Oahu is a busy island…people often refer to it as “the city island” because it is so densely populated and contains the most city elements of all the Hawaiian Islands. Many tourists now prefer to steer clear of Oahu just because of it’s “lost paradise” reputation. Yes there are skyscrapers, there is traffic, there are business-oriented people, and there is a large homeless population. But if you were to take all of that away, you would actually have one of the most beautifully amazing islands in the Hawaiian chain.
Oahu is still full of beauty…I believe that tourists too often just get “stuck” in Waikiki, and fail to actually visit some of the most amazing things you will see in Hawaii – still contained on Oahu! As a photographer, I am always looking for those special places; after about 8 years of living on Oahu, I am still discovering the beauty. Since I live in East Oahu, I am close to tourist attractions such as Hanauma Bay and Diamond Head, but many don’t realize that just 5-10 minutes away from these popular destinations are other amazing “hidden” places. For example, just a couple minutes from Hanauma Bay is volcanic Koko Crater – it’s right there and an amazing landmark….but it’s most-likely not something you would read about in your tourist guides. Then again it’s not exactly unheard of either.
So going even further, a fantastic but not exactly popular site to see is Koko Crater Botanical Garden…one of the most unique botanical gardens I’ve ever been to in my life. The garden is actually located in the center of Koko Crater…accessed through through Kalama Valley, you can easily spend a couple hours exploring the loop trail and a multitude of foliage.
I often spend an afternoon at Koko Crater Botanical Garden photographing the vast grove of plumeria trees – so many colors and varieties. In the right season, the bougainvillea plants are vibrant walls of color and fallen Plumeria blossoms carpet the ground. Or passing on I come to gardens of different cacti and other desert plants like Agave.
Walking along a quiet path with birds singing from the treetops, I come upon a Hala (Pandanus) tree. Very common in Hawaii, the leaves of the Hala are stripped of their thorns and used to weave floor mats, containers and hats. The word for “leaf” in Hawaiian is “lau”, so if you’ve heard of “Lauhala” mats, when put together means that the mat is made out of “hala leaves”.
Koko Crater Botanical Garden separates plants, trees and flowers by geographic location – Americas, Africa, Hawaii, etc. While strolling the loop trail, you will often venture upon plant life that you’ve never seen before (at least in Hawaii) that blow your mind. Needless to say, you won’t be at a loss if you enjoy nature.
There is even a crater rim hike for the very experienced hiker, that goes up out of the garden and up around the rim edges of Koko Crater – definitely not for the faint of heart (like me). In my opinion, this place is a gem! To see more photos of my excursions at/near Koko Crater, view HERE.