Oahu is only the third largest of the inhabited Hawaiian islands, but it is home to nearly three quarters of the state's residents, most of them living in the modern capital city, Honolulu, and its adjacent beach resort suburb of Waikiki, on the south coast of the island. Far more than simply resorts and beaches, Honolulu is a cosmopolitan city with vibrant nightlife, plenty of excellent restaurants, and a thriving arts community.
Beyond the urban bustle of the south, Oahu is quiet and enchanting; flaunting 23 state parks and punctuated by ancient stone heiau (temples). The island's most recognisable landmark is the 761-foot (232m) tall Diamond Head to the east of Waikiki. This mountain is a 'tuff cone' formed 100,000 years ago when an eruption of volcanic ash hardened into solid rock. The extinct volcano is traditionally believed to be the home of Pele, the fire goddess.
Oahu means 'gathering place', and the island certainly lives up to its name in its ethnic diversity, which becomes evident at a glance at the annual festival calendar. From the Chinese New Year in late January to King Kamehameha Day in June and the Aloha Festivals in September there is barely a dull moment and always a reason for celebration.