Hawaii’s Hidden Attractions & Sights
Hawaii’s Historic & Cultural Treasures
- Pali Lookout. Overlooking the 985 foot cliffs of the Koolau Mountain Range, Nuuanu Pali Lookout - "Cool Height Cliff"- offers fantastic panoramic views of the Windward coast of Oahu, including Kaneohe Bay and Chinaman's Hat. Hike the trail at the lower end of the lookout to enjoy different vantage points and see the wide variety of plants. In 1795, King Kamehameha and his warriors defeated the Oahu armies by sending them over these steep, forested cliffs claiming victory and uniting the Hawaiian Islands. The breathtaking sights, history and the incredible winds that pass through the Pali will sweep you away.
- Iolani Palace. A Hawaiian national treasure, Iolani Palace was the official residence of the Hawaiian Kingdom's last two monarchs - King Kalakaua, who built the Palace in 1882, and his sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani. During the monarchy period, the Palace was the center of social and political activity in the Kingdom. Enjoy a fascinating tour of this National Historic Landmark in downtown Honolulu and learn about the grandeur, history and heritage of this magnificent landmark. Iolani Palace Galleries feature the Hawaiian crown jewels and ancient Hawaiian regalia, portraits and historic photographs. With its coral block limestone, crenulated parapets and towers built in the architecture of medieval European castles, Iolani Palace is an amazing venue for events, weddings, receptions, and wine tastings. The stunning courtyard is spectacular at night under the Hawaiian sky. The Royal Hawaiian Band presents free concerts every Friday on the outdoor grounds. Visit www.iolanipalace.org.
- Shangri-La. Honolulu home of Doris Duke, Shangri La houses an impressive collection of Islamic art and is considered one of Hawaii’s most architecturally significant homes. Shangri La offers a magnificent environment for the study of Islamic art, artifacts and culture, housing 3,500 objects, many embedded into the structure of the estate. Experience the beauty and grandeur of Shangri La on public tours departing from the Honolulu Academy of Arts. Duke’s collection also encompasses art and objects from diverse cultures around the globe. The Arabic inscription from the Quran on the front door - “Enter therein in Peace and Security” - echoes her aspirations in creating Shangri La. www.shangrilahawaii.org.
- Punchbowl/National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The extinct volcanic Punchbowl Crater - known in ancient days as Puowaina, which means "Consecrated Hill" or "Hill of Sacrifice" - was the site of many secret Alii (royal) burials and a place where offenders of taboos were sacrificed. Located above the city of Honolulu, the Hill of Sacrifice is the site of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific where 33,230 service men and women from four wars are buried and honored.
- Byodo-In Temple. Located in one of the most peaceful locations in Oahu - the Valley of the Temples - Byodo-In Temple is a beautiful Buddhist temple visited by worshippers from around the world. A replica of a 900-year-old Buddhist place of worship at Uji, Japan, Byodo-In Temple features a nine-foot Lotus Buddha, the largest wooden Buddha carved in over 900 years, covered in gold and lacquer. Surrounding the temple are a three-ton, brass peace bell, two-acres of koi ponds, and lush Japanese gardens set against a backdrop of the towering cliffs of the Koolau Mountains. The deep tone of the bell sounds a message of calm and peace. Sparrows flutter in garden trees and peacocks display their beautiful feathers, creating a natural paradise of tranquility.
- Chinaman’s Hat. This cone-shaped outcropping of lava off Kualoa Point - Chinaman’s Hat - resembles the peasant's chapeau worn by rural Chinese. The reef surrounding one of the Oahu’s most interesting offshore islands is the habitat for an abundance of marine life. While you can view Chinaman's Hat from numerous vantage points along the coast, you can kayak or walk there during low tide to enjoy breathtaking vistas of the Koolau Mountains, Mokapun Peninsula, Kahaluu, Kaneohe, and Kailua. Explore the little island beach nestled in a secluded cove or the small cave that is carved out of lava and a steep volcanic cone. [Top]
Honolulu, Oahu Botanical Gardens
- Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden. The largest of the Honolulu Botanical Gardens, Ho'omaluhia translates "to make a place of peace and tranquility". Stroll or drive through the lush 400-acre garden, which features plantings from tropical regions around the world. The beautiful gardens specialize in Hawaiian/Polynesian plants, palms and aroids, Heliconias, and ethnobotanicals. The garden also offers a 32-acre lake, picnic areas, group tours and a campground.
