Aloha from Kailua!
With stunning panoramas, gorgeous beaches, quirky museums, world-class golf, and an array of shopping and dining venues, the Windward town of Kailua is a breath of fresh air, located just 13 miles from the busy capital city of Honolulu. The quiet charm of this beach community is treasured by those who call it home, but the residents of this tight-knit community are happy to share their little slice of heaven with visitors and tourists.
In Kailua, the ocean is omnipresent, with its sights, sounds, and smells literally permeating the air. It’s as if a vapor of calm and tranquility is constantly flowing through the streets. You have no choice but to be happy and at peace in Kailua. It’s no wonder, then, that the Winter White House is located here. President Obama and his family rent a home-away-from home in Kailua on a regular basis. With so much to see and do in such a relaxing environment, you may never want to leave. But if you choose to venture out, the entire Island of Oahu, with all its history, culture, and natural beauty, is right outside your door, there for the exploring.
Cream of the Coast
Kailua Beach Park
Like a snapshot of pure Hawaii, Kailua Beach Park is a picturesque beach with gorgeous blue waters, soft white sands, and towering palm trees swaying rhythmically in the gentle breeze. A favorite spot for locals, tourists, and water sports enthusiasts, the half-mile beach is great for swimming, wind-surfing, body boarding, kayaking, and parasailing.
The beach is especially famous for its ideal wind-surfing conditions, attracting worldwide attention from experts and novices of the sport. Kayaking is another popular activity at Kailua Beach. Several small islands nearby provide great opportunities for exploration and are the perfect destinations for exploring via kayak. The closest of those islands, Flat Island, is home to green sea turtles and other unusual wildlife, and is also a beautiful snorkeling area. With typically mild waves, swimming conditions are favorable at Kailua Beach Park. During the summer months, however, be especially wary of the Portuguese Man-of-War jellyfish, which tends to appear in the area about a week-and-a-half after a full moon. Even the slightest contact with this creature can cause serious and painful rashes. Pay attention to all warnings and postings around the beach. Also be mindful of Limu, a kind of stinging seaweed, which is occasionally spotted.
While this popular beach can be crowded, especially on weekends, its perfect surf, laid-back family atmosphere, and numerous amenities make it a worthwhile trip. In addition to the staple features of lifeguards, picnic areas, concession stand, and public restrooms and showers, there are numerous shops and kiosks located near the beach where you can purchase beachwear, rent kayaks and diving equipment, schedule windsurfing lessons, or book a parasailing adventure. Located on Kailua Bay, with breathtaking views of the Mokulua Islands, Kailua Beach Park is a stunning vista of surf, sand, and scenery that is not to be missed.
Consistently voted one of America’s top beaches for its clear, turquoise waters, stunning views, silky soft sand, and comforting trade-wind breezes, Lanikai Beach is a paradise for swimmers and sunbathers. This pristine piece of coastline is only about a half mile long, but what the beach lacks in size, it makes up for in grandiose beauty.
With a picturesque landscape that is unmatched throughout the world, many photographers bring their models here for photo shoots. In addition, the beach has been the setting for countless photo ops and is often depicted on calendars, travel guides, and postcards. The beauty also continues offshore, with a stunning underwater reef garden that is a popular locale for snorkeling and scuba diving.
When swimming, be mindful of the Man-of-War jellyfish that sometimes make their way into the area, especially about 8-10 days after a full moon. Contact with these creatures can lead to a painful rash and will most surely spoil your day at the beach. Also look out for the stinging seaweed that can occasionally be swept into the region.
While weekend crowds often flock here, on weekdays Lanikai is often quite secluded, since the only way to access the beach is via small public paths through an upscale neighborhood. There are no parking facilities, lifeguards, or showers on site, but with a name that means “heavenly sea,” it’s a spot that shouldn’t be missed.
Bellows Beach Park
Although closed for military-only use during the week, this popular beach spot is open to the general public on the weekends. Like many of the beaches on the Windward side of the island, Bellows Beach offers spectacular views, clear waters, and smooth, soft sand. Shallow waters and a gentle surf make it an ideal spot for swimmers, body-boarders, and beginning surfers. For a different kind of fun, outside of the water, there is also a paintball activity run by retired military personnel.
