Hanauma Bay


View of Hanauma Bay by Barry Inouye.

Hanauma Bay, located on the southeastern tip of the island of Oahu along Kalanianaole Highway, has been for many years one of the most popular beaches in all of Hawaii.  It has been recognized by some as one of the best beaches in the entire US and is considered by many as one of the best places in Hawaii to observe, by snorkeling or scuba diving, undisturbed underwater Hawaiian marine life.  The bay’s popularity as a beach stretches far back into ancient Hawaii when it was an exclusive recreation spot for Hawaiian royalty.

According to one Hawaiian legend, the area that surrounds the area was formed as a result of two suitors who were fighting for the hand of Princess Keohinani. Because the battle went on and on without a victor, Keohiani begged her father who was a magician to end the struggle.  Keohiani’s father ordered the men to end the battle, but neither obliged.  In anger, he used his magic to turn the combatants into lizards with interlocked tails.  But Keohiani, who loved both men, appealed to the gods and the gods then turned the lizards into two mountains that today watch over the bay that Keohiani loved so much.  That bay was Hanauma Bay.

In addition to such colorful ancient legends, Hanauma Bay’s geologic make-up contributes to its overall appeal.  Over 40,000 years ago a series of volcanic cinder cones that erupted in the area.  The crater that forms the bay today was created by six separate cinder cones. The seaside walls of the crater were eroded by the sea, which eventually created the scenic semi-circular bay and its secluded, but picturesque beach.  The shape of the bay and reefs contributes to the calm waters that can be found in most parts; but visitors should be aware of strong and sometimes dangerous currents on the other rims of the bay.

Not only has Hanauma Bay been a great beach since ancient times, it was once a popular place to fish.  It eventually became too popular a place to fish.  In response to overfishing, in 1967, the bay was designated as a Marine Life Conservation Area prohibiting fishing and protecting all forms of marine life in the bay.  Hanauma Bay is known today as a breeding ground for the endangered Hawaiian green sea turtle or honu.

Even with the ban on fishing, Hanauma Bay became so popular the City and County of Honolulu had to introduce an admission fee for non-residents to control the crowds in 1997.  The bay, like many popular parks throughout the county, was literally being loved to death.  During the 1980s, there were over 10,000 visitors coming to Hanauma Bay each day.  Visitors were unwittingly killing its reefs by walking on them and the amount of sunscreen that was in the water was also doing the same to the parts of the reef that were closest to the beach.

The admission fee for non-residents did help to control the crowds and the money was used to improve park facilities.  One visitor actually tried to sue the City in a class action lawsuit in 2001 because she and her attorney thought it was discriminatory to do so.  The admission fee at the time was $3.00.  The City won the case in Federal court ruling the fee involved was only incidental to the plaintiff’s enjoyment of the park and was even upheld on appeals in 2004.

Today the entrance fee to Hanauma Bay is $7.50 per person for each non-resident 13 years or older. While the parking is only parking is $1, there are only 300 parking spaces available.  So it is important to arrive early to get a parking space.  As paring space become available, cars are allowed into the lot.  First timers are required to watch a 9 minute video about Hanauma Bay before entering the park.  Depending upon crowds, it can take up to an hour or longer to see the video.  Except on Tuesdays, the bay is open daily from 6:00 am to either 6:00 pm or to 7:00 pm, depending upon the season.

Rapid Ohi’a Death

Since the days of the ancients, the ohi’a plant and its vibrant red, orange and sometime yellow flower, the lehua, have played instrumental roles in Hawaiian culture and lifestyle.  The plant can be on almost all of the major Hawaiian Island and can range in all shapes and sizes, from a small shrub to a tree as high as 40 to 60 feet high.

The ohi’a tree had many uses in ancient Hawaii.  The ohi’a tree’s hard, durable wood in the days of old Hawaii was often used for such thing as:  a club for pounding Hawaiian kapa cloth, poi boards, spears and a gunwale for canoes.  The ancient Hawaiian used to marvel over the ohi’a tree’s durability as many of them were the last things standing when lava flows plowed through a given area. The bark of the ohi’a tree was also used for medicinal purposes.

