Hawaii may be the last state admitted to the Union, but it’s first in terms of beauty and fun in my family’s book. We took our first trip a few months ago and loved how much there was to do that was fun for all of us. These nine family activities on Oahu were great to do together and were enjoyed by tweens, teens and parents.
The views from the top of Diamond Head are breathtaking. If your kid uses Instagram, you can bet they’ll share the photos of Waikiki, Honolulu and the Pacific that they take up here. Diamond Head is the edge of a crater created by a volcanic eruption 300,000 years ago.
The trail to the top is just under a mile long, and it’s not a hard hike, but it’s more than a stroll, too. If I can do it, anyone can, and there were people from a wide variety of abilities on the trail. It’s pretty uneven (not paved) and steep, ascending 560 feet. Early in the morning is a great time to go, because it is cooler and less crowded. Don’t forget to take water with you.
Trying something new as a family can be a fantastic bonding experience, and that’s exactly what we got at CLIMBWorks Keana Farms. Kids must be 7 years old to zip solo, and all those participating must weigh under 270 pounds.
I have a fear of heights, and had never been ziplining before this trip. I’m glad that my teen saw me step out of my comfort zone, confront my fears and do something new and exciting.
Our group consisted of three families, all with teens. It’s definitely a popular family activity, and everyone agreed that it was a ton of fun.
Hit the shrimp trucks & grab some shave ice, too!
If you’re on the North Shore for surfing or zip lining anyway, you won’t want to miss what will likely be the best shrimp you’ve ever had. Matsumoto Shave Ice on the North Shore, an island favorite, is also delicious.
Swim and stand under a waterfall at Waimea Falls
At Waimea Valley, you wander through gardens and rain forest on a paved trail about three quarters of a mile and come to a beautiful 45-foot waterfall that cascades into a pond. Depending on conditions, which were fine the day we visits, you are welcome to swim in the pond (life jacket is required and I recommend bringing water shoes).
Also, you can stand directly under the waterfall and you can even climb up a few of the rocks and jump in with the waterfall. I did it all (after zip lining, why not?), and it was exhilarating.
Visit Kualoa Ranch
If your tweens and teens loved the Jurassic Park films (and the Field Museum exhibit), they will love the movie site tour at Kualoa Ranch, where “Jurassic Park,” “Kong: Skull Island” and many other movies and television shows like “Lost” have been filmed. There are many different tours offered, some including ATV tours and horseback riding.
Learn to surf on the North Shore
Surfing is pretty synonymous with Hawaii, so why not give it a shot? One surf school that is great with beginners and offers family lessons is North Shore Surf Girls. The all-female surfing staff, many of whom are former champions in the sport, have a high success rate with almost every student making it up on their board in their first lesson.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be inside an aquarium, head to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. Located 10 miles east of Waikiki, is a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park. You can rent masks, fins and snorkels at the beach, or bring your own. Be on the look out for the humuhumu-nukunuku-a pua’a, the state fish of Hawaii and one that you may know how to pronounce if your kids were fans of “High School Musical” back in the day. Hanauma Bay is closed every Tuesday.
If you’re on the leeward side of Oahu visiting Aulani, another option is the beaches of Ko Olina. Sea turtles often hang out at the beach at Paradise Cove. You can come face to face with them by snorkeling here (equipment rental is not available but you can buy some at the ABC store nearby) or just wave hello as they swim along the shore. Remember not to touch them, as that’s prohibited by law.
Take a ride on an outrigger canoe
Channel your inner Moana and see the island from a different perspective. We took a ride on one that left from the Aulani resort, and it was spectacular. A pod of dolphins played all around the canoe and it was remarkable to see them so close. It’s possible I was a little more excited than my teen, but she still thought it was cool. (It’s possible I was a little over the top, but dolphins! They’re the best!)
Spend some time on the beach
Hawaiian beaches are gorgeous, and there’s something to be said for taking sometime to enjoy them as a family. My daughter was happy to just be on the beach, and didn’t seem to mind that I was there with her. Those moments are pretty priceless.
Visit Pearl Harbor
While this may not count as “fun,” it’s certainly meaningful and impactful. Reading about the attack on Pearl Harbor is one thing, but visiting the memorial in person gives teens a whole different perspective on this major event in U.S. history. That’s also true for adults. We were all surprised by how much we took away from our trip to this hallowed site.
Tickets for the USS Arizona Memorial are available 60 days in advance from recreation.gov for $1.50. If you don’t get tickets in advance, 1,300 free walk-in tickets are available daily at 7 a.m. on a first-come, first-served basis. They go quickly. There are also many tours available through providers. You can visit just the USS Arizona, or you can also tour the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, the Battleship Missouri Memorial and the Pacific Aviation Museum.
What fun family activities on Oahu would you add to the list?
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