Obviously, we’re a little taken with Hawaii. Maybe its because we lived there once upon a time. Maybe its because it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth. Or maybe whether you’ve been there for 2 hours or 2 years you will feel the LOVE, the aloha, everywhere you go. Wandering Ohana is so blessed to have family on Oahu and even more blessed that we had the opportunity to go visit them recently. Here are some of our family friendly must do’s on Oahu.
Check out Halona Blowhole just 15 minutes drive east of Waikiki beach. The blowhole is a natural occurrence formed by molten lava tubes from volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago. The lava tubes run to the ocean and, when the surf is right, the blowhole shoots water up to 30 feet in the air. The larger the waves, the larger the spray. Unfortunately, there were no huge waves the day were were there but it, still a site to see. Watch out for buses and tourists in the parking lot! This is a pretty popular spot to stop.
Looking for an easy hike to do to get high and see the island? Check out Makapu’u Point located on the Eastern most point of Oahu overlooking the Windward Coast. The look -out point offers outstanding views of Oahu’s southeastern coastline, including Koko Head and Koko Crater. If you make it to the top you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views of the windward coast and offshore islets, as well as the historic red-roofed Makapu‘u Lighthouse built in 1909, which makes a stunning picture against the deep blue sea below . The Molokai Channel runs right past the Makapuu Lighthouse, so this is a great place to spot whales during whale watching season (December-May).
This is a a moderately easy hike on a paved path, which is great for strollers! There is also a parking lot off Kalanianaole Highway (Hwy. 72). Don’t forget to wear sneakers, something we didn’t do, duh!
After checking out Makapuu point continue down highway 72 and grab a plate lunch in Kailua town then continue on the Kailua Beach Park. This is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. The water is turquoise, the waves gentle and the sand soft. The park also has ample shade, bathroom facilities, beach showers, and picnic tables located on the park grounds, something I consider when bringing the whole family out for the day. We decided to make a huge hole in the sand, for whatever reason, which ended up being the highlight of the girls day.
Of course you HAVE to check out Waikiki Beach. The world-famous neighborhood of Waikiki was once a playground for Hawaiian royalty and is known in Hawaiian as “spouting waters”. You can find numerous beaches, resorts, restaurants, art galleries and of course learn to surf! Even though this is the main tourist destination in all the islands, it is not to be missed.
We like to play at Kaimana Beach which is east, closer to Diamond Head. There is parking and it tends to be less crowded. Don’t forget your sunscreen! There’s no shade at all on this beach.
Take a stroll along the main drag on Kalakaua ave and take a picture with the Duke statue, grab a shave ice (rainbow is our favorite flavor) and check out some of the historic hotels. Stop and have THE BEST mai tai in Hawaii at The Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai Bar. Enjoy the trade winds and waves under an umbrella, get the kids a Shirley Temple and chill out. At night you can find live local music which is unbeatable. But watch out, those cocktails are dangerous, especially after some time in the sun!
Don’t forget to check out the open air, International Market Place for all your souvenir needs. We scored a ukulele, turtle jewelry box and shark tooth necklace. Very touristy of us! Some of the vendors are a little pushy and eager to make a sale, don’t be afraid to barter a little.
Kaka’ako is a commercial and industrial area located in the heart of urban Honolulu. Situated directly between Downtown Honolulu and Waikiki, it was the ideal to place to build a master plan community. The area has been undergoing a HUGE revitalization and has completely changed since we lived in Hawaii 8 years ago.
We were lucky because just before we arrived the urban art collective Pow! Wow! Hawaii brought artists from all over the globe to the streets of Kaka’ako and dozens of artists were working on giant, colorful murals throughout the neighborhood.
Hanks Haute Dogs is a MUST when in the neighborhood. Why? Because we helped open the restaurant with Hank (Grandpa) ten years ago! Hank’s offers a creative play on an all American favorite. Comfort food done the right way! Try the Chicago dog, an authentic representation with ingredients actually shipped in from Hank’s home city. Also try the special of the day and wash it all down with a pineapple ice or my favorite a lilikoi (passion fruit) lime soda.
After eating in Kaka’ako make the trip over to the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center. This a great option for some indoor play. The museum provides an interactive learning environment for all ages. It encourages guests to use their 5 senses to gain a better understanding of the world around them. Also it gives some history of Hawaii as well as a look into some other cultures in the world.
My girls loved the animal hospital, and blowing huge bubbles. General admission is 12$ but be aware they close early (1 pm Tuesday-Friday and 3 pm Saturday and Sunday) so give yourself enough time to see it all.
If you want to get a different, more laid back vibe, head up to Oahu’s North Shore. Slow down and check out the little shops and restaurants in Haleiwa town. On your way into town , stop at the food trucks and try the famous Giovannis garlic shrimp plate or a delicious burger or fish taco from VJ’s Butcher Block. Hang with the chickens and roosters who wander around and look for leftovers. Drive down the street and grab a shave ice from Matsumoto’s Shave Ice or a Haupia pie (coconut) from Ted’s bakery.
The beaches on the North shore are very different from the south and east shores. The waves are a surfers dream and draw in people from all over the world. Take heed the warnings on the beaches! These waves are no joke and even on a calm day can be dangerous! We stopped for a brief dip at Waimea Bay (home of the Quicksilver surf competition). I got in the water with my big girls and they were never further than an arms length away. Nearby you can also explore Waimea Valley, a botanical garden and cultural attraction that is home to beautiful Waimea Falls.
With airlines battling for your business, keep an eye out for affordable flights. Make sure to pack lots of snacks and things to do. Make a travel box with legos, playdoh, toys, crayons and coloring books. Brave the long flight for the endless amounts of sun, sand and aloha! I promise you and your children will make memories you can’t get anywhere else!