West Oahu is the western part of Oahu bounded by the Waianae Mountain Range on the east, and the Pacific Ocean on the west. Also known as the Leeward Coast, the region is less developed than the rest of the island. It is inhabited mainly by native Hawaiians, who enjoy a laid-back rural lifestyle. The predominant features of West Oahu are still natural, with the blue ocean, white sand beaches which line the coast, green valleys and dramatic mountains, and a majestic mountain range which embraces the entire community.
At the north-western tip of West Oahu is Ka'ena Point, which is a classic big wave spot. According to ancient Hawaiian legend, this is the spot where the souls of the kanaka maoli (Hawaiian people) leap off into the other world. Ka'ena Point State Park is located here, and a short hike away is the Ka'ena Natural Reserve.
Below Ka’ena Point is the Makaha Valley, considered by the local Hawaiians to be a sacred place. One of the best maintained heiau, or temple, is located here. Built in the fifteenth century, the heiau first served Lono, the god of agriculture and peace, and then later was dedicated to Ku, the god of war. At this point human sacrifices were performed on the first prisoners of war.
On the southwest tip of the island on Barber’s Point stands a Lighthouse, which is a well known landmark of the area. Named after Captain Henry Barber, whose ship was wrecked on a coral shoal off the point on October 31, 1796, this 71-foot concrete structure went into service in 1933 and was automated in 1964.
A place which should not be missed is Hawaii's Plantation Village in Waipahu on the southeastern part of West Oahu. This is an outdoor museum dedicated to preserving the history and culture of Hawaii's immigrants from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Okinawa, Portugal, and Puerto Rico. These immigrants, who numbered around 395,000, had come to Hawaii between 1852 and 1946 to work on the sugar plantations of the area. They lived in structures like the ones built here at the Plantation Village, and now members of each of those ethnic groups created and now care for the buildings and present a fascinating view of their ancestor's lives in their new land.
The coastline of West Oahu, known as the Waianae Coast, offers endless stretches of sun-drenched, white sand beaches. The winter months are the most popular when large waves roll towards the beaches and attract the best surfers towards them. Makaha Beach and Yokohama Bay are the best known beaches of the area. Makaha Beach is the original home of big wave surfing competitions, with spectacular surf in winter and pleasant swimming in summer. An old-timers' long board championship is held here in February. Yokohama Bay is the last sandy beach on the coast. In winter the beach is full of board and body surfers, while in the summer the water is calm enough for swimming and snorkeling. Other popular beaches of the Waianae Coast are the Pokai Bay Beach Park and Makua Beach. Conditions at Makua are very similar to Makaha with great snorkeling at Makua Cave. Pokai Bay Beach Park provides some good swimming conditions all the year round. The beach experience of West Oahu is very different from the rest of Hawaii as fewer visitors come here and those that do are rewarded with a generous taste of "local Hawaii".