As in the past as well as in today, the ohi’a’s lehua flower and its liko (leaves) have always been a part of Hawaiian hula and hula festivals.  In recent years, Hawaii’s most famous and world renowned Merry Monarch hula festival, held on the Big Island of Hawaii each year, have been graced by lehua flowers and ohi’a leaves on stage as well as worn by hula dancers.

But things are different on the 2016 Merry Monarch hula festival on the Big Island.  A new, relatively unknown disease has been killing large numbers of ohi’a trees in the Puna and Hilo districts of Big Island.  The USDA has recently determine that the deaths of these trees is being linked to a fungus called Ceratocystis fimbriata which causes previously healthy looking ohi’a trees to die as quick as within a matter of weeks.

This disease, which is now being called Rapid Ohi’a Death, is so devastating that it has the potential to kill every ohi’a tree in the State of Hawaii. Fortunately, as of right now, the disease is limited to the Big Island and doesn’t yet appear to affect other types of trees or plants.

In the past, many students and teachers of hula halaus (schools) have gone into the ohi’a forest to gather lehua flowers and ohi’a leaves in preparation for the Merry Monarch festival.  But, due to the potential of spreading Rapid Ohi’a Death, the State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture has issued a quarantine restricting the movement of any ohi’a plant, plant parts and surrounding soil.  Violators are subject to fines of up to $10,000 and five years in prison for repeated offenses.

The organizers of the Merry Monarch festival have been in contact with hula halaus to seek their urgent cooperation in this area to prevent this terrible disease from spreading.  The concern is that gatherers might bring back infected lehua flowers and leaves as well as infected soil on the soles of their shoes.  Any person with such infected soil on shoes or footwear could potentially spread Rapid Ohi’a Death to another Hawaiian island.

The bad news is that there is still no known cure for Rapid Ohi’a Death. But the State and other government researchers now believe they have a clue as to how the disease is primarily being spread.  According to newspaper reports, burrowing beetles that colonize dead ohi’a trees are spreading infected ohi’a wood dust, which in turn, are being spread by the wind.  This is in addition to any human or animal that somehow gets in contact with any part of the infected ohi’a tree or surrounding soil.

The State of Hawaii is now asking all residents and visitors to the Big Island to help prevent the spread of Rapid Ohi’a Death by following these official guidelines:

1. Don’t move any type of ohi’a wood.

2. Comply with the quarantine rules and do not move any type of ohi’a materials to another island without a permit.

3. Clean any tools used in the cutting of ohi’a with State of Hawaii approved solution.

5. Clean your gear, clothing and shoes when hunting, hiking or gathering in the forests. Dip your soles in the State of Hawaii approved solution and wash clothes in hot water and detergent. Wash your vehicle with detergent after traveling off-road.

6. State of Hawaii approved solutions, known to kill almost all Rapid Ohi’a Death fungus, include a spray with 70% rubbing alcohol and a mixture of 10% bleach with 90% water. Lysol brand disinfectant should be used on tools used to cut ohi’a wood.

We are hopeful that a cure for Rapid Ohi’a Death can be found soon as so much of the past as well as the current culture of Hawaii is linked to the ohi’a tree and its lehua flower. Many government researchers and scientists are working hard on this problem, and when they do find a cure, we will let you know. We hope to give good news on this latest challenge to Hawaii’s fragile environment soon.

An Unintended Consequence of a Billboard Ban in Hawaii

An unintended consequence of the billboard ban in Hawaii is the use of the shaka sign by local politicians.

The shaka sign by B. Inouye.

It’s no question that Hawaii has unparalleled natural beauty and scenery. This is why over 8 million tourists flock to Hawaii each year. Once here, they can enjoy and experience such memorable views. Arguably, one of the things enhancing the attractiveness of the Aloha State is the absence of billboard advertising. This is because of the billboard ban in Hawaii.

Creation of the Billboard Ban in Hawaii

In addition to Hawaii, three other states, Vermont, Maine, Alaska as well as some 1,500 towns throughout the country prohibit billboards. The organization most responsible for keeping the Aloha State clear of billboards has been The Outdoor Circle. This organization was primarily responsible for spearheading efforts banning billboards in Hawaii since 1927. The Outdoor Circle has also been actively involved in banning aerial advertising in Hawaii as well as supported its legality.

