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Obama's Oahu Guide Map

Self Guided Oahu Tour of Obama Points of Interest

...when I 'm heading out to a hard day of meetings and negotiations, I let my mind wander back to Sandy Beach, or Manoa Falls, or Punahou School. It helps me, somehow, knowing that such wonderful places exist and, that at some level, I'll always be able to return to them.

Barack Obama
Punahou Bulletin, 1999

The future President spent nearly all his early life on the Island of Oahu. Here are some of the places he visited as a youth and more recently, during a family outing to Hawaii.


Guided Tour of East Honolulu


Assuming that you're staying in Waikiki, the first stop in your tour would be Kapiolani Park. Head down Kalakaua Ave (it's a one way street) and when you're almost at the foot of Diamond Head, out of Waikiki, you'll see the South side of Kapiolani Park (on your left hand side). There's ample parking. This is a wonderful place for a picnic which is precisely what President elect Obama did with his family during a recent visit. (If you're looking for picnic food, the best place to go is the giant (64000-square-foot) Safeway store on nearby Kapahulu Avenue. For excellent take out food consider the Diamond Head Grill and Market on 3158 Monsarrat). After your picnic, continue to the end of Kalakaua and take a left on Paki Ave. At the end of the block you'll see the Paki Playground which is adjacent to a fire station. It's here that Barry Obama would get into pick up basketball games. It's still popular in that regard.

Next stop Makiki. Head down Kapahulu Avenue, staying the left hand lane, the length of Kapahulu. At the end of Kapahulu you'll go under the freeway. You'll have the option of going straight or turning left. Turn left and after a long block you'll see a freeway on ramp on the right and a sign that says "King Street" on the left. Take the left hand land option and get on S. King. You'll pass University Ave and the road will fork to the right and become Beretania (a one way street). A few blocks after University you'll pass McCully Street and about three blocks after, you'll encounter Punahou Street. On the corner of Punahou and Beretania will be the Punahou Circle Apartments (where Obama spent most of his high school years) and directly across the street, Central Union Church (where he participated in his baccalaureate). Turn left on Punahou take the first left (Young Street) and look for parking anywhere close by.

(For a walking tour of Makiki, Obama's former neighborhood, visit The Neighborhood section of this website).

Following your visit to Makiki the next stop is Manoa Valley. Take Punahou Street towards the mountain to Wilder and turn right. After a few blocks Wilder merges into Dole and will intersect University Ave. Be in the left hand land on Dole and turn left on University. Pass the University of Hawaii, on your right and a few hundred yards after Maile Way will be the former residence of the Obamas (2234 University Ave) on your left, just prior to the intersection of University and Ka'ala Way. The house is blocked by trees so unless you're on foot, it's hard to see. (Please respect the current residents' privacy).

Continue down University and take the first right on Alaula Way. It veers off of University. Go one block to the bottom of the hill you'll take a left. At the stop sign take a right which will put you on Klowalau Street (which becomes Woodlawn Drive). Just down the street on the right is Noelani Elementary School, where Obama was a student. (There's a wonderful photo of 5 year old Barry in his kindergarten class on the home page).

Next stop, Manoa Falls. Get back on University Ave (which at this point is now called Oahu Ave) and head towards the mountains-the opposite direction you came from. Oahu Ave will eventually merge into Manoa Rd. Take Manoa Road to the end and park in the lot. To find the trailhead follow the road behind the parking lot on foot, past the entrance to Lyon Arboretum and continue to the right and through the old parking lot beyond the fence. Be sure and lock your automobile. Keep any valuables in the trunk.

The trail is short, well maintained and traverses the forest in a nearly straight line to the base of the waterfall. It passes over a stream and through profuse stands of bamboo and other foliage. It's a great break from Wakiki's traffic--the sounds of rustling trees and chirping birds fills the air. It's probably a good idea to bring hiking boots-Manoa valley is verdant because of the frequent rain and hence the path is often muddy and slippery after heavy showers.

