Aloha! If you’re visiting or living in Oahu, here’s a list of the adventures we’ve had so far (and includes adventures we WANT to have, marked with an *). I’ll eventually add pictures or links to our YouTube videos so you can see if it’s something you might want to experience for yourself (until then, you can Google it). If you like our videos, please subscribe to our YouTube channel to see the latest! Mahalo!
*PS – this list will CHANGE on a fairly regular basis, so be sure to check back every now and then to see what’s new!
WEST – LEEWARD SIDE
Ka’ena Point Hike – trail starts in Waianae at the end of the road. Cliffs and tide pools along the beach and trail. See a “heart of Oahu” in the rocks across from parking lot, monk seals, nesting albatrosses, dolphins, and whales. Also one of 6 “lighthouses” in Oahu at the point. Great for sunsets. Bring water!
White Plains Beach – great for surfing, cookouts, and view of Diamond Head/Honolulu at a distance. Rent surfboards and paddleboards for crazy cheap with Military ID. This is our go-to beach! It’s also a very friendly spot for beginning surfing lessons. We might be able to teach you, or you can book a lesson through us at the MWR hut.
Barber’s Point Beach Park & Lighthouse – this is an interesting beach in the industrial area. There are tons of tiny tide pools, a concrete dock, and one of the few lighthouses on Oahu that you can walk around.
Makua Beach – swim and snorkel with dolphin pods in the wild (you need to be comfortable and able to swim/snorkel out into the open ocean, or use a paddleboard or kayak)! Go at sunrise and wait for signs of the dolphins. If you’re patient, they will often come. Also a good beach for picking up small bits of sea glass. Parking is a little sketchy, so don’t leave valuables in the car. The Waianae west side is known for break-ins and vandalism. This is more of a local’s spot and apparently some people get territorial, so be careful.
*Upper/Lower Makua Caves – near Makua Beach. Also known for break-ins, but the lower cave is seriously right on the road, so a quick stop to explore hopefully wouldn’t be much of a problem – just check your surroundings. We’ve done the lower cave with our boys – super simple and fun for the littles. The upper cave is a steeper hike, probably not very baby-wearing friendly.
Pink Pillbox – a pillbox painted pink in honor of those with breast cancer. Stunning views of the west side. Great spot for sunset hiking! We did it with our two kids. There are 3 other pillboxes all super close together. We went inside and had a picnic lunch. The trail has some slippery spots, so be careful. It’s also super exposed – like NO shade – so bring sunscreen and water.
*Mauna Lahilahi – it’s a short trail, not sure how kid friendly, up the small pyramid shaped hill on the coast midway through Waianae. Always looks like a fun spot to me, so hopefully we can do it once!
Ko Olina Lagoons – choose from any 4 manmade lagoons in the resort area. Beautiful groomed beaches with some shade, hardly any waves or currents, great for young kids. Parking is tough to find on weeknights, weekends, and holidays. Weekday mornings are best. Lagoon 1 offers paddleboard rentals (but expensive).
Ko Olina Ocean Tours – take the dolphin snorkel speedboat tour for a chance to swim with turtles, fish, dolphins, and get a closer view of the whales (winter season). Tour lasts 3 hours, includes a meal afterwards. Costs about $100 per person with military discount, ages 4+ (check website to verify). Also offers whale-included tours December-April. Other tours also available.
*Paradise Cove Luau – many rave about this luau, fire show, and cultural center. Starting prices are around $85 per person with military discounts. Check website for details. PS – Some people like this luau better than the PCC!
Pokai Bay – paddleboarding, sometimes dolphins, calm beach. Beautiful mountain views around the bay. Sometimes the water gets murky during runoff, so if it’s brown, don’t go in.
*Electric Beach – reportedly great snorkeling spot out by the water plant’s freshwater pipes. An occasional shark sighting, usually turtles, and sometimes dolphin pods! Possible break-ins in parking area, so use caution.
*Wet ‘n Wild – full of rides! I’ve been told it’s cold in the winter, so we’ll be going in fall or spring. I believe they offer military rates.
