Have you ever tried to order pizza for a crowd? It’s near impossible to make everyone happy and someone will always pick the mushrooms off their slice. The same goes for picking excursions when on vacation with a total of 9 people over 3 generations. On a recent ‘big’ family trip to the Hawaiian island of Oahu, our multigenerational group sat down and made a list of all the things we wanted to do while we were there. Some made the cut, some didn’t.
Here’s our list of fun ‘big’ family things to do on Oahu.
1) See a pineapple grow – Did you know there are 37 different varieties of pineapples in the world? The Dole Pineapple Plantation, located on the north shore near the surf town of Haleiwa, has a Guinness Book of World Records size maze, a beautiful koi fish pond, a train that will take you around the plantation and all the information for you to learn about how pineapples grow, how long it takes and the different varieties. And because no one turns down a treat, the vast gift shop/restaurant has whipped frozen pineapple on tap. Yum.
2) Zip thru the trees – ClimbWorks is the first zip line touring company in the Hawaiian islands and it’s nestled right on the north shore of Oahu. Fun doesn’t even begin to explain the experience you’ll have on the 3+ hours adventure these guys will take you on. We took 3 generations on the tour, ranging in age from 9 to 64 (the minimum age requirement is 7) and found that it really is fun for all ages. Laid out over 200 acres of lush hawaiian forest, this working farm also grows crops like cherry tomatoes and papaya. With every line, the team of 3 guides would explain another aspect or fun fact about the island or the farm itself and all with the hilarity of a comedy show. While I had no issues with being high up in the trees and jumping off of a platform onto a 150 metre line high above the ground, some people (adults and kids) looked a bit anxious, so the playful attitude and banter served to bond with the participants as well as a way to distract and comfort them. The platforms are sturdy and beautifully built, the lines are long with sweeping views and once they get all the additions built and opened, it’ll make for an even better experience, if that’s possible. Although it’s a pricey excursion, the experience and the location make it worth the investment. They also offer (for additional fees) action photos taken by remote cameras along the course which are triggered by sensors on the helmets.
3) Visit the Polynesian islands – The Polynesian Cultural Centre is the Hawaiian version of an amusement park. Trust me, you’ll need the entire 9 hours that the centre is open to fit in all the activities included with your ticket price. We started off our visit with a tour around the marketplace (open to the public) when the facility opened at 11am. Moving into the ticketed area of the centre is like going thru a time machine. The lush gardens and flowers line walking paths that lead visitors from one village to the next. Each village represents each of the 7 polynesian islands complete with traditional foods, artifacts, living huts, tools, locals in traditional dress and the best part, interactive displays. Each village gives visitors the opportunity to try an activity first hand, from tribal tattoos (ink stamps) to hula dance, to cooking to games to fishing. Each village has a timed schedule for their short performances depicting dance or song from that region. The interactive villages close promptly at 5pm, allowing visitors to make their way to one of three massive dining halls for a buffet dinner, depending on the ticket price you’ve paid. Once dinner is done, the finale to the experience is a 90 minute show in a grand amphitheatre telling the journey of a family thru time, called Ha (meaning breath of life) which includes each of the islands and their individual style of dance and dress and polynesian history. The show brilliantly ties together everything you’ve seen and learned in the villages during the interactive part of the centre. My favourite part was the fire dancers! Amazing! Although it’s a very long day for little children, my youngest at 6 years old, managed the day right to the end of the show and loved every moment. There were a lot of parents with sleeping children in strollers and in arms after the dinner. If you want to experience more than just beaches and surf but also learn about the culture and the history of the islands, this is a must do. The price tag is high but with everything that’s included for one price for a 9 hour excursion, including a meal, it’s a great value! I would definitely do it again.
4) Take a history lesson – You can’t visit the island of Oahu without acknowledging the role Pearl Harbor had during world war 2. The site now serves as a memorial and burial for the lost souls of the USS Arizona as well as a decommissioned submarine open to tour. There are also several educational exhibits with stories, artifacts, models and images that help tell the story of the island and it’s role in the war. Visiting with our children meant that they could see first hand what they would normally only read about in history books and for the older generations on our family trip, it was a chance to go back in history and walk with their parents and grandparents during the war. I highly recommend getting the self guided walking tour head sets (even for the kids) to get the full experience. Everything from the submarine to the USS Arizona to the exhibits are available via the recordings so take advantage of the extra info.
5) Pose for pictures – We finally got our family on a trip to a beautiful place. We’re feeling relaxed and rested so of course, this is the best opportunity to take family photos. The cost is roughly the same as doing a family photo session at home except that the back drop is tropical palm trees or rolling ocean waves and sandy beaches. We were in need of family photos anyway so after a few clicks on the internet and an email to send a deposit, we hired a local photographer to shoot our family and capture our hawaiian holiday for us. This by far is the best souvenir from a big family trip.
6) See turtles – Beautiful and endangered, sea turtles are locals on the beaches of the north shore. Resting in the sun on the sand, these gentle giants are easy to spot but make sure you give them lots of space. In Hawaii, it is against the law to touch, feed or taunt a sea turtle. Laniakea Beach on Oahu’s North Shore is known for sightings of sea turtles. That’s how it got the nickname “Turtle Beach.”
7) Hit the beach, duh – Why else did you go to Hawaii? The beaches and waves are vastly different from one side of the island to the other. Waikiki beach is long and vibrant with low rolling waves good for playing or a surf lesson. While on the north shore (specifically in the winter months) the waves are big and infamous for big wave surf competitions. There are a few north shore beaches that have a protected break which make for pleasant, swimmable waves for everyone, young and old. Check out the public beach next to Turtle Bay Resort. Public parking is free and you can rent a 2 person cabana for $25USD/4hours or $40/day. Be sure to bring or rent snorkelling gear for Turtle Bay beach and check out the reef fish and turtles in the bay.
8) Go in circles – Pick a day and a direction and just drive. You’d be shocked at the difference in vegetation and even weather from one side of the island to another. There are beautiful beaches and small towns to stop at along the way for a snack or lunch. Food trucks are huge on Oahu so make sure you check out a famous shrimp truck or a Thai food truck for an adventurous flare. Frequent pit stops to check out a site or a beach or get a snocone will keep the kids happy, while the adults enjoy the journey as well as the scenery. One thing is certain, you won’t get lost on an island, eventually you’ll end up where you started.