There’s a reason why the island of Oʻahu is nicknamed “the gathering place.” At 44 miles long and 30 miles wide, Hawaiian residents call the island home, and it attracts more visitors than any of the islands. Oʻahu is commonly known as home to the state capital of Honolulu, the home of Pearl Harbor, and the world-famous Waikki Beach. Thousands of tourists visit Oʻahu daily. The island holds 11 of the 13 different climate zones. You can start off in a rain forest and in a few hours, end up in a desert. With a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, abundant cattle farms, and Pacific Ocean waters overflowing with sashimi-grade fish, Hawaiian cuisine is a beautiful mixture of flavors and traditions. With stunning natural beauty and a confluence of South Pacific, Asian, and European influences all meeting, it’s an exotic destination without leaving American soil.
Surfing has a long and rich history in Hawaii and Waikki was the birthplace of it all. Dozens of surf schools line the beaches of Waikki, where ideal beginner surf conditions can be found every day. Most schools provide some on-land instruction, as well as all the gear you’ll need if you’d like to try hanging ten. For a tranquil afternoon, sunbathe at Lanikai Bach, considered the most beautiful beach in Hawaii. Located on the windward side of the island near Kailu town, this beach is accessed by beach baths between breathtaking beach homes. Although it’s a tourist mecca, be sure to visit Waikiki Beach at least once to see the sunset. Popular options for umbrella drinks and surf ‘n’ turf are Duke’s at the Outrigger Waikiki Resort or Rumfire at the Sheraton. You’ll find plenty of shopping to keep you occupied after sunset.
While you’re on Oʻahu, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the most famous war memorial in Hawaii, the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor (make reservations ahead of time). The Memorial straddles the sunken hull of the battleship USS Arizona and commemorates December 7, 1941, the date of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Dedicated in 1962, the Memorial became part of the National Park Service system in 1980. It marks the final resting place for many of the 1,177 crewmen killed when the ship was sunk by Japanese bombers. This represents more than half of the American causalities on that day. Your trip beings at the Visitor’s Center where you are assigned a group for your visit. You will see a film about the day of the attack and then board a navy tender that takes you to the USS Arizona. The Memorial is very solemn, because you know you are standing above the burial site of many brave men whose names are on the wall at the Memorial. Fuel still leaks from the ship, almost 70 years after the attack, and buoys in the water mark the front and back of the great ship. Don’t be surprised if the entire experience is profoundly moving.
During your stay, don’t miss a visit to the Battleship Missouri Memorial, “Mighty Mo,” now docked on Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor. The Missouri has served her nation proudly in WWII, the Korean Conflict, and the Gulf War.