Family Outings Hawaiian Style
Written by Raha Wright
With six islands, countless activities and miles of pristine beaches, it’s easy to understand why Hawai‘i is a sought-after destination for families. Whether you crave an outrageous adventure or a laid-back sojourn, here are some of the best reasons to head to the Aloha State.
Some people say that the Big Island has a magical feel that’s hard to explain. Perhaps it’s because Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, resides in Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on the planet. Witness her fiery fury by visiting the expansive 333,000-acre Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Here, you can take a walk through a gigantic lava tube, marvel at lush rainforests and witness billowing steam vents.
Only 10% of Kaua‘i is accessible by road. That means countless outdoor adventures, in a variety of modes. To get a taste of the island’s tucked-away treasures, take an open-air boat ride up the Wailua River to see the legendary Fern Grotto. Formed millions of years ago, the lava rock cave was often visited by Hawaiian royalty and owes its name to the layers of ferns that hang from its ancient walls and ceiling. Smith’s Motor Boats offers a kid-friendly one-hour-and-twenty-minute-long round-trip tour, complete with an on-board huladancing lesson.
Needless to say, milking a goat may not be at the top of your vacation to-do list, but kids — especially city dwellers — will get a kick out of the act. Travel to the slopes of Haleakala volcano and you’ll find the Surfing Goat Dairy. The 42-acre property is home to an average of 140 goats and produces more than 30 kinds of flavored gourmet cheeses. Stick around for the Evening Chores and Milking Tour and kids will be put to work, encouraged to partake in everything from milking goats to bringing the herd in from the field.
Quiet, secluded and off the beaten path, Moloka‘i rewards families with unusual activities and minimal crowds. Head to the island’s south shore to help restore the Ali‘i fishpond. Centuries ago, Native Hawaiians built fishponds as an integral part of the ahupua‘a system, a sustainable method in which land was divided from the mountains to the sea. Today, families can work with the nonprofit organization Ka Honua Momona to clear Ali‘i’s 30-acre area of invasive mangroves. Visitors may also get the chance to learn an oli, or chant, with which they request permission to enter the historic area.
Lana‘i has one of the largest schools of spinner dolphins in Hawai‘i. For a chance to see their acrobatic tricks, sign up for Trilogy Excursion’s Snorkel and Sail Trip. During the four-hour outing, you’ll cruise around the back side of the island in a sailing catamaran and snorkel at an unspoiled spot. What’s more, lunch is served on the boat.
Lodging, Aloha Style
Spread across the islands of O‘ahu, Maui, Kaua‘i and the Big Island, ResortQuest Hawai‘i offers everything from condominium suites to villas and spacious cottages. As an added perk, each of its 26 locations is on or near the beach — a perfect plus for the vacationing family.
Plush oceanfront rooms, championship golf courses, world-class dining and a kid-friendly attitude make all of Prince Resorts Hawai‘i’s properties a top choice for the entire family. Take your pick of its four luxurious resorts on O‘ahu, Maui and the Big Island.
On O‘ahu, Family Comes First
From hectic work schedules to school and soccer games, families everywhere are facing the same problem: not having enough quality time with one another. This summer, bring the bond back with a vacation to O‘ahu. The island features countless kid-friendly activities, a thriving cultural scene and one-of-a-kind outdoor adventures that are sure to give the kids something to brag about.
The North Shore
Most visitors make the mistake of spending just one day on the legendary North Shore, cheating themselves of a true Hawaiian treasure. With uncluttered landscapes, miles of sandy beaches and only one resort area, families will get the chance to relax and reconnect like never before.
Mention “The Seven Mile Miracle” to a serious surfer and he or she will know exactly what you’re referring to. It’s a stretch of North Shore coastline that draws a pilgrimage of surfers to the island every year. During the winter months, get into the action and watch as the pros ride gigantic swells and compete in surf competitions at legendary spots like Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach.
To test out your own wave-riding skills, sign the family up for a surf lesson with Surf-N-Sea in historic Hale‘iwa town. The instructors are spectacular with kids, and they can find small beginner waves on almost any day of the year.
