Byodo-In Temple, Hawaii

One of the neat places to go in Oahu is Byodo-In Tempe.  If you need an easy day with no big hikes or difficult swims, this is a relaxing place to go.

Now remember: It’s a Buddhist temple and many of the people who go there are devout Buddhists who are going to make offerings and pray. Therefore, you want to keep your voice down while you are on the temple grounds and be respectful, like you would in any church.

The temple is a replica of an ancient temple in Japan, and it was established on June 7th, 1986. The temple was commissioned to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to come to Hawaii.

It’s $4 to enter, and like many places here on Oahu, you’ll need to bring cash. There are more than a few spots that don’t accept cards.

On the side of the temple you’ll often see vendors who set up and sell all sorts of beautiful works of art. If you need a souvenir for someone back home, this is a great place to get it! The temple shop also sells gorgeous art and Buddhist statues and prayer beads.

However, my favorite thing you can buy there costs $2, and it’s the Koi food. You can feed it to the swans, the koi, or the birds. The temple is a mecca of adorable life, and koi food is perfectly safe for it all.


The pair of black swans were a gift from the country of Australia. I’ve heard there is a peacock, but I’ve never seen it. Both are birds that can be dangerous though, so don’t try to chase or touch them. It’s best to throw the food to them if you want to feed them.

When no one is around and feeding them, I think the koi are fabulous to just sit and watch. They’re very peaceful fish.

Remember to keep your eyes peeled as you are walking around. The first time I was there I almost didn’t notice the turtles sunning themselves in the pond behind the temple, and I missed the frogs entirely.

Also, the flowers are different in every season and all of them are spectacular, so keep an eye out for them. There’s anthurums, hibiscus, irises, ginger, and so much more.

I recommend bringing coins to offer at the various shrines throughout the temple grounds. Even if you’re not Buddhist, it can never hurt to put some good karma into the world.

You may want to bring a few dollars for traditional offerings too like ringing the temple bell to ask the gods favor or making an offering of incense to the statue of Buddha inside the temple.

There are bathrooms behind the gift shop, so if you feed the birds, be sure to wash your hands afterwards. They are wild animals, and wild animals carry all kinds of diseases.

I let the little ones come fly into my hands because I wanted to be snow white, but that’s just me.

Byodo-In Temple in Temple valley is on the rainy side of the island with spectacular mountain views and the occasional rainbow on rainy days. There is very little parking, but in my experience you can find a spot even on a busy day. I’ve been on both a weekend and a week day, and the crowds were about the same.

As always, remember to wear sunscreen when walking around Oahu. It’s not on the equator, but the sun is harsh and you can get burned in only a few minutes.

I went with friends, but it’s definitely a place that I could see myself going alone as well. There plenty of spots to meditate and reflect a little. However if you have kids, maybe don’t bring them. A peaceful Buddhist temple is not a good place for children unless they are well-behaved. Remember: It is a church. You want to be respectful of the people who are there to worship in peace.

Aiea Trail

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This isn’t a waterfall hike, but it’s a great way to spend a few hours. The trail is 4.8 miles. There’s plenty of parking and it’s not usually crowded. I’ve done it when it was wet and muddy, and I’ve done it when it was dry. There’s no time that it’s not a gorgeous hike though a unique assortment of plants.

Look out of wild pigs. Some of them are big and not very friendly. But, they will leave you alone if you leave them alone.

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Several parts of the trail feature beautiful eucalyptus trees. A eucalyptus is an awesome tree with bark that peels off throughout its lifetime.  If you look carefully, you can spot a rainbow eucalyptus mixed in here and there. They’re amazing.

If you didn’t happen to do the trail on a rainy day, then bring along extra water to splash on any rainbow eucalyptus that you find. I splashed water on the one below before taking it’s picture and it looks awesome!

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It’s up in the mountains, so it does rain a lot. That means you’re likely to run into rainbows and mushrooms. I like to go early to avoid crowds, and because morning light is amazing.

Remember to disturb the forest as little as possible. If you pick something up for a picture, put it back afterwards. There is a lot of graffiti and names carved into trees here in Oahu. Try to respect nature more than the people who do that.

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Along the trail there are several lookouts that feature sweeping views of the mountains, the H3 Highway, a very distant Pearl Harbor, and other neat stuff. The picture below was taken at a lookout that just faces another mountain, but it’s still a good place to stop and rest because sometimes there are rainbows.

Remember that you won’t be able to sit anywhere most of the time without getting your butt wet, so wear a poncho if you’re worried about it. Also, I keep a plastic bag and a pair of sandals in my car. This way I can put my hiking shoes into the bag and wear sandals home. this has been a good idea on all the trails because of the mud.

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It’s impossible to predict the weather, so you’re always taking a chance when you decide to do a trail. It might be too cloudy to get pictures like the one below.

Keep in mind that the pictures in this post are from two separate hikes. One was rainy and the other was sunny. If you are visiting us from somewhere else and have limited time, don’t be disappointed if you don’t get to see rainbows AND sun. It’s usually one or the other.

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As with all hikes, please don’t feed the animals, pick the flowers, or go off the trail. Hawaii gets  a lot of visitors and the only way that we can keep the nature here beautiful is if everyone treats it with respect.

It’s a lot different than when I lived in Guam. I never saw another person on those trails and no one picked the flowers. But, this is a high-traffic area. Please pack in everything you need and pack out all your trash. Everyone who comes after you will appreciate it.

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The photo below is of a very tiny passion fruit flower. There’s an adorable pygmy variety of the plant that grows here, and you should keep an eye out for them. They’re not big and flashy like the larger version of the plant, but there are very cool in their own way.

