We weren’t supposed to have the best weather today so I purposely planned to get out of Waikiki and see some beautiful scenery that doesn’t require sun.
I have always wanted to go here. The Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens in Kaneohe on the eastern side of the island was most definitely worth the wait. As you can guess, it is a favorite among travel bloggers and Instagrammers due to its breathtaking backgrop of the Koolau Mountain Range. The Botanical Gardens were originally built in 1982 by the U.S. Army of Corps Engineers as a way to reduce flooding in the adorable town of Kaneohe. Rightfully named, “a peaceful refuge,” these 400 acres feature plantings from major tropical regions around the world, like the Philippines, Malaysia, India and Sri Lanka, Africa, and of course, Hawaii. The park is free to the public and while anyone can drive through the park and stop to view the plantings at each of the different regions, they only have one main rule… no taking photos ON the main road, which they clarified meant no stopping on the road for pics and no pics of people walking in the middle of the road. At first, I thought that the workers we passed and those that mentioned this rule were a bit over the top and almost downright rude… I mean, come on, it’s just a road and what really is the big deal if someone wants to grab an Insta-worthy shot for their travel blog. But then, as we wove our way around the park, following the rules and the signs for parking and driving that are posted everywhere, I started to understand why they were so unfriendly about this.
I realize I am showing my age with my next statement and many would disagree with me about this topic but I am going to say it anyway… Stop coming if you are just here to get likes on your page and not appreciate the beauty and hard work that these gardens clearly display, especially if you can’t even be respectful of the rules they’ve put in place. I mean, the Instagrammers were e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e, weren’t following the rules, and were blocking the road. And this rule-following avid gardener wanted none of that! One couple was using the gorgeous backdrop to promote a JEEP that they had parked across multiple parking spots in the prime center of a lot just so the guy could stand back many yards and get shots of said JEEP with the woman in various poses on top and around it. (So, basically, you needed to stay off most of the lot unless you didn’t care about upsetting them and getting in their shot.) I realize I was once a marketer of consumer products in my former life and this is how the world sells products these days. I also know that many social media influencers work very hard to be influencers. But… it saddened me to see all these people taking free advantage of nature and others’ hard work to make a buck or get a few more likes on their page. Especially when the park doesn’t charge an entrance fee and commercial photographers are required to purchase a permit.
Ok, I’ll step down off my soapbox for now. 🙂
I don’t know how many times I said to Danny, “I would most definitely come here all the time if I lived in Hawaii!” In fact, I would even consider volunteering. (That is, as long as I didn’t have to annoy the Instagrammers with reminders about the rules. Way too much conflict for me in a place that is supposed to offer peaceful tranquility.) And it truly was so peaceful and tranquil walking on the winding paths with labelled flora from various regions right at your fingertips. I especially loved climbing to the top of a small overlook that opened up to 360 degree views of the Koolau Mountain range to the North and West, the town of Kaneohe down below and then the Pacific Ocean off in the distance toward the East. It’s definitely one of my new favorite places on the island.
By about 1:30 we were hungry (I could have stayed longer but felt like Dan had patiently indulged his mother enough) so we headed toward Kailua town because for some reason, California Pizza Kitchen sounded really good to us right then. A quick 10 minute drive was all it took to get back into this adorable town for some yummy food before we once again, sought out a parking spot near Lanikai Beach for the last time this trip. The beach was quite full today as it seems that Hawaii tourism is most definitely picking back up! (I also think Waikiki had some rain but it was wonderfully only partly cloudy on this east side beach!) Among many of my beach activities like reading, sudoku, taking walks along the beach and dips into the water, a new favorite is laying flat on my back and watching the clouds pass by. I decided to count it as my form of meditation. I am sure I have done this before but never with as much enjoyment or focus as I did this trip. It certainly helped me relax and feel calm which was one of my ‘goals’ for this week.
By about 4:30 we could tell that some weather would be moving in soon so we slowly made our way back to Waikiki to get showered and ready for our last dinner of the trip. We saved up for Merriman’s — a favorite restaurant on the Big Island known for working well with local farms as suppliers of fresh produce and meats. It was in downtown Honolulu near the very fancy Ala Moana center. We sat outside as if on a street cafe except we were under gorgeous tall palm trees while listening to awesome live local music. We dined on amazing salad, shrimp and their catch of the day, local mongchong fish, finally topping off an amazing meal with the best desserts… I had a type of creamy lilikoi custard with a homemade mac nut cookie and Dan treated himself to the “Waialua Chocolate Purse” which was the perfect combination of a chocolate cake-ish delight wrapped up in a toasted phyllo dough ‘purse’ paired with homemade vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. A perfect way to end a wonderful day.