Photos: The heart of Hawaii

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  1. Honolulu daze

    The sun sets on Honolulu, Hawaii's largest city. (Robert Y. Ono / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Lei a Mai Tai on me

    Colorful umbrellas block out the sun for visitors to the beachside Mai Tai Bar at the popular Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. (Lucy Pemoni / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Aerobic fun & sun

    Seniors exercise in the waters of Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. (Lucy Pemoni / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. National treasure

    The Ionlani Palace stands among banyan and palm tress behind guilded gates decorated with a royal seal in Honolulu. The Iolani palace is America's only official royal residence. (Lucy Pemoni / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Bathing beauties

    Sunbathers on the beach. (Craig Aurness / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. To honor thy wife

    Waterfalls flow in the gardens of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. The museum was founded in 1889 by Charles Reed Bishop in honor of his late wife Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the last descendant of the royal Kamehameha family. (Lucy Pemoni / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Undersea awe

    Elani Mousos, 4, of Calgary, Canada, looks at the "Hunters of the Reef" at the Waikiki Aquarium in Honolulu. The Aquarium is built along side the shoreline next to a living reef. (Lucy Pemoni / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Remember Arizona

    A U.S. flag flies at half mast aboard the USS Arizona Memorial during the ceremony honoring the 64th anniversary of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 2005 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (Marco Garcia / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Manic manini

    A school of manini fish swim over the coral reef at Hanauma Bay, near Honolulu. (Donald Miralle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Paradise found

    The sun sets on Waikiki. (Lucy Pemoni / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 11/24/2008 3:21:14 PM ET 2008-11-24T20:21:14

Palm trees, sandy beaches, warm water, nearly perfect weather. You don't need any more reasons to abandon your parka and mittens and take that vacation you've been promising yourself on Hawaii's island of Oahu.

No passport needed. Just pack your swim wear, sunscreen and camera.

At this time of year, beaches are among the biggest reasons for visiting the tropical island that is home to Honolulu, Pearl Harbor and Diamond Head.

Click on the tiny icons on the map at HawaiiWeb to see if you want to visit the beach at Ala Moana, just west of Waikiki, the popular eastern shore surfing beach at Ma'ili, or maybe Ka'ena Point at the island's far northwest corner. Keep this Web site in mind for picking up data on Oahu's towns, activities and sightseeing.

A side note: Barack Obama grew up in Honolulu, and vacationed on Oahu last summer with his family, visiting, among other places, the Pearl Harbor memorial, Hanauma Bay, Ala Moana Beach Park and the Pali Lookout.

If you're concerned about safety, the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association has profiles of guarded beaches with advisories of spots where jellyfish might turn up. Curious about toothier ocean life? Go to the lifeguards' home page and click on "Sharks of Hawaii." Choose beaches to go with locations of your planned travels around the island by clicking on the map at Alternative Hawaii which also provides a pictorial sampling.

Slideshow: Presidential journey Depending on how long you stay, you might want a scenic outdoor activity break from the beaches. Oahu is mountainous as well as tropical, and Oahu Hiking Trail has guides to several routes from urban (Honolulu) to rugged (Malaekahana Ridge), handily located on an interactive map. Backyard Oahu doesn't have the slick interactive map, but it claims 84 trails and has links to more info.

Why bother taxing your leg muscles on an island vacation? Check out the photos at Hawaii Hiking Gallery to see a few of the reasons.

Don't worry, you don't need to hike, surf or swim to enjoy the scenery. But you should worry about having enough memory cards for your camera. Take a look at Web photo-sharing sites like Flickr and PBase or SmugMug which all let you type "Oahu" into a search box to see other vacationers' favorite shots.

There are some spots that show up on almost every visitor's agenda, like the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, with its exhibitions on Hawaiian history and culture, and the Iolani Palace the former official state residence of Hawaiian royalty. And you wouldn't be a tourist if you didn't visit the Polynesian Cultural Center for a luau and show.

A defining moment in Hawaiian and U.S. history is captured at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. The Battleship Missouri Memorial is within walking distance.

And you can immerse yourself in natural splendor with a single visit to Senator Fong's Plantation & Gardens a 700-acre preserve near Kaneohe Bay on the Windward shore. Or, for a completely different take on nature, visit the Dole Plantation home of tons of pineapple in the middle of the island.

If you have extra time, the Oahu visitors' bureau will show you the way to more things to see and do, and help you find a place to stay. Check out their link to vacation packages, and take time to browse the video library.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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