Next, cool off by making a pit stop at Matsumoto Shave Ice. An island tradition since 1951, the landmark locale serves about 1,000 cones a day in mouthwatering flavors such as its passion fruit, mango and coconut creations. Don’t miss the nearby art galleries and craft shops, too, which feature work by talented local artisans and craftsmen.
Whether you left the kids at home or you’re traveling as a family, there’s always
an unlimited supply of fun and unique sites to see and things to do on O‘ahu.
Take a short drive down a scenic two-lane
road and you’ll find the Polynesian Cultural
Center. Here, people from around the Pacific
come together to share their unique culture
and history through a series of demonstrations
and hands-on exhibits. In the Samoan village,
kids can learn how to crack open a coconut
and watch as young men climb up a 40-foottall
coconut tree. Enter the New Zealand area and hear about the symbolism behind Maori
facial tattoos, or head to Fiji to play the derua,
a bamboo percussion instrument.
Insider Tip: To really absorb all that this exciting attraction has to offer, families who stay on the North Shore should consider a minimum three-day visit.
The South Shore and Waikïkï
About 15 minutes from Waikiki is the densely forested area of Makiki Valley. This is where you’ll find the Hawai‘i Nature Center, a nonprofit organization that focuses on outdoor educational activities for children. During the summer months, parents and kids can spend quality time together through the Center’s Weekend Program, which features everything from a hike through a native Hawaiian ecosystem to an exploration of an ancient petroglyph (rock carving) site.
InWaikiki, you could drop by the Honolulu Zoo like other visitors, or you can expose your kids to an experience they’ll never forget. From June 9 through August 15, kids ages 6 to 11 can participate in the zoo’s weeklong Vacation Adventure program, where activities include an opportunity to touch and feed elephants or visit animal areas that are off-limits to the general public.
Need something to do at night? Check out the “Star Gazing at the Zoo” series, happening at 6:30 p.m. on June 20, July 11 and August 8. After a tour of the zoo’s nocturnal animals, an astronomer from the University of Hawai‘i will point out constellations in the night sky. Kids also get the chance to peer through telescopes and walk through the planetarium.
Held on Wednesday nights at 6 p.m., the zoo’s “Wildest Show” summer concert series is another must-attend event. Popular local Hawaiian acts — which have included the likes of ‘ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro — will entertain crowds on the zoo’s front lawn. For specific concert dates, check www.honoluluzoo.org.
Quality “Adult Time,” O‘ahu Style
Whether you left the kids at home or you’re traveling as a family of adults, here’s a handful of unique things to do on O‘ahu — without the little ones.
Even if the Honolulu Academy of Arts didn’t have an impressive collection of Hawaiian art — including pieces dating back to the late 1700s — aficionados would still say the museum has one of the most diverse collections in the world. Marvel at its permanent exhibits, like James A. Michener’s famous collection of Japanese ukiyo-e prints, or experience one of the Academy’s summer shows, such as One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now (June 18 through August 24), which features 17 artists from across the country.
After a day indoors, head to O‘ahu’s northeast coast and find Kualoa Ranch. Choosing how to get around the property’s beautiful 4,000-acre expanse is where the fun starts. Jump in a rugged six-wheel-drive Swiss Pinzauer vehicle and go on a white-knuckle ride through backcountry jungles. Too adventurous? Journey into Ka‘a‘awa Valley by horseback to see where Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates and Lost were filmed.
To unwind, forget about typical massages and experience Hawaiian healing at Moku Ola in Koko Marina Center. Here, practitioners perform unique treatments such as lomilomi (Hawaiian massage) or the one-hour la‘au kipola session, which includes a fullbody wrap using native Hawaiian plant leaves. Take note: The frilly spa environment is missing here, but that lends to the overall authentic experience.
For more great ideas for your O‘ahu vacation, visit www.visit-oahu.com.
Photos courtesy of (Top to Bottom): Smith’s Tropical Paradise; Trilogy Excursions Maui/Lana‘i; The Hawai‘i Nature Center; Moku Ola; Oahu Visitors Bureau