We have dived into a lot of topics under Hawaii. This time we are diving into an underrated subject; Temples. Despite being one of the key aspects that add to the island’s allure, not many highlight it.
In ancient times the Hawaiians would build stone temples called heiau to pray to their gods.
In the last few centuries, the natives were exposed to more spiritual influences from around the world. From Buddhist to Hindu religions, there’s a fascinating range of temples you can visit while in Hawaii, and we have all the details you’ll need to not miss the best ones.
It’s going a different kind of temple run altogether. Let’s go:
Hsu Yun Temple
Location: Honolulu, Oahu
When this Chinese Buddhist temple was built in the 1960s, it became the first Chinese Buddhist Hall in the entire US. As you enter these serene temple grounds, you’ll be greeted by the unique architectural features that belong to a Chinese temple – including the beautiful bright red columns and yellow walls.
Like most Buddhist temples, this wonderful place offers visitors a moment of tranquillity (at most times – unless you are visiting during a special celebration).
The smell of the incense burning and the sound of the monk chants can be quite something to remember.
Location: Honolulu, Oahu
It’s one of the most reputed Japanese Buddhist temples in Hawaii. Here there is much for your eyes to feast on. Built in 1982, it has been recognized for its commitment to religious traditions. The best thing about here is that its gate is always open for whoever wishes to learn more about Buddhism.
The evenings are ideal too since the area is lit up with many lanterns. You can expect a bit of a crowd – especially in July and August when the famous Obon Dance takes place.
Temple activities mean food, so you can always grab something delicious to eat while enjoying touring this temple and immersing in its history and cultural influence.
Visiting this monastery can be a breathtaking experience! First, you must travel to the east side of Kauai. The monastery is set amongst the lush tropical greens of Hawaii, next to a waterfall and a gently flowing river. Like you’ve stepped into a different spiritual realm (no joke) – only it’s real!
It was built (in 1970) for those who seek to learn meditation and live a life engrossed in the teachings of Hinduism and spirituality. When exploring this stunning monastery, you’ll find a 12-foot-tall granite structure of the most powerful Hindu deity.
Its doors are open to travellers who are seriously interested and devoted to learning about meditation and Hinduism.
Note: if you are planning to visit, please make an early reservation first and fix your visiting time.
Location: Kahaluu, Oahu
When you enter this temple – for a second you’ll be instantly transported to Japan. The gardens, the koi ponds, the Japanese architecture, it really takes your breath away.
This Buddhist temple is surrounded by verdant hills and trees and flowers. It might delay your travel itinerary by making you stay longer than planned.
Unsurprisingly it’s super famous, but it’s not without serenity. The temple is home to an 18-foot tall, gold-leaf-covered statue of Gautam Buddha and a 5-foot-tall bell made of brass which you can ring for some good luck.
But if you are visiting this temple on a picture-perfect day, then friend, you are already enjoying some great luck!
Note: Open daily from 8.30 a.m. – 5.30 p.m. (ticket prices 5 USD for adults /2 USD for kids)
Thai Buddhist Temple
Location: Pearl City, Oahu
This temple is not exactly the most popular, but if you craving a unique temple adventure with the chance to indulge in some incredible Thai cuisine.
When you enter the grounds, you are welcomed with the sweet smell of incense and the low murmur of soothing chants that can be expected of Buddhist temples.
We would definitely recommend this lovely temple for a quick visit (and bite).
Wat Lao Sithammaram
Location: Waipahu, Oahu
This Buddhist temple is dedicated to Theravada Buddhism. It means it displays the Buddhist traditions that are closely followed in South Asian regions – including Cambodia and Thailand.
Simplicity is a huge part of religion, and it’s clearly reflected in its structure. This is why you won’t find any opulent designs in the temple.
What you will find are numerous statues of Gautama Buddha. Many Buddhist travellers visit, and make offerings with flowers and pray here.
Mu Ryang Sa Temple
Location: Honolulu, Oahu
Head to the Palolo Valley to visit a not-so-well-known temple with so much ancient beauty. This Korean Buddhist temple exudes uniqueness thanks to its distinctive structure and the bottle green shades combined with yellow and red hues, which stand out in an otherworldly way even from afar.
While offering complete tranquillity, it also displays enchanting features, like 1000 small disciple statues placed across the grounds. Explore the Peace Pagoda – which is identical to the Pagoda in South Korea. And the beautifully painted bell tower.
It’s a serene haven of spirituality for anyone who is seeking that.
Laie Hawaii Temple
Location: Laie, Oahu
This temple is considered to be a sacred haven for the people of Mormon. The temple structure itself exudes grandiosity just from a distance.
Unfortunately, those who are not part of the Mormon community and religion cannot enter its sacred premises.
You can still explore the outer areas of the temple. The vast and alluring garden landscapes and the reflective pools are quite something. If you are around the area, it is definitely worth making a quick visit.
Wo Hing Temple And Museum
Location: Lahaina, Maui
To be fair, at first glance it doesn’t strike as a Buddhist temple, let alone a museum. It’s because it doesn’t conform to the usual temple structure, and it’s small. But not without much to see and explore. While the temple/museum was originally built in 1912 it underwent a renovation in 1983.
History tells us that this used to be a meeting place for Chinese workers who came to Hawaii to work in its sugar plantations.
Only the bottom floor of this temple structure is open to guests as a museum. It contains some historically relevant artefacts and photographs, while the upper floor serves as a temple.
Note: visitors are allowed daily between 10.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. (Ticket fee – 7 USD for adults/ 5 USD for seniors and FOC for children)
Kuan Yin Temple
Location: Honolulu, Oahu
If you are seeking a quiet refuge away from the bustle of the vibrant streets of Honolulu, this is the place to be. You can even light incense and immerse in the soul-calming surroundings and the beauty it creates.
It’s surrounded by ample greenery which is always a plus. If you are up for it, you can even learn much about the cultural influence and the history behind this temple.
If you are lucky, you will visit on a day the monks are serving Jai – which is a refreshing vegetarian dish they have daily.
Temple Decorum And Attire:
Temples like all religious spaces should be treated with respect. Even as a visitor exploring the temple, its history and religion, it’s important to show proper respect in both attire and behaviour.
Avoid talking and laughing loudly, in a way that would disturb others who are engaging in a peaceful moment of prayer, and be respectful and graceful in your movements.
Avoid wearing, shorts, short skirts and dresses and glamorous or sleeveless outfits.
If you are wearing something short, simply wrap a sarong during your time at the temple – you can wrap a scarf around your shoulders if you are wearing sleeveless. Always check the dress code before visiting places like temples.