Here’s Oahu, Hawaii at a glance.
Oahu is the “main island” when it comes to tourism, and if you’re headed to Hawaii on vacation you’ll likely spend the majority of your time on Oahu.
It is the most populated Hawaiian island, having around 950,000 residents, and is home to Hawaii’s capitol, Honolulu, as well as:
- PEARL HARBOR & USS Arizona Memorial
- Waikiki & Waikiki Beach
- Polynesian Culture Center
- DIAMOND HEAD CRATER
- Kualoa Ranch
- Dole Plantation and
- Iolani Palace
Sunrise at Duke’s Lagoon with Hilton Hawaiian Village in the background.
The majority of hotels on Oahu are found on its southern coast, in Waikiki. Here are Waikiki’s top five most popular hotels:
- Hilton Hawaiian Village
- Sheraton Waikiki
- Hale Koa
- Hilton Waikiki Beach
- Moana Surfrider
You’ll also find Disney’s Aulani and Four Season on the West Side (1 hr drive to Waikiki) and Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu’s northern tip (1 hr 30 min drive from Waikiki.)
Cotton clouds off of Waikiki Beach.
Oahu is always pleasant, and it’s winters and summers are often indistinguishable.
Oahu’s winter (Nov-Feb) has an average high of 27 C (80 F) and an average low of 19 C (66 F).
Oahu’s summer (Jun-Aug) has an average high of 31 C (87 F) and an average low of 23 C (73 F).
When packing for your vacation on Oahu, if you pack for a range from hot summer days with no shade to cool breezy evenings with a light rain you’ll be fine.
Oahu map created by Aussie’s Guide to Hawaii Facebook group.
Here are two really cool maps organized by Australians:
OAHU NORTH SHORE
An evening at Sunset Beach on North Shore, Oahu.
You’ll hear a lot about Oahu’s North Shore and it’s a definite must-visit while you’re here.
It’s about an hour drive from Waikiki and is home of the town of Haleiwa, the big surf competitions, and the infamous surf beaches Pipeline, Waimea Bay, & Sunset Beach.
If you’d like to visit Oahu’s North Shore your best bet is:
- Driving a rental car
- Taking a North Shore Tour or Circle Island Tour+ North Shore
- Taking a private tour
Taking a public bus is too long and a taxi will cost around $150!
Having two mountain ranges, Oahu has a lot of good hikes and even waterfall hikes. When it comes to tourist-friendly hikes, your best bets are:
Of course, there are hundreds of other hikes, but these are the ones that “everyone does” and do not require special planning and preparation.
A luau, as far Hawaii vacations are concerned, is composed of:
- Pre-dinner crafts
- Traditional Hawaiian dinner
- Tropical drinks and a
- Dinner show with fire dancing
Each luau is a little bit different, and mainly because of their:
- Location (scenery, sunset view & proximity to the beach) and
- Distance from Waikiki (in Waikiki vs. hour drive away.)
OAHU SURF REPORT
In the summertime (May-Aug) the waves are bigger in Waikiki (South Oahu) and non-existent on the North Shore.
During the winter (Dec-Feb) the waves are absolutely massive on the North Shore and pretty flat on the southern shores.
You can check surf reports at:
SURF NEWS NETWORK
Hawaii only, their forecast tends to be more detailed and accurate.
Most accurate, but more of a weather forecast for boats.
Avoid H1 towards Waikiki in the morning, and away from Waikiki in the evening.
Oahu’s traffic is awful, but not too bad for tourists and here’s why…
Waikiki and downtown Honolulu are Oahu’s two main “cities,” and during rush hour everyone is headed to these two places.
Luckily for tourists staying in Waikiki, during both morning and evening rush hour, they’re headed in the opposite direction. Sure you’ll run into a few congested areas, but in general, tourists are less affected by Oahu’s awful traffic.
The Honolulu Airport is only a 20-minute drive from Waikiki.
Almost all tourists will land at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (aka Honolulu International.)
It’s a small airport with a mom ’n pop feel, and it’s only about twenty minutes from Waikiki.
Should you want to visit other islands while you’re on Oahu, even for a day trip (usually $160 round-trip), you’ll most likely fly out of Daniel K. Inouye International. Go see another island while you’re here!
OAHU CAR RENTAL
Chase Hawaii Rentals, a block from Waikiki Beach.
You can find major car rental companies at both the airport and in Waikiki, and you’ll have a variety of cheap rentals, to jeeps and exotic cars.
Here are a few tips for you:
- Never leave anything visible in your car, even a bag of towels (for thieves)
- The car trunk is not a safe deposit box - keep valuables in your hotel safe
- If you rent a car, consider doing a circle island tour first so that you can get a snapshot of the whole island and know where to take the rental car to
Waikiki’s most popular beachfront restaurant, crazy on Sundays, try the fish tacos.
For the 99% of tourists vacationing on Oahu, restaurants can be broken down into:
Kalakaua Ave (main strip) Waikiki, busy, touristy & more expensive
Kuhio Ave (parallel to the main strip) Waikiki, touristy, busy & less expensive
Kapahulu Ave , east Waikiki (by the zoo), local, less busy & less expensive
Monsarrat Ave , nearby Waikiki (on the way to Diamond Head), local & tourists, lively & less expensive
Kaka’ako , 10 min drive from Waikiki, it’s the new trendy spot tourists don’t know about
Downtown Honolulu , local, busy, more expensive
North Shore, local & tourists, less expensive
Food trucks , found in Waikiki, North Shore, and Waikele Outlets
Zipline at Climbworks’ Keana Farms.
There are two places to zipline on Oahu:
KUALOA RANCH (east side where Jurassic Park was filmed)
KEANA FARMS (northern side with the longest zipline on Oahu)
Oahu has beautiful beaches, and each has its own identity. Here’s a list of Oahu’s most popular beaches:
*All drive times are from Waikiki
Waikiki Beach , Hawaii’s most popular beach.
Hanauma Bay , a snorkel beach inside a volcanic crater, 25 min drive
Sandy Beach , an extremely dangerous local beach known for boogie boarding, 26 min drive
Makapuu Beach , beautiful with massive waves, 30 min drive
Waimanalo Beach , quiet local beach (skip this and leave it to the locals), 33 min drive
Kailua Beach , beautiful but often very windy, perfect for kids, 34 min drive
Lanikai Beach , beautiful, it’s the beach with the two islands on the horizon, 40 min drive
Sunset Beach , North Shore surf beach, 1 hr drive
Banzai Pipeline , North Shore surf beach, 1 hr drive
Waimea Bay , North Shore surf beach, home of Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational & jump rock
Laniakea Beach , aka Turtle Beach, it’s where everyone “goes to see the turtles”