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Guide To South Shore Oahu

Updated on November 10, 2014
Makapu'u Beach
Makapu'u Beach

South Shore Oahu

Oahu’s South Shore stretches from Hanauma Bay to the Ewa plains. This short tours begins with Pearl Harbor , goes to the immediate surroundings of Honolulu and then takes you to Haunama Bay. Many of the valleys behind Honolulu lead to the Koolau mountain range which offers hiking trails with spectacular views, lonely ridges and waterfalls.

A great place to see the entire South Shore is Mount Tantalus. It can be reached by driving up winding Round Top Drive until you reach the top. Halfway through the road changes its name to Tantalus Drive. At the first point you have a great view over Waikiki and Diamond Head. After that viewpoint the road curves to the left. The following view points let you see into Manoa Valley all the way to the Ko`olau mountains. At the viewpoints facing westward, you have the chance to look into the Punchbowl Crater and you can see as far as the airport and the Waianae mountains.

Oahu’s most remarkable viewpoint is the Pali Lookout. You can reach the Pali Lookout by taking the Pali Hwy. (# 61), and then follow a narrow road through the dense rainforest. The steep walls of the Koolau range will surround you and the view will take your breath away. The lookout is not only famous for its splendid view, but also for its history. In 1795, Kamehameha the Great, won a great battle during his quest to unify all islands under his rule. The old Pali Road can still be seen from the lookout. The road is closed today, but many legends and myths still remained until this day.

With the scenic variety of a bustling city, the sights of Pearl Harbor and Honolulu, marvelous beaches and endless hiking trails Oahu's south shore has a lot to offer. Let's begin our tour with a visit to Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial.

Pearl Harbor

The Memorial straddles the sunken hull of the battleship USS Arizona and commemorates the December 7,1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The Memorial was dedicated in 1962, and became a National Park Service area in 1980.A great way to see the memorial and the visitors center is as part of a guided tour.

With more than 1,500,000 visitors per year Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial is one of the main attractions on the island of Oahu. While most visitors are American, some 30% come from all over the world. To see the memorial join one of the daily tours from Waikiki, or you can drive from the Honolulu/Waikiki area. The drive will take you about 45 minutes.

The memorial is open Sunday through Saturday 7:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Interpretive programs, including a documentary film about the attack and the boat trip to the USS Arizona Memorial, begin at 8:00 A.M. (7:45 A.M. in summer). The last program each day begins at 3:00 P.M. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day.

No reservations are taken, and take the early tours to avoid long lines. The entire program including the movie, the boat ride and the interpretative programs by Park Rangers take about 2 hours and 30 minutes.

The Visitors Center in Pearl Harbor offers two other exiting attractions The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, located next to the USS Arizona Memorial parking lot, and the new addition to Pearl Harbor, the USS Missouri.

USS Bowfin : The museum includes an extensive look at the fascinating history of submarines from the first daring attempt in 1776 to use a submersible in

warfare to the feats of today’s nuclear submarines. The submarine provides an opportunity for visitors to go below deck aboard this National Historic Landmark, the Famous World War II submarine, USS Bowfin (SS-287).

Launched on December 7, 1942, she was nicknamed the “Pearl Harbor Avenger” and sank 44 enemy ships during the course of her nine extraordinary war patrols. The Waterfront Memorial stands in silent tribute to the 52 American submarines and the more than 3,500 submariners lost in World War II. The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park is operated by the non-profit Pacific Fleet Submarine Memorial Association.

The " Mighty Mo " - finally in Hawai`i

In 1954, the USS Missouri, lovingly called the "Mighty Mo" -- the last Iowa-class battleship built in the United States, and the site of the Japanese surrender September 2, was moored in Bremerton, Washington. The Mighty Mo has maintained her majestic presence during her decommissioning period and the military restored the 887-foot battleship to her full military capacity precluding the Gulf War.

On June 22, the mighty battleship was welcomed in Pearl Harbor, where it will be moored close to the Arizona Memorial, and after renovations are complete, the ship will be opened to the public.

Restorations are now complete and the battleship can be visited as part of an extended Pearl Harbor tour, and begin and end of the war in the Pacific can be seen together in the waters of Honolulu.

Manoa Valley

The picturesque valley is easy to find, since the huge campus of the University of Hawaii is located there, making it the home of many students, coffee shops and research centers. It is interesting just to drive through the area and see the old homes with their lush, tropical gardens. It rains a lot in the valley, since it is surrounded by the steep ridges. At the end of the narrow valley you will find the Lyon Arboretum, a nice botanical garden, and a short, but well worthy hike. This hike leads you through the tropical forest and bamboo groves to a nice waterfall. Be sure to bring a raincoat and good shoes, because the trail is usually often muddy, and brief rain showers are frequent. The valley is also the home of the recommended Manoa Valley B&B .

