A Family Guide to Fun on Oahu

Oahu is a great island to choose for your Hawaiian vacation. It is the easiest to fly to and there are so many hikes, beaches, coves, and other attractions to keep you as busy or relaxed as you want to be. Here’s some tips and ideas for your next trip to Oahu!

1. Line up early for Haleiwa Joe’s.

This popular restaurant has two locations, one in Haleiwa on the North Shore and one in Kaneohe on the windward side. We ate at the Kaneohe location. We arrived promptly at 4:25 and the restaurant opens at 4:30. There was already a long line, and we wondered if we would make the first round of seating. Luckily we only had to wait about five minutes to be seated, but that tells you just how popular and crowded the restaurant is! It’s known for it’s massive prime rib, which the hubby ordered. No pictures of it because you know, unruly kids. I had the baked catch of the day and it was topped with crab and amazing. The restaurant is perched above a hidden garden and pond, not visible from the parking lot. After dinner the kids enjoyed running down the big hill, out onto the dock, and looking at the fish. The grownups just tried to keep up and tried to keep them from falling in!


2. Spend a day at Bellows Beach.

This gorgeous beach was not crowded, and the waves were fairly calm. Part of the beach access is restricted to military, and part is open to the public. Most of us enjoyed a calm day floating in the turquoise water. Our daughter however, was not a fan. She’s never really been a fan of the beach. We were hopeful that the warmer water and weather would crack her, but no such luck. She spent most of the day on the beach blanket. She much preferred swimming in the pool.IMG_7656IMG_7740

3. Have a drink and enjoy the view at Turtle Bay.

The pool bar at Turtle Bay serves up pricey, but delicious drinks and food with a beautiful view of the bay. There is room for kids to roam without going to far. Our daughter quickly made friends with some other kiddos and played in the grass near our table while we relaxed in our seats. IMG_7874


4. Hike the Lanikai Pillboxes.

I will warn the folks with young children that this isn’t exactly an easy hike, but can be done baby wearing or carrying on shoulders as my husband did. The onset of the hike is a little steep, and the path is rocky, dusty, and can be a little slippery. So exercise caution! The trailhead lies in a neighborhood, we had a local friend with us to show us exactly where to go and where to park-very helpful. Be careful where you park, do NOT park in a bike lane unless you want to spend part of your vacation dealing with a tow company! The view from this hike is well worth it, don’t stop at the first pillbox, keep going to the second. You’ll be happy you did!IMG_7957IMG_7959IMG_8049


Depending our your kids, be prepared to carry them. It was a little too much for our almost three year old. Our friend’s four year old can do it no problem though.

5. Eat breakfast with Mickey.

Disney has a resort in Ko Olina called Aulani. As you would expect, it is not cheap to stay there. Even if it’s not in the budget to stay, consider visiting for a breakfast with Mickey. These breakfasts are open to the public, but don’t forget to make a reservation! Adults were $35 each, and kids under 3 were free. Before breakfast you get a chance to meet Mickey and have your picture taken with him. Hand your camera to the photographers so you don’t have to buy the picture package. Once you have met Mickey, you will be taken to your table. The breakfast is served buffet style and includes Mickey waffles, fruit, yogurt, an omelet station, a few Hawaiian dishes, Asian dishes, cold cuts, pastries, and a variety of other things. The food was tasty, everyone in our party was fully satisfied. Minnie and Goofy will also make their rounds to your table for pictures. “Aunty” leads the breakfast, walking around playing the ukulele and singing. She invites the kids to interact with her several times, giving them chances to play instruments and dance together. Photo 0022IMG_8201

6. Sample shrimp on the North Shore.

Giovanni’s shrimp truck is the most talked about for shrimp so we did what many other tourists do and drove out to try a plate. We opted for the scampi, the most popular. It was indeed delicious, as everyone says it is. My husband wasn’t overly impressed, thought it was good, but didn’t necessarily agree with all the fuss about it. Bring wet wipes, the shrimp are served shell on, so you will have to get a little dirty! Also be prepared for literally buses full of tourists. When we arrived there was no line, but we saw a tour bus come in with a big group. There is also a shave ice truck at this location in Kahuku, but you may want to hold out for Matsumoto’s in Haleiwa or visit Giovanni’s in Haleiwa then go over to Matsumoto’s after. If you’re not in the mood for shave ice in Haleiwa, I highly recommend Island Vintage Coffee right across the plaza. I had a super delicious, frappucino-like drink, with coconut and macadamia nut there. Yum!!IMG_4948

7. See the show at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

The PCC (for short) is also on the North Shore. We went because we were told it was the best luau on the island. While I can’t quite say it was a luau, we did enjoy the show “Ha: Breath of Life.” I think of a traditional luau as being on the beach, the pig being cooked in the sand, a big buffet of Hawaiian food, and a show on a stage featuring hula and fire dancing.

At the PCC we showed up and entered a huge food hall for a buffet dinner. The type of ticket we bought was for the American style food, there was also a more expensive option for Hawaiian style food. The dinner was OK, but nothing particularly special. If we were to do it again, I would just eat dinner somewhere else and show up for the show. If you’ve been at the PCC all day, it probably is just more convenient to eat there or at one of the other restaurants located on the grounds. The dinner just lacked a little of the ambiance that you would have eating on the beach at sunset, surrounded by tiki torches.

After dinner we wandered the marketplace where you can buy any type of tropical souvenir imaginable. You could even get a tribal tattoo airbrushed on, I saw many people walking around with them on their faces! The show is in a large amphitheater with a volcano as the backdrop. The show is lengthy at two hours, with an intermission. We weren’t sure that our kids would make it through the whole thing, but they did! We were impressed with the effects, live music, and variety of dancing. The show was highly entertaining and had a moving storyline. It showcased dances from the different island nations represented in the PCC villages.  I imagine it would be easy to spend an entire day here. We felt it might be a little much for our young children, but I think older kids would definitely be entertained. My impression was the PCC seems like Disneyland of the Polynesian islands.


She’s trying to do the “shaka” with the Shaka statue.