Those picnicking or looking for a retreat from the sun will enjoy the shade provided by rows of Ironwood trees. Lifeguards are typically on duty, and a variety of conveniences such as beach shops, showers, restrooms, picnic areas, and campgrounds make Bellows a well-rounded facility. Members of the military can rent beachside cabins, but these fill up early and must be secured well in advance. Tent camping is allowed for the general public, and equipment can be rented on-site. Permits must be obtained to camp on the beach, but they are free of charge.
Keep alert, especially during the summer months, for the blue jellyfish that often get swept into the area by strong winds. These dangerous creatures are hard to spot in the water, so be sure to mind all posted warnings. A kind of stinging seaweed can also be problematic on occasion.
Waimanalo Beach Park
With beaches galore on the island, it may seem daunting deciding which ones to visit. This one’s a no-brainer. After all, it’s been the filming location for Baywatch Hawaii and Magnum P.I., and was the place where James Michener drew inspiration for his novel Hawaii.
Waimanalo Beach Park is a dreamy, five-mile long stretch of silken white sand, which gently slopes into calm, turquoise waters. It’s not only the longest beach on Oahu, but one of the most scenic and picturesque. On the beach is everything you’d expect from a tropical ocean paradise. Underwater is more of the same, with a majestic display of colorful coral, shells, and sea creatures.
Due to its shallow sandbar, small waves, and an easy, gradual sand slope, the park is an ideal spot for swimming and beginning surfing. It’s also a mecca for fishing, body boarding, and snorkeling.
A full array of amenities are provided, including grills, picnic tables, restrooms, showers, lifeguards, volleyball courts, basketball courts, and parking facilities.
As with many of the Windward beaches, be on the lookout for the man-of-war jellyfish that sometimes get swept ashore by strong winds. These blue swimmers will sting if encountered, so pay close attention to all posted warnings.
Known as the most dangerous beach in Hawaii, Sandy Beach features a strong shore break, powerful rip tides, and rough, pounding waves. Even when the waters seem calm, it is best not to enter the water for casual swimming. Accidents are a frequent occurrence here, with the nickname “beach of broken necks” more than just an expression. Experienced body boarders and surfers flock to the area since the surf breaks close to shore and the waves are perfect for the sport.
Even if you don’t plan to partake in any water activities, Sandy Beach is a great spot for watching those who do, and it’s a fabulous location for photographs of large, active waves.
Free parking, picnic tables, restrooms, and showers are on site.
Although Kalama Beach may be less popular than its next-door-neighbor, Kailua Beach, it shares many of the same stellar attributes, including silken white sand, towering palm trees, calm blue waters, and an awe-inspiring view of the Molulua Islands. This smaller, less crowded beach is, by comparison to the more populous Kailua Beach, a peaceful and secluded retreat, ideal for relaxing and taking in the sights, smells, and sounds of the ocean.
Although there are no lifeguards on duty, the waters are typically calm, making it great for swimming or beginner body boarding. Before getting in the water, check for postings about man-of-war jellyfish sightings, as these stinging creatures have been known to wash up into the area.
Beyond the beach is the park with its large grassy area, perfect for picnicking, playing catch, spiking a volleyball, or tossing around a Frisbee. There are restroom facilities, showers, a private parking lot, and nearby shops for renting equipment.
Kaupō Beach Park
With a rocky bottom near the shore, this small beach is not the best for casual swimming, but there are a few sandy pools where kids often play. Near the pier are some good spots for snorkeling and scuba diving. Two small islands are located offshore, both of which are seabird sanctuaries. There are no public facilities on this stretch of beach, but there is a bit of history, as it is the place where the youngest lava flow on Oahu is thought to have occurred.
Path to the Pools
Makapuu Tide Pools and Lighthouse
Off the beaten path, accessed only by way of a challenging, unmarked trail, are the Makapuu tide pools. The tide pools are not only beautiful to look at, but are perfect for swimming in or even snorkeling in if the tide is low. On days when the sea is rough, or when the tide is high, the hike to the tide pools is not recommended. Since many sections on the route are not clearly marked, and follow along a dangerous, rocky shoreline, inexperienced hikers are advised against the trip. Even the most confident trekkers need to use caution, bring plenty of water and sunscreen, wear sturdy hiking shoes, and go only when the sea is calm.
To find the tide pools, you’ll begin on the easily-navigated paved road to the Makapuu lighthouse. Once you reach the lookout point, where Humpback whales can often be spied, follow the rocky path down the mountain. The 20-30 minute hike leads to the series of crystal-clear tide pools as well as an impressive blowhole, which can spout up to 30-feet into the air.
Short Hike to a Long Fall
A relatively easy hike takes you to a gorgeous 25-foot waterfall that plunges into a small swimming hole, perfect for taking a dip or for landing in if you’re adventurous enough to leap from the side of the cascading cliff. The trailhead begins on Kelewina Road, but parking is not allowed there. Instead, continue to the residential area off Lola Road, where you will park street-side and backtrack to the entrance. Be sure to bring good hiking shoes and lots of bug spray, as the trail follows the river along a lush path of tropical foliage, and is often muddy or damp. The hike also traverses the river at several points, and cuts through areas where large tree roots must be navigated.
Besides the natural beauty of the richly-forested path, where coffee trees, banana plants, and ginger can be admired, stunning mountain views come into sight about halfway through the journey.
On an island with relatively few waterfalls, the moderate, 1-1/2 mile hike to Maunawili, on average a 45-minute trek each way, is not only an adventure, but can truly be considered a privilege.
Prominent Peaks Mount
Olomana Olomana Three Peaks Trail
Mount Olomana is a range of three mountainous peaks near Kailua. Olomana, the name for the first peak, means “divided hill” in Hawaiian. While the second peak is called Paku’i and the third and least pointed peak is named Ahiki, the entire range is most often referred to simply as Olomana.
The Olomana Three Peaks Trail, in total a 6-mile trip, is a challenging excursion which requires steady footing as well as the use of ropes in some areas. Most confident hikers can easily navigate the first part of the trail, a clearly-marked path which begins at the Luana Hills Country Club in Kailua. Ascending the second and third peaks, however, is an arduous feat, and should only be attempted by experienced hiking enthusiasts.
On the trail to the first peak, there are several obstacles along the way, including several steep, rocky parts. Ropes are in place to help guide you here, but these should not be relied upon for overall balance. Although daunting, this section of the trail is doable for most fit hikers.
At the summit of Olomana, you will enjoy a breathtaking, 360-degree view that includes the town of Kailua, the Koolau mountain range, the Maunawili Valley, and the second and third peaks, from an elevation of 1,643 feet. Don’t fret about ending your hike here, as the view from this peak is the highest and most picturesque of the three.
Those who are up to the challenge of continuing from here will need to have sharp hiking skills and be able to repel down a more than 300-foot drop. The climb down the first peak is steep and rocky, and the climb up the second peak is tricky, but manageable. After that, only the most advanced trekkers should attempt the repel down the second peak and the rope-assisted climb up the skinny, crumbling side of the third peak. Those who make it may be less than impressed by the view, since it cannot compare to the vista enjoyed at the first peak, but they will certainly relish in the bragging rights that go along with such an accomplishment.
The 800-acre Kawainui Marsh, regarded as sacred lands, is the largest area of wetlands in all of Hawaii. In Hawaiian, the name means “the big water”, in reference to the fact that the area was once an enormous body of fresh water. Kawainui Marsh lies behind a man-made levee and is almost completely covered in lush plants. The floating and meadowland plants are part of a natural ecosystem that supports an important population of endangered water birds as well as a variety of other birds and fish. Downstream and connected to the marsh is a smaller wetland, Hamakua Marsh, which also serves as a sanctuary for many of Hawaii’s rarest birds.
