The minute you land in Hawaii you feel the Aloha spirit. Love, compassion and peace is quickly your new life style for the time you are there. Our friends greeted us with the most amazing selection of lei’s (mine had ginger flowers and orchids: Tony’s showed a selection Jameson bottles; Hendrix was happy that his was made out of candy). Oahu is famous for the big surf – a paradise for all advanced surfers.
We went to Oahu for a very special trip, visiting our New Yorker friend Blue’s family which is Japanese decent but they all grew up in Hawaii. We are especially looking forward to staying at the house of 96 year old grandma, lovingly simply called grandma by everybody. Quickly we were embraced into this amazingly warm, funny and interesting Hawaiian family. At the end of the week we felt that uncle Brian could easily be our own uncle. Endless laughs during garage time (hanging out at a large foldout table in the garage since it rains every morning and evening in Manoa Valley, the garage is the perfect place to gather – just like the meaning of the name of the island: Oahu means ‘gathering place’). Grandma’s amazing crochet skills floored us (she loves to watch basketball on TV and crochets simultaneously). The outcome is a huge pile of beautiful and colorful lap blankets. We were very honored to have gotten one as a gift and they came in very handy during garage time, the beach and especially on the flight home. We were styling while everybody else had to cover themselves with the 100% polyester blankets.
Here are our favorite activities we did and places we visited while on this magical island. Oahu with kids….just wonderful
- Rainbow Spotting
Manoa Valley (or better Oahu in general) provided us with our top record in counting rainbows in one week. It does not get old to see a rainbow. Every time somebody spotted one, we all got excited and took our cameras out. Hendrix chased a beautiful double rainbow which started in the foggy rainforest of Manoa Valley but ended right next to us on the street. But where was the box of gold? We are still looking for that….
2. Surfing at Waikiki Beach (Honolulu)
Surf paradise Oahu is famous for 50 feet waves on the North Shore in the winter time. Of course as a beginner you can’t even go into the ocean when the surf is this high. But if you feel like trying to get a feel for this amazing sport, Waikiki is the perfect beach. Mellow surf, perfectly breaking waves and the famous Waikiki beach boys teaching you quickly how to get up. I swear, I got up on my second wave. I was surprised myself. Beach boy Todd (who said he is the only Jewish each boy, and he was from no other place than NJ) taught me and Tony within 10 minutes how to stand up on the board. A quick lesson on the sand about how to paddle and to stand and before we knew it we were laying on the surf board, padding out to break of the waves. And boy was he right that the paddling is the hardest part. My arms were sore for days. Once out there he said to ride the first wave kneeling down and he pushed you into the wave just at the right time. YES! The rush of feeling the wave was there immediately. After paddling back, I caught wave number 3,4, 5 and 6. So much fun. Time is up and I hope I have just enough strength in my arm to drink a Pina Colada as a reward. And which place would be more appropriate after a surf lesson than Duke’s, the bar of the original Waikiki beach boy. Don’t forget to stroll down Waikiki Beach promenade where you can go shopping at really cool stores, enjoy a beautiful sunset or listen to some Hawaiian music at the Blue Note Jazz Club (kid friendly).
- Hiking to Manoa Falls in Manoa Valley
We were very lucky to experience Manoa Valley with grandma and her amazing Hawaiian family. But even if you don’t stay here, the valley is a very special place and the hike to Manoa Waterfall was one of my favorite hikes. The beginning of the hike looks like you just entered a scene of Jurassic Park. The rainforest presents itself immediately with all its beauty: huge green leaves, massive trees, interesting roots wrapped around tree stumps. The perfect place to climb up on and take a break for a photo session. My favorite part!
Once you reach the waterfall you can refresh yourself in it or just relax in from of it. Blue, the best guide you could have, showed us a really cool part of the hike which is a section with all bamboo! Walking though the bamboo forest was airy and a little spooky, the wind moving the bamboo hearing spooky sounds and fearing we could be chased by a wild boar. At one point we reached these massive Banjo trees which are so majestic and played a wick round of hike and seek.
- Searching for a sea turtle at Haleiwa & More Surfing
Haleiwa is a beautiful beach on the North Shore of Oahu. Lots of shade trees, a playground and basketball courts nearby, great for swimming and surfing. A couple of surf schools operate from the beach, so there are always surfers to watch. Thank you Doran for letting me use your surfboard. I am hooked now. If you know me, I am searching for sea turtles on every trip I go. A lot of locals recommended Haleiwa because rumor is there are many sea turtles. Blue’s mom saw one there just 2 days before. So while some of us surfed, others relaxed on the trees that are literally overhanging into the ocean, others played some volleyball and took a hike along the coastline ending by the lava rocks. I had my eyes peeled on the ocean to find my turtle. Unfortunately, I was not successful; the turtle did not show up. The search continues….
