Hawaiian Parasail

Help me!

“We are so f***ing high up! We are so f***ing high up!” I kept repeating to myself over and over. I am teetering between heart-stopping fear and the hair-raising thrill of the ride. The picture below is the only one I was able to take while we started to ascend and then soar, tethered to the tiny-looking boat in the distance. Although my iPhone is attached to a handy pink lanyard around my neck, I held tight to the cables on my harness, learning the true meaning of white knuckles.

You know when you look out toward the ocean and see parasailers hovering high, quietly drifting out on the horizon? I’ve always looked at them and made a mental note: Parasailing = bucket list. “Some day,” I confided in my friend, “I’m going to do that.” Well, that friend ended up buying me a gift certificate for me and a guest.

High above

When you’re on land and watch the colorful parachute gracefully floating through the air in the distance, it may or may not be as serene as it looks. I’ve read some reviews that mention serenity, peaceful, etc. Not so with my experience, but let me start at the beginning.

Check-in booth. Ala Wai Yacht Harbor

We made our reservations with Hawaiian Parasail, one of several companies that operate on Oahu. They are an efficient and well-oiled machine. No problem with phone communications. My questions were answered clearly, and I got the directions and parking details and what I should bring with me. They are located at the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, on the right-hand side of the road after you drive past the rear of the Ilikai. They have an empty lot where you can park for free. While waiting for our departure time, we noticed that a company van, sporting their logo on the side, arrived and unloaded the visitors it had picked up in Waikiki.

We have lift-off

Time to board the boat. There were five sets of excited parasailers. Each duo goes up in tandem. You leave and return directly from the boat, so you never  have to get your feet wet unless you choose the “dip,” which is politely offered before you take off. Total boat time is just over an hour, including transit to and from the dock. Each individual parasail session is about ten minutes depending on the line length you purchase. The excursion is both an enjoyable boat ride as well as the actual parasail itself. Corners were not cut where safety was concerned. We always felt in good hands. Contemporary music can be heard most of the trip, after all the safety rules are explained and vests are distributed. I believe most of our fellow parasailers bought the 1000-foot line trip, which takes you up about 500 feet. Reviewers on Yelp made comments about getting seasick. The boat was fine, but I did get motion sickness.

The Dip

My experience is that I wasn’t too afraid before going up. I was anticipating the thrill. We were put securely in our harness and slowly released into the blue, open sky. That day was very windy high up. We were being jerked about fast and severe the entire time. I felt fairly safe, but the wrenching in the wind really freaked me out. I never imagined I would be that uneasy. Looking down at the cable, our life line, it suddenly appeared extremely thin as the wind took control tossing us this way and that. I was ready to come down after about five minutes. The view of the Honolulu coastline was spectacular, but I was mostly concentrating on holding as tight as I could to the straps on either side of my harness. I don’t believe I have any unnatural fear of heights, but… I. Was. Scared. After our smooth descent and back on the boat, I started to feel a bit woozy. On the return trip to the harbor, I began to suffer from a faintly-familiar feeling of motion sickness. Yep, I had to go straight home and sleep it off for a few hours. It wasn’t from the boat ride, it was from ten solid minutes of the harsh yanks and pulls of the wind. When I watch the videos I took from the boat, it all looks like smooth sailing. Hmm…not so much.

There was a couple on the boat where the girlfriend was not planning to parasail, so a partner was needed to complete the tandem. The captain asked my boyfriend if he wanted to go up again, right after we came down. Now here’s the thing: my boyfriend insists he has a fear of heights. Ha! He said yes to the second round without missing a heartbeat. There is no way I would have volunteered to go up again. I was done. DONE! I’ll say I can definitely recommend parasailing, especially to those who appreciate a great carnival ride, and it’s an exhilarating activity to experience at least once. Personally, I have no interest in going again, but I’m glad I went. I had a great time in spite of my fear. It was, after all, very exciting.

Take a look at the Hawaiian Parasail website for all your questions, map, directions, contact info, and an entertaining gallery of pictures. It’s a five-star experience.

