A cool place to live-

Aimee Harris

Little more than a decade ago, I was in my California apartment, gazing at a map of Oahu. I was planning to attend the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I knew little about the Islands and even less about Manoa, but the horseshoe- shaped valley looked like the right spot to me: I simply wanted to find a home within walking distance of cam- pus. Instead, I found my corner of paradise.

Manoas an offbeat suburb of Honolulu. At the back, there’s a rain forest and the 150-foot Manoa Falls. In the front, there’s the urban hustle and bustle of King Street.

The university campus is only a few blocks from the valley’s center, but Manoa is not exactly a college town— it’s essentially a well-heeled, conservative neighborhood, with tree-lined streets and early-1900s estates now worth a million or two.

On the other hand, Ma-noa attracts people like me— nature lovers and students who welcome a more laid- back, bohemian lifestyle. Many of us take up residence in the valley’s more modest cottages.

To live in Manoa, you have to love the rain—160 inches of it annually.

The late morning rain arrives punctually. Around 9 a.m., there’s a quick shower—10 minutes or so—just enough to elicit the sweet smell of the plumeria flowers outside my bedroom window. The feral hen in the empty lot next door twitters and flips over fallen leaves to excavate worms. Most days, this bout of rainfall is only the first of several. The showers will bring low-arching rain- bows that no one beyond the valley gets to see.

Sometimes as the sun arcs over the backside of the steep Koolau mountain range, it burns off the mist and rain. When it’s clear, it’s fun to take a short hike. The most popular hike is up to the foot of Manoa Falls. My favorite is the 1.8-mile trail up to Puupia, an 880-foot bluff that offers a sweeping view all the way down to the Waikıkı hotels and blue Pacific.

By afternoon, the clouds often begin to darken again, casting a shadow over the hundreds of homes cradled in the valley. In town, it may be hot and sunny. But, here, cool, green Manoa offers a break from Oahu’s endless summer.

In the evenings, the valley grows dark quickly. However, once the sun hits the ocean’s horizon, it’s ours again—if just for a moment. The sun’s angled rays ricochet off the back of the valley, creating a magnificent boutique of clouds in bright fuchsia, rich plum and creamy tangerine. The valley’s walls glow orange, and the hillside houses shimmer. The view competes with the best ocean sunsets.

On my drive home from town, there’s a deep dip in the road. At the bottom of that dip is an imaginary line where town ends and Manoa begins. This is where the temperature drops by several degrees and you can feel the trees. It’s also where the air softens with the scent of night-blooming jasmine, and fruit trees—buttery avocado, sappy mango and tart star fruit. This is when I know I’m almost home.




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Categories: Oʻahu