Disney Aulani – located in Ko Olina. There’s a character breakfast you can make reservations for and the Disney characters show up while you eat. We LOVED this!!! We met Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Moana, and Goofy! Also, they have awesome pools and their own lagoon – and a luau. They offer some military rates depending on what/when.
Historical Railway Society Ewa Beach – we enjoyed this 1.5 hour out-and-back train ride through Ewa Beach, Kapolei, and Ko Olina. The train stops halfway at Two Scoops Ice Cream in Ko Olina for a refreshing treat! The train cars are open (but covered), so plan accordingly with light clothes and sunscreen. They narrate some interesting history of the area, Oahu railways, and important figures of the islands. Fun! It cost around $40 for our family of 4 to ride.
Mermaid Caves – an area on the west side (left of Nanakuli Beach) where you can lower yourself into a cave area that fills and empties depending on the tide. Best to go at low tide.
*Iolani Palace – the only palace in the U.S. Check website for tour info and prices, but it looks like an amazing building and glimpse into the Hawaiian Royal life.
Bishop Museum – has a lot of cool visiting exhibits. Check out website for specific info. Good idea for a rainy day!
*Children’s Discovery Center – haven’t been here yet because I wanted my kids to be a little older before going, but people recommend this place and love it. Apparently a lot of good play areas and things for kids to explore. Good rainy day activity!
Waikiki Beach and Beachwalk – great for shopping, strolling, and stepping a few feet to the iconic Waikiki Beach. Great spot for surfing, eating, etc. Sign up for a group surf lesson at a place on the beach – runs about $60/hr + tip for instructor. If you go on a Friday night, you can watch the FREE fireworks show put on by the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel. Go to the pier by the zoo for a good viewing spot, or go directly to the Hilton hotel to view. Show starts at 7:30 – but check online to verify. Restaurants we liked were Lulu’s, Cheeseburger in Paradise (offers 15% military discount and has great food for kids), Yogurtland, and the smaller cafes on the beach. Also, Duke’s – get the HULA PIE! There are tons of food courts and restaurants and TONS of tourist shops. Also an ABC store on EVERY corner!
Honolulu Zoo – at the end of the beachwalk. Also military discounts. Not a huge zoo, but a good size for little kids! Can get hot, so go early in the morning or later in the day. Bring bug spray.
Waikiki Aquarium – a block away from the zoo and right on the ocean. Small aquarium, but good. Has resident monk seals and local Hawaiian fish/sea creatures in the tanks. Also military discounts.
Waimano Loop Trail – a family-friendly hike that takes you through some cool tunnels (upper trail) and along a small river (lower trail) in the valley. A few drop offs and some steep areas, but a good most-flat trail. Bring bug spray if you do the lower trail by the river.
*Waimano Falls Trail – the famous “cardiac hill.” You should be able to do this with kids, but it will be challenging.
Manoa Falls Hike – easy hike (our toddlers have done it) with gorgeous tropical jungle views and waterfalls. Can’t swim in the waterfall, but it’s tall and amazing. Gets pretty muddy, so be prepared to get dirty. Parking $5 in the lot. Bring bug spray!
Lyon Arboretum – a beautiful botanical garden area with a lot of flowers and local fruits on a gorgeous trail. If you take the trail further and all the way to the end, you can reach a waterfall (best to go after or during a rainfall, otherwise the waterfall isn’t always flowing).
Moanalua/Kamananui Trails – this is a trail that starts off very flat, easy for small kids, and includes some old ruins of homes in the area (think freestanding stairs to nothing and a fireplace in the middle of the forest). There are also bridges that go over the streams, which are beautiful and fun, and there are tons of vines (which we may have swung on). There’s also a park at the entrance of the trail that’s somewhat shaded, so it’s a great place to eat after the hike.
Pearl Harbor – pay respects to those lives lost during the Pearl Harbor Attack. Visit the USS Arizona memorial site (free, but get your tickets in advance or first thing in the morning), USS Missouri and Bowfin Submarine (cost approx. $60/person). Other sites are available to view, including Ford Island. If you wear military uniform, we’ve been told everything is free. Bring water/snacks – it gets hot walking around out there! Movie before USS Arizona is 20 minutes and strollers are not allowed inside the theater or the boat to the site. Also, no purses/bags are allowed at all inside the visitor center. No restaurants – only a snack shop on site.
