Hawaii does green in the way only Polynesians know how. Rich, intense and luxuriant, Hawaii’s green spaces are a feature of any visit to the islands and a perfect tonic for a soul surrounded by steel and concrete every other day of the week. If you’re like most visitors and have decided to base yourself on Oahu – in Honolulu or Waikiki – here are the places to grab some clean air and natural eye refreshment.
Nuuanu Pali Lookout
A short drive northeast of Honolulu is the Nuuanu Pali Lookout with panoramic views of the spectacular Koolau cliffs and lush Windward Coast. Drive up the Pali Highway through tall trees and dense forests to get to the lookout where you’ll see the city dissolve into the tranquil beauty of Hawaii’s natural landscape.
Valley of the Temples
Deep in the lush Koolau Range is the Valley of the Temples. The main feature is Byodo-In, a Japanese temple whose name means "Temple of Equality". It’s actually a scale model of a larger temple in Uji, Japan, and made entirely without nails. Dedicated in 1968, it was centennial commemoration of the first Japanese immigrants in Hawaii.
The Big Island
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
While there is plenty of green and clean air on Oahu, it’s when you get to some of the other islands you really get a picture of the grandeur of this most unusual volcanic archipelago.
The Big Island, being the largest of all the islands, naturally offers the greatest variety of outdoor options, not least of them being the UNESCO-listed Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park where, depending on the mood of Pele the ancient goddess of the volcano, you may see the otherworldly sight of molten lava pouring into the ocean amid violent gusts of super-heated steam. Be sure to pop in to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory located at Uwekahuna Bluff on the rim of Kīlauea Caldera.
Kokee State Park
Billed as Hawaii’s ‘Island of Discovery’, Kaua’i does outdoor and nature to the extreme, often featuring as a dramatic backdrop to movie blockbusters like Jurassic Park and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Covered in lush forest and wild flowers is Kokee State Park where hikers can get their fill on more than 70 kilometres of trails in 1758 hectares of protected tropical wilderness on a plateau as high as 1280 metres.
Some of the Kokee State Park trails will lead you to famous Waimea Canyon which is 22 kilometres long, 1600 metres wide and more than 1 kilometre deep. It’s often called the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’. You don’t have to hike in if you don’t want because Waimea Canyon Drive will take you by road to a lower lookout point as well as the main Waimea Canyon Overlook. Besides hiking, adventurers can get their thrills on ziplines, rafting or horseback riding too.
Haleakala National Park
If you find yourself on gorgeous Maui, then you must see a sunset at Haleakala National Park, home to Maui's highest peak, more than 3000 metres above sea level. While in the oceans below, there is some of the best whale-watching in the Pacific between December and May when the sublime Humpback Whales settle in for some R&R off the coast of south and west Maui.