Tropical weather, stunning landscapes, bamboo forests, lava deserts, cliffs and coastlines, piña coladas, poke bowls, hula dance — these are some of the many words to describe the beautiful Pacific islands of Hawaii.
Hawaii is composed of eight major islands filled with gorgeous panoramic views scattered all around major cities and smaller towns.
One of these places is the census-designated town of Kāneʻohe in the city and county of Honolulu, located on the windward part of Oʻahu Island.
Kāneʻohe is about a 30-minute drive from Honolulu and is situated along Kāneʻohe Bay under the shadows of the Ko'olau Mountain Range, offering some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world.
Kāneʻohe, in the Hawaiian language, means “bamboo man,” taken from an ancient story about a local woman comparing her husband’s ferocity to the sharp edges of cut bamboo.
Due to the abundance of rainfall, Kāneʻohe was an important agricultural location, but today, the town is primarily a residential neighborhood with little signs of agriculture.
Kāneʻohe is close to the Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH), formerly known as the Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay and originally as the Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay.
If you want to know more about Kāneʻohe’s natural wonders and interesting spots, then pack your summer outfits and get ready for that sunkissed glow as you make your way through our list of things to do in this stunning town of Hawaii.
See the Beauty of Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
This 400-acre land is situated on the foothills of the Ko'olau Mountain Range along Luluku Road.
Established in 1982, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designed and built the gardens for flood protection.
Ho’omaluhia in English means “to make a place of peace and tranquillity," living up to its purpose as a peaceful haven great for strolling, hiking, camping, and other activities.
It is a garden of rainforests filled with different plant and tree species from other tropical countries across the world.
The plant species are divided by regions and are diverse as far as the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Polynesia, Africa, Tropical America, and Hawaii.
The Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden features a 32-acre lake, walking trails, guided nature walks, campgrounds, lecture room, exhibition hall, botanical and workshop library.
Remember to capture beautiful photos, especially the famous palm tree-lined road with the stunning Ko'olau Mountains in the background!
The garden is open daily except for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, with admission free of charge.
Zipline at the Bay View Mini-Putt and Zipline
Bay View Mini-Putt and Zipline is an amusement park located at Kaneohe Bay Drive with 18 and 36-hole miniature golf courses and a 400-long zipline.
Both mini-putt courses can be played individually or combined, with views of the majestic Ko'olau Mountains.
Guests can either choose the easier Pali course or the more challenging Likelike Course.
The zipline, Oahu's first zipline, starts between the suspended treehouse and the signature banyan tree and spans across the Likelike Course.
The zipline is a dual-track system allowing two people to ride side by side and speeds up to 25 mph, overlooking the beautiful Kāneʻohe Bay.
An additional feature of the park includes party areas for special occasions such as birthdays, retreats, and reunions, making it a great attraction for families and other groups.
Visit the Byodo-In Temple
The Byodo-In Temple is located in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park at Kahekili Highway on the foot of the Ko'olau Mountains.
It was founded in 1968 to mark the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants in Hawaii.
The Byodo-In Temple is a small-scale replica of the Byodo-in Temple in Uji, Japan, a temple over 950 years old and a United Nations World Heritage Site.
It grew its popularity after it appeared in one of the episodes of the TV series Lost and several more such as Hawaii Five-0 and Magnum P.I.
Highlights of the temple include the giant Buddha statue located inside, the Phoenix Hall containing 52 smaller structures of Bodhisattvas, the Zen garden with green lawns, stone paths leading up to the temple, and a large pond home to Japanese kois and swans.
The Byodo-In Temple, a non-practicing Buddhist temple, welcomes visitors of all religions to worship, meditate, or simply admire its beauty.
Hike the Friendship Garden Trail
Above Kāneʻohe Bay sits a 10-acre forest park characterized by lower and upper unpaved trails and a sweeping view of the town and the bay’s blue waters.
Located at Kokokahi Place, Friendship Garden was established in 1927 as an essential part of the Kokokahi Tract, a community dedicated to fostering peace and harmony.
Although some modifications have been made over the years, Friendship Garden retains its history as felt and seen by the design, materials, craftsmanship, and location and provides a good landscape design example of Hawaii in the 1930s.
The park is well-maintained with its stone entry steps, two wood structures, mature flora, and different plant varieties in distinct locations.
The trail is fairly easy and short but beautiful with lush greenery, gorgeous flowers, a bamboo forest, and stunning scenery from the top.
It’s a great trail for families and friends who want to jump-start their day; however, parking is limited and can be challenging, so start early to avoid the crowd.
The garden was listed on the State’s Register of Historic Places in 2008 and on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.
Book an Adventure at the Kualoa Ranch
The Kualoa Ranch is a nature reserve, a farm, and a cattle ranch, spanning 4000 acres of land consisting of three valleys: Kualoa, Hakipu’u, and Ka’a’awa.
Located at Kamehameha Highway, Kualoa Ranch is owned and managed by the descendants of Dr. Gerritt Judd, an American doctor.
