Oahu (/ˈɑːh/) (Hawaiian: Oʻahu (pronounced [oˈʔɐhu])), also known as "The Gathering Place", is the third-largest of the Hawaiian Islands. It is home to roughly one million people—about two-thirds of the population of the U.S. state of Hawaii. The island lies within Honolulu County and the state capital, Honolulu, is on Oahu's southeast coast.

Nickname: The Gathering Place
Satellite photo of Oahu
Location21.4730°N 157.9868°W / 21.4730; -157.9868
Area596.7 sq mi (1,545 km2)
Area rank3rd largest Hawaiian Island
Highest elevation4,025 ft (1226.8 m)
Highest pointKaʻala
United States
ColorMelemele (yellow)
Largest settlementHonolulu
Population976,372 (2012)
Pop. density1,636/sq mi (631.7/km2)
Aerial view of Oahu with freeways and highways; 3D computer-generated image

Including small associated islands such as Ford Island plus those in Kāneʻohe Bay and off the eastern (windward) coast, its area is 596.7 square miles (1,545.4 km2), making it the 20th-largest island in the United States.[1]

Oahu is 44 miles (71 km) long and 30 miles (48 km) across. Its shoreline is 227 miles (365 km) long. The island is composed of two separate shield volcanoes: the Waiʻanae and Koʻolau Ranges, with a broad valley or saddle (the central Oahu Plain) between them. The highest point is Kaʻala in the Waiʻanae Range, rising to 4,003 feet (1,220 m) above sea level.[2]


The island, which is also Honolulu County, has a July 1, 2019 population estimate of 974,563[3] (up from 953,207 people in 2010 (approximately 69% of the total 1,415,872 population of the state,[4] with approximately 81% of those living in or near the Honolulu urban area)). Oahu has for a long time been known as the "Gathering Place". The term Oʻahu has no confirmed meaning in Hawaiian, other than that of the place itself.[5] Ancient Hawaiian tradition attributes the name's origin in the legend of Hawaiʻiloa, the Polynesian navigator credited with discovery of the Hawaiian Islands. The story relates that he named the island after his daughter.

Residents of Oahu refer to themselves as "locals" (as done throughout Hawaii), no matter their ancestry.

The city of Honolulu—largest city, state capital, and main deepwater marine port for the State of Hawaiʻi—is located here. As a jurisdictional unit, the entire island of Oahu is in the Honolulu County, although as a place name, Honolulu occupies only a portion of the southeast end of the island.

Well-known features found on Oahu include Waikiki, Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, Hanauma, Kāneʻohe Bay, Kailua Bay, North Shore.

While the entire island is officially the City and County of Honolulu, locals identify settlements using town names (generally those of the census-designated places), and consider the island to be divided into various areas, which may overlap. The most commonly accepted areas are the "City", "Town" or "Town side", which is the urbanized area from Halawa to the area below Diamond Head (residents of the island north of the Koʻolau Mountains consider the Town Side to be the entire southern half), "West Oahu", which goes from Pearl Harbor to Kapolei, ʻEwa and may include the Mākaha and Waiʻanae areas; the "North Shore" (northwestern coast); the "Windward Side" (northeastern coast from Kahuku to Kāneʻohe); the "East Side" or "East Coast" (the eastern portion of the island, from Kāneʻohe on the northeast, around the tip of the island to include much of the area east of Diamond Head); and "The Valley" or "Central Oahu" which runs northwest from Pearl Harbor toward Haleʻiwa. These terms are somewhat flexible, depending on the area in which the user lives, and are used in a mostly general way, but residents of each area identify strongly with their part of the island, especially those outside of widely-known towns. For instance, if locals are asked where they live, they would usually reply "Windward Oahu" rather than "Laie".

Being roughly diamond-shaped, surrounded by ocean and divided by mountain ranges, directions on Oahu are not generally described with the compass directions found throughout the world. Locals instead use directions originally using Honolulu as the central point. To go ʻewa means traveling toward the western tip of the island, "Diamond Head" is toward the eastern tip, mauka is inland (toward the central Koʻolau Mountain range, north of Honolulu) and makai toward the sea. When these directions became common, Diamond Head was the eastern edge of the primary populated area. Today, with a much larger populace and extensive development, the mountain itself is often not actually to the east when directions are given, and is not to be used as a literal point of reference—to go "Diamond Head" is to go to the east from anywhere on the island.

