to one of the most important historical landmarks in the United States. Going to Hawaii and missing Pearl Harbor would be like going to Paris and avoiding the Eiffel Tower! In addition to its historical importance, the landmark itself is remarkably beautiful. The location was named for the beautiful pearl oysters harvested there long ago, and the harbor itself is the largest natural harbor in Hawaii. For any traveler, young or old, this site is an absolute must. I advise setting aside a full day to spend here because there is so much to see. The Pearl Harbor Historic Landmark is made up of five historic sites which honor the catastrophe of the 1941 attacks. To begin with, there are the USS Oklahoma and USS Arizona Memorials. The USS Arizona memorial is very impressive. It floats over the hulk of the original USS Arizona which was destroyed during the raid. You take a boat shuttle to get there and you can read all about the sailors who died on the vessel in the memorial’s shrine room. There is also the Battleship Missouri Memorial located in Battleship Row, named for the eight battleships moored in Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack. What makes the Missouri special is that it was on this very battleship that General MacArthur accepted the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945. The USS Bowfin Submarine is another part of the Pearl Harbor Landmark, a memorial for the 288 submarines that served in the Pacific during the war. One of the cooler aspects of this memorial is that you can get onboard the submarine itself. Lastly, there is the Pacific Aviation Museum located in a nearby hanger which is filled with authentic World War II airplanes.
4. Hula Grill
I would be an awful host if I did not treat my guests to some authentic Hawaiian food while they were here. My favorite restaurant for visitors is the Hula Grill. It is located in Waikiki and is very easy to find; it rests right against the ocean and is a perfect place to catch the sunset after a long day. The restaurant is reasonably priced for its high quality, and is popular with tourists and locals alike. Here, you can get awesome seafood like the Kahuku Corn Crab Cakes and more adventurous dishes such as the Coconut Seafood Chowder and Roast Lobster. I take my friends here every time they visit, and they love it as much as I do.
5. Iolani Palace
The Iolani Palace is a great place to bring people who want to learn about the history of the Hawaiian people. It is the only official state residence of royalty in the United States and was the home of Hawaii’s last two monarchs from 1882 to 1893. There is a magnificent throne room as well as a dining room decked out with jewelry and weapons from the reign of the monarchs. Kids will love the extravagant interior and adults will find the political history of the building fascinating.