The Unintended Consequence

But Hawaii’s ban on billboards has had an unintended consequence that no one really expected. Politicians in Hawaii could not legally promote their candidacies through larger forms of signage. So one aspiring individual in 1968, named Charles Campbell, decided to carry such signs on his own person. Additionally, his campaign supporters and waved to cars passing by on the highways and streets in his community. This started Hawaii’s truly unique form of political campaigning, called sign waving. This form of campaigning proved to be extremely effective. Also, it was a lot cheaper than other forms of political advertising. As a result, virtually every politician in the State copied it and the practice took off.

Today, during each and every political season in Hawaii, you will see multitudes of people along Hawaii’s highways and byways carrying signs with the names of their favorite candidate and waving to cars passing buy. To add a unique touch of Hawaii, instead of simply waving hello to passersby, many sign wavers flash the iconic “shaka” sign with their hands.

Things to See Driving on Oahu

Examples of Things to See Driving on Oahu

If you have a day to spend, have a rental car and want to see as much of the island of Oahu as possible, you might want to try out this travel itinerary. It might be a little ambitious; so it’ll be important to get an early start. But if somehow you don’t, get behind schedule or get stuck in traffic, you can make up some or all of the time by leaving some stops off your travel agenda. So here are our recommendations on things to see driving on Oahu.

Arizona Memorial

Start your day bright and early by arriving at the Arizona Memorial when it opens at 7:00 am. As it is one of the most visited attractions and most historic in all of Hawaii, you can easily spend a couple of hours and more at the memorial. Plus, there’s the famous battleship, USS Missouri, on display on nearby Ford Island and a World War II submarine, the USS Bowfin, that you can also visit. Without doubt, this definitely has to be one of your things to see driving on Oahu.

Dole Plantation

After Pearl Harbor, head past the town of Wahiawa to the Dole Plantation complex. Here you can sample all sorts of pineapple related treats from fresh squeezed juice to frozen treats, candies and preserves as well as get a glimpse of the wide range of pineapples that have been grown in the 50th State. The plantation also claims to have the world’s largest maze as well as a pineapple train ride.

The Dole Plantation, one of the many things you can see driving on Oahu.

The Dole Plantation. Photo courtesy of Barry Inouye.

Matsumoto Shave Ice

Continuing your drive north, head out to the historic town of Haleiwa and stop by the Matsumoto Shave Ice store for one of the Aloha State’s most iconic treats, shave ice. Unlike frozen ice treats served at convenience stores on the US mainland, shave ice is uniquely different because the ice used in this confection is shaved, not chopped or ground. This might arguable be Hawaii’s most famous stop for shave ice; so don’t pass up this opportunity to try it here.

North Shore Surf Spots

Continue along Kamehameha Highway and you’ll drive by world famous surf spots such as the Banzai Pipeline, Chun’s Reef, Laniakea and Sunset Beach. During the summer when the surf is down, you can also stop by picturesque Waimea Bay where you can relax on a large sandy beach and even enjoy a nice swim. If you have time, you can visit nearby Waimea Valley to see its beautiful botanical gardens and waterfall directly across Waimea Bay.

Waimea Bay in the summer.

Waimea Bay in the summer by Barry Inouye.

Kahuku Food Trucks

You might now be working up your appetite as you continue your drive to the town of Kahuku. As you approach the town, you can see some lunch trucks on both sides of the highway where you can stop by for a late lunch or early dinner. These mobile roadside food establishments, such as Giovanni Aloha Shrimp, Famous Kahuku Shrimp Truck and Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp, might just serve some of the best cuisine ever served by a food truck, which, of course, feature locally grown Kahuku shrimp.  In the next town of Laie, there’s the world famous Polynesian Cultural Center; but unless you want to make this your last stop, you’ll probably won’t have enough time to fully enjoy what the center has to offer.

Chinaman’s Hat

As you head towards the town of Kaneohe, you will see the hat shaped islet of Mokoli’i, popularly known to most local residents as Chinaman’s Hat. Stop to take a picture here. There’s a popular park and white sand beach fronting Chinaman’s Hat as well as the Kualoa Ranch where, if you have some time, you can do horseback riding, zip-lining, go on ATV expeditions and visit locations where a number major motion pictures where filmed.

Chinaman’s Hat.

