Unique Places in Oahu

  • Endangered monk seal rests on the beach
    Endangered monk seal rests on the beach
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Most Viewed Off The Beaten Path in Oahu

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    Break the Law on Stairway to Heaven

    by AKtravelers Updated Apr 5, 2009

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    Kaneohe's Haiku Stairs, often referred to as the Stairway to Heaven, have been closed to the public for years, but that didn't stop my hardy foursome from making the ascent in April 2009. Technically, it's illegal to scale the Stairway and there is a guard posted from 0630 to sunset to turn away prospective hikers, but if you get up early enough you can climb unmolested. We were on the trail by 0620 and twelve minutes late we looked down from above the H3 to see the guard and his motorcycle staking out their positions.
    The climb itself is heart-pounding, both from the hour-plus stairmaster-like activity required and from the occassionally scary, exposed positions you are in. We had a windy day, with fog enshrouding the top, making the last 200 vertical feet, with your butt hanging high over the H3, particularly nerve-racking. If you are afraid of heights, skip this hike.
    The trail itself is essentially a ladder with rails, though one 90-degree section is augmented with a rope. There are three or four landings along which you can take a break and get great photos, but for the most part you are hanging off the sides of the Ko'olau range. The views are spectacular! You see The Mokoluas off Lanikai, Mt. Olomana, and all of Kaneohe Bay up to Chinaman's Hat! At the first false summit, you'll find an old cement building with a wench that the military used to haul up supplies during WWII and at the second (real summit) you'll find another building that supports weathered, unused microwave dishes and keeps you sheltered from the moisture laden, cold, rushing winds. There's a logbook inside, which you can sign with your full name and address if you want to supply law-enforcement with evidence you were there.
    We considered hiking down the backside towards Tripler hospital, which would take 6 hours, but we couldn't find the trail in the fog, so we descended back down the stairs. Sometimes we had to go down as if descending a ladder, but much of the time we could descend normally -- though the constant stress on our thighs left us all quivering like Parkinsons patients at the bottom. Occassionally, the wind caused some of Hawaii's indigneous plants to thwack me in the face -- not an issue on the way up! Damn endangered species!! Despite the violent flora, we were down by the guard by 1015, trying to avoid eye-contact while walking dead straight in front of him.
    Of course, the guard HAD to chat with us. After some small talk, Ted volunteered that we had climbed over from Tripler, thinking that would keep us out of poential trouble. The guard said, "I know you're lying. Your shoes are too clean!" Busted, Ted admitted he didn't want to put he guard in a position where he felt he had to arrest us. "No bro. If I were going to call the cops, I would've done it already." It's good to know that the guard thing is just a charade if you play it right.

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    Kau Kau Wagon

    by Nathalie_B Written Jan 3, 2009

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    We are fortunate because we can afford our dreams, dreams of exploring as many destinations as possible. But there are so many people that can’t afford a daily meal.
    I was lucky to meet the woman who gives hope and strength to hundreds of those in need, day after day. Her name is Sharon Black, but in Honolulu everybody knows her as Lady Kalona.
    On a Saturday, at around 2pm, Kalona’s van pulls off by the Gateway Park in Chinatown, downtown Honolulu, were hundreds of people in need already await her because they know that Lady Kalona and her “army” of volunteers will be there for them with ham & cheese sandwiches, vegetables and fruit, gallons of water and juice, and clothes to donate. She never skipped a Saturday in decades!
    Us, tourists, can make a difference too by giving up 3 hours of shopping or uselessly burning our skin on the beach and joining Kau Kau Wagon.
    Personally, I had this experience twice, and both times I enjoyed it tremendously. Often, when we refer to a person as “homeless” something dirty, drugged, or drunk comes to mind but the reality is different. At the Gateway Park I had a chance to talk to a philosophy professor who lost everything he ever had, to an old lady that simply can’t afford a good meal because her pension is so ridiculously small, to a single mom of 2 daughters who can afford either her mortgage payments or a full fridge and clothes for her kids, and to a woman that can’t find a job for months. The list of examples can go on and on, but the reality will never change, unfortunately. There will always be people that need help.
    If you care and want to make a tiny little difference, write to Kalona at kaukauwagon@aol.com or visit www.kaukauwagon.com.

