The Hawaiian island of Oahu might seem small (44 miles long by 30 miles wide), but don’t let its size fool you: this island is rich in history and culture. Come with us and experience five of the many things to do on Oahu.
1. USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor
On Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, sinking the 608-foot USS Arizona battleship in just nine minutes, killing 1,177 sailors and marines. The infamous day catapulted the United States into World War II. Today, a free shuttle boat takes you to a floating memorial, where the deck of the Arizona lies just 6 feet under the water. You can still see oil oozing up from the engine room like tears weeping from below.
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2. Waikiki Beach
Oahu has some 4.5 million visitors every year, and most stay along this beautiful white-sand beach. It has activities for people of all fitness and skill levels. You can swim or snorkel, arrange Hawaiian outrigger canoe trips, learn to stand-up paddle (SUP), and even take surfing lessons — on the beach once frequented by legendary swimmer and surfer Duke Kahanamoku. And, of course, the opportunities for sunbathing and people-watching are incredible. Waikiki is also a great place to watch the sun set — especially to a soundtrack of Hawaiian music.
On the outskirts of downtown Honolulu is one of the country’s largest Asian communities, Chinatown. This neighborhood dates from the 1850s, when laborers from China’s Guangdong Province came to work in the sugar and pineapple plantations. Today, Chinatown is a vibrant mix of Asian cultures — a place where open-air markets have kept out the mini-malls, the tangy scent of spices fills the air, the way to good health is through acupuncture and herbalists, and bargaining over prices rules most transactions.
4. The North Shore
When the surf is up, everyone seems to empty out of Honolulu and drive an hour or so to the North Shore beaches. Here professional surfers ride waves so big that when they crest and crash, the ground quakes. The best time to catch the show is during the winter surf season (November through February), when waves reach thundering peaks of 30 or more feet.
5. Polynesian Cultural Center
While you’re on the North Shore, stop at the Polynesian Cultural Center to experience the beauty of several Pacific islands in just one day. You’ll travel from one Polynesian village to the next, in a canoe or on foot, where natives from Fiji, New Zealand, the Marquesas, Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga, and Hawaii, outfitted in indigenous dress, show you their unique culture.
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