Oahu is also known for having the longest rain shower in history, which lasted for 200 consecutive days. Kāneʻohe Ranch reported 247 straight days with rain from August 27, 1993 to April 30, 1994. The island has many nicknames one of them being "rainbow state." This is because rainbows are a common sight in Hawaiʻi due to the frequent rain showers. The average temperature in Oahu is around 70–85 °F (21–29 °C) and the island is the warmest in June through October. The weather during the winter is cooler, but still warm with an average temperature of 68–78 °F (20–26 °C).

The windward side is known for some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Lanikai Beach on the windward coast of Oahu has been consistently ranked among the best beaches in the world.[6]


Pearl Harbor is the home of the largest U.S. Navy fleet in the Pacific. The harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941, by the Japanese Empire, bringing the United States into World War II.
USS Arizona Memorial (right); USS Missouri (left) in Pearl Harbor

The island has been inhabited since at least 3rd century A.D.[7] The 304-year-old Kingdom of Oʻahu was once ruled by the most ancient aliʻi in all of the Hawaiian Islands. The first great king of Oʻahu was Maʻilikūkahi, the lawmaker, who was followed by many generation of monarchs. Kualiʻi was the first of the warlike kings and so were his sons. In 1773, the throne fell upon Kahahana, the son of Elani of Ewa. In 1783, Kahekili II, King of Maui, conquered Oʻahu and deposed the reigning family and then made his son, Kalanikūpule, king of O'ahu, turning O'ahu into a puppet state. Kamehameha the Great would conquer in the mountain Kalanikūpule's force in the Battle of Nuʻuanu. Kamehameha founded the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi with the conquest of Oʻahu in 1795. Hawaiʻi would not be unified until the islands of Kauaʻi and Niʻihau surrendered under King Kaumualiʻi in 1810. Kamehameha III moved his capital from Lāhainā, Maui to Honolulu, Oʻahu in 1845. ʻIolani Palace, built later by other members of the royal family, is still standing, and is the only royal palace on American soil.

Oahu was apparently the first of the Hawaiian Islands sighted by the crew of HMS Resolution on January 19, 1778, during Captain James Cook's third Pacific expedition. Escorted by HMS Discovery, the expedition was surprised to find high islands this far north in the central Pacific. Oahu was not actually visited by Europeans until February 28, 1779, when Captain Charles Clerke aboard HMS Resolution stepped ashore at Waimea Bay. Clerke had taken command of the ship after James Cook was killed at Kealakekua Bay (island of Hawaiʻi) on February 14, and was leaving the islands for the North Pacific. With the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands came the introduction of disease, mosquitoes, and aggressive foreign animals. Although indirect, the simple exposure to these foreign species caused permanent damage to the Native Hawaiian people and environment.

The Imperial Japanese Navy's attack on Pearl Harbor, Oahu on the morning of December 7, 1941 brought the United States into World War II. The surprise attack was aimed at destroying the American will to fight and make them sue for peace immediately by attacking the Pacific Fleet of the United States Navy and its defending Army Air Forces and Marine Air Forces. The attack damaged or destroyed twelve American warships, destroyed 188 aircraft, and resulted in the deaths of 2,335 American servicemen and 68 civilians (of those, 1,177 were the result of the destruction of the USS Arizona alone).

Today, Oahu has become a tourism and shopping haven. Over five million visitors (mainly from the contiguous United States and Japan) flock there every year to enjoy the island.

Law enforcement

Oahu boasts of having had the Olympic Gold Medal winner Duke Kahanamoku serve as Sheriff, perhaps the only such athlete to serve as a law enforcement professional. He held that office for 13 consecutive terms, from 1932 until 1961.

Visitors should be aware that some of the police vehicles on Oahu (and on the "Big Island" of Hawaiʻi) are unmarked except for the blue lights mounted on their roofs.[8]


Enlargeable, detailed map of Oahu
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: [9]

Tourist attractions

Lanikai Beach
Downtown Honolulu
Waikīkī Beach is one of the most known beaches in the world.
Valley of the Temples Memorial Park near the island's eastern shore
Jellyfish swim in a tank at Waikīkī Aquarium.
Mokoliʻi island, also known as Chinaman's Hat, offshore of Kualoa Valley
Nuʻuanu Pali of the Koʻolau mountain

Top beaches

  • Ala Moana Beach
  • Hanauma Bay
  • Kāneʻohe Bay
  • Ko Olina Beach Park
  • Kailua
  • Lanikai Beach
  • Papailoa Beach
  • Sandy Beach
  • Sunset Beach
  • Waikīkī Beach
  • Waimānalo Beach
  • Waimea Bay


