5 Rainforest Hikes Near Honolulu, Hawaii on Oahu

Most people travel to Hawaii for the beaches but there is plenty to see when you head into the rain forests and mountains of Hawaii too. If you want to sample wild tropical fruit, explore the rain forest, swim in beautiful falls, and see indigenous Hawaiian birds – here are five hikes on Oahu you don’t have to go far from Honolulu for.

Maunawili falls

Maunawili Falls – If you drive twenty minutes out of Honolulu towards the mountains, you will reach the other side of the island near Kailua. To get there you have to pass over the Ko’olau Mountains and go to the Pali Lookout. From there the trail winds downwards to scenic windward views, through gorgeous rain forest, and finally to one of the best swimming waterfalls in Hawaii. A friend tells me the Obamas were there not long ago!

Manoa Falls

Manaoa Falls – Even closer to Honolulu, just head up Manoa Road past the University of Hawaii to the top of the valley. The road forks at Lyon Arboretum and stay right. You may need to park further down the valley if it’s a sunny day. A short hike with the beautiful 100 ft Manoa Falls as the payoff.

Aihualama Trail

Aihualama Trail – For those looking for more challenges, about 100 yards before Manoa Falls, the Aihualama trail veers off to the left. This is a rain forest ridge hike that will take you through wild bananas, lush bamboo, and more. Watch for the Hawaiian Honey Creepers!

Lyon Arboretum

Lyon Arboretum – If you go left where the road forks to Lyon Arboretum you will find yourself among more than 8000 tropical plants, extensive botanical gardens, and numerous hiking trails. This is one of the most rewarding rain forest hiking areas near Honolulu because of the incredible diversity.

Hawaii Loa Ridge Trail

Hawaiiloa Ridge – This is the most challenging hike in our list and recommended only for those who are experienced and confident. The trail is not maintained and will require you to drive to the trailhead. Drive towards Aina Haina and go left on Puuikena Drive. Park near the water tank and then enjoy this moderate hike to the summit for astounding views. Expect to pull yourself up some inclines with the help of ropes that friendly hikers have left behind.

When you’re done with your hike, why not head to the beach and jump in the warm Hawaiian waters to wash off the dirt and sweat! You deserve it!

City and County of Honolulu – Many Neighborhoods, Towns, and Cities As One

Honolulu, Hawaii is an incredibly diverse place to live. With more than a dozen languages spoken by significant communities, a wide diversity of religions, and a culture that spans the globe. When you consider the fact that Honolulu is not just a city but actually a combined entity of the City and County of Honolulu all run from as jurisdiction with one mayor, one city council, and one police force – it really changes the way Honolulu looks both geographically and demographically.

Neighborhoods and towns on OahuOver the past year, I’ve written a large number of posts that detail the different neighborhoods, cities and towns of Honolulu – which includes the entire island of Oahu. I have not included the outer islands that are part of Honolulu City and County which stretch all the way up to Midway Island but not including it (or Johnston Atoll). Thousands of uninhabited little islands, atolls, reefs, etc are included but since they have no people, they have no neighborhoods. This post is an attempt to share all of those neighborhood articles in a bit of an orderly way. My purpose in writing these articles has been so that I can share more than just the names when I write about places, activities, attractions, restaurants, or beaches on Oahu.

Neighborhoods in ‘Town’ include those places formally inside the metro city limits. East Honolulu goes from Diamond Head to Koko Head. Windward Side stretches from Waimanalo up to Kahuku on the east side of Oahu. North Shore is from Kuhuku to Mokuleia. Leeward is the ‘West Side’ and goes from Yokohama Bay down to Ko’olina. Central Oahu includes areas from Ko’olina to Salt Lake and all the towns upwards to Wahiawa in the center of Oahu between the two mountain ranges of Ko’olau and Waianae.

I’ve combined some areas that made sense to me and have yet to write about some neighborhoods like Chinatown, Ala Moana, Black Point, Portlock, Kalihi, Moili’ili, Waipio, Barber’s Point, Nu’uanu and the many many many Military Bases and Housing Complexes on the Island.

