Drawing more visitors than any other Hawaiian island, O'ahu is a place of colorful contrasts: It is home to the nation's 11th largest metropolitan area, Honolulu, while still being ringed by more than 100 world-renowned beaches. The island is usually divided into four areas, each reflecting its own unique history, geography and identity: Honolulu, the Leeward Side, the Windward Side and the North Shore. Fast-paced by Island standards, Honolulu still generates a small-town feeling with its ethnic communities, pleasant parks and beaches. Protected from heavy winds by the Koâ€˜olau mountain range, the city's temperate climate is the perfect backdrop for a seemingly endless list of activities. Here, any diversion under the sun “ wet or dry" is possible. In addition to water sports, the many restaurants, galleries, clubs, museums, arboretums and the Iolani Palace the only royal palace in the United States - comprise more than enough activities for any itinerary. And with hundreds of retail stores offering everything from designer goods to "Made in Hawaii" products, Hawaii is also known as the shopping mecca of the Pacific.
Once the royal playground of Kamehameha, Honolulu and environs are now places to be enjoyed by everyone. And of course, just a few minutes from downtown Honolulu is the world-famous resort, Waikiki. With its attractions such as the Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium, activities from golf and outrigger canoe rides to historical walking tours, and people who share the Aloha spirit.
The Leeward Coast roughly takes in the area west of Honolulu, from Pearl Harbor to Kaena Point. Island trade winds drop their moisture on Oahu's interior, leaving this part of the island somewhat drier. Visitors can make a trip to historic Pearl Harbor and see the Arizona Memorial, which was erected as a tribute to the fallen servicemen attacked on December 1941, and the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the site where World War II ended with the signing of unconditional surrender by the Japanese. Makaha Beach, with its international surfing competitions, is also a popular attraction further up the Sunset Coast.
Descriptive text courtesy of Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau