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 Hawaii Travel Guide by Kathie Fry

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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.

General Description

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 expansive 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 Waikiki. Oahu’s 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.

One-and-a-half-mile-long 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 Waikiki.

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 shoreline.

History

Warring chiefs long battled for control of the island of Oahu. According to legend, 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 Hawaiian monarchy.

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 the world.

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.

Temperature

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.

Sightseeing and Visitor Attractions



Article provided courtesy of the Oahu Visitor's Bureau

See also:
- Attractions on Oahu
- Activities on Oahu



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