If warm tropical breezes, gentle lapping waves and fruity concoctions in the sun are your kinda thing, all I can say is, “Aloha!” The Hawaiian Islands are our favorite place to travel for a little R&R with the kiddos. I’ve been to the island of Oahu three times, the island of Kauai, once, the Big Island, once, and Maui, about a half a dozen times. I think no matter how many times we go, we just never tire of the beautiful sunny days out here in the Pacific Ocean, letting the kids play on the beach until we are literally out of sunscreen, and hearing their exhausted and happy “good nites” at the end of each day.
There are so many fun things to do in Hawaii, ranging from golf and spa days to enjoying delicious local foods, snorkeling, shopping, biking, hiking, taking in a luau, or taking a tour of volcanoes by helicopter. Yet every time we come here, we tend to do the same ol’ things. Probably because those are the things that make Hawaii so special to us, and probably because all year long we dream of Hawaii and remember how those things make us feel: peaceful, relaxed, at one with nature…”unplugged.”
First up in this series of the Hawaiian Islands is Oahu!
Oahu is the third largest of the seven major Hawaiian Islands, and the most populous. The capital of Oahu is Honolulu, and it is the busiest city in all of Hawaii. The main tourist destination in Honolulu, and what put Hawaii on the map as a luxurious island getaway, is the charming little beach town of Waikiki. Waikiki is filled with shopping, luxury resorts, high-rise condos, and fantastic restaurants, all nestled under the protective shoulder of the iconic Diamond Head crater. Its majesty dips down to the warm sea and provides a glorious backdrop for the sand, surf, sun and stars.
I came to Oahu for the first time in 1988 with my best friend, Sara. We stayed in her family’s condo right by the beach in Waikiki and had the time of our lives being sun goddesses by day and party girls by night. At the time, Oahu was the best island to visit, as the others were still too primitive or non-commercial for our purposes. Nowadays, primitive and non-commercial sound pretty good to me — but back then, everybody came to Waikiki. I remember dancing our butts off all night at Moose McGillacuddy’s, and actually seeing people we knew from back home. Afterwards, we would walk along the beach (trying to dodge the huge cockroaches!), not wanting the nights to end. Being a lover of fine food even back then, we made it a point to eat in as many high-end restaurants, as possible. At the time, all the buzz was about a new restaurant named Roy’s, by Hawaiian-native Chef, Roy Yamaguchi, in Honolulu. The restaurant was very elegant, the food was fresh and nouveau, local fish and flavors were featured, and it was absolutely fantastic. (Now wildly successful, there are 31 locations worldwide.)
In 1996, I returned to Oahu for a few days on my honeymoon. Waikiki was still a party spot and by this time had become a little too commercial and busy. Most people considered Lahina on Maui to be the “new Waikiki”. Nevertheless, my husband had never been there, and I wanted him to see how special it was. I recall him thinking the view of the water and Diamond Head was one of the prettiest he had ever seen. He boogie boarded along Waikiki Beach for hours and had the worst sunburn afterwards. It was nothing but t-shirts and cold cream for him after that. Ouch! We went back to Roy’s, but it didn’t have the same luster as it had previously. It was slipping a bit. Still very tasty, but the ambience was not the same. After a few days in Oahu, we were ready to try out some other islands and slow the pace down a bit, so we hopped over to Kauai for a few days, followed by a week in Maui.
I returned to Oahu again, just last year (2010), this time with my husband, Andy, and our four children. What a different way to see Oahu! We had so much fun visiting Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial. Our son, who was 12-years-old at the time, is a huge WWII buff. Nothing could have prepared him for how spectacular this tour was. It brought to life all of the books and programs he had been guzzling in for the last several years, and gave him texture, definition and color to his imagery. It was the highlight of our vacation for all of the children, even better to them than Ellis Island, which we visited in 2009 on a trip to New York — and I didn’t think anything could top that… This time we did not try to incorporate a dinner at Roy’s. We had since been to Roy’s on Maui several times and knew it was not what it once was. Instead, we ate dinner with the kids at Duke’s in the Outrigger Waikiki. Duke’s is right on the beach and has a pretty view, good steaks, and a great kids menu. The open air atmosphere brings in the warm, salty air and live music plays nightly. After dinner (and every Friday), there was a fireworks show on the beach at the Hawaiian Hilton and a good time was had by all.
For anyone planning an upcoming trip to Oahu, whether with children, or without, I highly suggest spending a day at Pearl Harbor. In addition to viewing the USS Arizona Memorial, you can tour a sub and a battleship on the USS Bowfin and the USS Missouri. They are spectacular! Other fun things to do on Oahu are:
- visit the Polynesian Cultural Center
- hike up Diamond Head on the paved trail
- throw on a sarong and hit a Luau (best is at Paradise Cove)
- head over to the North Shore to enjoy surfing, or just watch some amazing surfers
- drop some cash at the Ala Moana Shopping Center (Louis Vuitton, Prada, yada, yada, yada)
- visit the Dole plantation, the Honolulu Zoo or the Waikiki Aquarium
- swim, catch some rays, relax and have a Mai Tai!
I’m not sure when I’ll get back to Oahu. Maybe someday with grandchildren in tow. I know many things will have changed by then, but if I look out to Diamond Head, I know all my memories will come back to me and I’ll see my best friend, Sara, dancing and laughing, my husband boogie boarding out in the surf, my children ooh-ing and ahh-ing at a battleship and fireworks across the Hilton lagoon.
Official Pearl Harbor Memorial
Polynesian Cultural Center
Duke’s Restaurant and Barefoot Bar
**Make sure to have a piece of Hula Pie!!