What to Do in Oahu

The island of Oahu is not called "The Gathering Place" for nothing. With a landscape and culture so diverse, Oahu is a paradise for everyone. Its cityscape blends amazingly well with the island’s scenery. Even its natural landscape is one of a kind. The few remaining wetlands make a beautiful contrast against Oahu’s jagged cliffs and volcano cones, the same with miles of powdery white sand beaches against a backdrop of lush rainforests. Oahu is a haven for the city slicker, the nature trek adventurer, the sports junkie, and the beach bum. It is a perfect destination for lovers and the lovelorn, the entire family, and even for the solo tourist on a soul-searching journey. Oahu fits any lifestyle.

The Oahu experience is one of indulgence peppered with a little of everything: romance, adventure, mystery, history, and culture. Although the picturesque island will captivate you at first sight, the endless choices and possibilities that you’ll find in Oahu is sure to have you professing an undying love for the island.

Love is in the air

Most scenes from the romantic comedy hit "50 First Dates" was shot in Oahu, and for a good reason. All you have to do is imagine this--the balmy breeze kissing your glistening, bronzed skin, blowing softly through your hair, and the coconut scent of your shampoo wafting through the palm trees and right to that sandy spot where your future life partner is sunbathing or waxing a surfboard. In Oahu, you won’t have to overwork your imagination. Romance is Oahu, from the distant strumming of the ukulele to the moonlight glinting off the water’s glassy surface. It’s no wonder that the island of Oahu is among the top honeymoon destinations in the world today. Not only that, the island is also a favorite location for dream weddings, renewal of vows, and marriage proposals. Why? The romantic possibilities in Oahu are endless. Couples may even exchange wedding vows on a surfboard if they want to.

If that’s a little too strange for you, you can go old school and share a breathtaking sunrise or sunset with that special someone. Catch a glimpse of your first Oahu sunrise together at the Waimanalo Bay Beach Park (on the eastern part of Oahu), so you’re among the first ones to witness the majestic sun rising above paradise. Make it a point not to miss the sunset at Ala Moana Beach, or Magic Island on the south shore. If you think that you’ve seen too many beach sunsets already, this one is still worth seeing. Hold hands as the sky transforms into a palette of orange and blue. As the sun sinks into the horizon, witness the "green flash" that happens only within a second.

You and your partner may also take a kayak to the Mokolua Islands in Kailua for an adventure that’s double the thrill. Glide through the peaceful, crystal Pacific waters, and take in the sight of the Koolau Range. Who knows? You might even be lucky enough to come across a sea turtle or two. If you want to mix romance with a little danger, pretend that the Jurassic Park is real and roam through the dinosaur land of Kualoa Ranch, which was the location of the Spielberg shoot.

Take in the picturesque Kaawa Valley with the Pacific Ocean at the horizon. Or, fall in love the rich and famous way by booking a Pacific tour onboard a luxury yacht. Pretend to be a Kennedy and take the Vida-Mia. This is the sister ship of JFK’s Danny Boy. Check out Wild Side Specialty Tours, if you want to swim in the company of dolphins and sea turtles. With all these getaways, you might even get excited enough to get down on one knee and propose to your sweetheart. In that case, get a table right next to the giant fish tank at the Oceanarium Restaurant and have a diver hold your written proposal (make sure it’s in waterproof ink) against the glass. You might even have a Hawaiian moonlit wedding the following evening with a luau reception.

The great outdoors

Oahu is a fantasy coming to life for those who love the salty smell of the ocean, the deep trails leading to rumbling waterfalls and thick rainforests. Get your first surfing lesson at Waikiki Beach or revisit the old sport of outrigger canoe paddling, a Polynesian trademark. Oahu is the birthplace of surfing; the Hawaiians have engaged in "wave sliding" (or he’e nalu) thousands of years ago.

