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O‘ahu Family Vacation Ideas Include Hiking, Shopping, and Surf Lessons. 057HIGirlsBeachOn Oahu the choices for fun are endless. Golf, bike, hike, fish, dive, swim sail or shop. Do everything or do nothing. 

On Oahu it is possible to kiss a fish or pet a ray; sing with a dolphin or snorkel over a crater; sail with the wind or ride in a jungle mobile; practice the hula or giggle at a pachyderm; gaze at the stars or build a sand castle. Naturally we have our family friendly list of suggestions. 

Go all Hawaiian.
The grand dame of the island, The Bishop Museum, recently opened a new
Science Adventure Center designed to engage young visitors with interactive activities. The new facility offers extensive exhibits on the islands' natural history and cultural heritage. This is the place to feel the heat of a volcano; hear Hawaiian creation chants; see a new island being created on the ocean floor; learn about the delicate balance of flora and fauna. The museum is not-to-be-missed and the new addition makes it even better. Here’s the deal. They offer special rates for senior citzens and children ages 4-12, and children ages 3 and younger are free. (The Bishop Museum. 1525 Bernice Street, (808) 847-3511 or

Create your own day adventure. Located along the north shore about 40 miles from Waikiki is Waimea Valley Adventure Park an 1800-acre park. Surrounded by thousands of shades of green and punctuated by brilliant color, visitors can enjoy mini tropical adventures and learn of island lore. The blast of a conch shell announces the advent of cliff divers about to plummet to the sea. Pleasantly remarkable is the Butterfly Encounter. At the heart of the Jungle Trek is a treehouse. Bonus Points: For energetic families or independent teens, try the trails using all-terrain vehicles or mountain bikes; horseback or kayak. (Waimea Valley Adventure Park. 59-864 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa . (808) 638 8511, toll free 1-800-548-6262.)

Snorkel a in a crater. 057HISnorklrerAnother picture-postcard stop is the sunken volcanic crater otherwise known as Hanauma Bay, on the southeastern tip of the island. A semi-circular beach opens to the ocean, and the bay teems with fish, even some that gently touch their human visitors. Float, snorkel, SCUBA, SNUBA (a cross between snorkeling and diving, where you have an air supply without strapping on a heavy tank), people-watch, build sand castles, or catch up on your reading in this unforgettable setting. ( 

Navigate a maze, ride a train. The Pineapple Garden Maze, created within the Dole Pineapple Plantation is recognized by Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest the maze. The giant puzzle, created from plants including hibiscus, heliconia and plumeria, was planted in the shape of a super large pineapple. For kids the challenge is to try and better the fastest time through the intricate pattern of twists and turns locating the six secret stations along the way. Bonus Points: They offer several tours of the plantation, including the Pineapple Express, a 20-mile, 20-minute fully narrated pineapple train tour. Learn about the history of pineapple and agriculture in Hawaii, hear the fascinating story of James Dole and enjoy the ride. (Pineapple Garden Maze. Central Oahu area, 64-1550 Kamehameha Highway, Wahiawa, HI 96786(808) 621-8408 or 

Look for fish tails. The Waikiki Aquarium, designated a Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center for the Pacific Island Region, has a new look with many more ways to engage young visitors. See rare monk seals sunning and swimming; count speckled clown fish; watch endangered green sea turtles. Hawaiian native reef dwellers such as reef lion, butterfly, and squirrel fish thrive. Better yet: Each paid admission includes an audio tour wand. Discovery: One really fun way to experience the aquarium through their fantastic family program, Marine Munchies. The program teaches participants about how different marine animals catch and eat their food. Included in the program is an exclusive after-hours animal feeding, featuring sea anemones, and octupi. At the end of the program participants get a chance to feed a marine animal at the Edge of the Reef Exhibits. The program is designed for families with children age 5 and older, and all children must be accompaned by an adult. Bonus Points: From time to time they conduct night walks on the reef. Aquarium staff encourages participants to wade up to their knees in night water and learn about coral reef natural history, reef conservation and safety. (Waikiki Aquarium. Located in Queen Kapiolani Park, on the southern shoreline of the island of Oahu, at 2777 Kalakaua Ave. on the Diamond Head (east) end of Waikiki Beach. (808) 923-9721, Waikiki Aquarium Education Department at (808)440-9007

Go to the zoo. The Honolulu Zoo is the home to Mari and Vaigai, two Asian pachyderms, very popular with the local kids. As the stars of Elephant Encounters, their antics entertain and delight all ages. Squeals and giggles occur when one of them places a tropical lei on an unsuspecting child. Bonus Points: Throughout the year they offer families a unique opportunity to sleepover. “Snooze in the Zoo” offers participants a chance to discover the zoo’s nightlife. Enjoy a night filled with storytelling, campfire songs, walk-abouts and fun. Participants may pitch their tents on the back lawn or sleep out under the stars. Better yet: Keep your hotel bed but make a trip to the zoo at almost sunset. Twilight Tours are conducted the weekend closest to the full moon. It's a fun evening filled with insider looks at zoo life. Best of all families are welcome and the tours are geared towards children ages 5 and older. (Honolulu Zoo 151 Kapahulu Avenue Honolulu, HI 96815. (808) 971-7171, education office 971-7195 or