Ulupō Heiau State Historical Monument
Built in 900 AD, this heiau is thought to be the oldest and largest in Oahu. Still in use as a temple up until the 1800s, the ancient site featured several structures atop a stone platform. Today, all that remains is the lowest terraced platform and evidence of other levels. The Ulupo monument is approximately 120 feet by 180 feet with downward sloping walls about 30 feet high, and features an enormous amount of small rocks, many of which were believed to have been brought here from as far away as Kualoa, more than 10 miles from the site. For ancient builders, this stone temple was a labor of love, hard work, and dedication, and although many debate the purpose of the heiau, no one can deny its historical and structural magnificence. Be sure to respect the land when visiting, and do not disturb or remove any part of the structure.
High and Mighty Vista
Nuuanu Pali State Park Lookout
The lookout at Nuuanu Pali State Park offers perhaps the most stunning view found in all of Oahu. The panoramic vista, like a scene painted perfectly on a master’s canvas, features a breathtaking view of the Koolau Mountains and lush valley below. Historically, the site is of extreme significance, as it was the setting for the 1795 Battle of Nuuanu, led by Kamehameha I.
From a vantage point of more than 1,000 feet above the coastline, this one-of-a-kind lookout has unmatched views of Kailua, Kanehoe, Mokolii island, Coconut Island, and many other notable landmarks on the Windward coast. With its high elevation and location between high mountains on either side, the viewing platform is not only scenic, but extremely windy. At times, the gusts are strong enough to hold you in place when leaning into the trade winds. Be sure to take off your hat, or it, too, will become part of the expansive, green landscape below.
Access to the lookout is via the Pali Highway, which offers its own picturesque scene as you drive the densely-forested path. Admission to Nuuanu Pali State Park is free, with hours daily from 9 am to 4pm.
There are shops of all kinds in downtown Kailua, from the Macy’s department store in the center of town to many unique, family-run specialty establishments.
You’ll find everything you need in a relatively small area, and some things you didn’t know you needed, but will definitely want to take home. Many of the venues offer uniquely Hawaiian goods that are not kitschy, touristy souvenirs, but treasures or tastes of pure Aloha. Another shopping option is a large-scale mall, located just outside Kailua, which houses merchants of all kinds in one centralized area.
Lanikai Bath and Body is located next to the Kailua visitors’ center, so it’s a great first stop when planning your day of shopping. Here you will find more than 100 varieties of Hawaiian-made bath and beauty products, including lotions, oils, soaps, candles, and more. The line features 17 distinctive scents, which perfectly capture the essence of Hawaii’s aromatic, tropical flowers. All of the goods are made from natural ingredients and are produced responsibly and with care, without harming animals or the environment. It’s also been said that the Winter White House, where President Obama and his family stay when in Kailua, is stocked with Lanikai products.
Little Sprouts is a children’s boutique which features organic, eco-friendly clothing and products for babies and kids up to age 6. The unique line includes toys, shoes, accessories, and garments made from high-quality materials that are not only durable and environmentally responsible, but have their own fashionable Hawaiian flair.
Sweet Paradise Chocolatier creates handmade chocolate delicacies using a variety of fresh tropical fruits, nuts, and spices. Buy some to eat and some to share!
Naturally Hawaiian Gallery, owned by Hawaiian nature artist Patrick Ching, is a great place to find one-of-a-kind art and gifts. If you’re lucky, you may find the owner on site, willing to sign his original creations. There are also a variety of classes offered here, including painting, yoga, and hula.
Windward Jewelers offers individually handmade Hawaiian jewelry, each characterized with a trademark 14K-gold ALOHA insignia. These specialty pieces are not only beautiful, but are designed to capture the essence of the Hawaiian spirit, giving them a distinct local charm.
Little People Hawaii is a family-owned business specializing in charming and unique educational toys, books, collectibles, and clothing for babies and children. The owners, a sister duo native to Kailua, pride themselves on selecting the best quality merchandise that is interesting, whimsical, and interactive.
