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Oahu, the third largest island, is home to the majority of Hawaii’s diverse population, a fusion of East and West cultures rooted in the values and traditions of the native Hawaiian people.  Home to 80% of Hawaii’s population, the state capitol of Honolulu, and world famous Waikiki Beach, Oahu is often the first stop for Hawaii visitors. Because this is such an active and vibrant island with so much variety, there’s no shortage of things to do.
People and Culture
The people of Hawai‘i are known throughout the world for their spirit of Aloha. This spirit can only be described as an inner warmth; a feeling of love, respect and hospitality. This spirit is in the very soul of its ancient people. Today, the people of Hawaii work to preserve not only the language, food, music and dance that the ancient Hawaiians brought to the islands but the traditions of Aloha, a culture of generosity; a culture of family.
The Island of Oahu is made up of many ethnic communities and although each group celebrates the differences that make each special and unique through cultural festivals and activities, there is an underlying local culture that has adopted this spirit of Aloha that resonates through each resident.
The Island of Oahu boasts a melting pot of diverse cultures that have blended and transformed its traditions, festivals and foods. The beautiful multicultural makeup of Oahu is the result of an earlier era: the days of the sugar plantations. As agriculture boomed in the late 19th century, workers from China, Japan, Russia, Korea, Puerto Rico, Portugal and The Philippines were brought to the islands to work and live on the plantations. Today, visitors can easily appreciate this blend of cultures by enjoying the local food or attending a local festival.


Oahu was apparently the first of the Hawaiian Islands sighted by the crew of HMS Resolution on January 18,1778 during Capt. James Cook's third Pacific expedition. Escorted by HMS Discovery, the expedition was surprised to find high islands this far north in the central Pacific. Oahu was not actually visited by Europeans until 28 February 1779 when Captain Clerke aboard HMS Resolution stepped ashore at Waimea Bay. Clerke had taken command of the ship after Capt. Cook was killed at Kealakekua Bay on the Island of Hawaii on February 14, and was leaving the islands for the North Pacific.

The opening battle of World War II in the Pacific for the United States was the Imperial Japanese Navy preemptive  attack on Pearl Harbor, Oahu on the morning of December 7, 1941. The surprise attack was aimed at the Pacific Fleet of the United States Navy and its defending Army Air Corps and Marine Air Forces. The attack damaged or destroyed twelve American warships, destroyed 188 aircraft, and resulted in the deaths of 2,403 American servicemen and 68 civilians. In 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state. To learn more about Oahu's history, click here.

Oahu, an island occupying 597 square miles, is the second oldest island in the Hawaiian chain of visitable islands. It lies between its sister islands Kauai and Maui. Geographically, Oahu is made up of two major mountain ranges that were once two shield volcanoes which have long since become extinct. These two mountain ranges - the Waianae range in the west and Koolau range in the east - run almost parallel to each other. The Waianae range is the oldest part of Oahu, at about four million years old. Over a hundred ridges extend from the spines of each range. As a result, there are valleys, bays and amazing scenery. Click here for a detailed map of Oahu
There are several smaller post-shield volcanic outcroppings scattered throughout the island, all of which are extinct. These appear in the form of volcanic cones and heads usually no greater than 1,000 feet high and a mile in diameter. The most famous of these former craters include Diamond Head and Punchbowl craters, both popular visitor attractions. Koko Head crater is the youngest part of Oahu, at about 32,000 years old.  The Koolau mountain range spans the length of the island's eastern coast for about 34 miles, from the vicinity of Kahuku in the North to Makapuu in the South. The Koolau range separates the Windward coast of Oahu from the central plains of Oahu (Central Oahu). On the Windward (east) side, many hundred thousand years of constant strong breezes have carved beautiful rippling rock faces, near-vertical ridges and precipitous cliffs. Today, the Windward coast tends to be Oahu's wetter and greener side of the island.  The Waianae mountain range lies on the west side of the island, separating Central Oahu from the Leeward coast. For the most part, it remains considerably warmer and drier. The Waianae crest's scenery is higher and sharper, its flora sparser and drier than its Koolau mate. What the Waianae valleys and gulches lack in lush greenery, they make up for with gorgeous red earthen carvings and peaks.

Oahu can be divided into seven districts:

  • Waikiki (South Shore)
  • Honolulu (South Shore)
  • Central Oahu
  • North Shore
  • Windward coast
  • Leeward coast

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Oahu Quick Facts:

  • Duke Kahanamoku, the “Father of Modern Surfing,” grew up in Waikiki.
  • The big waves of the North Shore arrive during the winter.
  • Iolani Palace is known as “America’s only royal palace.”
  • Hanauma Bay is a favorite snorkeling destination.
  • Island Color: Yellow
  • Island Flower:   Ilima
  • Population:  905,266
Top 5 Things To Do on Your First Trip to Oahu:

1.   Hike to the top of Diamond Head (Leahi) Crater.
2.   Take a surfing lesson in
3.   Visit the USS Arizona and USS Missouri memorials at
Pearl Harbor.
4.   Take a drive to Haleiwa and the
North Shore.
5.   Eat at a
luau and watch a traditional hula.

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