Oahu’s Different Moods – Kaneohe & Koko Crater Trail

Oahu’s Different Moods – Kaneohe & Koko Crater Trail

Living on the arid mainland, Hawaii is a welcome change with its lush and jungle-like landscape. Hiking in Hawaii is perhaps my favorite activity. However, Joe isn’t a hiking fiend like me so we had to alternate our days between hikes and non-hiking activities. So on our fourth day, we decided to do some low key sightseeing in Kaneohe.

Kaneohe is on the flip side of the Ko’olau range on the windward side of Oahu. To traverse across from the leeward Waikiki, we had the option of taking the Likelike Highway or the H3. Since we’d driven the Likelike a few days earlier, we decided on the H3 despite it being a little bit farther.

H3 has to be one of the most scenic highways in the US. The windward side of the highway reminds us of beautiful southern Oregon. But it’s the view past the tunnel that is something on a different level.

Exiting the Tetsuo Harano tunnel. How many waterfalls can you spot?

The Ko’olau Range is pretty much in your face once on this side of the island. The colder and wetter climate also creates a different mood compared to the sunny leeward side. With clouds shrouding the range, it almost feels mystical. Two sites to check out in Kaneohe are the Byodo-In Temple and Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden.

Byodo-In Temple

The Ko’olau range and its waterfalls serve as a beautiful backdrop to the serene temple.
A replica of the Byodo-In Temple in Japan, built in 1968 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants.

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

This photo at the entrance is probably the most scenic in the entire garden. However, there are signs prohibiting stopping and taking pictures on the road. We had missed it the first time, so we exited the garden and re-entered so that I could get a stealth shot out the window while Joe drove.
On the way back on H3.

The leeward side, in contrast, is just sunny and warm all the time. Since Joe had his day of rest, I felt no remorse the next day dragging him to “hike” the Koko Crater Trail with its 1,048 steps. This trail is the defunct tramway that used to ferry US military personnel from base camp to the radar facility up top during WWII.

This is essentially a vertical climb of 1,100 ft in 0.4 miles.

The views up top made the hike worthwhile.

Hanauma bay on the left and Waikiki with Diamond Head in the far right upper corner.
Waimanalo on the north side.
A view of the entire trail from the bottom.

The last day could have been spent hiking, but alas it wasn’t my turn. So we went back to Pearl Harbor to visit the USS Arizona memorial, which we had missed earlier in the week. The visit to the USS Arizona requires a reservation, which can be done online the day before at 3PM. We were able to get one before they were all taken within 5 minutes. Standbys are available (and feasible during low season).

A visit to the memorial requires a boat ride from the main part of the park.
The memorial spans across the hull of the sunken USS Arizona battleship. Seen here is one of the gun turrets jutting out of the water.
The shrine at the memorial contains names of all soldiers who perished and sank with the USS Arizona on that fateful December day.

Since our flight wasn’t due to depart until 11pm, we spent some time driving around Diamond Head and ended up killing time at Wailupe beach, a local beach with no tourists in sight.

There’s no shortage of the nonnative giant banyan trees in Hawaii.
The aerial roots are thick enough to be tree trunks themselves.

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