The Byodo-In Temple in Oahu is a must-visit for visitors to the island that enjoy history and culture.
When you first cast eyes on the striking red temple, nestled against the bottom of the imposing (and lush!) Ko’olau mountains, you will be captivated.
We visit Byodo-In every time we visit Oahu. In the midst of a hectic sightseeing and excursions itinerary, the temple gives us a chance to take a deep breath, relax, and just soak in the sheer beauty for a bit.
Located in Oahu’s Valley of the Temples Memorial Park in Hawaii, the Byodo-In Temple is a Buddhist temple that anyone can visit.
With its lovely architecture and gorgeous red facade, lush grounds, many koi ponds, and tranquil ambience, the Byodo-In Temple in Oahu is definitely worth visiting!
In fact, visiting this largest Buddhist temple in Hawaii is one of the best things to do on the east side of Oahu!
Although you may see the Byodo-In Temple described as a “hidden gem” on Oahu, we’ve always seen a fair number of visitors whenever we’ve been here. But never has it felt overcrowded or anything but deeply relaxing.
And now, let’s get started discovering how to visit the Byodo-In Temple in Oahu!
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Want to see the Byodo-In Temple on a guided tour from Honolulu? Check out this popular circle island tour that has a 30-minute stop at the temple!
Planning your Oahu itinerary? Read our guide to the best Oahu tours and excursions, from shark cage diving to snorkeling with turtles and kayaking to the Mokes!
History of the Byodo-In Buddhist Temple in Oahu
Oahu’s stunning Buddhist temple is a replica of the Byodo-In temple in Uji, in Kyoto Prefecture in Japan, a wooden temple built entirely without nails.
While the Japanese temple is over 950 years old, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the smaller replica in Oahu dates back to 1968.
The Byodo-In Temple in Oahu was built to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. They came mainly to work on sugarcane and pineapple plantations.
The Oahu temple is built mainly of concrete and surrounded by gorgeous lush landscaping. It took about three years to build, and was dedicated in June 1968.
Today, visitors come to the Byodo-In Temple in Oahu to appreciate its beauty and tranquility. It’s the perfect spot to engage in meditation or quiet reflection.
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What to See and Do at the Byodo-In Temple in Kaneohe, Oahu
The Byodo-In Buddhist Temple is one of Oahu’s top attractions. Byodo means “equal” in Japanese, and the Temple of Equality is open to everyone!
Like other beautiful places in Hawaii, the Byodo-In Temple has featured in TV shows. Look for it in episodes of Hawaii Five-O and Magnum, P.I., as well as Lost.
A visit to the Byodo-in Temple doesn’t have to take too much time, and in fact, can be one of several places at which you you stop on a circle tour of the island. But you can also spend a few hours here, soaking in the peace and beauty.
Snap photos of the picture-perfect Byodo In Temple
Set in the midst of lush grounds at the foot of the Ko’olau Range, the striking red temple with its mellow Japanese design is a joy to photograph.
Walk over the traditional bridge and stroll the grounds in front of the building complex to admire it from different angles.
The temple is a half-scale replica of the original in Japan, but it is still impressive. You will think you’ve been transported to Japan when you see the Oahu version!
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Ring the Sacred Bell
Before you head over to the main temple complex, be sure to stop by the Sacred Bell (to the left as you face the temple).
Housed in a traditional bell house, the Bon-Sho, or Sacred Bell, is over six feet tall and weighs several tons!
The bell, and the bell-house, closely resemble the originals at Byodo-In in Uji, Japan. The bell in Oahu is made of brass and was cast in Osaka.
A wooden log, called shumoku, suspended from the ceiling of the bell-house, is used to ring the bell.
Ringing the bell is supposed to bring peace and happiness, and visitors are encouraged to ring it before moving on to the temple.
As you wander the complex, you’ll hear the intermittent deep sound of the bell echoing through the area.