Neighborhoods in ‘Town’

Downtown Honolulu Financial District and Fort Street Mall

Historic District

Chinatown

Makikiki, Punchbowl, and Tantalus

Waikiki

Diamond Head

Kaimuki

Kaka’ako

Salt Lake and Moanalua

Honolulu International Airport

University of Hawaii and Manoa

East Honolulu

Kahala

Aina Haina and Hawaii Kai

Kokohead

Windward Side

Waimanalo Beach

Waimanalo Town

Kailua

Lanikai

Kaneohe

Kahalu’u, Ka’a’awa, Punalu’u

Laie

Kuhuku and Hau’ula

Central Oahu

Pearl City, Aiea, Waimalu

Wahiawa and Mililani

Waipahu

Kapolei and Ewa

North Shore

Waialua

Haleiwa

Waimea, Pupukea, Sunset Beach

West Side (Leeward Coast)

Ko’olina and Makakilo

Waianae, Makaha and Nanakuli

Waimanalo Town

WaimanaloWaimanalo Town on the Windward Side of Oahu is a little town about three miles long that stretches from Makapu’u Point to Kailua. There’s not a whole lot in Waimanalo Town but you’ll see many Hawaiian flags there because it is one of the few places on Oahu where roughly half the population is of Native Hawaiian descent. Some of the flags will be upside down which indicates that the Hawaiian Nation is in distress. There are a little more than 10,000 residents in Waimanalo Town.

Waimanalo Beach is probably the biggest draw to the area – it’s a long white beach with stunning views of the Koolau Mountains behind.The telveision show. Baywatch Hawaii was shot there. Another draw is Bellow’s Beach which is only open on weekends because it is part of an Airforce and Marine military complex.

Waimanalo

Across from the entrance to Waimanalo Beach Park is a polo field. The Hawaiian Royalty loved polo and the tradition continues to this day.  In terms of other activities – there isn’t really much…Sea Life Park is just down the road along with the walk to the Makapu’u Light House. There are many agricultural properties and a lot of greenhouses in Waimanalo – but they aren’t tourist attractions. The little red and white checked restauarant across from 7-11 is a bizarre religious plate lunch place called Keneke’s Divine Grinds. There are also a couple of fast food restaurants including the popular L&L Drive Inn.

Waimanalo

Here are my three favorite hidden treats in Waimanalo.

1) Shima’s Market has amazing poke!

2) Ono Steak and Shrimp (behind Kenekes’s) has great food, big servings and reasonable prices

3) The Waimanalo Co-op next to McDonalds has a variety of fresh products and locally produced artisanal craft work.

WaimanaloAlso, this is a great place to stop at McDonalds for Spam, Eggs, and Rice or some pineapple or taro pies – Hawaii specialties you won’t find on the mainland. Also, don’t be afraid to stop for the roadside food in Waimanalo – ice cold coconuts, plate lunches, and much more from tents by the road. As for Keneke’s – it’s okay – not expensive but not the greatest food by any stretch.

There used to be a statue of the Sumo Wrestler Akebono in the Waimanalo shopping center. He was a local Hawaiian boy who went on to become the tallest and one of the greatest Yakuzuna (grand master) in sumo history. I’m not sure what happened to the statue but I heard that it was knocked over and is being repaired.

I’ve heard one legend of Waimanalo which is fun and shares a bit of the deep meanings that Hawaiian tales often offer. The legend says that a fisherman once decided to taunt the shark god because his catch was frequently stolen by sharks. The fisherman killed as many sharks as he could find and dumped their bodies into Waimanalo Bay. The shark god was angered and decided to eat the fisherman. He knocked over the fisherman’s boat and preceded to eat the legs of the fisherman. As he worked his way up, the stinky ass of the fisherman was too much for him and he couldn’t continue. He spit the legless fisherman on the shore and vowed never to eat another human from Waimanalo. This is why the locals don’t worry about shark attacks in Waimanalo Bay. It’s also why they respect sharks and don’t kill them when they are found in their nets.

Five Jaw Dropping Beautiful Beaches on Oahu

Oahu is an island in Hawaii, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that there are amazing beaches here – but even knowing that Hawaii is paradise and exists in this perfect tropical zone, people are still often surprised by the beauty of our beaches. Here are five of the most beautiful beaches on Oahu – not just the most beautiful on this island, but in the world. None of them is more than a forty minute drive from Waikiki.