If you feel like taking it slow, you may start your outdoor adventure with sailing or snorkeling. Ride a sailboat and literally go wherever the wind takes you. Not only will you get to enjoy the Oahu scenery from the sea, but you can even go dolphin and whale watching at the same time. Snorkeling is a favorite pastime in Oahu. Be mesmerized by the amazing display of colorful tropical fish underneath the turquoise Hawaiian waters, and you won’t feel like you’re killing time at all. Water babies won’t run out of things to do in Oahu. There’s always fishing, swimming, jet skiing, wakeboarding, and boogie boarding. If you want to take it to a higher level, you may try parasailing and kite surfing as well.

Conquer your fear of heights and go "flightseeing" by going on a helicopter ride around the island of Oahu. For the more adventurous, try skydiving while you’re at it. Take up the challenge of Oahu's most popular trails. Gear up and hike to the Diamond Head crater and enjoy the panoramic view from above. Another option is to head over to Manoa Falls, where you’ll find nature’s best as you take a closer view of the waterfalls amidst the lush forests and diverse wildlife. Other interesting trails that you should check out are the Makapu'u Lighthouse and the Aiea Loop Trail.

When you go hiking, pack wisely. Make sure you have a good pair of hiking shoes, light clothing and jacket, a first aid kit, compass, flashlight, and plenty of food and water. Never attempt to hike by yourself and stick to the trail.

The heart of Hawaii

Oahu is the center of Hawaiian art, history, and culture. Experience the island’s multi-cultural heritage through dance, music, theater, festivals, and the smorgasbord of exotic cuisines. Walk down the memory lane at Pearl Harbor and pay tribute to the sunken heroes onboard Battleship Arizona. You can also relive the historic end of the Second World War by ending your trip to Pearl Harbor with a tour of Battleship Missouri, a reminder of Japan’s surrender to the United States. Go further back into the past by making a stop at The Bishop Museum and the Iolani Palace. Aside from being the seat of power of Hawaii’s ancient rulers, it is the only royal palace in the entire United States.

Other must-see places are the Mission House Museum, Kawaiahao Church, Queen Emma Summer Palace, Washington Place, and, of course, you wouldn’t want to miss the Hawaii Plantation Village. It has great historical significance not only among the people of Oahu but of the entire state of Hawaii as well. It is a symbol of Hawaii’s plantation glory days and the origin of the state’s cultural diversity, as laborers from countries such as China, Japan, Russia, Korea, Puerto Rico, Portugal, and the Philippines were recruited for work at the sugar cane and pineapple plantations.

If you happen to be in Oahu between late January through mid-February, head to Chinatown and watch the lion dance as everyone there celebrates the Chinese New Year. Or, you can take the trip downtown to Chinatown for "First Friday," as local artists and craftsmen put up arts and culture exhibits. See the place transform into a playground for lovers of art and nightlife every first Friday of the month. Witness the best of Polynesian culture during the Honolulu Festival in March, and watch in awe as the best fire knife dancers around the globe compete at the Polynesian Cultural Center in May. In the same month, experience Filipino hospitality and love for merrymaking as Hawaiians of Filipino ancestry celebrate fiesta with a grand parade and Santacruzan (a religious procession and beauty pageant rolled into one).

In June, remember loved ones who have passed away by sending candle-lit lanterns afloat the sea at the Lantern Floating Ceremony. Other festivals you can look forward to include the Korean Festival in July and the Okinawan Festival in September.

You won't easily run out of things to do and see in Oahu. You can shop till you drop at the Ala Moana Center, one of the largest outdoor malls in America, or play golf in one of the 40 golf courses in the island. Dine the night away at Alan Wong’s Restaurant, which won the Hale ‘Aina Award for Best Restaurant. Hale ‘Aina (which means eating place) Awards was founded by Honolulu Magazine. Here, local subscribers make their top choices for various dining categories.

If you feel your heart beating wildly because of excitement, then perhaps you should consider taking a trip to Oahu to spend your holidays in paradise.