Hawaii (Oahu)

Oahu is one of the few destinations in the world that blends a big city atmosphere along with an exotic and wild landscape. Plus, with a plethora of famous sites like Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head Crater, and Pearl Harbor, among countless others, it's no wonder then that Hawaii's most famous and visited island ranks as one of the world's go-to honeymoon spots.

Thanks to its location in the Pacific Ocean, the island generally enjoys amazing weather and thus is a year-round destination. But keep in mind that depending on your location, the climate and weather can vary drastically. Hawaii is one of the few places in the world that features great diversity in its ecosystems and landscapes -- all within a relatively small area. As you can imagine, this certainly makes for some pretty extraordinary day trips and adventures.

The windward side (north and east) of Oahu typically experiences more rain, wind, and changing weather patterns than the leeward side (south and west), which is generally hot and dry for most of the year. Though, expect high temperatures year-round to range from the mid-to-upper 70s to the mid-80s in the lowlands and resort areas. Usually, the winter season experiences high temperatures just a few degrees below the normal highs in the summer. If you plan on making any journeys into mountainous terrain, prepare for cooler temperatures, wet weather, and variable conditions.

April-May and September-October are generally the best times to visit with consideration to climate, crowds, and prices. Mid-December to the end of March is considered the high season and rates are generally higher. Also, visitors are likely to find the island busiest when schools are out of session (think holidays, spring break, and summer).

What to Do

Oahu USS Missouri Memorial

  • Sunset Cocktails — Especially with unforgettable venues like Halekulani's House Without a Key. Grab a table under the giant Kiawe tree, order two signature Mai Tais, and enjoy traditional Hawaiian music and dancing as the sun dips below the horizon. Truly an ultimate Oahu experience.

  • Honolulu's Attractions — There's plenty to see and do in and around downtown Honolulu. Chinatown stands out with its bustling markets and jazz clubs. New boutiques like Quince are popping up left and right. All the while, frequent farmers markets showcase the island's diverse and delicious agricultural offerings.

    Don't forget about visiting the island's many historic sites, too. For instance, there's the Pearl Harbor sites honoring the 1941 attack, plus many more incredible museums and buildings like Iolani Palace and Byodo-In Temple.

  • Beaches and Water Pursuits — There's no other stretch of beachfront in America quite like Waikiki. Soak in views of the glimmering Pacific Ocean, famous Diamond Head crater, breezy palm trees, and inviting grounds of towering luxury hotels. Whether swimming, sailing, snorkeling, or via kayak, catamaran, or outrigger canoe, there's also a lot to explore once you leave dry land. The view of Honolulu and the Waikiki skyline from the water will remain etched in your mind.

  • Shave Ice and Local Dining Institutions — It's always a thrill to head off the beaten tourist path and pursue out-of-this-world foodie spots like Giovanni's Shrimp Truck, Heeia Pier General Store & Deli, and Leonard's Bakery (the malasadas are heavenly). As for shave ice, this refreshing treat is a must for any visitor to Hawaii. Up on the North Shore, Matsumoto's Grocery Store is arguably the most famous, while Waiola Store is a best bet when in Honolulu.

  • The North Shore — With the laid-back vibe, gorgeous terrain, legendary beaches, and monster waves during the winter months, it's hard to ever leave this part of paradise. Make the most of it by renting a car and exploring the local parks, beaches, towns, and stores. Whether you want to shop in the small villages, go hiking in Waimea Valley, tour a sugar cane or pineapple facility, or just grab some famous shaved ice, the North Shore certainly has you covered.

Where to Stay

Oahu hotel view

  • Moana Surfrider With its prime location, storied history, and impressive amenities, Moana Surfrider is one of the best “bang for your buck” properties on Oahu. From the elegant, Beaux Arts–style architecture to the numerous on-site restaurants and bars, the oldest hotel on Waikiki Beach feels surprisingly fresh year after year.

  • The Kahala Hotel & Resort Located just outside of Waikiki, this peaceful resort features beautiful modern rooms, four excellent restaurants, a private beachfront, ample water sports options, plus the only swimming-with-dolphins experience on the island. From the moment you step onto the property, you'll see why this is easily one of Hawaii's best overall hotels.

