Photo: Surfer washing off boards at sunset

A surfer washes his board after a day on the waves at Waikiki Beach in Honolulu.

Photograph by Larry Downing, Reuters

Oahu is Hawaii’s most populated and most visited island. Climb to the top of Diamond Head, the island’s most recognizable landmark; pay your respects at Pearl Harbor’s U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. To escape the summertime crowds in Waikiki, head to Oahu’s North Shore. Spend a few hours in the plantation town of Haleiwa. While there, visit the Surf Museum and grab a famous shaved ice from Matsumoto’s. Then head to Sunset Beach, a local favorite.

Where to Play

For a more low-key beach experience than Waikiki, head to Oahu’s east coast to Makapuu Beach. Famous with bodysurfers for its waves, the waters of Makapuu are calmer in the summer months. Hike up to the Makapuu Lighthouse, from which you can see Molokai in the distance and two closer, smaller islands. From December to May, visitors often spot whales from the telescopes at the lighthouse. The Outrigger Reef on the Beach hotel, just steps from Waikiki Beach, offers family-friendly activities, such as lei-making, hula, and ukulele lessons, in its lobby.

At Day’s End

Claim your spot on the sand on Waikiki Beach for the nightly hula show or weekend movies. Or head to the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu’s North Shore for their evening program, “Horizons.” Over a hundred Polynesian performers share songs and dances that depict various aspects of their enduring cultures. For show times and ticket information, visit


Pearl Harbor is a 45-minute drive from Waikiki.

For more information on Diamond Head, visit

Stay at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach.

Based on articles from National Geographic Traveler and compiled by Stephanie Robichaux

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