Bird Watching: Native forest birds such as the Apapane and Elepaio can be seen on nearby Maunawili Trail. Even if one does not see an endemic bird, the beautifully melodic song of the Shama Thrush as well as many other species can also be enjoyed right in Hale Nalo's gardens.The best location to see seabirds is—quiet fortunately—nearby at Makapuu Point where Frigatebirds, Boobies, Noddies, Terns, Tropicbirds and Shearwaters can be seen. (Birdsong recordings courtesy David Kuhn, www.SoundsHawaiian.com.)
Thursday Night Farmer's Market (Kailua): Each Thursday evening, more than 2 dozen local vendors display and sell their products, our favorites include Nalo Meli Honey which specializes in unique local raw honeys that are fresh from the hive, and OnoPops, refreshing frozen gourmet popsicles that are handmade in Hawaii using local and organic resources (sort of Mexican paletas with aloha). Try one (or two)! Kailua Town Center (behind Macy's and Longs) from 5:00-7:30pm; (arrive earlier for parking).
Swim with Dolphins in the Wild: This company caters to conscientious adventure seekers who want to explore Hawaii's amazing marine heritage with an eco-sensitive and respectful marine biologist guide. In addition to swimming with wild dolphins, you may find yourself snorkeling alongside native Hawaiian sea turtles on coral reefs and encountering whales (year-round). Tip: their "Best of the West" tour rocks!
Waterfall Hikes & Jungle Treks: Oahu has many great hikes, a favorite being the Manoa Waterfall which takes about 1 hour round trip. Trek though dense tropical jungles (think "Jurassic Park") and bamboo forests. At the end of the trail is a tall waterfall. A nature and bird lovers' delight. Tips: Avoid this trail if it's been raining, and remember to take bug spray.
Makapuu Lighthouse: Walk on a paved trail to one of Hawaii's most familiar landmarks and enjoy absolutely spectacular views of Waimanalo as well as the islands of Molokai and Lanai. The trail is easy but challenging because of the elevation gain (it is steep in places); 2.4 miles roundtrip. Located just 4 miles south on Kalanianaole Hwy (72). Take water, a hat and some sunscreen. Tip: plan ahead, as there are no "facilities" to speak of. Highly recommended!
Hanauma Bay: The Travel Channel's Best Beach Awards (2013) named this the best beach in the world for snorkeling, and it's conveniently located just 10 minutes south; (and fyi: it's closed on Tuesdays). If you go to the North Shore, take your gear and check out Shark's Cove, across from Pupukea, where terrific snorkeling can also be found. Tip: Enter only when it's calm! Summers are best; if it's at all rough, best to stay out.
North Shore: Check out Hawaii's uber-cool surfer scene! Watch world-class surfers on huge waves during the winter championship but be prepared for traffic jams which can be brutal! Not into surfing? Take "H2" to Haleiwa, grab a "shave ice" at Matsumoto's or enjoy lunch at The Beet Box Café (vegetarian). Tip: this is a great town for wandering through art galleries.
Whale Watching: Every winter (Dec-Apr), humpback whales head south to Hawaii and they're visible from everywhere there is coast. If you really want to see them, we recommend setting aside a morning or afternoon, take a hat, sunscreen, some water and snacks, then relax and enjoy the show. The Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail is a great place to view these beautiful creatures.
Diamond Head Summit Trail: Hike to the top of the world's most recognized volcanic crater! The view from the 760 ft. summit is worth the climb. The steep trail is mostly paved and includes a tunnel. Tip: Go early on a Saturday morning to the Kapiolani Community College Farmer's Market (located across the street from the trailhead) and enjoy the market and breakfast goodies before starting your hike. Tip 2: take a small flashlight for the tunnel.
Pali Lookout: Just off the highway connecting Honolulu to Windward Oahu. From this windswept vantage point, you'll be treated to spectacular panoramic views. A definite "must-see." Tip: hang on to your hat, it is very windy.
Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden: This is a rainforest garden complete with a 32-acre lake, walking trails, and a visitor center. The gardens showcase plants from the major tropical regions around the world, including collections from Africa, Hawaii, India and Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Polynesia. Special emphasis is placed on conserving plants native to Hawaii and Polynesia. Free.
Pearl Harbor The U.S.S. Missouri secured its place in history as the site of Japan's unconditional surrender to the United States, bringing an end to World War II. Today the Missouri shares the harbor with the sunken U.S.S. Arizona, a memorial to all who lost their lives during the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Iolani Palace The only restored royal palace in the United States. Built in 1882 for King Kalakaua, it offers a unique glimpse into the mystique and grandeur of Hawaii's regal past. This Renaissance-style building was the official residence of King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii's last two monarchs. Located in downtown Honolulu.
Bishop Museum Established to house the extensive collection of Hawaiian artifacts and royal family heirlooms of the Princess, and has expanded to include millions of artifacts, documents and photographs about Hawaii and other Pacific island cultures. Highly recommended.
Mission Houses The original headquarters of the Sandwich Islands Mission, a group of New England missionaries who arrived in Hawaii in 1820, determined to convert the Hawaiians to Christianity. Today the original three buildings of the mission have been restored into an outstanding museum, complete with original furnishings and curios. Local tip: the museum café is excellent.