Hickam Beach – need military ID to access. GORGEOUS water on a family friendly insulated beach right next to runway strip at HNL, so you get to watch the big planes taxi out for take-off. They offer paddleboard and kayak rentals on weekends. This is a beautiful spot, has picnic pavilions, showers, lifeguards, etc.
Aloha Stadium Swap Meet – only available certain days and times of the week, but lots of vendors get together to sell local food, clothes, and souvenirs for cheap prices. I believe it’s currently running Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday from 8-noonish. Check online or more info.
*Punchbowl Cemetery – definitely want to check this out before leaving.
Diamond Head Hike – cost is $5 to park in the lot, otherwise it’s free outside of the crater and entry is $1 per adult. There’s a small refreshment truck, but otherwise bring your own water and snacks. Not a strenuous hike, but go early or late to avoid mid-day heat. There are switchbacks, stairs, bunkers, a lighthouse, and AWESOME views of Honolulu/Waikiki and the ocean.
Diamond Head Beach Park – there’s a beautiful stretch of beach that backs up to Diamond head. You have to do a short hike down (really tough to do with a longboard) and there’s some good surf out there. Really cool, chill spot.
Parasailing – runs in Honolulu or Hawaii Kai (we did Honolulu). Beautiful views of Honolulu, Waikiki, and Diamond Head Crater, as well as west side. Fun boat ride and about 10 minutes in the air, with a little dip in the Pacific, for about an hour on the water. Runs about $90/person, but you can often find Groupon discounts. Check online.
Mount Tantalus – you can drive to the top and it has a sweeping view of Honolulu/Waikiki/Diamondhead at the lookout. Beautiful!!!
Ualaka’a Trail – one of the most family friendly hikes located on Mt. Tantalus outside of Honolulu. It’s shaded – bring bug spray – and not too long. My kids did the whole trail by themselves, no carrying and no crazy-scary drop-offs!
EAST – Windward Side
Lanikai Pillboxes Hike – an uphill hike that takes you to pillboxes that look out over the small islands (mokes) of Lanikai/Kailua beach areas. Picture perfect aqua waters and a palm-tree lined coast. Iconic! Bring water and sunscreen – very exposed and hot! Great hike for sunrise!
Koko Head Crater Hike (aka Koko Head Stairs of Doom) – hike up the iconic Koko Head Crater on old railway ties that used to take supplies up to the military bunkers. Stunning views of Hanauma Bay and Hawaii Kai. Difficult hike, but AMAZING. Bring water and sunscreen – very exposed and hot!
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve – snorkel in what has been rated as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches and snorkeling spots. Parking fills up fast, so be prepared to arrive at 7am to get a spot. Seriously. Cost is $7.50/person; military ID gets you in FREE. There is also a short video that is required to view before you’re allowed to walk down to the beach. Waves are usually small. Lots of colorful Hawaiian fish, eels, urchins, coral, etc. Supposedly turtles, but I’ve never seen one there.
Spitting Caves – there’s a small trail between some big houses in a neighborhood near Hanauma Bay that will take you to some amazing eroded cliffs that overlook some lava tubes that “spit out” the water that flows into them. Seriously, it’s like a cave with acid reflux! Very cool spot!
China Walls – located just around the corner from Spitting Caves. You can jump off the rocks in the area; just be careful!
Kailua or Lanikai Beaches – incredibly beautiful golden sands and aquamarine water. Usually calm, so good for paddleboarding and kayaking. Kayak out to the mokes for a good workout. Also frequent turtle sightings. Also a good spot to learn kiteboarding – we want to try that!
The Mokes – fantastic adventure! The Mokes are the two pyramid-shaped islands you see when you go to Kailua or Lanikai beaches or the pillbox hike. You can actually kayak or paddleboard out to the left island and flat island off Kailua beach. There are turtles found in the reefs and the water is usually pretty clear. Always check the tides and weather – the surf can be treacherous near the beach at the mokes because two wave patterns clash right in front of it, so be careful when landing and taking off. Parking can also be a challenge on this side of the island.