Stroll the gorgeous grounds
We loved wandering the beautiful grounds of the Byodo-In Temple. Nestled in the cleft in the cliffs, the grounds offer both a variety of flora as well as birds and wildlife.
While the temple itself is stunning, the setting and the beautiful landscaping surrounding the temple make you want to linger.
The grounds are so beautiful that they are often used as a wedding venue on the island.
A gorgeous reflecting pond surrounds the temple, and you’ll find little waterfalls, mature trees, bushes and flowering plants, and little bridges, characteristic of the Japanese style of garden.
Look for statuary, traditional lamp posts, and meditation alcoves — little details that add up to a harmonious whole.
Wear bug repellent!
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Step inside the temple
The Byodo-In Temple is not a practicing Buddhist temple, since it doesn’t have resident monks or a congregation.
Inside the temple, you’ll find a statue of Buddha, seated in a lotus position.
The image, made of wood, is gilded with gold lacquer and gold leaf, and represents Amitābha, or the Amida Buddha.
The statue is impressive, at nine feet tall. Created by the famous Japanese sculptor Masuzo Inui, this statue of the Amida Buddha is believed to be one of the largest outside Japan.
Other than the image of Buddha, admire the intricate details on the ceiling.
If you wish, you can light incense in the urn provided on the stand beneath the Buddha image.
Be sure to remove your shoes before you enter. Although the temple does not require formal dress, it is respectful to be attired modestly when you visit the temple.
Feed the koi (and the birds!)
One of the most fun things to do at the Byodo-In Temple in Oahu is feeding the fish and the birds. If you are visiting with young kids, this is an activity that they will love!
In fact, we saw lots of adults having fun feeding the koi and the birds here. The little doves will alight on your hands if you hold them out with some food!
There are hundreds of koi in the pond at the Byodo-In Temple. Some of them are huge and must be very old.
You’ll also see turtle in the water, black swans, and geese and ducks. If you are lucky, you may even see a wild peacock (or three!) as you wander the grounds.
You can buy little packets of food at the gift shop to feed the koi and the birds. Do not feed them bread or any other food you bring!
When we visited, another visitor handed us part of a packet of food for the koi. She told us she had been given a part-packet by another visitor when she arrived. So we gifted some of the food we bought to an arriving visitor as we left, to continue the tradition!
Browse the gift shop
The gift shop in the complex used to be a Japanese tea house.
You can purchase packets of fish food for the koi here. The shop also offers a variety of souvenirs, from statues of Buddha to miniature temple bells, artwork and prints, kimonos, and Ichi-ban headbands.
The gift shop is open from 8.30 a.m. until 4.30 p.m. Note that they do not accept cash: you will need a credit card or a debit card to shop here.
Celebrate the Obon Festival (in August)
Planning to visit Oahu in August? The Byodo-In Temple hosts one of the largest Obon Festivals on the island of Oahu.
Obon is a Japanese festival held to honor ancestors that are deceased and celebrate their heritage.
The Obon Festival at the Byodo-In Temple is open to the public. It usually includes Japanese traditional dancers, a lantern floating ceremony, a tea ceremony, and more.
Call the temple to check exact dates if you plan to participate!
How to Get to the Byodo-In Temple in Oahu, Hawaii
The Byodo-In Temple in Oahu is part of the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. It is located in a community called Ahuimanu, just north of Kaneohe, on the east side of Oahu.
If you plan to drive up from Waikiki, it’s about a 40-minute drive via the Likelike Highway (Highway 63) and the Kahekili Highway (Highway 83) (see map).
Don’t have a rental car? You can either splurge on a taxi (about $40.00 each way), or take the bus, which is inexpensive but takes a lot longer and requires a fair bit of walking.
Bus #65 from the Ala Moana Shopping Center, going towards Kaneohe, will drop you off at the stop at Kahekili Highway and Hui Iwa Street East, just across from the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park.
