Landing at Honolulu’s airport plunges you into the urban jungle, but relax, it’s still Polynesia. Even among downtown high-rises, you’ll find capital-city power brokers in breezy aloha shirts. By day, inspect royal feathered capes and ancient temple carvings, then swizzle mai tais while slack key guitars play at Waikiki Beach after dark.
There’s another side of the island: the ‘country,’ where farms and dirt roads lead deep into a Hawaiian heartland. On some wild, rugged and nearly deserted beaches, sea turtles still outnumber surfers. Set your watch to island time as you cruise past the Windward Coast’s emerald valleys, rustic ranches and roadside shrimp trucks, or lose yourself on the rural Wai’anae Coast.
Don’t dismiss Oʻahu as a transit point en route to the Neighbor Islands. Take a closer look and you’ll uncover a lifetime of adventures. Surf the Banzai Pipeline’s giant waves, hike atop knife-edged pali (cliffs), dive in Hanauma Bay’s giant fishbowl, windsurf or kayak to uninhabited islands off Kailua Bay, and be back in Waikiki for sunset hula. No worries, brah.
Oʻahu, like Honolulu-born President Barack Obama, is proud of its multicultural heritage. The nerve center of the archipelago brings you face to face with Hawaii as it really is, not just a postcard fantasy. All over this island, nicknamed ‘The Gathering Place,’ pulses the Hawaiian lifeblood, from ancient heiau (stone temples) to sacred hula dances and chants. Boisterous festivals keep diverse traditions alive.
Spam, surfing, hula, pidgin, rubbah slippah – these are just some of the touchstones of everyday life floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. People are easygoing, low-key and casual, bursting with genuine aloha and fun. You’ll feel welcome whether you’re a surf bum, a honeymooner or part of a big ʻohana (extended family) with grandparents and kids tagging along.