He first purchased 622 acres of land in 1850, 2200 acres in 1860, and another 1188 acres purchased by his son, Charles, in 1880.
If the place looks familiar to you, it’s because it has appeared in over 79 famous movies and TV shows, including Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, 50 First Dates, Pearl Harbor, Godzilla, Jumanji, Lost, and in some episodes of The Amazing Race.
Kualoa Ranch has one of the best guided tours and activities, winning numerous awards, including TripAdvisor’s Hall of Fame and “Top Trending Worldwide Attractions,” and was recognized by Star-Advertiser’s Readers Choice Awards and Hawai’i Magazine.
Book any of their epic adventures and tours such as the Jurassic Adventure Tour, 2-hr Raptor Tour, Hollywood Movie Sites Tour, Jurassic Valley Zipline, Ocean Voyage Adventure, Secret Island Beach Adventure, Jungle Jeep Expedition, 2-hr Horseback Walking Tour, Malama Experience, and more!
Kualoa Ranch’s mission is to protect the history, preserve, and enhance the beauty of these sacred lands through fostering environmentally-friendly recreational, agricultural, and aquacultural industries.
Hike the Likeke Falls
Below the Nu'uanu Pali Lookout comes Likeke Falls, a beautiful two-tiered waterfall that flows down from 20 feet high, with its first 8 feet descending the rocks into a tiny pool below.
Likeke Falls, sometimes known as the Old Pali Highway Falls, is one of the easiest to reach; however, without a map and some directions, you may never find it.
Likeke Falls can be reached in two ways: hiking down the Old Pali Highway from the Nu'uanu Pali Lookout, which will take an hour and a half, or taking the easier and shorter route by starting from the Ko'olau Golf Course parking lot and going up which will only take about 15 minutes.
Go easy on yourself and book a guided tour if you prefer, but doing the not-so-easy routes may lead you to wonderful discoveries and makes it worth hiking up to.
Make sure to wear proper clothes and attire as the trail can be muddy and slippery.
Do Water Activities at Kāneʻohe Bay
Kāneʻohe Bay is the largest sheltered body of water in the islands of Hawaii.
The bay is approximately 8 miles long, 2.7 miles wide, and has a 4.6-mile mouth opening.
Located along the northeast coast of the island of Oʻahu, this embayment is dominated by reefs, making it an important scenic and recreational wonder.
This large expanse of vivid blue ocean is flanked on all sides by the stunning Ko'olau Mountain range, making it more of a magnificent bay than a beach.
Although not suitable for swimming, other water activities can be done here, including fishing, boating, and kayaking.
Kāneʻohe Bay is home to five small islands: Ahu o Laka (a sandbar), Kapapa, Kekepa (Turtleback Rock), Mokolii (Chinaman's Hat), and Moku o Loe (Coconut Island), the largest of the five.
Kāneʻohe Bay served as a dramatic backdrop for several Hollywood blockbusters, including Pearl Harbor, Adam Sandler's renowned cult movie 50 First Dates, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
Spend a Chill Day at Kualoa Regional Park
You're in for a real treat at Kualoa Regional Park.
Located along Kamehameha Highway at Kāneʻohe Bay, Kualoa Regional Park is a 153-acre park a few distances away from the Kualoa Ranch.
It is fronted by a huge and well-maintained lawn, providing an excellent spot to throw frisbee or play ball games, and shaded by several trees, which are wonderful for lounging during the day or camping at night.
Although the shoreline is rocky and not conducive for swimming, the view makes up for it, as the park offers a breathtaking panorama of the small island of Mokoliʻi or Chinaman's Hat, a famous volcanic remnant island, located about a third of a mile offshore, popular for kayaking and paddleboarding.
Kualoa Regional Park is serene and beautiful, so if you’re looking for a calm and relaxing hang-out place for family and friends, this is the perfect place to be.
Try the Famous Noodles at Adela’s Country Eatery
Adela’s Country Eatery at Kamehameha Highway only uses the freshest local ingredients, handcrafts food meticulously, and cooks to perfection to serve the best dishes in town.
Founded by Adela Visitacion and Millie Chan in 2019, both ladies have been friends in the kitchen for 25 years prior, their love and passion for food bringing them close together.
With a 5-star Yelp rating and excellent reviews on social media, locals and foodies find their way here to taste one of the bestsellers on the menu, their Hawaii-made pasta noodles using kalo (taro), ulu (breadfruit), malunggay (moringa), Okinawan sweet potato, and Capellini.
Aside from their savory dishes, they have decadent sweet cakes and cookies on the menu, which are quite popular too!
Adela’s Country Eatery provides support to local farmers in the community and showcases a mix of different cuisines, including American, Japanese, and Filipino, with a touch of Hawaiian flavors.
Dine at Haleiwa Joe’s Haiku Gardens
Haleiwa Joe’s Haiku Gardens is an open-air restaurant surrounded by its own tropical garden with a koi pond and a spectacular view of the Ko‘olau mountains.
Located on Haiku Road, this restaurant is famous for its freshly caught seafood, prime ribs, and locally grown produce.
