O’ahu is the third-largest island of the Hawaiian archipelago and carries about a two-thirds majority of the population of the entire state. Having the capital city of Honolulu within its border is a reason alone for a large number of inhabitants, as well as commercial development. O’ahu is also a tourist center owing to its surf beaches, numerous hike trails, native culture, and shopping scene. However, there is one more thing about this island that is not as widely known – its scenic highways. Here we have compiled all the picturesque routes in all four directions of this island. Do not miss any of the best scenic drives in O’ahu, Hawaii, listed down below.
1. Route 72
This route is most commonly known as Hawaii-72 and Kalaniana’ole Highway, owing to the fact that it was named after the last Hawaiian prince. The stretch is 18.5 miles (30 kilometers) long and encircles the entire southern shoreline of O’ahu. It begins at an intersection on Route-61 in Maunawili and runs through several wonders before finally meeting up with Interstate H-1 in eastern Honolulu. The most notable landmarks you will pass by on this route are Sandy Beach Park, Waimanalo Beach, Koko Crater, Hanauma Bay, and Halona Blowhole Lookout point.
2. Diamond Head Road
It is a small scenic stretch in southern Honolulu that has received its title from the Diamond Head Crater, the topmost landmark of this island. This route encircles the foothills of this dead volcano and shows you the magnificent scenery on both sides of the road. And apart from the splendid views of the rim and the coastline, you will pass by a lighthouse, a beach park, and a lookout point. It starts near Louise Dillingham Memorial Fountain and ends at Kahala Avenue.
3. Interstate H-3
Interstate H-3 is claimed to be the most beautiful as well as the most controversial projects of Hawaii. The route took about 37 to finish and it has been listed among the most expensive highways in the world by cost-per-mile. It connects the Marine Corps Base of Hawaii to Pearl Harbor Naval Base and during this 15.3-mile (24.6 kilometers) long drive, the route crosses the majestic Ko’olau Range through a viaduct and the lush green landscape. The most iconic feature of this freeway is the Tetsuo Harano Tunnels.
4. Farrington Highway (North Shore)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Chanilim714 used under CC BY-SA 3.0
Farrington Highway is the famous crescent-shaped roadway of O’ahu. Beginning at the north of Pearl Harbor Naval Base, it takes a curve with the western coast and then takes another bend to the North Shore. However, an unpaved gap has split the middle path into two separate dead-end routes today, and we are going to talk about its northern leg. The North Shore Farrington begins at an intersection in Waialua and runs along the coast till the Ka’ena Point. As already indicated, the following path is unsuitable for cars, but it makes a great trailhead. Over the course, you will go past several surf beaches and hiking routes.
5. Interstate H-2
Interstate H-2 is an 8.3-mile (13.41 kilometers) long freeway that connects the central part of this island with the south. It is also known as Veterans Memorial Freeway as it connects two major army posts of Hawaii from north to south – Wheeler Airforce Base in Wahiawa and Pearl City next to Honolulu. It runs along the foothills of the Mililani-Mauka Launani Valley and crosses a scenic bridge on Kipapa Stream. The entire route shows panoramic beauty and it passes by a landmark cemetery – Mililani Memorial Park.
6. Kahala Avenue
Kahala Avenue is classified as one of the most expensive residential neighborhoods in southern Honolulu, which gives direct access to Diamond Head Road and Kahala Beach. Moreover, this really short route passes by a couple more beaches like Kaalawai and Hunakai. The villas on this route are worth millions of dollars and most of them feature well-groomed gardens. Thus, the track is highly appreciated amongst cyclists. Do head for this side when you’re already visiting Diamond Head Road.
7. Pali Highway
Pali Highway links the two densely populated zones of this island through the Nu’uanu Valley – downtown Honolulu and the city of Kailua on the windward side. There’s a good chance that you would be traveling this route when you visit O’ahu. The freeway is noted as Route-61 on maps and the entire journey on this 11-mile (17.4 kilometers) long track is an awe-inspiring drive. As a matter of fact, the highway is so scenic that it often gets difficult to put your focus on the traffic. Thankfully, the highway authority has made several pullout zones near the lookout points.
8. Lagoon Drive
This is a really short pathway on the side of the runway of Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu, which is primarily used for cargo transportation by several shipping companies. The route shows panoramic views of the Ke’ehi Lagoon on one side, a busy airstrip on another, and Aulii Lagoon Church in the midway. You will notice a number of little islands such as Mokuoeo, Marina, and Kahaka’Aulana in the cove. This road can be explored only by bicycle and on foot.
9. Tantalus Round Top Drive
This is unarguably the most scenic mountain drive of this island that comprises two routes; the Round Top Drive and Tantalus Drive. This stretch measures up about eight miles (12 kilometers) from start to end, and it changes the altitude to roughly 1800 feet (550 meters). It’s more popular amongst hikers and mountain bikers, and you should also not miss this photogenic opportunity. The drive starts at Makiki Street in downtown Honolulu and elevates with the Pu’u Ualaka State Park. After taking several hairpin bends, it reaches the summit at Kalawahine Trail. The route then descends back to the Makiki Valley and ends near the Punchbowl Crater.
10. Nu’uanu Pali Drive
This scenic drive used to be a part of Old Pali Highway that has been replaced with the current Pali Highway or Route-61. The given route starts in the Nu’uanu – Punchbowl and goes up until the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout. Unlike the newer freeway, you will find this route overgrown with vegetation and canopy-covered for the most part. This drive should give you a preview of the rainforest splendors of O’ahu. And there is also a spooky legend associated with this old highway, which makes it an even more exciting visit.