Guided Tours that stop at the Byodo-In Temple in Oahu
If you plan on booking a circle tour of Oahu, you can pick one that stops at the temple. Guided day circle tours are a great way to see a lot of the island in a short amount of time!
This highly-rated and very popular Oahu circle island tour has the Byodo-In Temple as a stop. You get about 30 minutes at the temple, so you have to be brisk, but it’s totally doable. Note that admission is not included, but it is a modest amount.
Or consider this highly-rated 10-stop circle island tour that includes the Byodo-In Temple. This tour is capped at just 14 people and includes pick-up from your Waikiki hotel. It includes 20 minutes at the Byodo-In Temple.
Byodo-In Temple Hours and Fees
The Byodo-In Temple is open from 8.30 a.m. until 4.30 p.m. daily. Last admission is at 4.15 p.m.
The gift shop is open 8.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.
The gift shop is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day and has reduced hours on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve (9 a.m. until 4 p.m.), and New Year’s Day ( 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
General admission to the Byodo-In Temple grounds is $5.00. Seniors (age 65 and up) pay $4.00 per person, and children (2-12 years) pay $2.00 per person.
The temple offers group rates for 10 or more people and discounted rates for Hawaii residents.
You can buy tickets online, but you can also buy them in person at the temple entrance when you visit.
Things to Do Near the Byodo-In Temple
If you plan to visit the Byodo-In Temple independently, make a day of it and explore more of the beautiful windward coast of Oahu!
Explore the rest of the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park
The Byodo-In Temple is part of the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, a large cemetery and multi-faith memorial complex.
The Valley of the Temples is the vision of Paul Trousdale, an American real estate developer. He founded the complex in 1963.
In the complex, you’ll see memorials from different faiths, large statues, and the graves of thousands of Hawaii residents.
The memorial park has a beautiful setting, with the Ko’olau mountains as a backdrop.
Drive through the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
Just a few miles south of the Byodo-In Temple, you can drive through a gorgeous botanical garden!
Unlike many other botanical gardens in Hawaii that charge an entrance fee, the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is free.
While you can drive through the garden to observe the wide variety of flora and take in the beautiful views, you can also park in designated areas and walk through some of the themed gardens or stroll to the lake.
Enjoy the sun, sand, and sea at Kailua Beach Park
Kailua Beach Park is one of our favorite beaches in Oahu.
The water is a surreal blue-green color and the beach a gorgeous white sand beach. It’s the perfect tropical picture postcard!
You can swim, go paddleboarding or kayaking, or just spread out a towel and soak in the rays. Because the shorebreak is tiny, this is a great beach for kids to swim!
Paddling to the Mokes, the two little islands you see offshore, is one of the most popular activities at Kailua Beach Park.
One of the best things about Kailua Beach Park is that there is lots of shade from trees, perfect if you want a break from the sun.
Kailua Beach Park is about 10 miles from the Byodo-In Temple. There’s plenty of free parking, restrooms, showers, and lifeguard towers.
And if you are up for it, you can also walk to Lanikai Beach, known for its beauty and it snorkeling. (Parking is hard to find at Lanikai!)
Go snorkeling at the Kaneohe sandbar
The Kaneohe Sandbar is one of Oahu’s most unique destinations, and it’s just around 5 miles from the Byodo-In Temple.
The sandbar only gets exposed at low tide, and you can only access it by boat or kayak.
Once you are on the sandbar, you are on a beach that is surrounded by ocean on all sides! It’s a very cool feeling.
The easiest way to visit is to join a boat tour that leaves from the He’eia State Pier in Kaneohe. But you can also rent a kayak and paddle to the sandbar.
At the sandbar, you can enjoy the views of the mountains and nearby islands, go swimming or snorkeling, or play beach volleyball.
Dine at Haleiwa Joe’s in Haiku Gardens
Under a 10-minute drive from the Byodo-In Temple is one of our favorite restaurants in Oahu: Haleiwa Joe’s at Haiku Gardens.