After completing the trail, head back to University Avenue the way you came in. Take the H1 freeway off of University, just past campus. The freeway entrance will be on your right-you'll want to head East so take the second entrance. After about three miles the freeway will become Kalaniana'ole Highway. Stay on this road and watch the addresses on your right. Obama's first childhood home is at 6085 Kalaniana'ole Highway. It's painted yellow and is protected by a sliding grill gate. There's no parking on the road so if you wish to take a closer look you'll have to pull off on a side street and walk.

Continue on Kalaniana'ole Highway past Koko Head. You may want to stop at Hanauma Bay a mile or two past Koko Head. Candidate Obama took his family here on their last visit. It's a great place to snorkel. Bring your sun block. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKEIBrQQlG4 (YouTube of Obama at Hanauma, Blowhole and at Sandy's.)

Head east once again about 1.5 miles after Hanauma Bay to reach the Halona Point and Blow Hole which spouts water up to 50 feet high during a large swell. There's a parking lot to pull into and a cliff like formation jutting into the water. It was here that Obama placed his mother's ashes. If you watch the video you'll see standing on the edge. How did the secret service agents let him do this! (Watch the video).

Continuing down the road another two miles you'll encounter Sandy Beach Park on your right. There's ample parking and a long stretch of white sand. As mentioned before, body surfing, swimming or boogie boarding is not a good idea if you're not familiar with the severity of the shore break. It's not unusual for neophytes to injure themselves very seriously.

Follow the highway another few miles and you'll see Makapu'u Point rising precipitously on your right. There's an access road to the parking lot. Take the 15-20 minute walk up the hill to the lighthouse and the lookout point. It's steep but paved and not difficult to negotiate. The seascapes are marvelous. If you feel like hiking more there is a path to some tide pools below but they begin near the trailhead. This is a wonderful area for a picnic but bring a mat-there are no tables. It's a good idea to bring some bottle water with you-the hike can be rather warm.

Guided Tour of West Honolulu

When the Obama family was last here, they made stops at several places of personal significance. The closest to Makiki, heading west, is Puu Ualakaa Park. If you’re driving from Makiki go up Punahou to Wilder and take a left. Go three blocks and at Makiki Street take a right. Follow the winding road to Roundtop Drive which will take you to the Park. It provides a panoramic view of southern Oahu from Diamond Head to your left, through Waikiki, downtown Honolulu and to Punch Bowl Crater and the Honolulu International Airport on the right. Leaving the park, take a left and continue upwards past some of the most out-of-the-way and exclusive homes in town.  You’ll pass a variety of trees including ironwood, guava and pine as well as flowering varieties such as African tulips, jacaranda, and shower trees. Along the way the name of the road changes to Tantalus Drive and you’ll begin your descent.  Along the way are several great vista points including one that has a splendid view of Punchbowl Crater, home to the National Cemetery.  That’s our next stop.

Continue down Tantulus. Just before it ends it will cross Awaiolimu and then drop you onto Puowaina Dr. which is the entrance of the National Memorial Cemetary of the Pacific which is situated smack dab in the middle of Punchbowl, an extinct crater. It’s the resting place for 38,000 combatants from WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam. A shrine also commemorates the missing-in-action. It’s also the resting place of Stan Dunham, Barack’s grandfather. The rim of the crater offers stunning views of Honolulu.

To get onto the freeway to Pearl Harbor, take right out of Punchbowl onto Awaiolimu Street and follow it down the hill.  It becomes Pensacola Street which you’ll take it until you reach Lunalilo. Turn right and this street will lead you to the freeway onramp a few blocks away. Follow the well marked signs to Pearl Harbor.

Pearl Harbor should be on any visitor’s list, as it was with the Obama family. It was here that they took a small shuttle boat to the Arizona Memorial, which honors the men who perished in the December 7, 1941 attack. The memorial is a white structure which spans the sunken hull of the USS Arizona a tomb to over 1000 US sailors. Don’t miss the USS Missouri or the Bowfin submarine either.


