Desk jockeys, put down that dry cleaning and get inspired by your friends and neighbors. They make the most of Hawaii's giant backyard—and they want to show us how.
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Pitch a Tent
Peaceful camping at Kahua Nui.
Photo by Olivier Koning
With exotic trees that will make you do a double-take and flowers that you could swear are made of wax, Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Kaneohe is like a museum for the plant world. The best part is that the 400-acre expanse has three camping areas, each with its own characteristics. For a vantage point of the garden’s 32-acre lake, pitch a tent at Kahua Kuou. If you prefer a 180-degree view of the Koolau Mountains, stay at Kahua Lehua. Large groups and privacy-seekers will appreciate the open land of Kahua Nui. Bonuses include clean bathrooms (with toilet paper!), showers, large sinks for dishwashing, picnic tables and guided nature hikes on Saturdays and Sundays. The downside: pets, alcohol, ball-playing, and swimming in the lake are no-nos, and gates close at 4 p.m., opening again only briefly for cars with permits on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Camping permits are issued at the visitor center, or Oahu residents can submit an application via fax: 233-7326. 45-680 Luluku Road, 233-7323, www.co.honolulu.hi.us/parks/hbg.
Drag Your Kids Outside
Overheard: The 8-year-old telling the 6-year-old that he wanted to play guitar because the drums were too much exercise. Wait, kids consider the game Rock Band exercise? They may howl when sucked from Legos into the glare from that bright light in the sky, but the whining will quickly abate on these family adventures:
Fishing in Hoomaluhia
Hanauma Bay dawn patrol
Show up at sunrise for a quick reef-safety speech from security and free front-row parking. You’ll finish your snorkel before the first tour bus drops its load. Closed on Tuesdays.
Koko Crater Garden
Head inside Koko Crater to visit the desert. A dusty road makes for an easy hour-long walk. Follow the signs from Kalama Valley and bring your own water. Closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day; 522-7063.
Field Trip Friends
Sign up for unique educational adventures to fishponds, loi and other Oahu destinations you never knew existed. Field trips change seasonally. Call 223-8283 to register, or visit www.fieldtripfriends.com.
Dive the Divine
On Lanai, Jacques Cousteau wannabes don’t have to travel far to experience diving euphoria. The island is blessed with more than 30 dive sites, including two spots aptly dubbed First and Second Cathedrals, made famous by their underwater lava formations. “[The Cathedrals] get their name from the churchlike effect created when the light shines in from the multiple cracks in the lava tubes, similar to the effect created by stained glass windows in a church,” says Mike Jones, captain and dive instructor for Trilogy Excursions. At First Cathedral, divers can wander inside a massive lava tube about 100 feet in length, and escape through three natural exits. At the end of the tube, multiple cracks create a spotlight on one large rock, nicknamed “the altar.” Jones likens Second Cathedral to “a huge block of Swiss cheese.” He explains, “There are two main lava tubes that have a total of seven ways to enter or exit.” Certified divers only; ask for a weekly dive schedule. Price: $199 for a two-tank dive. Trips depart from Manele Small Boat Harbor. 808-357-3020, www.sailtrilogy.com.
Ride a Mosquito
Armando Martinez’s ultralight has the shortest wingspan on the planet. Is that a good thing? We’re not sure, but Martinez says that its dimensions allow him to fly in extreme weather conditions, and adds that it was custom built by Mark Gibson, a championship hang glider and well-known designer in the industry. Experience the “little mosquito,” as he affectionately calls it, for yourself by going on a flight out of Dillingham Airfield. Although no trip is the same, Martinez says that a bird’s eye of view of Kaena Point, the North Shore and Turtle Bay is “nothing you can put into words.” Altitudes can reach up to 5,000 feet, but rest assured, Martinez has been piloting ultralights since the early 1990s, and broke a world record in 2004 for flying from Orlando, Fla. to Caracas, Venezuela, in 19 days. Flights start at $50 for 15 minutes and increase with airtime. 388-1765, www.hawaiiultralight.com.
Pilot Armando Martinez and his son, Nacho, flying over Kaena point.
Photo by Sergio Goes