Situated on the southeastern coast of Oaju, Kaneohe extends from the foothills of Koolau Range to Kaneohe Bay. The name Kaneohe means “bamboo man,” as according to an ancient Hawaiian legend, a woman once compared her husband’s cruelty to the sharp edge of a bamboo stalk. As one of the two largest residential communities on the windward side of Oaju, the community boasts magnificent waters and the picturesque Koolau Mountains as a prime backdrop.
In the early 1900s, Kaneohe became a prime sugar-producing area, with plantations and refineries luring people from all over the world to work as sugar plantation farmers. Kaneohe Bay also played a vital role in World War II, as the first bomb site of the war occurred in Oaju. As a result, the community was forced to rebuild both physically and economically, as the war also had a big part in abruptly ending Hawaii’s sugar production industry.
Due to its abundant rainfall, Kaneohe has historically been an important agricultural area. Today, bananas are the only remaining crop that is grown commercially. Because Kaneohe’s silty beaches are not suitable for swimming, the community is less of a tourist destination than other beach areas, making it mainly a residential community. However, it does boast seven-mile Kane’ohe Bay, Hawaii’s largest bay. Another of Kaneohe’s must-see coastal locations is He’eia State Park, with low stone walls that enclose the saltwater lagoon built by ancient Hawaiians. Another nearby destination, Coconut Island, is featured in the rolling credits of Gilligan’s Island.
Inland, Kane’ohe offers several public gardens, including the nature reserve of the free Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden. The Senator Fong’s Plantation, near Kahalu’u in northern Kane’ohe, also let visitors admire flowers, fruits and orchids from the comfort of a tram. Another must-see site is the Buddhist Byodo-In-Temple.
Adjacent to the community of Kailua, and about thirty minutes from downtown Honolulu, the commercial center of Kaneohe is located mainly along Kamehameha Highway. Kaneohe is also home to the Marine Corps Base and the Windward Mall. For recreation, Kaneohe boasts three golf courses: the Pali Golf Course, the Ko’olau Golf Club, and Bayview Golf Course.
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