10 Oahu Hawaii Family adventures that don’t include the beach.
The beach in Oahu is pretty awesome, but sometimes you want to escape the sand and find some other family friendly adventures. Ones that might be tucked away next to the mountains or others that are a fun tourist spot. Either way, you might want to take a day or two explore the rest of the island. So here are 10 Oahu family adventures that don’t include the beach.
10 Oahu Family Adventures
The Byodo-In Temple
Whenever I would ask my daughter what she would like to do for the day she almost always said she wanted to go to the temple. Crossing across the footbridge you are mesmerized with this beautiful temple across the pond.
To the left coming over the bridge is a large gong that people can ring. The sound echoes through the garden with a low song. You can make your way over to the temple but be sure to take off your shoes before entering.
At the gift shop you can buy a small bag of food to feed the Koi fish in the pond. We found if you’re very still you can even feed the birds out of your hand.
There is an admission fee of $5 per person and $2 for children ages 2-12
The Byodo-In Temple is located in Kaneohe You’ll see the Valley of the temples Cemetery and that’s where you’ll want to enter. You’ll pass a small hut where people can buy flowers if they are visiting the cemetery. Follow this road all the way down till you reach the parking lot.
The Dole Plantation
The Dole Plantation is a fun tourist spot on the way to the North shore. There you can take a train ride around the grounds and they will tell you all about how the Dole Plantation came to be and how a Pineapple grows.
Have you ever wondered how a Pineapple grows?
A pineapple grows on a single bush. This bush only grows one pineapple at a time but it will produce offspring that you can cut and plant as well.
Now this one pineapple will take up to two years to grow and then the bush dies. It’s actually pretty cool and gives you a whole new perspective of the hard work it take to make a pineapple upside down cake.
In addition to the train ride you can tour the gardens and try your luck at the huge pineapple maze. There is also a large store to pick up a few souvenirs and try their famous dole whip inside the restaurant.
Initially it’s free to visit. You can walk around the store and even see a demonstration on how to cut pineapple. The train ride, maze and tour of the garden you will have to purchase tickets for. You can purchase a of all three or for two out of the three.
Personally, since we had visited more than once, we would choose the train and maze package. The gardens are nice but very small. Our kids would run right through them at the speed of light and then ask is they could have a Dole whip. Which is a must to complete your experience.
If you’re visiting Oahu you should visit Pearl Harbor.
The history of Pearl Harbor is one we all know but seeing this memorial with your own eyes is a humbling experience.
At the memorial you walk through the entrance to the visitor center free of charge. Once inside you can purchase tickets to USS Arizona, Battleship Missouri, Bowfin Submarine, or the Pacific Aviation Museum.
If you purchase tickets to the Arizona, give yourself a little extra time before you go into the theater. There is a museum area to the left of the theater where you can see the history of Pearl Harbor and the events that led to World War II.
What to expect with strollers and Bags
If you have children in strollers you’ll have to park them just outside the theater. After the documentary in the theater you exit towards the boats to ride over to the Arizona memorial. Walking around you can see what remains of the ship below and a wall of names of those we lost.
They do not allow bags including purses and diaper bags, so pack light that day. If you need to store your items you can purchase a locker for a small charge. You can bring a stroller but you will need to put your diapers and wipes in stroller pockets.
Waimea Valley is located on the north shore and if you’re anything like me you’d like a cup of coffee on the way. Stop at green world coffee farm. You can’t miss it. Its just after the army base and to the right at the fork in the road.
Back to business.
Waimea Valley is a beautiful botanical garden trail that ends with seeing a waterfall at the top.
What to expect with a stroller
Round trip you’re looking at about a mile and a half. It’s fully paved except for the side trails. It’s perfect for a stroller and kids who want to walk.
At the top you’ll see that you CAN swim in the waterfall. As long as swimming conditions are fair that is. There are changing rooms and a shower for rinsing all by the waterfall area. Be prepared, you are required to wear a life vest.
It does cost to get into the gardens. Group rates and military discounts are available. If you decide you are not up to walking the full mile and a half up to the falls and back, there is a shuttle you can take for an extra charge.
The Polynesian Culture Center
The Polynesian Culture Center is a family fun experience that takes you though daily life of six different islands. They have 20 minute presentations that take you on a journey though song and dance. Along the way you can experience ancient Hawaiian games, hula lessons and take a ride on their canoe tour.
When we went, it was a morning conversation over breakfast of “what should we do today.” So we hopped in the car and took a drive till we reached the Polynesian Culture Center. At the time we had done very little research and didn’t quite know what to expect.
We decided on just doing the general admission and to skip the show that evening since we weren’t prepared and weren’t sure how our two year old would do being out all afternoon.
At first we followed the crowd around to the different islands to see the presentations they offered, but after our second island we didn’t really like being corralled like cattle.
The crowd was large and sometimes it was hard to see. We took a second to gather our thoughts and decided to lay back and do things on our own.
That was a bit of a mistake.
We were able to get a temporary tattoo for our daughter with no wait. She loved the one on one attention. But we were missing the shows! We finally realized we needed to get back with the crowd and move around with them if we were going to truly experience all that we wanted to.
We were able to fan out along the lagoon for the canoe pageant. Each island was represented on different bamboo rafts as they made their way down the lagoon.
Our day ended by seeing the Hawaiian Journey movie. A 15 minuet movie in the pacific theater. All in all we had a great time and our two year old loved every second of it.
It’s a bit pricy but they may have a %10 discount if you purchase your tickets 10 days or more in advance.
