Sunday, June 20, 2010

Oahu – the Heart of Hawai’i

Come and experience the diversity of an island paradise where cosmopolitan conveniences are surrounded by breathtaking scenery. Envelope yourself in the aloha spirit, a way of life in the islands that will leave you longing to return to Oahu, the island where aloha begins. Follow the aloha to world-famous Waikiki Beach, one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world – with good reason! A short drive out of town in any direction will bring you face to face with uncrowned beaches, natural wonders and beautiful scenery that will have you wondering if you’re on the same island. Escape to Oahu, the island with surprises around every corner.
Search the world, there’s no place like Oahu, an island of endless variety. Just miles outside the vibrant, modern city of Honolulu lie tropical green valley’s little changed in thousands years. Waikiki is one of the most popular beaches anywhere, but again, a few miles down the road you can explore any number of beaches and find few footprints besides your own. Oahu offers the finest in five-star dining and delicious local favorites served from roadside wagons. And a rainbow is a glorious sight whether hanging over a city skyline or a secluded waterfall.
Honolulu is the capital of Hawai’i. There’s a lot of colorful history attending Honolulu’s past and it can be seen everywhere from the incredible collection of artifacts at the Bishop Museum to the ‘Iolani Palace, home to the last reigning monarch, Queen Liliuokalani. A walk through Chinatown provides the flavor of the street life and architecture of the turn of the last century when the Aloha Tower was the tallest building for 2.500 miles.
The best way to appreciate all Oahu has to offer is to get in a car and venture beyond the city limits. Heading east, it’s just a couple of miles to Hawai’i Kai and sheltered Maunalua Bay, a great place for all sorts of water sports. Drive on past Koko Head to Hanauma Bay where thousands of reef fish seem to have no other purpose than to entertain snorkelers.
Makapu’u Point marks the beginning of Oahu’s windward side. Makapu’u Beach is a favorite with experienced boogie boarders. And you can see the island of Molokai in the distance. Next stop is Waimanalo, a quiet, rural town where Oahu really begins to slow down. Join the pace with a long leisurely walk on Waimanalo Beach.
Continue on to Kailua. Two beaches here are worthy of note. Lanikai Beach is popular for swimming, windsurfing and kayaking and two-mile Kailua Beach is a favorite for strolling along its aquamarine waters. If you’ve used up the whole day exploring this far you can head back across the Ko’olau Mountains on the Pali Highway. After you crest the hill, exit at the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout for a bird’s eye view of the windward side.
Driving on up the windward side will take you deeper into rural, forested Oahu. Take it slow; otherwise you’ll miss the charms of the small towns that dot the coast like Kakalu’u, Waikane, Kahana, and Punalu’u. Each has a beach and a general store to explore. La’ie is a little bigger and boasts the first Mormon Temple built outside of the mainland United States. It’s also the home of the Polynesian Cultural Center.
Around the next corner, pass Kahuku Point and you’ve arrived at Oahu’s popular North Shore with its famous surfing beaches. The ride back to Honolulu takes you through sugar and pineapple fields between the Ko’olau and Wai’anae mountain ranges to Pearl Harbor.
Head east again to complete the circle or turn west to explore Oahu’s Leeward Coast and the beaches of Nanakuli and Makaha. Past Kaneana Cave you can hike to Ka’ena Point where the view of the Pacific Ocean is unlimited.
With few stops, it’s possible to finish this tour in a long day. But you’ll want to plan several days to experience all the attractions and activities along the way.

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