Honolulu with Kids: A Perfect Family Day

by Jessica Panian, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Aug 30th 2010 01:22 PM

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Honolulu with Kids: A Family Vacation

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Oahu is a beautiful and diverse Island getaway, with amenities like restrooms and restaurants aplenty -- which is great if you have small children. It also means less you'll need to pack. If you have children under 7, don't think a trip to Honolulu, Hawaii, would be wasted on them. I have cousins who live in Hawaii who are 3 and 5 years old. Each time I visit, there is tons to do!

I suggest you get a hotel in Waikiki to stay central to all the action; but if you're looking to save some money and get out of the city, North Shore is an option as well. However, stay away from Makakilo city, which is not very tourist-friendly.

Here is a suggested itinerary for the perfect family vacation day in Honolulu with kids:

Morning


If you're starting your morning in Waikiki you'll want to grab a bite to eat, I recommend McDonald's (2476 Kalakaua Ave.). No, really! This one has an ocean view and its menu is a very unique experience that should be tried at least once. Try the spam, Portuguese sausage, rice and egg breakfast meal, and try the Haupia pies, too.

The must-see place to go is the Dole Pineapple Plantation (64-1550 Kamehameha Highway, off Highway 99 in Wahiawa; 808-621-8408). It costs nothing to get in and once you're there, two can't-miss things to do are ready and waiting:

  • Get lost in the plantation's giant maze ($4 for children, $6 for adults) -- the biggest in the world, according to the 2008 Guinness Book of World Records. Once you're in the maze, there's a scavenger hunt you can do that involves stamping different shapes into a stamp book, the stamp stations are hidden throughout the maze. Believe me, everyone will have a blast.
  • Ride the 2-mile express train. It's a narrated tour that will take you around the plantation and teach you about the life of James Dole. If you're thinking, "who's that?" or "who cares?" -- the train ride by itself is enough to keep your attention.

Before you leave, grab lunch at the Plantation Grille. There are favorites on the kids' menu such as mac and cheese and chicken nuggets, but the adults should definitely try some local fare such as Kalua Pork Quesadillas, or the Loco Moco -- a grilled beef patty over steamed rice, topped with brown gravy and a fried egg. One thing you can't miss before you leave is the pineapple ice cream; it's sour and sweet, and the days warm up quick in Hawaii -- so a refreshing treat gets you ready for the rest of the day.

Afternoon


After lunch, there are several choices in Honolulu for parents of young kids to continue their family vacation day:
  • Leaving the plantation and heading south on Highway 99, you can stop at Wet 'n' Wild in Kapolei (400 Farrington Highway; 808-945-3928 ) for an afternoon in the water without the worry of jellyfish and rip tides. This is a little more on the spendy side, at $41.99 for adults and $31.99 for children -- but there are more than 25 slides and attractions to keep you and your kids busy for hours.
  • If you're looking for something a little cheaper, there is the Children's Discovery Center in Waikiki (111 Ohe Street, Honolulu; 808-524-5437). At only $10 for children and adults, families can come learn and play together. The Tot Spot is specifically designed for children under 5, with interactive sensory exhibits to keep their attention and help them learn and discover new things. My favorite exhibit is the Hawaiian rainbows, where kids can learn about the history of Hawaii and their culture, from plantation days to modern times.
  • There's also Sea Life Park on the western tip of the island (north of Hanauma Bay, Honolulu; 866-365-7446‎). It's a bit of a drive from where you are in Kapolei, but you'll pass a great snorkeling spot on your way there. The park offers the opportunity to swim with dolphins and feed sea turtles. With smaller children it might be a better idea just to see the fish at the park instead. Adult tickets are $29.99 and children are $19.99.


Evening


As is tradition for all tourists in Hawaii, a luau is the best way to end your evening, though the experience may be lost on young children. One of the best luaus on Oahu is at Paradise Cove (92-1089 Alii Nui Dr., Honolulu; 808-842-5911). Admission is $80 for adults and $60 for children (though discounts are available through online sources). There is a replica of a Hawaiian village, complete with games and activities. After the "Imu ceremony" to dig up the pig, a menu style dinner is served. Following dinner is a show that includes fire dancing, something my nephew enjoys. Be sure to call or go online for reservations.

Insider tip: The luau dinner and show run late; so be prepared for your tots to grow grumpy and/or fall asleep.

Now, all of these may be too much in one day for smaller children; but the great thing about starting your family vacation day on one side of the island and working your way to the other side is that you can stop at your hotel midday and take naps. Pick what works for your kids and family, and remember to have fun in Honolulu!

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