Discover O‘ahu: The Heartbeat of the Hawaiian Islands

The foam of a wave laps onto shore on a golden beach with multi-story homes facing the water.
On the beach near Diamond Head. Photo © Daniel Ramirez, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Aptly named the Gathering Place, O‘ahu is the heartbeat of the Hawaiian Islands. The island is home to almost one million residents, about 70 percent of the state’s total population, and is, by far, the most culturally and socially diverse of the eight main Hawaiian Islands. It is a unique destination where you can experience the comforts and convenience of city life with the natural beauty of verdant mountains and sparkling blue ocean within reach.

Home to Honolulu, the state’s economic and political center, O‘ahu initially comes across as a big city, where rush hour traffic, skyscrapers, and a pulsing nightlife capture your immediate attention. With no ethnic majority, O‘ahu best exemplifies its east-meets-west melting pot culture through its exceptional regional cuisine. In Honolulu, historic buildings and art museums pepper the city’s historic district, while Chinatown is the epicenter of O‘ahu’s local urban and fine art scene.

Pull back the curtain of O‘ahu’s urban landscape and there is a natural backdrop that makes up the ebb and flow of island style and tropical living. Thanks to its 112 miles of coastline, beaches and ocean activities are the cornerstone of daily life here. For pastimes from fishing and diving to surfing and kayaking, there are myriad beaches and locales that are just right. The powerful waves of the North Shore draw the world’s best surfers. The ledges off the leeward coast attract big game fish. Waikiki’s calm water is the ultimate playground for the outrigger canoe. Kailua’s fine, white sand rivals the most beautiful beaches in the world. And with two mountain ranges that span the island from north to south, valleys, ridges, and cliffs offer ample hiking and lush open space.

From the Polynesian roots of its first settlers and the gifts of surfing and the spirit of aloha to O‘ahu’s strategic role for the United States during World War II and its importance as an international agricultural hub, the breadth of the island’s history and evolution is tangible from the leeward to the windward side.

For every budget and every taste, for every tourist, visitor, backpacker, traveler, and globe-trotter seeking adventure or leisure, town or country, fine dining or food truck, mountains or beaches—O‘ahu has it all.

Map of O‘ahu broken down into regions.
O‘ahu travel maps by region.

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