Chinaman’s Hat by Barry Inouye.

Pali Lookout

And if it’s not too late and if there is still sunlight, stop by the Pali Lookout for a panoramic view of the verdant and lush windward side of the island. Coming from the windward side, the road to the lookout will be a few miles past the tunnels on the right side of the highway. To avoid theft, be sure not to leave your valuables in your car when you head out to the lookout. This area not only affords the best views of windward Oahu; but it was also the site of a historic 1795 battle where King Kamehameha’s army defeated the warriors of Oahu in his goal of unifying the Hawaiian Islands under his rule.

View of windward Oahu from the Pali Lookout and of the things to see driving on Oahu.

View of windward Oahu from the Pali Lookout by Barry Inouye.

Major Motion Pictures Shot on Maui


View from Maui’s Hana Highway by Barry Inouye.

The State of Hawaii has provided the beautiful backdrop of a number of great Hollywood blockbuster movies, including Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Descendants and more. However, most of those films were either filmed on the island of Kauai or Oahu. One wonders if any major motion pictures were ever filmed on the Valley Isle of Maui. The answer is yes and here is an overview of the relatively few that were.

The Devil at 4 O’clock

This 1961 disaster epic of a controversial priest’s efforts to rescue his flock of Hansen Disease-afflicted children from an exploding volcano had all of the essential components for a successful major motion picture. It had arguable two of the biggest name stars during the time it was filmed in Spencer Tracy and Frank Sinatra. The special effects in the movie, which was supposed to be set in a fictional island in French Polynesia, were leading edge for the times. Last but not least, it featured a great setting, Maui.  Most of the movie was shot on location in the town of Lahaina.

The Hawaiians

This 1970 movie, staring Charleston Heston and Geraldine Chaplin, is based on the later chapters of the best-selling James Michener novel, “Hawaii.” The movie had a number of scenes shot on Maui in addition to covering key historic events in Hawaii, such as the Chinese and Japanese immigration to the islands, the overthrowal of the Hawaiian monarchy, the spread and control of Hansen’s Disease and the development of the pineapple industry in Hawaii. The movie’s depiction of how the pineapple industry got started in Hawaii is particularly appropriate for a movie shot on the Valley Isle as Maui is one of the last places in Hawaii that still grows pineapples.


When you have big name stars like Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman and Maui as a backdrop in this 1973 Academy Award nominated and Golden Globe winning movie what more do you need? This movie, about life in the infamous penal system in French Guiana, had a number of key scenes shot in Hana, Maui. Here the climactic scene where Steve McQueen’s character Papillon jumped off a high and dangerous cliff to escape imprisonment from Devil’s Island was shot. Steve McQueen, being Steve McQueen, actually did the dangerous cliff jumping scene himself.

Despite such the success of such major motion pictures being shot on Maui, it still remains a mystery why more aren’t filmed in the beautiful Valley Isle of Maui. Perhaps, even though millions of tourists throughout the world know and appreciate Maui’s enticing charms, hopefully the movie industry will one day discover it as well as utilize it more fully.

Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific

Waimea Canyon by Greg Mau.

Waimea Canyon

Dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon is a beautifully eroded gorge located on the southwestern part of the island of Kauai. The canyon is a must see for anyone visiting the Garden Isle, which is one of the island’s top attractions. Waimea Canyon is over 10 miles long, over 1 mile at its widest and about 3,000 feet deep. As a basis of comparison, the Grand Canyon in Arizona is over 277 miles long, 10 miles at its widest and over 1 mile deep. But Waimea Canyon still offers some of the same types of scenic vistas and panoramic views of its much larger cousin on the US mainland, albeit on a much smaller scale.

It is said that framed American author Mark Twain was the one who first called Waimea Canyon the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. But others believed he never visited the canyon or even the island of Kauai. But whatever the case, many visitors to the canyon would probably feel that calling it the Grand Canyon of the Pacific would be well-deserved nickname.

As with most canyons, Waimea Canyon was created over millions of years through the constant erosive forces from a river. In the case of Waimea Canyon, its river system was fed from the high amount of rainfall that Kauai receives, most notably from Mt. Waialeale, one of the wettest spots on earth, with more than 400 inches of rain annually. This large volume of rainfalls feeds the Waimea River system which continues to shape the canyon estimated to be over 5 million years old.

