Diamond Head State Monument

sunrise

Most of the hikes on Oahu are a bit off the beaten path, but Diamond Head hike is not. It’s located in Honolulu, and it looks out over the resorts and the downtown area.

You drive up and pay $5 per car to park. You’ll get a ticket to put on your dashboard and a map of the park.

pineapple shop

At the entrance, there are bathrooms, a gift shop, and a pineapple stand (where you can get those fancy drinks in pineapples that everyone always has pictures of.)

Then, you start up the trail. It’s a brutal hike in the summer because it’s very steep and crowded. However, it’s not as difficult in the winter. I still recommend bringing water and sunscreen, though.

stairs

The trail wraps up along the wall of the crater, and takes you through a very narrow tunnel.

At a lookout halfway up, you can choose to continue back into the tunnel and do a spiral staircase to the top, or take metal stairs that are outside.

I recommend the metal stairs because being crammed into dark and narrow tunnels with lots of people isn’t my idea of a good time.

better tunnel shot

From the top, you can see Diamond head lighthouse directly below, as well as Honolulu on one side and Koko head on the other side.

view of city

The sweeping views are pretty amazing for what is a fairly short hike. I did it at sunrise, and it only took me about half an hour.

looking towards kokohead

In spite of the crowds, it’s a nice little hike. I recommend everyone do it once.

lighthouse

The Esmeralda of Chile

better whole ship

One morning not long ago, a sailing ship called The Esmeralda made it’s way into Pearl Harbor.

Most of the ships that come here are on very serious military missions, and as such, they’re not meant to be photographed or toured.

In general, you’re never meant to take photos in Pearl Harbor.

chilean sailors

However, The Esmeralda was visiting from Chile.

Their mission was to improve diplomatic relations with the people of the United States. And as such, several very patient sailors did their absolute best to give tours.

We met on the dock, and were given a walk through of all the unclassified parts of this tiny ship.

ladders

Most sailing ships are fairly old. However, The Esmeralda was actually not commissioned into the official Armada of Chile until 1954.

It is a more modern ship in that regard, and so it possesses engines that can be used when they are becalmed.

It also has more undated features for the crew, such as modern cooking equipment in the mess.

little boats

My tour guide did his very best to converse only in English (as he had been ordered to,) which meant that I wasn’t able to ask a lot of questions.

Thankfully, I was given a helpful brochure on the tour that told me everything I wanted to know.

The ship’s maximum speed with sails is 21 knots. It’s engines are much slower, and can only move it at 13 knots. That means that it takes a long time to get places.

guns

On the specific tour they were on, they’d gone from Chile to New Zealand, then to Australia, then to Bali and Indonesia, then to Singapore, China, South Korea, and Tokyo.

We were their second to last stop here in Hawaii, on their way to French Polynesia and then home.

wooden seal

Unfortunately, boats can only come into the harbor being pulled by tugboats. Therefore no one here was lucky enough to see The Esmeralda under full sail.

My tour guide assures me that it’s just like flying to be up on one of the masts when the sails are down. He actually got pretty sentimental about it when I asked.

victory or death

A few facts that I found truly charming:

The National Bird of Chile is a chicken, and The Esmeralda has one on the bow of the ship.

The motto of the Chilean Armada is “victory or death.”

Also, it’s a training ship, as as part of their training the left the new sailors in the middle of the ocean in life boats for a day and just sailed away.

And finally, the guns work, but they are antiquated and my tour guide assured me “they’ve never been used on anything living.”

Very classy, Chile. Very classy.

Jenifer DeLemont

Aloun Farm

pumpkins on truck

I should disclose that my husband and I do not have kids. This is releveant because I think Aloun Farms is probably a great way to spend a day if you do have kids. They had so many games and rides set up that it was like being at a State Fair. I imagine children would find Aloun Farms to be a paradise.

However, for myself personally, I did not enjoy it as much as Waimanalo Country Farm.

extreme fun

First, it’s on the leeward side of the island where it’s always a few degrees hotter. That made it less pleasant than Waimanalo Farm. Also, the unpaved road is longer and rougher, and the parking lot is muddier.

