Thursday, 21 June 2018

Top Ten Things to do with Kids on Oahu, Hawaii!

To be honest, I never ever imagined doing something like taking my young family to Hawaii!! Like, never ever. But some dear friends living there (thankfully!) convinced us we should come visit, and then we spotted some awesome flight deals (Jetstar!) and so visit we did.

I wasn't sure of what to really expect from Hawaii. Was it super touristy and commercial? Was visiting a postcard location really as dreamy as it looked? Well, I tell you now I could never ever have dreamt of a place so incredibly lush and beautiful! In real life it puts every postcard to shame. Simply put, our family had the best holiday of our lives. It was so relaxing, so fun, every day we were literally pinching ourselves to believe we were in this paradise. We were brimming with gratitude for this amazing opportunity to travel. We love travelling and exploring with our kids... but this was our first time taking them overseas and it was just such a great first introduction with a mix of American and Islander culture to appreciate. I honestly cannot overstate how much fun we had.... highly recommend it as a destination for anyone!

There is SO MUCH TO DO in Hawaii! We ended up spending two full weeks just on the island of Oahu so I can't really speak to recommendations on the many other beautiful islands. We originally planned to spend a few days on the Big Island to see the volcanos.... but we decided not to as we really wanted to just relax and not be messing around trying to fly to another island - and even cheap island-hopper flights add up when you are a family of five! So we decided to just stay on Oahu and I am sooooo glad we did. Honestly, we did something different every day in Oahu and still didn't get to see or do everything we wanted to! There is so much to explore, even on just one 'small' island.

Now, we are certainly not Hawaii experts (with just one trip under our belts) but we had a secret weapon! We were going to Hawaii thanks to the strong encouragement and hospitality of some  friends of ours who had been living there for two years now. They also have kids the same age as our kids. So not only was it beyond beautiful to spend a good chunk of time with them, and share real life together, but my dear friend hooked us up with all her best tried-and-tested things to do in Hawaii.

So many of the list below we did with her or thanks to her suggestions. So you know this list is back up by a local, which makes it extra legit, right?!

So, here is our (definitely not comprehensive!) list of our favourite family friendly things to do on Oahu, Hawaii!

1. Waikiki Beach, Honolulu

I will be honest, I wasn't sure if I would be 'into' Waikiki Beach and all the built up commercial craziness. But... it was amazing. It is what it is (a very built up area, think the Gold Coast if you are from Australia) but being Hawaii it still has stunning views, great vibes and of course the beach is just beautiful - the ocean is super flat and calm thanks to the reef being a hundred metres or so from shore. This makes it just fantastic for kids.

Plus there is SO much fun stuff to do on Waikiki Beach for not too much money.... you can rent beach chairs and umbrellas (we did that for the first time and it made all the difference having a shady spot for the afternoon... plus, I felt super fancy!). You can rent snorkels, paddleboards, boogie boards, floating mats, all kinds of things to boost your beach play right on the beach. Or.... chances are, you will have other tourists come up to you on the beach and offload their floats and buckets and spades to you as they are flying back the next day. The circle of life, it's awesome! 

Surfing on Waikiki Beach is an incredible opportunity - so proud of hubby for getting out
there and getting up!
You gotta have a Shave Ice when you are in Hawaii of course!
This is the life!

There are lovely little reefs right by the shore, which make a perfect gentle introduction to snorkelling for kids... and adults
if you are like me and have never really snorkelled before! So many beautiful fish, it was truly magical!

2. Hilton Hawaiian Village (Waikiki Beach) Lagoon

When you need a change from Waikiki beach (but without driving anywhere) wander over to the lagoon in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village. How to get there...if you are facing the ocean while standing on Waikiki beach, just walk to your left! It sits between Waikiki and the boat harbour. It's open access to the public, has shade from the palm trees and is so pretty and even more calm and shallow than the beach as it is a man-made lagoon. The kids just love it for this reason... plus it's filled with fish!

Hot tips: Enjoy a lazy afternoon and then as the sun sets, get a takeaway pizza from Round Table Pizza at the Hawaiian Village (their pizza is divine) then if the kids are still holding it together, treat the family to a scoop of delicious ice cream from Lappert's!