But another factor that helped to create Waimea Canyon was volcanic activity. The west and east sides of the canyon were created by two separate lava flows. The east side sank over a million years ago which created a depression which was partially filled by another separate lava flow. But the Waimea River and numerous smaller streams, fed by the relentless rainfall from Mt. Waialeale, have continually eroded and shaped the canyon floor and surrounding landscape since then. Waimea in Hawaiian means red river and it’s an appropriate name as the river’s erosive forces have exposed the reddish hues of the canyon walls over the millennia.

One of the best ways to view majestic Waimea Canyon is to view it from the lookout area at Waimea Canyon State Park near the town of Waimea. Here you can get the same type of views when the canyon was prominently featured in the 1963 movie Donovan’s Reef starring John Wayne. The park and the lookout are open to the public on all days during daylight hours. As with all State Parks in Hawaii, there is no fee for entering the park.

The Ukulele

The ukulele.

Photo courtesy of John Cheung.

Hawaii residents of Portuguese origins only comprise a relative small percentage of Hawaii’s population; but their contributions to the Aloha State’s social and cultural make-up have been immense. As examples, Hawaii repertoire of culinary options would certainly not be the same without Portuguese bean soup, malasadas and Portuguese sausage. It would be hard to imagine everyday life in Hawaii without them.

But perhaps, one of the biggest contributions of the Portuguese in Hawaii is the creation of that wonderfully unique musical instrument called the ukulele. Today, through this magical string instrument, the impact of Hawaii’s Portuguese has not only affected Hawaii’s cultural heritage, but also music lovers throughout the world.

Like many other ethnic groups, most of Hawaii Portuguese immigrants arrived in Hawaii during the late 1800s to early 1900s to work as laborers on Hawaii’s sugar plantations. Most of them came from the Portuguese islands of the Azores, Cape Verde and Madera. And when they came, they brought their music and later made adaptations of musical instruments from their home country. A local Hawaiian newspaper of the period was quoted that upon disembarkation from their long voyage that “Madeira Islanders recently arrived here, have been delighting the people with nightly street concerts.”

Wanting to perpetuate the rich musical heritage of their homeland, Hawaii’s Portuguese immigrants fashioned instruments based on designs they were familiar with. Three Madeiran cabinet makers Manuel Nunes, José do Espírito Santo and Augusto Dias, are generally credited as the first ukulele makers. The design of the ukulele is said to be based on a number of small guitar-like instruments from Portugal, the machete, the cavaquinho, the timple and the rajão.

There are several stories how ukulele got its name. One them is that the name roughly translates as “jumping flea” as a tribute to the rapid movement of the fingers that are needed to play the instrument.

Probably the most key factor in establishing the ukulele in Hawaiian music and culture was the support and promotion of the instrument by King Kalākaua. As a patron of the arts, he incorporated the ukulele into performances at royal gatherings and functions.

The ukulele was first popularized on the US mainland at the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco. Here, the Hawaiian Pavilion featured an ensemble of George E. K. Awai and his Royal Hawaiian Quartet along with ukulele maker and player Jonah Kumalae. Most people today attribute the ukulele’s worldwide appeal to celebrity Arthur Godfrey where he personally played and showcased the ukulele on his popular television shows during the 1940 to 1950s.

After the 1960s, the ukulele declined in popularity until the late 1990s, when interest in the instrument reappeared. Legendary Hawaiian musician Israel Kamakawiwo’ole helped re-establish the instrument in his songs “Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World” which were used in films, television programs and commercials. More recently Jake Shimabukuro established himself as the world’s leading ukulele virtuoso in his masterful rendition of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” which has been showcased on national television as well gone viral on YouTube.

Today, the ukulele is played by many and its melodious tunes are appreciated by many more. We can thank Hawaii’s Portuguese immigrants for creating with wonderful musical gift enjoyed not only by the people of Hawaii but also by millions throughout the world.

Kangaroos in Hawaii

Hawaii has a wide range on animals that can’t be found anywhere else in the world; but the Aloha State even has some that you would never think would be found here. One of those animals is the kangaroo. Yes, there are actually kangaroos in Hawaii. Technically, they are bush-tail rock wallabies, which are a type of kangaroo and look similar to their larger cousins, but are lot smaller. They sport large busy tails, stand less than 2 tall and weigh between 10 and 15 pounds. How the wallabies came to Hawaii and where they live in the Aloha State are explained here.

