Your Destination Guide to Oahu

Destination Guide Oahu - Your Destination Guide to Oahu, HI

Join the Community

Log In



© Christopher Chappelear

Although the first Polynesians arrived in Hawaiʻi about 2,000 years ago, archeology and Hawaiian oral histories suggest that Honolulu—located on the island of Oʻahu—was founded approximately 900 years ago, in 1100 or so. It wasn't until the early 1800s, however, that the area would be identified by its current appellation, meaning "sheltered bay." At that time, the city of Honolulu was composed of the land near Honolulu Harbor, which became a significant shipping port in Hawaiʻi. Exporting sandalwood, sugar, and pineapples, and helping whalers resupply their ships, Honolulu contributed considerably to Hawaiʻi's economic growth. In 1850, King Kamehameha III announced that Honolulu would be the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, and it remains the capital of the State of Hawaiʻi.

Currently, the population of Honolulu stands at around 370,000 people, which is almost 30% of the total population of the State of Hawaiʻi. Residential neighborhoods include Mānoa and Makiki, which are close to Waikīkī. The former is also the location of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, which was founded in 1907 and is the largest institution in the University of Hawaiʻi System. Other residential areas include Palolo, Kaimukī, Waialae, and Kāhala, which are near Diamond Head, and Nuʻuanu and Pauoa, close to Punchbowl Crater. The city also includes the working-class neighborhoods of Kalihi and Palama, the former home to the Bishop Museum housing the largest collection of Polynesian artifacts in the world. The western end of Honolulu includes the neighborhoods of Salt Lake and Moanalua, while the eastern end accommodates ʻĀina Haina and Hawaiʻi Kai.

Downtown Honolulu is the central part of the city and can be divided into four distinct areas: the Capitol District, the Central Business District, Chinatown, and the Waterfront. The Capitol District is a center of government and contains the State Capitol, Honolulu Hale (Honolulu's City Hall), and ʻIolani Palace. The Central Business District is comprised of most of the skyscrapers and the headquarters of companies based in Hawaiʻi. Chinatown was established in the nineteenth century and is home to food markets, Chinese herbal medicine shops, lei stands, and restaurants that feature Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Filipino, and Hawaiian menus. The waterfront features Aloha Tower, once the tallest building in the state.

Honolulu offers visitors a multitude of experiences. You can take a tour of ʻIolani Palace, a National Historic Landmark and the only official residence used by royalty in the U.S. For stunning views of both land and sea, the conclusion of the three-quarter mile Diamond Head Trail offers vistas of Waikīkī and the Pacific Ocean. Or take a look at Aloha Tower, the lighthouse that has welcomed vessels to Honolulu Harbor since 1926. Built around the Tower is Aloha Tower Marketplace, which offers visitors access to events, shops, and restaurants. For more shopping, visitors may head over to the largest shopping mall in Hawaiʻi, Ala Moana Center, home to almost 300 shops and restaurants. The USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, on the other hand, allows visitors a more solemn glimpse into history, with its commemoration of the events of December 7, 1941, when Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor, which was the catalyst for the United States' involvement in World War II.

Oahu | Honolulu

Downtown / Central
  • Downtown / Central
  • Like many city centers, Downtown Honolulu is a mix of cultures, histories, arts, and nightlife. With tourist-filled Waikiki just a short jaunt away, this central Honolulu area is bordered by Honolulu...
  • View More >
Hawai'i Kai
  • Hawai'i Kai
  • While driving from Honolulu to Makapu'u on the east coast Oahu, it's easy to speed past the community of Hawai'i Kai without realizing it. After all, the view from Kalanianiole highway is of neighborhood homes, an occasional shopping area, and the ever-present Pacific Ocean.
  • View More >
Pearl City
  • Pearl City
  • Known now as a military town, Pearl City received its name, originally Wai Momi ("pearl waters"), from the pearl-producing oysters that teamed its harbor until the late 1800s, when over-harvesting exhausted supplies.
  • View More >
University District
  • University District
  • If you find yourself walking down the street in an area populated by young adults carrying school books and wearing swimwear, you've probably hit the University District.
  • View More >
  • Waikiki
  • If you've seen only one picture of Oahu, or even Hawai'i in general, you've probably seen a picture of Waikiki. That ubiquitous scene of sand meeting surf, with towering buildings to the left and a big green cliff jutting out in the background, dominates tourist stationery.
  • View More >


  • 82°
  • Overcast