Tantalus Lookout (Top Oahu Attractions & Sights), Oahu tours & activities, fun things to do in Oahu | HawaiiActivities.com

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Mount Tantalus, located four miles north of Waikiki, offers some of the greatest panoramic views from its lookout point near the forest canopies of Puu Ualakaa State Park. Stretching from Diamond Head and Waikiki to downtown Honolulu, a visit to Tantalus Lookout promises great photos of the city both day and night.
History of Tantalus Lookout

Tantalus was originally named “Pu’u ‘Ualaka’a,” or “Hill of the Rolling Sweet Potato,” after the ancient island legends that spoke of sweet potato gardens that were grown on the top of the mountain. Now it is more commonly known as Mount Tantalus, or simply Tantalus, dubbed by former Punahou students after the Greek god of the same name. Soaring high above Honolulu, Tantalus Lookout offers breathtaking, one-of-a-kind city views that are enjoyed by local residents and has been a “go to” spot for visitors from around the world.

This extinct cinder cone that gives Tantalus its shape was formed tens of thousands of years ago at the same time as the Punchbowl, Diamond Head and Koko Head craters, and the six mile Tantalus Loop drive was a popular wagon trail at the turn of the 19th century for scenic drives and outdoor picnic parties. The area was rich with lush canyons, wooded valleys with hearty-scented Eucalyptus, heavily-laden sweet guava trees and colorful tropical flowers. Unfortunately, Tantalus became quickly stripped of its natural resources in the late 1800s as whalers harvested the surroundings for firewood and building materials.

Thankfully, the area was declared a Forest Reserve by the Territorial Government in 1913 and much needed reforestation efforts were introduced. Thousands of trees were replanted to bring life back to what had become a barren landscape. In the 1940s, a 2,000-acre park and lookout were built, which still persist today.

The true beauty of the area is more commonly found once the sun sets, and the city of Honolulu glistens and sparkles with innumerable lights. The popular tune “Honolulu City Lights” captures the beauty of the nighttime view, and now the circular drive along Round Top Road to the summit of Tantalus has become one of Oahu’s most cherished evening activities.


If you are visiting Tantalus Lookout during the day, plan to spend some time at Puu Ualakaa State Park for a lovely picnic and views. The short and sweet 'Ualaka'a Trail is a quick 1/2-mile loop that is perfect for nature walks and is accessible to all ages. Once the sun sets, you will find several stops along the nine miles of Round Top and Tantalus Drives where you can get a good look at the lights of Honolulu.

Things to know

Hours of Operation: Open daily from 7:00am - 6:45pm (until 7:45pm between April 1 - Labor Day)

Facilities at the park are ADA and wheelchair accessible and include picnic tables, a pavilion and restrooms.
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