If you’re thinking of taking a trip to Hawaii then we certainly recommend it! From sunset cruises to hiking opportunities to surfing lessons, there’s so much to do! Being able to have a beach holiday in winter, with the chance to play with dolphins and float with turtles, it all proved to be the ultimate combo — great fun and totally relaxing. We based ourselves in Waikiki and, with surf boards in town, jaunted barefoot and sandy through high rises and admired designer shops on our way back to our apartment each day.
Waikiki is, essentially, a city on the beach; albeit very casual, clean, and with that laidback Polynesian feel. It’s a great place to base your family for a week in Oahu. You don’t need a car everyday, but it does mean you can take advantage of the beautiful beaches all around the Island. Although” we could happily have lazed around on the North Shore and Kailua for the whole week.
easy for kids
1 No jetlag, because Hawaii is just two hours out of sync (22 hours behind actually).
2 Great climate, and not too hot in Spring and Autumn and with sun that browns more than it burns.
3 American-style food, with plenty of great Asian options and delicious salads.
4 Casual surfie attire everywhere, so barefoot Kiwi kids fit right in.
5 Cultural, natural and relaxing.
sea life park dolphin encounters
This was our favourite day and not to be missed if you’re a Dolphin lover. Jump in the water and get up close with these beautiful creatures. The Royal Swim includes two swims with two of the dolphins – you get to ride holding their dorsal fins, and then stand up on the water while being pushed along by dolphins under your feet. The younger kids can enjoy a quieter encounter with dolphin kisses, dancing and even a swim on the dolphin’s back. Check out
north shore excursion including laniakea beach, a.k.a. turtle beach
Rent some wheels and head off for a day around the North Shore beaches. Definitely go to Laniakea Beach because the turtles are there virtually every day of the year munching on the shoreline seaweed. They seem like big gentle giants, and once you’ve hung with them in Hawaii, you are guaranteed to become turtle-obsessed! See
Also check out Haleiwa, a cute surfing town that’s good for lunch and shopping. Sunset Beach is iconic, and the water there is lovely: a beautiful azure blue that goes from knee-high to 7 feet in just few steps. The Dole Pineapple plantation is worth a quick visit to check out their ?pineapple everything’ store. Then head up to one of the many Prawn Shacks for a messy, but tasty feast of delicious prawns and shrimp
in your favourite style.
We spent our only rainy day at this water park. The rides are great fun, with plenty for toddlers and unconfident swimmers too. But if thrill is your game, then you’ll be in heaven. The boys loved the Flyin’ Hawaiian and the Island Racer and you can even get a package that includes a boogie boarding lesson, where they’ll crank up the wave pool and get you surfing.
paradise cove luau
Paradise Cove is the ultimate tropical display; coconut trees, white sand, frangipani trees and a fiery golden sunset. Their family-friendly Luau starts with traditional Hawaiian games, lei making and a Hukilau fishing ceremony. Enjoy cocktails with a dinner of local Kalua pork, fish, chicken, salmon and salads. Then enjoy a Polynesian show, with plenty of culture and dancing (a bit of crowd participation required!). Great for kids because it moves along fairly quickly with plenty to do, eat and drink along the way.
outrigger canoe surfing
Definitely try this (in your togs) … it’s a lot of fun. You start with a bit of paddling and manoeuvering on to the wave, then surf your way to shore alongside other surfers (and in our case a large green turtle). Great for kids as the paddling is simple to learn and Mum and Dad (and your guide) do most of the work anyway. Oh yes, you have a friendly handsome surfer alongside you taking photos all part of the deal, so take your memory stick.
We stayed at the Aston Waikiki on Banyan. Only 5 minutes from the beach and the Strip on Waikiki, these apartments are great value for money and very family-friendly. You have access to a pool, playground and BBQ area. The kids of course were immediately taken with the icemaker in the fridge and the heated toilet (complete with hot water bottom washer and dryer!). We adults were very comfortable with the blender (which you can request), the latest DVDs on demand and even a Playstation (quiet time!). The kitchens were very modern with typical American big everything and you have unlimited Wifi.
Your first night really deserves to be a Mai Tai night, or anything virgin with umbrellas for the kids! Go for glamour at The Mai Tai Bar on the beach at The Royal Hawaiian, or the Sheraton Moana Surfrider close by.
Lulus on the west side of the strip has great food, interesting collectables and live music. Sits up on a level with the top of the frangipani trees overlooking the beach. Good vibe and easy with kids.
Cheesecake factory is a favourite with the kids. Get there at 5pm for an early dinner, otherwise you might end up waiting for over an hour.
Good burgers can be found at Teddy’s Bigger Burgers on the Diamond Head side. Best burgers in town, according to the locals.
Pai’s Deli tucked away in the Outrigger on the beach, is well known (since the 70s even!) for their pure fruit smoothies, delicious! You can get a fantastic sandwich or croissant here too, made to order and reasonably priced. Great if you’re on the beach.
Go to Fatty’s behind the International Market on Kuhio Boulevard. This is a small cheap Chinese eatery, almost cave-like, where you can take away or sit at a tiny bar. Has good and healthy noodle soup.
If you are super healthy or have food intolerances, go to Ruffage Natural Foods on Kuhio Street for a meal, or to stock up on supplies.
Malasadas from Leonard’s bakery on Kapahulu Avenue (or find one of their trucks either at the Waikele Outlet Mall or at Haleiwa village) are an absolute must-try. Get your pink box of these golden, hot, sugar coated, custard filled doughnuts and join the queues of locals and tourists who are in the know. Ono!
If you’re heading out to the North Shore, pop into one of the local Prawn Shacks for your favourite style of shrimp or prawns. Messy, tasty and very local.
1 Rent your own car convertible Jeeps and mustangs are the caper for Hawaii, and the kids will love it (although safe storage is a challenge).
2 The hop-on, hop-off bus system runs through Waikiki, to Ala Moana, the Waikele Outlet Mall and to a handful of beaches on the east side (Kahala and Kailua). Generally a US$2 charge for each trip but it pays to ask how long each trip is likely to take.
3 Most parks and planned excursions provide transport either free or for a small charge, so make sure you ask about this and build it into your package.
1 Hire boogie boards or surfboards from Hawaii Beach Time if you’re after one for just the day, otherwise buy one for $30 on Waikiki.
2 Buy lilos for US$3 from the ABC stores, they’ll blow them up for you, then you can float the day away.
3 Do a food shop at The Food Pantry on Kuhio Street for snacks, water and fruit. This is a good city supermarket, and is walking distance from the beach and most hotels.
4 If you haven’t got room in your luggage for beach towels, you can buy them there. They sell at The Food Pantry Express for US$10.
5 Waikiki has two calm areas of beach, where the wall makes the sea like a mill pond. Great for the littlies.
Waikele Outlet Mall for great bargains. You’ll get Vans for around US$45 and the latest Levis for US$50. Other great stores are Adidas, Converse and Gap.
Ala Moana is a more pleasant experience, less hot and has the food court with a massive selection of Asian and International food (worth staying for dinner). Choose what you want to see first because you’ll never get around in one day. The red velvet cake at the California Pizza Kitchen is worth a try when you need a
Kahala Mall is smaller but good for a visit if you’re a keen shopper. Best of all, it has a Whole Foods Supermarket which I loved, and a great place to pick up healthy organic snacks and fruit.
Most big name designer shops are at Waikiki now anyway, so you possibly don’t even need to get out of your swimming attire.
By Aana Marinovich
More family travel ideas from tots to teens: