O‘ahu is known as “the Gathering Place” as it is the most central and most inhabited of the Hawaiian Islands. For centuries it has been the seat of political and economic power in Hawai‘i, and the periodic influx of different ethnic groups – often brought to the islands as labor for various industries over the years – has led to a fascinating and interwoven tapestry of history and cultures. For the history buff visiting this tropical paradise, you will definitely want to tear yourself away from the beautiful beaches and enchanting mountains to visit these five incredible O‘ahu historical sites.
The site of the worst surprise attack in military history, the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor was where World War II began for the United States. On December 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan successfully surprised the American military forces at Pearl Harbor, Ford Island, and other auxiliary bases around the island with waves of bombers and torpedo planes that crippled, but failed to destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Tour a WWII submarine, explore the USS Missouri (site of Japan’s surrender to end WWII), and visit the Arizona Memorial – the iconic white inverted arch that straddles the hull of the sunk – and never raised – battleship USS Arizona. Admission to this O’ahu historical site is free, so be sure to tour the incredible WWII Museum at Pearl Harbor where you can see artifacts and recreations of that infamous day.
The only royal residence in the United States, the ‘Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu was the seat of Hawaiian monarchy until the end of the 19th century. Charming, elegant, and beautiful, this stately home is situated on a beautiful parade ground and is a National Historic Landmark. Interestingly enough, it was one of the first buildings to have electric lights, predating even the White House in Washington, D.C.
Nuuanu Pali Lookout
At the top of the Pali Highway, just before it crosses through the tunnels to descend to the Windward Coast, is an incredible scenic lookout. Many visitors come here for the sweeping panoramic views of gorgeous Kāne‘ohe Bay, but this is also the site of the pivotal moment in King Kamehameha’s conquest to unite the Hawaiian Islands. After landing his war canoes near modern day Waikīkī, Kamehameha’s troops pushed the native Oahuans up the Nuuanu valley, forcing them to make their last stand here, high atop the Ko`olau Mountains. They ultimately lost, and hundreds were forced to their deaths over the edge of the steep, 1,000-foot-high cliffs.
Puu o Mahuka Heiau
Located on the Pupukea cliffs above Waimea Bay on O‘ahu’s North Shore, the remains of this ancient Hawaiian stone temple span nearly two acres and are more than 400 years old. Bounded by rock walls on three sides, the temple was the center of religion, politics, and society for the ancient Hawaiians. Waimea Valley below, home to a beautiful botanical garden, is also the site of 78 significant archaeological sites including temples, shrines, fishponds, and a village. This is one of the top O‘ahu attractions for sightseeing!
Kukaniloko Birthstone State Monument
Located in the geographical center of O‘ahu on a 5-acre plain near Wahiawa, these 180 lava stones are arranged as a monument to the gods and the royal families. Used as the site of royal births, the stones – estimated to have been assembled more than 900 years ago – are said to have the power to ease the pain of childbirth and are still sought out by pregnant women to this day.
See All of the Best O ‘ahu Attractions on Your Trip
There are plenty of exciting O ‘ahu attractions to visit during your stay on the island. To find out about even more great spots to visit, contact ILoveHawaii today and book your stay in one of our incredible vacation homes on O‘ahu!