Lyon Arboretum - 3860 Manoa Road, Tel: 988 7378

This is as good as nature close to town can get The bus ride may take you an hour, but it is a good chance to get to know one of the most beautiful residential areas of Honolulu. Manoa Valley is very lush due to the high amounts of rain fall. At the end of the valley you will be surprised about the quiet and the beautiful surroundings. The Lyon Arboretum was founded by the sugar botanist Harold Lyon in the 1920s. The park covers 194 acres and is considered a semi-natural park. Lyon traveled the world and brought several thousand new species to the islands. You can walk on a self-guided tour through the park to Inspiration Point. A part of the park is used for research purposes by the University of Hawaii.

Open Mon-Sat 9.00am-3.00pm, admission free, Bus # 5 .Guided tours available only twice per months, on Saturdays, call 988 - 3177 for schedule information.

Diamond Head

The Diamond Head Crater is Oahu’s best known landmark. The hike to the top takes about 30-40 minutes steeply upwards, so it is best to do that early in the morning. It is also the best time to take some wonderful pictures of Waikiki with the sun positioned behind you.

Diamond Head was the last active volcano on Oahu. It erupted only once about 350 000 years ago. It got its name in 1825, when sailors found some crystals on the slopes of the volcano and immediately declared them as diamonds. It would have been nice, but due to Hawaii’s volcanic origin, any search for treasures of the soil will be unsuccessful. The extinct volcano served a new purpose at the beginning of the 20th century, when the U.S. government detected the mountain’s ideal strategic position. During both world wars the army created a tunnel system and established defense posts, which have never been actively used. Today you have to walk through two of those dark and narrow tunnels on your way to the top. The National Guard and the FAA occupy the inside of the crater and which regulate the air traffic over the Pacific from here.


After leaving Waikiki towards the east on Diamond Head Road, you will enter Kahala, the most Hawaii's most affluent neighborhood. If you bring some serious cash, you may find your dream home here. During the' 80s Japanese business people bought and sold homes as investment assets, sometimes willing to pay up to up to double and triple of the property value. Prices skyrocketed and brought property taxes through the roof, which forced many of the long-term residents to leave. With the Japanese economy in a slump, many homes are now on the market for a fraction of their purchase price." Fraction" still means seven figures. As you drive through Kahala, you can witness an interesting mix of old Hawaiian homes and super -posh homes. For those willing to spend some money, there are also some nice vacation homes in this area.

Visit the refreshingly quiet and relaxed Kahala Mall at the beginning of Hwy. 72, which offers a variety of shops, movie theaters and restaurants.


part from Waikiki's beaches, the south shore has a lot to offer :

Kahala Beach : Right behind those super - luxurious homes you can find nice stretch of beach that goes all the way along Kahala Avenue. Don't let all the walls distract you, there are access paths to the beach everywhere, and the beaches are public.

Hanauma Bay is probably the most beautiful but also the most popular beach on Oahu. Come early, otherwise it is possible that the parking lot is already full.

The perfect round shape of the bay is a result of a sunken crater. The shape of the bay and the reef protect swimmers and snorkelers from the high surf and ensure safe and calm swimming and snorkeling. Some scenes of the movie "Blue Hawaii", starring Elvis Presley, were shot here. Due to its amazing popularity, the reef almost died. Reckless tourists stepped on the reef while snorkeling. In order to save the bay's natural treasures, the park is closed on Wednesday morning, and $ 5 are charged at the gate to fund a big preservation project. Come early to find parking.

Sandy's beach

If you follow the coastal road from Hanauma Bay going east, you will pass Sandy’s beach next. The power of the ocean is often underestimated by the foreign visitor, which makes it the state's no.1 for accidents. The beach’s high shore break can cause serious injuries for those unfamiliar with these very powerful waves. Locals gather here mainly for bodysurfing, and lifeguards at Sandy’s are the busiest lifeguards on the island. If you want to know where the name comes from, go for a swim...

Makapu’u beach

This small beach, shortly after the Makapu’u viewpoint, offers some great waves to ride. It is very popular with the locals for boogie boarding and body surfing. During the winter the surf is higher and even more dangerous, exposing sharp rocks and reef.

Looking out to the right you will see two uninhabited islands, the larger one is Rabbit Island, where thousands of sea birds have their nests, and Turtle Island, which is flat and green. Both islands are seabird sanctuaries.


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