Travel Guide

Hawaii Travel Guide

Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay in Honolulu, Hawaii
Hanauma Bay, Oahu

Hanauma Bay (pronounced "ha-NOW-mah", in Hawaiian) is a marine embayment formed within a volcanic cone or crater and located along the southeast coast of the Island of Oʻahu (just east of Honolulu) in the Hawaiian Islands. Hanauma is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the Island and has suffered somewhat from overuse (at one time accommodating over three million visitors per year). In the 1950s, dynamite was used to clear portions of the reef to expand the area available for swimming.

Hanauma Bay Profile



Waikīkī is a neighborhood of Honolulu, in the City & County of Honolulu, on the south shore of the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Waikiki Beach is the shoreline fronting Waikiki and one of the best known beaches in the world. The neighborhood extends from the Ala Wai Canal (a channel dug to drain former wetlands) on the west and north, to Diamond Head (Lēʻahi) on the east. Waikiki has long been a place of relaxation. In particular, the area was a retreat for Hawaiian royalty in the 1800s. Waikiki Beach is noted for its magnificent views of the dormant volcano Diamond Head, its usually warm and cloud-free climate and its surfbreak. The frequently visited tourist beach is actually fairly short, with half of it marked off for surfers. For some distance into the ocean the water is quite shallow, although there are numerous rocks on the bottom, so waders should watch where they put their feet. As with most ocean beaches the waves can have some force, particularly on windy days. The surf at Waikiki is known for its long rolling breaks, making it ideal for long boarding, tandem surfing and beginners. The beach hosts many events a year, including surf competitions, outdoor performances, hula dancing and outrigger canoe races.

The USS Arizona Memorial


The USS Arizona Memorial, located at Pearl Harbor, Hawaiʻi, marks the resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors killed on the USS Arizona during the Attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 by Japanese imperial forces and commemorates the events of that day. The attack on Pearl Harbor and the island of Oʻahu was the action that led to United States involvement in World War II.

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific


The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (also Punchbowl National Cemetery) is a cemetery located in Honolulu, Hawai'i that serves a memorial to those men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces. It is administered by the National Cemetery Administration of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Thousands of visitors visit the cemetery each year, and it is one of the more popular tourist attractions in Hawai'i.

Iolani Palace in Honolulu, Hawaii
Iolani Palace, Oahu

Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace, situated in the capitol district of downtown Honolulu in the U.S. state of Hawaiʻi, is the only royal palace used as an official residence by a reigning monarch in the United States and is a National Historic Landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Two monarchs governed from ʻIolani Palace: King David Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani.

Diamond Head


Diamond Head is the name of a volcanic tuff cone on the Hawaiian island of Oʻahu and known to Hawaiians as Lēʻahi. Its English name was given by British sailors in the 19th century, who mistook calcite crystals embedded in the rock for diamonds.

North Shore (Oahu)


The North Shore refers to the north-facing coastal area of Oʻahu between Kaʻena Point and Kahuku Point. The largest settlement is Haleʻiwa. This area is best known for its massive waves, attracting surfers from all around the globe. During the winter months on the North Shore, swells originating in the stormy North Pacific appear. Notable surfing spots include Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach. The spot of Ehukai Beach, commonly known as the Banzai Pipeline, is the most notable surfing spot on the North Shore, and is considered a prime spot for competitions. The North Shore is considered to be the surfing mecca of the world, and every December hosts three competitions, which make up the Triple Crown of Surfing.

Makapuu Lighthouse

U.S. Coast Guard Makapuu Point Light (Wikipedia) The hike to the lighthouse is filled with many spectacular views of the ocean along the way. The place is a dry area, so you don't have to worry about being soaked. The trail is paved, so you don't have to worry about mud.

Hawaii State Capitol


The Hawaii State Capitol will be interesting if you are a visitor who enjoys looking at architecture. This building is very unique in that it has various Hawaiian motifs. For example, the House and Senate chambers are volcanoes, columns are coconut trees and the surrounding water symbolizes the Pacific Ocean. Other interesting sites nearby are the Iolani Palace, King Kamehameha Statue, Downtown and the Hawaii State Library.

