Hawai’i isn’t all surf, snorkel and six-mile hikes. You don’t have to miss out on all Hawai’i has to offer just because your little ones aren’t old enough to do the iconic excursions. These 5 places are no less beautiful, fun and entertaining:
1.) Polynesian Cultural Center or the PCC (Map here):
Our visit allowed us to emerse ourselves in the polynesian culture: Hawai’i, Tonga, Tahiti, Samoa, Fiji and Aotearoa (New Zealand). We opted for a guided tour so we could make the most of timing the presentations from each “island” and include the luau that evening. As soon as we entered we were greated by dancers on a floating platform on the river. Complete with costume changes, they performed dances from each island. By the end of the day when we had reached the final island, Samoa, I was on information overload. But in a good way! We took a boat ride to the luau and then ended the night with the stunning performance: Ha: Breath of Life
Why kids will love it
- Age 0-3 It’s stroller friendly and the colors, sights and sounds are enlivening. Food stands offer treats for cranky kids (and adults!)
- Age 4-6 Fun activites include Hawai’ian games, tapa weaving and making coconut oil. They can even get a temporary tribal tattoo. Each island offers something special.
- Age 7-10 Activities that might appeal more to older kids include spear throwing and taking a ride in an outrigger canoe.
- Age 11 and above Each island includes illustrative performances showcasing their particular culture. The villages are reproductions of how the islanders lived and emerse the visitors in their history. Of course there is no age limit for all of the activities!
⇒Take note: The PCC is huge and on Fridays and Saturdays they are extremely busy and they are closed on Sundays. The website has the performance times listed so you can plan your time accordingly. That being said, plan for a FULL DAY here.
The luau is casual and kid-friendly. However, the night performance, while visually spectacular, might be hard for some kiddos to sit so long. You know best.
2.) Ko Olina Lagoons (map here):
Calm, serene, protected. That’s the water anyway. Hopefully the kids feel the same way! We made a brief visit to each of the four lagoons that line the resorts on this sunny west side treasure. Finding a cove that suited us, we set up camp and spent the day with our feet in the sand. We ventured out with our snorkel gear, but quickly realized this wasn’t the best place to see the underwater world. But for a winter weekend, where waves on other shores are a bit intense, this was a nice relaxing break.
Why kids will love it
- Age 0-3 These little coves are completely protected. They can get their little feet wet or play in the sand.
- Age 4-6 Give them a floatie and pull them out a little further. Let them swim, jump and romp.
- Age 7-10 Bring buckets and shovels (cheap kits are at Target) and build sandcastles. They can swim without the concern of waves or boats.
- Age 11 and above This age group might want something more adventureous. While we weren’t impressed with the snorkeling, there are fish (I’ve heard better in #3 and #4) and older kids might enjoy learning in calm waters.
⇒Take note: Unless you set up shop on the grassy area, you will have no shade. Umbrellas are not allowed on the beach.
Parking is EXTREMELY LIMITED. Get here early or risk getting turned away.
The rocks are off limits, so keep the kiddos on the sand.
Why the kids will love it
- Age 0-4 The Ocean Adventure Tour, the Taste of Kualoa Farm Tour, Hollywood Movie Sites Tour and the Secret Beach all accomodate infants.
- Age 5-9 They will appreciate the tours a little more, especially the Movie Sites and Secret Beach. Five and up can also go on the Raptor Tour, and the Jurassic Jungle Jeep Adventure (my personal favourite).
- Age 10-15 This place is a blast for this age-group. PLUS, they can add the Horseback Guided Tours, the electric Mountain Bike tours and the Zipline to their list of available excursions. Check height and weight requirements for the last two.
- Age 16 and up Old enough to go on the ATV tour and I highly recommend it! So much fun and you can explore areas the tour buses can’t reach.
⇒Take note: Make reservations. Especially for larger groups.
There’s a small animal exhibit, horses, gift shop, and cafe (the food is really good!) where you can get a smoothie and hang out.
4.) Laniakea (Turtle) Beach (map here):
There’s a reason Laniakea is nicknamed “Turtle Beach.” I can almost guarantee you’ll see
turtles. On our first visit we were a bit disappointed when we arrived and didn’t see any. Not dissuaded, we donned our snorkel gear and dove in. Right away we swam directly above a huge honu (sea turtle) before we even saw him. Shortly thereafter a smaller guy came floating by. I caught a glimps of a stripped belly puffer, who wanted nothing to do with me. I snapped a pic anyway. Once out of the water, it seemed the turtles were taking their lunch break on the beach. Several played in the surf and another basked in the sand.
Why kids will love it
- Age 0-3 While they may not entirely appreciate these beautiful sea creatures, the beach is lovely and has some shade.
- Age 4-6 What kid doesn’t like turtles! Even if you just make this a stop on your way to other locations, it’s exciting to see a turtle . . . from the recommended 10 feet away. These gentle reptiles are federally protected, so look, don’t touch.
- Age 7-10 This is a great beach to explore, even if you don’t want to be in the water. But lots of fish make this perfect for snorkeling.
- Age 11 and up The access into the water is smaller compared to some beaches, but it’s still a beautiful place to swim, snorkel and play in the water.
⇒Take note: Parking is tricky and often crowded. This seems to be a place many like to pull off and then leave for other locations. So cars are coming and going. The highway can be busy, and crossing with kids is a bit nerve-racking.
The rock is slippery so best to stay off of it. For some of the other places to explore, water socks might be helpful.
5.) Kuhio & Kahanamoku Beaches (map here):
Tropical surf meets metropolis at these downtown beaches. We didn’t let that put us off as we went for a dip after a day of shopping. At Kahanamoku Beach paddleboarders took advantage of the glassy waters and kids bounced around a variety of floaties. It was a happy place. Everyone fine to be in each other’s space so we just went with it. After basking here a while we packed up and made our way closer to our hotel at Kuhio Beach. A much more frantic vibe here with surfers just on the other side of the protective wall. The kids squealed, splashed and swam. A fun place to hang out, but soon we were ready to call it a day.
Why the kids will love it
- Age 0-3 It doesn’t get much more convient for the babies: Walking distance from most hotels, sidewalks and calm waters.
- Age 4-6 A shallow entry and expansive beach allows kids to play without concern for rough conditions.
- Age 7-10 Grassy areas are a nice change of pace and offer plenty of shade. Plus you’re in close proximity to snack bars. Because a hungry kid is no fun.
- Age 11 and up Rent an aqua bike from one of the rental stand and take your kiddo out on the water! Entertainment and exercise in one.
⇒Take note: I’m not one to recommend busy beaches. It’s just too crowded for me personally. But there’s a reason there are so many people. The beaches are beautiful and don’t require a road trip. It’s a place to relax (relatively) and let the kids play.
This only scratches the surface of places to bring the kids on Oahu. But with just these activities it fills a week’s vacation. It’s a great way to see the island through their eyes. Full of excitement and wonder. These locations will make the most of their enjoyment, and yours!
Stay tuned next week when I’ll have another five.