A Guide to Family Travel to O’ahu, Hawaii

oahu hawaii

You might think this is an odd time to talk to you about Hawaii.

But here are three important reasons that I’m now sharing a post about our a-ma-zing trip to Oahu, Hawaii this summer.

First, it’s cold as all heck out there and who doesn’t want pictures of sunshine and beaches?

Second, we just decorated our Christmas tree and I unpacked this amazing coconut cocktail tree decoration that we picked up on Waikiki Beach.

And third, I’m starting to plan our 2018 summer trip and I know Flea and I are both dreaming about returning to Hawaii.

So, start imagining your hot chocolate is a cocktail, and let me transport you to the sunniest, prettiest place on earth. Here’s everything you need to know about travelling to Oahu, Hawaii:

Hawaii is Ridiculously Expensive

We considered flying to Hawaii from the UK and booking a package resort, but it’s stupidly expensive. Seriously. £10k+ for two weeks sort of expensive. There’s no way I’m spending that sort of money on a two week trip, so instead we made the decision to visit California for three weeks.

At the end of that trip we flew from Los Angeles to Honolulu, returning a week later. Return flights with Hawaiian Airlines cost us around £300 each.

In total, our return flights to LA plus the flights between LA and Honolulu didn’t cost much more than a flight from the UK to Hawaii. But by splitting the journey, we got two holidays instead of one!

Our second money-saving tip is to check your hotel’s prices before you fly. We’d originally booked 7 nights at the Moana Surfrider hotel at around $3,500. I checked the Booking.com website before we flew and found the hotel wasn’t full – and our room would now cost $2,100. Result! I made a new booking and cancelled our original booking, saving over £800.

Once you land in Hawaii, there’s no getting around the fact this is an expensive place. Everything from food to petrol to lodging will cost you more than on the mainland.

car hire oahu

Hiring a car with Avis in California was £58 a day. The same car from Avis on Hawaii? £79 a day. Although I used the fact I’d saved £800 on the hotel as an excuse to hire a red Mustang convertible. Because… why not? 

Virtually everything in Hawaii is imported, meaning you’ll pay around 30% more for most things in Hawaii versus the mainland.

Hawaii is Ridiculously Beautiful

You can’t feel churlish about how much everything costs on Hawaii, though. Because it’s honestly just so beautiful. You forgive Hawaii everything (even the traffic jams) for sights like these.

oahu with kids

Our hotel was set right on Waikiki Beach, and was old-school glamorous. The service is impeccable and if you sign up for an SPG card before you arrive, you get a discount on the $30 daily resort fee (although you still have to pay the $40 a day parking fee).

moana surfrider pool

There are two things that make the Moana Surfrider special, I think. First is the gorgeous courtyard where you can sit in the shade of a 100 year old Banyan tree, sipping on cocktails. Second is the heavenly pool. It’s small and there aren’t slides but when you have a view like this, who needs bells and whistles?

The beach here is small but – oh, it’s pretty. I’ve never seen water quite this colour, before. I remember just as I took this photo saying to Flea: “I think this is the most beautiful place in the world.”

waikiki beach

And I still think that’s probably true.

The North Shore Beaches

Oahu isn’t a huge island, and if you rent a car, it’s easy to explore. Honolulu is on the Southern tip of O’ahu, and it takes around 90 minutes to drive up the coast to the North Shore. This part of the island is world-famous for its surf, diving and beaches.

sunset beach

There are so many little spots to explore, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Taking the Coast Road, the first major beach you’ll see is this one. Sunset Beach is a fabulous spot to enjoy the sunshine, and it’s usually pretty quiet.

Continue down the road to Shark’s Cove, rated as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world. It can get a little crowded, but once you’re in the water, you won’t notice. Here, we spent a fabulous afternoon snorkelling.

snorkelling hawaii

The chance to get up and close with turtles, rays and the Hawaii state fish (the Humuhumunukunukuapua`a) was breath-taking.

shark cove

You can pick up basic snorkels in any of the local dive stores but they’re expensive, and I recommend bringing your own gear if you can.