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Hawaiian Railway Society

As we waited on the train, I enjoyed the view of the turquoise-blue ocean glimmering in the

Kahe Beach Park

near distance. I could see the conductor walking on the beach at Kahe Beach Park among the bikini clad sunbathers and the snorkelers gearing up for their swim. “Who owns the blue Mazda?” the conductor called out. “You’re blocking the train tracks!” he bellowed. The delay only took about ten minutes, and the riders were not in a hurry.

West Oahu Coastline

We were all on a joyride with the Hawaiian Railway Society. We had crawled up the West Shore beginning in Ewa on these historic train tracks, which were built by the sugarcane industry in 1889. The vehicle owner quickly moved his car, and we continued to mosey to the end of the course. Time to reverse direction and head back at the relaxing speed of 15 miles per hour. The stretch with the ocean views of the coastline is breath taking but brief. Most of the route has views of fields, the backside of a Kapolei shopping center, homes, and Ko Olina along the way. Not a fantastic landscape, but the redeeming factor is to experience a real train on Oahu with an informative narration on the history of the railway along the way.

Train cars in the yard

The rides are about an hour and a half round-trip and cost only $15 for adults and $10 for children. The train can hold a maximum of 180 people and is first-come-first-serve. The train runs on a schedule, and all the employees were friendly and helpful. Train rides are available on Saturdays and Sundays. Before our excursion we took the time to view some of the historical cars in the yard. Some are quite old. There is a small gift shop to visit, and snacks are available to eat in the garden like picnic area or on your journey. The picnic area can be reserved for private parties, such as a birthday celebration for your little prince or princess.

Here comes the train!

The Hawaiian Railway is a great family activity. The kids were obviously giddy with excitement of being on a train and hearing the whistle call.

Interestingly, four of the islands had trains hauling sugarcane in the late 1800s. Oahu had Hawaii’s largest railroad. You can read the rich history of the railroads in Hawaii at Air to Hawaii.

I recommend enjoying this unique activity with your family. All the information for your weekend adventure is at the Hawaiian Railway Society.

Train Route

Enjoying the ride!

Parlor Car – available for charter

Restored Parlor Car built in 1900

Parlor Car – available for charter

Parlor Car

Old train cars in yard

 

 

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Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens

Entry to Gardens

I think I’ve found the Garden of Eden! But this one has a Visitor Center and no serpents, as far as I can tell. I’m referring to the 400-acre Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens on the windward-side of Oahu. I didn’t see many fruit trees, either, but gosh is

there an immense variety of trees and plants you’ll never see elsewhere…that is, if you care about such things. If you don’t, then how about a little bird watching or just strolling along the lake and the well-maintained gardens? My friend and I spent over three hours there. I obsessed over every tree I didn’t recognize (and there were many) and she over all the photo-op moments that capture the eye of a photographer.

Loko Waimaluhia Lake

Stop at the visitor center first to pick up your bamboo fishing pole (available 9:30 am-to 1:00 pm) for a catch-and-release session at the lake’s edge. If you do go fishing, you can bring your own gear, but you must use barb-less hooks. Bring your own bait and have fun, whether the fish are biting or not. Also at the Visitor Center there are many exotic samples of seed pods, and if you have any questions concerning the flora and fauna, there is a docent there who can assist you and who has volumes of botanical catalogs as reference sources. Don’t forget to visit the impressive art gallery: such LOVELY paintings.

At the lake’s edge you’ll see ducks, multitudes of orange-colored fish, tilapia, and catfish at least 2.5 feet long. Bring along bread for both the ducks and the fish, and you’ll surely see some action. The scene is entertaining with all the families fishing and picnicking. There are trails along the lake and streams with views that just take your breath away.

The park is gorgeous, spacious, quiet, relaxed, lush, peaceful — perfect for picnics and nature walks. Wear good walking shoes, and bring sunscreen, bug spray, water, snacks, and your camera. The superlative scenery makes for great family photographs. While walking along a trail, we saw a wedding party having their photoshoot. The garden setting with the Ko’olau views makes for a beautiful backdrop.

We visited the Kahua Kuou campsite at the end of the road. While in an amazing setting, you would have to be prepared for a little rain. I thought this was a cute video about the Ho’omaluhia campsite.

Check out all the information you need for maps, camping, and events at the gardens on the City & County website.

Wild Pig destruction of trail.

Yikes!!