Bellow’s Beach – must have Military ID to access the best part of the beach, but you can also visit the beach before the check-in station. There’s a big playground and pavilions right off the beach, and even a mini mart to pick up snacks, drinks as needed! This beach is my FAVORITE as far as the stunning beauty and fun waves. Huge trees with kid-sized roots that form little caves and hideaways. Views of mountains, mokes, and lighthouse. Can rent paddleboard and kayak for $15/hr each. Check with lifeguard about drop in the ocean floor, currents, and jellyfish, etc. Conditions for swimming can sometimes be harsh – but when it’s good, it’s SO good! If you don’t have military ID, try pulling off to the beach area before the military checkpoint or visit nearby Waimanalo Beach.
Byodo-In Temple/Valley of the Temples – want to see the most picturesque cemetery ever? View different burial styles and cultures on your way to a replica of the Byodo-In temple in Japan. Visit the koi ponds, watch the black swans, ring the gong, and go inside for a view of a super-large Buddha. That’s about it, but the red temple against the incredibly green Ko’olau Mountains is breathtaking. Drive to the end of the road for a great view.
*Pu’u Maelieli Trail (Digging Hill) – should be about 45 minutes each way to a lookout and some pillboxes. Shaded and can be muddy during rain. Bug spray!
He’eia State Park – lots of chickens and lots of cats (don’t feed them, they’re part of some program). This is a quiet little spot with some different kayak tour companies, but one cool thing to look at is the He’eia Pond area with the small wall that encircles the area for fishing. Not allowed on the wall, but it’s a cool sight.
Tropical Farms Macadamia Nut Farms – stop in this quaint country store and sample their variety flavors of macadamia nuts and candies. They also sell a lot of local jewelry and souvenirs.
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens – drive through or walk the trails in this beautiful FREE botanical garden set against the Ko’olau Mountains. Stunning views, rain or shine. It’s like being in another world. Bring bug spray if you walk! There’s a large pond with koi that is popular among kids.
*Friendship Garden – 10-acre hiking area in a serene forest offering lower & upper loop trails, plus sweeping views. Sounds enchanting – and it’s supposed to be kid friendly.
Pali Lookout – this is just off the Pali Hwy leading to Kaneohe. Parking can be hard to come by, but you can circle around until a spot frees up. $3 to park. Winds are very strong! Read all the plaques on the history of the spot – very cool and gruesome battleground that gave rise to King Kamehameha’s power after he forced his enemies off the cliff. Aside from that, the views are SPECTACULAR of Kaneohe, the bay and sandbar.
Kaniakapupu Ruins – this is a 5 minutes trail right off the Nu’uanu Pali Rd. road. Park on side of road. Trail will take you through a bamboo forest and then there will be a huge log in the middle of the trail. Take the trail that veers off on the left after the log and you will arrive quickly to the ruins. Easy trail, shaded – bring bug spray! The ruins are the old summer palace of King Kamehameha III and it is a very sacred spot. Speak quietly, bring a small offering (if you wish), and respect the land. This is technically illegal, but many people visit. Lots of break-ins on this road, so don’t leave valuables in the car.
Lulumahu Falls Hike – this is, so far, my favorite trail we’ve hiked! It’s short (2 miles RT) and has a beautiful tall waterfall where you can play. What I loved about this trail was the diversity of fun – lots of rocks, trees, small waterfalls, some stairs – and it’s EPIC views in the beginning. Seriously, this is a gorgeous, shaded hike. Toddler/kid friendly if you have one adult per kid (in my opinion).
Judd Trail/Jackass Ginger Pools – a relatively easy hike near Pali Lookout. Park next to two concrete barriers and the trail starts off the side of the Nu’uanu Pali Rd. Do not leave valuables in car as break-ins frequently occur. The trail begins by crossing the stream (your shoes will likely get wet). Hike amongst Captain Cook Pines and guava saplings – absolutely stunning! The Jackass Ginger Pools are a little harder to get to if you’re babywearing or have small kids, but possible and worth the effort. There’s a waterfall, a natural “slide” that’s fun to go down, and a generous swimming area. Lots of slippery rocks and frequently muddy, but an awesome time!
