I confess, after Hanauma Bay everything else is a bit 'so-what?' You leave the parking lot, look again at the cinder cone and drive on to a long sandy beach. Here I noticed for the first time how quickly the climate changes: you start out in green and lush Honolulu, and here all of a sudden the scenery turns arid, grey, inhospitable. The beach is beautiful and the views of nearby Molokai can be impressive, but you feel like on a desert island.

{moszoomimglink:Jumping dolphin}Past a blow hole and a wonderful body surfing beach, you'll finally get around the East cape to a greener area. Turns out that the wind predominantly blows from the North-East, so that the exposed side gets all the water. You just drove around the South-East side, which is not exposed (and hence dry). Now you get to see all the water you were always afraid of -- on every one of my visits, the East side was quite cloudy with dense dark formations.

You may want to visit Sea Life Park, which has fun shows and lots of fish and marine life. It has a remarkable deep water tank that is full to the brim with sharks, tropical fish and other marinery. There are two dolphin shows and a penguin show, and although I am a cynical European by birth, I was impressed by the grace of the presenters. And seeing a dolphin swim is still a marvel to me. So it gets my vote.

{moszoomimglink:Bridge to the Byodo-In temple}Driving farther, you'll drive with steep cliffs to your left and the sea to your right. The cliffs (pali in Hawaiian) are a barrier to the moisture and are to be blamed for the clouds. Drive past Kaneohe, and turn left to the Valley of the Temples. This is a remarkable place of worship, where Hawai'i decided to cluster churches, shrines and temples of all religions imaginable. Of all of them, the Buddhist Byodo-In Temple is the most remarkable -- a reproduction of a shrine in Japan, it alone is worth the trip to the East coast.

Driving farther up, the plain that separates the mountains from the sea shrinks to the point where tunnels needed to be bored through the former. Hiking paths crawl up the valleys and the spines of the ridges, and Hawaiians come here to celebrate a weekend family trip. Here Oahu is the tropical paradise I wanted to see, with wild banana groves, clusters of papaya and coconut palms.

{moszoomimglink:The Tonga drum show}The plain appears again, and human settlements. A huge Mormon something (place of worship? university?) fills up the hills to the left. Then the Polynesian Cultural Center, a giant affair that tries to explain what Polynesia is about, how Hawai'i fits in and why it is important to preserve cultures. Most people come out of it with a vague idea that Polynesia is about very pretty girls in skirts smiling their facial muscles to a freeze and very handsome boys in skirts drumming their arms to Schwarzenegger proportions. Particularly annoying is the cascaded show effect: since the shows are well announced and in sequence, the throng follows the path of the shows making all but the active show empty. As a result, the park appears either full or completely empty.

{moszoomimglink:Cliff diver jumping from the falls}You reach the North end of the island, famous for the waterfalls of Waimea and for Sunset Beach, allegedly the best surf on Oahu. The former is a really beautiful park-cum-waterfall-dive-show; the latter fun if you are under 30 and want to hang out. I was blessed with calm seas during my visits, which means most surfers were just sitting on their boards, chatting of girls and beer and letting their legs hang from the board as shark bait.