Second, it was loud. They had a stage where a DJ was blasting seemingly random music out of enormous speaker stacks, and it was actually hard to hear my husband talking to me.

 

ponies

And third, the petting zoo and pony rides are really sad. Like, the animals didn’t look happy or well taken-care-of. I grew up on a farm, so I’m perhaps a little oversensitive about unhappy animals, since I bonded to so many chickens and horses and cows and a youngster. Someone else might not have noticed, but for me, I found it sad.

The pumpkins come in on pallets. I think they’re from off island. So, there’s no wandering around a patch looking for the perfect one. I guess you could consider that to be an advantage if you’re in a hurry, but the prices were pretty high.

 

stunning views

The sunflower field does have more variety. There were some very striking reds and jeweled mixes. However, it’s less impressive because the mountains behind it are not as stunning, and it’s under the light rail tracks.

 

red sunflowers

All that said, this is the farm you want to go to in October if you have children. It’s loud and full of shiny things, which is everything kids love. And, you can easily grab your pumpkins on the way out from the giant cartons that they’re shipped in. There are bathrooms and food options available, as well.

jeweled mix

Again, bring sunscreen and a hat. Admission was $5 per person, but if you have kids, you’ll need to bring cash for the rides and games.

pumkins by exit

Waimanalo Country Farm

scare crows and pumpkins

Near Makapu’u, there is a little farm named Waimanalo Country Farm.

It’s only open to the public on specific dates in the summer and the fall. However, it’s worth it to go out there when you can.

turkey

The parking area is dirt, and it’s pretty rough. I recommend taking a car or truck that won’t mind a less improved road.

After you park, you walk in and see a ticket booth. I paid $17 for access to all parts of the farm, which is the best deal.

sunflower feild is awesome

There is a hayride around the perimeter of the farm, a sunflower field, a pumpkin canon, a pumpkin patch, and a petting zoo. The petting zoo is actually quite good, and has a lot of animals. We saw ducklings, turtles, a cow, several types of goats, an alpaca, and a llama. You can buy food for a few dollars extra so all the animals will be very excited to see you.

If you’re allergic to bees, bring your epinephrine, because they are everywhere.

bring your epie pin

As for the rest of the farm, it’s definitely a photo opportunity. A lot of people do their wedding photos, Christmas cards, and other pictures there.

This is because the sunflower field is positively magical, and it’s set in front of some of the most striking mountains on Oahu; making for truly spectacular photos.

Jenifer DeLemont

There isn’t much in the way of things to do other than take photos and pet animals. I would allow for one hour, or two at most if you have kids.

There is food and drinks available, but nothing spectacular.

goats

The important thing to remember is that it’s hot in the Hawaiian sun, so wear a hat and put on plenty of sunscreen.

As we were walking up, I observed several people leaving with glowing red sunburns, and you don’t want that to be you.

turtle

They do sell pumpkins there, and they’re a little more expensive than what you’d get at Costco or Lowe’s.

However, I think it’s good to buy from local vendors, so I encourage you to pick out your pumpkins for Halloween here.

pumpkin line

Also, they make and sell local honey products, and you’ll want to get some of those too.

For a family of hour, I’d plan to spend about $150 between admission, pumpkins, and local honey. It’s well worth the trip!

local honey

Waimea Valley

hawaiian ruins recreated

If you’re looking for a nice way to spend a morning on Oahu, Waimea Valley is lovely. I originally went because I had heard that you could see a waterfall. However, I soon discovered that there is a lot more to see and do in Waimea Valley.

Upon arrival, I parked in the lot in front of the park. Thankfully I arrived early (at 9am,) so there was parking available. Later in the day, you may have to wait until a spot opens up.

I paid my $12 (price for anyone with a Hawaii state ID or military ID.) The clerk gave me a map and a bird identification guide; as the garden is visited by many types of birds. Full price would have been $18, in case you are visiting as a tourist.

I opted not to spend the extra $15 for the shuttle, as they said it wasn’t a long walk. Now, “long walk” is a relative term. Folks with heat sensitivity, chronic illnesses, children, or elderly people should definitely consider the shuttle. It’s hot and humid in the valley, and there are several steep hills.