  • The Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club For a total departure from the massive, towering resorts of Waikiki, choose this understated hipster hangout. Accented with bamboo, painted in bright hues, and decorated with mid-century-modern furniture, the Surfjack is a wholly unique and totally trendy place to call your honeymoon home.

  • Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach The splashiest new opening on Oahu is packed with signature amenities: views of both Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head, a restaurant by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, a 17,000-square-foot elevated pool deck, and a rooftop fitness center complete with a yoga studio, tennis courts, batting cages, and more. Eco-conscious couples will be pleased to know their dollars do more than just pay for that ocean view room—the hotel has pledged to plant 100,000 indigenous tress as part of a reforestation initiative; a portion of your stay goes toward reviving the native ecosystem of Oahu’s north shore. Guests can even plant their own tree within Alohilani’s forest on Gunstock Ranch.

  • Halekulani The name means “house befitting heaven” in Hawaiian, and it will feel like just that when you step foot in the soothing, all-white lobby. Discreet yet attentive service is one of the hallmarks of the resort, which opened in 1984. Of the 453 guest rooms, the best ones overlook Diamond Head or Waikiki Beach, and feature private lanais (terraces), ideal for room-service breakfast or sunset aperitifs.

  • Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina Hawaii’s newest Four Seasons resort stands apart from other resorts on Oahu simply by virtue of its location: It’s set about 25 miles west of tourist-centric Waikiki Beach, on the island’s rugged, western shores. Couples can expect every amenity under the sun: four white-sand beaches, a 35,000-square-foot spa, three swimming pools (one is adults-only), and a championship-level course at the nearby Ko Olina Golf Club.

Where to Eat

Oahu upscale Hawaiian restaurant

  • Alan Wong’s Honolulu - Chef Alan Wong’s Honolulu flagship is Hawaiian regional cuisine at its finest. Dishes such as macadamia nut–crusted lamb chops and twice-cooked short rib are heavenly; opt for the tasting menu to sample an all-star lineup of delicious offerings.

  • Roy’s - Roy Yamaguchi is quite possibly the most famous chef to hail from the state. A pioneer in Hawaiian regional cuisine, Chef Roy continues to build his empire (now totaling 31 restaurants), but the flagship Waikiki outlet remains a tried-and-true destination for Yamaguchi’s signature fusion entrées, top-notch wines, and decadent desserts.

  • Hoku’s at the Kahala Resort - Hoku’s is a great choice for creative fusion food, merging Asian, Hawaiian, and European flavors to perfection. Expect a twist on contemporary island classics, such as salt crusted rack of lamb or Kurobuta pork chop with Maui gold pineapple and shishito peppers.

  • Sushi Sasabune - Sushi fans flock to this South King Street favorite from all over the world. The main attraction is the unforgettable omakase experience (a là carte dining is also available). Be sure to sit at the counter for an up-close view of Chef Seiji Kumagawa’s methodical sushi preparation.

  • The Pig & the Lady - Food critics argue that this hip Vietnamese restaurant is credited with putting Chinatown—and Honolulu at large—on the global food map. Chef Andrew Le is on the vanguard of Hawaii’s culinary scene, melding flavors from all over the Pacific rim to create “haute Vietnamese” cuisine. A bowl of pho, for example, is executed with brisket that’s been braised for 12 hours, stewed bone marrow, fresh ginger, scallions, calamansi, sawtooth herbs, and chili peppers. Even more reason to check it out: The Pig & the Lady offers takeout—the perfect cap to a long day on the beach.

  • Mahina & Sons - Oahu-born Ed Kenney is a James Beard–nominated chef whose restaurants—Town, Kaimuki Superette, and Mud Hen Water—are beloved by locals and tourists alike. His latest venture, within the Surfjack Hotel, focuses on sustainably sourced seafood, served in retro dining room that’s unlike anywhere else in Waikiki.

  • MW Restaurant - The husband-and-wife co-owners of MW have, collectively, cut their teeth at some of the world’s finest restaurants—Per Se, the French Laundry, Alan Wong’s. Dishes at their flagship feature inventive, contemporary interpretations of traditional Hawaiian specialties, like Ahi nachos, unagi and butterfish arancini, and lobster kamaboko sliders.

Getting There

Honolulu International Airport (HNL) is Oahu's main airport and by far the most visited airport in Hawaii. The facility is located about six miles northwest of Honolulu's central business district. HNL is accessible via car, bus, taxi, and shuttle.