I'm a freelance writer from Auckland, currently travelling across the UK with my family. I'm here to share adventures for kids and adults who enjoy food, culture and a kiwi perspective on travelling around the British Isles. Visit rochellesewell.com
Published October 18th 2016
Hawaii is more than a weekend trip. It takes eight hours to fly there from Auckland. But if you had little more than the two or three days that make up a weekend, you'd find plenty to do as a family. We had just three nights in the famous Waikiki Beach area.
We began with a swim at the family friendly Kuhio Beach. The beachfront parks in Waikiki are terrific for setting up camp with kids, or if you choose you can hire a nautically striped lounger / umbrella combo for a few hours and remain on the sand. For us the priority was banishing the jet-lag and getting into the sea. Kuhio Beach is partly protected from swell by a seawall and the water is warm and safe for small children. Within half an hour of getting our feet wet, we spotted our first Green Sea Turtle.
We climbed Diamond Head. This walk up a dormant volcano includes a 560 foot gain in elevation plus a final 99 steps to conquer. The summit provides panoramic views over miles of golden coastline, a bird's eye view of Honolulu's sprawling skyscrapers, and the island's lush green volcanic hinterland. It was hot work in the day but the track is well formed and we were able to get our 6 and 4 year old girls to the top without too much complaint. In any case, the famous Hawaiian shave ice was a reward when we returned to the bottom.
We're not shoppers, especially when there's plenty to do outdoors, but we'd been urged to savour the retail on offer. The Ala Moana shopping centre, essentially located at the western end of the Waikiki Beach strip, is an open air mall offering hundreds of outlets from Gap to Prada and everything in-between. If shopping is your thing then you've found paradise. The kids weren't so enamoured, so we kept it short. Ticked the box. Surfing. This place really is a beginner's paradise. I took my daughter out for a lesson with one of the beach-front surf schools. Two of us to one instructor costs a little more but gave us the perfect opportunity to give it a go. Waikiki's gentle waves provided enough energy for my 6 year old to stand and ride a wave, then carry it all the way to the beach. The soft top boards were perfect for learning and although we were out of my daughter's depth, there was never a point where we didn't feel safe in the water. With turtles swimming around in that warm translucent water it made for a perfect environment to play. For the record, we both got up and caught several waves. We're surfers!
Our hotel, one of hundreds of 1980's era 30 storey high rise buildings within a couple of blocks of the beach, was a perfect family option. Most of the hotel rooms we encountered in Hawaii had full kitchen facilities. This is ideal for setting up to prepare at least some family meals. If you can sort through the GM and heavily processed foods, you can usually find some wholefoods at the ABC stores on every corner. We traded a waterfront hotel for a 5 minute walk to the beach and rooms for half the price. A good move after absorbing the costs of school holiday flights – there's no getting around those.
The food on the main strip was expensive and served in unduly large proportions. We enjoyed searching out different ethnic and organic foods, particularly the Japanese and Korean options, often tucked into the little side streets. We we're travelling with children so didn't experience too much of the night life, but cheap Mai Tais were on offer at most restaurants and we wandered down to the waterfront for the rather overstated Waikiki fireworks on a Friday night. With warm night air we felt the buzz wandering down the strip. A family travelling with teenagers would enjoy the bars and nightclubs that are sure to hum after 9pm.
As an outdoorsy family we surprised ourselves with our love of the big city energy. We'll be sure to return. Aloha!