Is it possible to enjoy a month in Hawaii without a rental car? Of course . . . but it’s a challenge to explore the countryside away from Honolulu or meander along the coast if you don’t have wheels. The extra expense was more than offset by being able to soak in some of the most beautiful sights on the island of Oahu.
Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
The Makapu’u Point Light Station was established in 1909 to guide ships along the windward (eastern) side of Oahu, and the light remains active today. The paved hiking trail to get there is short and easy, and it’s one of the most popular visitor activities on the island.
The day of our visit was cloudy and hazy, with serious wind gusts that, if you weren’t careful, could knock a person right over the edge of the spectacular sea cliffs that we passed along the way to the summit. But we (meaning Marlene and I) loved every minute of it, even though the whales frequently seen just off the coast were no-shows that day.
If you’re in the area, it’s a must do – spectacular views!
Byodo-In is a Buddhist temple tucked up against the Ko’olau Mountains on the windward side of the island. Established in 1968 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii, Byodo-In is a replica of a much larger and older temple in Uji, Japan with the same name.
The temple sits on beautifully landscaped grounds that feature a large pond with hundreds of koi and a black swan or two, meditation spaces, and a sacred bell known as a bon-sho. Prior to entering the temple, visitors are invited to ring the bell with a soft wooden log called a shumoku. Doing so will reportedly bring you happiness, blessings, and a long life.
Byodo-In is located within Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, which is essentially a large cemetery. Not a bad spot for a final resting place!
Three Beautiful Gardens
#1: Kahalu’u Gallery & Gardens
This is not your run-of-the-mill tourist attraction. First, you have to make an appointment to visit. Second, the property is difficult to find, because it blends into the surrounding homes within an unremarkable residential neighborhood. And third, it’s just a really cool story about a man and his art . . . and his plants.
The gallery and garden is situated in the small coastal community of Kahalu’u on the windward side of Oahu. Over a number of years, Hiroshi Tagami (1928-2014) transformed the overgrown one acre plot into a beautifully manicured garden plus his home and art studio. His self-taught knowledge of botany led to the creation of numerous new hybrid varieties of anthuriums, day lilies, and other tropical plants. Many are still growing and blooming on the property today.
The space also contains an exhibit recounting the story of Mr. Tagami’s life, through samples of his art, magazine and newspaper articles, and other documents, such as copies of patents obtained for his new flower varieties.
During the time of our visit, Marlene and I were the only guests. Our guide, Christen, provided an overview, then we were free to wander on our own. Christen’s connection with Mr. Tagami is that her parents purchased the property a few years before he passed away, and they continue to honor his legacy by making it available to interested visitors.
We enjoyed our short visit to this unique little slice of paradise!
#2: Lyon Arboretum
Our destination for the day’s outing was Manoa Falls, a lovely 150-foot waterfall located about five miles outside of Honolulu and accessible by a 1.7-mile hiking trail. Or so they say.
The trail to Manoa Falls was closed when we arrived, so we continued up the narrow, winding road a short distance to the Lyon Arboretum and had a perfectly delightful day, despite intermittent rain showers.
The “we” for this excursion, once again, was Marlene and I, as Bill and Steve opted for more sedate activities that day.
The 200-acre site was originally established by the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association in the early part of the 20th century to test various tree species for reforestation and to collect plants that provided “economic value.” The arboretum has been managed by the University of Hawaii at Manoa since 1953.
With seven miles of hiking trails, visitors can spend hours wandering through the diverse collection of tropical plants, including bromeliads, palms, and much more. We eventually reached Aihualama Falls at the end of trail and returned to the visitor center by way of the Hawaiian Ethnobotanical Garden – a most interesting exhibit of plants used in traditional Hawaiian culture.
#3: Waimea Valley
We stopped at Waimea Valley on a whim in the middle of the afternoon on the way back to Honolulu after a day trip Haleiwa and the North Shore of Oahu. With just a couple of hours to explore, we fell far short of experiencing all that the park offers. Nonetheless, it sufficiently piqued our interest so that we’ll go back during our next trip to Oahu. If you visit, plan on a minimum of four hours.
So what is Waimea Valley? It’s a large block of land that extends from the mountains to the sea on the north side of the island. The valley holds spiritual significance in Hawaiian culture and contains important historical sites from 1,000+ years ago. Waimea Valley is also a botanical garden that dates back to the 1970s and features 41 themed gardens spread across 300 acres. Seems like an unlikely combo, but it works.
There is a pretty waterfall and swimming pond at the end of the path.
We enjoyed our limited time at Waimea Valley!
And finally . . . the sea turtle
On this day, the four of us set out on a quest to find sea turtles. We headed to Laniakea Beach on Oahu’s north shore, in the heart of giant waves surfing country during the winter months. Hawaiian green sea turtles are seen more frequently resting on Laniakea Beach than at any other place on the island.
Despite having no identifying signage, visitors flock to this beach for the same reason we did. With only a few parking spots available along the super busy Kamehameha Highway, it was hit or miss whether or not we would get a chance to check the beach for turtles.
And on this day, we got lucky. We snagged a parking spot, successfully dodged traffic to arrive to the beach unscathed, and watched a turtle make its way back to the water after relaxing in the sand.
Notice in the photo below that spectators are focused on capturing the activity on their phones. Except for Marlene, who is content to just enjoy the moment in real time.
Success – both for us as well as for our new turtle friend.
During our visit to Oahu, Bill and I celebrated our 44th wedding anniversary.
And we celebrated the new year by watching an unexpected fireworks display right outside our back door.
And that wraps up the highlights of our month long visit to Oahu over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. We had a terrific time! If you missed the first two blog posts, you can find them at the links below:
Thank you for reading about our travels! I’ve included some additional photos below that were taken around the condo complex where we stayed.
And in the words of Princess (later Queen) Liliʻuokalani’s most famous musical composition:
Aloha ʻoe, aloha ʻoe (farewell to thee, farewell to thee) until we meet again.
Which will be coming up shortly . . . from New Zealand! For a quick preview, visit https://followbillandcarol.com/where-to-next/.
Oh ! I had forgotten about the fireworks! Great post! ( But maybe since I was delighted to relive it!)
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Thanks, Marlene! Reliving our trips is one of best things about writing a blog.
What an amazingly beautiful place to be “passing through.” 📸🗺❤️
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We never get tired of Hawaii no matter which island and what time of year. Thanks for checking out our blog!
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You’re welcome! I hope I can say that too one day! 🗺❤️
What a beautiful post Carol! Loved adventuring through these magical places with you. xo
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Thanks Mary – I appreciate your taking the time to read it!