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    Honolulu: September 11th Memorial

    by Lhenne1 Written Aug 11, 2008

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    On November 12th, 2001, the City of Honolulu dedicated a memorial to those who died in the September 11th, 2001 attack on New York City. The memorial is located in front of Honolulu Hale on 530 South King Street in downtown Honolulu. An “eternal flame” burns at the monument’s top and a fountain stands behind it. The press release from the dedication ceremony explained the symbolism of the memorial, " The three-sided obelisk is about 6 feet tall and 28 inches wide. Two three-inch-wide vertical gray strips are set into the front of the black tower. They represent the twin towers of the World Trade Center that were destroyed on that date...the obelisk’s triangular cross section represents a folded flag" (http://www.honolulu.gov/refs/csd/publiccom/honnews01/flame.htm).

    We didn't know about the memorial and came across it during our walking tour of downtown Honolulu. It's understated yet powerful. The inscription the memorial bears says, “Let this eternal flame unite our country in memory of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, and honor the brave men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to save others. The love and spirit of our grateful nation and the hearts and prayers of our people will always be with them.”

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    The Haiku Steps or Stairway to Heaven

    by VeronicaG Updated Jul 14, 2008

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    We encountered an amazing sight as we drove through the mountains on the eastern side of the island. A thread-like trail of steps could be seen rising to the very top--they are The Haiku Steps, known also as the Stairway to Heaven.

    These stairs leading up to the top of Puu Keahiakahoe (altitude 2800 ft.) were created by the efforts of the U.S. Navy in 1942. The Haiku steps were meant to be used as a means of reaching the Haiku Radio Station, 'top secret facility for transmitting radio signals to the Navy ships operating throughout the Pacific'.

    It's actually comprised of galvanized-steel ship ladders 18 inches wide and 4000 feet long in total. Some sections are steep, but most are not. There are 3,922 steps. The stairs were closed after some vandals tore up a few sections of ladder. Also, they were closed at the construction of H-3.

    Repairs were made, but the stairs haven't been open yet. Friends of the Haiku Steps and others are petitioning to have them reopened for hiking.

    *Haiku is Hawaiian for Kahili flower

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    Valley of the Temples

    by VeronicaG Updated Jul 14, 2008

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    As we were driving to The Polynesian Culture Center in Laie, we noticed this lush park-like area called the Valley of the Temples. It's a beautifully landscaped cemetery.

    Although we didn't stop by, there is an immense temple at the rear of the cemetery. Named the Byodo-In, it replicates an ancient 950 year old Buddhist temple in Uji, Japan (pic #2). The temple was constructed in 1960 to commemorate the arrival of Japanese immigrants who worked the sugar fields.

    Other assorted temples can be seen throughout the cemetery, a $2 fee pp is charged.

    pic #2, borrowed from hawaiiweb.com

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    Summit the Ko'olau on the Wiliwili Nui Trail

    by AKtravelers Updated Jul 9, 2008

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    A pleasant, moderate hike to the top of the Ko'olau Range that is a must-do is the Wiliwili Nui Trail. It starts off as a stroll along a four-wheel drive road for about two miles, as the ridge narrows on each side. At the end of the road, you'll come to a resting bench, but don't relax for too long because that's where the fun begins. AS the terrain undulates, the views get better and better until you gt to the last half mile -- a straight-up scramble assisted by ropes. You'll peak and a microwave tower, but keep walking to the overlook for fantastic views of the Windward side, from Makapu'u to Chinaman's Hat. Spectacular!
    You'll most lokely be alone on this hike, so don't step over the ridge!

    Yo get here, take the H1 past its end, then left on Laukahi Road. You'll get to a gatehouse hear the top of the road, where you can get a hiking pass (for free) and ask where to park.

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    Where the local quilters shop

    by histrionia62 Written Jun 19, 2008

    I was lucky to be able to attend a quilt show while I was in Hawaii, and asked them where they shop. They told me that everybody starts at Fabric Mart, and if they can't find what they want there, then they look in the more expensive specialty shops. Fabric Mart is on Kalakaua on the route into Waikiki and is easy to get to.