 

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Izakaya Uosan

Izakaya Uosan is located on Kapiolani Boulevard directly across from Inspiration Interiors and two doors down from Gyu Kaku. Our neighbor, who is originally from Japan, raved about the place. She said this izakaya (casual Japanese pub) was the most authentic she had experienced in Honolulu.

Store Front

Chef Yoshinobu Misawa

As you enter the small restaurant, you hear the welcome called out by the staff.  The room is dimly lit, except for the sushi bar, and furnished with dark-colored furniture. If I recall correctly, there are less than ten tables, and there is also a private room that seats eight in the Japanese-style with a low table and recessed floor beneath so that people can stretch their legs.

Omakase Sashimi

Our party of four made reservations to sit at the bar, which has eight chairs, so that we could get the full experience of service from the highly-skilled and attentive sushi chef, Nobu, and the very-capable waitstaff. From my seat I could watch Nobu’s tedious preparations of the fresh-fish masterpieces.

Our friends suggested that we order the omakase. “Omakase is the Japanese tradition of letting a chef choose your order. The word means ‘I will leave it to you.’ It’s a fine tradition that gives the chef creative freedom and the customer a memorable dining experience” (from Japan Talk).

Chicken Nanban

That’s an easy way to go. You don’t have to think about what to order and know that you are getting the freshest of ingredients and something the chef is proud to present. Just sit back, relax, and get ready for every delectable surprise.

The bi-lingual menu is extensive, but I’m sorry to say that because we knew beforehand that we were ordering the omakase, I didn’t even glance at the food menu. Since our visit, however, I have viewed the menu on Yelp and have already determined what I will order on my next visit. We got a bottle of sake, going with our server’s recommendation. It was pricey at $134, but we certainly enjoyed it. No disappointment there.

Uni

Our food. Wow! I’ve never had such an array of delicacies. Each dish arrived with impeccable timing. The art of presentation was impressive. Each new indulgence hit my palate with a distinct experience. The fish, especially the otoro, practically melted in my mouth. I even loved the uni (sea urchin), which I thought I didn’t care for from a previous experience. After many courses (I lost count) the chef asks if you want to continue. You say when you’ve had enough.

Izakaya Uosan is expensive. We were here for Mother’s Day, and for this special occasion we were prepared to open our wallets. Minus the price of the bottle of sake, our omakase came out to about $120 per person (not including gratuity). But if you order off the menu, then you have control of what you are willing to spend. I can’t wait to go back and try more of the menu offerings. Reservations are highly recommended.

Moi

Salmon Roe

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Kuliouou Ridge Trail

I’ve been wanting to try this hike for a long time. Things finally came together, and my friend Mia and I were able to make the trek. I’ve read some articles and blogs about this trail and was a bit apprehensive, knowing it went to the top of the Ko’olau. I wasn’t sure my knees could handle it. But going up turned out not to be a problem and the strain of going down was lessened by using a knee brace. I found a walking stick to help take the pressure off, as well. If I can do it, you can do it!

IMG_2249The trailhead is at the back of Kuliouou Valley. Turn into the valley from Kalanianiole Highway onto Kuliouou Road, and follow it almost to the end. Turn right onto Kalaau Place. At the end of this road is the trailhead. Find parking on the street. Google Maps shows the location of the trailhead and a nice layout of the trail itself. To start, walk just around the Board of Water Supply gate and then veer right.

Most people I’ve talked to said it took around an hour and a half to the top. It took us two hours at our relaxed pace. The trail starts on a gradual incline as you make your way into the forest. Soon there’s a series of very-slightly-steep switchbacks. This day there were a lot of muddy areas. I’m told it gets quite dry and hot during the summer. Mia & TreeThe mud was tolerable — not too bad — but we had to be careful not to slip and fall on our butts. I did see one hiker lose footing and hit the ground.

After finishing the 12-14 switchbacks, the trail flattens out to a gradual incline through beautiful wooded surroundings with ironwood trees and Cook pines. Some are the biggest Cook pines I’ve ever seen. This forest takes you out of Hawaii, feeling like you’re on the mainland somewhere. You eventually reach a picnic-table area, and now you’re about half way up. Sit, IMG_2255relax, and swing a little. (Note: the swing on this trail has made the local news and is scheduled to be removed.) Now get ready for the last half of the hike.

