Hawaii's Island of O'ahu - My Family Travels

One of single parenting's foremost experts shares tips on how to get around, where to stay and what not to miss in O'ahu. One of single parenting's foremost experts shares tips on how to get around, where to stay and what not to miss in O'ahu.

Hawai'i has often been called one of the world's favorite vacation spots. There is no doubt that this is one of those rare places on Earth that truly offers something for everyone. Depending on your interest you can enjoy exciting nightlife or complete isolation, warm tropical relaxing beaches or high altitude volcanic mountains with incredibly exciting hiking terrain, ultra plus expensive hotels or very inexpensive laid back lodging, one step above a grass shack, and almost every type of sport imaginable, including skiing!

To experience the culture and beauty of Hawai'i doesn't mean you have to spend large sums of money on accommodations, but you certainly can, if that is your choice. And that is one of the reasons why Hawai'i is such a great vacation destination. There are all kinds of choices.

Once a traveler has decided to visit Hawai'i the very first question he or she asks is "What island(s) should I visit?" and the second question is "How long should I stay there?" The answers to both these questions depend on your personal tastes and interests. There are no wrong choices in Hawai'i; some islands are better suited to your preferences than others. All are wonderful.

There are four major tourist islands in Hawai'i – O'ahu, Maui, Kauai, and Hawai'i, often called the Big Island. In addition are several other less visited islands: Molokai and Lanai, whose tourism levels are increasing annually, and Niihau and Kahoolawe, both essentially inaccessible. Keep in mind, by law, all beaches in Hawai'i are public. So you need not feel like a poor cousin if you stay in a "3 star" hotel and visit the beach at a nearby "5 star" hotel. You won't have access to all their deluxe facilties but at least part of the beach will be set aside for public use. As a single parent, O'ahu in all its diversity and beauty, is my family's favorite island.

O'ahu, The Gathering Place

This beautiful island is populated by nearly one million people, the vast majority of which live in and around the capital city of Honolulu. There was a time where visitors vacationed only on O'ahu and some never left the beautiful area of Waikiki, the resort section of Honolulu. Today that is no longer true.

Many visitors bypass O'ahu entirely, heading straight for one or more of the outer islands so they can experience the "real" Hawai'i. Well the "real" Hawai'i can be experienced on O'ahu as well. If you are looking for lots of nightlife and are interested in museums and history, this island offers the best selection for those activities, along with beautiful secluded beaches and hikes on the outskirts of Honolulu.

There are so many varied things to do on the island it would be impossible to see it all in a week. If you are spending a few days in Honolulu, we recommend renting a car for at least a day or two to explore the areas outside of the capital city.

O'ahu Attractions

Starting with Honolulu, here are a few of the major attractions:

Pearl Harbor: A "must-see" attraction. One can't help be moved by the Arizona Memorial which played such as pivotal role in one of the most defining moments in the history of the United States. We recommend getting there as close to 9 am as possible to avoid the crowds. This is a wonderful place to wear your newly acquired lei and leave it over the memorial in honor of those young men who died during that fateful day in December.

Diamond Head: You need to be in fairly good shape to make this hike and it is best to do it early in the morning before the sun gets too hot. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and a hat. The view from the top is terrific. From Diamond Head you can continue on for a pleasant drive counter clockwise around the island.

Iolani Palace: America's only royal residence is open during limited hours and may be entered only with a guided tour. We recommend making reservations at least a day or two in advance.

Bishop Museum: Located on the grounds of the University of Hawaii, this group of stone buildings houses a superb collection of relics and historical information on Hawaii and Polynesia in general. Get an early start as there is a lot to see.

Punchbowl Cemetery: Located in the crater of an extinct volcano, this National Cemetery of the Pacific honors 25,000 men and women who fought in various wars starting with the Spanish-American War up to present day.

If you choose to stay in Honolulu a few days, I recommend you get outside of Waikiki and either do a half-day excursion or drive part or all the way around the island for a day. I highly recommend a half-day excursion to Nuuanu Pali Lookout. From there you have an easy hike down a paved path with stunning scenery. You will recognize the view from the movie "Pearl Harbor." Legend has it that this is the place where Kamehameha the Great pursued his enemies to their death over the cliff and thus united all the Hawaiian Islands in 1795.

If you do decide to circle the island, you can do the Dole Pineapple Maze and swim at the beach at the Banzai Pipeline (calm in summer).

Getting Around & Sleeping on O'ahu

Unless you plan to spend your entire time on the beach, I would rent a car. It's quicker and easier to get around, especially with teenagers. Everyone says not to rent in Honolulu, but it was better for us since we are on the move a lot and liked the flexibility of stopping at various beaches for quick swims along the way. On the outer islands, you will need a car. Rent the smallest one you can that is comfortable. Jeeps are great fun but do cost more.

To save money on a Honolulu hotel, pick a moderate priced hotel a block or two off the beach. Outrigger has some good ones. Any of the other chains will do too. (Best Western, Holiday Inn). Ask about family specials. On the outer islands, most places are beachfront or very close to the water.

Obviously, Honolulu will have the largest number of single people. Next in line, but not a close second, would be the Lahaina area of Maui.

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1 Reply to “Hawaii’s Island of O’ahu”

  • anonymous

    If you visit Oct-April and do have a rental car, check out Oahu’s North Shore surf scene, where the surf can get to be 20-40 feet high! Best beaches for big-wave surfer watching are Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay, Ali’i Beach Park, and Ehukai Beach Park, home of the famed Banzai Pipeline.