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    Marukai Market

    by histrionia62 Updated Jun 19, 2008

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    This is a very fun Japanese market. I couldn't read a lot of the labels so did some experimenting based on appearance. They have every kind of ridiculous little snack food you can think of. They also have hot ready-to-eat items; I had the Gokujo Sushi Dynamite (cooked ahi with spicy mayonnaise on top of maki - aaaaah!) Also bought some fresh fish here which was delicious. In the same little mall, there is a crack seed store and Haili's Hawaiian Food where we got some takeout kalua pork and portuguese sweet rolls for dinner one night. Eight bucks worth of pork went a long way. Fresh produce also.

    It is a members-only store, but if you stop at the customer service desk out front, you can get a pass like the one in the picture - it says one-day but they dated it so I could use it for a week.

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    Climb Olomana -- Hawaii's Matterhorn

    by AKtravelers Updated Dec 23, 2007

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    Not only does Mount Olomana look striking as you travel Windward on the H3, but it is an equally inspiring hike. In 3.5 hours, you can bag two peaks, get great 360 view from Makapu to Chinaman's Hat and get great exercise. Not only that, but the climb itself is fun! Climbing over boulders and up rock faces with the aid of ropes! It's one of my favorite hikes on Oahu!

    If your interested in more photos and a descreiption from an earlier hike (I've climbed it three times now), check out my Kaila page. Those pictures are from a nicer day!

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    Hike Lanikai's Ka'iwa Ridge: Short but Great

    by AKtravelers Updated Nov 25, 2007

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    One of the best short hikes in the United States is the climb to the World War II-vintage pill boxes on Oahu's Ka'iwa Ridge, right behind Lanikai on the Windward side. While the climb is steep and a bit rugged, you can be at the first overlook in 25 minutes and make the highest point in a half an hour. For all that sweat you'll get great views of the Mokoluas off of Lanikai Beach as well as a panoramic vista that includes Kailua Bay, Kailua Town, Enchanted Lake, Kaneohe Bay and the Koolaus. You can see as far south as Makapu'u Point and as far north as Chinaman's Hat. Bring a beer and enjoy watching the sky turn colors as the sun sets. I've already done this hike so many times I can't count, with everyone from three-year-old Cassie Lopez to my 70-something parents.
    The Ridge itself can be hot and dry, so I wouldn't do the hike in mid-day. Start before 10 p.m. or after 4:00 if you want optimal enjoyment. If you're still sweating on the way down, just stroll 2 blocks to Lanikai Beach and cool off! Don't be turned off by the brevity of the hike: the views are spectacular!

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    Lucoral museum

    by Nathalie_B Written Nov 2, 2007

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    This place is very small and mostly unknown to the Island’s visitors, but it has its charm. Lucoral is a company that specializes in pearl and coral jewelry, and has a museum that shows some stones, pearls, and corals native to Hawaiian Islands ONLY.
    If you have 30 minutes to spare that visit this place, it’s pretty interesting, although it’s quite chaotic for a museum. What I really liked was huge statues made of gem stones, some of them where over 1 meter high.
    The highlight of this museum is its staff, very nice, friendly, and helpful. From a conversation with one of them I have learned that Lucoral works very close with local schools and kids are always welcome there to enjoy jewelry making lessons.
    I was told that families with kids that are visiting the island are more than welcome to enjoy these activities.
    Of course, like every other museum Lucoral has a gift shop which sells necklaces, bracelets and rings made company.
    The entrance is free. The museum is open Monday through Friday 9am to 5pm and is located in the center on 2414 Kuhio Ave, not far from Kohio Beach.

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    I'm not afraid of a ghost, I think............

    by keida84 Updated Oct 12, 2007

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    We wanted to find something a bit different this time around, so I searched for things to do that were well off the beaten path. I found one. "The Oahu Ghost Tours" were right up our alley. From what I gather the island of O'ahu, has a reputation for being the most "haunted island" in the Hawaiian chain. I know stories about Madame Pele the resident "spirit" who lives on the Big Island in Kilauea Crater, but I had never heard the legends of the ghost stories on Oahu.

