Introduction to South Oahu
Facts, history, visitor attractions, and general
information about the south shore of the island of
Oahu in Hawaii. Includes information about the area from Pearl Harbor
to Hawaii Kai.
The south shore of Oahu spans from Moanalua to Hawaii Kai, encompassing
Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Ala Moana, the University of Hawaii, Waikiki,
and Diamond Head.
Named for the oysters once harvested there,
Pearl Harbor, located in
the Ewa District of Oahu, is the largest natural harbor in Hawaii.
On December 7, 1941,
the day that lives in infamy, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and
attacked U.S. Navy ships based there. This action forced the United
States into World War II. Because of the many lives that were lost
and the destruction that had occurred, Pearl Harbor was the only naval
base in the United States to be designated a National Historical Landmark.
Today, Pearl Harbor Naval Base is home to the
U.S.S. Bowfin Submarine, the
U.S.S. Missouri Battleship and the
U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. The Arizona symbolizes the start
of World War II, while the Bowfin showcases the critical role
submarines played in winning the war by sinking 44 enemy ships in
the Pacific. Lastly, the battleship Missouri represents the end of
the war with the peace treaty signed on its deck.
Pearl Harbor is also the headquarters and home base of the U.S. Pacific
Fleet, which is the world’s largest naval command.
From Pearl Harbor, 10 minutes away heading east on Nimitz Highway, lies
Honolulu International Airport, which handles more than 20 million
passengers a year. A few minutes further down the road is the 500-acre
man-made Sand Island, the home of the U.S. Coast Guard Base and the
Sand Island State Park.
Another few miles away is downtown
Honolulu. For more than a century and
a half, today’s State Capitol District has been the heart of Hawaii’s
politics. King Kalakaua’s ornate
Iolani Palace was completed in 1882 and
was the royal residence until 1893 when the last Hawaiian monarch,
Queen Liliuokalani, was overthrown. Iolani Palace is the only royal
palace on United States’ soil. As the Executive Building, the former
palace served the Governor and the Legislature from 1900 until the new
Hawaii State Capitol was dedicated in 1969.
Throughout downtown Honolulu, historic sights abound. Adjacent to the
palace is the Archives of Hawaii, which houses one of the world’s largest
collections of Hawaiiana and historical photographs. Across the street from
the palace is the often-photographed golden
statue of King Kamehameha.
One block away is the
Kawaiahao Church built of coral and timber in 1841.
Next door to the church is the
Mission Houses Museum, which shows a
glimpse into the missionary lifestyle with the oldest existing buildings
erected by the first missionary contingent to Oahu.
Within the downtown area, a mix of architectural styles stand side-by-side
offering a delightful contrast of historic and contemporary buildings.
The low-rise buildings of neighboring
Chinatown do not diminish the
vibrant colors, sights and sounds of the small lei shops lining the
streets. Chinese medicinal herbal shops, acupuncture practices, martial
arts schools, old-fashioned barbershops, mom and pop restaurants,
temples, and mahjong (Chinese dominoes) players are among the many
attractions Chinatown has in store.
In contrast, just a short drive away is
Ala Moana Shopping Center, one of
the largest in the world, full of activity with more than 200 stores.
Across from the Center is
Ala Moana Beach Park and Magic Island, two
of Oahu’s most popular parks. Opened in 1934, Ala Moana Beach is separated
from the reef by a lagoon, dredged and originally used as a small boat channel.
Minutes away from Ala Moana Shopping Center are Victoria Ward shopping
centers, where visitors and residents continue their exciting shopping,
dining and entertainment experience.
Between Ala Moana Beach Park, Magic Island and Diamond Head, more than a
quarter-million people find their piece of paradise daily in
south shore is the playground of the Pacific. Known for its fabulous
climate, multi-cultural lifestyles and beautiful beaches, Waikiki attracts
millions from around the world.
Waikiki ("spouting water") measures 0.7 square
miles and has perhaps the best-known beach in the world. Originally,
Waikiki was mostly a marsh. Its transformation began in 1922 when its
springs were capped and the land behind the beach drained and filled.
Waikiki today, with its bustling beach center, tree-rimmed
Kapiolani Park and residential neighborhoods reaching halfway up the
Koolau Mountain Range, is full of activity and excitement. Shopping, ethnic
festivals, special events, galas and nightlife activities abound in
Nestled in the verdant valleys behind Waikiki is Manoa. The University of
Hawaii at Manoa, the flagship of a nine-campus statewide system, offers
its 20,000 students degrees in more than 90 fields. The distant
Manoa Valley residential neighborhood retains much of the charm of older
Honolulu with quiet streets, enormous shade trees, graceful
island-style homes with broad lawns and the cool mists and winds for
which the valley is known.
Just five minutes away is
Diamond Head Crater, Hawaii’s most famous natural
landmark. The Hawaiians originally called it Leahi, "brow of the yellowfin
tuna." It was aptly nicknamed Diamond Head by visitors coming to the island
because it was once speckled with calcite crystals, mistaken by early
sailors for diamonds. The 200,000-year-old cone remnant looms 760 feet
over Waikiki. Beyond Diamond Head is
Kahala. In recent years, Kahala Beach
and the adjacent Waialae-Kahala Coast stretching from Diamond Head to
Black Point and further, has been the most expensive residential real
estate on Oahu.
Twenty minutes from Waikiki and still considered part of Honolulu is
Hawaii Kai. The development of Hawaii Kai as a Honolulu suburb began in the 1950s.
Today it nears the crest of Kaluanui Ridge.
Upscale residential complexes amid the commanding beauty of the south end
of the Koolau Range are the hallmark of the area. Hawaii Kai also is known
as a water sports playground because of the natural lagoons and shallow
Warring chiefs long battled for control of the island of Oahu. According
Kamehameha I seized power in 1795 by pursuing an opposing army
up to and over the cliffs of
Nuuanu Pali, north of Honolulu. Several
years earlier, the British had "discovered" Honolulu Harbor, a
natural anchorage destined to be one of the Pacific’s key seaports.
Over the years, the harbor proved ideal for whalers and sandalwood
traders, and eventually for freighters and ocean liners.
In 1850, the city developed around the shipping port and became the focus
of Oahu, as well as the archipelago. In 1893, a band of foreign businessmen
with the aid of armed American marines, illegally overthrew the native
Honolulu, in the 1930s, was a multicultural Pacific port with graceful,
low-rise buildings neatly nestled between the greenish-blue waters of
the harbor and the dramatic verdant Koolau Mountains. The tallest
building in town was
Aloha Tower, a 10-story structure rising from
Honolulu Harbor that was built in 1926 to welcome ships from around
Almost a half-century after the overthrow, in an ill-advised but
brilliantly executed military maneuver, the Japanese drew the United
States into World War II with a devastating air strike against the
huge naval base at Pearl Harbor.
Waikiki once served as a retreat for Hawaiian kings and queens.
By the 1880s-1890s, it was favored by writer-adventurers such as Jack
London and Robert Louis Stevenson. During World War II, GIs on leave
soaked up the sun. Then in the jet age that followed, it became a resort area.
During the winter, temperatures reach highs of 80°F and dip to 65°F.
During the summer, temperatures range from 88°F to 72°F. For more
information about Oahu weather forecasts, please call (808) 973-4381.
For surf report information, please call (808) 596-7873.
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Article provided courtesy of the Oahu Visitor's Bureau
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