Aloha Tower


If you are visiting Hawaii, you may want to stop by the Aloha Tower and take a look at Honolulu Harbor from the lookout on the top of the Aloha Tower (9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free). The view is a spectacular 360 degrees panorama. There are no large retail stores here. The parking lot is located behind the power plant. If you are staying in Waikiki, you can get here easily via Ala Moana Blvd. From here, you can get to Pearl Harbor in about 30 minutes via Nimitz going west. Aloha Tower was the tallest structure in Hawaii when it was completed in 1926 at a cost of $190,000. It is now the most recognized building in the state and second only to Diamond Head as Hawaii's most famous landmark. The only way up to the 10th floor observation deck is via a small, vintage elevator. Once at the top you’ll be greeted with sweeping views of Honolulu and signage which points out the various landmarks. The observation deck is open to the public daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. Source:

Foster Botanical Garden

Foster Botanical Garden

The Foster Botanical Garden, measuring 13.5 acres (5.5 ha), is one of three botanical gardens located at 50 North Vineyard Boulevard, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, near Chinatown at the intersection of Nu'uanu Avenue and Vineyard Boulevard. Foster is in a highly urban area with strip malls, schools, and both Buddhist and Methodist religious facilities nearby. The Garden is the oldest botanical garden in Hawaii, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Dangers of the Ocean, Water Falls and Streams

HAWAII is the only state made up entirely of islands. The various islands of Hawaii all have natural beauty, warm tropical climates, and inviting beaches. Only the Big Island has active volcanoes. Hawaii is one of the World's most popular travel destinations with millions arriving annually. The most serious issues for travelers are the unexpected dangers of the ocean, accidental deaths, and the large homeless population in Waikiki. Tourist regularly drown in the waters of Waikiki or other remote beaches. The beauty of the water is very deceptive and it can easily cause the death of weak or over-confident swimmers. It is best to swim with a group or a with a flotation device. There have been cases of people diving off water falls and falling off hiking trails to their deaths. On June 2010, a diver died after jumping more than 50 feet off the cliff at Spitting Caves in Honolulu. Also, storms will cause a sudden buildup of water in what normally is a small stream. A wall of water will come raging down and sweep away any person who is unlucky enough to be in its path to the ocean. Halona Blowhole is a rock formation off of Hanauma Bay that is the site of many deaths. On windy days when the tide is high, the ocean breeze sends the waves rolling on to the shore where the rock formation then shoots sea spray high into the air through the cave acting like a geyser. A tourist recently got too close, fell in the blowhole, became trapped and died.

Ala Moana Center

Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, Hawaii
The Ala Moana Center, commonly known simply as Ala Moana, is the largest shopping mall in Hawaii. It is also the seventh largest shopping mall in the United States, and the largest open-air shopping center in the world. Ala Moana is consistently ranked among the top ten most successful malls in the United States, and in 2009 was ranked by U.S. News & World Report as America's second most profitable, behind The Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas, Nevada. Located at 1450 Ala Moana Boulevard in Honolulu, Ala Moana Center is part of the commercial, retail, and residential district of Ala Moana, south of Makiki, east of Kakaʻako, west of Waikīkī and adjacent to Ala Moana Beach Park.

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, established in 1916, is a United States National Park located in the U.S. State of Hawaii on the island of Hawaii. It encompasses two active volcanoes: Kīlauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the world's most massive subaerial volcano. The park gives scientists insight into the birth of the Hawaiian Islands and ongoing studies into the processes of vulcanism. For visitors, the park offers dramatic volcanic landscapes as well as glimpses of rare flora and fauna. In recognition of its outstanding natural values, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park was designated as an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980 and a World Heritage Site in 1987. In 2012 the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park was honored on the 14th quarter of the America the Beautiful Quarters series.

Sea Life Park

Sea Life Park
Sea Life Park Hawaii is a marine mammal park, bird sanctuary and aquarium near Makapuʻu Point, north of Hanauma Bay on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, United States. The park first opened in 1964, and includes exhibits that let visitors interact with the animals by swimming with dolphins, sea lions, and rays, taking a sea safari in the aquarium, and feeding the sea turtles. The park was acquired in 2008 and is operated by Palace Entertainment, the U.S. subsidiary of Parques Reunidos from Dolphin Discovery which had acquired it in 2005.

Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach
Lanikai Beach is located in Lanikai, a community in the town of Kailua and on the windward coast of Oahu, Hawaii. The name Lanikai means "heavenly sea." This small ½ mile strip of beach is consistently ranked among the best beaches in the world. Adjacent to Lanikai Beach is a primarily upper-class residential area because of this it is accessible through public beach access paths. Although the beach itself is public property, it is not state land and is not a county beach park like many beaches in Hawaii. There is no public parking lot and the area lacks facilities like restrooms, showers or lifeguards. As of July 1, 2014, parking violation fines have increased from $35 to $200 in an effort to keep people from illegally parking in the residential area surrounding the beach accesses.

