Hawaii

 

Oahu

HI Oahu Lanai Lookout

By area, Oahu is the third-largest of the Hawaiian islands, but at the same time it is the one with the largest population. Some 950,000 residents live here, making up about 75% of the state’s total population. This is mainly due to the fact that Hawaii’s capital Honolulu is located on Oahu. Most tourists coming to Hawaii spend at least a part of their time on Oahu, because Honolulu is the Hawaiian airport with the best and most direct flight connections to and from the American mainland. With a total area of some 1500 kmē and a coast line stretching over a total 365 kilometers, Oahu ranks 20th on the list of the largest US islands. Oahu has a maximum length of 71 kilometers and a maximum breadth of 48 kilometers. Oahu’s highest mountain is Mount Ka’ala with an elevation of 1220 meters.

Mount Ka’ala is a part of the Waianae Mountains Range, which stretches in the western half of the island. All mountains in this range are of volcanic origin, having derived from only one volcano. Vis-a-vis, in Oahu’s eastern half, the Ko’oalu Range is located. These two volcanoes formed, along with the valley between them, the entire Oahu island.

Honolulu is the center of the island in many regards. Shops, restaurants and hotels as well as attractions and events are concentrated here, especially in the Waikiki part of the town with its beaches. Many tourists spend their entire stay on Hawaii in the metro area, which however doesn’t have much in common with the postcard images people usually expect from Hawaii. Those can be found at the so-called Windward Coast some 20 kilometers outside of town in a northeastern direction from Honolulu. To get there, one should take the Pali Highway (Highway 61) from Honolulu and enjoy the panorama viewpoints from above the tunnels at the Nu’uanu Pali mountain.

The central point of this section of the island, which has a considerably wetter climate, is the city of Kailua with a population of about 38,600. The city is primarily residential. There is a large navy base here to which more than 9000 soldiers are assigned, but more importantly, Lanikai Beach can be found here, which thanks to its white, fine-powdered sand is considered to be on of the best US beaches and which is often used for fashion photography. Lanikai Beach is only about one kilometer in length, It is publicly accessible but has no tourist infrastructure - and no designated parking lots. Kailua Beach on the other hand is a crescent-shaped beach with a length of four kilometers, which also often ranks highly in comparative assessments and which is, due to its wind and waves, popular with surfers. Kailua is home to the building named Plantation Estate, which has been the christmas vacation home of President Obama and his family annually since 2008 and which has therefore often been dubbed as the “Winter White House”.

Going north from Kailua, one reaches the section of Oahu which copmmonly goes by the name North Shore. In a way, this is the counterpart to the hustle and bustle around Honolulu. Here, everything goes a little slower, calmer and more relaxed and tourists are rarely seen in large groups. This section’s major town is Haleiwa with a population of roughly 4,000. Only a few steps from the central area of this town away, the Hale’iwa Beach Park, featuring a beach with playground, athletic fields and waves often used for high-profile surfing contests can be found. In general, the waters at the North Shore are - especially in winter - less suitable for bathing and rather are surfing areas. To go to the North Shore area, taking the coastal road State Route 83 (Kamehameha Highway) is recommended, because this route will lead you past the town of Ka’a’awa. In the neighborhood of this hamlet, the Kualoa Ranch can be found. Here, they offer varying tours through the area. The scenery is very much worth seeing - the dense jungle has often been used as a backdrop for TV and movie productions, such as “Lost” or “Jurassic Park”.

While tourism in the northern half of the island plays a notable role - although much less than in Oahu’s South - , there is no trace of that visible in quite a number of small towns along the so-called Leeward Coast, the drier and hotter half of the island. This area primarily belongs to the natives and apart from a handful of vacation apartments, there are very few accommodations for visitors available here. Those who come here anyway are usually interested in the wide range of hiking trails and to a lesser degree in beaches and surfing spots. An absolutely remote spot, only accessible by walking the last few kilometers on foot is Ka’ena Point at Oahu’s westernmost point. The arduous route to get there is rewarded with a spectacular view of some of the tallest waves of Hawaii - waves 20 meters high have been seen here. However, all water activities here are very dangerous due to the strong whirlpools and currents in the water. Just a bit outside of Ka’ena Point, the State Park with the same name is located, where there is a beach and the opportunity to watch dolphins in the morning hours. A little farther south, accessible via the Farmington HIghway, Route 93, there is Makaha Beach Park with its golden-yellow sand beach stretching over some 1,5 kilometers. This is a popular area for snorkeling, mostly during the summer months, when the water is generally calmer. Along the coast, there are a number of small towns such as Nanakuli, Maili or Waianae. These, however, have almost no tourism facilities of any kind.

Going back towards Honolulu, the route guides visitors past Kapolei, a community set up in the 1980s with the intention of developing it into a second urban center for the island. Today, there are about 15,000 people living her, with increasing tendency. The town occupies space where previously pineapple and sugarcane plantations could be found. Near Kapolei, the Ko Olina and Barbers Point Beach Parks are located. The latter is, due to the difficult water entry, not recommendable for bathers, but offers another attraction in the Barbers Point Light. The lighthouse, built in a cylindric shape, was opened in 1933 and became automated in 1964. To continue on towards the capital, one will take the H1 freeway past Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona memorial. As a day trip to take from Honolulu, the town of Wahiawa,in the island’s interior with its 18,000 residents gets a lot of attention. The reason for that is the fact that in the 19th century, the Dole company was founded here. Next to the - allegedly - largest maze of the world, there are guided tours available to see the actual Dole Plantation with its countless pineapple plants and a number of other native fruit.


 

 

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