Oahu Travel Guide

Oahu is one of the main islands of the Hawaiian Archipelago and the island on which the capital city of Honolulu is located. It is the third-largest of the Hawaiian islands but the home of two-thirds of Hawaii’s population. Today, Oahu is heavily visited by tourists, numbering around five million annually. Most of them come from the U.S. mainland and Japan, but Oahu’s beaches, volcanoes, and pleasant climate draw visitors from all over the world.


The first known human settlement came with the arrival of Polynesian colonizers in untold centuries past. For over 300 years, Oahu was an independent kingdom, but in 1783, the island was conquered by the king of neighboring Maui. But in 1795, Oahu became the center of a new kingdom led by Kamehameha I that would unite the Hawaiian Islands under one king by 1845.

In 1776, Oahu was sighted during an expedition by British Captain James Cook. Soon, the islands were routinely visited. In 1893, the last monarch of Hawaii was overthrown in a coup led largely by American immigrants, leading to annexation to the United States as a territory in 1898. Finally, in 1959, Hawaii gained statehood, with 94 percent of its people approving of the change in a referendum.

Things to see and do on Oahu

Lanikai and the Mouku Lua Islands – Oahu, Hawaii


The beaches of Oahu are many and one of its prime draws. Swimming, surfing, scuba diving, and other water sports can hardly find a more perfect environment. Waikiki is the most well known beach, but many locals say Lanikai beach has the best swimming conditions. Many also kayak from Lanikai to the nearby “twin islands.”

Hiking up Diamond Head Crater is, perhaps, the second-most well known Oahu activity. It is only two-thirds of a mile up to the summit, but you pass through tunnels and over stone staircases and get an amazing view at the top. It takes about an hour to hike and is well worthwhile.

Visit He’eia State Park, where you can tour the scenic mountains and take a canoe-building class. Also consider Kea’iwa State Recreation Area, where you can hike, picnic, and see the ruins of Hawaiian temples.

Ka'ena Point – Oahu, Hawaii

Family fishing from the cliffs at Ka’ena Point State Park in Oahu.

Visit the Wahiawa Botanical Garden, where you can see 60 kinds of Oahu trees, numerous ferns, and many other native Hawaiian plants. You may also wish to see native and non-native drought-tolerant plants in the beautiful Coco Crater Garden.

See Iolani Palace, the former residence of Hawaiian kings and queens and the only royal palace on U.S. soil.

Climate conditions

Oahu has a warm, sunny, tropical climate that is also generally stable and generally dry. There is a rainy season, from later fall through early spring, but even then, the rain is not enough to stop the tourists from coming. While summer is the optimal time of year to visit, all year round is a good time to visit Oahu.