3. Atlantis Submarine Ride

A submarine ride... a REAL submarine!? Yes, really! I didn't even know such an experience existed before I started researching Hawaii activities. Honestly, it was such a magical experience. We were lucky enough to be gifted some tickets (thanks, Atlantis!) and we were all super excited for the ride. You meet a boat at the Hilton Dock and you go out on a short boat ride to meet the sub.... yes, it rises out of the ocean out of nowhere! It is crazy awesome and so surreal. Everyone boards and then the sub slowly submerges to 100 feet deep (30 metres). It is so amazing being under the sea, truly beautiful and magical. We travelled through the ocean for about an hour, seeing submerged planes and boats which have become coral reefs. The fish are teeming, and we saw several beautiful turtles and even a shark! We were all gobsmacked the whole time. Awestruck, really. For an experience like nothing else, this is definitely a special activity to try! It really is a once in a lifetime thing. I mean c'mon... we went on a SUBMARINE!!

Hot Tip: Book your ride as early in your stay as possible. Sometimes if the tides go a certain way the water can get murky and the ride is cancelled. This happened to us but thankfully we were able to just go the next day.... so give yourself some room. I think this rarely happens but it's good to be aware of. Many Hawaii activities are weather dependent so it's good to be a bit flexible with your schedule!

(Thank you Atlantis... we had a magical experience and your customer service was just wonderful too.)

Just casually standing on a submarine, ready to go down.

My underwater photos aren't crystal clear but the view was in real life... those are all fish teeming around this old air plane which has turned into a new reef for the fish!

4. Catamaran Ride

We had seen Hawaii from under the water but I really wanted to experience Hawaii on the ocean too. There are a bunch of different catamarans launching from Waikiki Beach, and I was excited to take the kids out for an exciting ocean experience! After googling around we chose the MaiTai. Some catamarans also stop for snorkelling over reefs but with little kids, we just wanted the boat ride. It was so incredible to be racing over the waves, looking back at Waikiki, seeing Diamond Head and all the other stunning views and iconic landmarks. There is something about being on a catamaran, you bob on the waves and race along so fast and feel so connected to the ocean (very different to sailing steady on a big boat).

You never know of course what ocean life you might get to see when out in nature. We gleefully spotted a turtle on our sail and then.... a truly amazing moment happened! All of a sudden we had a pod of over 30 dolphins come racing towards our boat! They were diving and looping under the boat and zooming everywhere, it was hectic and incredible!!!! The kids and I were shrieking with joy! Watching them joyfully leap and dive... what a memory we won't forget!

Hot tip: Book a morning catamaran ride to avoid the 'party crowd' that tend to go in the later afternoon.

Also, another heads up - while I had lifelong dreams of lounging on the catamaran 'cargo nets' over the water, it turns out you can't do that anymore as a few too many people have been bounced out of them - eek! So, that didn't happen but it was still a fantastic time. It always looked so glamourous on Instagram but oh well, safety first! ;)

5. Sea Life Park

When I asked my friend's two kiddos what they were most excited to show us on Hawaii they both declared... Sea Life Park!!! They have lived in Hawaii for two years and this is hands down their fave place. How cute is that! So of course we had to go! Sea Life Park is a beautiful little marine life park with some of the most ridiculously stunning views around - backed by sheer cliff tops on one side and stunning ocean views on the other. It really has to be seen to be believed.

It's a small park which is great as it can easily be done in a half day. There is plenty of shade as you walk around too which makes it even more pleasant on a hot day. The shows are fantastic and everything is really interactive, the kids absolutely looooooved it. The dolphin show is epic, honestly I was screaming as much as the kids, haha. The dolphin show has the most amazing view, with the ocean back drop. The dolphins are just so beautiful and charming, watching them leap and play, we were all enchanted basically.

The kids did not want to leave the bird exhibit everrrrr. It was one of those areas that as an adult you think is just fun but to the kids, they are just blown away that birds are landing on them and feeding from the cute little bird seed paddlepop sticks! They wanted to go back to this area again and again - be warned haha! The seals, the sharks, the turtles... we loved it all.

If you have kiddos, they will love their day at Sea Life Park and I bet you will too!

PS Thank you so much, Sea Life Park for gifting our family tickets. We had the best time, it was a definite highlight!

Amazing dolphin show with stunning backdrop... I mean, how amazing huh!

