Are you a mom who has been pining for a Hawaiian getaway ever since your officemate showed you her honeymoon pictures, but can’t imagine leaving your tiny tots at home? Want to bask under the glorious sun and hear nothing but the waves rushing to the shore and tickling your toes, your sandy bed stretching out as far as your eye can see? Pine no longer, because Hawaii has plenty of activities for your kids without you worrying about them being bored or to young for some exotic fun.
Start calling your travel agent and book your entire family on a trip to this tropical paradise. It doesn’t matter if your kids are adventure seekers who like to keep themselves busy, or if they’re the type who likes to lounge around. Hawaii is more than a destination for couples on their honeymoon; it’s actually a wholesome place where you can take your family on vacation for some quality time with each other away from ringing cell phones, alarm clocks and video games.
Number one on our list is of course, surfing. We know it’s pretty hard to resist the waves calling out to you, but if your worried about your kids, don’t be! In Hawaii, there are surf lessons that are designed specifically for children.
A good place where your kids can test their sea legs is the island of Oahu, also known as The Gathering Place. It is the third biggest island in Hawaii, measuring almost 600 square miles. The waves in Oahu are quite gentle, which is perfect for beginners, as opposed to tall, rough waves which are better suited for professionals. Another place which is ideal for kiddie surfing is the lush island of Kauai, otherwise known as the Garden Isle.
Not only is surfing a good form of exercise for your kids, you can be sure they’re safe under the watchful eye of their instructors. If you’re looking for a surfing tutor, just call the Waikiki Beach Boys and they’ll be happy to introduce your kids to this sport. Lessons are held in various times every day, where your young ones can join other kids in the water. Private instructors are required for children aged 12 and under. This is one activity they’re guaranteed not to sleep through.
A memorable history lesson at Pearl Harbor
To brush up on history, you and your kids can visit Pearl Harbor. Don’t worry because this history lesson won’t make you snore. There are a lot of fascinating things your kids can learn about at Pearl Harbor, like the historic site of USS Missouri, where the Japanese surrendered. They are open daily from morning until the afternoon, except on holidays. You can take the tour inside the battleship where you can retrace the steps of the famous General Douglas MacArthur. If your child is an aspiring seaman, you can take the walking tour below deck where you can catch a glimpse of what it’s like to live at sea. Check out the crew’s quarters, where they slept and ate and basically hung out during their free time. Above deck, the battle station of the ship captain is always a crowd pleaser.
Another place to visit at Pearl Harbor is the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park. This fleet attack sub is also known as the Pearl Harbor Avenger. In the museum you can view over 4,000 different artifacts from submarines. See how big an actual missile is up close, and also the different battle flags that were used in World War II. At the Waterfront Memorial, visitors are told the stories of each of the 52 submarines that were lost during WWII.
At the Pacific Aviation Museum, step inside the hangars that feature World War II planes. Children can try the Combat Flight Simulators in the museum and take off on their own. There is also a theater with a 200 seating capacity; the featured movie uses historic footage on the Pearl Harbor attack.
Finally, you can also visit the USS Arizona Memorial, which is dedicated to the soldiers who fell during the war. The memorial is open for visitors from 7am up to 5pm.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
You may have appreciated the James Michener novel, but chances are, your 10 year old kid won’t be picking it up anytime soon for a cozy afternoon on the couch. A better and way cooler alternative would be to take them on a whole day visit to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. In 1987, it was declared as a World Heritage Site, the only one you can find in Hawaii.
Enter a new, bizarre world as clouds billow above the Kilauea volcano spewing out gases 24 hours a day. You can go to the summit and circle the caldera along the Crater Rim Drive which goes on for 11 miles; or you can opt for the Chain of Craters Road where you go down to 3,700 feet and see the lava flow. Explore the eerie Thurston Lava Tube, which is also known as the Nahuku; follow the trail bordered by lush vegetation and then slowly descend into the crater. These natural tubes are formed by when the lava flows under the ground.
The park is also open to hikers, so you can go exploring with your kids; and if you brought a tent along with you, you can even camp out in the park.
There are also Ranger-led Programs that is an informative way of touring the visitors around the area. Even people in wheelchairs can participate in the tour. Children can earn their badges by signing themselves up for the Junior Ranger Program. Kids and adults alike here will learn about volcanology and a volcano’s destructive nature. If you venture into the Iki Crater, children can actually touch the hardened lava with their bare hands; as they do, they will also be able to feel some heat coming from below, emanating from molten rock.
At the Kalapana, watch as the lava flows out into the vast, open ocean. Hikers must make their way to the Lava Viewing Site, so it’s much more suited for bigger kids who can endure quite a bit of walking. The site is open to visitors from 2pm up to 10pm.
Learn about Hawaiian culture
It’s always fun to learn about the local culture of any town or country that you’re visiting. Introduce your kids to Hawaiian lifestyle to broaden their knowledge on different cultures around the world. If you’re staying in the Big Island, experience the traditional lifestyle is unique to these islands at the Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park.