Continue on the trail which rapidly gains elevation, and soon you’ll reach the beginning of the 351 stairs. (Yes, Mia counted them.) Stop and catch some of the spectacular views of Hawaii Kai, Koko Head, Koko Crater, and Maunalua Bay. Here you’re level with the the clouds drifting down the steep walls of the valley, but the best is yet to IMG_2283come. The stairs become quite steep and were very muddy, as well. You will get a nice leg workout at this point. You can see the top of the mountain coming into view. Woo-hoo! You have made it to the top. Enjoy the 360-degree view of the Windward-side all the way to the Southeast-part of Honolulu, accompanied by a nice breeze to cool you off.

Photo by Mialisa

Photo by Mialisa

Time to go down. We saw several people running down. Looked like fun, but alas, not with MY knees! It wasn’t half as bad as I thought it would be. Going up the steep muddy stairs made me worry about the descent, but it was fine. We stopped at the picnic table area once again and ate the snacks we brought for lunch. Then it was time for the last stretch back to the car.

This was a great hike with spectacular views at the top.

Photo by Mialisa

Photo by Mialisa

Recommended for the novice to intermediate hiker. My MapMyRun app said we hiked round-trip 6.27 miles from where we parked the car. My “Hikers Guide to Oahu” book calls it a 5-mile round-trip.

One last thought: I feel there are too many drop-offs and slippery, steep inclines for young children. Some of the 351 stairs at the top are quite deep and a challenge even for an adult. If your child is sevenish or older and is used to hiking, then they should be fine. (Just a friendly word of caution.)

Coolness

Coolness

 

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Here come the stairs

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Muddy! Photo by Mialisa

 

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Picnic tables under a roof, about half way up.

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Egghead Cafe

69Seriously, how many restaurants in Honolulu can you drive up to and park right in front? At the new Egghead Café on 885 Queen Street in Kakaako, you can (at least for now — if it’s not too crowded).

My friends and I gave this new restaurant a try because three of the four of us work in Kakaako. I liked the modern ambience and the feeling of the establishment. It’s welcoming, clean, and chic. The room had a comfortable, spacious feel, with the tables and chairs menunot too crowded together. The prices seemed comparable to other breakfast houses, and the menu has a nice variety. Owner Carrie Huang believes in “comfort on a plate,” and she successfully executes on this philosophy. The beverage selection is extensive, complete with hot and iced coffee drinks, as well as smoothies.

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The service was very friendly but slow. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt because they’ve only been open for two weeks. Our meal took a long time to be delivered, definitely longer than 20 minutes. All dishes were nicely served at the same time, and once on the table the presentation was colorful and fresh.

Ube Pancakes

Ube Pancakes, so colorful on the inside!

Classic Eggs Benedict

Classic Eggs Benedict

I ordered the Ube Pancakes, which were served with a rich haupia sauce. It was a perfect combination. My fellow patrons had the classic Eggs Benedict and the California Eggs Benedict, served with a side of crisp spring greens. We noted that the eggs were poached perfectly. I would have liked a little more sauce for my delicious purple sweet potato pancakes, but by the time the server checked back to the table I was more than half done…too late.

When we were ready to pay the bill the server kindly gave us separate checks (without giving us any attitude…we all know they hate that). She even gave the Yelp introductory 10% off without us even asking. That was awesome!

My friends and I really enjoyed our visit at the new Egghead Café. I will definitely go back, as I am thrilled to have a great little breakfast place in the ever-changing face of Kakaako.

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Hours: 7:00 am-3:00 pm Tuesday-Sunday. Monday: Closed

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Honolulu Museum of Art School

It’s been a long while since I’ve made an entry. Life has a wondrous way of occupying our interests and immersing us in a myriad of activities.

Confession: I’m addicted to jewelry-making. It’s one of the many reasons, of late, that my spare time has been so restricted. And it’s why the Honolulu Museum of Art School is one of my favorite places. The School offers an outstanding selection of classes to choose from: metalworking, drawing and painting, printmaking, sculpture and woodwork, textiles and fiber, glass, photography and ceramics. There are also several youth classes available. The school is located on Victoria and S. Beretania Streets across Thomas Square in Honolulu in the historic Linekona Building (built in 1908).

