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Oahu facts for kids

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Nickname: The Gathering Place
Location 21°28′N 157°59′W / 21.467°N 157.983°W / 21.467; -157.983Coordinates: 21°28′N 157°59′W / 21.467°N 157.983°W / 21.467; -157.983
Area rank 3rd largest Hawaiian Island
United States
Population 953,207
Aerial view of Oʻahu with freeways and highways, 3D computer-generated image

Oʻahu (pronounced [oˈʔɐhu]) or Oahu /ˈɑːh/, known as "The Gathering Place", is the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands. It is home to about two-thirds of the population of the U.S. state of Hawaii. The state capital, Honolulu, is on Oʻahu's southeast coast. Including small close-in offshore islands such as Ford Island and the islands in Kāneʻohe Bay and off the eastern (windward) coast, it has a total land area of 596.7 square miles (1,545.4 km2), making it the 20th largest island in the United States. Along with the rest of the Hawaiian Islands, Oahu is one of the largest and northernmost islands of Polynesia.

In the greatest dimension, this volcanic island is 44 miles (71 km) long and 30 miles (48 km) across. The length of the shoreline is 227 miles (365 km). The island is the result of two separate shield volcanoes: the Waiʻanae and Koʻolau Ranges, with a broad "valley" or saddle (the central Oʻahu Plain) between them. The highest point is Kaʻala in the Waiʻanae Range, rising to 4,003 feet (1,220 m) above sea level.

The island was home to the Kunia Regional SIGINT Operations Center from 1941 to 2012; it is now home to the National Security Agency's Hawaii Cryptologic Center.


The island is home to 953,207 people in 2010 (approximately 72% of the resident population of the state, with approximately 81% of those living on the "city" side of the island). Oʻahu has for a long time been known as the "Gathering Place". The term Oʻahu has no confirmed meaning in Hawaiian, other than that of the place itself. Ancient Hawaiian tradition attributes the name's origin in the legend of Hawaiʻiloa, the Polynesian navigator credited with discovery of the Hawaiian Islands. The story relates that he named the island after a son.

Residents of Oʻahu refer to themselves as "locals" (as done throughout Hawaiʻi), no matter their ancestry.

The city of Honolulu—largest city, state capital, and main deepwater marine port for the State of Hawaiʻi—is located here. As a jurisdictional unit, the entire island of Oʻahu is in the Honolulu County, although as a place name, Honolulu occupies only a portion of the southeast end of the island.

Well-known features found on Oʻahu include Waikīkī, Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Kāneʻohe Bay, Kailua Bay, North Shore.

Being roughly diamond-shaped, surrounded by ocean and divided by mountain ranges, directions on Oʻahu are not generally described with the compass directions found throughout the world. Locals instead use ewa (pronounced "eh-va") to mean toward the western tip of the island, "Diamond Head" to be toward the eastern tip, mauka (pronounced "moww-ka") is toward the mountains and makai toward the sea.

Locals consider the island to be divided into various areas, which may overlap. The most commonly accepted areas are the "City", "Town" or "Town side", which is the metropolitan area from Halawa to the area below Diamond Head (residents of the island north of the Koʻolau Mountains consider the Town Side to be the entire southern half); "West Oʻahu," which goes from Pearl Harbor to Kapolei, Ewa and may include the Mākaha and Waianae areas; the "North Shore" (northwestern coast); the "Windward Side" (northeastern coast); the "East Side" (the eastern portion of the island, including both the Windward Side and the area east of Diamond Head; and "The Valley" or "Central Oʻahu" which runs northwest from Pearl Harbor toward Haleiwa. These terms are somewhat flexible, depending on the area in which the user lives, and are used in a mostly general way.

Oʻahu is also known for having the longest rain shower in history, with over 200 days spent with continuous rain. Kaneohe Ranch, Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi reported 247 straight days with rain from August 27, 1993 to April 30, 1994. The island has many nicknames one of them being "rainbow state." This is because rainbows are a common sight in Hawaiʻi due to the frequent rain showers. The average temperature in Oʻahu is around 70 to 85 degrees and the island is the warmest in June through October. The weather during the winter is cooler, but still warm with the average temperature of 68-78 degrees.

The windward side, also called the east side, is known for some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Lanikai Beach on the windward coast of Oʻahu has been consistently ranked among the best beaches in the world.


Pearl Harbor aerial
Pearl Harbor is the home of the largest U.S. Navy fleet in the Pacific. The harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941, by the Japanese bringing the United States into World War II.
Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
USS Arizona Memorial (right); USS Missouri (left) in Pearl Harbor

The 300-year-old Kingdom of Oʻahu was once ruled by the most ancient aliʻi in all of the Hawaiian Islands. The first great king of Oʻahu was Mailikukahi, the lawmaker, who was followed by many generation of monarchs. Kualiʻi was the first of the warlike kings and so were his sons. In 1773, the throne fell upon Kahahana, the son of Elani of Ewa. In 1783 Kahekili II, King of Maui, conquered Oʻahu and deposed the reigning family and then made his son, Kalanikūpule, king of Oʻahu. Kamehameha the Great would conquer in the mountain Kalanikupule's force in the Battle of Nuʻuanu. Kamehameha founded the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi with the conquest of Oʻahu in 1795. Hawaiʻi would not be unified until the islands of Kauaʻi and Niʻihau surrendered under King Kaumualii in 1810. Kamehameha III moved his capital from Lāhainā, Maui to Honolulu, Oʻahu in 1845. ʻIolani Palace, built later by other members of the royal family, is still standing, and is the only royal palace on American soil.