However, if you are young and healthy, then I would agree with the park staff that it is a short walk.

ginger

I had no idea that in addition to have a waterfall, Waimea Valley is also a botanical garden. The park features plants from all over the Pacific, and even has some plants from Guam!

There is a main path to the waterfall which is clearly marked with signs, and most people opt to take that path straight to the waterfall. However, there is also an upper terrace with even more plants, and a walkway through a wetter area by a stream that is filled with ginger.

If you have time, it’s worth the detours to see all the tropical plants. The garden possesses labels for common plants (in green) and detailed descriptions for some (in blue.) There are also some plants which are critically endangered (labeled with red.)

sign for waterfall

Since the garden has so many rare plants, they do not allow smoking in the park. They also discourage feeding the animals, since many of the birds that are attracted to the garden are also threatened or endangered.

As always, stay on the path. So many tourists want to get a picture in that special spot in the jungle, but this can damage the plants that you must step on to do so. Be a good steward of the Earth, and only go where permitted.

square picture of orchid

As for Waimea Waterfall, it is sacred to the Hawaiian people, and it is said to have very special qualities. Hawaiians believe that soaking in the pool below the fall can cure ailments and promote good health.

As such, you can expect the pond to be full of people throughout the day.

A changing facility is provided, as well as lockers. It’s required that you wear life jackets in order to swim, but you may check them out from a stand next to the falls. There is also a sitting area to rest and wait, in case some of your party do not wish to swim.

sign about falls

I didn’t go when the park was closed or get special access. I just Photoshopped the people out of this picture (below,) so you can see the waterfall in its natural glory. You should be aware that, unlike my pictures of Guam, none of my Oahu pictures ever start out without people in them.

This is a very crowded little island.

When I moved here, I debated keeping the people in the pictures, but I decided to remove them for two reasons:

First, I don’t have their permission to post them on the internet, so I don’t think I should.

Second, it’s nice to see these places as they would look without people. If you want to see how they look when they are crowded, all you need to do is go there yourself.

the waterfall

I think it’s wise to set aside an entire morning for Waimea Valley. There is a lot to see. One of the things I always have to remind people to do is to look up. Any time you’re in a jungle, you’re likely to see just as many amazing things above you as you will see in front of you.

Along the main part of the path, the trees that grow there exhibit a phenomenon called “crown shyness.” This means that the leaves will grow right up to each other, while leaving a space between them.

Scientists are not sure why trees do this, but it makes for some pretty amazing pictures.

tree tops

Another thing you should always keep in mind in the jungle is to look down. This (below) is a bean slug. They are unfortunately not very common, as many people use pesticides to kill them. They are voracious eaters, and can consume your garden plants in short order.

In spite of their designation as a pest, Hawaiian slugs are pretty neat. Many of them possess a hard exterior than other slugs, and flatten themselves out in a way that I haven’t observed elsewhere.

So, remember to look on the ground and in the leaves. You never know what you’ll see in the jungle if you look closely.

weird flat slug

One last thing to keep your eyes out for as you make your way through Waimea Valley: This fabulous joke (below.)

As I’ve mentioned, there are signs all along your way to tell you about the many amazing plants that you can find in the valley. However, I also came across this sign, labeling a wild value. I had a good chuckle about it when I spotted it, and hopefully you will too.

Two inch valve

Finally, Waimea Valley does living culture exhibits, and has ancient ruins as well. If you wanted to learn a little about ancient Hawaiian culture, this would be a good place to do it. After all, it’s far more affordable than the Polynesia Cultural Center, and there are lots of cool things to read about.

If you take the side tour into the area with ancient Hawaiian dwellings, a series of plaques will tell you all about how the ancient Hawaiians used to live, and how their culture was structured.

If you’re visiting our island, this little gem might not make your list. However, if you live here, you should absolutely make time to visit.

The many ponds and water features do ensure a humid experience, but it’s still worth going in the summer when all the food trees are laden with wax apples, star fruits, and other island favorites.

There are many daily activities available, so call ahead if you want to get involved in lei making, hula, ukulele, cultural and botanical tours, Hawaiian games, or crafts.

ancient fishing shrine

Dragon Fruit

flower

Dragon Fruit, or Pitaya, is a unique cactus that grows in tropical areas. It’s actually Native to the Americas, but they can be found all over the world, from Florida to the Philippines.

