Hawaii for Families
Hawaii and family go together like peanut butter and chocolate. An easy ten hours on a plane, three degrees temperature difference all year round, and everything from volcano climbing and hiking to snorkeling and swimming with dolphins to keep you all occupied. It really is the perfect vacation for Australians travelling with kids.
On a recent family trip to Oahu, we spent most of our time by the pool and in the waves but here are five really great activities we tried, tested and loved. Expedia’s Aussie travellers spend 5-6 nights in Hawaii and that’s plenty of time to tick a few of these of the to do list.
1. Learn to surf
In Hawaii there are certain things you have to do just because you’re in Hawaii. Eat shaved ice, make a fresh lei and go surfing. You simply can’t visit the home of the long board without taking one out for a spin. Oahu is an incredible place to learn how to surf because the beaches pump out learner waves 365 days a year. The big waves that the island is renown for switch shores with the seasons. So beginners need to head North during the (American) summer and South in the (American) winter. The most established school on the island is Hans Hedemann Surf School, which runs lessons on both Waikiki and the North Shore. We booked a two-hour family surfing lesson at Kuilima Point, which is just adjacent to Turtle Bay Resort. We chose this location because it’s a little less crowded and brimming with turtles (thus the name). When you’re not surfing you can easily swim with pods of these gorgeous creatures. The lesson started with a 20-minute session on land, which covers safety, paddling technique, turning the surfboard and best positioning to stand up and ride. The rest of the lesson, about an hour and a half, was spent in the water. Practicing. Each of us had our own instructor, which meant we got meaningful tuition and stood up nearly every single wave. Lessons aren’t inexpensive but you do get real value and a really good workout. I don’t think it’s possible to come away without a bug for the sport. For more information, head to www.hhsurf.com
2. Swim under a waterfall
Deep in the gulley of Waimea Valley is one of the world’s most spectacular botanical gardens – Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden. Heaving with tropical vegetation, the park is full of established banyan trees, fragrant frangipani, over-sized water lily and giant palms. Admission is minimal and you can enjoy hours exploring the expansive grounds. Young kids will love all the nooks and pathways that lead you in loops. The botanical gardens are also home to the famous Waimea Falls where you can swim – supervised by a lifeguard – in the natural rock pool and underneath the iconic waterfall. The gentle, well-paved walk takes about 20-30 minutes so make sure you wear sneakers. Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden is open 9am to 5pm daily. Head to www.waimeavalley.net
3. Ride the Pineapple Train
The Dole Plantation is one of Oahu’s most visited attractions and although on the tourist trail, it’s a really fun place to visit. Ride the three kilometre, Pineapple Express train which takes you on a 20 minute educational trip explaining the history and process of growing pineapples. Run amuck and get lost in the world’s largest maze that contains countless twisting, turning pathways set over two rambling acres. It’s quite amazing. The real highlight is the pineapple soft serve ice cream, which will have you wanting to book a ticket back to Hawaii as soon as you get home. Head to www.dole-plantation.com
4. Swim with dolphins
There are countless snorkeling, diving and sailing tours in Hawaii and really the type of adventure you choose is down to preference. This trip we opted for smaller boat charter that specialises in wild dolphin swimming. Wild Side Hawaii runs tours on the West Coast of Oahu about one and half hours drive from Waikiki. Operated by a marine biologist, the emphasis is on experience and education. There are thirteen species of dolphins in Hawaiian waters. The most common are the Hawaiian spinner, spotted bottlenose and rough-toothed dolphins – on a good day you might see all of them.
There were only six in our group, which was fantastic, but the yacht can take up to ten guests. The tour begins with snorkelling equipment fit out and a lesson on how to swim with dolphins in the wild. They teach you how to find a pod and interact with them in the water. The goal is to swim with them.
Finding the dolphins is the hard part. You are sailing in deep, deep ocean and it can be like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. However, when you find them it’s magical. We experienced about 100 spinner dolphins swimming alongside and under the boat and then we jumped into the water and swam with them which really is a brilliant experience.
A word of caution: if you suffer from seasickness this may not be for you because you spend the whole time in open ocean and it’s rocky. Kids under eight may need to stay on the boat unless they’re strong, confident swimmers. Tours run for about three hours and include a picnic lunch. For more information, head to www.sailhawaii.com
5. Ride an outrigger canoe
Outrigger canoe surfing is a sport unique to Hawaii and was originally reserved for royalty and the wealthy. Today, Waikiki Beach is the only place in the world where you can experience surfing waves on an outrigger. Forget what you think you know about canoes because this is very different, much more like surfing or tobogganing than boating. One of the safest ocean vessels you can ride, it doesn’t even require life jackets but these things go like lightening once you’re on a wave. Expect to get wet and prepare to be yelled at by your skipper. There’s no slacking off – he steers while you paddle the boat out the back of the break You need a swimsuit and a rash vest or t-shirt. You’ll loose your hat so leave it at home. So. Much. Fun. Head to www.waikikibeachservices.com
A friend suggested we try a family massage on the day we arrived in Hawaii. “It’s the ultimate jet lag antidote” she promised. “Sixty minute quick fix.” I’d never even heard of such a thing but after eighteen hours travelling from Sydney to Maui, lying down for an hour seemed like a genius idea.
The Spa Grande is on the grounds of the opulent, Grand Wailea, Waldorf Astoria Resort on Maui’s west coast. This isn’t a spa as we know them, this one is Vegas big. There are gazillions of treatment rooms, plunge pools, herbal baths, rain showers and chandeliers the size of small cars.
When the four of us arrive, we’re whisked off into separate male and female change rooms to re-group in fluffy white robes and matching slippers in the spa’s common area. Kids look pretty cute in spa clobber. A cup of refreshing iced tea later and we’re escorted into a large, tranquil treatment room complete with four massage tables and four therapists.
I don’t remember what happened next because all four of us fell blissfully asleep as soon as we hit those tables. What I can tell you, it’s that utterly relaxing and allowed the whole family to shrug of the travel blah in luxurious, warm cat nasp. As my youngest daughter said to her therapist “I don’t know who you are or what just happened but I think you’ve got magic hands”.
Ironed out all the plane kinks too.
The Grande Spa at the Grand Wailea, Waldorf Astoria Resort offers literally hundreds of treatments, if your holidaying in Maui it’s well worth a visit.
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