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Exploring: Island Tours > Oahu > Windward
Windward is a term used in the islands to refer to areas where the prevailing winds blow. These areas are wetter and more lush than the drier leeward shore. Windward Oahu is strikingly beautiful, with mountains, waterfalls, rich agricultural areas, and a string of lovely beaches along the coastline. It also offers a variety of attractions from the tranquil gardens of a Japanese temple to the joyous celebration of island culture at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
Traveling northeast from Honolulu on either the Pali Highway or the Likelike Highway you will first come to the town of Kaneohe on Kaneohe Bay. Kaneohe Bay is one of the most scenic areas in all of Hawaii. Continuing up the coast, there are a number of attractions which may take more than a day to visit, so you might consider getting accommodations, especially if you want to continue on to visit the North Shore. The highlights of Windward Oahu include:
Byodo-In Temple: a magnificent replica of a 900-year old temple in Kyoto, Japan. Located in the verdant Valley of the Temples, the temple is surrounded by Japanese Gardens featuring a 2-acre lake filled with prize carp. A huge golden carving of the Buddha presides inside the temple. A lovely place for meditation.
He'eia State Park: built on the finger of a lava flow, the park offers panoramic views as well as highly educational exhibits. Growing there are native plants that served as foods for the ancient Hawaiians -- bananas, coconuts, breadfruit, taro, and sugarcane. A marine life exhibit features a high-tech saltwater aquarium. At one end is He'eia Kea Pier where you can catch a glass-bottom boat for a tour of the coral reefs in Kaneohe Bay.
Sacred Falls: an 80 ft. waterfall with a pool for swimming. Look for the Hawaii Visitors Bureau sign, then walk in about 2 miles. The hike is strenuous, but worth it. You'll get a view of Hawaii people fantasize about.
Senator Fong's Plantation and Gardens: a 725-acre estate which belonged to a U.S. senator, now open for guided tram tours through the magnificent gardens. A great place for gardening enthusiasts.
Polynesian Cultural Center: a wonderful attraction offering an experience of the rich and vibrant Polynesian culture. The South Pacific villages -- from Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, the Marquesas, and New Zealand (Maori) -- are very well done and manned by residents of those islands who talk about their culture and demonstrate songs, dances, and crafts. There are also a number of other demonstrations as well as a variety of shows with large casts including a pageant of canoes.
You will want to spend most of a day here and perhaps take in the fabulous evening dinner show, so plan accordingly. (It's a long drive back to Honolulu at night.)
If you keep driving north, you'll pass the Mormon Temple (it's open for visiting), lovely Malaekahana State park, and then you'll arrive at Kahaku where the shopping center features an old sugar mill.
Since you've made it this far, why not take in the big waves on the North Shore.
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