Indian Art Murals – this is an abandoned board of water supply building that someone has painted over with Indian-themed murals. Right off of Pali Hwy by the bus stop and power plant. A short walk off the side of the road, but be careful; a homeless person has set up camp just outside of the building and has sometimes scared people by walking around with his knife in hand.
*Kapena Falls – this is supposed to be a really quick out-and-back trail that takes you to a smaller waterfall that people cliff jump off of. It’s a scenic spot right off Pali Hwy. Rumor has it that there are a lot of homeless people living in the area, and that the water looks dirty, so use caution and judgment.
*Queen Emma’s Summer Palace – recommended by Grandpa Tanner for some beautiful grounds and a cool bit of history.
Likeke Falls Trail – Easy and shorter waterfall hike, great for kids. Park at the golf course and the trailhead starts in the back corner. Turn left before the graffited water tower and following the stones to a big tree on the right side that will have carvings and arrows pointing right. Go right and enjoy the shade. The beautiful water is two-tiered with a small pool at the upper tier. No real swimming here, but you can walk around in ankle-deep water and refresh yourself, especially since this hike gets muddy. Bring bug spray!!!
Stairway to Heaven Hike – Zach has done it, but I haven’t (so jealous)! It’s illegal and highly controversial to do this hike. If you get caught, the fine can be as high as $1000. But the lure is a real thing: hiking up super-vertical metal stairs overgrown by lush greenery on the Ko-olau Mountains with incomparable views of much of the eastern side of Oahu! Sigh…
H3 – this is THE MOST beautiful highway when you come out of the tunnel and see the Ko’olau Mountains and Kanaohe Bay. Also, during a very heavy rainfall, you can head over there and see tons of spontaneous natural waterfalls stream between the ridges. It’s really cool!!!
Waimanalo Farms – depending on the season, they do their sunflower festivals and pumpkin patch festivals. This is a gorgeous area with beautiful mountain backdrops. They also serve their famous corn on the cob, ‘Nalo Made Lemonade, and do shrimp boils. Check their FB page for events.
Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail (or Lookout) – this is a paved trail up to the Makapu’u Lookout, just past the lighthouse (which is adorable but off-limits to visit). It’s extremely scenic with expansive Pacific views. You can even see the island of Molokai on a clear day! This is also a great place to look out for whales. The lookout is hands down my favorite view on the island! This is a stroller-friendly hike. It is easy if done alone, a bit of a workout to push the stroller up the incline, but it’s a short hike and SO worth it! One of my favorites! There are also smaller trails that lead down to the tide pools and another trail that leads to Pele’s Chair and the Alan Davis Beach with planks you can jump off of into the water. Tide pools can be very unpredictable and dangerous. Use caution and don’t go into the pools if the waves are big. Go early to get parking and bring water/snacks. If you don’t want to walk the trail, then you can drive to the nearby lookout for a similar view.
Pele’s Chair/Alan Davis Beach/Kaiwi Shoreline Trail – instead of heading up on the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail, take the trail that veers off to the right and heads toward the ocean. You will find the iconic rock structure known as Pele’s Chair (Pele is a Hawaiian goddess). The views from here are insanely pretty and the trail to the chair is easily done alone or with children. Alan Davis beach is down below – very quiet, full of small tide pools insulated from the rough seas beyond. The kids LOVED playing in the water here. The trail follows further down the shoreline if more walking is desired. Exposed area – no shade – so bring sunscreen and water!
Halona Blowhole – near Makapu’u and just off the side of the road and overlooks gorgeous Sandy Beach. You can look from above behind a fence/railing, or some people hike down to what’s known as Cockroach Cove, a beautiful small beach sandwiched between eroded cliffs. Hiking down not recommended for kids. Do not do it if you are not a good swimmer, as currents can be strong. Also, never turn your back to the ocean or get too close to the blowhole. There have been a couple of deaths here just since we moved here because people underestimate or don’t pay attention.
Sandy Beach – I’ve never hung out here because the surf break is intense, but Zach has gone and taken some great photographs. This is more of a locals beach for those who like to bodyboard/bodysurf. Use caution if you bring kids here. NOT recommended for casual swimming or beaching, but it’s a gorgeous area.
