It is easy to get stuck in a rut when you are exhausted from work and taking care of the kids. It seems like the easiest answer to their constant whining for something to do is, “Go watch some TV or play games on the computer.” This answer may satiate the immediate problem at hand, but it could cause later problems down the road.
There are many alternative adventures and attractions on the island of Oahu that maybe you haven’t considered or have never even heard of before. These adventures are not just for tourists. They are for residents with families that want to rediscover the beauty and history of Hawaii. Going out and doing an activity as a family will not only be a fun experience, but it will strengthen familial bonds. You will create lasting memories that you, as well as the kids, will treasure forever.
Instead of the TV and computer, let the kids do something where they are actively learning in a hands-on, interactive environment. Watch their faces light up with wonder and amazement. There are also many activities that allow children to express their creativity, get in touch with nature, learn about Hawaii’s history or just have some good plain fun! As much as they will love getting out of the house and experiencing something new, your kids will love being able to spend the day with you even more.
Every successful endeavor takes some consideration and planning, and going out to do an activity is no exception. Many factors can affect where you go or how often you go to a particular activity. Here is a guide to help ensure that the day is glitch and worry free so you can focus on what’s really important, your family!
Location is extremely important to consider when planning a family outing. Do you want to stay close to home and not have to worry about the dreaded, “Are we there yet?” This is a good idea for younger children that may get cranky and want a nap in the middle of the day. Plan a morning or afternoon activity and still have ample time to eat and rest at home.
Parents with older kids might want to round up the family and spend the day discovering a part of the island that is not so familiar. This can be very exciting because the kids get to experience a completely new environment, which adds a fresh outlook to the otherwise monotonous everyday grind.
Planning to go far from home also takes extra planning because kids can get cranky! Even if your child is older, the long drive might cause him or her to become irritable. Keep some games and books in the car, or even play a game of “I Spy” out the window. The child’s attention is drawn to the outdoors and he is having fun while simultaneously learning about his surroundings. Also, keep gas prices in mind. A farther commute means more gas money. This may determine whether or not you plan an activity that’s far away or it could determine how often you embark on these excursions.
Whether you go far away or stay close to home, it’s a good idea to bring some healthy snacks along. You may be in the middle of an activity, and can’t break away for lunch. Snacks will keep you and the kids satisfied without filling you up.
Hours of Operation
Imagine this: planning out your day trip to the opposite side of the island, getting the family together, making the long commute and pulling up to your desired adventure or activity. The kids are happy, you’re happy, and just then you notice the dreaded sign saying, “CLOSED.”
To avoid this situation check the activity’s official website for the hours of operation. For even better results, because sometimes the websites aren’t up to date, give the company a call. As long as you have them on the phone, also ask what time of day is good to swing by. Maybe they are busiest during a certain part of the day and you would like to avoid large crowds, long lines, etc.
It’s also smart to have a back up plan just in case. You never know what could go wrong, so especially if you’re making a long commute, have a back up activity in mind. This will ease the stress of having to plan something new on the road when the kids are starting to get impatient.
Do some research ahead of time on the total price of the activity. Don’t let the issue of money deter you from having a fun outing. You can still find low cost or even free options. You don’t necessarily need to pay a lot to have an enjoyable experience.
If you know which activities are on the pricier side, you can plan accordingly. Only attend those for special occasions when you really want to treat the kids. If you know which activities are low cost or free, plan more of those. The kids will be having so much fun that they won’t even be able to tell the difference.
Picking an Activity
Plan an activity that will interest your child. Pick up on clues regarding their hobbies. Is their favorite toy a train? They may be very interested in a train ride. Do they talk to their friends about animals, or show an interest in owning a pet? Then maybe an activity geared towards learning about and interacting with animals and sea life would be appropriate. Your child will be thoroughly engaged in the activity if it’s something that is right up their alley.
On the other hand, keep in mind that it’s also fun to try something completely new. You may spark up a new interest or hobby in your child or in yourself. Even if it’s not something you would normally do, give it a try anyway. When you’re bonding with the family, you can never have a bad time.
1. Bishop Museum
Home of the world’s largest collection of Hawaiian and Pacific artifacts, Bishop Museum is regarded as Hawaii’s premier natural and cultural arts museum. The Science Adventure Center has become a favorite, especially with younger children. The 16,500-sq. ft. facility has over 30 custom designed interactive exhibits. The museum has also unveiled its Picture Gallery, an unrivaled collection of oil paintings, watercolors and works on paper.
The museum’s planetarium features “The Sky Tonight,” a guided tour of the Hawaiian nighttime sky on the first and third Fridays of each month. Additional nights will be added. The museum is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm, but is closed on Tuesdays.
1525 Bernice St
Honolulu, HI 96817
2. Children’s Discovery Center
Situated in a lush retreat from busy urban downtown Honolulu lies the Children’s Discovery Center. Plan a visit and let the kid’s imaginations run crazy as they experience the various exhibits offered. The Children’s Discovery Center is a place where children can participate in fun activities and use their vivid imaginations, while simultaneously learning about real issues that pertain to our everyday lives.
