Millions visit O‘ahu each year, but few get to know it. That’s a shame. When travelers go to the neighbor islands, they generally rent a car and spend time exploring. On O‘ahu they likely take a taxi into Waikiki and disappear for the rest of their vacation under the shadows of skyscrapers. Some take an organized tour around the island, experiencing more of life on the bus than life on O‘ahu.
O‘ahu is about 110 miles around (not including a detour up to Makaha). Without stopping (which would be silly), it would take you about three hours to drive around it. Although most visitors assume it’s the largest island, because of Honolulu’s presence, O‘ahu is actually the third largest, after the Big Island and Maui (in that order).
To reach the Windward Coast drive along the promontory of Southeast O‘ahu, hug the shoreline beneath Diamond Head, and along Hanauma Bay. The contours of the Pacific and the beach match anyone’s image of paradise.
The North Shore, famous among surfers for its mighty waves, and Waimea attract the world’s best board enthusiasts every winter for daredevil play and international championships. Beyond the quaint town of Hale‘iwa, the highway heads inland, back to Honolulu, and through sugarcane and pineapple fields. As you reenter Honolulu, you get a good view of the intricate waterways of Pearl Harbor.
Experience some authentic Hawai‘i; follow your own pace and interests. To roost in Waikiki and pretend to have been to Hawai‘i should be illegal. — Kim Grant