6. Makupuu Tidepools

These beautiful little tidepools are great for kids to explore. They are right across the road from Sea Life Park so (thanks to advice from our host!) we did Sea Life Park in the morning and then explored the tide pools in the afternoon.

The tide pools are not a big tourist haunt, so you can enjoy exploring a beach that is a bit off the beaten track! Beautiful, fascinating and with stunning views of little islands on the horizon.... I mean, honestly, everywhere you turn in Hawaii is so gorgeous.

7.  The North Shore / Haleiwa 

The North Shore is just a cool area. Serioussssssly cool. Too cool for us really but we tried our best to blend in, haha. Full of food vans, surfers, big waves and little ramshackle shops, it's just gorgeous! Definitely check our the Banzai Pipeline to watch the surfers on the huge waves. Haleiwa is a little town along the North Shore that is full of places to eat and places to buy trinkets. Although kids may not last long at the shops, the yummy food will help them power through a few at least!

Hot Tip: My friend Heidi recommended these places and of course we had to check them all out. Having a little cheat sheet of places to try sure cut down on the decision-fatigue that often comes with travelling.

  • Ted's Pie Shop for (sweet American) pies. OH THE PIES. Get the chocolate macadamia pie and you WILL NOT REGRET IT. 
  • Visit Wow Wow Lemonade for yummy fresh lemonade (the lilikoi lemonade was delish....lilikoi is passionfruit). 
  • North Shore Goodies is right next door and has the yummiest nut butters - try the Macadamia Nut Coconut Peanut Butter - YUM. 
  • Dat Cajun Guy for amazing gumbo and other New Orleans cuisine. 
  • Lastly, definitely visit HE>i 'He is Greater than I' for really cool Christian apparel. 

Me living my best life... having the best Acai bowl ever from a local food truck, while watching the surfers on the Banzai Pipeline!

8. Kailua Beach

Kailua Beach is a beautiful and very family friendly as it has public bathrooms, easy parking in a big car park and close to shops and a cafe . Plus it has a shallow canal which to be honest looks pretty brown and not really postcard-friendly but it's shallow and to be honest, the little kids absolutely love playing in it!

Hot Tip: Pop by the Kalapawai Market before or after your beach visit for the yummiest treats in the cutest and quirkiest little cafe and market! We totally fell in love with this place. Great coffee, yummy chilli dogs and DO NOT EVEN GET ME STARTED on the Ice Cream Sandwiches... SO good!

Kailua Beach

Kalapawai Market

9. Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach is literally right next to Kailua Beach. Lanikai is probably a bit more famous and has two iconic landmarks - two little islands out on the horizon. It is not quite as family friendly as it has no bathrooms and no parking (you have to find a little spot on the crowded residential streets). Ideally you can check out both places!

Lanikai really is stunning, it's fun strolling down the beach, looking at the houses (dreaming about living there of course) and all the outriggers just scattered along the beach. Kayaking out here is really popular too!

Lanikai Beach

10. Turtle Bay Resort (with or without the kids!)

Turtle Bay Resort is nestled up the top of Oahu in the middle of the North Shore. It is a stunning luxury resort that looks right out of the movies... probably because many movies (such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall) have been filmed there. Now you CAN take the kids here but we managed to have an amazing kid-free night here thanks to the generosity of our dear friends who had our kids for one night! It was, needless to say, AMAZING. It is such a beautiful resort and yes, it is definitely a splurge but worth it for a night or two! The pools are awesome, the sunset is magical and the gorgeous beaches are just so lovely. While we were there, my hubby secretly booked us a HORSE RIDE and yes, horse riding by the beach in Hawaii was pretty much the most surreal, amazing moments of my life!!!

This view!!! Engraved on my heart forever! 

So, that is my list of Top Ten Things to do with Kids in Oahu!

There is soooo much more to do of course (we would love to go back). If you have been to Hawaii and have recommendations, please add them in the comments below... give me something else to wanna go back and see!! Plus you can help others planning their trip.

Ah Hawaii, you were too good to us! 
We can't stop dreaming about you and will forever feel grateful we got to experience your magic!

Just casually riding horses by the beach.... living my best life, haha! This was truly a dream!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kate, Thanks for sharing all about your wonderful time on Oahu, getting together with with Heidi and family over there! :)


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