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Hawaii features plenty of world-famous attractions — Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor and Diamond Head, for starters. At the same time, the destination lays claim to a number of lesser-known lures that provide rare insights into the Aloha State.
The following unique activities have particular appeal to repeat visitors looking for something different to do in the islands. They also call to folks who enjoy marching to the beat of their own drummer. No matter the audience, these quirky pastimes will give travelers a distinctive new appreciation of Hawaii.
Aloha Stadium Swap Meet, OahuLike a garage sale on steroids, this central Oahu market showcases 400 local retailers selling just about anything a Hawaii souvenir-hunter might want. Encircling the outside of the sports stadium, rows of vendors stand ready with products both classy and kitschy, such as aloha wear, artwork, jewelry and ukuleles — basically, every made-in-Hawaii item imaginable.
Aloha Stadium Swap Meet doubles as a farmers’ market as well. When the walking takes its toll, shoppers can browse scores of food booths for plate lunches, shave ice, crack seed (dried fruit) and other island edibles.
The swap meet opens at 8 a.m. on Wednesday and Saturday and 6:30 a.m. on Sunday. Clients should get an early start to beat the crowds and the heat.
Charles Lindbergh’s Grave, MauiMost people know Charles Lindbergh for his 1927 solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. In his later years, the famed aviator moved to rural Maui in 1968 to live a quiet life until his death in 1974. He designed his own grave, which is located on the grounds of Palapala Hoomau Church, a limestone coral structure built in 1857. Shaded by a Java plum tree, his granite tombstone has a simple epitaph: “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea ... "
Look for the church 1 mile south of Oheo Gulch near the 41-mile marker of Hwy. 31. Once there, visitors can stroll toward the ocean for a splendid view suitable for an aerial pioneer.
Hindu Monastery, KauaiKauai is a peaceful island, and perhaps nowhere is that more evident than this idyllic 363-acre monastery and surrounding estate. Nineteen monks call this their home, but everyday travelers can experience its riches, including a tranquil temple and a 10-ton, 12-foot-tall statue of a Hindu god. Under construction is a second, more massive temple made of hand-carved Indian granite. Adding to the mellow mood are botanical gardens, waterways and ponds, creating an overall sense of serenity.
The two-hour walking tour, which is offered once each week, begins at 9 a.m. While the tour is free, guests are encouraged to provide donations that go toward maintaining the grounds and buildings.
Honolulu Fish Auction, OahuLest anyone question the freshness of Hawaii’s fish of the day, this tour lays out the proof — literally. Headquartered at Honolulu’s Pier 38, the tour describes the fishing process from dock to restaurant and market. Visitors view fishing boats that return to the pier each morning with their tons of ahi, mahi-mahi and opakapaka. They hear about the harvesting and handling of the catch, which is offloaded directly into the pier to ensure ultimate quality. They learn about the inner workings of the tuna auction, the only of its kind in the U.S., and find out how buyers rate a fish.
Tours take place Saturday from 6 to 7:30 a.m. Bundle up, because the temperature inside the warehouse is a brisk 48 degrees.
Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm, Hawaii IslandThink you’ve done it all in Hawaii? Then stop by this aquatic farm, where 15 species of wild Hippocampus are raised in captivity. Ocean Rider was launched as a way to preserve the endangered critters and sell them to individual collectors and aquariums. Eventually it opened as an attraction, with tours offered Monday through Friday.
Located near Kona International Airport, the farm is part of Hawaii’s Natural Energy Lab, home of several aquaculture endeavors using nutrient-rich seawater. During the tour’s highlight, guests lower their arms into a holding tank and wait until a seahorse swims over to say hello. The sensation of that little tail wrapped around the pinkie reminds even the most jaded tourists of Hawaii's unmatched magic.