*=Sea Life Park – dolphins, penguins, turtles, etc. in a small water park. They offer military discounts for admission (or check for coupons on pizza boxes, in the mail, etc). My boys were IN LOVE with the birds they let you feed and hold. The dolphin shows were incredible, the boys loved seeing the sharks and turtles up close, and feeding the fish lettuce. The size of the park was perfect for their age. We loved it!
WEST SIDE North Shore – Get a picture with the famous Haleiwa north shore sign!
Ka’ena Point Hike – trail starts in Waialua and goes to point. This is a flatter trail with little to no cliff drop offs, so it’s better terrain for kids, but it is a bit longer. Almost 7 miles round trip, so the kids get tired. Also, no shade. See monk seals, nesting albatrosses, dolphins, and whales. Also one of 6 “lighthouses” in Oahu at the point. Great for sunsets. Bring water and sunscreen!
Sunflowers – found in a patch that blooms every November in Waialua. Daytime or sunset viewing, but they usually only offer a handful of tours during the few weeks they bloom.
Haleiwa Town – historic town full of boutiques, restaurants, and local charm. Great place to stroll. Can get crowded and hard to find parking at times. Good food, good souvenir shopping. Home to Matsumoto’s Shave Ice and Anahulu shave ice (which has the angel wings painted on the walls for a photo op). We love eating on the back deck of Teddy’s Bigger Burgers. Also lots of food trucks! Enjoy Haleiwa Beach Park and Harbor for great sunsets.
*Kaiaka Trail/ Puaena Beach to Papailoa “Police Beach” – an easy, scenic beach walk trail in Haleiwa. Also look for Welzie’s Peacock mural on the side wall of North Shore Surf Shop.
Anahulu River Paddleboarding & Kayaking – paddleboard right under Haleiwa’s iconic Rainbow bridge and out into the harbor, or along the Anahulu River. Look out for huge Hawaiian green turtles in the river and harbor – I’ve almost always seen one. Cool off with a complimentary shave ice afterward if you rent through Tropical Rush – they’re always so nice and helpful. Take a picture with the famous angel wings mural on their wall. This is one of my favorite chill activities to do, and it’s very kid friendly!
Sunset Beach/Ehukai Beach/Pupukea Beach – basically any beach along the west side of the North Shore will be amazing and great for sunsets. Watch the surfers catch big waves during huge swells! Food trucks are usually nearby. Winter swells can get huge, so don’t go in the water on a big wave day. Even on calm days, it can be dicey with kids, so be careful! Ask lifeguards about rip currents and drops in the ocean floor to look out for, especially with kids.
Ehukai Pillbox Hike – The trailhead starts off of Sunset Elementary School parking lot and is mostly shaded until you reach the top. There are some steep inclines in parts, but doable with kids. The view is gorgeous and the pillbox is really clean and fun to explore. This can get really muddy after a rain, so check the weather and conditions before going.
Ted’s Bakery – it’s a big deal here on Oahu, so you’ve got to stop by. Yummy bakery items, but they are especially known for their cakes and pies. I love the Chocolate Haupia Pie – it’s a local favorite!
Waimea Bay – parking here is ridiculously small and fills up fast, so go early! Once you’re in, you’ll find a beautiful bay with jutting rocks, secret caves, good snorkeling (possible turtle sightings), and golden sand. You can jump off the big rock 30 feet down into the clear water. Great summer beach to hang out at (there are bathrooms and showers, occasional food trucks). If you go in winter, check the surf report! Waves can get CRAZY big here (this is where they host the Eddie surf tournament where the swell is 50ft+).
Waimea Falls – beautiful paved trail through botanical gardens and valley that ends with a waterfall. This is one of the most beautiful trails, and mostly shaded! On a good weather day, you are allowed to swim in the waterfall! Parking is limited, so arrive early for a spot. Bring bug spray! Cost $16 regular, $12 military ID.
Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau State Historic Site – perched above Waimea Bay Beach park is an old sacrificial temple site. Heiau’s are temples and are very sacred areas – usually restricted – so please be respectful of the area. The view from this spot is stunning! There’s a little trail that circles the perimeter of the heiau. Worth the short detour for the view alone if you’re on the North Shore!
