ALOHA! We literally booked a last minute trip to Oahu, Hawaii on a Wednesday, – – and flew out on Saturday! But sometimes last-minute trips turn out to be the best family trips. Not a ton of planning to stress over, just dreaming of white sandy beaches with a breeze and palm trees.
So if you’re looking for a vaca where the city meets the mountains and ocean,
check out all that Oahu, Hawaii has to offer.
Here are some of our favorite family adventures in Oahu, Hawaii.
- Sunrise at Makapuu Point — If you are flying from the east coast to Hawaii, chances are you will be up earlier than the sunrise, so you might as well go enjoy the sun rising over the beautiful blue ocean. It is definitely worth the hike up to Makapuu Lighthouse to see this beautiful sight. Check the sunrise times and allow enough time to drive, park and hike the one-mile trail to the lookout. (The lighthouse is off limits). Since the gates may not open until after sunrise, park on the road outside the gate (like the locals) and hike on. The elevation is 500 feet, so a water bottle comes in handy. Breathtaking views of the sunset await you!
- Do go chasing waterfalls! We stumbled across the beautiful Hamama waterfall in Kaneohe, Hawaii found on private property that is owned by the Board of Water Supply. It was a beautiful one hour hike to reach the falls (4 miles round trip). A moderate, slippery and rocky hike, but well worth it. There are posted signs so be mindful and stay on the path. The state asks hikers to obtain a permit first, though not mandatory. A nice well kept secret and not a tourist trap…just park legally on the street. Take water, and bug spray. Wear your bathing suit as you will want to jump in!
- Chief’s Luau — Highly recommend this Luau! Even though this luau is set in a water park, you quickly forget your surroundings once the show begins. The entertainment is on point with Chief Sielu Avea…funny, talented and a world champion fire-knife dancer. And, if it’s your anniversary, be prepared to be amazed and treated to a sweet moment with your spouse. The Hawaiian feast was really yummy, and the Mia Tai cocktails were refreshing. I really enjoyed the quaint setting and we were really made to feel like ohana (family). If you would like a flower lei, then be sure to book the Royal experience, or you can also purchase one as well.
- Hike Diamond Head — Lace up your tennis shoes, grab a bottle of water and your camera, and head out to see the 300,000-year-old crater, Diamond Head. The view from the top of Diamond Head State Monument is worth the hot hike and when you return, chances are you will be able to refresh with a shaved ice or a pineapple smoothie. If you are pregnant or have health concerns, please note there are steps and steep inclines to hike. Also, depending on the time of day and year, most likely the trail will be crowded with others tourists. Allow two hours round trip. But a must do when in Oahu!
- Turtle Bay — When we arrived at the north shore we spent a few hours at Turtle Bay Resort snorkeling and looking for sea turtles. (free parking, beach is public) Definitely, the place to find sea turtles. And plumeria flowers were falling from the trees which meant we could enjoy a little Hawaiian flair in our hair!
- Food trucks at the North Shore— if you are staying at the north shore or choose to take a day trip there, you need to pull over and have a picnic at one of the many food trucks. If you like seafood, you’re in luck with the fish tacos, but if you’re like me and not a fan, you can also find a refreshing smoothie. It was nice to support the locals and the food was really good!
- Ted’s Bakery at the North Shore — Great coffee and yummy treats! Ted’s bakery was a great find on our drive to the North Shore. Too many items to rave about, so be sure to stop in yourself and take a peek/bite!
- Dole Pineapple Plantation — Since we spent more time at the north shore, we didn’t allow time to explore the plantation, however, a trip to Hawaii would not be complete without tasting their famous Dole Whip. So Dole Whip it was! If you do have time to stop by the plantation, hop on the train that will take you around the plantation, walk through the gardens and the get lost in the world’s largest maze!
- Deep Sea Fishing — The boys boarded Maggie Joe for a day of deep sea fishing (while the girls hit up the spa!) If you are looking for a guided fishing experience be sure to check them out. Successful day on the deep blue sea!
- Shopping and eating at Waikiki Beach — Whether you are a shopaholic or just a dreamer, you will find high-end stores like Tiffany’s & Co., Kate Spade, Rolex to name a few! Visit Duke’s — one of our favorite restaurants. But, rest assured, it will most likely be packed. Making reservations in advance is recommended. Looking for a few gifts to take to friends? Stop by the Honolulu Cookie Company. You can even sample the flavors! Whatever you are looking for, you will most likely find it in Honolulu!
- Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon— Ten years prior to this trip, we actually stayed at the Hilton Hawaiin Village (located beside the lagoon, more expensive, oceanfront, but highly recommend). This trip we stayed at the Ala Moana Hotel (less expensive, not ocean front)… we had a car so we drove, parked for free, and enjoyed the beach and lagoon each day. Parking was free at the Ala Wai Harbor (section with free parking, otherwise metered parking). If you’re looking to save money, be sure to visit the Zon (Amazon) before your trip and purchase a float and snorkel kit to use each day at the beach, or pick up one at the local ABC Store. Amazing views of Diamond Head while enjoying the beach. We purchased two beach mats at Walmart and they were perfect for our family of 5! Hanging with my family at Waikiki Beach in Honolulu meant time to relax, talk, float and look for sea turtles.
As my children grow older, I find that quality time is greater than quantity time. We are always going in 50 million directions so when the stars aligned to got to Hawaii, I packed my bag and counted my blessings! Until we visit again, Hawaii. Aloha!
*NOTE: No endorsements here! Just my thoughts and recommendations from my personal travel experiences. I have traveled to the Hawaiian Islands four times and visited Oahu, Maui, Hawaii, and Kawaii.