Road in Honolulu to Rainforests

Road in Honolulu to Rainforests

Shaka Guide's Honolulu Backyard Rainforest Tour Itinerary

Shaka Guide

When you think of Honolulu you probably think of Hawaii’s bustling capital that’s home to high-rise buildings, luxury hotels, and the famous Waikiki beach.

What might not come to mind is lush, green forests with miles of hiking trails.

On our Honolulu Backyard Rainforest Tour, we’ll take you to Manoa Falls and Makiki Valley where you can hike to a waterfall, take in Honolulu’s skyline from afar, and stroll through a 200-acre botanical garden.

shaka guide's honolulu backyard rainforest tour map

PLEASE NOTE: Round Top Drive, a major road on this tour, is closed intermittently due to construction. It is closed Monday - Friday 7:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (as needed). 


This is a half-day tour and takes about 3-6 hours to complete if you make every stop. We recommend starting before 11:00 a.m.

This tour starts and ends in Waikiki. 

Hike Manoa Falls

  • Approximate time: 1 hour

Located just 10 minutes from Waikiki, Manoa Falls feels like a world away! Hike along a jungle path that leads to a 150-foot waterfall.

Along the way, look out for native plant species, listen to the birds chirp, and breathe in the fresh mountain air.

Note that the trail is open 24/7 - but there is only attended parking from 7 am to 6 pm.

RELATED: Manoa Falls Travel Guide

Visit Lyon Arboretum

  • Approximate time: 30 minutes

This 200-acre botanical garden is part of the University of Hawaii. This public garden houses over 19,000 individual plants.

Take a peaceful stroll through the gardens -- you’ll forget you’re a short drive from the city.

Please note that this stop does require reservations - they are free, although a donation is still suggested. Masks are required within their buildings, as well and this spot is closed on weekends. 

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Chinese Cemetery

  • Approximate time: 10 minutes

Just a short drive from Manoa Falls and Lyon Arboretum is a Chinese cemetery with a unique history.

We don’t want to spoil the story, but the site of this cemetery is of particular importance in the practice of feng shui.

No need to get out of the car, just pull over on the side of the road as we tell you a bit more about this spot. 

Grab a snack, lunch, or picnic to go at Manoa Marketplace

  • Approximate time: 30 minutes

Manoa Marketplace is the only spot to grab food on this tour.

You can stop at the nearby Safeway or Starbucks, but if you’re looking for something more authentic head to Off the Hook for its poke.

Note, there’s usually a line but it’s worth the wait!

Snap a Picture at Tantalus Lookout

  • Approximate time: 20 minutes

three girls enjoying the view of honolulu from the mountainTantalus Lookout, Oahu, Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)

After lunch, make your way up Mount Tantalus -- a cinder cone crater in the middle of the city -- to visit Tantalus Lookout.

This scenic spot offers panoramic views of the entire city skyline.

Hike the Tantalus Arboretum Trail

  • Approximate time: 30 minutes

Makiki Valley has over 100 different hikes with miles of trails to choose from.

We’d love to take you to all of them, but we’ve chosen one of our favorites.

The Tantalus Arboretum Hike is a short, family-friendly hike through dense forest (bug spray is HIGHLY recommended).

Once you’re on the trail, you’ll loop around a large fig tree to end up where you started.

Please note: this trail is currently undergoing some maintenance issues. As of right now, a large tree has fallen and you must turn right to access the fig tree. You can no longer loop, so you’ll have to return the way you came.

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Pay Tribute at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

  • Approximate time: 20 minutes

This military cemetery and memorial is dedicated to those who lost their lives in the wars in the Pacific and Asia, including World War II. 

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is a place to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. 

Finish the tour and head back to your hotel, or…

Check out another waterfall at Queen Lili?uokalani Botanical Garden

  • Approximate time: 20 minutes

Although unassuming at first glance, you’d never guess this park in the middle of Downtown Honolulu is home to a picturesque waterfall.

Have a quick stroll through the park and snap some pictures by the waterfall before visiting a 14-acre garden.

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Foster Botanical Garden

  • Approximate time: 30 minutes

Here, you’ll find a natural oasis within the city limits. This garden is the oldest of the Honolulu Botanical Gardens and has trees that date back to the mid-1800s.

Look out for the garden’s collection of tropical plants, conservatory, and butterfly garden.

Note: there is a nominal entrance fee to enter the garden.

Shimazu Shave Ice

people eating ice creamShave Ice, Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)

Approximate time: 10 minutes

Whether this is the first or fifth shave ice of your vacation, Shimazu Shave Ice will not disappoint.

With over 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google, and Facebook this is one of our favorite spots for this refreshing treat.

Drive Through Chinatown

  • Approximate time: 10 minutes

An official National Historic District, Honolulu’s Chinatown was established in the mid-1800s.

As sugarcane production began to grow in the islands, Chinese laborers were hired to work at the plantations.

Typically, they’d sign on for 5-year contracts and when these were up many moved to the neighborhood to work or start their own businesses.

Today, you’ll find great restaurants, markets, and art galleries.

Finish the Tour and Head to Waikiki

  • Approximate time: 10 minutes 

After your drive through Chinatown, you can choose to pull over and take a look around, or we’ll guide you back to Waikiki where you can hit the beach, do some shopping, or take our Heart of Waikiki Walking tour!

When you’re in Hawaii, we ask that you act respectfully toward the locals, land, and wildlife. 

Please pick up your trash; never touch any marine life, plants, or other animals; and avoid unsafe spots.

Hawaii’s natural resources are precious, it’s up to all of us to help preserve these resources.

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Ready to take the Honolulu Backyard Rainforest Tour? Here's everything you need to know before you go!

RELATED: 10 Must-See Scenic Spots on Oahu10 Ways to be a Safe and Responsible Traveler in Hawaii

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