If we were to do it again we would go see the show as well. We’ve had friends who did and they have nothing but great things to say about their experience.
Tropical Farms Macadamia Nuts
Tropical farms is a small tourist spot on the windward side that has a lot to offer. I can tell you that we lived there two years without ever knowing this place existed! They have free coffee samples as you walk in the door and nine different kinds of macadamia nuts to try.
Pulling into this small parking lot, we weren’t sure what we got ourselves into.
Roosters were running around and we were nestled right under the large monkey pod tress and surrounding green plant life. Walking in we were pleasantly surprised.
We picked up a coffee sample and made our way around the store. Jewelry, lotions, hot sauce and of course macadamia nuts. A large door opened up to the back to another small village area. A couple of shops and a spot to crack your own macadamia nuts.
Naturally our little girl ran to say hello to the other roosters and then made her way over to crack a macadamia nut. You place it on a hard surface, take a rock and try to hit it without getting your fingers.
You can even take a tour around the grounds. Yes, you need to purchase tickets for this. We loaded up onto the old bus and made our way around the farm. They had two stops for us. The first stop was for a little show where they showed us how to open a coconut and did a little fire dance. It was funny and very entertaining.
After taking pictures with everyone, we loaded back on the bus and made our way over to a small lake. We got in the boats and they gave us a tour of the water and talked a little about the mountains that were directly in front of us.
This isn’t like downtown Waikiki where everything is new, shiny and completely touristy.
This is a beautiful rustic store that is tucked into the trees with a million dollar view of the mountains.
It’s a little more rough around the edges which gives it an older more natural feel of island life.
On the windward side follow the Kamehameah Hwy up to Ka’a’awa. If you’ve reached Kialua Ranch you’ve gone to far, but not by much. Turn around and its right around the corner.
Ho'omaluhia Botanical Gardens
Ho’omaluhia Bontanical Gardens is by far one of our favorite places on the island. It took us two years before we found this gem and it quickly became a place we would visit often.
Driving through the gate the road is lined with palm trees and in front of you are the mountains. The view is breathtaking.
A little down the road on the left is the visitor center. You can either stop in here now or on your way back. We continued down the road to see where it would take us. Along the way are different parking areas for you to get out and explore.
The road continues around ¾ of a mile before you reach the end. You’ll see that they have a camping area for the weekends before you have to turn around.
What to expect with strollers
Back at the visitor center there is a paved path to the right of the building that takes you down towards the lake. The path turns to dirt and then grass just before you reach some picnic tables. Although you can walk the road, I would leave the stroller at home and just bring your Tula.
Exploring this garden is incredible. On the weekends from 10-2 you can stop into the visitor center and borrow a bamboo fishing poll and try your luck at catch and release down by the lake. Don’t forget to bring some bread for bait. The trees, plants, mountains and grass make this a family friendly spot for all ages to enjoy.
Location- 45-680 Luluku Rd, Kaneohe, HI
The North Shore-Haleiwa
The North shore is a fun spot to walk around this historic town, do some local shopping and enjoy lunch at one of their many great restaurants.
Walking the town you’ll find all sorts of shops. From high end clothing and jewelry to art galleries filled with talented local artists.
The marketplace in the center of town is a lively spot with a beautiful tree shading the area. Under this tree from time to time you’ll hear local musicians playing.
Over to the right is Matsumoto Shave Ice with lots of different flavor combinations to choose from. Make sure to try it with the condensed milk and vanilla ice cream.
There are many restaurants to choose from and you can’t go wrong! From sit down restaurants to plate lunches at the food trucks.
After you’re done checking out the town head over to Laniakea beach to see if you can spot some sea turtles. Its right down the road on the left. Parking can be a bit tough, so be sure to take it slow.
Obviously if you’re on Oahu you need to walk around downtown Waikiki. They have lots of shops, malls, art galleries and so much more. Basically it was a lot of window shopping for this family of four but its still fun to say you’ve been!
More realistically when our family would go downtown we would take the kids to the zoo or the aquarium. On Saturdays and Sundays they have art on the zoo fence. Local artists set up displays along, well, the fence. You can meet the artists, ask questions and buy beautiful artwork to take home with you.
After all this walking our kids were usually tired and in need of a break. We would stop at the Barefoot beach café. Getting a smoothing there was always a must, along with a plate lunch or just a few sides as a snack.
You’re right on the water and can enjoy your smoothie while looking out over the beach.
Of course there are many delicious restaurants around so do some exploring. The hotels have a lot to offer as well. Across from the Hale Koa Hotel is a large parking garage for those with little feet who might not be able to walk the zoo, downtown, and back.
If you’re military you can get parking validated. Over at the Hilton they have a Hawaiian village with lots of shopping, or if you’re anything like us, stop in and get a cookie at the Honolulu cookie company.
Leave the stroller at home. This is not a paved path but it is easy for little ones to walk around. For the hike up to the waterfall you will need the right shoes. Most of the way is a wide path but up towards the top it turns into a narrow trail.
Our little girl needed to hop on our backs in the Tula to make the rest of the trip. Unless its been raining a lot you’re not going to see much of a waterfall, but there are pros and cons to that. Pro-its not muddy. Con- small waterfall.
When we first arrived on the island this is what we had envisioned. Mountains reaching to the sky right next to you. A hillside of wide open grass that I’d only seen in my dreams.
Trees, plant life, flowers, gardens. At one point in our trip we just stopped to listen to the different birds singing all around us.
-It was Paradise
3860 Manoa Road-Honolulu