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On Walkabout On: Interstate H-3 on Oahu

Basic Information

Picture from the H3 Freeway on Oahu

Narrative

The Hawaiian island of Oahu has plenty of great drives, but one of the most spectacular ones can be found by simply driving on one of the main highways on the island, Interstate H-3.  This 15 mile long highway finished being constructed on December 12, 1997 after much controversy, but it was worth the wait.  The highway travels right through the heart of the Ko’olau Mountains that divide central and eastern Oahu:

Picture from the H3 Freeway on Oahu

This highway was originally planned to have been constructed in the nearby Moanalua Valley, but due to a stone with ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs activists were able to stop the construction of the highway.  Planners had to instead construct the H-3 through the beautiful Halawa Valley:

Picture from the H3 Freeway on Oahu

At the halfway point of this drive is the Tetsuo Harano Tunnel:

Picture from the H3 Freeway on Oahu

These tunnels that pass through the Ko’olau Mountains are named after Tetsuo Harano, a former state highways administrator who served the state for 52 years.  After passing through the tunnels the Interstate then quickly begins a spiraling descent towards the town of Kaneohe on the island’s east side:

Picture from the H3 Freeway on Oahu

For those that look quickly off to the right after passing through the tunnels the infamous Haiku Stairs can be seen ascending up the side of the mountains:

Picture from the H3 Freeway on Oahu

The Ko’olau Mountains are beautiful from the central Oahu side to look at, but from the windward side of the island they become even more stunning due to the steep and highly eroded cliff sides than can be seen:

Picture from the H3 Freeway on Oahu

Incredibly these steep cliff sides were formed by a massive landslide that caused about a third of Oahu to tumble into the ocean.  Once in Kaneohe the Interstate runs right to Marine Corps Base Hawaii with plenty of exits to other locations in Kaneohe:

Picture from the H3 Freeway on Oahu

Conclusion

The H-3 is one of three highways that can be used to cross through the Ko’olau Mountains, but this is definitely the most spectacular one.  I highly recommend this drive for anyone visiting Oahu.  Driving to the Windward side of the island to visit Kaneohe and Kailua followed by taking the Pali Highway back to Honolulu and stopping to see the Pali Lookout makes for a great day trip while visiting Oahu.  Just make sure you keep your eyes on the road and not be too distracted by the stunning Oahu scenery.

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