Honolulu - Oahu Travel Guide

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Honolulu - Oahu Area Map

Neighborhoods

Sitting in the northern part of the Hawaiian archipelago, Oahu is the most visited island of the state. Most vacationers tend to stick to Honolulu and Central Oahu, though active travelers often gravitate toward the sports-focused North Shore and Windward Coast. Meanwhile, families who prefer a quieter atmosphere than Waikiki can head to the Leeward Coast. Take a helicopter tour to enjoy a bird's-eye view of Oahu's various areas and destinations not reachable by car or boat.

Consider purchasing a map to get around Honolulu, but keep in mind that the city's layout conforms to local geography rather than an understandable grid. Multiple neighborhoods make up the capital, including popular locales like Kahala, Kaimuki, Waikiki, Ala Moana, Kaka'ako, the city center and Kalihi. Inland Honolulu is mostly residential.

Kahala

Although the bulk of this neighborhood is taken up by extravagant homes, a country club and the five-star Kahala Hotel & Resort, at it's southwestern end, visitors will find two must-see attractions – Shangri La and Diamond Head State Monument. What's more, several beaches are available along the region's coast, and at the Kahala Mall, travelers can shop at a plethora of name-brand boutiques.

Kaimuki

Just west of Kahala lies the shopping- and dining-centric area of Kaimuki. Most of this residential neighborhood's top boutiques and eateries are situated along Waialae and Kapahulu avenues, including traveler-approved favorites like Ono Seafood Products and Uncle Bo's Pupu Bar & Grill. Foodies will also find the popular KCC Farmers' Market at Kaimuki's community college.

Waikiki

Continue traveling west and you'll reach the popular district of Waikiki. Located just 3 miles southeast of central Honolulu, this tourist hot spot is packed with luxe resorts, many of which overlook Waikiki's 1 ½-mile stretch of beach. When you're not learning how to surf, sit for a meal or drinks at Duke's Waikiki or check out the high-end shops lining Kalakaua Avenue. You're also less than 5 miles away from Manoa Falls, one of Honolulu's best hiking spots.

Ala Moana

Honolulu is filled with top-notch shops, but for the ultimate retail therapy, head to Ala Moana. This trendy neighborhood is best known for its open-air shopping center, where you'll find outposts for trendy designers like Jimmy Choo, Harry Winston and Diane Von Furstenburg, plus various grab-and-go eateries and coffee shops. And across the street from the mall, you'll find District Nightclub and Ginza Nightclub, two of the city's hottest nightlife venues.

Kaka'ako

Like other areas in central Honolulu, Kaka'ako – which sits between Ala Moana and downtown – boasts a plethora of shops and restaurants. Most dining venues (including the Nobu Matsuhisa-affilated Nobu Honolulu) are concentrated on Auahi Street, while the majority of Kaka'ako's boutiques can be found by Ward Avenue. But this industrial neighborhood's biggest draw is its urban art scene. Many of the region's buildings feature colorful, contemporary artwork. 

Downtown

The famous Iolani Palace – the only official royal residence in the United States – is located in downtown Honolulu on South King Street. The palace housed Hawaii's last two monarchs, King David Kalakaua and his sister, Queen Lili'uokalani, at the end of the 19th century. Other points of interest nestled within downtown's boundaries include the Hawai'i Pacific University campus, the Hawaii State Art Museum, Honolulu City Hall and Chinatown. And just outside the district's eastern edge, travelers will find the Honolulu Museum of Art and the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Kalihi

Travel northwest of downtown Honolulu or just east of Honolulu International Airport and you'll uncover Kalihi. This district is mostly residential, but you will find the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in the neighborhood's northeast section by the Lunalilo Freeway. Remember to exercise caution if you decide to visit Kalihi. This region has one of the highest crime rates in Honolulu.

If you're interested in learing more about Oahu's agricultural history (think: pineapples and sugarcane), then visiting Central Oahu's Dole Plantation and Hawaii Plantation Village may be worth considering. However, the region's Pearl Harbor attractions – which are just north of the airport and less than 25 miles northwest of Honolulu – are its biggest draws. Pearl Harbor is home to the Navy's U.S. Pacific Fleet, as well as several monuments and memorials commemorating the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, including the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, the Battleship Missouri Memorial and the Pearl Harbor National Memorial.

Oahu's Leeward Coast sits roughly 20 miles northwest of central Honolulu at the base of the Waianae mountain range. This relatively rural region is where you'll find desolate beaches and Makaha Beach Park, one of the island's most popular spots for snorkeling and a haven for big wave surfing. If you plan on frequenting this side of the island, you may want to stay in Kapolei. This growing community features a 43-acre marina, Wet 'n' Wild Hawaii and the Ko Olina resort area, which is home to the Leeward Coast's two largest resorts – the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa.

Travelers looking for pristine beaches and a laid-back ambiance will love checking out Oahu's North Shore. The towns of Haleiwa, Kahuku and Laie are some of the busiest towns on the North Shore. Haleiwa is especially popular with foodies, artists and shopaholics, while Kahuku features the region's main resort, Turtle Bay Resort. But most visitors flock to the North Shore to surf or watch annual surfing competitions like the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Noteworthy surf spots include Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay and the Banzai Pipeline, which are all located in Pupukea, a town that's about 35 miles northwest of downtown Honolulu.

On the southeastern end of the island (just north and east of Honolulu) sits the Windward Coast, a region that's famous for its stunning scenery. In fact, the area's family-owned Kualoa Ranch has appeared in an array of movies and TV shows, including "Jurassic Park" and "Lost." If you don't plan on visiting this ranch, you can get your fill of nature while snorkeling at Hanauma Bay or hiking the Koko Crater Trail or the Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail. Two of the region's beaches, Kailua Beach Park and Lanikai Beach, are also worth checking out if you want to swim, surf or kayak.

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