Hawaii’s kangaroos are located today in the higher, remote parts of Kalihi Valley, a section of Honolulu on Hawaii’s main island of Oahu. The last time they were surveyed during the 1990s, it was estimated that there were approximately 75 wallabies in this one remaining colony in Hawaii. The state has determined that, because the wallabies only eat vegetation that is readily abundant, they pose no threat to the environment or to anyone else for that matter. State law prohibits the hunting of the wallaby.

The wallaby came to Hawaii in the early 1900s as pets of Richard Trent who, according to newspaper reports, had a large private zoo at his residence in Alewa Heights, which is an area adjacent to Kalihi Valley. Richard Trent was wealthy self-made businessman who headed a local trust company and enjoyed displaying a wide range of animals in his private zoo, which included 3 wallabies that he had brought over from Australia.

However in 1916, dogs attacked the cage that housed the wallabies and broke the cage, killing one wallaby while letting two others escape into the surrounding woods. The fear was that, like rabbits, the wallabies would create a problem by proliferating beyond control in Oahu’s forests. Trent even called for a manhunt to track down the two escaping wallabies. However, fears that the wallabies roaming unchecked and endlessly breeding in Oahu’s wilderness areas never materialized.

Even though the population of wallabies eventually grew where there were colonies of Wallabies in a number of neighboring valleys, today Kalihi Valley is only place in Hawaii where the animals can be found today. One could speculate that other animals such as wild boars or stray dogs have been keeping the wallaby population on Oahu in check.

But don’t expect to see a wallaby on your next trip to the Aloha State and efforts to do so are discouraged as it would require trespassing into private property. Moreover, as the wallabies are very shy and solitary animals, it is extremely rare for anybody to actually view them in the wild. Occasionally, there are rare sightings of the animal, and when it is seen, it typically becomes a newsworthy media event.


Islands Off Oahu

Rabbit Island and Black Rock off of Makapu'u Point, one of the more prominent islands off Oahu.

Rabbit Island and Black Rock off of Makapu’u Point by Barry Inouye.

Visitors to Hawaii’s may wonder about the many and interesting-looking small  islands off Oahu. Some of these small islands have a unique shape and corresponding names that make them even more memorable when you. And one of them was even pictured in a famous television series of yesteryear.

Rabbit Island

Some may think that this island , located off of Makapu’u Point, is nicknamed Rabbit Island because its shape may remind you somewhat of a rabbit’s head; but it was called that because the island was once inhabited by, you guessed it, rabbits. The island’s true name is Manana which means buoyant in Hawaiian. John Adams Kuakini Cummins, who was a prominent member of the Hawaiian royalty and who also ran a nearby sugar plantation in Waimanalo, once tried to raise rabbits on the island in the 1880s. As one would expect from rabbit, they multiplied so profusely it threatened the fragile ecology of the island, which now serves as a seabird wildlife sanctuary. So in 1994, the rabbits were completely eradicated from the island. There is low lying island next to Rabbit Island called, Kaohikaipu or Black Rock but lacks the more colorful history of its neighbor.

Coconut Island

This island, called Moku o Loʻe in Hawaiian, is situated in the southeast part of picturesque Kaneohe Bay and was once featured in the opening shots of the long-running television series, Gilligan’s Island. This island was once totally owned or partially owned by a number of very wealthy individuals, including an heir to the Fleishman yeast company fortune. The island was used for a number of purposes, including a private secluded getaway, a rest and recuperation facility for the US Navy in World War II, a small resort club until it was totally purchased outright by the State of Hawaii in 1995 and used as an oceanographic research facility for the University of Hawaii.

Chinaman's Hat near Kualoa Beach Park.

Chinaman’s Hat near Kualoa Beach Park by Barry Inouye.

Chinaman’s Hat

You can find Mokoli’i Island, better known by its nickname, Chinaman’s Hat, right off of Kamehameha Highway fronting Kualoa Beach Park and the Kualoa Ranch estate. The island gets its name because its unique conical shape looks somewhat like a hat that used to be worn by Chinese men in the 1800s to early 1900s. The island has a legend that Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire, had a sister, Hi’iaka, that slew a giant lizard into the ocean and Chinaman’s Hat is the remnant of that lizard’s back.

