Hawai’i Beyond the Beach

Why can’t travelers to Hawai’i think beyond the beach? The United States’ 50th state is so much more than blue skies, palm trees, and ocean views. If you venture beyond the beach, you may be surprised to see what else Hawai’i offers.

The Onomea Valley

In 1977, if you had approached the Onomea Valley close to Hilo, you would have found an overgrown, infested-looking 17-acre briar patch you could hardly navigate into. Not so for Dan and Pauline Lukenhouse who only saw possibilities.


Dan had sold his trucking business in California and he and Pauline thought Hawai’i would be fertile ground for retirement. Little did they realize how fertile this jungle-looking tract was until they cleaned it out and started becoming gardeners.

This seemingly impenetrable tract of land was the Onomea Valley, created by two rivers many years ago cutting into the lava cliffs and meeting the waves and winds of the Pacific Ocean. The bay at the ocean front had been an Hawaiian fishing village, followed by a sugar mill, and eventually land for growing passion fruit and grazing cattle. By the 1900s, the land had been left deserted and quickly overgrew with invasive plants and shrubs.

Cleaning Out a Jungle

Dan and Pauline bought the land and determined it would make a perfect green space and began clearing it, making it into a natural greenhouse supporting 2,000 native species. It took 7 years to clean out this jungle, working only by hand so as to not disturb the terrain and the natural plants already there. This included carving  paths through lava rock to allow access through the valley.


Tearing apart this jungle exposed a three-tiered waterfall,  now considered one of the most beautiful in Hawai’i. A steep boardwalk takes you down into the valley which is filled with a full spectrum of exotic flowers, surrounded by tall trees and lush foliage. You will wander down a mile-and-a-half path through the valley, viewing and smelling this myriad of flowers, over streams and past waterfalls until you reach the bay with its spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean.

Over the next 17 years, Dan kept developing the Valley, filling it with tropical and subtropical plants from around the world. These include exotic palms and bamboo, heliconia and orchids. Visitors can also enjoy a wide variety of fruit trees such as mangos, papayas and avocados.

Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden

The Bioreserve & Garden’s scenic hiking trails are a highlight. You can enjoy a relaxing stroll through the lush vegetation while taking in the sights and sounds of nature. The gardens offer stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding mountains as well as lush vegetation.

View of Onomea Bay from the lower Gardens

This is the ideal destination for anyone who loves nature, gardening, or simply wants to spend a day relaxing. The Hawai’i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden is a must for all those who love botany and nature. Visitors of all ages will enjoy the garden’s diverse collection of trees and tropical plants, as well as scenic hiking trails and a tranquil atmosphere. 

Following the deaths of Dan and Pauline in 2007 and 2017 respectively, their children took over the operation, working with a board of directors to continue their parents’ dream.

The Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden also serves as a research and education center. Visitors of all ages can enjoy a range of educational programs and workshops at the garden, which includes guided tours, bird-watching excursions and horticulture classes. The garden also serves as a research center for botanists and horticulturists who are interested in tropical plants and the ecosystems surrounding them.

Tour a Salt Farm

The Island of Hawai’i (generally called The Big Island) has two volcanoes reaching into space—Kilauea and Mauna Loa. On the western side of the island in the Kona District, going below the surface is the source for one of the highest-quality salts.


The Kona Salt Farm pulls salt from a depth of 2,200 feet through a 40-inch pipe to evaporation beds on the surface. This flavorful salt, rich in minerals, has been pulled from the ocean current originating in Greenland, where ice forms, leaving salt on the surface. As this surface water gets heavier from the accumulation of salt, it sinks to the bottom of the ocean. This spot off the island is one of the few places in the world where deep water salt can be farmed.

This salt farm uses traditional methods which have been handed down over the generations to produce high-quality salt. The end product is unrefined, high-quality salt with a distinctive flavor. The salt is well-known for its delicate taste, bright white color, fine crystal structure, and it is prized by both chefs and home cooks.

The uniqueness of Kona Salt Farm’s salt is due to the place it is made. The distinctive flavor and color of Kona Salt Farm’s salt is due to the combination of the warm Hawaiian sun, mineral-rich seawater, and the rich volcanic soil. 

Kona Salt Farm salt is not only good for cooking, but also has many health benefits. It is high in minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium, which are vital for a healthy body. Unrefined salt means it has not been stripped of its natural minerals. It is healthier than refined table salt which has been stripped from its minerals and often contains additives.


Kona Salt Farm is much more than a salt-making plant. It’s a place which represents Hawaii and the people who call Hawaii home. The farm strives to preserve traditional salt-making methods and provide a high-quality product reflecting the traditions and values of the Hawaiian people. The farm is committed to sustainability and environmental responsibility and makes use of renewable energy to power its operations.

A visit to the Tropical Biosphere and Garden as well as the Kona Salt Farm will add to the pleasure of any vacation on Hawaii’s big island.

Fact: Hawai’i has the highest life expectancy in the United States
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Author: Warren R. Johnson

I am a US citizen travelling in Europe. I have retired from two long-lasting careers: an ordained minister with an exclusive ministry in sacred music (organist-choirmaster), and a book dealer (2 stores and Internet selling). Another shorter career was as a data manager in medical research. Today, I am pursuing a writing career.

2 thoughts on “Hawai’i Beyond the Beach”

  1. I’ve never been to Hawaii, Warren. I guess the stereotypes of people lolling on the beaches put me off. Your article makes me think it would be a good place to visit.


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