Laniakea Beach (aka Turtle Beach) – this is a great spot to see the huge turtles sunbathe, especially in the summer. Parking is across the street from the beach and it usually gets crowded.
Shark Diving/Snorkeling – go cage-dive snorkeling with sharks off the coast of Haleiwa. Costs about $85 for 20 minutes in the cage (I believe they offer military discount). Small children are allowed on the boat, but not to snorkel. Check websites for ages/costs. There is also a great opportunity to snorkel/swim the sharks in the open through One Ocean Shark Adventure or Hawaii Adventure Diving. They educate you on the sharks, teach you correct body language, etc for a safe experience. They want to raise awareness of sharks and eliminate the fear and slaughter of sharks. Prices vary depending on the tour. Very cool to be sooooo close to the sharks.
Shark’s Cove or Three Tables – great spot for snorkeling during the summer, and only on calm winter days. Lots of rocks and spiny urchins, so be careful or wear water shoes/fins.
Wahiawa Botanical Gardens – mostly paved trail full of beautiful plants and sprawling trees, including bamboo and rainbow eucalyptus. Kid friendly. Free entry with sign-in. Bring bug spray!!!
Dole Plantation – DOLE WHIP! That’s really all I have to say about this. Haha, ok – it’s seriously a tourist trap. The food is not good and it’s a huge store full of overpriced crap and goodies. But seriously, get the dole whip. Stroll around and look at the different kinds of pineapple, take the train ride if you have kids who like trains (it takes you through the agricultural fields – very pretty). It costs $10 a piece, I think (kids may be cheaper), and I believe they give military discounts. There’s also the pineapple maze and the gardens, and you pay separately for each.
KoleKole Trail – need a military or visitor ID to get into Schofield Barracks. This hike starts at the back of the military base and is only open a handful of weekends throughout the year, but it’s a very easy kid-friendly trail with a supreme view!
Kealia Trail (Dillingham Air Field Trail) – not sure if you need military ID for this one. Zach has done it and said it was a little challenging, so I don’t have too many details. Ask Zach!
Kawela Bay Beach Park – a somewhat secluded beach 1 mile from Turtle Bay Resort. Usually some turtle sightings. There’s a huge banyon tree that is pretty iconic, used in a lot of movies. You can also walk out to the pillbox at the point. Park at the fruit stand across the street and walk the trail to the beach. No bathrooms.
EAST SIDE North Shore
Kahana Bay – can be a good spot for surfing in winter, otherwise a really chill spot with some shade to hang out. Not a lot of facilities or amenties.
*Crouching Lion Hike – haven’t looked up a lot of details on this one yet, but the view overlooking Kahana Bay is amazing from the pics I’ve seen online.
Kualoa Ranch Tours – where they film all the movies and TV shows! There are tons of tours offered here (movie sites tour, ATV tours, horseback, zip-lining). I’ve done the cheap movie tour on a bus. Kids are allowed and it takes you through the valley and into the bunker. Pretty cool and stunning views. Cost was around $30 with military discount. Check website for all they offer and prices.
Chinaman’s Hat – paddleboard, kayak, or even walk/swim out to one of the most recognizable islands off Oahu. Small semi-private beaches and a moderate hike to the top for 360 views with stunning Ko’olau Mountains behind you. Make sure you check the tide times and conditions. Bring food and water and enjoy a little getaway!
Kaneohe Sandbar – kayak out to the sandbar during low tide and have a picnic with the breathtaking Ko’olau Mountains as a backdrop! There are also a few small islands you can paddle out to, but the sandbar is huge and it does take about 30 minutes to paddle out to it. The reef looks healthier here than other spots around the island, and we saw sea turtles!
*Coconut Island Tour – this is supposedly the island that you see in the opening credits of Gilligan’s Island! Haha, claim to fame. But it is the site of a marine biology program and they do educational tours. Not sure of the price – check their site for details.
La’ie Hawaii LDS Temple – beautiful grounds, water fountains, lots of stairs, and a great visitors center that has kid-friendly videos and bathrooms. There is also a park with SWINGS (rare to find here) right next to the temple.
