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Historic Places of Oahu


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Oahu was the home of the Hawaiian monarchy, the birthplace of modern and big wave surfing, and the tipping point in the United States involvement in World War II. Explore the historic places of Oahu and see why there’s more to Hawaii than just sun, sand and surf.

Nuuanu Pali Lookout
Overlooking the lush Windward Coast and the majestic Koolau Mountain range, the Nuuanu Pali Lookout was the site of the Battle of Nuuanu. It was here, high upon these sheer cliffs that King Kamehameha I won a decisive battle that helped him conquer the island of Oahu.

Downtown Honolulu
Within a short walking distance of each other, Downtown Honolulu and Chinatown are home to historic Hawaiian landmarks like the Iolani Palace, the King Kamehameha I Statue, Kawaiahao Church as well as modern landmarks like the Hawaii State Capitol, Washington Place (home of the Governor) and Honolulu Hale (home to the City Council and Mayor’s office). The Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives, just east of the Kawaiahao Church, actually displays three missionary homes built in New England and shipped to Oahu.

A short walk west beyond the buildings of the financial district and you’ll find the arts district of Chinatown. Go on the Chinatown art walk, visit the areas hip bars and restaurants or catch a performance at the Hawaii Theatre. Opened in 1922, the “Pride of the Pacific” has been meticulously restored and in 2005 it was named “Outstanding Historic Theatre in America”.

Pearl Harbor and Beyond
On December 7, 1941 the Japanese navy attacked Pearl Harbor which led to the beginning of US involvement in World War II. On September 2, 1945, Japan signed its unconditional surrender on the decks of the USS Battleship Missouri, ending the war. The five Pearl Harbor Historic Sites honour these events with amazing memorials and living museums.

Today, you can still walk in the footsteps of Hawaii’s rich military past at locations throughout Oahu. In Waikiki, the US Army Museum of Hawaii chronicles the history of warfare in Hawaii, from King Kamehameha to today. Two of Waikiki’s most historic hotels, the Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort, known as the “First Lady of Waikiki” and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, known as the “Pink Palace of the Pacific”, were popular rest and recreation stops for soldiers during WWII, a time when barbed wire was actually strung along Waikiki Beach. Even iconic Leahi (Diamond Head) was used for the coastal defense of Oahu. A total of five military batteries were built on Diamond Head State Monument between 1910 and 1943. You can hike on Leahi (Diamond Head) today and still see the remains of these bunkers. Finally, you can pay your respects to America’s fallen at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, overlooking incredible views of Honolulu.