Waikiki Historic Trail Amidst the concrete jungle known as "Waikiki" lives the very different world of the past—housing the rich and fascinating history of the Hawaiian Islands. Follow the link to a map and self-guided historical tour. Allow 4 hours. Local tip: best place to park: the Honolulu Zoo.
Honolulu Museum of Art + the Contemporary Museum The Honolulu Museum of Art is all about the collection, preservation, interpretation and teaching of the visual arts, and the presentation of exhibits, films, videos, performing arts and public programs specifically relevant to Hawaii's ethnically diverse community. Great way to spend a few hours after a beach day. (Tip: both museums have fabulous cafés and shops!)
Queen Emma Summer Palace This served as a retreat for Queen Emma of Hawaii from 1857 to 1885, as well as for her husband King Kamehameha IV and their son, Prince Albert Edward. It is a now a historic landmark and museum.
Byodo-In Temple Located in the Valley of the Temples north of Kaneohe, this temple was built in the 1960s to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrant workers in Hawaii who came to work in the sugar plantation fields. It is a replica of the 950-year-old Byodoin Temple located in Uji, Japan, on the southern outskirts of Kyoto.
Waikiki Aquarium Located next to a living reef on the Waikiki shoreline, the Aquarium focuses its exhibits, programs and research on the diversity of aquatic, shoreline and reef inhabitants in Hawaii and the tropical Pacific. Home to 2,500 animals representing 420 species, the Aquarium is especially proud of its world-renowned coral reef exhibits.
Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) (April)
The Hawaii International Film Festival is dedicated to the advancement of understanding and cultural exchange among the peoples of Asia, the Pacific and North America through the medium of film.
Honolulu Triathlon (May)
Thousands of triathletes from around the world visit Oahu each May to compete in the Honolulu Triathlon. The race features a 1.5K swim, 40K bike and 10K run that begin and ends at Ala Moana Beach Park.
Lantern Floating Hawaii Ceremony (May)
Every year on Memorial Day, thousands of people gather at Magic Island to honor ancestors and loved ones who have passed away. At sundown, more than 2,000 candlelit lanterns are set afloat on the ocean, a traditional Buddhist rite originating in Japan.
Sunday Polo in Waimanalo (May-October)
Sunday afternoons at 2:30 p.m., Waimanalo Polo Field.
Prince Lot Hula Festival (July)
Each third Saturday in July, the largest non-competitive hula event in Hawaii takes place at Moanalua Gardens. A number of Hawaii's top hula halau (performing dancers) participate each year. Highly recommended! Local tip: take a picnic and sit on the grass, where you'll get the best view of stage area. Free.
Gabby Pahihui Kanikapila (August)
The Gabby Pahinui Waimanalo Kanikapila (a Hawaiian "jam session"), held each August at Waimanalo Beach Park, supports efforts to establish a museum and performance center for Hawaiian music and hula. An incredible opportunity to enjoy authentic Hawaiian music. Tip: The park is sun exposed so go early for a spot in the shade. Take a cooler and a mat to sit on. Free.
Aloha Festival (September)
Hawaii's premier cultural showcase, the Aloha Festival is a celebration of Hawaii's music, dance and history intended to preserve the unique island traditions. Free.
Molokai Hoe (October)
One of the longest running annual team sporting events in Hawaii, the race starts on Molokai and ends at the beach fronting the Hilton Hawaiian Village. The Molokai Hoe perpetuates one of Hawaii's and Polynesia's most important and historic cultural traditions, while honoring outrigger canoe paddlers around the world. Free.
Triple Crown of Surfing (November-December)
Every winter, powerful swells cross thousands of miles of open ocean and descend upon the Hawaiian Islands, creating some of the biggest, most powerful and most challenging waves on the planet. Go watch the worlds best surfers compete for the crown! Free.
Honolulu Marathon (December)
Thousands of runners from around the world travel to Oahu each year to participate in the Honolulu Marathon. The 26-mile scenic course includes spectacular views from world famous Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head. Free.
ISLANDS Magazine ranks Waimanalo the "Best Summer Beach in the World " and gives Hale 'Nalo a nod! (June 2010.)
New York Times Times Terrific article entitled "My Kailua" praises Waimanalo.
Forbes Magazine Dr. Beach's 2013 List: Top 10 Beaches in the U.S., Waimanalo ranked #5.
Sweet Home Waimanalo Fresh local cuisine. Must try: fish tacos!
Ono Steaks Waimanalo. No-frills. Vast menu, excellent fresh shrimp and fish dishes.
Serg's Mexican Kitchen Waimanalo. Good standard Mexican fare. Tip: Order take-out.
The Food Company Enchanted Lakes area of Kailua. Excellent local cuisine.
Formaggio Grill Kailua town. Casual/chic Euro-bistro. Fantastic food, fun atmosphere!
Rai Rai Ramen Kailua town. Authentic Japanese noodle house. Try: Chicken Katsu Ramen.
Kalapawai Market Cafe Kailua town. Casual yet serving award-winning cuisine.
Uahi Grill Kailua town. Fantastic contemporary cuisine. Local favorite.
The Beet Box Cafe North Shore/Haleiwa, Vegetarian Organic Cafe. Excellent and healthy chow!
House Without A Key Halekulani, Waikiki. For a special night out. Be seated by 5:00 p.m.