By Jeanette Foster
Everyone ventures to Oahu for something different. Some come to the emerald island to laze on its pristine sandy beaches, hike its lush trails, snorkel in volcanic craters, or witness history at Pearl Harbor. If it's glamour you seek, Waikiki Beach delivers, with its backdrop of gleaming Honolulu skyscrapers. If you want to learn about Oahu and its people, just smile and say "Howzit?" and you'll usually make a new friend.
Things to Do
Sun lovers will find much to worship on Oahu, especially Waikiki Beach. Take a sightseeing boat, where you can observe the island rising out of the cobalt sea. Trek into virgin rainforest in the Makiki Valley, or venture to the North Shore for unparalleled surf. A hula performance is a popular way to get a taste of traditional Hawaiian culture; the best is performed every weekday at the Bishop Museum. A visit to Pearl Harbor is a sobering reminder of this island's place in America's history.
From posh European to locally made, avant-garde to unspeakably tacky, Oahu's offerings are wide-ranging. Among the designer boutiques on Waikiki's Kalakaua Avenue plenty of booths hawk airbrushed T-shirts, gold by the inch, and tasteless aloha shirts. Instead, surprise your friends with patterned aloha shirts and sarongs. Buy bowls and baskets made of pandanus leaves or stock up on local Kona coffee. No trip is complete without purchasing a lei, and on Maunakea Street, Hawaii's finest floral creations go for as little as $3.50.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Nightlife in Hawaii begins at sunset, and there are few more pleasing spots in Waikiki than the benches at the water's edge at the Diamond Head end of Kalakaua Avenue, where everyone stops to see the sinking sun. Afterward, revelers head for Waikiki and Honolulu, where clubs and bars are strung along the illuminated shoreline.
Restaurants and Dining
Choose among chef-owned restaurants, neighborhood eateries, fast-food joints, ethnic spots, and restaurants in shopping malls. Don't miss a traditional luau on the beach. Savour succulent kalua pig (slow roasted underground) and fried rice, accompanied by cold lomi-lomi salmon (salad with salt-cured salmon). If you're up on the North Shore, visit a shrimp truck for the sweetest, juiciest shrimp.