 

Lanikai Beach

Lanikai

Voted as the most beautiful beach in America over and over again – this sweet little Windward Oahu community beach in Kailua literally means “Heavenly Water” in the Hawaiian language. Powdered sugar sand, the view of the Moku Lua Islands, calm waters filled with fish for snorkeling and the color blue in that incredible tone that is nothing short of, well, heavenly. Go to Lanikai Beach.

 

 

 

Waimanalo Beach

Waimanalo BeachIt’s only separated from Lanikai by a point of land and a military base on Oahu, but it might as well be a hundred miles for the difference in crowds and conditions. Where Lanikai is filled with Japanese tourists and haole people, Waimanalo is filled with local people – if there is anyone there at all. It still has the views of the Mokes, but the surf can pound at Waimanalo Beach and the sand is a bit less powdery but still pretty divine. Waimanalo Beach is great for body surfing, getting away from the crowds, and enjoying paradise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandy’s Beach

Sandy's Beach OahuA whole different world awaits you at Sandy’s on the South Shore of Oahu. Also known as ‘Breakneck Beach’, this is where President Obama likes to go to bodysurf when he’s in town. Sandy’s has much larger sand particles that tend towards the color we think of sand being – tan. It’s filled with local body boarders, surfers, bikini beauties, and adventure lovers. The sun can pound down on you at Sandy’s and there isn’t anyplace to hide from it. Also, don’t snake a wave or ‘drop in’ onthe locals or you might get a different kind of pounding.

 

 

Waikiki Beach

WaikikiWaikiki Beach is one of the best beaches in the world. It’s actually made up of five different beaches and stretches from near the Waikiki Acqaurium all the way down to Hilton Hawaiian Village. It’s awesome. Yes, it’s almost always filled with people but never in the way that beaches in California, Florida, New Jersey, Italy or other beachy destinations are. Waikikik has thick, course sand and waves that range from beginner to pro. What could be more jaw droppingly beautiful than sitting on Waikiki watching the sunset with Diamond Head on your left, the pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel on your right, and a strong Maitai in your hand? Not much.

 

 

Makapu’u Beach

Makapu'u BeachI almost didn’t include this beach on the list, because I hate sharing my favorite spots with the internet, but the truth on this one is out and frankly, I’m not the one spilling the beans here. Just across from Sea Life Park – at the point where the South Shore and the Windward Side are still sort of merged – you will find Makapu’u Beach Park.  Great body surfing, great surf, nice sand, and plenty of beauty with Rabbit Island and the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse and the jagged cliffs above. This is a very local place, so be respectful. Also, as everywhere, don’t leave any valuables in your car.

Waimanalo Beach – The Most Beautiful Beach in the World (and in Hawaii)

Waimanalo BeachLanikai Beach gets all the glory, but if you ask me, the most beautiful beach in the world is just down the road in the town of Waimanalo. Waimanalo is a little cowboy town on the windward side of Oahu. Less than five thousand people, a large number of them Native Hawaiian. The name Waimanalo means ‘good drinking water’.

Waimanalo Beach

If you go across the Pali Lookout and into the town of Kailua but then head south, you will come to Waimanalo. If you are coming from the south side of Oahu you will go past Sea Life Park and then Waimanalo will be the next town you come to. Waimanalo is the longest stretch of sandy beach on Oahu and it would connect to Lanikai if it weren’t broken up by Bellows Air Force Station.

Waimanalo Beach

Waimanalo is famous for the cowboys (paniolo) and for Akebono (aka Chad Rowan). Akebono was the first non-Japanese to ever achieve the title of yakuzuna, which translates as Grand Master in the Sumo wrestling world. On the south end is the remains of the Anderson Estate which was used in the original Magnum P.I. series. Waimanalo was also where the first prisoner of war taken by U.S. forces was captured during World War II (after the attack on Pearl Harbor).

Waimanalo Beach

Waimanalo is a laid back and good natured place. Don’t be shocked to see a lot of homeless camping in certain areas – Waimanalo is one of the few majority Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander areas on Oahu and they are among the hardest hit with being priced out of paradise. Where do you go when you can’t afford to live on the island in the middle of the Pacific where your ancestors lived for thousands of years? Well, you go to Waimanalo or Waianae and you do what you can to survive. It’s a raw deal. The aloha spirit is alive and well in Waimanalo – but I’m sure that plenty of residents wish that the world had never come knocking on Hawaii’s door – or that they could have kept the door closed. In any event, it’s too late now.

Waimanalo Beach

%d bloggers like this: