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Hawaii’s world-class destination: The Island of Oahu

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Horseback riders cross the Kaaawa Valley on the privately owned Kualoa Ranch on Oahu’s windward coast. (Lucy Pemoni/AP)
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Oʻahu is known as “the Gathering Place,” which proves a perfect moniker when one considers the diverse group of people that dwell here. Proudly representing a wide range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, residents truly embrace the melting pot lifestyle and are a living, breathing example of the aloha spirit as learned from the Hawaiian host culture.

This stunning island offers world-class luxury resorts, five-star dining, exciting nightlife, near endless activities, high class shopping and more. With so many options spanning from shore to shore, it can be overwhelming when trying to decide just what pleasures to partake of in this aloha paradise.

As with any proper itinerary, attractions are among the top priorities, and Oʻahu has no shortage of exciting sights to see. For history buffs, a visit to Pearl Harbor or ʻIolani Palace will awe and inspire. Shoppers will enjoy the world class shopping found in Ala Moana, an area known for both its expansive indoor-outdoor shopping mall that features a wide variety of luxury and designer brands as well as its gorgeous public beach park. World famous Waikiki will keep you busy with its palpable energy and exciting nightlife, stellar cuisine, and sparkling white sand beach.

And speaking of beaches, one can’t visit Oʻahu without wriggling their toes into the warm sands of the world famous North Shore. Among the area’s hot spots is Haleʻiwa, a tiny neighborhood boasting one lone—and adorably lovely—main street lined with many unique niche stores, art galleries, yummy cafes and of course, sunshine and surfers galore. After you’ve enjoyed window-shopping and talking story with the friendly locals, witness some of the most monster waves you’ve ever seen along a nearby stretch of seven North Shore surf spots known as the “Seven Mile Miracle,” which includes famous names like Pipeline, Sunset and more.

After witnessing the surfers score some of the best waves in the world, you’ll want to get active yourself, and Oʻahu is the perfect place. Whether you want to surf, snorkel, hike, sail, swim, standup paddle, zip line or more, the island opens its arms wide to welcome your adventurous spirit! Also an option is a wealth of cultural and sightseeing tours, including whale watching, helicopter and boating excursions to enjoy.

Once here, you will find that Oʻahu’s diversity extends well beyond its people, as each region of the island offers its own distinct flavor and feel. For instance, the quieter Windward side offers popular destinations such as Lāʻie’s Polynesian Cultural Center and Kualoa Ranch (where films such as Jurassic Park, Pearl Harbor, Lost and Hawaii Five-0 were made), as well as Kailua, the well-known city where President Obama chooses to make his annual escape each Christmas.

The island’s Leeward coast offers Four Seasons Ko Olina and Disney’s Aulani, two world class luxury resorts tucked away from the traffic and hubbub of Waikiki. Other neighborhoods of interest—each with their own sense of unique and intriguing flare—are the hipster havens of Kakaʻako, Kaimukī and Chinatown, where the locals go to eat and shop among the island’s lesser known secret gems.

After suggesting so many exciting places to peruse and activities to enjoy, we would be remiss to not mention the mouthwatering signature food options that Oʻahu also offers. During your island explorations, be sure to sample local favorites like SPAM Musubi, Loco Moco, Kalua Pig, Poke, Manapua and more. But above all else, be sure to smile, and soak up every bit of the island’s aloha spirit—as that is what makes Hawaiʻi truly special.

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