You are currently viewing Oahu’s Historical Landmarks You Need to See

Oahu’s Historical Landmarks You Need to See

  • Post category:Hawaii

Oahu, one of the main islands in Hawaii, is a treasure trove of historical landmarks that offer a glimpse into the island’s rich cultural and historical heritage. From the poignant memories of Pearl Harbor to the regal splendor of ʻIolani Palace, Oahu’s historical sites provide an enriching experience for history buffs and casual visitors alike. This article highlights some of the must-see historical landmarks on the island, each with its unique story and significance.

Key Takeaways

  • Pearl Harbor National Memorial offers a deep dive into World War II history with sites like the USS Arizona Memorial and the Battleship Missouri Memorial.
  • ʻIolani Palace is the only royal residence in the United States and provides insights into Hawaii’s monarchical history.
  • Bishop Museum is a hub for Hawaiian cultural and scientific exhibits, featuring the Hawaiian Hall and the Science Adventure Center.
  • The Polynesian Cultural Center showcases the diverse cultures of Polynesia through island villages, cultural demonstrations, and an evening show.
  • Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse and Waimea Valley offer scenic natural beauty along with historical and cultural insights.

Pearl Harbor National Memorial

an american flag flying from the top of a building

A visit to Pearl Harbor Hawaii is a moving and unforgettable experience. The site of the infamous attack on December 7th, 1941, Pearl Harbor is an emotional reminder of our nation’s history and serves as a solemn tribute to those who fought in World War II. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by emotion when visiting the USS Arizona Memorial or standing at the water’s edge looking out over the harbor.

USS Arizona Memorial

Visiting the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii is an incredibly powerful and moving experience. Located at Pearl Harbor, the memorial commemorates one of the most tragic events in American history – the Japanese attack on December 7th, 1941 that left 2,403 Americans dead. The USS Arizona Memorial stands as a testament to those brave men and women who lost their lives during this attack. It has since become a popular tourist destination for people from all around the world seeking to honor its fallen heroes.

Battleship Missouri Memorial

For military enthusiasts, there are also several other historic sites worth visiting at Pearl Harbor: the Battleship Missouri, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum, and the Pacific Aviation Museum. If you want to see everything, your best bet is to reserve a Passport to Pearl Harbor discount package on the website.

Pacific Aviation Museum

The Pacific Aviation Museum offers an immersive experience into the history of aviation during World War II. Located on Ford Island, the museum showcases a variety of aircraft and exhibits that highlight the pivotal role of aviation in the war. Visitors can explore the hangars and see restored planes, including some that participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The museum provides a comprehensive look at the technological advancements and strategic importance of air power during the conflict.

ʻIolani Palace

ʻIolani Palace, built in 1882 by King Kalākaua, served as the official residence of the last two reigning monarchs of Hawaii until their overthrow in 1893. This grand structure, inspired by European castles and palaces, had modern amenities like electricity and a telephone several years before the White House. Today, it stands as a symbol of Hawaiian independence and culture, offering guided tours that showcase its opulent interior design and rich history.

Bishop Museum

person taking picture of man wearing brown hat painting

Visiting the Bishop Museum in Hawaii is a great way to immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture and history. Founded in 1889 by Charles Reed Bishop, the museum was originally built to house artifacts collected by his late wife Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, who was descended from Hawaiian royalty. The museum has since grown into one of Hawaii’s largest museums with a collection of over 25 million cultural and natural treasures from Hawaiʻi and Polynesia. It is widely considered to be Hawai‘i’s premier museum for history and culture on a whole.

Polynesian Cultural Center

The Polynesian Cultural Center, often referred to as the “Epcot of Hawai‘i,” offers a theme-park-esque atmosphere perfect for families looking to learn more about Polynesian culture. Do not miss this immersive opportunity to experience Hawaiian culture. Walk through six villages representing Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga to get a taste of each island’s diverse way of life.

Queen Emma Summer Palace

swimming pool with stainless steel ladder

A visit to the Queen Emma Summer Palace in Hawaii is a truly unique experience. Located on the grounds of Hawaiian royalty, this historic palace offers visitors a glimpse into the lives of Hawaiian kings and queens from centuries past. Built-in 1857, it was once home to King Kamehameha IV and his wife Queen Emma for their summer retreats. Today, it serves as an incredible reminder of a bygone era.

