A not-so-well-kept local secret, Mt Tantalus (Puʻuohiʻa) looms behind Honolulu offering stunning skyline panoramas. The nine-mile Round Top and Tantalus Drive loop snakes up its side with attractive pull-offs overlooking the city’s high rises, Punch Bowl Crater, iconic Diamond Head, the homes dotting Manoa Valley, as well as the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in the west.
The scenic drive to the top drive lingers in lush forests but is not for the faint of heart—steep and narrow passages are frequent and sheer drops loom around abundant curves. Trailheads for a handful of hikes begin along this route and lead into valleys often shrouded in mist and topped by Honolulu’s famous rainbows. At the summit, Pu'u Ualaka'a State Park has a small cement walkway with commanding views of all of southern Oahu. There’s also a grassy lawn popular with picnickers. Though the drive is equally spectacular when buildings cast shadows and city lights glow at night, the summit park closes at sundown.
Tantalus is the first in a series of peaks that form the imposing green wall of the Koolau range, which hugs the Windward coast. Near the mountain’s base on Makiki Heights Drive, the Spalding House museum and galleries features local and international artists and boasts similar views from its trellised café.
Tantalus Drive is accessed via Makiki Street, two miles inland from Waikiki. The road becomes Round Top Drive halfway up amid a residential neighborhood. Numerous land-based Honolulu tours include the drive. Pu'u Ualaka'a State Park is open from 7am-6:45pm. If you visit in your own vehicle, it’s best not to leave valuables in your car.