Been to Hawaii Many Times But Never Oahu? That's the case with many of my clients and friends who aren't from Hawaii. Some of my clients go exclusively to Maui every year, or return year after year to Four Seasons Hualalai, which I can't really blame them for, since, together with Four Seasons Lanai, it's one of the two top luxury resorts in Hawaii.
But at the same time, it's a little ironic that most of my Hawaii clients never see much, if any, of the island I grew up on. And while I'm biased, I think Oahu is a pretty great island, especially if you want a lot of choices–after all, it's where most kama'ainas (locals) call home. Oahu has its share of lovely beaches, scenic views and great hiking–you just have to rent a car and get out of Waikiki.
Here are a few reasons you should get out of Honolulu International Airport and actually spend some time on Oahu:
1. Understand Hawaii's History
Hawaii wasn't always part of the U.S., but it wasn't a British colony either, as some assume from the fact that Union Jack is on the Hawaiian flag. Only in Oahu will you be able to visit the only royal palace on U.S. soil, Iolani Palace, where the last queen of Hawaii was imprisoned and where she wrote the poignant Aloha ‘Oe.
Similarly, don't miss the Bishop Museum, the world's largest collection of Polynesian cultural artifacts, where you can learn more about life in ancient Hawaii, from the volcanoes that formed the islands and how the islands were settled by Polynesians, to indigenous plants and animals. There's also a planetarium that will interest amateur astronomers.
2. Visit the Place That Brought the U.S. into World War II
If you or a family member is interested in World War II, you can't miss a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial, at Pearl Harbor. It remains the top visitor destination in Hawaii, and is of personal significance for many, who had family serve in WWII.
3. Enjoy More Dining Choices
If you're on Oahu, you have more restaurant and dining choices than on any other Hawaiian island, from food trucks or even the poi and poke section of the supermarket to exquisite fine dining, such as the new Sushi Sho at the Ritz-Carlton Residences in Waikiki, by Keiji Nakazawa of the original Sushi Sho in Tokyo. And while there are some excellent restaurants in Waikiki, be sure to venture out to explore more local haunts. And if your visit to Oahu coincides with the Punahou or Iolani school carnivals, don't miss the freshly made malasadas (delicious free-form doughnuts) and other family-friendly fun.
4. More Nightlife Options
For clients who have found Maui, Kauai and the Big Island “too sleepy,” Oahu is where they should be–Honolulu has more of a nightlife than any of the neighboring islands. Whether you want to do Argentine tango or other ballroom dancing, listen to live jazz, have more choices for a dinner luau, hear the Honolulu Symphony, or go to a comedy club, you'll find it in Honolulu.
5. More Flight Options to Honolulu
Honolulu offers more flights to the continental U.S. and other destinations than the neighbor islands, so chance are you'll find more convenient options (and possibly lower prices) when you book, and this also works to your advantage should something go awry with your flight, as there are more available flights to switch to. And convenience counts when you're already traveling 5-11 hours from U.S. cities, especially those traveling with young kids.
If you've spent time in Oahu, what's your favorite memory?
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