This one in Kāneʻohe is their second location opened in 2000, with the first and original one at Haleiwa founded way back in 1998.
The Kāneʻohe location is open daily for dinner and is the perfect venue for celebrating special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, and caters for weddings within the town.
Haleiwa Joe’s Haiku Gardens presents an extensive menu and boasts fresh food, friendly staff, and fantastic views.
Play Golf at Kāneʻohe’s Public Golf Courses
Kāneʻohe is home to three distinct golf courses, each with some of the most breathtaking views.
Pali Golf Course, opened in 1953, is a public golf course located at Kamehameha Highway.
It is an 18-hole, 72-par, 6524-yard famous for its difficult uphills, scenic bays, and mountain views.
Bayview Golf Course, opened in 1963, is another public course situated at Kaneohe Bay Drive.
It features an 18-hole, 60-par, 3399-yard course, bound to test your short game skills in a gorgeous setting of green pastures and coastal views of Kāneʻohe Bay.
The Ko’olau Golf Club, however, was permanently closed in 2021.
Climb the Top of the Nu'uanu Pali Lookout 11
The Nu'uanu Pali Lookout, situated at Nuuanu Pali Drive, offers one of the most impressive views of Oʻahu.
From the top’s stone terrace, you’ll get a glimpse of Kāneʻohe and the Kāneʻohe Bay, the nearby town of Kailua, and the majestic Ko'olau Mountains.
The Nu'uanu Pali Lookout has deep historical significance as it was the site of the Battle of Nu'uanu, where King Kamehameha I won the battle that eventually united Oʻahu under his control in 1795.
“Pali,” which means "cliff" in Hawaiian, is the place where hundreds of men died in this ferocious combat, many of whom were forced off the Pali's steep cliffs.
It's worth noting that the Nu'uanu Pali Lookout is known for its strong and roaring winds, so make sure you come prepared.
When you feel the wind press up against you, hear the winds whistle over the mountains, and see the stunning views of Oahu's Windward Coast, you'll have a better understanding of why the Nu'uanu Pali Lookout is one of Oahu's top scenic sites.
Shop at the Windward Mall Farmers Market
Whether you're looking for something familiar or exotic, the Windward Mall Farmers Market is sure to satisfy whatever interests you have about food.
The Windward Mall Farmers Market is located inside Windward Mall at Kamehameha Highway.
The farmers market used to be outdoors, but in order to provide a comfortable experience for shoppers away from the sun and rain, it was moved indoors and accommodated two floors in front of Macy’s.
Most sellers offer samples of their items as you wander around the market, and they're more than happy to tell stories about where it was grown and why it's unique to Hawaii.
Aside from the local Hawaiian food scene, you’ll also see a range of other Asian dishes such as Filipino, Vietnamese, and Thai cuisines.
Tropical and exotic fruits you’ve never seen and tasted are found here, such as papaya, star fruit, and guyabano (soursop).
Also available are high-quality, locally sourced olive oils, coffees, jams, jellies, and freshly baked goodies.
The Windward Mall Farmers Market is open Wednesdays and Sundays.
Drop By Tropical Farms Macadamia Nuts 15
Tropical Farms, on Oʻahu’s Windward side, is an off-the-beaten-path destination.
But it's well worth a visit, not only for the numerous delectable treats they offer but also for the learning opportunity about Hawaiian culture.
Tropical Farms started as a roadside business in 1987 but has grown today as one of the most visited places for macadamia nuts, chocolates, coffees, gift baskets, and other goods.
They grow their macadamia nuts and other fruits on their farm, where their products are freshly made.
You can even try their unique flavors for free, such as caramel, cinnamon, Kona coffee, Maui onion, and garlic-flavored macadamias.
Aside from browsing the farm's store, they also offer an Alii Tour, which takes you on a tour around the farm, and lasts about an hour.
Volunteer at Paepae o He'eia
Paepae o He’eia is a private non-profit organization committed to caring for He’eia Fishpond – an ancient Hawaiian fishpond over 800 years old.
Located at Ipuka Street, Paepae o He'eia was founded in 2001 by a group of young Hawaiians to administer and preserve He'eia Fishpond for the community in collaboration with landowners Kamehameha Schools.
It symbolizes the Hawaiian method of aquaculture, which has been utilized for generations on the islands to raise young fish to maturity.
Its mission is to use education to build a foundation of cultural sustainability for Hawaii's communities, with the purpose of using traditional fishpond values and ideals to give intellectual, physical, and spiritual nourishment to the community.
Paepae o He’eia welcomes tours, field trips, and corporate visits, as well as volunteers for restoration and rehabilitation works, which can be physically challenging but rewarding at the same time.
This charming rural community is surrounded by natural beauty and mild trade winds and is steeped in Hawaiian history and culture.
Thanks to its geographical location spreading from the foothills of the Ko'olau mountains to the bays of Kāneʻohe, the town is a beautiful combination of contrasts.
City life and country living, mountains and coastal waters, old and new, it’s all here in Kāneʻohe.