Traveling to Oahu, Hawaii with kids? Here’s some of our favorite places we visited on our recent trip to Hawaii!
Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial
December 6 we took the boys to see the USS Arizona Memorial. I was expecting the crowds. The Dec 7th memorial ceremony was the following day and I figured everyone else had the same idea we had. Even the concierge at the hotel warned us the tickets may have already been distributed since we had a later start than expected. About 2,000 tickets are handed out each day beginning at 7am and you may have to wait several hours for your tour time to begin. That wasn’t the case for us. We had to make a quick dash to the theater to catch our timed ticket tour that started 5 minutes after we got there. If you have kids, The National Parks Service has a Keiki Ranger Activity Book for them that you can ask for.
The tour begins at the theater where we watched a short film on the attack of Pearl Harbor. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with my boys, ages 6 and 4, but they did fine with lots of questions afterwards. Most of the footage and photos were in black and white and I think that lessened the visual impact on them. After the movie we boarded the ferry to go out to the USS Arizona Memorial. We talked to them about the events that happened and why it was important to keep remembering. Since we live in Japan, most of their questions centered on why the Japanese would attack us since they’ve never felt any ill-will living in their country. We were able to talk about the effects of war and conflict and how countries can heal and work together even after such an attack. I’m hoping we can bring them down to Hiroshima before leaving to introduce them to the other side of the war. Pearl Harbor is one of those sites you have to see in person. It really put the history of the battle into perspective for me. I was able to see the scope of events like Battleship Row first hand and knowing that you are standing on the tomb for over 900 sailors who are still down below makes a huge mark on your soul.
The oil that still leaks into the harbor from the USS Arizona. After the tour we drove over to Ford Island, which you can only drive onto yourself with a military ID. From Ford Island you have a wonderful view of the memorial not seen by the mass majority.And the beautiful Banyan trees on Ford Island.Ka’ena Point State Park
There wasn’t too much happening in this state park. We drove until the road ended which at that place, was beautiful, but the drive itself didn’t have too much going for it. Lots of surfers on this end of the island and you could sit and watch the waves roll in.
Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum
If you have kids and a half a day available, head over to the Bishop Museum. The lava demonstration was worth seeing just on its own. They had the Scream Exhibit going on where we could explore the science behind roller coaster engineering and a roller coaster ride simulator where you could “ride” the great roller coasters in the US. Brayden especially loved this since he never makes the height requirements on any of the bigger roller coaster. Also popular was the exhibit showing what happens to your body when you vomit, complete with liquid, sounds and all. Perfect for boys, right? We also stopped in on the planetarium show which introduced us to celestial navigating. We learned about the voyaging canoe Hōkūle’a and navigated our way from Hawaii to Tahiti using the stars.
While the boys were still playing with the Scream exhibit, I slipped out to see the cultural hall exhibits that guides you through the people, culture, history, etc of the polynesian culture. I could have looked at these exhibits for days. This museum is really well done.
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens
If you are looking for a great view of the Ko’olau Mountains, head over to the 400-acre Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens near Kane’ohe Bay. There’s some great walking trails through the different plant collection areas or you can drive through the park. There are also guided tours, picnic areas and weekend camping in the park but I believe no dogs are allowed. Best of all it’s free!
Diamond Head State Monument Hike
This was a great hike with the kids. It’s about 0.8 miles to the summit, but expect steep stairs and such. It’s short enough though that by the time the kids really start running out of steam your almost to the top. There’s a fun spiral staircase at the top that leads to a bunker-type structure and the views of Waikiki are gorgeous. Make sure you plan enough time to make it to the top and back. The gates are locked at 6pm and I’m not sure if what they do with those who don’t make it out on time. The bees were a huge problem here, especially in the parking lot. Stay away from the trash cans and bring medication if need be.
Polynesian Cultural Center and Ha Breath of Life Evening Show
We had planned on seeing the Ha Breath of Life show at 7:30pm so we didn’t want to get the the cultural center too early, but then we missed out on a lot of the great interactive learning exhibits offered. The Village Experience goes from noon-6pm. It’s really a weird time slot especially for those with kids. The luau was sold out so we had an hour and a half of wandering the village with nothing going on. During the village hours, they have shows and presentations going on one after another, timed to have you move through the village. But if you see the shows, you limit the interactive exhibits, like making poi or weaving palm leaves into fish. I’m not sure what the right answer is on how to time this one if you have small kids like we do. It’s almost worth it to break it up into two separate days. See the village from noon -6pm one day, and do the luau and Ha Breath of Life show another night.
The Ha Breath of Life show was very good. It will give you the best tidbits of Hawaiian culture. You’ll see the fire throwing, hula dancing, drumming, storytelling, etc all in one show. It’s just long. I don’t think it was over until after 9pm and we definitely had some tired kids to drag back to the hotel. It’s up towards the North shore too so there’s a bit of a drive involved if you are staying in the Waikiki area.
Hale Koa Luau
Since we missed out on the luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center, we tried the luau at the Hale Koa and it disappointed me. The pork was so incredibly salty and the show itself was on par with a cruise line show where the host is more interested in hearing himself sing show tunes. The only part I was truly impressed with was watching the little boy, (maybe about 9 years old?) dance with the fire sticks. Seriously amazing. I think he was better than the fire dancers at the Breath of Life show. The pre show entertainment was also good. The kids made headdresses and wrist lays for momma, learned how to hula, etc. But aside from the tattoos, they had already done most of these activities at the cultural center.
Not so much an activity, but we stayed several days at the Kane’ohe Base and found more than enough to keep us busy on this side of the island. Kailua is probably the most beautiful part of the island and we enjoyed the laid back feel to the area. As a bonus, there’s a Whole Foods which satisfied my healthy food soul for a few days. Target is also being built in the area, another must-go-to store when you’ve lived in Japan for so long. They have miniature golf, bowling, a movie theater and several play parks to take the kids to right on base. Here’s where I over share our family photos….just because it was the place I took my camera out the most and it felt so good to stretch out and be away from the masses.
Dole Plantation and Pineapple Maze
Logan requested the Pineapple maze as one of our first activities. Our kids loved this place. The maze kept us busy for about an hour or so. We rode the Pineapple Express train and learned about pineapple farming. My favorite part of the plantation was the Dole Whip. Heaven in a bowl.
Macadamia Nut Farm
By far one of our favorite memories visiting Oahu. These guys were fantastic. Once again we thought we had missed out on the tour because of timing. The last tour that came back was a full bus so surely the next tour in 20 minutes was sold out. Nope, hubby asked and we were the ONLY ones to sign up for the tour. We had a private tour around the nut farm. Our own driver, a whole boat to ourselves around the ancient fishing pond and a private coconut cracking demonstration and fire dancer. We felt spoiled for sure. Our tour guide even sent us home with a bag full of the most wonderful tasting apple bananas. Why on earth are these not sold in stores? You will never want to eat another regular banana again.
Demonstrating how to rub sticks together to start a fire.
How to crack open a coconut.
I think that’s it for the sites we saw! I have a separate post planned for Disney’s Aulani Resort and the other hotels we stayed at. Hubby had a hard time prying us away from the Aulani.