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

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

Makua Beach

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Makua Beach is on the Leeward Side very close to Ka’ena Point. Parking is only available on the side of the road, but there is a fair amount to be had. We went snorkeling there because we’d heard that people often saw dolphins. Unfortunately, there were a lot of spear fishers when we were there, and they scare all the wildlife away.

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The leeward side actually has a lot of spear fishmen. This can be very dangerous, so make sure you keep an eye out for them. They tend to swim with their spears in front of them, and they don’t always look where they are going. I have nearly been impaled, so I’m warning you because I have personal experience with the very real danger.

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Another thing to remember is that sometimes there are incidents in Hawaii where a shark bites a human. This is most common for surfers (who look like seals from below) and spear fishers (who have bleeding fish on their belts.) Since sharks can make mistakes, it’s best to stay away from, the things that they like to bite.

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One thing we found neat about swimming at Makua was the holes that occur naturally in the sea floor. They fill with rocks (which are thrown around during hurricanes) and then the rocks are worn into round balls by the waves.

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In spite of the lack of sea life, it really is a very pretty beach. If you were going to just sit and listen to the waves somewhere, this might be a nice place to do it.

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Three Tables

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I’ve already written about Shark’s Cove, which is part of Pupukea Nature Preserve. The other side of this park is called Three Tables, due to three flat rock formations out in the water.

This is a great place to go snorkeling between April and September. I don’t recommend it in the fall or winter months because the surf is too high. If you’re not sure, you can always check Surfline Oahu for updates on how high the waves are.

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You want to be careful not to get too close to the rocks in Three Tables. People sometimes get smacked into them by a wave, and this can be bad because there are sea urchins hiding inside all the cracks in the rocks. It hurts a lot more than you might expect to rub up against them.

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However, if you keep your distance from the rocks, this is a nice place to snorkel because the turtles come eat algae off the rock formations. You can get a front-row seat to watching them munch; though it’s challenging to get a good picture because the water is so churned up.

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This is also a great place to see schools of surgeon fish, and octopus. It’s fairly sandy at the entry point, so you don’t need boots. However, it’s not as deep as the Shark’s Cove side, so I don’t recommend it for divers.

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The sand is round on this beach, which means you really sink into it. I’d keep your towel up in the trees or over on the rocks. You wouldn’t want it to be eaten up by the sand. Even if you’re not going in the water, this is a lovely beach to just sit on and relax. Pupukea is beautiful, and Three Tables is the best spot to enjoy it.

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Kokohead Hike

kokohead from parking

Kokohead Trail is really just a lot of stairs. I did Likeke Falls in the morning and I still had some energy, so I went and did Kokohead before heading home. It’s sort of rough unless you have long legs (because some of the stairs are quite big,) but it’s only 2.9 kilometers to the top.

You park in a paved lot and walk along a paved trail to the base of the mountain. Then you see the stairs, bracketed by railroad tracks on either side. It looks like a long way to the top, but it’s not as bad as it looks.

the long view

Fair warning: There is absolutely no shade, nor is there any good spot to rest. I recommend a hat, sunscreen, and a lot of water. Some people do it in the dark so they can be at the top for sunrise, and I hear that is pretty neat.

Kokohead trail is really just a set of railroad tracks that used to run munitions up to the top of the mountain during WWII. For the most part, it’s a fairly safe trail, but there is a spot where the tracks go out over a ravine, and that can be frightening if heights bother you.

hahauma bay

People do bring their kids, but I don’t recommend it. First, the college students hike in very little clothes, so you’re going to have some awkward moments when your kids shouts out: “Why is that girl in her bra?” But second, the stairs really are tall and it’s easy for a child to slip on the loose sand and fall down the mountain. People do.

Anyway, the views from the top are amazing and it’s only about a two-hour hike, so it’s worth a look even if you’re only on Oahu for a vacation. Just remember water and snacks. It’s a hot, dry hike to the top.

the other side