Windward Mall is a more traditional shopping mall, where more than 110 shops, restaurants, attractions, and a movie theater complex are all grouped in one convenient location. Here you’ll find top chain retailers as well as more specialized Hawaiian-based merchants. The mall is located on Kamehameha Rd. in Kaneohe, about 7 miles west of Kailua
Golfing in and around the area of Kailau on the Windward coast is more than a sport, it’s an adventure in paradise for any golfer, whether novice or experienced. The courses are not only beautifully designed amid lush, tropical grounds, but they offer breathtaking mountain views from challenging, unique holes. Two spectacular venues, Mid-Pacific Country Club and Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course, are private, with use restricted only to members. However, several first-rate courses open their links to the public, and are just as fabulous, each with its own distinct flair.
Bay View Golf Park is a par-60 course designed by Robin Nelson. It is known as one of the best courses for working on your short game, and features one of the most challenging, and most narrow, back-to-back par-4 combinations on the back nine. Stunning views of Kaneohe Bay will take your breath away, even if your swing is less than stellar.
Koolau Golf Club is a challenging par-72 public course, nestled around a lush, dense rain forest. The course is one of the toughest in the nation, with a final hole that is by and large the most difficult par-4 in all of Hawaii. Gorgeous views of Kaneohe Bay and the surrounding rain forest, combined with the unique challenges of the course design, make this the perfect setting for a golf outing that will not soon be forgotten.
Olomana Golf Links is a par-72 public course with two distinctly separate nines. The front nine is on mostly level fairways with challenging water obstacles on each hole, while the back nine traverses rolling hills and is flanked by sand traps. Stunning mountain panoramas serve as the backdrop to this uniquely Hawaiian course.
Royal Hawaiian Golf Club (formerly Luana Hills Country Club) is a semi-private, par-72 course with four sets of tees to accommodate every skill level. Designed as a country club course by Perry and Pete Dye, the front nine holes are set on the lower slopes of Mount Olomana, while the back nine plays out with extreme changes in elevation as it meanders through a lush, tropical paradise.
Pali Golf Course is a municipal, par-72 track set below the Pali lookout. The hillside course, designed by Willard G. Wilkinson, features a natural stream as an obstacle and has picturesque views of the Koolau mountains, Kaneohe Bay, and the towns of Kailua and Kaneohe. The area is prone to frequent weather changes such as high winds and rain, so be prepared as you take on this challenging course.
This gorgeous bay, with its five small islands, has served as the backdrop or setting for numerous TV shows and movies, including Pearl Harbor and Gilligan’s Island. A large, beautiful coral reef sets the scene underwater, and a sand bar in the middle of the bay is a popular hangout for locals and tourists. Snorkelers and marine biologists are also attracted to the area because it’s is a breeding ground for thousands of non-threatening Hammerhead sharks. Townside in Honolulu!
Just a short drive from the peaceful beach town of Kailua is Hawaii’s bustling capital city, Honolulu. This sprawling urban area is the southernmost major U.S. city and is the most populous state capital relative to its state population. As you might expect, Honolulu offers an abundance of attractions, restaurants, shops, activities, historic sites, museums, and entertainment venues. The opportunities for exploration are virtually endless, with so much to see and do you won’t know where to begin. From the famous beaches of Waikiki to the historic palaces of Hawaii’s royalty, and everything in between, Honolulu is a powerhouse tourist destination. For a taste of the city’s offerings, a sampling of some of the more notable attractions are listed here.
Built in 1926 as a lighthouse to welcome the arrival of ships, The Aloha Tower stands today as a symbol of Hawaii’s hospitality and history. Located in Honolulu Harbor, the 184-foot, 10-story tower was once the tallest building in Hawaii. Although many of the city’s modern office buildings currently surpass the structure in terms of height, none can dwarf the iconic status or historic significance of this state landmark.
The Aloha Tower still functions as a port for cruise ships, and the building’s 10th floor observation deck is open to the public from 9:30 am to sunset, where gorgeous harbor views can be enjoyed free of charge. Nearby, the Aloha Tower Marketplace, with its abundance of shops, fine eateries, and entertainment offerings, is a great place to spend a few hours while soaking up the ambiance of this Hawaiian treasure.
Approximately 13 miles southwest of Kailua.
