Discovering O’ahu, Hawaii

Kalakaua, Ke’eaumoku, Punahou, Kapi’olana. IMG_5931

Can you tell where we are?

Honolulu on the island of O’ahu is a big American city of 350,000 people. But, together with surrounding cities like Waikiki, the county is home to close to a million people.  That’s why we would encounter traffic jams and waiting lines if we were to plunge into the sightseeing world of Hawaii. 

We have been from Australia to Zambia, from Easter Island to Kazakhstan but never spent time in Hawaii….

IMG_5937We plan our day trips here carefully because we’re allergic to crowds and touristy attractions. 

As always, these two globetrotting grandparents travel on a budget, avoid crowds and don’t pretend to know a place after just a brief visit. We do, however, want to share the highlights of each place we visit and share what we discovered and how we did it.

We are so lucky to be staying in Manoa Valley, a green and quiet neighborhood flanked by towering, volcanic walls. The lush green rain forest is fed by… well, rain. We are here in February and have had at least a bit of rain, almost every day. But the showers are warm and usually short lived.

Unfortunately many of the hiking trails along those green mountain slopes are closed because they are too muddy or have been washed out.IMG_5948

I’m also starting to think that the effect of cuts of federal funding is becoming more and more noticeable: both national and state park websites are outdated, and trails that were supposed to reopen after construction in 2019 are still closed….

The city, however, serves its public well: as far as I can find out all public swimming pools on Oahu are free. Every day I enjoy a free swim in the Olympic sized Manoa Public Pool, with hot showers to boost.

IMG_6017Being in Hawaii, you really want to hear Hawaiian music and seeing authentic dancing, right? But I wasn’t about to pay well over $100 per person for a tourist luau. These dance performances are put on in many large hotels along the Waikiki waterfront. Yet, I wanted something more… real, local. Searching the online event calendar I discovered that the Mililani Shopping Center, about a half hour drive away, was hosting authentic Hawaiian music and dancing. A shopping center was not the most scenic back drop but the event itself was fabulous. And free.

For two full hours were were treated to hula dancing, music and stories by performers of all ages, and the audience was mostly local families.

IMG_6047Another, less lively, free attraction that we much enjoyed was a stroll through the Chinese Hawaiian Cemetery. There’s also the National Cemetery and the O’ahu Cemetery. These parklike settings offer – besides fascinating graves – interesting statues, towering trees and gorgeous flowers. IMG_5960The pink, yellow and white blossoms of the frangipani trees try very hard to make up for the ugly tree it grows on. With its winter bare branches, the tree itself looks dead. Its flowers, however, are a glorious sight for the eyes and produce the most amazing fragrance. My favorite tree here is the monkeypod tree. These giant umbrellas, given space, can have a diameter of about 30 meters. Their intriguing branch patterns are gorgeous and it proudly shelters a huge area of lawn. 

The other awe-inspiring tree here is the banyan tree. These monsters can be enormous: one of the most famous Oahu banyan trees is the majestic giant at the historic Moana Hotel on Waikiki Beach. Planted in 1904, the tree now reaches 75 feet high and 150 feet across while long, rope like roots dangle down its grey trunk.



We used the book ‘Oahu Revealed’ for information: