Oahu Guide

5 stars from 6 reviews
Traveling to Oahu? Then start here with our Oahu Guide.


Matt Anderson's Take
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Oahu is the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands but the most populated by far. It's known as The Gathering Place and is home to world famous Waikiki and Diamond Head State Monument. It also has the distinction of being home to Iolani Palace, the only royal palace in the USA.

Getting Around

It's hard to get lost driving on a small island! On the flip side, parts of Oahu are incredibly confusing to drive in. We're always asked, "Do I Need To Rent A Car In Waikiki?" or "Do I need a rental car to see Oahu"? We say, yes! A rental car is the best way to see and enjoy the island.


Oahu is the only island with actual Interstate Highways. Yes, we realize they don't connect to other states but you call them that to get the Federal Government to help foot the bill. They're labeled as H1, H2, and H3. The H1 generally runs east to west. It connects the west coast (at Ko Olina) to Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) in the middle and then runs a bit east of the Waikiki area.

The H2 highway connects the H1 from the Pearl Harbor area and takes you up to the middle of the island on your way to the north shore. The H3 highway connects to the H1 closer to Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) and then travels northeast, putting you on the east side of the island. The H3 is unique in that it passes through the Ko'olau Mountain range via the nearly mile long Tetsuo Harano Tunnels.

While taking a car is often the best way to travel, sometimes TheBus is a good option as well. TheBus is cheap and travels all over the island. A lightrail system (Honolulu Rail Transit) is also being built but is not yet operational. Once done, this new system will follow part of the H1 route. Taxis and tour busses will also be travel options.

Oahu Regions

The island of Oahu is generally broken out into a few key regions as listed below:

Waikiki & Honolulu


This is the most popular area for tourists. It's located on the south shore and home to world famous Waikiki Beach. It's a short drive from the main airport on the island, Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL). That means there is a massive amount of beaches, hotels, things to do, and restaurants all in one area. It also means that this place is quite crowded all the time. Not to worry, the crowds are sort of part of the fun here. But quiet and peaceful it is not!

Looking for restaurants and shops? The main "strip" of Waikiki is Kalakaua Avenue that runs along the Waikiki Beaches. It's packed with every type of shop and restaurant you can imagine. You'll also want to stop at nearby Ala Moana Center that offers over 300 shops and restaurants. If you're driving then you'll want to read about Free & Cheap Waikiki Parking.

North Shore


This is another world famous spot and home to big surf in the winter months. It's also the location of sleepy-but-popular places like Haleiwa, Hawaii Guide. Other than Turtle Bay Resort, you won't find big hotels here, but there is still a lot to see and do like the Polynesian Cultural Center or Sea Life Park Hawaii. It's a must see spot of the island for pretty much any visitor.

East Oahu


Also known as the Windward Coast, this side of the island is usually the wet side. The trade winds come from the northeast and dump huge amounts of rain here. Not to worry, there is plenty of sunshine over here too! It's also home to the amazing Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve and Beach Park, Diamond Head State Monument, Kualoa Ranch, and the fun town of Kailua.

West Oahu


This side of the island, also know as the Waianae Coast, is dryer than other parts. That dryer weather doesn't just mean less humidity in the air. It also means there is less rain running off into the ocean, leaving clear ocean water. It's the perfect place to spot a Humuhumu-nukunuku-apua'a - Reef Triggerfish or a Honu - The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. The main resort area here is Ko Olina, home to Aulani A Disney Resort And Spa and some beautiful lagoons and beaches. Wet 'n' Wild Hawaii is a great water park that's fun for kids of all ages.

Central Oahu


This regions is the middle section of the island. What it lacks in beaches it makes up for in unique landscapes, lush vegetation, and must see attractions. The most popular attractions include Pearl Harbor & USS Arizona Memorial and the Dole Plantation. Shoppers might enjoy the huge Pearlridge Center.

Royal Roots & Rich Culture


Of course, Oahu isn't all beaches and boat tours, it also has a rich history. Take a tour of Iolani Palace or the The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum to get some hands on history. See how royalty vacationed at Queen Emma Summer Palace. Enjoy unbelievable views at the Nu'uanu Pali Lookout, home to the Battle of Nu'uanu. Visit the resting place of those who served in the United States Armed Forces at Pearl Harbor & USS Arizona Memorial and National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl).


Travel to the orient, which happens to be just minutes away from Waikiki in the form of Oahu's Chinatown. It's a great place to try new foods, enjoy festivities, or shop for some fun souvenirs.

Explore Oahu

For more information try one of these links:

Oahu Home Page


Oahu Beaches


Oahu Activities / Things To Do


Oahu Hotels / Resorts


Oahu Restaurants / Bars


Oahu Shops / Services


Oahu Information


Or head over to our Guide To Hawaii for an overview on the Hawaiian Islands.

Still Have Questions?

We're here to help! If you have a question about something, want to post a trip report, or just wanted to say Aloha then please post a message in our community forums. We read everything that is posted and do our best to answer any questions you have. If you'd like to contact us for another reason please drop us a line here.
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Matt Anderson
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Sue E
Joined: Oct 2016
Reviews: 27
Likes Received: 3
Helpful in planning day to day activities.
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Vickey W
Joined: Mar 2017
Reviews: 123
Likes Received: 45
We have traveled to Oahu once but have plans to return at year's end before heading over to Molokai. So many things we didn't get to see but saw what husband mostly wanted to see that was Pearl Harbor very humbling experience. We enjoyed our visit but need to spend more time here to see more sights. We now have a friend who lives in the Honolulu area so will be nice to visit her and have her show us around she is always sending us tempting pictures.
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lelie h
Joined: May 2016
Reviews: 6
Likes Received: 0
Want to live there.
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Michelle w
Joined: May 2016
Reviews: 1
Likes Received: 0
5 stars we went last year and going back again in 5 weeks it may become a habit.
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megan
Joined: Feb 2016
Reviews: 2
Likes Received: 0
Oahu is amazing. Lots a street life on Kuhio, people are so nice and honest.
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Linda B
Joined: Feb 2016
Reviews: 3
Likes Received: 1
We were staying on Waikiki beach and were told we needed to go see the north shore, we rented a car and took the day to the north shore. I have seen a lot of oceans and beaches but this one beat any that I have seen so far. We not only went once but rented a car and went again, some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
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