- Northshore Wailea beach (Big Surf) & Cliff Jumping
Wailea is famous for the big waves. Professional surfers only! It’s a must stop and we loved the beach. We went swimming to the right side of the beach where the waves were a little more mellow so Hendrix wasn’t scared. The boys jumped off some cliff on the left side of the beach and had lots of fun.
- Buying a Ukulele
Being married to a musician and having the most musically talented son, stopping at a music store and finding local instruments is a must on every one of our trips. No matter where we are. Common sense, we have to check out the supposedly best Ukele store on the island. The store was a paradise for any musician with all kinds of Ukulele’s hanging from every inch on the wall and ceiling. Blue’s dad Joel who is very good on his Ukele and is always playing us beautiful Hawaiian songs for us loved to get Tony’s expertise on all the different sounds and shaped of them. Needless to say, we walked out of the store with 2 Ukaleles. One for Tony, one for Hendrix and the two of them serenaded us with the most beautiful melodies the remainder of the vacation.
- Halona Blowhole Lookout
This is an intriguing spot where the ocean has undercut the lava rocks and drilled a hole through to the top. Crashing waves and water shooting out of the blowhole make it a fantastic photo op. There is also a small beach when you hike down along the cliffs but we stayed near the street and just parked at the parking lot and hang out for a while spotting the water shooting through the hole before continuing to the Lighthouse hike.
Near the blowhole you can hike up the Koko Head crater, a very steep ascend with old wooden train tracks. We didn’t get a chance to do it this time but it’s definitely on my list of things to do for the next time.
- Makapuu Point Lighthouse
In addition to sea turtles, I am also obsessed with lighthouses and I was very happy to find out that Blue is taking us on a hike to a lighthouse and a scenic lookout. Hendrix was happy to hear that it’s a fairly easy hike with a paved 2 miles street up a hill. The Makapuu Point Lighthouse (built in 1909) sits on the eastern most point of Oahu, on a 600-foot sea cliff overlooking Makapuu Beach and giving you breathtaking views along the coastline (you can also spot several smaller islands, Manana and Kaohikaipu).
On the way back to grandma’s house we passed Sandy Beach which is another popular local beach for surfers. The story is that Obama has surfed there when growing up on this island.
- Wawamalu beach & Boogie Boarding
Hawaii is all about the wind and the right waves. The day we went to Wawammu we had the perfect break for boogie boarding. It might not always be like that and sometimes the waves might be even too big to go into the ocean. Our friends checked the surf report every day and we were so happy for all the knowledge and guiding. And Hendrix found the perfect tree to climb into to play his new Ukelele.
10. Kailua Beach
Kailua Beach is just one of those perfect beaches where you feel like you are in a paradise. The white sand is soft, the water is a stunning turquoise color, and the small islands visible from shore are beautiful. We swam, we laughed, we had a picnic, we boogie boarded and we played volleyball and we smiled a lot.
- Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve Park is suppose to be the number one spot for snorkeling in Hawaii. The beautiful bay cove is a beach park and a nature reserve, which aims to protect the fragile and beautiful ecosystem in the area against unlawful influence. For this purpose, every guest is obliged to watch a short educational film before heading down the steep road to the magnificent coastline. You will see this incredible natural pool formed in a volcanic crater. Snorkeling along the reef was super fun and we saw lots of colorful fish. Still no sea turtle though!!!
- Nuuanu Pali Lookout & Historical Site
Adding some history to our trip can’t hurt. Especially for a 5th grader. Apart from the stunning views and gusty winds, the lookout is also an historic site. This is where the Battle of Nuuanu took place in 1795, when Kamehameha I conquered the island of Oahu, bringing it under his rule. It was one of the bloodiest battles in Hawaiian history, where the defenders of Oahu, led by Kalanikūpule, were driven off the edge of the cliff to their deaths 1,000 feet below. The Lookout is only five miles from downtown Honolulu. The viewing platform is perched over a thousand feet above the Oahu coastline and offering commanding views of the Koolau cliffs and lush Windward Coast including Kaneohe Bay, Mokolii Island (Chinaman’s Hat), Coconut Island, Hawaii Pacific’s Windward Campus, Kaneohe Marine Corps Base and the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden.
The list of things to do in Oahu can go on for a long time and we did not get to do all of them. If we go next time I would definitely do hike up Koko head crater (with those old wooden steps) as well as hiking up Diamond Head crater. We were sad that we didn’t have enough time to visit the Pearl Habour Monument or the Aquarium and Sealife Park. At least we got some real life stories from grandma about Pearl Harbour who was a teenager when it happened.
Although garage time and being at grandma’s house made this trip so special for us, even if you will stay at a hotel without local friends, you will love this beautiful island full of rainbows, beaches, fantastic surf and lots of Aloha spirit.