Oahu Facts and Information

An Overview of The Gathering Place

There's a reason Oahu is known as The Gathering Place, as it offers so much to attract- and keep- the attention of locals and tourists alike. Here we'll present an overview of Oahu and hopefully, you'll soon be as enamored with the island as we are!

Oahu may be number three in size among its fellow islands in the Hawaiian chain, but it is first in population. Nearly 900,000 people share Oahu's 600 square miles of mountains and beaches - that's a full three quarters of the state's population. Almost half live in the bustling city of Honolulu and nearby resort town of Waikiki. Oahu is also the most visited of all the Hawaiian islands, at approximately 4.5 to 4.7 million visitors annually - that's approximately half of all the visitors to the state each year.

Oahu is primarily defined by the state capital of Honolulu, Pearl Harbor, and the world-famous Waikiki Beach. These areas host thousands of tourists daily.

By most accounts (ours included) Oahu weather is wonderful, accommodations are varied, shopping options suit practically every budget, and Oahu's best beaches are beyond breathtaking. It's fair to say the island attracts visitors from around the world; though this may be the one fault of the island, as many are discouraged by the large crowds of Oahu and opt to visit one of the other less-visited islands in the chain. After all, chances are if you are staying on Oahu you, too, will book a room in Waikiki or Honolulu yourself. Nearly all of the island's resorts are located in this small area.

Honolulu is the state's capital and major financial center. It is also home to the main campus of the University of Hawaii. However, Honolulu wasn't always the main seat. Until 1845 the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom was located on the island of Maui. King Kamehameha III ordered the move and the Iolani Palace was built later.

But Oahu is much more than Honolulu or Waikiki - it may well be the most beautiful of all the major islands. You simply have to know where to go to experience the beauty that is Oahu.

Oahu just may be the most beautiful Hawaiian Island

Oahu just may be the most beautiful Hawaiian Island

Oahu Regions

Oahu, also known as The Gathering Place, is made up of two separate but overlapping volcanoes, known as a volcanic doublet. Its asymmetrical butterfly shape is formed by two mountain ranges: the Waianae Range in the west and the Ko'olau Range in the east. Slicing through the center is the flat Leilehua Plateau. Recent (geologically speaking) volcanic eruptions in the southeastern portion of the island which formed the Diamond Head, Koko Head, and Punchbowl craters can be blamed for Oahu's uneven shape.

The eastern coast of Oahu is hemmed in by a gorgeous mountain range and boasts three of the islands best beaches. Surprisingly, you'll find no major accommodations here, just a few vacation homes along the quaint towns that dot the coast. The eastern region offers many visitors an escape from the bustling Waikiki scene while still offering the proximity to the shopping and activities of the nearby city just a half hour drive away. The jaw-dropping Ka'a'awa Valley is also located on this side of the island. It is easily recognizable as the backdrop for the hit television series "Lost." In fact, Oahu has played host to a slew of films, from "Mighty Joe Young" to the surfing flick "Blue Crush," and television shows like "Magnum P.I." and the reality show "Dog the Bounty Hunter."

The famous north shore of Oahu is a surfer's paradise, especially in the winter months when the surf is up. The monster waves and laid-back atmosphere have professional surfers flocking to Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay to ride some of the most killer waves in the Pacific. About an hour's drive from Honolulu, this region has a surprisingly unpopulated feel to it. Many miles of beaches stretch along this portion of Oahu, making it a popular haven for those looking to relax in the sun.

The western, northwestern, and central regions are where most of the island's residents live. For the most part, there isn't much here for the typical island visitors - just a few scattered beaches. Central Oahu does, however, have one of the island's largest attractions: Pearl Harbor and the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. More than one million people a year pay their respects to the many military personnel who lost their lives during the Japanese attack. Many of these men and women and veterans of many wars are laid to rest in Punchbowl National Cemetery at Pu'owaina Crater (Punchbowl).

The leeward or west side of Oahu is called Wai'anae and is filled with pineapple fields. Although there are many lovely coastal stops on this drier and poorer side of the island, it has received a somewhat unwarranted bad reputation. In decades past, violent crimes against tourists did occur but mostly now the only threat is petty theft.

Beyond the skyscrapers and decidedly urban nature of the southern tip of the island is an Oahu of great natural beauty and old-time charm. For the traveler looking to experience a modern paradise, Oahu has it all - the excitement and culture of a large metropolitan city, the unspoiled beauty of tropical coastlines and verdant mountains... plus everything in between.

Please Help protect Oahu's Marine Life

We here at GuideofUS- Hawaii are huge supporters of preserving the waters around Oahu as well as the other Hawaiian islands. If you feel the same, we encourage you to check out the Be Reef Safe initiative, a global campaign that empowers consumers and businesses to make positive choices for our oceans and reefs

Additional Oahu Travel Information

What's the best beach on Oahu? Where are the best hiking trails? What are some kid-friendly activities on Oahu? Which are the most popular sights? You'll find answers to all these questions and more right here. 

Recent Oahu Articles 

Ever wonder where the Aloha shirt originated? How about where you'll find one of the world's scariest roads? Ever ask yourself who has the best mac 'n' cheese pancakes in Honolulu... of course you have! So button your shirt, buckle your seatbelt, pass the syrup, and read on! 

Article Edited/Contributed by: John C. Derrick & Michele Lopez
Published/Updated:

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