The Oahu South Shore
South Shore Oahu takes you from Hanauma Bay and all the way to the Ewa plains. If taking a short tour, it will start with Pearl Harbor, following a tour of the closest surroundings in Honolulu and ending in Haunama Bay. The valleys that are situated behind Honolulu take you to the Koolau mountains, where you can find trails for hiking, waterfalls, ridges, and many other gorgeous views.
One place of interest is Mount Tantalus, part of the South Shore. To get there, a drive up the winding road of Round Top Drive will take you to its top. The road changes name to Tantalus Drive about half way there. The viewpoint will give you views over Waikiki, and Diamond Head. The road curves left after that and will offer views of Manoa Valley and the Ko'olau mountains. If looking to the west part you will have incredible views of Punchbowl Crater and the Waianae mountains, in addition as being able to see the airport.
The Pali Lookout is the best viewpoint in Oahu. This point is reachable through the Pali Highway - 61 - and after that following a tight road that takes you through the rainforest. Breathtaking views of the Koolau range will surround you. This is also a historical point, as Kamehameha the Great won a battle here in 1795. Although the old Pali road is closed, it can be seen from here. There are many legends about this old road.
The Oahu South Shore will offer a variety of sceneries that are breathtaking, gorgeous beaches, interesting hiking trails, and the many sights that Pearl Harbor and Honolulu offer.
This memorial commemorates the date of December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked this harbor. The memorial was done in 1962, but in 1980, it became a national park. The best way to appreciate the depth and richness of the area is by taking a guided tour. The area receives more than a million and a half visitors yearly, and it is considered one of the main attractions in Oahu. From the Honolulu or Waikiki area, it will take about forty-five minutes to drive here. About thirty percent of visitors, come from around the world, but most visitors are American.
This memorial is available from Sunday through Saturday and from the hours of early morning - 7.30 am until 5 pm. Film and documentaries of the attack to the USS Arizona are offered around 8 am. The last program is about three in the afternoon. It includes a movie, boat ride, interpretative programs given by the rangers there, and it lasts about two hours and a half. There is no need for reservations, but it is better to come in the early hours to avoid long lines and crowds. The memorial is closed during the holidays of Christmas and New Year, and on Thanksgiving Day.
Here, you can also see the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, which is next to the memorial parking lot, and the USS Missouri. Here you can learn about the history of submarines dating back to 1776, and how they were used in war. Visitors can look below deck of this famous submarine. The USS Bowfin launched in 1942, on December 7th, and it took out forty-four enemy ships in its time. It was called the Pearl Harbor Avenger. This museum is managed by a non-profit organization called the Pacific Fleet Submarine Memorial Association.
The USS Missouri was called the Mighty Mo. This was the last Iowa class warship that was built in the United States. The ship was brought to Pearl Harbor and it went through renovations and restoration so it could be viewed by the public as part of the museum. An extended tour of the area will lead you to the Mighty Mo.
The Manoa Valley
The University of Hawaii is located here, so this is an easy to find area. Here there are many research centers as well as coffee shops where students conglomerate. The area offer views of older homes with beautiful tropical gardens. The lush greenery of the area is due to the frequent rains. Steep ridges surround the area. Here the visitor will delight in the Lyon Arboretum, a gorgeous botanical garden that is a short hike of distance. However, the short hike is part of the beauty of the area, as you will go through the tropical forest and the bamboo groves, to end at a gorgeous waterfall. If visiting the area it is advisable to bring a raincoat, as it rains frequently, and proper shoes as the road will be wet and muddy at some points. Here you can stay at the Manoa Valley Bed and Breakfast.
The Lyon Arboretum
This arboretum is located at 3860 Manoa Road. The contact number for information is, 988 7378. It is open Monday through Saturday from 9 am until 3 pm and the admission is free. You can take bus number 5 to get there or book a tour, which is offered twice a month, but on Saturdays - 988-3177 is the number for scheduling.
This is one of the most gorgeous areas of Honolulu which you can take a bus to it, and enjoy the beauty of the residential area as well. This lush and green area receives tons of rain during the year. The end of the valley offer very secluded and quiet surroundings. The arboretum date back to the 1920s, when a botanist named Harold Lyon founded it. This botanist travel the world and each time brought different species to the area. The area is large - about 194 acres of beauty - and you can tour it on your own, and aim to reach inspiration point. The University of Hawaii uses part of the area for research.
Diamond Head Area
One of the most popular landmarks in Oahu is the Diamond Head Crater. It is recommended to hike it early in the morning as the hike is about thirty to forty minutes long and it is up hill. In the morning, the sun will be at your back, which will be good to take pictures of the gorgeous views.
The Diamond Head volcano was the last active one in the Island. The last eruption was 350,000 years ago. This volcano was named in 1825, due to the finding of crystals on the slopes, which sailors thought to be diamonds. It would be very hard to search in the type of soil here, due to the volcanic origin.
However, in the early twentieth century the United States government decided to take this point as strategic point for defense and tunnels where created for defense spots. These tunnels have never been used. Two narrow and dark tunnels take you to the top of the mountain for a while, when you hike it. Interestingly, the National Guard and the FAA are situated in the inside of this crater, and regulate Pacific air traffic from there.
From Waikiki and going east on Diamond Head Road there is the most affluent neighborhood in Hawaii - Kahala. The homes in the area are very expensive, especially during the 1980s when prices skyrocketed in the area, as Japanese businessmen bought and sold homes here as an investment. This made the property taxes unbearable for some long-time residents in the area, who had to leave. Even in a bad economy, the homes here sell for seven figures. You can also find vacation rentals here. Kahala has a good mix of older homes and new homes, which are very luxurious.
For shopping, the Kahala Mall is near, at the start of highway 72. It offers a very quiet and relaxed atmosphere and a variety of trendy shops, restaurants, and movie theaters.
The south shore beaches have a lot to offer.
The Kahala Beach
This beach goes down Kahala Avenue, right behind luxurious homes. This beach is public and there are many access paths along the way.
Hanauma Bay is one of the most popular beaches in Oahu - if not the most beautiful.
It is advisable to get there early, as the parking lot will be full very fast. One of the positives to this beach is that its round shape came as a result of a crater that sank. There are also reefs that protect the swimmers from currents in high surf, so people can swim and snorkel in safe waters. If you are familiar with some of Elvis Presley's movies, Blue Hawaii was filmed there. One negative is that the reef almost died due to the improper handling of the reef natural treasures by tourists. A preservation project is being funded and the fee is $5 dollars at the gate; on Wednesday morning, the park is closed.
This beach is located along the coastal road going east from Hanauma Bay. The currents here are very strong, and there are many accidents caused by the strength of the ocean, usually involving visitors that do not know well the area. There is a high shore break in this part that may injure people; however, locals come here to bodysurf. The lifeguards at this beach are very busy compared to other beaches on Oahu.
This very small beach is situated after the Makapu'u viewpoint. Surfing is great here, as well as boogie boarding, or body surfing. However, in the winter months it may be dangerous as the surf is very high and the reef and sharp rocks become exposed.
If in the area, look to your right and you will spot two islands that are uninhabitated - Rabbit Island is the larger of the two. It serves as home to thousands of birds. The other one is called Turtle Island and it is very green and flat. This one is also a seabird sanctuary.