Chinatown Historic District

Chinatown Historic District
The Chinatown Historic District is a Chinatown neighborhood of Honolulu, Hawaii known for its Chinese American community, and is one of the oldest Chinatowns in the United States.


Haleʻiwa is a North Shore community and census-designated place (CDP) in the Waialua District of the island of Oʻahu, City and County of Honolulu. Haleʻiwa is located on Waialua Bay, the mouth of Anahulu Stream (also known as Anahulu River). A small boat harbor is located here, and the shore of the bay is surrounded by Haleʻiwa Beach Park (north side) and Haleʻiwa Aliʻi Beach Park (south side). Further west from the center of town is Kaiaka State Recreation Area on Kiaka Point beside Kaiaka Bay. As of the 2010 census, the CDP had a population of 3,970. It is the largest commercial center on the North Shore of the island. Its old plantation town character is preserved in many of the buildings, making this a popular destination for tourists and residents alike, visiting surfing and diving sites along the north shore.

Waikiki Aquarium

Waikiki Aquarium
The Waikiki Aquarium is an aquarium in Honolulu, Hawaii, United States. Founded in 1904, it is the second oldest public aquarium in the United States. Since 1919, the Waikiki Aquarium has been an institution of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Built next to a living coral reef on the Waikiki shoreline, the Waikiki Aquarium is home to more than 3,500 organisms of 490 species of marine plants and animals. Each year, over 330,000 people visit, and over 30,000 schoolchildren participate in the Aquarium's education activities and programs. The Waikiki Aquarium was designated a Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center of the Coastal America Partnership federal program.


Haleakalā (/ˌhɑːliːˌɑːkəˈlɑː/; Hawaiian: [ˈhɐlɛˈjɐkəˈlaː]), or the East Maui Volcano, is a massive shield volcano that forms more than 75% of the Hawaiian Island of Maui. The western 25% of the island is formed by another volcano, Mauna Kahalawai, also referred to as the West Maui Mountains. The tallest peak of Haleakalā ("house of the sun"), at 10,023 feet (3,055 m), is Puʻu ʻUlaʻula (Red Hill). From the summit one looks down into a massive depression some 11.25 km (7 mi) across, 3.2 km (2 mi) wide, and nearly 800 m (2,600 ft) deep. The surrounding walls are steep and the interior mostly barren-looking with a scattering of volcanic cones.

Shopping Areas


Living in Munich – The City that Fulfills Every Dream

By Shaira Mohan   wordpress

It has been two years living in Munich and even today, the city is able to hypnotize me with its unending mysteries and secrets that I endeavor to unravel every day, much like a child opening a Christmas present.

I was hooked from day one. From the moment I landed after the seven hour flight from New Delhi, German efficiency had already won me over. Compared to the long lines for immigration in India, German immigration and airport formalities were a cake walk and after collecting my luggage I was out within 20 minutes, greeting my husband.

‘So far so good!’ I thought. Little did I know that this city that was to be my home for the next few years already had its plan laid out to make me fall in love.

Nymphenburg Palace
Nymphenburg Palace (Source: Shaira Mohan)

Amply endowed with greenery and expanses of gardens and parks, studded by the majestic English Garden that extends from one end of the city to the other, and the serene river Isar cutting across it, Munchen, exudes a subtle magic in its beauty that is simply alluring. Nowhere else in all my ample travels have I come across a city in which in one instant I feel like I am in a country side or a forest with rolling green fields and in the next instant I have stepped out of that illusion and into a city center with a gigantic church, cobbled streets, beer halls, offices, shops, cafes and so on – all those traits synonymous of a European city. For me, Munich’s charm lies in that flexibility and choice it extends to its inhabitants – from sun bathing by the beach in summer to skiing trips in the winter, Munich is every kind of holiday rolled into one!

Winter or summer, the focus on all things outdoors unflustered by the weather, greatly draws me to the city. From table tennis tables laid out in parks to floating in the river Isar and even a bit of surfing at the popular and impressive Surfer's Spot in The English Garden, there is plenty to do in the few summer months before the overbearing winter sets in. My husband bought a tube float and we managed to indulge in a bit of river floating ourselves which is the perfect way to cool off on a summer weekend. Unlike many other European cities, Munich is a city for the cyclists and boasts wide and ample cycle paths. One of our first purchases after moving here were our own cycles that are a joy to ride in this spacious and lush green city.

