Activity Finds: Windward Oahu

1) Byodo-In Temple

If you're en route to O‘ahu's North Shore take a scenic pause at the Byodo-In Temple in Windward O‘ahu. Secreted away in Kane‘ohe's Valley of the Temples, this gold and lacquer palatial place of worship is set against of a backdrop of immaculate Japanese gardens, Ko‘olau's verdant peaks and glassy koi ponds.

Commissioned as a gift to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the arrival of the Japanese culture in Hawai‘i, the non-denominational temple was completed in 1968. For those who have seen the original, the Byodo-In Temple was designed as a replica of the famous Uji temple - a 900-year-old Buddhist temple in Kyoto.

Seen in scenes from Hawai‘i Five-0 to Lost, many families pay a visit to feed the koi, sparrows and bunnies and to ring the Byodo-In Temple's three-ton brass peace bell, whose gentle peals can often be heard echoing softly throughout Kane‘ohe.


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2) Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden

Let your day blossom with a visit to the 400-acre Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden. Known for its lush fields, this Windward Oahu sanctuary will put your mind at ease as you soak in the fresh island air and lush flora.

Thick with hidden trails nestled below the Koolau Mountains, there is always something "growing" on at this luxurious park. Fancy a picnic or a peaceful day with your head in the clouds; this city park lives up to its name, which means "Peaceful Refuge."

Stop fishing for something to do and swim on over to the Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden on the weekend (available from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays) for catch-and-release fishing. They provide the bamboo poles with barbless hooks and you bring the bait (fresh bread does the trick). We promise after your first catch - typically a tilapia or midas cichlid - you'll be hooked! Other activities the gardens offer include feeding the ducks, guided nature walks and even camping on the weekends.

The gardens are home to botanical collections from regions around the world including the Philippines, Malaysia, India & Sri Lanka, Hawaii and Africa. Branch out and explore the vast area either on foot or from the comfort of your car. Entrance to the gardens is free to the public from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.


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Food Finds: Windward Oahu

1) Waiahole Poi Factory

For those looking to expand their taste buds we promise you'll go pupule (poo-poo-leh or crazy) for Waiahole Poi Factory's poi - so popular that this stereotypical (non-grass) shack in Waiahole Valley on O‘ahu's Windward coast typically sells out of their most popular items like the fresh, hand pounded and milled poi by early afternoon.

Get a head start on the locals and while you're there grab one of their heaping Hawaiian combo plates for an early lunch. At $10.50 a pop you can't go wrong with a mix of either Waiahole's squid luau, lau lau and beef luau or kalua pig - perfect for two to share. Grab a cool glass of iced mamake tea (an herbal iced tea, made from the Hawaiian mulberry plant, sweetened with sugar) to wash it all down. As they say in Hawai‘i, "da buggah broke da mouth."

An ‘ohana (family) business, Waiahole Poi Factory is owned and managed by the Hoe family and also offers guests a taste of Hawai‘i's culture and art. Their gallery, featuring must-have local masterpieces includes prints by well-known Hawaiian artists like Solomon Enos, poi pounders by Kanohi Enos, authentic native Hawaiian instruments and more.

If you've wandered through Waiahole Poi Factory before you're in luck - you no longer have to suppress your Hawaiian plate cravings till Saturday or Sunday. They're now open daily from 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.


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2) Heeia Kea Pier

Lapping at the shores of He'eia, the He'eia Kea Pier is scenic spot that has hooked guests on their gourmet twist on plate lunch favorites such as misoyaki beef, beer battered mahi, guava chicken and luau stew.

If you're an early riser, hele (move) on over to Kane‘ohe before the sun is up to land He'eia Kea Pier General Store and Deli's early bird $5 breakfast special. Get there by 8 a.m. to anchor yourself a spot at the counter before the place is swimming with shorts-and-slipper-clad kama‘aina and the gang of retired "grandpas" who help open the place every morning.

These oldies but goodies love nothing more to than to strike up a conversation about what Windward O‘ahu was like in their "small kid time." And be sure to pay them the courtesy of asking for their recommendation before you head in to place your order. You can pretend to be surprised when they tell you it's the beef stew.


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3) Haleiwa Joe's Kaneohe

This iconic eatery isn't your average Joe. Haleiwa Joe's in Kaneohe has been a part of Haiku Gardens for many years, serving up breathtaking views of the Ko'olau Mountains and a gourmet menu that consistently receives rave reviews. The beautiful ambiance is a classic romantic setting, often hosting weddings in the garden below and making it the perfect locale for a romantic dinner or relaxing pau hana (happy hour) after a blissful day exploring the Windward side.

A meat-lovers paradise, Haleiwa Joe's servings are heaping helpings of home-cooked heaven. They're well known by locals who come back again and again for favorites like the sticky ribs (or as we call them, finger-licking-good ribs) and their 24 oz. prime rib, which has been dubbed the best on the island. If 24 ounces of meat is one cut too many, sample the same recipe served as part of their Sunday brunch buffet, available every Sunday from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Reservations are not accepted, so plan on swinging by early (just remember to pack a change of clothes after a day at your favorite Kailua beach) or walk the grounds as you wait for a table.


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