Just minutes away from the bustling state capitol of Honolulu – but still within the city limits – is the lush Manoa Valley. This residential area is home to the University of Hawaii at Manoa, receives almost daily rain, and was the site of the first sugarcane and coffee plantations in the Hawaiian Islands.
Hidden deep within Manoa Valley are two amazing activities that can be paired together to create the perfect day in paradise: a hike through the lush Hawaiian jungle to Manoa Falls, and a visit to the magnificent Mu Ryang Sa Buddhist Temple.
With a vertical drop of approximately 150 feet, Manoa Falls is reached via a 1.5 mile – often quite muddy and slippery – hiking trail. While the reward for the trek is great, visitors are advised not to swim in the waterfall’s pool, as it is heavily polluted with leptospirosis bacteria.
The trail leads you through a variety of ecosystems, making it the perfect hike for amateur and professional photographers alike. I especially love to the take the offshoot trail near the falls through a beautiful bamboo forest, but the banyan tree at the beginning of the trail is also breathtaking.
Mu Ryang Sa Korean Buddhist Temple, hidden among residential streets in the Manoa Valley, is named after the distinctive “Broken Ridge” in the main hall’s roofline. Construction on the temple began in 1980, but during the build process, it was discovered that the main hall exceeded city and county height restrictions. The roof was lowered to its present height, but there is a visible break in the temple’s roofline.
Exploration around the temple grounds is welcomed, and the photography possibilities are endless – from close up shots of Buddhist statues and intricate architecture, to grand, expansive shots of the entire valley, the temple is truly a photographer’s paradise.
The main hall is open daily for personal meditation, though if you are unfamiliar with the practice of meditation, I suggest going to the Vipassana Meditation Sitting, which is held each Saturday at 4 p.m. Although it was a little weird at first, I can attest to how truly relaxing the experience is.
The hike to Manoa Falls will get your blood pumping and stimulate your adrenaline, while meditation – or even a simple walk – at Mu Ryang Sa will help you relax and increase mindfulness. And at either activity, you are sure to experience a deep appreciation for the natural beauty that exists across the magnificent Hawaiian Islands.