Minnesota Farmer

O’ahu top picks
January 18, 2012, 3:24 pm
Filed under: Hawaii, rain, travel | Tags: , , , , , ,

OK, so after three trips to the island of O’ahu, and several people asking me what they thought should be seen, I decided to put together a top picks list.  All of these are on any major tourist map of the island, but few of these are “commercial” tourist stops.  Most require a fee to enter or at least park, but not all.  Note, finding places in Hawaii is not always easy.  Roads are narrow, traffic is a mess, and many really good sites are on the end of dead end roads.

Since many of these are from past trips I did not include photos.  Check back to earlier posts.  I did not feel I needed to cover all of them again.

Many place names seem the same.  Wai, in any name means fresh water, Kai, means salt water.  With water being such a large part of Hawaiian culture it is no wonder that it figures into so many place names.

Yes, I have ranked them according to the ones you MUST see and those you should see.  There are many other wonderful places to visit, not all of them famous, spend some time and explore.  Get off of the beach.

10) Makapu’u Point – On the eastern end of the Island of O’ahu, this overlook could be a place to see whales in season.  When the weather is nice you can see  several of the islands to the east of O’ahu.  There is a parking lot and a paved trail to the overlook.  I’ve been past here, but not to the top.  It’s a reason I need to go back.

9) Lanikai and Kailua Beaches – On the north east side of the island, this is a really great beach.  It has none of the hype of Waikiki, and is not easy to get to, but worth the trip.  This is where the locals go.

8) Pali Overlook – 

Take a jacket and hang on to your hat.  When the ocean breeze meets the mountains you can have a real wind here.  The over look can be reached from the Pali Highway as you cross the island from Honolulu to Kailua and Lanikai.  I’ve visited this site every trip to the island.

The site of a famous battle for the union of the Kingdom of Hawaii under one ruler, the cliff face looks north towards the side of O’ahu that many tourists never see.

7) Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve.  If you want to snorkel with the fishes, this is the place.  Sorry, I’ve never been here, I’m just going on reports of those who have been here.  Another reason I need to make another trip.

6) Iolani Palace –

Iolani Palace

The only royal palace in the United States, come here to find out how this noble Victorian Era Kingdom was run and prospered until some of the influential Anglos decided to take over.   At one time this palace looked out over the harbor, now buildings and fill have moved it far inland and hide the sea from its windows.  After the death of the queen it was used for government offices, but it has now been restored and has many of the original furnishings and artwork.  Check out some of the other buildings in the area, you may see some you recognize from movies and TV shows.

5) The National Cemetery of the Pacific, aka The Punch Bowl

You’ve seen this statue if you ever saw a commercial for the TV series Hawaii 5-0.  Situated in an old volcanic crater, this memorial to the dead of WWII and the Korean Conflict  is a place that needs some time.

The stunning mosaics of the major battles of the Pacific are worth the trip alone.  Do wander around and see all of the sights.  Don’t miss the walkway to the Honolulu overlook.

Honolulu and Diamond Head from the Punch Bowl

4) Diamond Head – The first travelers here saw the reflection of light off of this extinct volcano and thought it was covered in Diamonds.  Do find your way around to the tunnel and parking lot inside.  It’s a bit of a hike to the top, but the view of the city and the reefs out in the ocean are worth it.  Don’t stop at the first view port, crawl through and continue the trail to the top.

3) The Bishop Museum – You’ll need time to explore this place.  Just the museum of Polynesian artifacts can take the whole day.  Displays include a whale hanging in the main hall, and displays of everything from flowers to clothing making.  There are five buildings here, try to make at least two.

2) Waimea Valley – For flower lovers everywhere, you need to visit here.  On the north west side of the island, this one is about as far from Honolulu as you can get.  While Honolulu gets only inches of rainfall, this valley gets feet.  Bring a raincoat, umbrella and perhaps a swimsuit to swim in the pool  at the top of the valley.  You will wander through an amazing amount of Pacific Island flora.  There is a wide variety of birds flitting and walking around the grounds.   You’ll need hours to get just an overview of the place.  The restaurant has an interesting menu, enjoy.

1) Pearl Harbor Historic Sites – Everyone knows about the USS Arizona Memorial.  It’s a free tour out to the memorial for which you need to pick up your tickets in advance.  If you are not on a guided tour, you should be there early in the morning to be sure of a shuttle time.  While you wait for your shuttle you can visit the memorial to submarines, look at old rockets and torpedoes or visit the USS Bowfin, a WWII sub.  There is also a new visitors center where you can learn all about the attack on Pearl Harbor.  On nearby Ford Island you can visit the USS Missouri where the war with Japan ended.

Well, there you have it, my top ten.  This is by no means a complete list of places to visit on the island.  I did not include Calvary by the Sea Lutheran Church where my daughter acquired her Hawaiian family, or Waikiki beach, where the tourists usually outnumber the locals at all hours of the day.  There are any number of commercial enterprises that want to take your money for “once in a lifetime” events.  I could have told you about the convention center or the shopping malls or any of a number of parks, the aquarium or the zoo.  I did not include such eating places as the north shore shrimp and seafood shacks, the mac nut farm, or the ranch.  I could have told you about the highest grossing restaurant in the islands, Duke’s, or the neighborhood BBQ’s where most Hawaiians go for a quick meal.  There are hiking trails and climbing areas, mountains and forests, hunting and farming.  There is so much more here than Waikiki.  I hope you get out and see some of it.


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