Situated in the heart of Oahu is the town of Mililani that is made up of Mililani Town and Mililani Mauka (inland or towards the mountains) which is the newer and more upscale section of the two, and lies east of Interstate H-2. For golfers, Mililani Golf Club is a challenging, 18-hole course. Mililani Technology Park, a development of Castle & Cooke Properties, Inc., is a heavily landscaped, campus-like park for high-tech companies and other services. With its own commercial shopping centers, schools, community centers and a golf course, Mililani resembles a modern American suburban town.
Diamond Head is defined by its residents’ vibrant energy, appreciation of the arts and enthusiastic participation in life. Diamond Head has lots to offer including tai chi in Kapiolani Park, yoga classes on the beach with the beautiful backdrop of the sun rising in the early morning, hiking Diamond Head and sampling island produce at local farmers markets. Annual events held at Kapiolani Park such as the Okinawan, Filipino and Korean festivals, the Honolulu Marathon and Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure draw thousands of locals and visitors alike. Listed on the State’s Historic Register, Kapiolani Park serves as Diamond Head’s gathering place as it is home to art shows, concerts, tennis courts, baseball and softball diamonds, soccer and rugby fields and an archery range. The Waikiki Shell Amphitheater has hosted memorable performances by Jimi Hendrix, Van Morrison, Bob Marley, Sheryl Crow and Norah Jones and local artists including Jack Johnson, Makaha Sons, John Cruz and Jake Shimabukuro.
Downtown Honolulu is the historic, economic, governmental, and central part of Honolulu. It can be subdivided into four neighborhoods – the Capitol District, the Central Business District, Chinatown and the Waterfront. Located within the State Capitol District are federal, state, and city governmental buildings most notably the Hawaii State Capitol, Honolulu Hale (city hall), and Iolani Palace. The State Capitol Building opened in 1969 and is considered a unique work of architecture. The cone-shaped chambers represent Hawaii’s volcanoes while the building columns are reminiscent of palm trees.
Iolani Palace is the only royal palace on American soil. It had served as the royal residence for Hawaii’s last two monarchs, King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani. Today, guided tours are available at Iolani Palace. Across the street from Iolani Palace is the King Kamehameha Statute, which fronts Honolulu’s old judicial building. The statue pays tribute to Hawaii’s warrior king and stands eight feet six inches high. Every June 11 on Kamehameha Day, which is a state holiday, the statue is adorned with beautiful floral leis, some as long as 18 feet in length.
Twelve miles east of downtown Honolulu is the community of Hawaii Kai which was developed by Henry Kaiser in the late 1950s and 60s to be a self-sustained community with its own golf course, movie theater, library, retail, restaurants, parks and schools. Hawaii Kai, extending deep into Kalama Valley and includes the affluent area of Portlock, offers upscale high-rises, ridge homes, gated communities, ocean frontage homes, marina-front residences and townhouse living on the island of Koko Isle. It is also home to the original Roy’s restaurant, Sandy Beach and breathtaking Hanauma Bay which offers some of the best snorkeling on Oahu. A safe, upscale neighborhood, Hawaii Kai appeals to retirees, families and boat owners. You can find someone walking or riding a bike on the streets of Hawaii Kai anytime during the day.
Situated between downtown Honolulu and Waikiki, Kakaako is one of the fastest-changing communities of urban Honolulu. For many, its location along with the rise in shopping, entertainment and dining offerings make Kakaako an attractive place to live. It also has become a dynamic and lively neighborhood through events such as Eat the Street and the Honolulu Night Market, both of which attract thousands of locals and visitors every month. Cultural offerings such as concerts, opera, symphony and ballet at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center, the Honolulu Museum of Art and Children’s Discovery Center appeal to all ages. The main gathering place is Ward Center which boasts Honolulu’s largest movie screen through TitanXC, dining and retail.
Kapolei, nicknamed Oahu’s Second City, is one of the island’s fastest-growing communities. The City of Kapolei broke ground in 1990 and in just a little over two decades has seen tremendous increases in both residential and commercial properties as well as employment opportunities. At the heart of the city is the impressive three-story Kapolei Hale building. The architecture of the building reflects Honolulu’s heritage in the same vernacular approach as the Alexander & Baldwin and C. Brewer buildings of downtown Honolulu. For residents, Kapolei Hale offers the convenience of a satellite city hall, DMV office, one-stop permit office, water and property tax payments, and much more. A big boost to Kapolei’s continuing emergence as the Second City is the opening of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s new office building, making it the first federal agency to be headquartered in Kapolei. Kapolei also is home to The University of Hawaii – West Oahu which offers four-year bachelor’s degrees in liberal arts, professional studies, and applied sciences.
