Famed for its beautiful horseshoe-shaped sandy beach and clear, calm turquoise waters, this natural marine sanctuary is home to thousands of colorful tropical fish. The waist-deep water inside the reef is perfect for novice snorkelers to explore. More experienced snorkelers might want to check with the lifeguard before venturing beyond to deeper waters to see sea turtles and other marine life. The Bay is least crowded in the early morning or late afternoon.
On December 7, 1941, the battleship USS Arizona was sunk, taking 1100 sailors with it. In 1961, a solemn white monument was erected above the midsection of the ship. The deck of the Arizona lies now six feet (1.83 meters) below the surface of Pearl Harbor and is clearly visible from the monument. Take the shuttle launch from shore to the monument and view the dark shape of a once-great ship with its silent crew. Free guided tours are offered 8a-1p daily. Visit the Battleship Missouri Memorial afterward.
Also known as Le'ahi, this crater of an extinct volcano got its name when Western explorers mistook calcite crystals they found there for diamonds. Framing the fabric of the island, the crater is riddled with a tracery of vents and volcanic remnants. The historic trail to the 761-foot (231.9 meter) summit starts inside the crater and is an easy, but steep, 0.8 mile (1.3 kilometers) hike to the top. Adorned with craggy corrugations and tufts of sun-bleached grass, Diamond Head affords astounding views of Oahu's charming landscape, including some exceptional views of its beaches and locales.
Built in 1882 by Hawaii's last king, David Kalakaua, this stately three-story building is a real treat to explore. After the overthrow of the King's sister Queen Liliuokalani in 1893, the structure served as the territorial and state capitol until 1969. The Palace Galleries showcase jewels and regalia from the days of Hawaiian royalty. Guided tours are offered every 30 minutes and reservations are suggested.
Stand on the deck of this imposing old structure that has been painstakingly cared for and extensively renovated. The "Mighty Mo" is where General Douglas MacArthur proclaimed the end of World War II in September of 1945. The great vintage battleship now sits at permanent anchor across from the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. You can visit the Arizona Memorial first to get a sense of the complete story.
For an experience that will give you goose bumps, take the Pali Highway to this spectacular lookout, one of the windiest spots on Oahu. Historians hotly debate the legend that says that in 1795, King Kamehameha I, the unifier of the Hawaiian Islands, forced thousands of his opponents to jump from the cliff to their deaths. From the lookout point high among the eerie spires of the Koolau Mountains, you can see a panoramic view of Windward Oahu.
Few beaches have been as fabled as Waikiki. Since the 1950s, this beach has been a tourist destination. Upon seeing the white sand beaches and crystal blue waters, there won't be any question why this beach is so popular. If that wasn't enough, the beach is also one of the best places to surf on the island. During the night, visitors strut their clubwear on the beachwalk, and lovers find peaceful little nooks under the cover of sweeping palm trees. Affording scenic views of the Diamond Head, the beach exists quite in tandem with Hawaii's laid-back spirit.
Built in 1915 as an army reservation to protect Honolulu and Pearl Harbor, Fort DeRussy stands today as a place where people can visit the historic fort and enjoy a large strand of white sand beach. The fort is open to the general public and provides large green spaces perfect for a picnic or to catch some waves outside of crowded Waikiki just down the shore.
Established in 1854 by some of the original Hawaiian settlers, this magnificent edifice stands out among the high rises and condos of Waikiki. It is obviously a building with a history—you can tell even before reading the placard above the entryway. If the church is imposing and majestic from the outside, it is awe-inspiring from the inside. Full-length stained glass windows and a tiered ceiling ornament the vast interior. Behind the church is the Father Damien museum and a group center for disadvantaged Tongan youth.
An attractive flamingo pond greets you at the entrance of this 42-acre municipal zoo in Waikiki. Rare wildlife inside the lush park includes the Hawaiian nene goose, Francois monkeys and Galapagos tortoises. There is a children's petting zoo with llamas and a retired milk cow. Just before, during, and after a full moon, the zoo's special guided twilight tour offers an uncommon glimpse of the habits of nocturnal animals; call or go online for more information.
Located just a few short blocks from Waikiki Beach, this is a great place to learn about Hawaii's amazing ocean world. You can see 400 different species of aquatic life at this small but mighty museum, including monk seals, sharks and sea turtles. A knowledgeable staff is on hand to narrate tours and answer questions. The aquarium has a good gift shop where you can ask about special events and excursions. It offers some terrific educational and community outreach programs.
The impressive holdings of Hawaii's fine arts museum include one of the nation's finest collections of Asian art as well as a 17,000-piece collection of graphic arts and artifacts from Hawaiian and other ancient civilizations around the world. Italian Renaissance and American works are also on exhibit. Guided tours are available. The 290-seat Doris Duke Theatre presents several programs annually. A restaurant and gift shop is also onsite.