The instantly recognizable, immense volcanic crater known as Diamond Head was formed 150,000 years ago, and remains today at the edge of Waikiki on the Pacific Coast. Hawaiians historically called the crater Lē’ahi (meaning tuna’s brow), because the cone’s shape is reminiscent of a tuna’s fin. The current name orginated in the 1800s, when British sailors mistakenly thought calcite crystals found in the volcanic rock were actually diamonds.
This State Monument is 3,520 feet in diameter and stands 760 feet at its highest point. The interior of the crater once housed Fort Ruger, a major military defense fort, parts of which were used in the filming of the popular TV series Lost. Today, a National Guard facility operates inside the crater, and only remnants of the old fort remain.
Tourists and locals can’t help but marvel at the size and majesty of this natural wonder. Diamond Head is a commanding force in the landscape of a modern world, where luxury hotels and resorts, swanky restaurants, and breathtaking beaches are all packed with Waikiki natives and relaxing vacationers.
For those who want to see the crater as more than a backdrop, a 3/4-mile hiking trail will take you to the edge of the crater’s rim. The trail is relatively easy, but is largely unpaved, and does traverse many uneven, rocky areas. Although the hike should only take around 1-1/2 to 2 hours to complete, there are lots of stairs, so you will need to moderately fit and carry plenty of water. At the top of the trail is an observation deck with a grand, panoramic view of the ocean, coastline, and the area of Waikiki.
Approximately 20 miles south of Kailua.
Unique in that it was established using royal funds during the reign of King David Kalakaua, the Honolulu Zoo is today located in the city’s Queen Kapi’olani Park and is visited by more than 600,000 people a year. Even President Barack Obama toured the 42-acre grounds during a recent family trip. The impressive zoo showcases more than 1,200 animals in custom habitats surrounded by beautiful Hawaiian foliage.
The zoo is open 9 am to 4:30 pm daily. Admission is $13 for adults and teens; $6 for children ages 3-12; and free for tots under 3 years of age. Generous military discounts are offered with proper ID.
Approximately 17 miles southwest of Kailua.
Where Royalty Roamed
Queen Emma Summer Palace
Queen Emma Summer Palace, named Hānaiakamalama (The Foster Child of the Moon) in Hawaiian, is a historic landmark that was once the vacation home for Queen Emma of Hawaii, her husband King Kamehameha IV, and their son, Prince Albert Edward. The home served as the royal family’s retreat from 1857 to 1885, and now stands as a living tribute and museum on 2 acres of gorgeously landscaped grounds.
The palace itself showcases the possessions of the Queen, King, and Prince as well as other Hawaiian royalty. Inside the museum are clothing, jewelry, and numerous furnishings and accessories, including the Prince’s cradle, the King and Queen’s beds, the family dining table, Queen Emma’s piano, and a stocked china cabinet and Christening vessel gifted by Queen Victoria. Portraits of the royal family, as well as other notable historical figures, are also on display.
The museum is open from 9 am to 4 pm daily, except on major holidays, and costs $6 for adults and $1 for kids under 17 years old. A gift shop, picnic area, and lush gardens are also on site.
Approximately 10 miles southwest of Kailua.
Hawaii’s largest museum, located in the historic Kalihi district of Honolulu, displays the world’s most comprehensive collection of Polynesian cultural and scientific artifacts. The Bishop Museum, also called the Hawaii State Museum of Natural and Culutral History, was built in 1889 by Charles Reed Bishop as a tribute to his late wife, Bernice Pauahi Bishop, a descendant of the Kamehameha Dynasty. What began as a family collection of artifacts now includes such wonders as a complete skeleton of a sperm whale, a 13.5-million-specimen entomological collection, one of the most complete libraries of Hawaiian history, and pristine examples of royal regalia. Also within the campus are the
Richard T. Mamiya Science Adventure Center, Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame, and The Watumall Planetarium.
With so much to see, do, and learn, a stop at the Bishop Museum is an all-day adventure that will immerse you in the true history and cultural of the Hawaiian heritage. The museum is closed on Tuesdays, but is open Wednesday through Monday from 9 am to 5 pm. Admission, which includes entry to all exhibits and campus buildings, is $17.95 for adults, $14.95 for children ages 4 -12; free for kids 3 and under; and $14.95 for seniors. Reduced rates are offerd for members of the military and for large groups.