  • Ala Moana
  • Aloha Tower
  • Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa
  • Banzai Pipeline
  • Bishop Museum
  • Diamond Head
  • Dole Plantation
  • Foster Botanical Garden
  • Kaʻena Point
  • Honolulu
  • Honolulu Museum of Art
  • Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden
  • ʻIolani Palace
  • Kualoa Ranch
  • Lāʻie Hawaii Temple
  • Nuʻuanu Pali Lookout
  • Mauna ʻAla
  • Makapuu Lighthouse
  • National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific or "Punchbowl"
  • North Shore
  • Pali Lookout
  • Pearl Harbor
  • Polynesian Cultural Center
  • Triple Crown of Surfing
  • USS Arizona Memorial
  • USS Missouri
  • Valley of the Temples Memorial Park
  • Waikīkī
  • Waikīkī Aquarium
  • Waimea Valley Audubon Center
  • Waimea Valley
Helicopter view of Oahu
Hanauma Bay
Ko'Olina white sand lagoon
  • In the video games Test Drive Unlimited and Test Drive Unlimited 2 players can drive around O'ahu island's 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of road.[10]
  • Microsoft Flight, released in 2012 as the successor to the Microsoft Flight Simulator series, was set on island of Hawaiʻi. The game had a piece of downloadable content (DLC) called Hawaiian Adventure Pack. Once purchased, it brought detail to all of the Hawaiian islands to the game, including Oahu. The DLC also brought new airports to land and take off from and new missions to complete, among other things.
  • Lost was filmed almost entirely on Oahu, with many locations on the island (predominantly Honolulu) serving as a stand-in for other locations (including United States, Australia, United Kingdom, and South Korea). Many of the show's stars still call the island home. The island's thick rainforests and picturesque beaches are prominently featured.
  • 50 First Dates, a movie that takes place on the island.
  • MythBusters shot their 2012 Season's "Duct Tape Island" episode on this island[11]
  • The South Korean reality TV series Father and Me was filmed on Oahu in 2016[12]
  • The Reimanns, a popular German reality TV series, has been filmed on the North Shore at the family's estate in Pūpūkea since December 2015.[13]

Beginning with a contract with the US Navy in 2001, Ocean Power Technologies began ocean-testing Azura, its wave power generation system at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH) at Kāneʻohe Bay. The Oahu system was launched under the company's program with the US Navy for ocean testing and demonstration of such systems, including connection to the Oahu grid.[14] The prototype can produce 20 kW, a system with 500 kW to 1 MW is planned to be installed at end of 2017.[15]

Oahu has 343 MW of rooftop solar power,[16] and potential for 92 MW of wind power.[17][18]

