Long known as “The Gathering Place,” Oahu is the 3rd largest island in the Hawaiian chain.

It offers something for everyone, including history, nature, nightlife, culture, fine dining and entertainment. Here’s a look at Hawaii’s most metropolitan island:

Honolulu is the state’s capital and the largest county in the world. If you go by borders, Honolulu (“protected bay”) is the largest county in the world, stretching about 1,500 miles long (that’s more than halfway across the 48 contiguous U.S. states). That’s because the City & County of Honolulu legally includes most Northwestern Hawaiian islands up to Kure Atoll. As Hawaii’s capital city, Honolulu is the state’s government seat, principal port, and business and financial center. Honolulu is the 11th largest city in the U.S.

More than 75% of the state’s total population lives on Oahu.

Oahu is home to some 975,000 people. This wasn’t always the case, however. In 1850, in fact, Oahu ranked second in population size to the Big Island of Hawaii (25,440 to 25,864). The population density, according to census figures, is about 1,500 residents per square mile. The median age is about 32 years.

For most visitors on Oahu, Waikiki is the center of the action.

This vacation playground includes world-famous Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head Crater, the Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki Aquarium, and more than 130 hotels and resort condominiums—all packed within its 1.5-square-mile boundaries. But Waikiki, is merely the launching point to many other must-visit places on the island, including Pearl Harbor, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, Iolani Palace, Bishop Museum, Polynesian Cultural Center, downtown Honolulu and the North Shore.

In 1795, Kamehameha the Great and a fleet of war canoes landed on quiet Waikiki Beach.

This marked the start of a bloody confrontation that brought the island under chieftain’s rule. Honolulu’s harbor became a focal point for merchant ships traveling between North America and Asia. In 1809, Kamehameha moved his royal court from Waikiki to the harbor area. In 1845, Kamehameha III, the last son of Kamehameha the Great, officially moved the seat of the Kingdom of Hawaii from Maui to Honolulu.

Popular Destinations on Oahu

Fast Facts

  • Encompassing 597 square miles, the island of Oahu is just slightly larger than the city of Houston.
  • The island’s official flower is the yellow ilima. The flower resembles a small hibiscus (the state flower), with five petals and a group of stamens at the center. The ilima is prized as a lei flower, and early Hawaiians used the flower as a medicinal source to cure general debilities.
  • Oahu’s official color is yellow.

Did You Know?

  • Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu is the only royal palace standing on American soil.
  • Honolulu has one of the nation’s most efficient bus systems, traveling 21.5 million miles annually on 93 routes. There are approximately 4,200 bus stops on Oahu.
  • With more than 500 rounds of golf played daily, the Ala Wai Golf Course, set on the edge of Waikiki, claims to be the busiest municipal course in the U.S.
  • Located in Central Oahu, Aiea is the only town in the U.S. that doesn’t have a consonant in its name.
  • Men’s Fitness Online rated Honolulu as the “Fittest City” in the U.S.
  • City Crime Rankings lists Honolulu as the third-safest among U.S. cities with populations of 500,000 or more. You might want to keep your eye on your valuables, though: Honolulu had the highest rate of theft in the country in 2002.