Hanuama Bay

Hanuama Bay is by far the most well-known snorkel spot on Oahu. Everyone is told that it is the place to go if you want to see fish here.

Now, I will say, I saw a lot of parrot fish there and I had a good time. So, there’s that. However, I will also say that it was one of the most crowded places I have ever been.

As I tried to snorkel, people were constantly wadding by and kicking up sand. Everywhere I looked there were so many people. The fish are not spooked by this, and that’s great. However, it does make for pictures that aren’t very clear because of all the sediment in the water.

I think this is a great place for people who do not snorkel regularly. This is because you pay $7 to get in and that money goes towards conservation. You also have to watch a video about how you should not touch the animals or the coral, and I think tourists should have to do that. However, if you’re a regular snorkeler, it all feels a bit boring.

The park is free with military ID, but even if you are military I still recommend you bring money. I wish someone would have told me that. See, there’s a shuttle that will take you down to the water and back up the giant hill after you snorkel. However, I didn’t know that, so I had to walk.

I saw signs for food up at the top, but they ask that you not bring food down to the beach so that liter can’t get into the water. However, I still saw plenty of litter in the water.

There are lockers, but I left everything in my car and just left my flip flops on the beach. No one stole them. I think we should all have a crappy pair of flip flops for this purpose.

The nice thing about a place with crowds is that there are amenities. The showers and bathrooms are good to have, and the little trolley looked great as it passed me while I walked up.

It’s too crowded for turtles of sting rays, but that’s okay. Sometimes it’s just nice to see pretty fish. This is a good place for that, as long as you don’t want pictures of them.

Oh, and don’t forget that there’s also a parking fee. I’d say just bring a $20 bill per person in a plastic bag, and you should be good to go.

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

 

Likeke Falls Hike

The hiking conditions on Oahu change considerably depending on how much rain we got the week before. Sometimes the ground is solid and it’s just a nice walk. However, if there has been rain, the mud gets deep and sticky. Don’t wear shoes you care about.

This hike was difficult for me at sunrise because there was no one else around and I went off on the wrong trail a few times. I think that if you go for your first time, you should go later in the day when you can follow the crowds.

The bamboo forests along the way are spectacular, and a lot of the trail is along a stream, which is wonderful. It’s a lot of climbing over rocks and winding through trees, but it’s also pretty flat and chill compared to other hikes I have done. There’s not too much up and down.

The hike is long enough that I would recommend you bring a snack and about a half gallon of water. There are mosquitoes (since it’s along the water) so you should probably bring some bug spray. Other than that, you shouldn’t need much.

I should mention that the parking (across the road from the Pali Lookout) is separated from the trail by a fence and some signs about keeping out unless you’re hunting. But, there’s a break in the fence to the right of the parking lot (facing the fence from the parking.) Just go through there.

It’s not like the Stairway to Heaven where you’re likely to face a fine if you get caught doing it. The only issue is if you go onto the military land, which you would have to get WAY off the path and sneak through a second fence to do.

Likeke Falls is pretty cool, and I definitely recommend it.

Paradise Cove

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Ko’Olina Resort is one of the more famous resorts on the Leeward side of the island (that’s the desert side.) It’s a big place that is reserved for hotel guests, but there is a small parking lot that is open to the public.

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Paradise Cove is very shallow, but there is break in the reef that you can swim through. DO NOT do this if the ocean is not calm. The break in the reef is small, and swimming in and out is hard.

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I like to snorkel first thing in the morning. There are two reasons for that:

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1. It’s not like when I lived in Guam. It’s very crowded here. It’s better to go early before the tourists and everyone else is up. The crowds scare away the turtles.

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2. The turtles swim into the cove to eat algae off the rocks in the morning. It’s nice to catch them during breakfast. Sometimes you can even see them crawl up onto the rocks to get at the algae.

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It’s really a very shallow spot so I recommend trying to go at a time when the tide is high in the morning. Snorkeling is all about watching all the factors like weather, tide, surf height, and jellyfish. Make sure to check everything before you go.

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Manuawili Falls

As you know, I’ve moved from Guam to Hawaii and I’m trying to learn about the island. The hiking here is so much nicer because it’s not tropical heat all the time. It’s cooler and there are breezes. So he’s some stuff about Manuawili Falls.

This is another hike that has a lot of mud if its been raining. It’s along a river, so there’s even more swampy areas than on the Likeke Falls trail. You definitely want bug spray.

Go early. Drive there when it is still dark, and do the hike right after sunrise. This is because there is no parking lot. You put the name of the waterfall into your GPS, and it takes you to a trail head in a neighborhood. The little bit of street parking that is available goes very quickly, so you want to be the first one there.

 

In addition, this trail is pretty clearly marked except for the first part. First you walk along a raod and come to a sign that tells you to go up into the trees on a small path. Do that. Then, you go up beside a road, and it seems like you should go down onto the road. But, you just keep going straight into the trees and over the hill. Then you’re on the trail. It’s easy to follow it from there.

You will notice little paths going off from the main trail. Those are formed when it’s VERY muddy and people walk along the side to avoid sinking in to the mud. They all join back up with the main trail, so no worries about getting lost.

Once you cross the river, it’s all stairs. It’s a good workout for your butt. Go up, and then down, and then up again, and then down again.

In the end, you’ll get to a river again, and have to cross one more time and then do some rock hopping. I recommend either bringing water shoes in your pack, or just wearing them the whole time. Because, for the last part, your feet are probably going to get wet.

When you finally get to the waterfall, there is a pool to swim in. If you want to swim in it, bring a towel and try not to get it in your eyes or swallow any. People have been known to get leptospirosis on this hike because rats, wild pigs, and other animals urinate upstream and the bacteria stays in the mud and water. So no barefoot hiking, and no swallowing the water.

It’s a pretty place. I just sat on a rock and watched the water for quite a while. Since I did the hike early, I was the only one there and I had the place to myself. I hear that later in the day it really fills up.

On the way back when the sun came out, I got to enjoy the views more. It’s almost as amazing as the view from the Pali lookout, and it looks over the same part of the island (towards Kailua and the Marine base.)

It’s a harder hike than Likeke Falls because it’s full of stairs. Bring a snack and a half gallon of water, and definitely be ready for mud.