BYU Hawaii Campus – feel free to drive around the college campus, which is situated between the temple and PCC. The PCC also does a 30min bus tour of the temple grounds and campus.
Polynesian Cultural Center – visit the unique styles of villages crafted after the manner of different Polynesian cultures. Each village offers their own shows, games, and activities. Enjoy the buffet, or spring for the luau and Ha: Breath of Life show. Luau and fire show go until 9pm and Laie is between 1-1.5 hours drive away. Several packages to buy for your village and dining experience. They do offer military discount. Check website for all the prices.
La’ie Point – a short drive away from the temple is a lesser-known spot with a cool view. Cool rock formations jut out of the ocean and gorgeous views are on the right. Take a walk around and explore small tide pools. Very sharp rocks and some drop offs, so be careful.
Malaekahana State Recreation Area – walk past the bathroom to the uncrowded beach near La’ie Bay. You can see La’ie point from this area, as well as some other islands. We saw people people across the water a short distance to a flat island and hang out on that beach. Looked really cool! There’s also a huge log on the beach that we enjoyed walking on and jumping off of.
Kuhuku Food Trucks/North Shore Food Trucks – a cluster of food trucks that offer famous Hawaiian plate lunches. Most Instagram famous are the BBQ corn and Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. We like the Thai Food Truck and the Ono Froyo truck – yum. There are food trucks all along the northern-most point of the island where all the shrimp farms are. Take your pick! There are also a lot of fruit stands – worth taking a look.
CLIMBworks @ Keana Farms Zip Lining – this was an incredibly awesome time! It’s about 3 hours from start to finish, you zip line 8 different lines, and the views can’t be beat! They offer snacks from the farm, have cool suspension bridges, stairs, etc that just add to the whole experience. The staff was amazing and we’re so glad we did this!
*Hau’ula Loop Trail – a 2.5 mile lightly trafficked loop trail that is good for all skill levels. Looks woodsy and has some views along the way. I think there are areas of incline.
Famous local dishes and treats to try around the island:
spam musubi – a block of rice with spam and wrapped in the middle with seaweed.
loco moco – rice topped with hamburger patties, over-easy egg, brown gravy and onions.
malasadas – portugese fried donuts, with or without filling (Leonard’s is most famous place to buy them).
poke – raw fish salad with different seasonings.
bubbies – small mochi-wrapped ice cream.
shave ice – various flavors and sometimes combined with sweet condensed milk or ice cream. My favorite is Uncle Clay’s in Hawaii Kai!!!
dole whip – pineapple ice cream deliciousness found at Dole Plantation and a few ice cream shops elsewhere.
acai bowls – thick berry smoothie topped with fresh fruit, nuts/coconut, and/or honey. Varies.
guava – from smoothies to pancakes to chicken, anything with guava is ah-mazing
plate lunches – usually consists of rice, slow-cooked meat, and some fruit/salad around $10.
coco puffs – found at Liliha Bakery in Honolulu, an iced small pastry.
haupia pie – a coconut-flavored filling, most famously made by Ted’s Bakery.
shaved ice cream – I tried this at Frost City in Honolulu, also heard it’s at a place in Mililani
Terms you might frequently see or hear:
Aloha = hello, love, spirit, welcome, goodbye (aloha oe or ahui ho)
Mahalo (pronounced muh-hollow) = thanks, give thanks
Kama’aina (pronounced “comma-eye-nuh”) = local resident
Aina (pronounced eye-nuh) = land
Ma li hini (pronounced muh-lee-hee-nee) = tourist
Keiki (pronounced “cakey”) = kids
Pupus (pronounced pooh-poohs) = appetizers
Ono (pronounced oh-no) = good/delicious
Haole (pronounced howl-ee) = white person or foreigner, usually derogatory
Makai (pronounced muh-kie) or Kai = ocean water, heading toward the ocean
Mauka (pronounced mow-kuh) = mountain, heading toward the mountain or inner island
Ohana (pronounced oh-ha-nuh) = family
Shaka (pronounced shock-uh) = hand symbol with thumb and pinky out, means island spirit
Hale (pronounced hall-ay) = home, house