Originally, this place used to be a sanctuary for people who had a run in with the authorities for breaking the law. Puuhonua means a place where a person can seek refuge. Here, you will find lots of carved images made of wood that are known as ki’i. This is considered to be a sacred place and if you happen to be an outlaw and are able to reach the ki’i, it means you will be saved. Join your kids in roaming the grounds that give you an overwhelming feeling of forgiveness and serenity.
If you have a cell phone with you, you can do the Audio Walking Tour around the park. There are also canoes in the area where families can hop on and go fishing. If your kids prefer to mingle with the fishies rather than eat them, you can also go snorkeling. Other activities include wildlife viewing where if you’re lucky, you can spot sea turtles or coastal birds feeding in the area, or perhaps the native bat.
If your kids are old enough, you can ask them to join you on a hike around the park. Follow the ancient trail that goes on for two miles and see the Keanae’e cliffs and also the holua sled courses, locally known as the heiau. Enjoy the sights, but please make sure that you pack enough water and sunscreen.
If you happen to be in Oahu, visit the Polynesian Cultural Center and experience Polynesia first hand. There are many hands-on activities that are sure to be enjoyable top both parents and kids. Watch a captivating show while having a luau dinner. Or you can test your tree climbing skills by letting the staff teach you the basics on how to climb a tall, coconut tree. Practice the art of starting a fire by learning how to properly rub two sticks together.
In case you were admiring the tattoos sported by the local villagers, you can learn about them at various places in the village that are open to guests. Watch as Polynesians how to cook in a fire pit and taste their home style dishes, too.
At the Marquesas exhibit, learn about this not so well known group of islands that is still part of Polynesia.
Snorkeling for newbies
If your kids like being in the water, snorkeling is a good alternative to swimming that they can enjoy in Hawaii. It’s fairly easy to learn, plus it’s more fun because they get to see what it’s like under the water; it also doesn’t need certification compared to scuba diving. What’s more, it’s a lot cheaper than the gear you would need for scuba diving. All you and child needs is a mask, attach a snorkel and put on your flippers and you’re ready to go underwater.
A good place to go snorkeling in these areas is Molokini Crater in Maui. The Molokini was actually an ancient volcanic cone that eroded through time. The water here is very clear and ensures very good visibility, sometimes even up to 100 feet away. You can also get on the Quicksilver Maui boat, which takes people to a good spot in the area for snorkeling. Crew members are well-trained and fully-equipped, so relax and try to have fun. The crater is home to many marine creatures including whale sharks, eagle rays, lots of tropical fish, and even monk seals. The package includes lunch and breakfast and also beverages throughout the day, and costs around US60 dollars.
Other spots that are perfect for snorkeling are Oahu’s Hanauma Bay and the Kealakekua Bay at the Big Island. There is also the Hulopoe Beach in Lanai Island where after some fun beneath the waves, your family can have a delicious barbeque at the beach park. The Hulopoe is open to the public, but as a token of good will and to do your part in preserving nature, guests are asked not to bring home any shells or stones.
Don’t let the rain dampen your spirits
We expect Hawaii to be all fun in the sun. But one thing you can count on even if you’re in Five-O, is the ever-changing weather. On the days that clouds seem to stand in the way of your frolicking in the beach, don’t sulk in your hotel room, because Hawaii is still there even if it’s raining, and there’s still fun to be had in these islands.
Visit the Bishop Museum to immerse yourself and your kids in all things Hawaii. Originally, it was established to keep heirlooms from royal families, and vast collections of Hawaiian artifacts. Today, their collection spans from documents, pictures, and other specimens, making the Bishop Museum Hawaii’s biggest museum.
At the Hawaiian Hall, three floors are dedicated to Hawaii’s different realms. Learn about Hawaiian beliefs and legends at the ground floor, and get to know the Kai Akea. Live and breathe on the second floor, where the focus is the Hawaiian’s daily life, represented by the Wao Kanaka; here kids can learn what Hawaiians do for work and how they survive from day to day. The third floor is the place inhabited by the Hawaiian gods, and the place where you can learn about important events in the history of Hawaii.
Are you of Polynesian descent? Wander into the Polynesian hall and learn about the people that make up the population of Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia. Study their religion and rituals, ask your children compare the Polynesian clothing to their current get-up, listen to their music and learn how to swing their hips to dance the hula.
If your children are into sports, take them to the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame, where record holders are given recognition. Kids can learn about the different accomplishments that Hawaiian athletes have contributed to world sports through dedication and hard work. See also pictures of the famed athletes on display.
The museum is open from Wednesday until Monday, starting at 9am until 5pm. Kids aged three and under get in for free. At the Bishop Museum, you may be indoors, but you’re still guaranteed to have fun.
Interact with animals at the zoo
If you want your kids to have a truly memorable vacation, you might want to try swimming with the local dolphins. They not only get to swim with these amazing, smart creatures of the sea, they also have the opportunity to touch them if they want to. Dolphin Quest can let your kids have the time of their lives as they interact with the dophins at the Big Island or in Oahu, if that’s where you’re staying.
