Top Oahu Attractions
Once considered an out-of-the way, alternative site for a niche group of spiritual tourists, the Byodo-In Temple in Kahualu, Oahu, is now instantly recognizable by fans of ABC’s hit television series Lost as the setting of the season one episode, “House of the Rising Sun.” Situated in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, amidst the magnificent 2,000 foot-tall Koolau Mountains, this temple is an architectural marvel built entirely out of concrete, without the use of even a single nail!
Haleiwa was founded in 1832 by Protestant missionaries, Reverend John and Ursula Emerson. They helped establish a mission, a girls’ seminary and erected a Protestant church that still stands today (though it has hence been renamed “Queen Lili'uokalani Protestant Church” to honor the Hawaiian queen who visited Haleiwa and worshipped in the church).
As the capital of Hawaii, the city of Honolulu on the southern coast of Oahu occupies a strange legal position in the state. In addition to being the largest city in Hawaii, it is also, according to a provision in the Hawaii state constitution, the largest city in the whole world. Based on this law, any island in Hawaii that is not legally considered t be part of a county belongs to Honolulu.
Located in Oahu, across the street from Waikiki Beach, the Honolulu Zoo is not only the biggest zoo within a 2,300-mile radius, it is also the only zoo in the United States that was established by a king. In 1876, King David Kalakaua offered 300 acres of his land to the public on a 30-year lease. The site was mostly marshland and covered with lagoons and fishponds, which the king used to house his personal collection of exotic birds.
Dole Pineapple Plantation
Established in the 1950s by entrepreneur James Dole, the Dole Plantation originally operated as a fruit stand before being opened up to the public in 1989 as “Hawaii’s Complete Pineapple Experience.” Today it is one of the most popular attractions on Oahu, drawing in over a million visitors every year.
Hawaii’s last king, the “Merry Monarch” King David Kalakaua traveled around the globe in 1881, researching how other heads of state lived and conducted their government affairs. Inspired by the grand palaces he saw on his tour, he commissioned his own royal palace to be built on the island of Oahu (in what is now the city of Honolulu) to replace the original ‘Iolani Palace, which was more of a simple stately home than an actual palace.
Located near Kaaawa on Oahu’s windward coast, Kualoa Ranch is a 4,000 acre, family-owned outdoor adventure arena. From the earliest days, Kualoa Valley was considered sacred to natives of Oahu and is even today shrouded in legend. According to one tale, the Moili fishpond located at the ranch was built overnight by the Menehune, the legendary “little people” of Hawaiian folklore.
Punchbowl National Cemetery
The Punchbowl National Cemetery, located in Hololulu on the island of Oahu, is a monument that rests in the most unusual of places: inside Puowaina, an extinct volcanic crater. Historically, Puowaina was the site of secret “alli” (or royal) burials, as well as the location where those who broke “kapus” (or taboos) were sacrificed.
Sea Life Park
Located 15 miles east of Waikiki near Oahu’s scenic Makapuu Point, Sea Life Park is Hawaii’s ultimate aquatic adventure. Vistiors can swim with dolphins in the park’s lagoon, play with sea lions and see the world’s only “Wolphin,” a mix between a whale and a dolphin. The park also houses a plentitude of Hawaii’s other famed marine animals, such as manta rays, sting rays and penguins.
Waikiki is synonymous with the concept of a Hawaiian vacation. Located on the island of Oahu, this world-famous beach has been featured in numerous songs, films and travel ads throughout the decades. Until the early 1900s, Waikiki was a swampland, separated from the rest of Oahu by streams and springs (hence its Hawaiian name, meaning “spouting waters”).