 

If you’re with younger children, be aware that Sharks Cove can get a little rough with waves and there’s not much sand to chill out. If you’re looking for a picnic spot, we loved Kuilima Cove. This beach is only 10 minutes further North and is a wide, sandy beach that’s perfect for kids.

sharks cove

Swim with Sharks

If you’re anything like me you obviously think that diving with sharks would be stupid and ridiculous. And you’re quite right. It is. But it’s also an unforgettable experience. We went on a shark dive with North Shore Shark Adventures, and had a fantastic time.

shark diving hawaii

On the day, the company will collect you from your hotel in Honolulu and drive you to the launch site in North Shore. Then there’s a short boat ride, out to the dive site. What I will say is that it was apparently quite a calm day when we dove, but the water was CHOPPY, and once you’re in the water, there’s a lot of bobbing up and down. If in doubt, take a Dramamine before you get into the boat, is my advice.

After 20 minutes or so you’ll arrive at the dive site and there’s a large metal cage. The sound of the boat engine attracts sharks. Dozens and dozens of sharks. And they’re not little, either. These are BIG sharks.

The captain tells you that these are pretty docile sharks, but I’m not going to lie. Climbing down the ladder into the cage is properly scary. But the view? Oh, it’s amazing. There are sharks swimming all around you, just feet (and sometimes less) from you.

North Shore Adventures also did an amazing job of capturing footage with a GoPro for guests, which you can buy afterwards – it’s well worth it.

Eat Chocolate Haupia Cream Pie

While you’re in North Shore, it’s practically mandatory to visit Ted’s Bakery, which is famous for its desserts.

teds bakery

The store is best known for its chocolate cream pie, but the garlic shrimp, loco moco and pineapple cheesecake were all delicious. As an added bonus, it’s also really very good value compared to many of the restaurants on the island.

The Food Trucks are Amazing

When you eat out in Hawaii, rather than eating in restaurants, it’s far better (and cheaper) to visit one of the hundreds of food trucks, specialising in local food.

One of the very spots is in the surf town of Haleiwa in North Shore. The most famous stand here is Giovanni’s truck. The line for Giovanni’s garlic shrimp snakes all the way across the car park by 12pm, and the smell of the sizzling garlic butter is out of this world.

Flea thought her plate of shrimp was one of the best things she’s ever tasted.

I’m personally not a huge fan of shrimp, so we explored the area and found lots of other options. There was a truck selling crepes, a fish and chips truck and my favourite – The Cajun Guy – selling plates of jambalaya and cans of ice cold Coke.

If you prefer there are also trucks selling fresh sugar cane juice. If you ask nicely, the owner will also give you a stick of sugar cane for the kids to suck on, which provides lots of entertainment. Despite 10 minutes of chewing, Flea never guessed what it was!

 

Chill Out in Honolulu

After a hectic day of adventures, the only sensible thing to do is head to Waikiki Beach and enjoy a shaved ice.

shaved ice

This local delicacy is available everywhere on the island, and will make up for all those years when your Mum and Dad wouldn’t buy you a Mr Frosty for Christmas. They’re huge and the perfect way to cool down after a hot morning.

Don’t Miss the Luau

As a tourist in Hawaii, you’ll probably want to check out a Luau. This traditional Hawaiian evening mixes music with arts and crafts and local foods.

We booked with Paradise Cove, set on the West Coast of O’ahu at Kopelei. The resort offers transport from Honolulu and a range of packages at different budgets.

During the evening you have the opportunity to learn about native tattoos, fishing ceremonies and songs, and traditional hunting techniques. Then there’s a huge buffet, followed by an excellent show with traditional song and dance. It was really good fun, and I’d recommend it.

paradise cove

For me the highlight was the amazing views at Kopelei – it honestly looks so picture perfect that you’ll think someone drew this place for a Disney movie. (I wasn’t surprised to find there’s a Disney resort in this part of the island). Watching the sun set over the ocean on our last evening in Hawaii was such a special moment for us both.

sunset hawaii

 

Have I inspired you to explore Hawaii? 

About 

Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

1 Comment

  1. 22nd December 2017 / 12:04 am

    Apart from the breath-taking views, Hawaii has beautiful people and rich culture.

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