Kawaiahaʻo Church

cathedral interior

Known as “The Westminster Abbey of The Pacific,” the Kawaiahaʻo Church was dedicated on July 21, 1842, by 5,000 worshippers, led by Kamehameha III, as the “Great Stone Church.” A beautiful sight to see from the outside or during a service, the Kawaiahaʻo Church is located at 957 Punchbowl Street in Honolulu. Learn about the services at Kawaiahaʻo Church.

Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse

Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse, located on the eastern tip of Oahu, is a must-see historical landmark. This lighthouse is named after Makapu’u, a supernatural being from Hawaiian folklore who had eight bright eyes. The lighthouse is home to the biggest lighthouse lens in the United States, making it a significant navigational aid for those at sea.

Waimea Valley

Botanical Garden

Waimea Valley is renowned for its extensive botanical garden, which features a diverse collection of tropical plants. Spend a half day exploring the gardens and cultural exhibits, then take a dip in O‘ahu’s only lifeguarded waterfall. The garden is a living museum that showcases the rich biodiversity of the region.

Historical Sites

The valley is home to 78 archaeologically significant sites, including religious temples, fishing shrines, fishponds, and house sites. These sites offer a glimpse into the social, political, and religious systems of the valley’s earliest Hawaiian residents. Explore the rich history of the South Pacific islands through unique sites like East Rennell, the Moai statues of Rapa Nui, Chief Roi Mata’s Domain, and the Marae of Taputapuatea.


One of the main attractions in Waimea Valley is its stunning waterfall. This is O‘ahu’s only lifeguarded waterfall, making it a safe and enjoyable spot for visitors to swim. The waterfall is surrounded by lush vegetation, providing a serene and picturesque setting. Visit Savai’i for natural wonders and tranquility, and uncover hidden gems in Upolu.

Discover the enchanting beauty of Waimea Valley, a lush paradise filled with vibrant flora and cascading waterfalls. Whether you’re seeking adventure or tranquility, Waimea Valley offers an unforgettable experience for all. Don’t miss out on exploring this natural wonder. Visit our website to plan your perfect getaway today!


Oahu’s historical landmarks offer a unique glimpse into the rich tapestry of Hawaii’s past. From the solemn grounds of Pearl Harbor to the regal halls of ‘Iolani Palace, each site tells a story of resilience, culture, and transformation. Whether you’re a history enthusiast or a curious traveler, these landmarks provide an invaluable opportunity to connect with the island’s heritage. As you explore Oahu, take the time to appreciate the historical significance of these sites and the enduring legacy they represent. Your journey through Oahu’s history will not only enrich your understanding of the island but also leave you with lasting memories of its profound beauty and cultural depth.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the must-see historical landmarks in Oahu?

Some of the must-see historical landmarks in Oahu include Pearl Harbor National Memorial, ʻIolani Palace, Bishop Museum, Polynesian Cultural Center, Queen Emma Summer Palace, Kawaiahaʻo Church, Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse, and Waimea Valley.

What can I see at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial?

At the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, you can visit the USS Arizona Memorial, the Battleship Missouri Memorial, and the Pacific Aviation Museum.

What is special about ʻIolani Palace?

ʻIolani Palace is the only royal residence in the United States. It served as the royal residence for the Hawaiian monarchy and is a National Historic Landmark.

What attractions are available at the Polynesian Cultural Center?

The Polynesian Cultural Center features Island Villages, Cultural Demonstrations, and an Evening Show that showcases the diverse cultures of Polynesia.

What can I expect to see at the Bishop Museum?

At the Bishop Museum, you can explore the Hawaiian Hall, the Science Adventure Center, and the Richard T. Mamiya Science Adventure Center, all of which offer a deep dive into Hawaiian culture, history, and science.

Are there any outdoor activities related to historical landmarks in Oahu?

Yes, you can enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking the trail to Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse, exploring the botanical garden and waterfall at Waimea Valley, and visiting the Palace Gardens at Queen Emma Summer Palace.