Land of Contrasts
ancient stone heiau (temples) to 21st-Century high-rises, O'ahu, Hawaii is an island of
endless contrasts. Geographically only the third largest of the inhabited
Hawaiian Islands, it is nonetheless home to nearly three-quarters of the state's
1.2 million residents, 370,000 of whom are concentrated in urban Honolulu, the
ultra-modern, south-coast cityscape kama'aina (residents) refer to simply as
"Town". Only 45-minute drive away is "Country" the famed surfing Mecca on the
island's north shore where you'll find sleepy Hale'iwa town (pop. 2,225)
existing much as it has since it was established by missionaries in 1832.
the other islands, islets and shoals that make up the 1,600-mile Hawaiian Island
chain, O'ahu is believed to be the product of a single "hot spot" in the earth's
mantle. Over the course of millions of years, the earth's crust drifted to the
northwest across this hot spot, giving rise to each island. The bulk of O'ahu,
was created nearly four million years ago, by two now-extinct shield volcanoes,
the remains of which are today visible as the Ko'olau and Wai'anae mountain
ranges, running parallel to each other along the length of the island's eastern
and western coasts, respectively. As with the rest of the Hawaiian Islands,
these mountain ranges separate the wetter windward shore from the drier leeward
side, forcing rain clouds blown in off the ocean to leave their water on the
east side of the island before gaining passage to the west.
Points of Interest
recent volcanic activity also created several of O'ahu's most visible landmarks:
761 foot tall Diamond Head, located on Waikiki's eastern border, is a "tuff
cone", formed some 100,000 years ago when an eruption of volcanic ash eventually
hardened into solid rock. Southeast O'ahu's Koko Head and downtown Honolulu's
Punchbowl (the latter of which houses the National Memorial Cemetery of the
Pacific in its crater) are also tuff cones.
O'ahu's political history is as varied as its geological past. It was on this
shore, near present-day
Waikiki, that Kamehameha the Great began a decisive battle in his
campaign to unite the Hawaiian Islands for the first time, defeating the forces
of Kalanikupule, then the high chief of Maui and O'ahu, in the spring of 1795.
It was in Honolulu, also, that a coalition of sugar planters and missionary
descendants would overthrow the Hawaiian Monarchy in 1893. After Statehood was
declared in 1959, Honolulu became the state capital of Hawaii.
Here are a few of the islands
Get lost in the world's largest maze as listed in the 2001 Guinness Book of World Records. Ride
on the Pineapple Express train and learn about the history of pineapples and
agriculture in Hawaii. Enjoy pineapple treats and find unique gifts at the
country store. www.dole-plantation.com
Polynesian Cultural Centre
Hawaii's favourite visitor attraction. Featuring 7 Pacific Island villages on 42
acres. Hawaii's most authentic luau and "Horizons", Hawaii's largest evening
show. Hawaii's only canoe pageant. Two heralded IMAX films.
The Waikiki Aquarium
The Waikiki Aquarium, founded in 1904, is the third oldest public aquarium in
the United States. A part of the University of Hawaii since 1919, the Aquarium
is located next to a living reef on the Waikiki shoreline. It runs programs helping people of all ages
to understand and care for the life of the ocean.
Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki
Over 750,000 people visit the
Honolulu Zoo annually. It is the largest zoo within a radius of 2,300 miles. The
Zoo provides habitats for a wide variety of animals from around the globe.
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