So you’ve decided to take the kids to Oahu! Amazing decision. The North Shore on the island of Oahu is a beautiful spot and the kiddos will love it. While there are many Hawaiian islands to choose from, there is something very special about the remote, underdeveloped surfer vibe of the North Shore on the Island of Oahu. During the winter months, this is home to some of the world’s biggest wave competitions, where incredible (albeit insane) athletes take on 30+ ft waves and dominated the gnarly suicidal surf. During the summer months, when the ocean is calm, many will find themselves along the North Shore for a taste of the legendary shrimp trucks, the sweet multi-colored shaved ice, the local surf shops and art galleries. Read on to find out the best Baby and Toddler-Friendly Activities In the North Shore of Oahu Hawaii.
I recently traveled to the island of Oahu with my own young family. Miss P, 3 ½ and Mr. H. a rambuctus 20-month old who’s favorite hobbies include kicking the seat in front of him and roaring like a dinosaur. Like any good parent, fearful of the impending airplane tantrum, I packed a survival kit of snacks, games, earphones and a tablet, with the promise of unlimited screen time (as long as they didn’t spazz out during the flight.)
Our itinerary included the following: We flew into Honolulu, rented a car from the airport, drove to Aulani Disney Resort to spend a few days there. Yay Moana. Then we drove to the North Shore and spent a few nights in an awesome Airbnb just a short drive from the surf town of Haleiwa. Then some time in Waikiki at the Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach, just walking distance from all the city by the sea, shop ‘till you drop action. After a week of tearing up the island, playing super tourists with the kids, these are some of my favorite Baby and Toddler-Friendly Activities In the North Shore of Oahu Hawaii.
Hike In Waimea Valley:
Waimea Falls is certainly one of the best hikes to do with kids on Oahu. This is a great place to take kids of any age for a gentle hike up a paved path up to a natural spring waterfall. This sacred place with some 700 years of native Hawaiian history is quite touristy but it’s worth the visit (try to get there early to beat the crowds). A trip here takes you through a reconstructed ancient village, past archeological sites, indigenous birds and vibrant orchids. You can bring a wagon or stroller along the path to cart things like lunch, snacks, swim gear, towels and your tired, possibly passed out baby. When we were there, we experienced some sporadic but hard rain and that full-length poncho I packed also really came in handy. Along the dirt road paths, kids can stop and smell the exotic flora, learn about local culture and take a dip in a cool mountain waterfall. The waterfall is a 45-footer and guests can swim in its’ chilly waters. Lifejackets are free, provided and mandatory (even for adults…which is kinda lame). The rocks upon entry are quite sharp so water shoes are strongly recommended. Here is some additional info on Waimea Falls.
Explore Turtle Bay Beach Resort:
Turtle Bay Beach Resort is a great accommodation choice for families traveling with young children. They have a variety of acitivies and amenities like a kiddie pool and great sandy beach in a protective inlet with shallow waters and gentle waves. For a more “shipwrecked on a desert island” feeling a la Swiss Family Robinson, ask the concierge about the private beach just a little south of the golf course. This is a protected space which feels remote and unspoiled. The kids can play along the shore, chase crabs, look for shells and stroll along the many nature paths (used by Turtle Bay Resort as part of their horseback riding tours).
This beach also a great spot for Stand Up Paddle Boarding, since it’s a sheltered cove far from those intimidating Winter waves. If you’d like to try your hand at SUP lessons, Turtle Bay Beach Resort offers a Dog SUP Experience. Rocky, an awesome adventure guide with a background in big wave surfing, takes you out on the ocean with an usual accessory – a dog! Yes that’s right, you and the kids can stand up paddle with a pack of pooches. If you think maintaining your balance is tough solo? Add a barking mutt to the mix and see how many times you fall in the water. Ha! I was soaked. It’s an unusal activity older kids will love and it’s a great core work out for mom.