Puka Island

Off of Laie Point in the town of Laie, there are 5 small rocky islets. According to Hawaiian legend, this area was guarded by a giant lizard called Laniloa. Laniola was defeated by a great warrior Kana. Kana threw the giant lizard’s heads into five pieces off of Laie Point. Today, you can see the remains of Laniloa’s head in the form of 5 neighboring islets, one of which is referred by locals as Puka Island. Puka in Hawaiian means hole and Puka Island has a small arch in the middle of it, which was created by the tremendous wave action of the 1946 tsunami.

Hidden Hotspots on Oahu

Queen Lili'oukalani Gardens, one of the hodden hotspots on Oahu.

Waterfall at Queen Lili’oukalani Botanical Garden by Barry Inouye.

Like to take the path less taken whenever you travel? If so, the Gathering Place of Oahu has many such locales. Looking for a less crowded, out of the way attraction or some great eating place that only the local residents know about? If so, this Hawaiian Island definitely has them. Here are our recommendations for such hidden hotspots on Oahu.

Lili’oukalani Botanical Garden

Right outside downtown Honolulu in the middle of a secluded residential area is an idyllic botanical garden. It once served as the private park of Hawaii’s Queen Lili’oukalani. In an area shaded by monkeypod trees and Hawaiian plants, you can find a small but beautiful waterfall and pond. They are surrounded by a small but picturesque park. It’s a perfect place for a picnic and some scenic picture taking. But you’d better bring some mosquito repellent. Plus, parking is here very limited.

View from Diamond Head summit.

View from Diamond Head summit by Barry Inouye.

Diamond Head Lookout

Conveniently situated near Waikiki, there is a trail that starts from inside Diamond Head Crater that leads to its summit. The stimulating hike up the trail can take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, which will take you through a winding maze of old World War I coastal defense fortifications, dimly-lite tunnels and steep, long stairwells. Once you reach the summit, you will be rewarded by some of the best commanding views of Waikiki and its surrounding areas. It’s also a favorite place to watch the beautiful Hawaiian sunrise.

View of Honolulu on way to Pu’u Ualaka’a State Park.

View of Honolulu on way to Pu’u Ualaka’a State Park by Barry Inouye.

Pu’u ‘Ualaka’a State Park on Tantalus

Located in the Makiki area of Honolulu, this state park offers arguably the best panoramic views of Hawaii’s capital city, Honolulu. To get here, you’ll have to drive through winding road lined with homes perched on hillside properties. After you see the gate to the park, drive past it up the hill. Once you reach the parking lot, walk a few feet to a covered observation area and then take in the majestic views of Hawaii’s largest and most vibrant city. As this place is higher up in elevation and blessed with cool winds, it’s a great place to hang out on a warm and humid summer day.

Ka’ena Point

Found on Oahu’s most extreme northwestern point, Ka’ena Point is an isolated spot on the island and features some of Hawaii’s most rare endemic coastal plant life. It’s also a great spot to view native Hawaiian seabirds as well as to catch a glimpse of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal basking on the seashore. Be prepared to do a bit of hiking as the paved road ends as you get closer to the point. Be aware that you should not enter the water here as the surf is very rough and because there is a very dangerous rip current offshore.

Eat the Street

Since 2011, on the last Friday of each month from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm, the who’s who of Honolulu’s food trucks vendors converge in the Ka’akako area, which is conveniently located near Waikiki, to offer a wide range of prepared foods. The food types on display here range from your typical Hawaii plate lunch fare to fancy gourmet dishes. This monthly has grown to become one of the most popular food gatherings in town.

Helena’s Hawaiian Food

This iconic hole-in-the-wall place that specializes in Hawaiian food has been prominently featured on national TV. Why? Because if you like Hawaiian food, many locals will tell you that this is the place to go. It’s located in the Kalihi area of town an older unassuming wooden building on School Street. However, be aware when you go here that parking is very limited and service is first come first served. Plus, it only opens from Tuesdays to Fridays until 7:30 pm.