Surfers Spot, English Garden
Surfers Spot, English Garden (Source: Shaira Mohan)

And it is not uncommon that I wake up every second or third day to some loud music from the occasional street festival minutes from our neighborhood. From the many wursts or sausages to the various beer breweries that Munich houses, undeniably offering the most delicious beer most of us have ever had, to even outdoor music concerts and streets buzzing with street artists, rock bands and general high spirits, the happiness induced by the summer months is palpable. Then comes the grand Oktoberfest - the mother of all beer festivals! I finally got my chance to visit this king-sized carnival with the unending rows of gigantic beer tents and the throngs of people literally from all parts of the world who book tickets a year in advance to be a part of this sensational event each year. Wearing the traditional Dirndl and Lederhosen Bavarian outfits, 6.3 million people consumed 6.5 million liters of beer at Oktoberfest in 2014 according to statistics - and these figures are a reduction from the year before!

The harsh winter does not keep everyone indoors either. My first winter here, I was fascinated by the quaint, charming Christmas Markets all over the city, exuding the spirit of the holiday with bright lights, jingles and delicious, hot Gluh Wine. And what one discovers living in European city like Munich is that it is not as much in the bigger, better known restaurants, squares and social haunts but in walking down unknown, smaller streets and corners that you end up making some of the best memories.

One cannot be in Munich and not delve into the historical significance of the city. It is a well-known fact that Adolf Hitler, after joining the German Workers Party in Munich, gave his first speech at the famous beer hall - The Hofbrauhaus as it is called. The historical significance and grandeur of this gigantic brewery still leaves me in awe. The heart-wrenching Dachau Nazi Concentration camp is also situated in Munich where I have been numerous times and have come out each time with a heavy heart, gaining a real sense of how the prisoners were mercilessly treated.

Seehaus Beer Garden, English Garden
Seehaus Beer Garden, English Garden (Source: Shaira Mohan)

Having been bombed in the war, Munich was completely rebuilt post the US occupation in 1945 but in keeping with the old and exquisite architecture instead of modernizing them - another element of intrigue for me. Walking through the cobbled streets and surrounded by varying styles of architecture - from the frills on building balconies to the intricate designs on the facades, often times I tend to forget the extent of the destruction that this mesmerizing city had endured.

New Town Hall/ Glockenspiel, Marienplatz
New Town Hall/ Glockenspiel, Marienplatz (Source: Shaira Mohan)

Munich is special to me also for being the place where I was able to finally open up to a suppressed talent that I unknowingly possessed – that of writing – perhaps brimming from the inspiration that the move to Munich had ostensibly drawn in me. Being an expatriate housewife in any country means it is imperative to keep oneself busy and socialize with others from time to time. Luckily for me, Munich has so much to offer that I find myself pressed for choice every week on how I should indulge myself. I joined an International Womens Club through which I have met some wonderful ladies from across the globe that engage in a wide and impressive plethora of activities from charity and fund raising to sports like Tennis and Yoga to even city walks and tours. The diversity that Munich has to offer in terms of people, culture, food, entertainment and even open, green spaces is certainly unique and quite unparalleled, in my view.

Old City Gate, Munich
Old City Gate, Munich (Source: Shaira Mohan)

Even after two years I feel like I have just been able to scratch the surface of this exciting city. Being so well connected with many other exotic countries in Europe, we have had the good fortune of seeing a lot of Europe but it is always good to come back home to Munich. As all good things come to an end, our stay in this enchanting city may well come to an end next year, but my love for it will only grow.

If you haven’t been to Munich as yet, I suggest you include it in your next travel itinerary! You have my word, you won't regret it!


By Shaira Mohan   wordpress

More often than not, when one plans to travel to a new country, the travel itinerary consists of the most popular, most inhabited or the larger, more historical cities. Barcelona or Madrid in Spain, Istanbul in Turkey, and London in the UK for example, will be the preferred choices and for the time-bound traveler, this will more than suffice.

If you are a foreigner living in Europe like me, your roster of travel opportunities opens up and reads quite differently. Living in Europe for the past two years, the one thing we have discovered as frequent travelers within the continent, is that it is the lesser known destinations - 'off the beaten path' villages, townships, lakes, forests - that possess a certain 'je ne sais quoi' that is far more alluring and the secrets and stories hidden behind these relatively obscure landmarks make for the most compelling and exciting experiences. The thrill of discovering such quaint, jaw-droopingly picturesque places makes the discovery of the 'road less travelled’ that much more desirable.