Oʻahu was apparently the first of the Hawaiian Islands sighted by the crew of HMS Resolution on January 19, 1776 during Captain James Cook's third Pacific expedition. Escorted by HMS Discovery, the expedition was surprised to find high islands this far north in the central Pacific. Oʻahu was not actually visited by Europeans until February 28, 1779 when Captain Charles Clerke aboard HMS Resolution stepped ashore at Waimea Bay. Clerke had taken command of the ship after James Cook was killed at Kealakekua Bay (island of Hawaiʻi) on February 14, and was leaving the islands for the North Pacific. With the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands came the introduction of disease, mosquitos and aggressive foreign animals. Although indirect, the simple exposure to these foreign species caused permanent damage to the Native Hawaiian people and environment.

The Imperial Japanese Navy's attack on Pearl Harbor, Oʻahu on the morning of December 7, 1941 brought the United States into World War II. The surprise attack was aimed at the Pacific Fleet of the United States Navy and its defending Army Air Forces and Marine Air Forces. The attack damaged or destroyed twelve American warships, destroyed 188 aircraft, and resulted in the deaths of 2,335 American servicemen and 68 civilians (of those, 1,177 were the result of the destruction of the USS Arizona alone).

The 2006 Hawaii earthquake, measuring 6.7 on the moment magnitude scale, struck the island of Hawai'i and the surrounding islands at 07:07:49 Hawaii–Aleutian Time Zone on October 15, 2006, causing an island-wide power outage and over $200 million in damage.

Today, Oʻahu has become a tourism and shopping haven. Over five million visitors (mainly from the contiguous United States and Japan) flock there every year to enjoy the quintessential island holiday experience.

Tourist attractions

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu
Waikīkī Beach is one of the best known beaches in the world.
Byodo-In Tempel
Valley of the Temples Memorial Park near the island's eastern shore
Chinaman's Hat - Oahu Hawaii
Mokoliʻi island, also known as Chinaman's Hat, offshore of Kualoa Valley

Top beaches


Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay

In media

Due to its beauty, easy access from Hollywood, and incentives offered by the state and local governments, Oʻahu has been featured in many movies and television shows. A sampling of notable films and shows that have shot scenes on Oʻahu includes, but is not limited to:


  • North Shore (1987)
  • 50 First Dates
  • Battleship (2012) is set and filmed on location on Oʻahu and the other Hawaiian islands
  • Blue Crush
  • Jaws
  • Forgetting Sarah Marshall
  • From Here to Eternity (1953)
  • The Disney Channel movie Johnny Tsunami as well as its sequel, Johnny Kapahala, use O'ahu as the hometown of the family
  • Jurassic Park movies
  • Mighty Joe Young
  • Pearl Harbor
  • Some scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides were filmed on Oʻahu
  • Soul Surfer
  • The Descendants
  • The Even Stevens Movie, also by Disney, was filmed in various locations on O'ahu
  • The Karate Kid Part II
  • Tora! Tora! Tora!
  • Windtalkers
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Many scenes from the arena were filmed on O'ahu
  • Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
  • Baywatch: Hawaiian Wedding


  • In the video games Test Drive Unlimited and Test Drive Unlimited 2 players can drive around O'ahu island's 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of road.
  • Some aircraft can be flown over O'ahu as it appeared during the later years of World War II in the online multiplayer combat flight simulator War Thunder. Most American aircraft can be flown from the Pearl Harbor airstrip in the game's Test Flight mode.
  • Microsoft Flight, released in 2012 as the successor to the Microsoft Flight Simulator series, was set on island of Hawaii. The game had a piece of downloadable content (DLC) called Hawaiian Adventure Pack. Once purchased, it brought detail to all of the Hawaiian islands to the game, including O'ahu. The DLC also brought new airports to land and take off from and new missions to complete, among other things.
  • Released in 2016, November 18 Pokémon Sun and Moon features an island that strikingly resembles O'ahu.


  • The novel From Here to Eternity (1951) and the film and television series based on it all end with the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • Michael Crichton's posthumous techno-thriller novel, Micro, is set in the island of O'ahu.
  • Boyd Morrison's book The Tsunami Countdown is set on O'ahu.


  • PBS Nature's Condition Black
  • Dante's Cove
  • The reality TV show Dog the Bounty Hunter is filmed in the regions of Honolulu, Oʻahu (as well as other regions), and the city of Kailua on the island of Hawaiʻi
  • The children's series Flight 29 Down was filmed on the island
  • The 1979 TV miniseries From Here to Eternity and the 1980 TV series remake, From Here to Eternity, were filmed on location
  • Both the original Hawaii Five-O television series and its more recent version, Hawaii Five-0, are set and filmed on location on the island
  • Hawaiian Eye, while set in Hawaiʻi, was filmed in Los Angeles
  • Jake and the Fatman
  • Lost was filmed almost entirely on Oʻahu, with many locations on the island (predominantly Honolulu) serving as a stand-in for other locations (including United States, Australia, United Kingdom, and South Korea). Many of the show's stars still call the island home. The island's thick rainforests and picturesque beaches are prominently featured.
  • Magnum, P.I.
  • MythBusters shot their 2012 Season's "Duct Tape Island" episode on this island
  • North Shore
  • The River was filmed on Oʻahu
  • Last Resort began and finished filming in 2012 on Oʻahu

Renewable energy

Beginning with a contract with the US Navy in 2001, Ocean Power Technologies began ocean-testing its wave power generation system at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH) at Kāneʻohe Bay. The Oʻahu system was launched under the company's program with the US Navy for ocean testing and demonstration of such systems, including connection to the Oʻahu grid.

Oʻahu has 343 MW of rooftop solar power, and potential for 92 MW of wind power.

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