Dining here is the perfect way to cap off a visit to the Byodo-In Temple, if you visit in the late afternoon.
Haleiwa Joe’s is set in the midst of lush tropical gardens, with fabulous views of the mountains. And the food is excellent as well!
Just be warned that they do not accept reservations and the wait can be super long. Plan to arrive as soon as they open, to make the first seating.
Best Oahu Tours
Have you booked these popular Oahu tours and excursions yet?
Love snorkeling? This Turtle Canyon snorkeling excursion from Waikiki lets you frolic with colorful fish and Hawaiian green sea turtles. Hands down the MOST BOOKED Oahu snorkeling tour: turtle sightings are guaranteed!
The most popular luau in Oahu, Paradise Cove Luau has a 4.5 rating on Viator with over 3.5K reviews. The tour includes pick-up from your Waikiki hotel, pre-dinner games, arts, and crafts, a delicious meal, and an award-winning show.
Based in Waikiki but want to see more of the island? This full-day Oahu Circle Island Tour includes Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Haleiwa, the Dole Plantation, and more!
Pay your respects at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor! This popular Pearl Harbor tour includes boat tickets and round-trip transport from Waikiki.
A super popular Oahu North Shore excursion, this Oahu shark cage dive allows you to observe wild sharks in the open ocean from the safety of a cage! It’s a THRILLING Oahu advennture for your bucket list.
We have a detailed guide to the top Oahu tours and excursions if you are in the midst of planning your itinerary for the island.
Renting a Car in Oahu
If you want to explore more of the island of Oahu on your vacation, you should get a rental car.
Oahu’s popular attractions are spread over the island: the windward coast, the North Shore, and Ko Olina are great places to explore beyond Waikiki (or the greater Honolulu area).
While Oahu does have public transport options that are better than the other islands, a car offers a lot more flexibility and time savings.
We always use Discover Cars to book Oahu car rentals. They search across a variety of rental car companies, both budget and brand, to offer you the best deals, AND they offer free cancellations. Plus, there are no hidden fees.
Honolulu Airport-Hotel Shuttle
If you are not planning to get a rental car at Honolulu Airport, consider booking shuttle transport in advance!
This shared shuttle can be canceled up to 24 hours from the date of service. It serves hotels in Waikiki and Honolulu and then back again to the airport the day you leave. It’s convenient and inexpensive, and saves time and hassle!
Staying in Ko Olina? Consider this round-trip airport transfer instead!
Where to Stay in Oahu
Honolulu (Waikiki in particular) offers a large number of hotels and resorts, along with shopping and dining options. Most visitors to Oahu choose to base in Honolulu at least for a part of their stay.
While many of the large chains have a presence if you are looking to use your memberships, Honolulu also has several unique boutiques to consider.
Want more room to spread out or looking to stay elsewhere on Oahu? You will find VRBO listings all over the island!
On previous trips to Oahu, we have stayed in VRBO rentals in Waikiki as well as on the North Shore and the east coast and we’ve found the choice and quality great.
More Oahu Travel Inspiration
Planning a trip to Oahu? Check out our other in-depth Oahu travel guides for help finalizing your Oahu itinerary!
Start by discovering the best things to do in Oahu. We also have a detailed guide to Oahu’s North Shore, a round-up of things to do on the east side of Oahu, and the best things to do in Ko Olina, on the west coast of the island.
Want to enjoy the thrill of observing sharks in the wild? Check out our article on shark cage diving on Oahu’s North Shore!
More advanced hikers will want to read up on the Koko Head Hike, a long set of stairs leading to expansive views.
Learn where to go for the best sunsets in Oahu, whether you want to hike or enjoy watching a colorful Hawaiian sunset without working up a sweat.
We also have a guide to the best sunrise hikes in Oahu, one of which is the spectacular Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail in the southeastern part of the island. The Lanikai Pillbox Hike is another wonderful sunrise hike on Oahu!
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