For children from ages five to nine, they can sign up for the Kids Quest, where for an hour and a half, they can play games in the shallow water and other hands-on activities; total time with the dolphins is 20 minutes; don’t forget to claim your picture as a remembrance.
Even toddlers can have the chance to meet the dolphins at the Wee Tots program, which is open for kids from two to four years of age. For US80 dollars, you can accompany your toddler for ten minutes bonding time with the cute animals.
In Oahu, children from five to ten years old can sign up for the Kids’ Aquatic Adventure and not only come face to face with a real, live dolphin, but also other fish that are natural to the Hawaiian reef. The Family Swim Program, on the other hand, lets each member of the family have a chance to swim with the dolphins. You can even put on your masks and see them in action under the water. It is a bit pricey, costing a little over US1,200 dollars per group, but it’s something that your ohana will remember through the years.
Dolphin Quest not only offers entertainment, it also educates its guests about the different types of dolphins and instills a sense of awareness on how to help protect and preserve these animals.
If you’re interested in bigger animals, you can also go whale-watching for humpback whales at the Big Island or in Maui. This is open from the month of December all the way through April.
Children who aren’t too keen on getting all intimate with the animals can watch them from a safe distance at the Honolulu Zoo. See the tall giraffes (the zoo has nine subspecies), the charming Bird of Paradise, and the slender gazelles. Tickets are US12 dollars for adults, but children from four to 12 years old can get in for US3 dollars. Tickets for teens cost US6 dollars, and children aged three and below get in absolutely free.
Luau for kids
This is also another opportunity to learn about the local culture in Hawaii. Have fun at a luau and sample the different food that is presented to you.
Visit Big Island’s Kona Village Luau for the authentic luau experience. Here, kids can see how the food is prepared. Locals will demonstrate how the pig is taken out of the imu (Hawaiian oven made of earth) and unwrap it before your eyes. Aside from the kalua pig, try the tasty salmon, delicious chicken and fish caught from the island. If you happen to be traveling from a temperate country, savor the juices from the tropical fruits served here.
During the luau, listen as the locals share their history through chants and dances .Highlight your dining experience by watching dancers do the hula, sing songs, and play with fire (juggling, to be exact). You don’t need to be a guest at the resort to be able to join the luau, so don’t worry about added expenses when all you’re after is the buffet.
If you’re in Maui, you can try their Old Lahaina Luau. Wanna know what’s on the menu? Brace yourselves for the following: Crab Salad, Guava Glazed Chicken, Taro Salad, Sweet Potato, Polynesian Mahi Mahi, Stir Fried Vegetables, Fried Rice, Banana Bread, and Tropical Fruits. Not too familiar with the names of the dishes? Fear not. Try something new to tickle your taste buds! Take a break from your burger and fries and sample the local cuisine. The Pahole Salad for example, has tomatoes, fern shoots and onions served with vinaigrette. See? That doesn’t sound bad, no?
At Mount Haleakala, you can watch the sunrise and let the colors of the sun’s rays seep into your bones. However, that involves a very early wake up call, and kids can hardly be expected to get up from bed at 2 in the morning. If you like sleep just as much as your kid does, you can opt to visit the Haleakala National Park instead, which is home to some endangered species.
Explore the Kipahulu Area to see rushing waterfalls and flowing streams. Inhale the fresh air among the lush vegetation and feel the difference in the atmosphere, as compared to standing in the middle of a busy city intersection.
You can also go up the winding path and leave the clouds below to see the crater of the volcano.
For some night time adventure, stay at the park way past sunset and observe the stars. They say that the Haleakala is one of the best places where you can get a terrific view of the stars and other heavenly bodies circling the Milky Way. Don’t resist the temptation to reach out your arms and try to touch the stars. Just make sure you wear the proper clothing and bring a warm blanket because it can get nippy at night.
A day at the beach
Of course, we dare not leave out the beach in this list. After all, this is Hawaii. Let your kids roam free and build sand castles, play games like frisbee and volleyball, or bury their legs under the sand in exchange for a mermaid’s tail.
In Hawaii, there is a type of beach that is sure to cater to every personality. If you don’t feel like mixing up with the crowd, you can go to Waikiki or the Kailua Beach Park in the Eastern shores of Oahu Island.
Another good spot where your kids can tan up is the Kapalua Beach, which situated near the northwestern part of Maui Island. Lanai beach, as we mentioned earlier, is good for snorkeling, and other activities.
The Hapuna Beach State Park is a wonderful place to take a walk by the water. In the summer, the beach can measure almost 200 feet in width and stretch for half a mile. Kids armed with their colorful plastic pails and shovels can stay out for as long as they like (beware of sunburn, though).
Finally, head out to the Sunny Poipu Beach located in the southern coast of Kauai. Families can bond together through various activities such as the ATV tour, where parents and kids can ride mud hogs to some added excitement. There is also a children’s camp and baby sitters are available in case you wanted an hour or two alone for some couple’s quality time. Your kids can get an adrenaline rush by riding the zip line and soar through the wild forest.
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