- Foster Botanical Garden. Opened to the public in 1931, Foster Botanical Garden is a beautiful 13.5-acre garden and a living museum of exotic plants and trees collected over 140 years from across the world's tropics. From graceful orchids to the cigar box tree from the Amazon, this magnificent garden is a peaceful and educational experience. Explore the specialty gardens including the Palm Collection, Orchid Gardens, Prehistoric Glen, and Exceptional Trees. This Oahu botanical garden is a wonderful destination for weddings and photo shoots.
- Koko Crater Botanical Garden. Situated inside the inner slope and basin of the Koko Crater, the 60-acre botanical garden is cultivated with rare and endangered dryland plants suited to the desert-like surroundings. An example of a xeriscape, this beautiful, unique garden specializes in African plants, cacti and succulents, Plumeria cultivars, native wiliwili, dryland palms, and Bougainvillea. Selective planting and water conservation techniques transform this landscape into a garden where desert plants thrive and flourish.
- Liliuokalani Botanical Garden. Located in Honolulu, the 7.5-acre Liliuokalani Botanical Garden - once the grounds of Queen Liliuokalani, last reigning monarch of Hawaii - is devoted to native Hawaiian plants that grow along the beautiful Nuuanu Stream. The beautiful gardens feature scenic picnic areas and walking paths that wind along the stream, as well as the rushing Waikahalulu Waterfall.
- Wahiawa Botanical Garden. Cradled between Waianae and Koolau mountain ranges in central Oahu, Wahiawa Botanical Garden - the "tropical jewel" of the Honolulu Botanical Gardens - is a 27-acre garden and forested ravine that dates back to the 1920's when the land was utilized as an experimental arboretum by sugar planters The exquisite garden showcases plants that thrive in the cool, shady, humid environment of this lush tropical rainforest. A tour of Wahiawa reveals Hawaiian palms, aroid garden, tree ferns, epiphytic and native plants. [Top]
Oahu Waterfalls & Trails
- Waimea Falls. Located on Oahu’s North Shore in the Waimea Valley Audubon Center, Waimea Falls is a towering waterfall that flows down from the mountains by the Waimea River. Visitors can enjoy a 3.5-mile self-guided nature walk to the park’s focal attraction: 40-foot Waimea Falls. On warm days, nothing is more refreshing than a cool dip in the pool below the falls. In ancient times, Hawaiians believed that Waimea’s red tinted waters had healing powers due to the iron oxide found in the volcanic soil.
- Laie Falls. Nestled in peaceful town on the northeastern tip of Oahu, between Kahuku and Hauula, Laie Falls is a beautiful waterfall that tumbles into a deep pool of water. The gently-ascending 5-mile hiking trail, which winds you through lush tropical foliage and forest, affords magnificent views of the ocean every half mile. Once you reach the secluded falls and pool, cool down with a refreshing swim or continue to the Koolau Summit Trail.
- Manoa Falls. Manoa Falls is a spectacular site as it cascades down a vertical cliff for 150 feet into a small pool of sparkling water. Enjoy a moderate hike on a scenic, well-traveled 1.5 mile trail through a bamboo forest, rainforest, and base of the Koolau Mountains to the towering falls. The pool at the bottom of the falls is filled with boulders and the bottom of the pool can not be visualized, making it very unsafe for swimming or diving. Wearing proper footwear is highly recommended as the path may be slippery and muddy.
- Maunawili Falls. A favorite destination for hikers, Maunawili Falls is a series of small waterfalls that cascade into a deep, cool pool of water - and is considered on the most beautiful falls on Oahu. Enjoy an easy 1 ½ mile hike along the stream to the beautiful falls and enjoy stunning views of the Koolau Mountains. This wide, well-graded hiking trail heads uphill into one of the lesser gulches at the foot of the windward Koolau cliffs and crosses three streams. [Top]