We had some family visit us recently from India and so it was settled that we would take a weekend trip to Switzerland commencing with a drive from Munich to the resort town of Interlaken, nestled like a footnote at the bosom of a dramatically scenic view of the Alps in the background. Maybe it was the fact that our expectations of Interlaken were quite high as one hears of it from others so often as one of the must-see spots in Switzerland, but apart from the beautiful Alps all around us and the lush green mountainous valleys that made for some great photographic captures, the minuscule town of Interlaken itself didn't seem to have much to offer excepting the one main street with its gamut of typically Swiss chocolate and watch shops, restaurants, souvenir shops, banks and the beautiful postcard view of the Alps as you sit and have some lunch. As we had heard, Interlaken is a base town from where many tourists and ski enthusiasts embark on their treks to surrounding peaks and mountains and is also a popular starting point for summer Swiss tourism. Nonetheless, glad to have seen it and ticked it off our list and after walking along the pristine river Aare, we decided to drive further towards Lake Brienz and parked our car in the small village town of Bonigen, situated adjacent to Interlaken. Interlaken is flanked by Lake Brienz and Lake Thun and the river Aare that flows between the two lakes.

  Interlaken (Photo by Shaira Mohan)

The view of Lake Brienz overlooking the spectacular Alps and nestled comfortably in the lap of the surrounding village of Bonigen - a municipality of Interlaken - is breathtaking. With quaint, gabled, redroofed tourist hotels and immaculately groomed houses and gardens, Bonigen with its lake view is well worth the trek, even a short one just to sit on a bench and stare. Surely, nothing could be more exquisite.

Lake Brienz, Bonigen
Lake Brienz, Bonigen (Photo by Shaira Mohan)

We would gladly have been glued to our seats a while longer had we not heard the sudden flash of thunder, signaling the onset of thick clouds and inevitable rain. That being in Europe meant a change of season possibly every hour of the day was a fact not lost on us. Reluctantly, we left the benches and made our way to our car hurriedly to avoid the impending downpour. My husband in his prior internet research of Switzerland, had chanced upon a small village town in the Bernese Alps called Grindelwald that seemed to have gained popularity over the years for its close proximity to the Jungfrau Mountain. That was to be our next destination and stop for the night.

Having already experienced more than our share of green landscapes, rolling hills, unending tunnels and lakes during our long five hour journey so far, I think it is fair to say that by this point, we were confident that we had seen and been wowed by the best that Swiss nature had to offer in that region and Grindelwald may in all probability be more to the tune of such beauty.

We were wrong.

As we started to drive higher up towards Grindelwald, the Alps seemed to be coming closer with every turn on the winding mountainous drive. It was already becoming evident that something spectacular was around the corner. When we finally pulled into what looked like a small village town running along one ascending street to the left side of the road, the view on the right side left us with gasps of disbelief. The Alps seemed like a stone's throw away from us! Looming large and grand above us and so close that the feeling you get is of being able to touch them just by extending your arm, we already knew that the decision to spend the night here in this little piece of heaven was the right one. I must have already clicked a hundred pictures of the majestic snow-peaked mountains by the time we pulled up at the Eiger Hotel - our abode for the night. If you are planning a trip to Grindelwald for the first time, I highly recommend staying in this hotel. Quaint, with a very old world charm, perched as if on a hill right in the center of the little town, facing the most incredible view of the Alps and the Jungfrau mountain range bang across from it, it couldn't get better than this.

View of Alps from Hotel Eiger, Grindelwald
View of Alps from Hotel Eiger, Grindelwald (Photo by Shaira Mohan)

Being another pit stop for skiing and tobogganing in the winters and hiking trails along the Alps in the summer, Grindelwald's entire economy today rests on tourism - offering alpine huts, ski lifts and cable cars for the benefit of the travellers. The railway track was extended to Jungfrau in the early 1900s that has now become one of the top attractions for tourists via the cog railway that ascends within the Eiger glacier towards the highest peak.

For the four of us, we had booked an Apartment at the Eiger Hotel (named after the Eiger glacier also from the Jungfrau region) with an 'Alps-facing' view from our balcony. Some evening tea in the balcony and many more photos later, we decided to take a walk up and down the main street with the quaint restaurants and shops. The town was small but charming nestled almost precariously at the foot of the Alps as if to seduce you with the promise of more if you continued up the road further into picturesque oblivion. As it grew darker, the lights up in the Jungfrau Mountain in front of us came on and enamored, we sat for a drink outside one of the restaurants to stare and take in Grindelwald by night – in all its stupefying splendor.

Robert Frost once said, "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I ... I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." I couldn't agree more. Grindelwald turned out to be the 'less travelled' road that made all the difference to my Switzerland experience.

From filmmakers like Yash Raj in Bollywood to the James Bond sequels and scenes from Star Wars, the love affair of Switzerland with the rest of the world is palpable. But to really make it 'An Affair to Remember', lose yourself in those obscure, quaint and mystical towns like Grindelwald to discover what love really means.
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