The capital of Hawaii, Honolulu, is located in South Oahu. Honolulu is a harbor city and being a historical and cultural center, as well as the political and financial hub, is the most visited city of the islands. The most popular landmarks of the city are Aloha Tower, a symbol of greeting to tourists arriving and leaving Oahu via Honolulu Harbor; Kapoliani Park, listed on the State's Historic Register as many of its exceptional trees date back over 100 years; State Capitol Building, with its unique architectural structure; Iolani Palace, the only royal palace on US soil; and Ala Wai Canal, among many others. Chinatown and the many museums are other attractions of the city.
Kahala, the most exclusive and expensive district of Hawaii is also located in South Oahu. East of Honolulu, it takes on the look of a nicely defined suburb with the regional shopping center Kahala Mall and the Kahala Mandarin Hotel. As a unique shopping experience in a relaxing, comfortable atmosphere, Kahala Mall sets the pace with over 90 sensational shops, delicious dining and an eight-plex movie theater. The beachfront properties of Kahala are some of the most expensive in the nation, and the lots average 8,000 to 10,000 sq.ft. For those desiring more view, there is the hillside neighborhood of executive homes called Waialae Iki. Being on the higher end of Oahu’s price scale, Kahala is the most exclusive area of Oahu.
Close to Kahala is Hawaii Kai, a master planned community begun in the 1960s by the renowned American industrialist, Henry J. Kaiser. Once regarded as a “country area” for farmers, Hawaii Kai has become one of the premier suburbs of Oahu. The Hawaii Kai community enjoys a good variety of beaches, golf courses, tennis courts, movie theaters and restaurants. For recreation, the many wide streets encourage biking and jogging.
The most popular and well guarded beaches of Oahu - Ala Moana Beach Park, Waikiki Beach, Hanauma Bay Beach Park, and Sandy Beach - are located in this area. Ala Moana, covering an area of over a hundred acres, consists of a beach and a recreational area. The beach is generally safe and is popular with family vacationers.Gunsmoke-type wooden buildings, is a shoppers' dream for art, crafts, clothes, and surfing items.
Waikiki may be called the most popular and most famous beach in the world. This two-mile stretch of fine white sand is usually crowded all the year round with swimmers, surfers, and snorklers, and is fronted by hotels and other tourism related facilities. Diamond Head is Waikiki’s most famous landmark. This is a 760-foot extinct volcano, and if you can hike up to the peek, you will be treated to a panoramic 360-degree view of East Shore in one direction, and Honolulu and Waikiki in the other.
Sandy Beach is what may be described as a mix of “beauty and danger”, and is popular among the shore-break body surfers as they find the waves have no equals anywhere. Hanauma Bay Beach Park is one of the more popular recreational swimming, snorkeling and picnicking areas on Oahu.
Hanauma Bay, which is the result of the ocean's breaching and incursion into two volcano craters, is one of Oahu's natural wonders. It is home to a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park, with a huge assortment of sea life including colorful rainbow parrotfish, convict tangs, trumpet fish, milletseed butterfly fish, puffer fish, surgeon fish, angel fish and the Hawaii State Fish, the Humuhumunukunukuapua'a among many others. A real snorkeling paradise, one can swim here with exotic fish like nowhere else, and even with the "no fish food" rule, fish are eager to swim right next to you.
Past Hanauma Bay is Koko Head Crater, which is a cinder cone remaining from the last active volcano that occurred on Oahu approximately 10,000 years ago. This crater is the tallest tuff ring in Hawaii, measuring 1,207 feet in height. The slopes of the crater drop steeply into the Molokai Channel, an area which lacks protection from any offshore reefs, causing very turbulent seas in this area. Over the years, the ocean waves lapping against the cliffs have created dramatic sculptures in the soft volcanic ash. Inside the crater is the Koko Crater Botanical Garden. Sixty acres of the inner slope and basin of the crater is cultivated with rare and endangered dryland plants.
Beyond Koko Head, the coastline becomes extremely rugged and the spot is a favorite with the local fishermen. There’s a Japanese fishing shrine here with a carving of a Japanese guardian god that was said to preside over dangerous waterways. Just past the shrine is the impressive Halona Blowhole. This is where the ocean has undercut the lava and drilled a hole through to the top. When the tide is high, the water is compressed in the hole causing the pressure to increase, forcing a stream of water to shoot up to thirty-feet into the air. The Blowhole eruptions are best viewed from a vantage point 500 feet above it, called the Halona Point.