See the sea life. Surrounded by the sea the Hawaiian Islands abound with fascinating and diverse sea life. At Sea Life Park on Makapuu Point, about a twenty-minute drive from Waikiki, science and entertainment go hand-in-hand. See Humboldt penguins, whales and dolphins and a one-of-a-kind "wholphin," the world's only offspring of a dolphin and whale. Watch turtles and birds at play and learn about sea life in balance. Bonus Points: Interactive programs include swim with the dolphins, dive with the dolphins, touch tanks, and penguin encounters. Better yet: No need to get wet. Descend three fathoms into the 300,000-gallon Hawaiian Reef Tank. You will walk among and hand feed schools of colorful tropical fish. (Sea Life Park. 41-202 Kalanianaole Highway #7Waimanalo, Hawaii 96795. (808) 259-2500 or 

Experience time travel Polynesian style. The Polynesian Cultural Center, a 42-acre living history park is pure fun. Costumed interpreters present living history lessons in the recreated villages of Samoa, New Zealand, Tahiti, Fiji, Old Hawaii, the Marquesas and Tonga. The commentaries and demonstrations are anything but boring. Visitors are invited to play the nose flute, twirl poi balls, weave baskets, carve tikis and blow conch shells. Bonus Points: Night time entertainment includes shows at the IMAX theater and enchanting luaus. (Polynesian Cultural Center. 55-370 Kamehameha Highway Laie, Hawaii (HI) 96762. Toll free from the mainland U.S. at 1-800-367-7060, on Oahu or international dialing (808) 293-3333 or

Dive and stay dry. This is the perfect outing for three generations. The voyage starts on the good ship Discovery, the shuttle boat that takes passengers from the Hilton Hawaiian Village to rendezvous with the sub. Enjoy a sea view of Diamond Head and Waikiki before transferring to the sub for the dive adventure. Inside everyone gets a front row view as the sub descends to a depth of 120 feet. On this unique adventure see sunken ships and airplanes along with both natural and man made reefs. Bonus Points: Audio headset narrations are presented in English, Japanese, Korean and Chinese. (Atlantis Submarine. Hilton Hawaiian Village pier. Toll free 1-888-349-7888, local or international (808) 356-1800, or 

Burn energy and see the island. On the 4,000-acre Kualoa Ranch multi-sport adventures set the pace. Guided horseback rides (walking only, no trotting) lead guests along marked pathways through lush green landscapes. Mountain biking/hiking tours ascend to dramatic points overlooking Kaneohe Bay. Bonus Points: Swimmers enjoy uncrowded beaches the calm waters off Kualoa's private island. (Kualoa Ranch. 49-560 Kamehameha Highway Kaaawa, Hawaii 96730. (808) 237-8515, reservations (808) 237-7321, toll free 1-800-231-7321 or 

Take the tykes to their own place. The Children's Discovery Center, a 37,000-square foot facility located near the waterfront between the Aloha Tower and the Ala Moana Center, makes everyone feel like a kid again. Created for children younger than 12, the facility offers oodles of engaging displays and activities. The kid-sized Your Town has a firemen's pole, a post office and a police station. The island connection provides little ones with a sense of place by providing a mini island tour via video. For action kids are invited to load cargo on a container ship or pretend to live in an island plantation house. Bonus Points: The museum has an interesting array of online activities accessible from their cheerful website. (Children's Discovery Center. 111 Ohe Street Honolulu, Hawaii 96813.  (808) 524-KIDS (524-5437) or

Visit Pearl Harbor. The U.S.S. Arizona Memorial is in the not-to-be-missed category. Located in the Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Pearl City, visitors may secure a free ticket to the floating memorial that marks the location of the U.S.S. Arizona. The ticket provides timed access to the small museum, which explains the dramatic incident that resulted in many casualties and propelled the US into WWII. Prior to taking the boat to the floating memorial there is a short film which sets the stage, explaining the background and the surprise attack on the U.S. fleet. Bonus Points: The USS Arizona Memorial Junior Ranger Booklet can be obtained for free at the visitor center front desk. The guide is intended for youths (Ages 7-12). A Junior Ranger badge will be given upon completion. Better yet: From the floating memorial it is possible to see part of the rusty hull of the sunken ship. (U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. 1 Arizona Memorial Place Honolulu, HI 96818. (808) 422-0561 or and 

Not your yellow submarine, but. The Submarine Memorial Park, adjacent to the Arizona Memorial Visitor Center, has filed trip potential. Most remarkable is the USS Bowfin, a WW II submarine. For get being claustrophobic and tour the vintage vessel. Though parts may be a squeeze, the narrow passageways below the deck pass through sleeping quarters and alongside big torpedo tubes. Topside the museum showcases submarine life, vessel deigns and purpose. Bonus Points: On display a Japanese (one man) submarine torpedo designed for suicide missions. (U.S.S. Bowfin Submarine Memorial Park. Located next to the Arizona Memorial. (808) 423-1341 or

A Child's View of Pearl Harbor From Attack to Peace (Woodson House Publishers, 2001). Written by Dorinda Makana Onalini Nicholson, who was a child during the attack, this book presents the war from her viewpoint including trying to escape the bombs, and searching for her dog who was left behind in the initial hurry to flee.

Content originally posted by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files and updated from original trip.  Images courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Commission and Oahu Tourist Board. Copyright updated 2016.



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