Our Hawaiian getaway began on the beautiful island of O’ahu. There is so much to be discovered on this island, but we only had four days to explore. About two months before arrival, we reserved a car through Costco Travel (great prices) for pick up at the Honolulu Airport and booked an apartment through HomeAway. We chose to stay in Kailua due to proximity to beautiful beaches and distance from too busy Waikiki Beach. Here are a few of our favorite activities and spots:
Breakfast with a view:
We arrived early morning knowing that check-in was not available for a few hours, so we drove to Waikiki to experience the world class beach. We found free parking along Kalakaua Ave (outside of the hours of 10 am – 6 pm).
Many breakfast options by Waikiki beach. We chose Lulu’s Waikiki, second floor with a view.
Morning at Pearl Harbor:
Check out the official website to reserve tickets. There are a set number of tickets that are made available each day (first come, first serve), but I would suggest getting all reservations done beforehand, as nobody wants to waste time standing on lines for tickets when there is a system in place to not do so. Two ways to reserve tickets: Advanced Tickets which are made available two months in advance, or Next-Day Tickets, made available day before. Either way, go early because there might be a wait for parking. My biggest concern about visiting Pearl Harbor was the safety of the parking area. No bags are allowed into historic sites. Therefore, any valuables have to be left in the car or left in the storage area. The baggage storage area ($4 a bag) had small lockers, but for backpacks, items are left in the open. Of all the activities of this vacation, this visit required the most planning.
The SS Arizona historic site is reached by a quick boat ride. It is very somber, and the video watched before boarding the boat is a tear-jerker. Informative rangers are available to answer questions.
For us, the SS Arizona was the main event and attraction of Pearl Harbor. There are more historical sites such as the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and the Battleship Missouri Memorial, but our children were too young to keep focused for a few more hours. These other sites do require a purchased ticket to enter.
Diamond Head hike! Easy trail for children with great views of Honolulu. Make sure to take water. Parking is for a $5 fee.
On the way to Kailua, there are many lookouts along the highway. One, in particular, that was stunning is the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout. Take a moment to check it out for the grand views.
The Pillbox hike near Kailua and Lanikai beaches is relatively kid-friendly. The hike took us about 3 hrs, including parking and walking to the trailhead. We parked in one of the free Kailua parking lots.
Afternoon at beaches:
Cool off at Waimanalo Beach. It is a stunning beach with soft golden sand, beautiful surroundings, and crystal clear water. Signs for Manowar jellyfish were at the entrance.
Hanauma Bay is a classic snorkeling spot and an excellent choice for those new to snorkeling. Admission is $7.50 (per person over 12). All snorkelers must watch a 12-minute video, just past the entrance ticket window. Admission is free after 4 pm.
On the way back to the HomeAway, we stopped at the Makaku’u Lookout. Beautiful view! The beach to the right of the lookout was small but very cute.
I was so impressed with the North Shore. The beaches are all unique. Some beaches were made up of classic Hawaii powder soft sand; others were made up of small rocks and shells. The snorkeling was great. Unfortunately, we left only one day in our itinerary to explore this side of the island.
On Highway 83, make a detour to the Byodo-In Temple. There is an entrance fee to this beautiful and peaceful Japanese temple. It houses an over-nine foot Buddha and has many picturesque spots. Kids can even ring a large bell (bon-sho, or sacred bell). Look out for koi fish and black swans in the ponds.
Ehukia Pillbox Hike is a great way to get a birds-eye view of the famed Bonzai Pipeline. The hike is made up of steps, many trees, and felt very safe. The view of the Bonzai Pipeline is spectacular. The pillbox is easy to enter, and the kids had a good time playing inside.
Three Tables Beach is composed of small rocks and shells. The water was warm but a bit of a drop-off, not many waves.
The Sharks Cove is a great place for snorkeling, but make sure to use water shoes. We did not go too deep into the water, so not sure of the variety of fish available, but close were many kinds of fish and crabs. Excellent for kids because they do not need to go very deep in to see fish. Younger children can snorkel standing. Many food options, especially in food trucks, which are right there and smelled great.
Sunset at Halewei State Park is fantastic. Dinner at Haleiwa Joe’s to the end the night.
We left a few activities for next visit, including Waimea Beach and Falls as well as Matsumoto Shave Ice! We will revisit North Shore.
Manoa Falls is muddy. Water shoes are reccomended. The hike took us about one and a half hours round trip. Lovely way to get up close to a rainforest and waterfall.
Lanikai Beach is spectacular. Soft sand, terrific water, and sensational views. Lanikai is a great beach to pack a lunch and spend all day lounging. A perfect way to end four days on the island of O’ahu.