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Say the word “Oahu” and what images spring to mind? If you’re like most travel buffs, you’re probably picturing a series of natural and man-made landmarks that utterly define the island. From Aloha Tower to Waikiki Beach, Oahu’s icons deserve attention, and the Oahu Visitors Bureau (OVB) has been making a concerted effort to promote them to clients.
“Oahu’s icons play an important role in connecting visitors with the island’s heritage and legacy,” said OVB’s director of travel industry sales Stacey Martin Alford. “Each icon invites visitors to enjoy a deeper level of engagement with Hawaii’s people, places, culture, history and unique attributes.”
Following is a tribute to seven magnificent Oahu icons. Making personal connections with them can lead clients to lifelong memories of a one-of-a-kind destination.
1. Aloha TowerWhen it opened in 1926, this 184-foot-high gem was the tallest building in Hawaii, and it welcomed the early luxury liners to Honolulu Harbor. Small boats would carry locals out to the cruise ships where they would climb aboard and sing, dance and hand out leis to arriving passengers. With A-L-O-H-A etched in big letters, the tower continues to symbolize Hawaii’s innate hospitality.
2. Diamond HeadThe most recognizable landmark in Hawaii, this 200,000-year-old dormant volcano provides a steadfast backdrop to Waikiki. The Hawaiians originally called it Leahi (brow of the yellowfin tuna), but it was nicknamed Diamond Head when 19th-century sailors mistook its calcite crystals for diamonds. At its 762-foot summit, hikers are rewarded with stunning views of Honolulu.
3. Iolani PalaceWhen King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani moved into Iolani Palace in 1882, their new American Florentine-designed home — complete with phones and electric lights — represented Hawaii’s modern status. It remained the royal residence until 1893 when the last Hawaiian monarch, Queen Liliuokalani, was overthrown. Today, visitors can travel back in time during guided tours of the only royal palace on U.S. soil.
4. The North ShoreStretching from Laie to Kaena Point, the legendary surf mecca exudes an uncommon charisma set against breathtaking scenery. When mammoth winter waves rise up, famed beaches like Sunset, Ehukai and Waimea Bay give spectators a thrill as daring surfers test their skills in the world’s top competitions. Shops and eateries in Haleiwa town epitomize the laid-back vibe of this timeless destination.
5. The Royal HawaiianSince its opening in 1927, the Royal Hawaiian has charmed generations of discerning travelers from all over the world, including countless celebrities. Affectionately called the Pink Palace of the Pacific, the hotel continues the legacy of sharing stories of its colorful past, and it honors its historic setting — originally the home of Hawaii kings — through art, food, song, dance and tours.
6. Waikiki BeachAncient royalty once considered Waikiki Beach as its playground. Nineteenth-century King Kalakaua saw it as a place of renewal where Hawaiians could enjoy the very best of life. At the turn of the 20th century, famed waterman Duke Kahanamoku frequently surfed its waves. Today, this famous strand of south shore sand continues to make history as it lures visitors with its natural beauty and vibrant recreation.
7. World War II Valor in the PacificThis national monument, which includes the USS Arizona Memorial, preserves and interprets the story of the Pacific War, including the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Standing on the graceful white structure that stretches over the sunken remains of a battleship, clients cannot help but respect and honor the men and women who gave their lives for the freedom of others.
Aloha Tower, Oahu // © 2012 HTA/Tor Johnson
Iolani Palace, Oahu // © 2012 HTA/Joe Solem
Oahu's North Shore // © 2012 HTA/Tor Johnson
The Royal Hawaiian, Oahu // © 2012 HTA/Tor Johnson
Waikiki Beach // © 2012 Thinkstock
Arizona Memorial at WWII Valor in the Pacific, Oahu // © 2012 HTA/Kirk Lee Aeder