Visiting Oahu’s Historic Sites

Oahu is home to many buildings, landmarks and homes that are of great historical significance to both Hawaii and the United States. While there are many sites that are worth noting, here is a look at 5 of the most notable historic buildings and sites in Oahu.

Pearl Harbor

Known as the “date which will live in infamy,” Pearl Harbor took place on December 7, 1941. It was on this date that an American base at Pearl Harbor was unexpectedly attacked by Japanese forces, causing the United States to declare war on Japan. Five historic sites related to the event can be visited:

USS Arizona Memorial: the site where the battleship was sunk in nine minutes, killing 1,177 crewmen. While visiting is free, a time slot must be reserved in advance for the boat tour to the memorial.

Battleship Missouri Memorial: The 60,000-ton battleship where General Macarthur accepted the Japanese surrender ending WWII.  Tour the battleship and stand on the Surrender Deck where this historic event took place.

USS Oklahoma Memorial: 35,000-ton battleship that sunk in 12 minutes, killing 429 crewmen.

USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park: One of 288 U.S. submarines involved with the war. Tour the torpedo room, sleeping quarters and engine room.

Pacific Aviation Museum: Features two WWII-era hangars that survived the attack. Bullet holes, bomb craters and strafe marks from the attack can still be seen on the hangars, which house 50 aircraft on display.

The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is also open daily – except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day – from 7:00 am until 5:00 pm.

Iolani Palace

Built in 1882 by King Kalākaua, Iolani Palace has been registered as a National Historic Landmark since 1962. Home to Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs, the palace is the only official royal residence in the country. The palace is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm, though it is closed on major holidays. Visitors can take self-led audio tours or guided tours led by volunteer docents. Tours take visitors throughout the palace while learning about its history and residents.

China Town

China Town in Oahu is a sight to behold. Covering a 20-block section, the 140-year-old attraction is home to several vendors, restaurants, and shops offering everything from Chinese dry goods to art. Whether you choose to take a guided tour or stroll through China Town on your own, you will be entertained by performers, festivals, and other activities. Get your fortune told, burn incense at a shrine, or visit an acupuncturist to enjoy the full experience.

Nuuanu Pali Lookout

Located just five miles from Downtown Honolulu above the Oahu coastline, the historic Nuuanu Pali Lookout boasts panoramic views of the Windward Coast and Koolau cliffs. In 1795, the site served as the lookout for the Battle of Nuuanu. While the battle resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives, the struggle ultimately united Oahu under the rule of King Kamehameha I. Parking at the site is $3.


Located on the south shore of Honolulu, the beachfront neighborhood of Waikiki is home to the majority of Oahu’s hotels and resorts. Translated to mean “spouting waters,” Waikiki once served as the playground for Hawaii’s royalty. In addition to its world-class shopping, fantastic dining, and gorgeous beaches, Waikiki is also home to the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium.

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