For west coasters in particular, Hawaii has long represented a slice of vacation paradise. And what's not to like? No matter which Hawaiian island you choose, you will find great weather, beautiful scenery and gorgeous beaches. But those traveling with children often want more options than building sandcastles and taking romantic strolls at sunset.
Fortunately Oahu offers a diverse range of kid-friendly accommodations and activities -- while still featuring a backdrop of sun, sand and ocean.
Here are our top tips on how to get the most out of an Oahu vacation with kids.
Located on the West Coast of Oahu, and built next to a string of man-made lagoons that provide tranquil waters great for children, Ko Olina is still within easy striking distance of Honolulu (25 minutes by car), as well as regions like the North Shore (45 minutes by car). The area offers plenty of dining options and multiple beaches – all accessible by foot, using the paved seaside pathway. There are also accommodation choices for every taste: whether you prefer the small, 4-star JW Marriott Ihilani with its shark and sting ray ponds, or Disney’s Hawaiian flagship resort, complete with Mickey Mouse, waterslides and a lazy river. Alternatively, rent a two- or three-bedroom villa at the luxurious Ko Olina Beach Villas Resort, or stay in one of Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club apartments, which come with a kitchen, dining area and living room, as well as complimentary daily activities and pools that appeal to children of all ages.
Forget sports fishing or whale watching, the newest attraction to Oahu is Hawaiian Pirate Ship Adventures. Climb aboard the Treasure Seeker and join Captain Hammerhead Alan as he and his three-man crew go searching for treasure in the open seas. The unique thing about this particular pirate experience is the level of child involvement. While the pirates are actors, it isn’t a sit and watch show. You and your child will be asked to channel your own inner pirate and participate in all manner of swashbuckling activities, including firing water cannons at passing vessels.
While there are a number of luau options on Oahu, Paradise Cove is definitely one you should visit. With this well-run and delightfully entertaining show, you’ll walk away feeling like you have experienced the very essence of Hawaii. You also won’t feel robbed. Spanning more than four hours and including everything from cultural demonstrations, performances, hands-on arts and crafts, spear tossing, outrigger canoe rides and a delicious buffet, this particular luau is worth every penny.
You can’t make a trip to Oahu without visiting Honolulu. The beachside neighborhood of Waikiki not only offers up the infamous Waikiki Beach – with its small, long rolling waves, ideal for kids looking to learn to surf – but also a ton of designer shopping. Here, recognized surf brands like Quicksilver operate alongside the likes of Salvatore Ferragamo, Dior and Louis Vuitton. Nearby is Honolulu Zoo, and a short drive back toward Pearl City you will find the USS Arizona and Mighty Mo at Pearl Harbor; the site of the United States’ entrance into World War II.
The North Shore is tranquility at its best. Veg out watching the surfers ride the Banzai Pipeline at Ehukai Beach Park, build sandcastles and see where big wave surfing began at Waimea Bay, or make the short walk out to nearby Waimea Falls. If you are on the North Shore around sunset, parlay your visit with a fresh fish dinner at Jameson’s By The Sea, one of only a couple of restaurants in the region.
Preserve all your special memories. Make sure your camera is charged up and your memory card is full. And if photography isn’t your strong suit, or you are sick and tired of always being behind the lens of your family vacation photos, consider reaching out to Pacific Dream Photography. They have perfected the art of capturing beautiful family moments on film and offer a number of purchase options and packages, depending on your budget.
Michelle Erickson is the director of public relations at Fly.com and is based in California. A British native, Michelle has lived on three continents and is an avid traveler.
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