The flower pictured here is a little smaller than a dime, and would be easy to miss. But, it’s one of the reasons that it’s a good ideas to take some time on a hike and not rush. You end up noticing all kinds of amazing stuff.

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One last thing to note: The trail ends in a different places than where is begins. If you park at the trail head; just be aware that you’ll have to hike back up to your car from the first camping area (which is where the trail lets out.)

Since the road is steep, I recommend parking by the first camping area instead and walking up to the trail head. This way, when you’re done with the hike, your car (and bathrooms) are right there waiting for you. Have a nice hike!

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Green Sea Turtle “Subspecies”

Red Sea Turtle
Western Green Sea Turtle

This is something of a murky and hard to research subject. However, you may have noticed that when you snorkel in the Western Pacific Ocean or in the Indian Ocean, the Green Sea Turtles you see are larger and have redder shells.

Meanwhile, when you snorkel in the Eastern Pacific Ocean around Hawaii, the Green Sea Turtles are more of a black color.

Eastern Green Sea Turtle

If you’ve been to other areas such as the Caribbean or South America, you may have seen Green Sea Turtles with different coloring as well, since NOAA identifies eleven “Distinct Population Segments.”

Note: They are not called “Green Sea Turtles” because of the shell color. Rather, they are named this way because they have green fat lining the insides of their bodies. 

Their classification so far goes:

Class: Reptillia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Crytodera
Superfamily: Cheloniidae
Family: Cheloniinae
Genus: Chelonia
Species: Chelonia Mydas

Western Green Sea Turtle

Curently, the Distinct Population Segments are only classified as “intra-species variations.” Chelonia Mydras, (commonly known as the “Green Sea Turtle,”) is considered a single species. In other words, these turtles who all look very different and who likely don’t breed are classified as the same for now.

The species variations include many factors like shape, size, diet, and color.

It should be noted that the usual reason to single out a “subspecies” is if Distinct Population Segments cannot breed with each other. I would point out that there is no evidence that these DPS are breeding. And if they are, they is no evidence that they can produce viable offspring.

(Think of horses and donkeys. They can mate and make a mule, but mules are sterile. A horse and a donkey cannot produce viable offspring with the ability to procreate.)

Eastern Green Sea Turtle
Eastern Green Sea Turtle

So to recap: We don’t know if different Distinct Population Segments of Green Sea Turtle can (or do) breed with each other, as this behavior has not been observed. This means that we need to ask: Are these animals sufficiently distinctive enough to warrant separate classifications? (If they are, each DPS could be classified as a subspecies.)

I am arguing that they are definitely different enough.

Green sea turtles from the Western Pacific and India Oceans are much larger, and live on a diet of things like squid, jellyfish, mangrove fruit, and sea grass. Since they live in warmer water, different foods are available to them. The difference in diet may be what causes them to have different pigment and to grow larger. Whatever the reason, they are very easily distinguished from their fellows.

Green Sea Turtles from the Eastern Pacific (most notably from Hawaii) are sometimes called “Black Sea Turtles” due to their dark coloring. These turtles are smaller on average, and their shells are more rounded. They have no access to tropical foods like mangrove fruit or sea grass. Instead, they seem to eat mostly algae and fish. In addition to these differences, this (I’m calling it) subspecies likes to come out of the water and bask. As far as I can tell, no one has observed this behavior in Green Sea Turtles anywhere else in the world.

So between the two types of Green Sea Turtle I have observed closely, I see a huge difference.

Western Green Sea Turtle

Why does this matter?

Well, if these eleven Distinct Population Segments can be classified as subspecies and are deemed significantly different, then each subspecies gets to be listed separately on the endangered species list.

Right now, the DPS are listed separately on a tentative basis. However, Hawaiian and Chamorro cultural proponents are fighting that classification because they want to be able to hunt sea turtles again. If these populations were classified as subspecies, they would have a better chance of staying on the Endangered Species List separately and they would be eligible for more long-term protection.

Think about it: These two types of Green Sea Turtles likely can’t breed with each other. They’re extremely different. Having them considered one species means that the populations could be assessed together to determine numbers! They’re far less likely to qualify for ongoing protection that way.

I hope that we’ll be able to get all eleven Distinct Population Segments of Green Sea Turtle classified as subspecies so that they will be eligible for separate protections in spite of any legal challenges.

Eastern Green Sea Turtle

What about the cultural heritage of hunting of these turtles?

This will sound awful but here it is: I’m Portuguese. That means my cultural heritage is invading foreign lands and killing their inhabitants. And just because it’s my heritage, that doesn’t make it okay. I am allowed to be ashamed of that part of my heritage and to know that my ancestors were wrong when they did all that hunting of natives for sport.

So maybe, if I can give up the parts of my heritage that were wrong, then so can everyone else.

If the Native populations of Guam and Hawaii can’t admit that killing these magical creatures is a mistake, then we have to do what we can to make sure it’s illegal to kill them. That’s why I want to ask that you write to NOAA and request that Green Sea Turtles Distinct Population Segments be recognized as separate subspecies. Please ask that their protections as eleven different endangered subspecies will be kept in place to prevent hunting them in the Hawaiian islands or Guam.

It’s rare that you see a Honu (Hawaiian word for green sea turtle) or Haagan (Chamorro word for Green Sea Turtle) when swimming because there aren’t enough of them. Let’s make sure that future generations get to enjoy these amazing creatures and that the people of today are not allowed to hunt them to extinction.

NOAA Fisheries
1315 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910

nos.info@noaa.gov

Green Sea Turtle
Eastern Green Sea Turtle