The highly-rated Hanauma Bay State Park

Formed within a volcanic cone, Hanauma Bay is one of the most popular attractions of Honolulu. “Hana” is the Hawaiian word for “Bay” and “Uma” refers to the curves of the indigenous canoes. If you love marine life and coral reef, it is the best place to snorkel on the island of Oahu. Moreover, its beach was voted as the best in the United States in 2016!hanauma bay honoluluWe’ve been to countless beaches across countries and seeing Hanauma Bay from above didn’t really excite us that much to spend on the entry fees for it (read notes), so we just loitered around and gave it a miss. I made sure to capture it from the top, though.natural attractions hawaiibest of hawaiisnorkeling in oahu hawaii.jpgNotes:

  1. Park is open every day except Tuesday from 6am to 6pm. The charge for parking is flat at $1.
  2. There is a fee to enter the bay – $7.50 and free for those under 12 yrs.
  3. The entry fee does not include the snorkel fee, which is $20 for standard snorkel set.
  4. If you are staying at one of the hotels at the Waikiki, you can reserve the shuttle to Hanauma Bay at $2.5 per way and it takes about 45 minutes.
  5. For more info, visit their site here.

Nightlife at the Waikiki – the best one can ask for!

I become a fan of visiting the core attraction of any place at night after we had a great time in Miami a few years back. That’s when such places get the most footprints and seem to come alive!

Being close to the Waikiki Beach allowed us the luxury of visiting it any time of the day. Apart from covering it during the day-time (previous post), we visited it a couple of times during the night as well. It was raining on one of the evenings, so the place didn’t look like what it is known for; but the other night, it surely was!waikiki beachshopping in honoluluThe center of attraction is the Royal Hawaiian Center, a 310,000 square feet shopping area, making it one of the largest shopping malls in entire Hawaii. One can go crazy buying luxury items there and still not get tired of it.

There are many activities one can enjoy there – we got to hear a singer entertaining a decent audience. I must add the Hawaiian dance is a sheer delight to watch, just so unique.royal hawaiian center.jpgpalm trees in hawaiiNot to forget, there is a long stretch of the famous beach you can head to. It is just so amazing the sit by the ocean, or walk on the beach itself. We saw kids dabbling in the water even late in the night. There are a few artworks to enjoy too if you are fond of them.art in honolulu

Nestled in the lap of Nature: Byodo-In Temple

Set against the backdrop of towering cliffs of Ko’olau mountains, Byodo-In temple is a Buddhist temple located on the Oahu island of Hawaii – in the Valley of the Temples memorial park. It was dedicated in 1968 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.

The temple doesn’t figure in the top 10 attractions of Oahu, but I would say it should have been one of the top 3! What makes it all the more worth visiting is it is a replica of the over 950-year old Buddhist temple at Uji in Japan.

As soon as we parked our car next to the temple, I was astounded by the scenery that greeted us. There is a fee of $5 per adult (to be paid in cash).byodo-in temple oahubuddhish temple in oahujapanese temple in hawaiiThe grounds are (properly landscaped) lush green, with a large reflecting pond, which has hundreds of Japanese koi carp.

Just outside (on the left of the temple) is a seven-ton six-feet high brass peace bell. It was cast in Osaka, Japan, and is separated into four sections depicting the Buddhist concept of heaven. It is advisable to ring this sacred bell using the soft wooden log before entering the temple. The unique tones of this impressive bell is believed to clear the mind of negativity, impart deep peace, and bring happiness, blessings and a long life. Through its resonating sound, the bell reminds us that everything is transitory.buddhist peace bellbell at buddhist temple.jpgYou can walk around the temple and see small waterfalls, sparrows, and wild peacocks. One thing we especially loved in Hawaii was that we were woken up by the sounds of birds every single day!best of oahubuddha statueThe main temple has a two-ton nine-foot seated Amida statue (the Buddha of the Western Paradise). It is covered in gold and lacquer.

The Amida Buddha represents the infinite life and light surrounding all beings.

From my own experience I can say that you would not feel like leaving the temple – it was so blissful. There are a couple of benches in the temple and niche on the grounds where you can meditate for however long you want to – it is no wonder the visitors describe the place as beautiful, peaceful, and restful.

The temple grounds are often used for wedding ceremonies for Hawaiians or visitors from Japan.

First morning in Hawaii : Sunrise in Honolulu

You might know from my Introductory post in March that we took a 13-day vacation to Hawaii from March 21-April 2. We visited the four islands of Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and Kona (in that order), with about 2.5 days spent in each. There are two more islands visited by a few in Hawaii, but Lanai is largely privately owned and Molokai is prohibitively expensive.

We were living next to the world-famous Waikiki Beach in Honolulu (capital of Oahu), and not far from other major attractions. I wouldn’t say Manoa Valley Inn, where we were put up, was one of our best experiences in spite of the good reviews it has. The reasons are – they don’t clean the room every day and breakfast starts at 7.30. We had the worst experience with BnB at Maui – Haiku Plantation Inn – there you have to pay $75/per day for getting the room cleaned and breakfast starts at 8am. This was the 2nd time we went with BnBs in our travel history, so we are really skeptical to go with them ever again. Anyway, the spectacular attractions more than made up for these issues.

Since Honolulu is six hours behind EST (Canada time, and with daylight savings), we were wide awake around 4am for an initial couple of days. Guess what we did, which Saru never did earlier? She accompanied me on my morning ritual, watching Sunrise at the Beach 🙂

We had done a lot of research even before landing in Hawaii, and Sandy Beach (Park) around half-hour away from our accommodation was mentioned as one of the best to view Sunrises. Sure enough, we were there the first morning itself. Being right next to the Kalanianaole Hwy, it was easier to reach there with just the GPS location. It is a long park along the ocean with enough parking. There were a few folks around admiring its stunning beauty, and also what was about to add up.

Hawaii is known for beaches with pristine-sands, crystal-clear waters, stunning landscapes, active and dormant volcanoes, gorgeous coastlines, natural waterfalls, and we saw all of that, and much more.

Sandy beach was close to perfect (I will talk about and show a perfect beach in a later post), and we sure did marvel at its spectacular beauty. Here’s the same for you…sandy beach honolulu.jpgsunrise in hawaiibest of oahu hawaiiAround 7.30 or so we made our way back to the inn for breakfast. We had an interesting attraction coming up after that…something that is quite unique by any parameter.