After surviving the hurricane in our little tent at the beach it was time to move on and explore the rest of the island. First stop for the day was the Polynesian Cultural Center a few kilometers south to join a cooking class for traditional Polynesian food.
We were quite lucky as there was only one other couple who booked the class with us, so we got a lot of time with our teacher Creasepaul. He is a native Polynesian but grew up in Hawaii to get education. On the menu was chicken, fish and local bananas, which is all cooked on hot rocks after starting a bonfire. The food gets covered with huge leaves containing the heat, so it's working like a steam cooker, which help bringing out a lot of the flavour. The food was great and we learned a lot in the process, so overall I can only recommend it. The rest of the center was nicely set up, but there were also a lot of tourists being shipped through, so I don't think we would've come there otherwise.
You can book it here: https://www.airbnb.ca/experiences/280161?source=p2 if you are interested.
When we first created the plan four our trip I tought we would just continue driving south from here, but since we still had our surf boards from Uncle Blakes we had to make a detour going back north first and then going south along the highway and turning east at Pearl City to get to our next stop: the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden. Here we would put up our tent for the next two days and start exploring the surrounding areas.
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
First off: I'm so glad we didn't miss this stop. When I was initially plannig the trip I saw several guides recommending to just stay in the north when you only have a week in Oahu, but this place shouldn't be missed. I hope the next pictures will give a good impression, although it doesn't do justice compared to being there in person.
East coast attractions
Next we wanted to explore the areas to the north and south along the coast. First on the list was the Valley of the Temples, a memorial park. The highlight here is the replica of a historic Japanese Buddhist temple featuring manicured grounds & meditation sites. Luckily we also met a person working there who gave us a small tour to the back rooms with the urns where she told us more about the place, like how it is accepting familys from all faiths to cremate their loved ones there (probably also has to do with the fact that it's privatly owned).
After staying here for a while we headed further north to the Kualoa Ranch. This place is famous for being a filming location of Jurassic park. While you can do there a lot of fun activities it's also quite touristy and pricy, so we skipped going in and instead just stopped at the neighbouring beach with view towards Mokoliʻi.
Next we took the road all the way south. First stop was the famous and beautiful Lanikai Beach for a lunch break. Almost impossible top find parking here on a sunny day, but the beach is incredible. Makes you want to stay there and just relax in the sun.
After being rested we continued on to the South-East corner of the island to the Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse Trail. One thing that stood out to me was seeing a lot of tents along the highway. It is often mentioned that Hawaii has a high rate of homelessness, but it wasn't that visible in other parts we've visited before. The trail to the lighthouse is a easy walk up the mountain on a paved road. Thre is no sunshade, so make sure to bring enough water on a sunny day. We also saw some people going beyong the boundaries to some natural pools down at the water, but we it didn't feel save enough for us (plus we didn't bring swim suits).
One the way back we had another stop at Lanikai Beach, but this time to hike up the Kamehame Ridge Lookout. Like the other lookouts it had two small abandoned bunkers from the war that can be climed on. The hike offers beautiful views, but it requires some scrambling to get up the trail, so not for everyone.
After that we were done for the day and ready to head back to our campsite. We stopped at Hawaiian Island Cafe for a fresh Acai Bowl and then went back to the botanical garden before the gate closes.
The next morning we started early again to get Hanauma Bay for more snorkling. Apparently it gets really busy there quickly with the whole parking lot filling up, so we were making sure to not let that happen.
I don't have pictures from the snorkling, but there are tons of viedeos on Youtube. All I can say is that the snorkling there is incredible. We were able to see huge swarms of fishes and it was my first time seeing large corals that are alive.
After speding a few hours there we made a quick stop at the nearby view points before hading to the city. We were both looking forward to a good shower at this point.
Back in the city we first go our lunch at Ahi Assassins Fish Co for some fresh poke. Their shop is really hidden, you wouldn't see it just driving by, so it was a welcome surpise seeing how good it is.
It was time to check in to our hotel, which was nice but nothing too fancy. Highlight was a pool which made for some nice pictures:
In the next 24 hours we would the crater in Diamond Head State Monument and walk around Waikiki. Very busy area but also some great locations to check out.
At night we explored some of the shops in the area, looking for some souveniers.
The remaining hours we just spend at the brach to take in as much as we could before heading home. All in all a wonderful vacation.