Manoa Falls

Manoa Falls
Courtesy of Josh Thompson

 

Manoa Falls is an impressive sight cascading 150-feet down a near vertical cliff into a small pool. Located in Manoa Valley, at the base of the Ko'olau Mountains, the 1.5 mile (2.4 km) trail to the falls traverses a bamboo and rain forest. The hike is not difficult but the ground may be muddy. Prepare for an occasional shower--it rains quite a bit in Manoa Valley. Swimming in or drinking the water is not a good idea. The small pool at the bottom of is not deep enough to accommodate diving and the water may contain diseases such as leptospirosis due to a large wild pig population in the area.

Paki Playground

Paki Playground

 

Paki Playground is located adjacent to Kapiolani Park, next to a fire station on the edge of Waikiki. It was a favorite basketball venue for Obama and his friends.

Kapiolani Regional Park

Kapiolani Regional Park

 

Kapiolani Regional Park was the site of a Obama family picnic during his summer 2008 visit. Located on the east side of Waikiki, it is the largest and oldest public park in Hawaii. Named after Queen Kapiolani, the queen consort of King David Kalakaua, it was established in 1876. Popular with families, it's home to the Waikiki Shell, the Honolulu Zoo and includes tennis courts, soccer fields, and an archery range. On any given day may see tai chi and yoga being practiced as well as the presence of numerous joggers who run its two-mile (3 km) circumference. The park also serves as the site (or the starting and finish lines) of road races in Honolulu. This includes the world-famous Honolulu Marathon, the finish line of which is located on Kalakaua Avenue on the west end of the park.

6085 Kalaniana'ole Highway

6085 Kalaniana'ole Highway

 

Obama's first boyhood home was on 6085 Kalaniana'ole Highway in the Hawaii Kai district, about 5 miles east of Makiki. Constructed in 1948, the owner of he yellow, single-story, four-bedroom home claims it's fundamentally unchanged. On the property is a 450-square-foot cottage built in 1953 that Obama's parents may have occupied when they lived with his maternal grandparents (Stan and Madelyn Dunham) in 1961 (the year of Barack's birth).

Rainbow Drive-In

Rainbow Drive-In
Courtesy of Mike Bates

 

Rainbow Drive-In, located on 3308 Kanaina Ave in Honolulu's Kapahulu district, is a long time favorite of local residents including Barack Obama. It was founded by Seiju Ifuku who learned to cook while in the Army serving with the famous 100th Battalion during WW II. Established in 1961, it is the Ifuku family's practice to serve plates with generous portions of hearty, simple food. This includes two scoops of rice and a side of macaroni salad, at a reasonable price.

Noelani Elementary School

Noelani Elementary School

 

Noelani Elementary School, located in Manoa Valley on 2655 Woodlawn Drive, is where Barack Obama attended kindergarten in 1967 prior to his mother's move to Indonesia. The school has grown from a one building school in 1962 to its present incarnation with over six buildings. The school's enrollment of 536 students is one of more socially, economically, and culturally diverse populations in the state.

East West Center

East West Center

 

The East West Center, located on the University of Hawaii Campus was attended by Ann Dunham. She met both her future husbands on campus.

Makapu'u Point

Makapu'u Point

 

Makapu'u Point was well known to Barry Obama and his friends from Punahou as a spot to watch the early sunrise from a cliff that rises 647 feet (197 m) above the sea. The cliff at Makapu'u Point forms the eastern tip and is the site of a prominent lighthouse. The place name of this area means "bulging eye" in Hawaiian. The 20 minute hike up the road to the lighthouse is easy to traverse and affords spectacular seascape as well as vistas of leeward Oahu and portions of East Honolulu. The city has recently paved a new access road and parking lot which has vastly improved its utility. (Management of Obamasneighborhood.com is happy to see their City tax dollars wisely spent on this project).

Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay

 

Hanauma Bay is an old Hawaiian gathering place before crossing the rough channel to Moloka'i, and it was a landing place for canoes coming from Moloka'I. There are several accounts of the origin of its name The word hana means "bay." The word uma has several meanings, one being "curved" and the other connoting the curved stem of a canoe One translation of Hanauma is therefore "curved bay," certainly appropriate. (The name is pronounced "ha-now-ma," with the accent on "now.")

