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Monday, August 16, 2010

O’ahu - The Gathering Place - The Heart of Hawaii

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Oahu is where most of Hawaii's people live. Yellow is Oahu's color and its flower is the 'ilima. It has a huge variety of hotels, restaurants and major attractions. It offers much in the way of culture, entertainment and the arts. Oahu has the bustling city of Honolulu and the "world's best known beach," Waikiki, but it also features wonderful uncrowded beaches and natural areas, and small towns where their is a slower and more rural way of life.

There are no roadside billboards in Hawaii. In 1926, a group of women finally won the fight to ban outdoor advertising and a law was passed to that effect.

O’ahu, known as "The Heart of Hawaii," is the third largest island in the sandwich island chain. It was formed when two mountain ranges created from eroded volcanoes split the island. Oahu is famous for its gold-sand beaches and coral reefs, waterfalls, rainforest's, and their mountains nearly a mile high engulfed with its gorgeous valleys and canyons. The Nuuanu Pali lookout offers a spectacular view of windward O’ahu. It's just off the Pali Highway, which crosses the mountains between Honolulu and the windward side. It’s a view you must see when visiting.

Puu Ualakaa Park, with its spectacular views of the Honolulu area, means "Rolling Sweet Potato" in Hawaiian. It was named for the way that the potatoes were harvested on the steep hillside by simply rolling them down the hill.

Mountain ranges divide O’ahu into three separate environments. The leeward side of the island is dry, with modest vegetation and sporadic rainfall. The windward side is a little more lush and tropical, with waterfalls and excellent beaches. In between is a fertile central valley.

Honolulu, the largest city in the state and the 11th largest in the United States, lies in the southern part of the island. Honolulu means "sheltered bay," and it is the political, cultural and economic center of the Hawaiian chain. 80% of the states population live here. Honolulu is a long, narrow city bordered by mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. Its main beach, Waikiki (View live Web cam), is the best known stretch of sand in the world. Here you can shop, eat, sun bathe and practice just about every other activity imaginable. Most of Oahu's hotels are here, too. Waikiki is currently undergoing both renovation and beautification in order to enhance its already legendary beauty, culture and history.

Diamond Head, the island's most recognizable landmark, and Punchbowl, a military cemetery, are craters that were formed during a later period of volcanic activity, about 150,000 years ago. Known by the Hawaiians as Mt. Leahi, Diamond Head Crater was named Diamond Head because of the sparkling calcite crystals found there; British sailors first thought that the calcite crystals were diamonds. Honolulu (especially the Waikiki area) is bustling, but the rest of O’ahu is surprisingly rural.
East of Honolulu is Hanauma Bay, a protected bay that's great for novice snorkeling.

A few miles west of Waikiki is Pearl Harbor.

A rental car is a must if you want to see the rest of the island.

The North Shore is old Hawai'i at its best, with world-class surfing sites. O’ahu's windward side has some of the best beaches in the world.

Northeastern O’ahu offers the quaint, quiet towns. The middle valley is home to pineapple plantations.

O’ahu offers a great variety of resort accommodation areas. Waikiki obviously offers a vast selection of all types, sizes, styles and price ranges, including some of the largest, most venerable and most opulent on the islands. The rest of Honolulu (Ala Moana, Honolulu Harbor, Downtown, Northern Honolulu, Nuuanu, Tantalus, et cetera.) offers many fine lodging options, too.

Kahala, 10 minutes to the east of Honolulu, along with Ko'olina to the west and the North Shore (Haleiwa, Waimea, Turtle Bay, Laie) also have lodging and activities. These two latter options are ideal for those who want to get away from it all, yet want to take advantage of O’ahu's more developed areas.

Windward O’ahu offers activities and some lodging choices at Kailua, Kaneohe, Waimanalo, Kahuku, and other spots.