Oahu

Where to play, eat, and stay in the Hawaiian Islands

Running with the waves, Hawaii style     Photo: Oi2

The most populated of all the Hawaiian Islands, Oahu also offers the most extensive to-do list. Waikiki Beach is nonstop stimulation, while the North Shore's Haleiwa is all about the hammock and, in winter, world-class surfing. Locals refer to this mix as "town and country," and no matter where you are on the island, a short drive will deposit you in the action or in solitude.

ACTIVITIES Aloha Beach Services (808-922-3111) on Waikiki Beach is your one-stop sport shop. They'll arrange outrigger canoe paddling ($5 for two wave rides), longboard rentals ($10, perfect for first-time surfers), or sunset catamaran cruises ($15)—all right off the beach.

Rock rats with a weakness for supreme ocean views should head to the bolted 5.8-and-up sport routes at Mokuleia. For beta on the rock climbing, visit the Patagonia store in Haleiwa (808-637-1245).

Since 1916, three generations of the Kamaka family have been building the finest ukuleles. Stop by for a tour of the Kamaka factory (808-531-3165) and give the "jumping fleas" a strum.

FOOD Follow the locals to Ono Hawaiian Food (808-737-2275) for laulau: steamed fish, pork, and taro wrapped burrito-style inside ti leaves.

At Haleiwa Joes (808-637-8005, www.haleiwajoes.com), the "catch of the day" is just that. Go for the coconut-crusted ono with mango chutney.

LODGING Families appreciate the cooking facilities and one- and two-bedroom condos at Aston Waikiki Sunset ($263 per condo for up to six people; 808-922-0511, www.aston-hotels.com), next to grassy Kapiolani Park on the fringe of the Waikiki fray.

Just off isolated Mokuleia Beach, near Kaena Point, which separates the north and west shores, Aston's Polo Beach Cottage ($150 per night; kids under 18 free; 800-669-7719, www.hawaiipolo.com) offers horseback riding, mountain biking, rock climbing, and every beach sport you can think of.

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