Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My Kid-friendly Tour of Oahu

Hey again!  We've had one of our good friends from Washington here this past week, so there's been quite a bit of running around as compared to what I talked about in my last post.  But since it's been doing fun, touristy things, I'd have to call it only the good kind of running around!

When we have guests in town, we tend to not do the things everyone thinks of when talking about O'ahu.  We do NOT go to Waikiki -- in fact, I haven't been to the beach there in about eighteen months.  Sure, it's fine you want to fight for an inch of sand among the hoardes.  But there's so much to the island that you'll miss these gems if you just follow the crowd.  Here's where I would take you if you were my guest:

1. When heading to the North Shore from the leeward side, I recommend turning left instead of right (toward Haleiwa) and head west toward Kaena Point.  We don't usually go all the way out to the point (where you can hike to the west side of the island if you want), but we stop at the beach nearby.  It's not the best place for swimming because the waves are often very rough and cover slippery rocks.  But we like to go have picnic lunches there and spot turtles in the waves.  It's a popular spot for windsurfers and kitesurfing, so that's fun to watch too.  

Waialua is the much quieter neighbor of Haleiwa.  It lacks some of the picturesque appeal, but there are fun things to see, too, like the Old Sugar Mill, where you can get naturally flavored shave ice or see how coffee is produced.  The only thing is, if you are just a regular old shmuck like yours truly, customer service is... well, on aloha time.  It's taken me half an hour to get an order for four filled.  But when the tour buses pull in, they (not kidding) yell, "Tour bus! Tour bus!" and prove they can hustle.  I've told my kids that the next time we go, I will make a sign for Ye Olde Odyssey that says "TOUR BUS" and see how things change.  

2.  I would probably say go to Matsumoto's for shave ice (and by the way, that's what it is called here -- shave not shaved ice -- I don't know why), but hopefully you would have at least two days here because first I would say go to Island Snow in Kailua.

The difference is the line is shorter (or maybe just moves faster?) at Island Snow, and time is everything when you have little ones.  I also think the flavors are generally better. It's just a matter of personal preference, but still.  Island Snow wins in my book.  Plus, now they have two locations.

3.  Instead of hiking Diamond Head, I recommend Makapu'u.  We have done Diamond Head once to get our check in the box, but in my opinion, there are so many better points to Makapu'u -- free parking closer to the hike is one of them.  But also, Diamond Head is a lot of stairs on a narrow path with about a million people.  When we went, we got stuck behind some people who were moving at a snail's pace, and I think we would all say it was kind of torment.  

Makapu'u has a paved road to the top, wide enough for a truck to go on, which makes it ideal for the stroller crowd... or those who have kids that are too big for backpacks and should be able to hike.  We, um, "forgot" the stroller on our last trip, (okay, honestly there was no room because we had our boogie boards in the car) and as you can see, it went really well.

Also, it should be noted that we make our guests carry our forty-pound kids on their backs in the blazing hot sun.  No special treatment here.

The views from Diamond Head are good city views, but Makapu'u shows more of the natural Hawaiian beauty. (plus a wee bit o' construction)

Also, during the winter months, it's a great place to spot whales.  The incline isn't too dramatic so it's feasible for a wide variety of fitness levels, and the road is wide enough that you won't be stuck behind anyone if you want to move a little faster.

Did I mention the views?

4. Kualoa Beach is fantastic for families with younger kids. If you drive to the end of the parking lot, then walk straight out, there is a nice quiet beach.  Well, I say "quiet" because I only go on weekdays. On the weekends, everyone and their best friend, brah, auntie, and cousin are there!  And understandably so!  It's one of those great-for-everyone beaches. (Just ask the creeper pictured here behind me near the rocks who wouldn't stop talking to us.)

(That he was wearing a Speedo was really the icing on the ick cake.  Sorry, but I'm biased like that.)   
Anyway!  There is a low sea wall maybe thirty feet from the beach, and the water is fairly shallow all the way out to it.

So there's perfect swimming area for all those who aren't strong swimmers.  Beyond the sea wall, those who are comfortable can snorkel (or swim out to Chinaman's Hat!).  And the views are amazing!  Every time I go there, I end up staying longer than I'd planned to.  

5. The lagoons at Ko'Olina.

There are four manmade lagoons at Ko'Olina.  Three of them are part of resorts, but you're allowed to use the lagoon.  But there is one by itself, and that's where I go. The only thing is, you have to get there early!  Weekdays are better.  Otherwise you spend a ton for parking, and it's crowded.  A friend and I went yesterday and got there about 9.  We were by no means the first ones there!  There were just a few parking spots left! The water is calm for kiddos and snorkellers, and there are showers for de-sanding and a public bathroom that is actually not disgusting, which is a critical factor when we're tallking kid-friendliness.  (The toilets even have seat covers! *high five*).

In a word, idyllic.

6.  Last but so very definitely not least, Bellows.

 In fact, if there was one place I would say you have to have to HAVE TO go, it would be Bellows.  It's the first beach I took Annalee to, six days after she was born.

The views are fantastic, and the waves are just perfect for boogie boarding, but you can also snorkel, SUP, or kayak if those activities tickle your fancy.  Also, two super important words: hot showers.  This doesn't always matter a whole lot to me, but when you're trying to de-sand your kids, they are generally much more willing to do so when the water isn't cold.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of everything wonderful on O'ahu.  It would take a long time to write everything good, and there are many books that do it better.  But those books don't necessarily talk about the kid-friendly factor, so hopefully I've done that here. At least a little?

Question for you: if you live here or have been here, what are your favorite spots?  And, more important in my book... How kid-friendly are they??? ;-)


  1. You hit all the best places Joy! We've tried a few shrimp places and found we like Big Wave Shrimp the best. It is close to the roundabout in Haleiwa and has free soda with military ID. And they sell hot dogs for those children that don't appreciate garlic saturated shrimp. There's a great lookout above Honolulu off Round Top Drive. Puu Ualakaa State Park. And don't forget free fishing at Ho'omaluhia Botanical Gardens. The only other beach we visit (besides Bellows) is Shark's Cove in the summer only. The cove is great for snorkeling but the other side of the fire station is great for wading through the coral tide pools. Just wear swim shoes or your feet get sore.

    1. I haven't been to the botanical gardens yet! I want to go, though! I agree about Shark's Cove -- great spot. I thought about putting it here. My only beef is that it can be hard to get parking unless you go super early, and the bathrooms are sketchy. :-/ Also haven't been to Puu Ulakaa! Great suggestions! Thanks, Andrea!


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