Oahu is cosmopolitan yet tropical, with a rich history and a bustling arts scene. Not to mention outdoor adventures that speak to the uniqueness of the island. Here are a few of the sights and activities that showcase the best of Oahu.
The Bishop Museum recently reopened its century-old Hawaiian Hall after three years of renovations. Inside the Victorian building are three floors that portray different realms of Hawaiian culture — Kai Akea (legends and religion), Wao Kanaka (nature and land) and Wao Lani (history and royalty). Open Wednesday to Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.bishopmuseum.org.
Learn about the lives of several influential members of Hawaii's monarchy and their role in history at Iolani Palace. Completed in 1882, the palace was the official residence of King David Kalakaua, also known as the "Merrie Monarch." Today, guests can experience the palace through docent-guided tours, audio tours and self-guided exhibit gallery tours. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.iolanipalace.org.
Those in search of the perfect wave should look no further than Oahu, the birthplace of surfing. Waikiki Beach's gentle surf is ideal for beginners while the North Shore attracts experienced surfers and competitors. Inspired by the pros, surf fans can hit the waves with a surfing lesson. Beginners are in especially safe hands at the Hawaiian Fire Surf School. The instructors are local firefighters trained in open-water rescues and CPR. Two-hour group classes are held twice daily. For more information, visit www.hawaiianfire.com.
Pearl Harbor Historic Sites
Built to honor those who lost their lives during the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941, the USS Arizona Memorial museum houses intimate exhibits containing letters, medals and telegrams of condolence.
Additional displays share stories of military lives and the impact of the attack. Other important Pearl Harbor Historic Sites to visit: the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, the USS Oklahoma Memorial, Pacific Aviation Museum and the Battleship Missouri Memorial. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/valr/index.htm.
Diamond Head State Monument
Legend has it that Hiiaka, the goddess of volcanoes and sister to Pele, christened the volcano crater "Leahi" because its shape resembled the brow of a tuna. The crater is now known as Diamond Head. Hikers should set aside two hours to make the 0.8-mile climb up 560 feet to the summit and back. Waiting at the top of the summit: 360-degree panoramas of Honolulu, vistas of the Koolau and Waianae mountain ranges and views across the Pacific to outlying Hawaiian Islands. For more information, visit www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/oahu.