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Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
If you've visited any of Oahu's other botanical gardens, this one will be in stark contrast. Inside the tallest tuff cone on Oahu, in one of the hottest and driest areas on the island, Koko Crater Botanical Garden allows visitors the opportunity to see dryland species of plants including baobab trees, cacti, plumeria, and bougainvillea. www1.honolulu.gov/parks/hbg/kcbg.htm. COST: Free. OPEN: Daily sunrise--sunset.
Rolling hills carpeted in lush green grass greet the visitor to Kakaako park. Popular with local families and perfect for watching the sunset or the Friday evening sailboat races, it has a seaside promenade following a lava-rock wall. Though it has no beach access, the Diamond Head end of the promenade is a great spot to watch surfers and Friday evening fireworks off of Waikiki. OPEN: 7--7daily.
The name means "the heat" and, indeed, this windy barren coast lacks both shade and fresh water (or any man-made amenities). Pack water, wear sturdy closed-toed shoes, don sunscreen and a hat, and lock the car. The hike is along a rutted dirt road, mostly flat and 3 miles long, ending in a rocky, sandy headland. It is here that Hawaiians believed the souls of the dead met with their family gods, and, if judged worthy to enter the afterlife, leapt off into eternal darkness at Leinaakauane, just south of the point. In summer and at low tide, the small coves offer bountiful shelling; in winter, don't venture near the water. Rare native plants dot the landscape. November through March, watch for humpbacks, spouting and breaching. Binoculars and a camera are highly recommended. www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/oahu.
The name, which means "to make a place of peace and tranquillity," describes the serenity and feeling of endless space you find in this verdant garden framed by the stunning Koolau mountain range. Inside its 400 acres are plant collections from such tropical areas as the Americas, Africa, Melanesia, the Philippines, and Hawaii. Not just for the botanist, Hoomaluhia also has a 32-acre lake and open lawns ideal for picnicking. www1.honolulu.gov/parks/hbg/hmbg.htm. COST: Free. OPEN: Daily 9--4.
There are bigger and better zoos, but this one, though showing signs of neglect due to budget constraints, is a lush garden and has some great programs. To get a glimpse of the endangered nene, the Hawaii state bird, check out the zoo's Kipuka Nene Sanctuary. Though many animals prefer to remain invisible, particularly the elusive big cats, the monkeys appear to enjoy being seen and are a hoot to watch. It's best to get to the zoo right when it opens, since the animals are livelier in the cool of the morning.
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