    Based on the supernatural findings of historian, Glen Grant the Oahu ghost tours has designed 3 tours you can take:: "Honolulu City Haunts" 2 1/2 hour walking tour of downtown Honolulu. Tour 2 dubbed "Orbs of Oahu" a 4 hour driving tour which is guaranteed to give you "chicken skin"in such places as The Pali lookout and Morgan's corner. They strongly recommend no children for this tour. So of course, this is the one we took. I cannot say I saw a ghost but in several stops along the tour way I could not wait to get the heck out of there.

    Finally the Tour #3: For a daytime tour and for those who wish to learn about Hawaii's spiritual ancient past, "The Sacred Spirits" tour will take you to the dwelling places of the Fire goddess, Pele, to sacred places built overnight by Hawaii's legendary little people, the Menehune, to ancient petroglyphs, This tour lasts about 6-7 hours.

    The cost is quite reasonable ranging from $24 to $49 dollars depending on what tour you take. They pick up at a convenient locale depending on where you are staying.

    Make sure you bring a camera, closed toed shoes and a windbreaker, We definitely got rained upon at the last stop on the "Orbs" tour. If you like the show "Ghost Hunters" then I believe you will enjoy the Oahu Ghost Tours as well. See it for yourself and then you decide, even for the non-believer it is a lot of fun.

    **Pictures soon to follow**

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    Kahana Valley Offers an Uncrowded Beach

    by AKtravelers Updated Oct 11, 2007

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    On the northern portion of the windward side of Oahu is a beautiful beach that seems secluded even though it's just off the road and offers convenient parking -- Kahana Velley State Park Beach. Lined with ironwoods and flanked by two verdant ridges, this beach also boast waters calm enough for children to play in. If this beach were close to Honolulu, it would be packed, but even on a beautiful Sunday afternoon its sands are nearly empty. The sand is soft, if littered with a few washed up coconuts and it often gets shady in the afternoon -- great if you've fried your skin somewhere else but still want to enjoy the sand. If you want, do as the locals (what few locals there are here): bring a tent and some food and spend a family day at the beach!

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    The New Pacific Aviation Museum

    by AKtravelers Written Oct 8, 2007

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    The Pacific Aviation Museum is in its infancy, but is still worth a visit. Expected to expand to three more hangers in the next few years (assuming the funds get raised), the museum has started with some exhibits about the air war in the Pacific and the air attack on Oahu. Having been to Pearl Harbor many times, I thought I had heard everything about the attack, but the Pacific Aviation Museum added a few interesting stories, including the vignette about a Honolulu lawyer and his son out for a joyride in their private plane when they inadvertently flew through a formation of incoming zeros and the Battle of Ni'ihau, where an errant Japanese pilot landed on the small private island and seized it for the Japanese governmet, only to be killed a day later. Given this bent, I can't wait for its new wings on the rest of the war, Korea and Vietnam.

    THe entry fee is $10, but entre can also be had as part of the $14 Missouri tour. The museum is on Ford Island, a closed military base, so tickets must be purchased by the Bowfin.

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    Lanikai Pillboxes (Kaiwa Ridge) Hike

    by bryINpoland Written Sep 18, 2007

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    Back drop to Lanikai Beach (One of the top 10 beaches in the world) is Kaiwa Ridge. The trail that runs a long the ridge takes you past two pillboxes built during WWII. Two of many pillboxes built along the eastern coast of Oahu that are now just decrepit reminders of the past.

    A short and easy hike treats you to 360 degree views of the windward side of Oahu. Great views of Mokumanu and Mokulua (The Moks), Waimanalo Bay and Makapuu Point, the Koolau Mountains, Kailua Bay and Kaneohe Marine Base and of the Enchanted Lakes area.

    Directions: Pass Kailua Beach Park on Kawailoa Rd. Take left at 4 way stop sign onto Alala Rd, which takes you around Alala Point and into Lanikai. You must veer right onto Aalapapa Dr. and take your second left onto Kaelepulu Dr. Follow the road a short way and park along the side of the road near the entrance of Mid-Pacific Country Club, just before the gated community where the road ends. Just to the left of the private apartments you will see a dirt path that starts up Kaiwa Ridge.

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