The sheltered cove was a traditional place for canoes to gather, waiting for favorable winds It was declared an underwater park in 1967. If you're a neophyte, this is the best place to snorkel because it's a protected cove. There's a wonderful array of marine life and a large, rich coral reef. The bay floor was once the crater of an ancient volcano that flooded when the exterior wall collapsed and the ocean rushed in. There is a huge sandy beach, great for sunbathing, relaxing and picnics as well as several hiking trails.

Lanai Point

Lanai Point

 

Lanai Point is where Barack Obama spread the ashes of his mother and later, his grandmother in December of 2008.

Halona Blow Hole

Halona Blow Hole

 

The blowhole was formed by lava tubes that extend into the ocean. When a good sized swell hits the shore (usually high tide makes for better viewing) water is forced through the lava tub and comes gushing out the top, reminiscent of a a whale's "blowhole". On a clear day, you can even see or a particularly good day make out the pyramid shaped island of Lanai. During the winter this is a great spot humpback whales. Look for a plume of mist from the blowhole of the whale.

Sandy Beach Park

Sandy beach Park
Courtesy of Claudia Ferrari

 

Sandy's was a favorite bodysurfing spot for Barack Obama and one that he returned to during his 2008 vacation in Hawaii. Located on Oahu's South Shore it has a long, dazzling white strand of white sand which belies the dangerous shore break which has resulted in more than a few broken necks. The beach is also known for its strong current. Unexperienced bodyborders, bodysurfers, and swimmers should stay out of the water. The beach park is located between Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve Park and Makapu'u Point along Kalanianaole Highway.

Puu Ualakaa Park

Puu Ualakaa Park

 

Puu Ualakaa Park offers a panoramic view of southern Oahu including Diamond Head, Waikiki, downtown Honolulu, Punch Bowl Crater and the Honolulu International Airport. There are also a host of hiking trails which allow you to completely forget you are in one of the largest cities in the nation. When hiking keep an eye out for the distinctive Jackson's chameleons, an alien species from Africa, which has three horn like protuberances and can occasionally be seen in the vegetation.

 

Puchbowl National Memorial Cemetary of the Pacific

National Memorial Cemetary of the Pacific

 

Formed some 75,000 to 100,000 years ago from the ejection of hot lava through cracks in the old coral reefs, Puowaina, or Punchbowl Crater, is a 112-acre cemetery and the final resting place for more than 38,000 U.S. war veterans and family members. Although there are various translations of the Punchbowl’s Hawaiian name, “Puowaina,” the most common is “Hill of Sacrifice.” This translation closely relates to the history of the crater. The first known use was as an altar where Hawaiians offered human sacrifices to their god. Fast forward some centuries and the first interment of US servicemen was made Jan. 4, 1949. The cemetery opened to the public on July 19, 1949, with services for five war dead: an unknown serviceman, two Marines, an Army lieutenant and one civilian—noted war correspondent Ernie Pyle. It is also the resting place of Stanley Dunham, the grandfather of Barack Obama.

Arizona Memorial

Arizona Memorial

 

The USS Arizona Memorial was constructed to honor all American service members who lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. It is also the final resting place for many of the ship's 1,177 crewmen who lost their lives on that day. The 184-foot-long Memorial structure spans the mid-portion of the sunken battleship and consists of three main sections: the entry and assembly rooms; a central area designed for ceremonies and general observation; and the shrine room, where the names of those killed on the Arizona are engraved on the marble wall. The USS Arizona Memorial is only accessible by boat, which departs from the visitor center.

 

First Unitarian Church of Honolulu

First Unitarian Church of Honolulu

 

The First Unitarian Church of Honolulu is where the funeral for President Obama's grandparents and mother were held. It was here he attended Sunday School as a boy.

Checker's Auto Parts

Checker's Auto Parts

 

Checker's Auto parts store (formerly the site of Cinerama Theater) was where, according to Tommy Boyle's tribute film, President Obama first watched Star Wars. The store is located on 1550 S King Street, about two blocks from his Punahou Circle apartment.

 

©2008 Rob Kay | Terms of Use