Take A Train Ride at the Dole Pineapple Plantation:
Take the little ones to Dole Plantation for a two-mile train ride though the real-life pineapple plantation. The tours are twenty minutes of narration and will educate little ones on Hawaii’s most well known crop – the pinapple. They have several vintage train options to choose from – The Pinapple Express, a red and yellow train built in England and modeled after a 1870 train, to the Aloha Express, a Chinese built diesel electric train that hauls three cars. Toddlers typically love trains, so tada…. a fun family outing. From there, you can take the self-guided tour through the gardens or check out the Dole Plantation’s Pineapple Garden Maze – a 3 acre maze dubbed the World’s Largest by the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s a great excuse to spend the day outside and learn about plants and agriculture in a fun way. Dole Plantation is located in Wahiawa, approximately 40 minutes from Waikiki.
Eat Sugary Shave Ice:
What kid doesn’t want a scoop of ice saturated with oversweetened colorful syrup? Yes, I’ve discovered that sugar can make even my grumpiest kid happy. The tradition of shave ice on the islands of Hawai is a long one. One of the most famous places to visit is Matsumoto Shave Ice, in the surf town of Haleiwa. They seem to have every flavor imaginable from bubblegum, to guava and even one I’ve never heard of like Lilikoy (yellow passionfruit) and Yuzu (Japanese citrus fruit). You can add vanilla ice cream, Azuki beans, condensed milk and a whole wack of other ingredients to sweeten the deal. Place your order and eat at a picnic table in the shopping square directly in front of the store.
Watch Big Wave Surfing:
Depending on the time of year, if you’re in the North Shore during the winter months, the waves are monstrous! It’s humbling to watch local surfers paddle out and take on massive waves. Spectators can grab a pair of binoculars, some sand toys for the kids and head out to Waiemi Bay Beach to watch the surfers in action. Kids need to understand that they’re not able to go in or near the water (due to the sheer power of the ocean), all parties have to stand far enough back or risk the wrath of the lifeguards. There’s a patch of grass where kids can run, toss the ball around and play while Mom and Dad marvel at these daredevil watermen.
Hula At KA WA’A Luau:
To the uninitiated, a Lu’au is a big feast with lots of signing, dancing and binge eating. Since these are all of my favorite things, I jumped at the chance to experience an authentic one..slow roasted pig and all. Lu’aus showcase the best of locally grown talent, with dancers and singers from across Hawaii’s islands. While there are many lu’au events at a variety of different Polynesian Centers and resorts to experience, I opted for the KA WA’A luau at Disney’s Aulani. This event is especially great if traveling with children of all ages, since it IS Disney afterall. Kids are invited to participate in a variety of cultural activities from lei and bracelet making, to poi pounding and getting stamped with traditioinal Polynesian tattoos. When it’s time for the show and buffet dining, kids will certainly enjoy the desert table, the fire twirling, the interactive hula dancing and even a surprise visit from Moana. Loved it!
Get Cozy at an Awesome Airbnb:
There are a few hotels along the North Shore but, when traveling with kids, a vacation rental can be best option, giving you the space and amnetities you need to make it feel like a home away from home. We stayed at: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/18916196 and loved it. This Airbnb is super reasonably priced compared to others in the area. The pictures don’t do it justice. It’s a huge, beautifully decorated, comfy space for the family. There’s a Foodland grocery store at the base of the hill so you can stock up on everything you need for your stay, from Poke (delicious raw tuna) to pineapples. I recommend buying the local Lion coffee, it’s 3 bucks for a huge bag of ground coffee and it’s absolutely delicious. The property has Netflix, a few boogie boards and beach towels. I found basic things like soap, shampoo, salt, soya sauce, paper towel rolls etc. in the cupbards, but like most vacation rentals, you’ll have to provide all your food and those little extras. The kitchen is very well stocked with all the utensils (including BBQ) you’d need for a big family meal. There is a huge green lawn in the front, so bring lawn games to keep the kids entertained. There are a few other vacation rentals on the property, so parking (and that lawn) is a shared space. The owner Daniel is very responsive and helpful. He’s a big wave surfer, so immediately he gets cool street cred as well.