The Leeward Coast (or Waianae) offers some of Oahu’s most breathtaking scenery. Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on one side, and the Waianae Mountains on the other, the Waianae Coast offers the welcoming spirit and sense of ohana sought by those who venture west on Farrington Highway past Ko Olina in Kapolei. While Waianae may lack bling, it more than makes up for it in natural beauty as it is known to be home to some of the state’s most beautiful beaches like Mahaka and Maili Beaches, great surfing, fishing, and spectacular sunsets. Year-round activities include surfing, snorkeling and scuba diving. You can find residents of the Waianae Coast enjoying family picnics and gatherings on the beach on a weekly basis. Several surf competitions are held each year including the Rell Sunn Menehune Surfing Championship.
Just an hour from Waikiki and Honolulu is Oahu’s famous North Shore. Renowned for its spectacular views, laidback beach vibe, unassuming lifestyle and of course – surfing. The North Shore is home to the best surf spots in the world including Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach which feature 30 foot swells in the winter months. Surfing isn’t the only activity on The North Shore, you will also find activities including snorkeling, paddle boarding, horseback riding, golfing and even sky diving. Dotted along the beautiful shoreline you’ll find charming quiet towns where time and your troubles no longer matter. Among the most famous is the Historic Hale’iwa Town which is the center of surf culture and the hub of the arts community on Oahu.
Located approximately 10 miles west of Downtown Honolulu, Pearl City is one of Oahu’s most populated neighborhoods and is home to the Honolulu International Airport and Aloha Stadium. Almost every year this community welcomes the Pro Bowl to Aloha Stadium, which serves as the signature event to kick off the week leading up to the Super Bowl. Hawaii’s most famous visitor attraction, Pearl Harbor, the site where World War II began for the United States on December 7, 1941, is located just across the road from Aloha Stadium. No visit to Oahu is complete without making a stop to the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites which is made up of the USS Arizona Memorial, Battleship Missouri Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, and the Pacific Aviation Museum.
Just northeast of downtown Honolulu is the neighborhood of Makiki which stretches east to west from Punahou Street to Pensacola Street and north to south from Round Top Drive/Makiki Heights Drive to Lunalilo Freeway. Makiki is home to Punahou School, Hawaii’s elite private school attended by President Barack Obama and golfer Michelle Wie, and Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children, Hawaii’s only maternity, newborn and pediatric specialty hospital. Punchbowl Crater is where you will find the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific which serves as a memorial to honor the men and women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces and is a popular tourist attraction. For a panoramic view of Diamond Head, Waikiki, Punchbowl Crater, and Honolulu, take a cool, refreshing drive through a lush, green rain forest to Tantalus Lookout. A drive up scenic Makiki Heights Drive will take you to Spalding House, formerly known as The Contemporary Museum, which combines exhibitions of contemporary art with terraced gardens and spectacular views of Honolulu.
Waikiki is without a doubt the most famous location in Hawaii. Once a playground for Hawaii’s royalty, today Waikiki is best known for its beaches, resorts and hotels, many of which are located either on or within a short walking distance to the beach making it the gathering place for visitors from around the world. On the main strip of Kalakaua Avenue, there is world-class shopping, dining, entertainment and activities that can be found at the Royal Hawaiian Center and Waikiki Beach Walk. For novice surfers, the calm waters of Waikiki make it the perfect spot for lessons. For families, Waikiki also is the home of the Honolulu Zoo, the Waikiki Aquarium and penguins at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
A short drive from Honolulu over the mountainous Pali Highway will bring you to Oahu’s lush Windward Coast. Upon exiting the tunnels to the other side of the Koolau Mountain Range, Oahu’s Windward Coast feels like a whole new world. The shimmering waters of Kailua, a thriving beach town, draws you towards delectable local eats, trendy retail stores and the beautiful sands of Lanikai Beach. From Kailua, you can head eastward and visit Sea Life Park, Makapuu Lighthouse and Hanauma Bay. Or head northbound towards Kaneohe to the Valley of the Temples, a Japanese Buddhist temple, and lunch at Heeia Kea Pier which is known for its farm to table menu featuring “fresh off the boat” local items. Continue driving along the two-lane Kamehameha Highway towards Kualoa Ranch where you might recognize the picturesque views from movies such as Jurassic Park or the television show, Lost. You can also stop in for some horseback riding, ATV tours and other outdoor activities.