Here on Oahu, dragon fruit cactus grow all over the island. They like to climb on walls and up trees, and they can be seen in many yards and wild spaces.

cuctus on a wall

In Arizona we have cactus all over the place. We’re famous for our saguaro cactus, which have become a symbol of the southwest. But, we also have prickly pear, cholla, and a wide variety of other species.

Dragon fruits remind me a little of prickly pears because the fruit looks similar. However, prickly pear fruit is drier, and it’s better in syrup than when eaten raw.

It’s weird to see a cactus in places that seem otherwise tropical, but dragon fruit are adapted to all sorts of environments, and can handle both a little or a lot of water.

dragon on the vine

I’m hoping to grow some while I’m here. You guys know that I love plants! I’ve tried to grow something different everywhere I’ve lived.

In Guam, I kept a variety of orchids. I’d never lived in a tropical place before, and so I enjoyed having happy orchids for once that would bloom and bloom. As you can imagine, they don’t bloom a lot when kept in Arizona.

Here, I’m hoping to grow dragon fruit, avocados, and maybe some pineapples just for fun.

fruit on the end

Laniakea Beach

Jenifer DeLemont

The North Shore is a famous place, and this can be both good and bad. It’s good for the businesses there that market to tourists. But, it’s tough on the wildlife and the environment. One place where this is the most noticeable is Laniakea Beach (nicknamed “Turtle Beach” by tour operators.)

From a scientific standpoint, Laniakea Beach is fascinating. Algae grows on the rocks that are under water at high tide. Since this algae is a favorite food of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, they can sometimes be seen coming out of the water to eat. No other sea turtle is known to come out of the water to eat, so this makes Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles unique.

Jenifer DeLemont

On occasion, the turtles also come out of the water to bask in the sand. Land-based turtles are known to bask, but no sea turtle except the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle is known to do this. Scientists do not know why they do this, but it’s a behavior that warrants further study.

I volunteered doing reef monitoring for NOAA when I was living in Guam. I’m also very passionate about science and education. That makes me enjoy sitting at Laniakea Beach just to watch and learn.

wave about to break

However, the residents of the North Shore claim that no one outside their community should be allowed there. They want the parking lot blocked off, and have resisted a crosswalk or a pedestrian bridge that could insure the safety of visitors. I know this is a hard situation all around. People who live somewhere tend to feel an ownership of that place, even in public spaces which are meant for everyone.

With all due respect to the people of the North Shore, I think this beach should stay open. The volunteers who protect the turtles do a wonderful job, and I never see people standing on the algae or touching the turtles. We could use more signage to inform tourists of correct etiquette, of course. Signs in a few languages are always helpful!

face buried in food

Zoos and wildlife parks justify their existence by saying that they provide people a chance to learn about wildlife and get educated on conservation. I don’t argue that this is an important function. And yet, I feel that observing free animals who choose to come near humans provides a better way to see wildlife and learn about it. These animals are not in captivity and they can go anywhere they like. There is no cruel choice to trap them so their wild cousins can be understood.

I think a nice compromise would be to to give tour groups binoculars to use, or to build a viewing platform where people had to stay (so they wouldn’t be able to walk up to the turtles. Personally, I use a Cannon Rebel with a telephoto lens. This allows me to stay in the shade under a tree, and still get great shots of the turtles when they come out of the water. I really think an area with railing like the state has created above the famous Oahu Blowhole would be the best option for all.

turtle butt

Let’s not have the knee-jerk reaction of wanting people to be restricted from seeing wonderful things. Instead, let’s just make sure that they can see these amazing things in a way that is safe for both the turtles and the humans.

I understand people’s desire to want to keep things all to themselves. I appropriate that feeling. However, giving our visitors the chance to learn about how unique Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles really are is an opportunity. Appreciating them in the wild lets people connect them with their ocean home, and helps them realize why they shouldn’t use products that come in plastic packaging or use plastic bags. I think it’s an opportunity that we should take!

Oh, and here’s a view without the telephoto lens so you can see where I watch the turtles from:

Jenifer DeLemont