Island of Hawaii, USA, in the North Pacific; the third-largest and most populated of the group; area 1,525 sq km/589 sq mi; population (2000) 876,200. Oahu contains Honolulu, the state capital of Hawaii. Tourism is the main industry; produce includes sugar and pineapples.
Oahu was settled by Polynesians from other Pacific islands 300–600 AD. Kamehameha I, ruler 1824–54 of Hawaii, had taken Oahu by 1810. He made Honolulu the capital city of the Hawaiian kingdom. In December 1941, the Japanese attack on the US naval base of Pearl Harbor brought the USA into World War II.
Features The island is formed from two extinct volcanoes. It contains Waikiki beach, Pearl Harbor naval base, and North Shore surfing strips.
Geography Oahu lies between the islands of Kauai and Molokai. Two parallel mountain ranges, the Koolau and Waianae, run northwest to southeast, connected by a central plateau. Extinct volcanic features include the craters of Punchbowl (now a military cemetery), Honolulu, and Diamond Head, Waikiki; and Haunama Bay on the southeast shore, formed by the collapse of a crater wall and subsequent flooding by the sea. Waikiki is located on reclaimed swampland, with a beach of imported sand. The northeast or Windward Coast of the island is dominated by high, sheer cliffs; and the North Shore by extensive surfing beaches.
Economy The US maintains an enormous military presence, located mainly to the north of the island, and around the deep-water port of Pearl Harbor, principal base of the US Pacific fleet. Tourism is mostly confined by availability of accommodation to Waikiki, which extends southeast from Honolulu. Island attractions include the surfing beaches of the North Shore: Waimea, Sunset, and Ekuhai. The Diamond Head extinct volcano was one of the last free tourist attractions on Oahu, but began charging entrance fees on 1 January 2000.