While only third in size among the Hawaiian Islands, Oahu (synonymous these days with metropolitan Honolulu) was destined for paramountcy.  The trading and whaling skippers that followed Captain James Cook in the late 1700s found on Oahu good natural harbors, bountiful fresh water, and a long, gentle lee anchorage for their broad, arable coastal plains caught the eye of planters and ranchers.

Home today to 76 percent of the State’s million-plus residents, Honolulu has been Hawaii’s “gathering place” and its capital since Kamehameha III moved the monarchy here from Lahaina, Maui, in the 1840s.  Favored by monarchs and travelers alike for a century and a half, Oahu is justly famous for its beaches, surf, wide bays, deep valleys, imposing cliffs, and the many islets and promontories that make it Hawaii’s most picturesque island.

It is also the State’s most economically and culturally diverse island.  The huge visitor plant is supplemented by shipping, manufacturing, finance, sugar and pineapple cultivation, oil refining, and the largest U.S. military bases in the Pacific.  In addition, a heavy concentration of government, education, and retail jobs has made Honolulu a magnet for job seekers.

Given Honolulu’s dominant role in State affairs, it is little wonder that visitors sometimes mistakenly identify Oahu as the “Big Island” – a title that actually belongs to the more easterly island of Hawaii.  But there is no question that Oahu is the pivot of the Hawaiian chain and will remain so despite official efforts to shift growth to the other islands.  Oahu is where it all happens.

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