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A gem in Windward Oahu, Kaneohe is chock full of natural wonders. There’s beauty from mauka to makai, as they say in Hawaii, or from the mountain to the sea. Kaneohe is situated between the Koolau Mountains and Kaneohe Bay. For example, the neighborhood is home to the 400-acre Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden. In Hawaiian, hoomaluhia means “a peaceful refuge.” These verdant gardens feature plants from the Americas, Africa, India, Melanesia, Polynesia and, of course, Hawaii, as well as a 32-acre lake. For tranquility in a Windward oasis, look no further than the Byodo-In Temple, located in the Valley of the Temples in the Kaneohe neighborhood of Kahuluu. It was dedicated in August 1968 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. The temple is intricate recreation of a 900-year-old temple in Uji, Japan. The temple and its manicured grounds offer an array of peacefully secluded areas, including a koi pond. You’ll also see beautiful peacocks freely roaming the grounds. At the town’s edge is the idyllic Kaneohe Bay. The large bay has been the backdrop for several movies and TV shows, including Gilligan’s Island and 50 First Dates.

Kaneohe Bay
At nearly eight miles long and three miles wide, Kaneohe Bay is the largest sheltered body of water in the main Hawaiian Islands. The bay stretches from the U.S. Marine Corps military base to the offshore islet Mokolii, also known as Chinaman’s Hat. The bay is also home to the Kaneohe Bay Yacht Club, where many Windward residents have learned to sail since 1924. Watch the club’s members in action during their weekly Thursday evening races. Near the middle of the bay is a sandbar, called Ahu o Laka in Hawaiian. It’s only accessible via boat or kayak, and is a popular barbecue and beach volley spot on the weekends during low tide. And off in the distance is the islet Moku o Loe, also known as Coconut Island. You’ve likely seen the islet on TV; it was a film location for Gilligan’s Island. Today, the islet is a marine research facility, owned the University of Hawaii’s Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology. Another unique aspect of Kaneohe Bay is the more than 40 patch and fringe reefs. Scientists from the state’s universities and from across the globe come to Oahu to study the bay’s reefs. Kaneohe Bay was also a place of significance for Native Hawaiians. The bay served as home to a handful of Hawaiian fishponds. The large ponds were unique forms of aquaculture involving herding adult fish in shallow tidal areas and cultivating them. Today one such fishpond, Heeia Fishpond is being restored in the traditional manner.
Cori’s Tip: Explore Kaneohe Bay by booking a snorkeling or glass-bottom boat tour.

Kualoa Ranch
What do Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates and Godzilla all have in common? A part of each of these movies was filmed at Kualoa Ranch. Nestled between Kaneohe Bay and the Koolau Mountains, Kualoa Ranch encompasses 4,000 acres and is a private nature preserve and a working cattle ranch. But it’s more than just a cool set location and home to 500 livestock. It’s also a tour and activity center. Kualoa Ranch is an adventurer’s dream, and all in one location! You can explore the beautiful grounds on horseback or an ATV, or see the ranch from above on a zipline. For the foodies, Kualoa has farm-to-table tours, as well as Hawaiian culture tours for the history buffs. If you just want to see where the silver screen dinosaurs roamed, check out the movie sites tour. Even better: From the grounds of Kualoa Ranch, you’ll have a stellar view of Mokolii, also known as Chinaman’s Hat, an offshore islet. Cori’s Tip: It’s best to kayak or paddleboard to Chinaman’s Hat instead of swimming to the offshore islet. It’s farther than it looks! Be sure to book any tours or activities in advance. 

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