When visiting Oahu, everybody goes to Waikiki to shop and eat, and to the beautiful beaches all around the Island. Waikiki is about as far from the old "real" Oahu as you can get. It is more like Tokyo or New York City on steroids than old Oahu. No sense crying about that. It has happened. So we make the best of it.
LUCKILY, one can find ways of getting a bit closer to what Oahu once was by:
1) going to the cultural centers of Iolani Palace and the Bishop Museum to learn of the history of the island.
2) visiting the Western shore of the Island and going to the Makaha and Yokohama beaches, which, where many locals go.
3) taking a long and inexpensive ride on the No. 2 bus, say between Waikiki and the Bishop museum, and seeing the Oahu middle class going to and from work. THis is a fun trip. If you take public transportation in New York City, you may not hear anyone talk to a stranger, but on the No. 2 bus, you will hear lots of conversations among the locals. If you ask the bus driver to tell you when to get off, you may well have struck up a conversation with three or four locals sitting around you. MUCH FUN.
4) Eat traditional Hawaiian food at a restaurant like Helena's. It is near the Bishop Museum, and it a treasure.
5) See what deep forests of Oahu look like by visiting the Lyon Arboretum.
I loved this place. It is a big time adventure that has a personal feel. When we arrived by car, the parking lot was full. My wife asked someone at the little park headquarters for advice. He went over and moved a truck so we could park.
I read that you should buy bug spray for the walk in the woods so I asked the lady who runs the little store for some. She handed me a can, and said, "Here, just use this." VERY NICE! Pleasant surprises are always nice.
THERE IS NO CHARGE for admission. There is a money jar. I put $10 in for my wife and I. The lady said "Thank you", and sounded like she really meant it. I loved this "small time" feeling of the management of the place. The few people who work there were extremely nice and personable. The rest rooms looked more like home than those of a visitor site. The place is immaculately taken care of.
I had read that it is hard to follow the trails in the park. Well, there is the main trail and some shorter smaller trails. The main trail is paved with stones, so it is impossible to get lost on it. We didn't take the smaller trails. The main trail ends at a waterfall. This is not a difficult hike. There are signs on interesting trees. There are beautiful birds. There are beautiful vistas. There is peace and quiet. I almost got the feeling I was back in old Oahu, but that was more of a romantic notion.
The Lyon Arboretum is a wonderful counterpoint to the the hyper-touristy feeling of downtown Waikiki. When you take the hike, you might not see more than one or two other people. You can "become one with nature" with at this cathedral of flora.
MANY THANKS TO THE PEOPLE WHO TAKE CARE OF LYON ARBORETUM.
NOTE: other reviewers have also pointed this out. The drive up to the arboretum ends with a long, very narrow, curving road. Take it slow and carefully. You will encounter tourists walking two or three abreast, oblivious to your car. These folks are at probably going to another attraction which has a parking lot about a mile before you get to the Lyon Arboretum.
Also note that you should wear shoes or sneakers for the hike on the main trail. It is a bit rocky. You couldn't take a stroller or a wheelchair on that path. However, it is not difficult. My wife and I are senior citizens, and we had no problem with it.
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