Notable people

Carissa Moore
Jake Shimabukuro
  • Jamie O'Brien, surfer
  • Benny Agbayani, professional baseball player
  • Keiko Agena, actor
  • Gabe Baltazar, clarinet and saxophone player
  • Alexandria Boehm, scientist
  • Darren Brooks, actor, writer, producer
  • Max Holloway, MMA Fighter, Former UFC Featherweight Champion
  • Angelique Cabral, actor
  • Tia Carrere, actor
  • Brian Ching, Major League Soccer
  • Dennis Chun, actor (Hawaii Five-0), son of Kam Fong
  • Bryan Clay, Olympic decathlete 2008
  • Scott Crary, film director and producer
  • Auli'i Cravalho, actor, singer
  • Mark Dacascos, actor
  • Caitlin Doughty, mortician, author and YouTube personality
  • Diana Ewing, actor
  • Sid Fernandez, baseball
  • Maile Flanagan, actor
  • Kam Fong, actor
  • Lauren Graham, actor
  • Erin Gray, actor
  • Brian Grazer, Oscar-winning film and television producer
  • Jeremiah Green, drummer
  • Dave Hlubek, lead guitarist and founder of Southern Rock band Molly Hatchet
  • Coco Ho, pro surfer
  • Don Ho, singer
  • Kelly Ann Hu, actor
  • Carrie Ann Inaba, dancer, actor, musician
  • Daniel Inouye, US Senator, Medal of Honor recipient
  • Jack Johnson, musician, folk rock singer-songwriter
  • Duke Kahanamoku, pro swimmer and surfer
  • Samuel Kamakau, historian
  • Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, musician
  • Nicole Kidman, actor
  • Maxim Knight, actor
  • Olin Kreutz, football player Chicago Bears
  • Clyde Kusatsu, actor
  • Teri Ann Linn, actor
  • Jack Lord, actor
  • Marcus Mariota, NFL football player, Las Vegas Raiders
  • Markiplier (Mark Edward Fischbach), Internet personality, video game commentator
  • Bruno Mars, singer-songwriter, record producer, musician
  • Julie McCullough, actor
  • Zack Merrick, drummer in American rock band All Time Low
  • Bette Midler, singer, actor, comedian
  • Jason Momoa, actor
  • Carissa Moore, pro surfer
  • Tahj Mowry, actor
  • Don Muraco, professional wrestler
  • Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States
  • Timothy Olyphant, actor
  • Ellison Onizuka, NASA astronaut, STS-51-C, STS-51-L, Space Shuttle Challenger disaster
  • Noelani Pantastico, ballet dancer
  • Janel Parrish, actor, singer
  • Kelly Preston, actor
  • Maggie Q, actor
  • Makua Rothman (born 1984), world champion surfer
  • Anthony Ruivivar, actor
  • Nicole Scherzinger, musician
  • Amanda Schull, actor
  • Jesse Sapolu, retired football player, San Francisco 49ers
  • Garret T. Sato, actor
  • Jake Shimabukuro, ʻukulele player
  • Karen Steele, actor
  • Don Stroud, actor
  • Heidi Swedberg, actor
  • Tua Tagovailoa, NFL football player, Miami Dolphins
  • Ronald Takaki, academic, historian, ethnographer and author
  • Akebono Tarō, sumo wrestler
  • Kristi Tauti, professional figure competitor and fitness model
  • Manti Te'o, NFL football player, Los Angeles Chargers
  • Paul Theroux, author
  • Michelle Wie West, golf LPGA
  • Taylor Wily, actor
  • Kirby Wright, poet and writer
  • Meg Wyllie, actor
  • Keone Young, actor

See also

  • Honolulu Volcanics
  • National Register of Historic Places listings in Oahu



  1. "Table 5.08 – Land Area of Islands: 2000" (PDF). State of Hawaii. 2004. Retrieved July 23, 2007.
  2. "Table 5.11 – Elevations of Major Summits" (PDF). State of Hawaii. 2004. Retrieved July 23, 2007.
  3. "US Census Bureau".
  4. "US Census Bureau".
  5. Pukui, et al., 1976
  6. Conners, Valerie. "Top 10 Beaches of Hawaii". Travel Channel. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  7. Van, James (2010). Ancient Sites of Oahu: A Guide to Archaeological Places of Interest. Bishop Museum Pr. Page 5. ISBN 978-1581780956.
  8. Brannan, Johnny (June 16, 2002). "Use of personal cars saves police time and money | The Honolulu Advertiser | Hawaii's Newspaper". the.honoluluadvertiser.com. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
  9. "NASA Earth Observations Data Set Index". NASA. Retrieved January 30, 2016.
  10. "Test Drive Unlimited 2 trailer shows pretty sights of Ibiza, Oahu". Neoseeker.
  11. "MythBusters: Duct Tape Island Aftershow : Video : Discovery Channel". Dsc.discovery.com. March 25, 2012. Archived from the original on July 10, 2012. Retrieved August 6, 2013.
  12. Father and Me Hawaii Tourism Authority 2016. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  13. The Reimanns TV episode guide. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  14. "Ocean Power Technologies: Capturing Wave Energy for the U.S. Navy and the Grid" (PDF). Acore.org. American Council on Renewable Energy. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 8, 2015. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
  15. "Azura connects in Hawaii". reNEWS – Renewable Energy News. Archived from the original on May 15, 2018.
  16. "Solar Energy". Hawaiian Electric. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  17. "High Resolution Wind Resource Maps". Hawaiian Electric. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  18. Wind resource


  • Doyle, David W., 2001. Rescue in Paradise: Oahu's Beaches and their Guardians. Island Heritage.
  • Macdonald, Gordon A., Agatin T. Abbott, and Frank L. Peterson, 1983. Volcanoes in the Sea. University of Hawaiʻi Press, Honolulu. 517 pp.
  • Pukui, M. K., S. H. Elbert, and E. T. Mookini, 1976. Place names of Hawaiʻi. University of Hawaiʻi Press. 289 pp.
  • Media related to Oahu at Wikimedia Commons
  • Oahu travel guide from Wikivoyage
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