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Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
This spot has breathtaking views of the ocean, mountains, and the Windward Islands. The point of land jutting out in the distance is Mokapu Peninsula, site of a U.S. Marine base. The spired mountain peak is Mt. Olomana. In front of you on the long pier is part of the Makai Undersea Test Range, a research facility that's closed to the public. Offshore is Manana Island (Rabbit Island), a picturesque cay said to resemble a swimming bunny with its ears pulled back. Ironically enough, Manana Island was once overrun with rabbits, thanks to a rancher who let a few hares run wild on the land. They were eradicated in 1994 by biologists who grew concerned that the rabbits were destroying the island's native plants.
A little over a half-mile past Hanauma Bay as you head toward Makapuu Point, you'll see a turnout on the ocean side with some fine views of the coastline. In winter, you'll have an opportunity to see storm-generated waves crashing against lava cliffs. This is also a popular place for winter whale-watching so bring your binoculars, some sunscreen, and a picnic lunch and join the small crowd scanning for telltale white spouts of water only a few hundred yards away. On clear days, you should be able to see the islands of Molokai and Lanai off in the distance, hence the name.
In the cool uplands of Wahiawa is haunting Kukaniloko, where noble chieftesses went to give birth to high-ranking children. One of the most significant cultural sites on the island, the lava-rock stones here were believed to possess the power to ease the labor pains of childbirth. The site is marked by approximately 180 stones covering about a half-acre. It's about a 40- to 45-minute drive from Waikiki. www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/oahu/index.cfm?park_id=24.
A couple of blocks mauka (toward the mountains) from Chinatown is the oldest Buddhist temple in the Islands. Mistakenly called a goddess by some, Kuan Yin, also known as Kannon, is a bodhisattva—one who chose to remain on earth doing good even after achieving enlightenment. Transformed from a male into a female figure centuries ago, she is credited with a particular sympathy for women. You will see representations of her all over the Islands: holding a lotus flower (beauty from the mud of human frailty), as at the temple; pouring out a pitcher of oil (like mercy flowing); or as a sort of Madonna with a child. Visitors are permitted but be aware this is a practicing place of worship.
Fancifully called Hawaii's Westminster Abbey, this historic house of worship witnessed the coronations, weddings, and funerals of generations of Hawaiian royalty. Each of the building's 14,000 coral blocks was quarried from reefs offshore at depths of more than 20 feet and transported to this site. Interior woodwork was created from the forests of the Koolau Mountains. The upper gallery has an exhibit of paintings of the royal families. The graves of missionaries and of King Lunalilo are adjacent. Services in English and Hawaiian are held each Sunday, and the church members are exceptionally welcoming, greeting newcomers with lei; their affiliation is United Church of Christ. Although there are no guided tours, you can look around the church at no cost. www.kawaiahao.org. COST: Free. OPEN: Service in English and Hawaiian Sun. at 9 am.
Oahu's wealthiest neighborhood has streets lined with multimillion-dollar homes. At intervals along tree-lined Kahala Avenue are narrow lanes that provide public access to Kahala's quiet, narrow coastal beaches offering views of Koko Head. Kahala Mall is one of the island's largest indoor shopping centers and includes restaurants and a Whole Foods grocery store. Kahala is also the home of the private Waialae Golf Course, site of the annual Sony Open PGA golf tournament in January.
From Chinatown Cultural Plaza, cross a stone bridge to visit Okuninushi No Mikoto, a kami (god) who is believed in Shinto tradition to bring good fortune if properly courted (and thanked afterward).
America's only royal residence was built in 1882 on the site of an earlier palace. It contains the thrones of King Kalakaua and his successor (and sister) Queen Liliuokalani, who was imprisoned in her home after the 1893 overthrow. Bucking the stereotype of simple island life, the palace had electricity and telephone lines installed even before the White House. Downstairs galleries showcase the royal jewelry and a kitchen and offices restored to the glory of the monarchy. The palace is open for guided or self-guided audio tours, and reservations are recommended. If you're set on taking a guided tour, call for reservations a few days in advance. The gift shop was formerly the Iolani Barracks, built to house the Royal Guard. www.iolanipalace.org. COST: $22 guided tour, $15 audio tour, $7 downstairs galleries only. OPEN: Mon.--Sat. 8:30--4, guided tours every 15 min in the morning, self-guided audio tours in the afternoon.
For many years the home of Hawaii's governors, this white-columned mansion was built by sea captain John Dominis, whose son married the woman who became the Islands' last queen, Liliuokalani. Deposed by American-backed forces, the queen returned to the home—which is in sight of the royal palace—and lived there until her death. The nonprofit Washington Place Foundation operates the gracious estate now, opening it for tours weekday mornings and on special occasions. www.washingtonplacefoundation.org. COST: Donations accepted. OPEN: By appointment only, at least 48 hrs in advance Mon.--Fri. only.
This beautifully renovated main library was built in 1913. Its Samuel M. Kamakau Reading Room, on the first floor in the Mauka (Hawaiian for "mountain") Courtyard, houses an extensive Hawaii and Pacific book collection and pays tribute to Kamakau, a missionary student whose 19th-century writings in English offer rare and vital insight into traditional Hawaiian culture. COST: Free. OPEN: Mon. and Wed. 10--5; Tues., Fri., and Sat. 9--5; Thurs. 9--8.
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