Linekona Building built in 1908

Linekona Building (built 1908)

Having that “special talent” is not a prerequisite for the School. What is important is the desire to try something new and to challenge oneself and to explore a form of art that has always been intriguing. Following the expert teachers’ instructions will most likely leave you with a piece that you never thought you could make and will result in something that you are proud of.

Studio Workshop

Studio workshop

The sessions run on a semester basis (Fall, Spring and a shorter Summer period). The prices vary depending on the particular course. My class cost $285 for 42 hours. That may seem steep, but that’s only $6.79 an hour, a lot cheaper than a yoga class. Some offerings might be a single session by a guest lecturer or perhaps a special multi-day that will meet only two or three times.

That's me on casting night

That’s me on casting night

Currently, I’m enrolled in Jewelry II with instructor Brenda Ching. We have many repeat students in my class. We all just keep coming back. The class is three hours on Wednesday evenings. There are quite a few exceptionally-talented students who have honed their skills over the years and are extremely creative.

It is always amazing how each person takes on a project in an entirely different way. At my modest level and with a cautious style of approach, even I have been surprised at what I can end up with under Brenda’s careful guidance. Then there’s the new student you’ve only just met and they surprise you with their own creative take on the expanse of possibilities.

Fall Semester Show & Tell

Fall semester show & tell

So give it a try. Take a look at the list of classes and seriously consider a new medium of creative expression to add interest to your life. Seize the day!

Ring.Petrified Palm3

Petrified palm ring

Ring.Spinner Mia

Spinner ring

Sterling & Copper Earrings

Sterling & copper earrings

Synclastic hammered and etched brass bracelet

Synclastic hammered and etched brass bracelet

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Palolo Valley Pool

Location: Palolo Valley District Park (2007 Palolo Ave., Honolulu, HI 96816)
Phone: (808) 733-7362

A lazy Sunday afternoon

A lazy Sunday afternoon

Kick back at Palolo Pool. It is located in the middle of Palolo Valley and is an Olympic-sized swimming pool (50 meters long and 25 yards wide). Use of the pool is free and open to the public.

The atmosphere is quiet, and the facility itself is clean and in great condition. It’s situated on the side of the valley with a pleasant view. I’ve been swimming here on lazy summer Sunday afternoons for years. I’m kind of a baby in the winter months when the water gets a little too cold from the shorter days and cooler weather.

Pool ScheduleOn the weekends, from 2:00 to 5:00 pm, the pool is partitioned in half: one side for recreation and the other for the 25-yard lap swim. If the lanes get too full they will accommodate the swimmers by moving the rope over and shortening the recreation swim area since there’s usually only a handful of people anyway. Just throw your slippers and towel in the provided cubicles, shower off and jump right in. Please note: sorry girls…no thongs allowed.

Fifty-meter swim is also available on certain days and times. cubiclesI’ve had the pleasure of swimming the full length in the evening. The lights shine down and create a dream-like view underwater. The stars overhead in the twilight sky make for a nice session, indeed. So take advantage of this impressive Olympic-sized pool for your lap swim workout.

To find the pool, make your way up Palolo Avenue. After you pass William Jarrett Intermediate School on the right, look for the pool parking lot. Occasionally it’s full from other activities at the park, but street parking is always available.

Pretty views

Pretty views

A great farmers market on Wednesday mornings

A great People’s Market on Wednesday mornings

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Izakaya Nonbei

A shout out for Izakaya Nonbei!

Where: 3108 Olu Street in Kapahulu (Honolulu, HI)
Hours: Mon-Sat: 5:00pm to 11:30pm, Sun: 5:00pm-11:30pm

lI’ve lived in the Kaimuki/Kapahulu area for a long, LONG time. Decades. I’ve passed this little neighborhood hole-in-the-wall establishment on occasion, and it would pique my curiosity, but then I would quickly forget about it. The small restaurant, which has been at this location for 36 years, is tucked away on a side street off Kapahulu Avenue (Olu Street) across the Safeway complex. My friend and I were looking for a place close by to grab a bite, and I wanted to check out a restaurant that I had never been to because there are so many in our area. Viola! Izakaya Nonbei. The parking lot is limited and the street parking…not so much. You could probably park at Safeway and walk over (but you didn’t hear that from me).