111 Ohe St
Honolulu, HI 96813
3. Dole Plantation
Originally operated as a fruit stand beginning in 1950, Dole Plantation opened to the public as Hawaii’s “Pineapple Experience” in 1989. Today, it’s one of Oahu’s most popular visitor attractions and welcomes more than one million visitors a year.
Spacious grounds, educational gardens, beautiful scenery, immaculate facilities and varied activities make for a perfect day for the whole family. Ride the vintage-style train, make your way through the world’s longest maze, collect recipe ideas, go shopping, refresh yourself at the snack bar, wander the gardens, feed the fish at the koi pond or just sit and enjoy the scenery. With their multitude of activities, Dole Plantation has something for everyone in the family!
64-1550 Kamehameha Hwy
Wahiawa, HI 96786
4. Holokai Kayak Adventures
Situated in Heeia State Park, Holokai Kayak Adventures is a must-do. The three-hour tour journeys to Coconut Island, home of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (and where the television show, Gilligan’s Island, was filmed). Along the guided trip, paddlers snorkel at various patch reefs and observe sea turtles, rays and tropical fish in their natural habitat. Guides point out cultural sites, such as the traditional Hawaiian fishpond at Heeia, and explain some of the challenges facing the ecosystem of the bay.
46-465 Kamehameha Hwy
Kaneohe, HI 96744
5. Honolulu Zoo
From pink flamingos to African giraffes, The Honolulu Zoo has a little bit of everything from the animal kingdom. It homes an animal population that includes over 64 reptiles, 38 mammals and 160 bird species. The 42-acre facility is organized into three tropical ecological zones – Tropical Rainforests, Pacific Islands and the African Savanna. There’s also a children’s petting zoo with donkeys, goats, llamas and more for your avid animal lover.
In the works is a new $6.35-million Asian elephant tropical forest exhibit that will create a spacious, natural environment for the zoo’s elephant population and a larger viewing area for visitors. If you’re in the neighborhood on the weekend, be sure to enjoy the works of local contemporary artists and crafts people at the Honolulu Zoo Art Mart.
151 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
6. Sweet Land Farm
Sweet Land Farm is in a beautiful location with much to see and learn. Their mission is to educate our youth about the farm and the importance of agriculture to our island. Visitors leave the tours stimulated by the experience and captivated by the friendly goats. They are open to the public on Fridays from 10am to 2pm and on Saturdays from 9am to 2pm. There is no farm entrance fee. Sign up for a tour at the farm store, where you can also find delicious homemade goat cheese, cheesecake, and other goodies.
65-1031A Kaukonahua Rd
Waialua, HI 96791
7. Polynesian Cultural Center
The beautifully landscaped 42-acre setting of the Polynesian Cultural Center provides a full day’s worth of cultural exploration and activities at its seven island villages and exhibits, representing Fiji, Hawaii, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga, the Marquesas and Rapa Nui (Easter Island).
The Center’s critically acclaimed evening show, “Ha: Breath of Life,” features over 100 performers – making it the largest Polynesian revue in the world. The show’s accolades include “Best Show, Public” by Hawaii No. 1 entertainment critic, Wayne Harada, in his annual Waynie Awards for 2009.
55-370 Kamehameha Hwy.
Laie, HI 96762
8. Sea Life Park
Sea Life Park is Hawaii’s premier marine experience park, offering fun and educational animal experiences for the entire family. With a focus on education and conservation, their shows, exhibits and interactive programs offer thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime up-close encounters with dolphins, sharks, and more! Join them at the best aquarium in Oahu for educational activities and field trips, great family dining options, many special events including the nightly Ka Moana Lū‘au, and of course, the best place to interact with dolphins in Oahu. Whether you’re seeking a hands-on experience, or you prefer to enjoy the excitement from a distance, Sea Life Park will show you where the heart meets the sea.
41-202 Kalanianaole Hwy
Waimanalo, HI 96795
9. Waikiki Aquarium
By aquarium standards, this one is modest, but the setting is hard to beat. Opening in 1904 with 35 tanks and 400 marine organisms, the Waikiki Aquarium today has expanded to showcase more than 500 marine species, and maintains more than 3,500 marine specimens, including Hawaii’s famous state fish, the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a.
The Waikiki Aquarium’s new Northwestern Hawaiian Islands exhibit offers visitors a nearly once-in-a-lifetime experience to see a living reef ecosystem representative of that found in the world’s most isolated islands. Organisms featured in the exhibit include table corals, masked angelfish, yellow barbel goatfish and Japanese pygmy angelfish. The beautiful fish will mesmerize you and your children as you also learn about the importance of preserving our ecosystems.
2777 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
10. Waimea Valley
Waimea Valley’s lush, natural setting lets you encounter historical, cultural, botanical, archeological and ecological wonders as you venture through the sacred valley. World-class botanical collections showcase more than 5,000 species, including many native Hawaiian varieties. You and the family can explore the historic valley at your own pace or join a guided tour. With paid admission, you are also invited to participate in various activities, including lei making, hula lesions, Hawaiian games and crafts. Guides will help hikers identify the native and exotic plants, view various streams and the Waimea Waterfall, point out native fish, and showcase the Valley’s indigenous birds. Take the family here to spark your child’s creativity and also for everyone to get in touch with nature.
59-864 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, HI 96712