Approximately 13 miles southwest of Kailua.
Pearl Harbor is the largest natural harbor in Hawaii, located just west of Honolulu. The harbor is the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, with a large portion of the harbor and surrounding area home to a U.S. Navy base. Due to the tragic events of December 7, 1941, the naval base itself is listed as a National Historical Landmark.
Called Pu’uloa by Hawaiians, and named after the pearl oysters which were once harvested there, Pearl Harbor is now forever remembered for the surprise aerial attack launched by Japan more than 70 years ago. Thousands lost their lives in the historic bombing which cataplulted the United States into World War II.
Today, the events of the devastating attack, and those who gave their lives in the battle, are honored and reverred with five Pearl Harbor Historic Sites.
At the USS Arizona Memorial, visitors take a shuttle boat to a floating memorial built directly over the sunken battleship. The memorial, which straddles the hull of the ship, includes a room which lists the names of the 1,177 crewmen who died aboard the vessel.
At the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, visitors can explore the 10,000-sq-ft USS Bowfin, nicknamed the Pearl Harbor Avenger, which helped carry out the counter attack on Japan during World War II. There are several displays and exhibits, and a waterfront memorial honors the submariners lost in the war.
The Battleship Missouri Memorial, located at Pearl Harbor’s Battleship Row, features exhibits highlighting the complete 50-year history of the vessel. Visitors can walk aboard the immense decks of this collasal ship, including the Surrender Deck, where General Macarthur famously accepted Japan’s surrender, putting an end to WWII.
At the Pacific Aviation Museum, located on Pearl Harbor’s Ford Island in a hangar that survived the Japanese attack, a variety of interactive displays and exhibits are featured, along with examples of war planes and bombers.
At the USS Oklahoma Memorial, the 429 sailors who lost their lives are honored and remembered along with the 32 crewmen who were rescued from the capsized ship. The Oklahoma is located on Ford Island, just outside the entrance to the Missouri Memorial.
A trip to the Pearl Harbor Memorial sites is a humbling experience that not only illustrates the magnitude of the historic Pearl Harbor attack, but reminds you of the bravery and honor of those who gave their lives at the start of World War II.
Approximately 25 miles west of Kailua. Out and About in Oahu
Kailua is a destination unto itself, with its relaxing beach atmosphere and abundant attractions, activities, and natural wonders to explore. Nearby Honolulu offers even more opportunities for entertainment, shopping, dining, and cultural excursions. But if you’re still looking for more to explore, Oahu is chock full of tropical destinations, too numerous to list in its entirety. A few of the more notable stops are listed here to whet your appetite for adventure.
Kukaniloko Birth Stones
Kūkaniloko Birthstones State Monument, located in Central Oahu, is one of the most sacred sites on the island. Rows of ancient rocks once surrounded a central birthing stone where ancient Hawaiian women were brought to deliver their future chiefs. The rocks, which were believed to help ease the pain of childbirth, were part of a complex birthing ritual performed on the site. Many of the stones are carved with ancient petroglyphs, and although portions of the ritualistic site have been destroyed through the ages, what remains is a marvel of historic posterity set in peaceful, tranquil surroundings.
Approximately 33 miles northwest of Kailua.
Hawaii’s Plantation Village
This outdoor museum in historic Waipahu is a mock village where 30 original and replica homes and community buildings depict the diversity of Hawaii’s heritage through the story of Hawaii’s immigrant plantation workers. Many antiques and artifacts are displayed throughout the village, along with period artwork and original architecture. Several building in the village were investigated for paranormal activity on the popular TV show Ghost Hunters, and is now known for its Halloween attraction, “Haunted Plantation.”
Standard hours are Monday to Friday from 9 am to 3 pm and Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm. Guided tours are offered on the hour between 10 am and 2 pm. Admission is $13 for adults, $10 for seniors; $7 for military; $5 for kids 4 to 11 years old, and free for toddlers under 3 years of age.
Approximately 25 miles west of Kailua.