As soon as I walked in the door I liked the atmosphere. Having been in Japan, I thought it reminiscent of an eatery one would find there. The place was packed (all eight tables), and we were asked if we had reservations. We didn’t, but there were two seats open at the counter in front of the sushi chef. Izakaya Nonbei is very casual, but popular, as we found out, so I would recommend making reservations. We noticed that at a few of the tables were Japanese-speaking patrons, which is definitely a good sign for a Japanese restaurant in Honolulu.

IMG_9253I thought the prices were very reasonable. Five dollars for a house red wine. There is an extensive sake selection, which includes a sampler, as well. We started with the Garden Salad tossed in Yuzu Dressing ($8), which was fluffy fresh and a generous size. Then we ordered the Gyoza ($6), served piping hot and delicious. Our last choice was the Rainbow Roll ($15); delicate sushi, each covered with two types of fish, a fragrant chizo leaf, and a few pieces with shrimp.

I was so excited I forgot to take picture before we started to eat.

I was so excited I forgot to take a picture before we started to eat

The service was attentive and polite. It’s always nice to know a place where they have a late-night happy hour: 9:00-closing. I will definitely be back and am happy we stumbled upon this gem in our neighborhood.

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Makiki Valley Loop Trail

In the Makiki Valley State Recreation Area there is a trailhead just past the Hawaii Nature Center where one can gain access to an extensive web of mountain hikes known as the Honolulu Mauka Trail System. We were interested in hiking the Makiki Loop Trail. To find this trailhead, make your way to Makiki Heights Drive, then drive up the street until you see a gravel parking lot on the left side of the road. If the lot is full, it’s easy to find street parking.

Walk around this gate to enter.

Walk around this gate to enter

Walk around the gate and continue up the street past the Hawaii Nature Center on the right. Just after that there are the public restrooms. Turn right into the restroom area, walk past the building, and you will cross a bridge over a stream.

Go to the left and pass a couple of small taro patches. Then you will see the sign for the the Makiki Loop Trail (also note the HUGE Cook Island pine at this junction).

Kalo Terraces

Kalo Terraces

Trail starts here

Trail starts here

This is actually a loop that incorporates three trails of different names: Kanealole, Makiki Valley and Maunalaha. I’m not really into long, all-day hikes, so just the loop was perfect.

At the start of this hike you have the choice of going to the left, which would be clockwise, or counter-clockwise to the right. It seemed most people like to start at the left. I’ve done both. Either would be fine.

Eucalyptus Forest

Eucalyptus forest

If you go counter-clockwise you will start with a long incline through a eucalyptus forest that goes for about a mile. If you start the opposite way, to the left, you will see a stream along the trail, and this side tends to be wetter, and there are some muddy areas. I had read there might be mosquitos, but that was never an issue for us.

It took my girlfriends and I two and a half hours to walk the four and a half miles from our car and back (according to my “mapmyrun” app). I’m sure it can be done a lot faster; we were definitely on cruise control. We had a newcomer to hiking with us, as this was only her second hike ever, with Diamond Head being her first. So we meandered this novice-level hike at a relaxed pace.

Well maintained trail

Well-maintained trail

This allowed us to stop and enjoy the diverse fauna along the way. We saw a tree heavily laden with ripe, red lychees. The only problem was that they were about 40 feet up, teasing us and making our mouths water.

Can you see all the red lychee?

Can you see all the red lychee?

We also came across mountain apple trees, and I enjoyed a plump juicy one. We picked some fragrant yellow ginger and stopped to admire all the many kinds of ferns on the forest floor. You will also see groves of bamboo and many indigenous plants.

Well marked trails

Well-marked trails

This is an easy hike, and the trails are clearly marked and well-maintained. Expect to see some nice valley views and hear the songs of the forest birds.

We passed several older men as well as women walking this trail alone. Hiking alone is never recommended, but this town trail offers a nice, quiet and cool place for some exercise. You are mostly under a forest canopy which makes for a refreshing trek. I recommend this tropical forest walk, for which you don’t even have to leave metropolitan Honolulu to enjoy.

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Beautiful valley views

Beautiful valley views

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Massive Cook Island pine

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