Sprawling Sacrificial Temple
Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau
Covering more than 2 acres, Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau is the largest heiau on O’ahu and is desginated as a National Historic Landmark. With a name meaning Hill of Escape, the temple is suitated high on a hilltop above Waimea Bay and Waimea Valley. Three walled platforms comprise the site, with the upper enclosure originally built in the 1600s and the lower two most likely added in the 1700s. It is believed that during the time of war, the heiau was used as a sacrifical temple. Signal fires were probably used to communicate with other heiaus. Today, the site is preserved within the protective grounds of a state park, and can be studied and enjoyed by visitors on a daily basis. The site is open during daylight hours and admittance is free of charge.
Approximately 45 miles north of Kailua.
Ho`omaluhia Botanical Garden
The 400-acre Ho`omaluhia Botanical Garden is the largest of its kind on the island, and is filled with lush, tropical plants grouped in a regionally-based fashion. Winding trails meander through the grounds, which include a large, 32-acre lake, a botanical library, camping facilities, and a visitors center. With a name meaning peaceful refuge, Hoomaluhia is a serene, tranquil slice of Hawaiian beauty, and is open daily free of charge.
Located in Kane’ohe, approximately 17 miles west of Kailua.
Fun in the Sun
Wet N’ Wild Hawaii
Hawaii’s only major water park, Wet N’ Wild Hawaii, is a sprawling family theme park with more than 25 water slides, rides, and attractions. Great for cooling off on a hot day, activities include a lazy river, interactive children’s area, wave pool, thrilling water slides, and a miniature golf course. General admission is $44.99. Kids under 42-in tall pay $34.99, and seniors over age 65 are charged $23.99. Youngsters under age 2 are free, and a military discount is offered.
Approximately 30 miles west of Kailua.
Valley of the Temples Memorial Park
A bit of Japanese Zen can be found amid the lush greenery at the foot of Hawaii’s Ko’olau mountains. Not only are the grounds of this memorial park impressive, with its pristine manicured lawns and serene, koi-stocked ponds, but the replica of Japan’s 11th century Byodo-in Buddhist temple is almost unreal in its grandeur and beauty. There are thousands of Hawaiian residents, of various religions and cultures, buried at the Valley of the Temples. In addition to the massive 9-foot meditation Buddha, there are numerous Catholic statues and a 3-ton brass bell, said to bring luck to those who ring it. You’re also likely to see wild peacocks roaming the grounds. The park is open daily from 8:30 to 4:30 pm, with admission rates of $2 for adults and $1 for children under 12 and seniors over 65.
Approximately 10 miles northwest of Kailua.
Who knew? On the north shore, shrimp surpasses it’s wimpy name and is by far the biggest treat among locals and hungry tourists. The northern area, particularly the town of Kahuku, has become famous for the colorful shrimp trucks that have set up shop to serve up plates of the delectable seafood. Many of the trucks have eating areas in front, but be prepared, because most only accept cash. Some of the most famous of the eateries include Fumi’s, Giovanni’s, Romy’s, Macky’s, The Shrimp Shack, and one of the newest, Blue Water Shrimp. Plan on arriving early before the lunch crowds and tour buses flock to the ordering windows of these quirky little establishments.
Approximately 30 miles north of Kailua.
Polynesian Cultural Center
The Polynesian Cultural Center depicts the cultures and customs of seven Polynesian regions with a variety of shows, feasts, activities, interactive demonstrations, crafts, games, and the like, all focused on presenting a true Polynesian experience. The evening show is filled with excitement as flaming knives are thrown, dancers twirl, and drummers pound out a native beat. Also offered are a traditional luau, a circle island tour, and canoeing activities and tours. This tourist attraction is great for families looking for a day of entertainment. Prices vary depending on which experiences you choose. General admissions begins at $49.95 for adults and $39.95 for children ages 5-12. Kids under 5 are free. Other excursions, shows, and dining all incur separate fees. The park is open Monday through Saturday, and is closed Sundays and major holidays. The first attractions open at 11:45 am, and the popular nighttime show ends at 9 pm.
Approximately 25 miles north of Kailua.