5 Ways to Explore Nature With Kids in Oahu

The family and I are heading to Honolulu, Hawaii for spring break later this month (we leave in 19 days, but who’s counting?). We’ll be staying with a longtime friend and her family who are offering not just a place to stay, but a car to use while we’re there. Really, the residents of Hawaii are a generous people.

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So where to go? Oh, don’t worry – there will be plenty of shave ice eating, sunset watching, surfer gazing and beach picnicking for all. But what about enjoying some aloha-style nature play?

As I started researching fun outdoor places to take kids in Oahu, I was overwhelmed fast. Hawaii is teeming with opportunities for nature play. Here’s my wish list:

This one is a no brainer, right? But while older kids and those who are comfortable in the water may spend their entire vacation at the beach, my 5 year old and 22 month old aren’t quite there yet.

In lieu of great spots for surfing or boogie boarding, I’m interested in calmer waters good for snorkeling and tide pooling. I’ve been to the beautiful but often crowded Hanauma Bay Natural Preserve one too many times. This trip, I’d like to check out two spots I haven’t been.

Kailua Beach Park is far from Waikiki (and the crowds, I hope) and comes complete with kid-friendly, soft, white-sand beaches. A second option is Pupukea Beach Park. I’m hoping that between its Shark’s Cove and Three Tables Beach areas, we can enjoy some serious tide pooling.

Hikes give kids a sense of accomplishment that’s hard to top. I especially enjoy going at “kid-pace,” stopping along the way to snack, snap photos and talk about everything we see that’s different from hikes we take back home.

First on our list of potential hikes is Diamond Head, one of the most popular tourist destinations on the island, and one I’ve avoided on all previous visits for that very reason. This is a moderately strenuous hike that my friend assures me my oldest can complete. That’s good because he’s eager to see a volcanic crater and I hear the views from the top are stunning.

The second hike I’d like to take the kiddos on is one I’ve taken before: the easy 1 ½-mile trail to Manoa Falls. The scenery is amazing with both a bamboo forest and rainforest en route to the big payoff: A beautiful waterfall.


The plant life in Hawaii is unique and worth dedicating some time to, especially if you’re a nature lover. Thanks to some inspiration from Sharlene’s great Hawaii posts over on DoubletheAdventure.com, I’ve narrowed my sights down to two locations.

Waimea Valley Audubon Center is a place I last visited when my oldest was just a baby. This time around, I know he’ll enjoy reading all the plaques that describe the native Hawaiian plants and flowers. This might also be a perfect location for a nature scavenger hunt!

Lyon Arboretum is just a few minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki. It features hiking trails, native flowers and trees, and more. There are also plenty of Hawaiian birds to look for!

What better way to sample the fruits and vegetables native to the island than at a farmer’s market? The most well known is the Saturday morning Kapiolani Community College Farmer’s Market in Honolulu. I hear it gets pretty crowded, but the chance to see and taste foods grown and produced in Hawaii might just be worth it.

When I told my son we were going to Hawaii, he asked if they had a zoo and an aquarium – apparently two of his favorite places to explore.

It’s important to get your kids involved in planning activities for your family when you go on vacation. That way, they’ll be excited to participate. Here are two fun spots my 5 year old doesn’t want to miss:

The Honolulu Zoo: With rare animals like the Komodo dragon, sun bear and a Sumatran tiger, I’m sure we’ll be in for a treat.

Dole Pineapple Plantation: Okay, so I admit that when I first mentioned pineapples to my son, he wasn’t that excited. But when I told him the plantation also has a train and the world’s largest maze, he was interested. Add to that a pineapple whip smoothie and he was sold.

So there you have it … our way-too-long list of nature-filled adventures for our spring break trip to Oahu. If you’ve got a place to recommend, please leave me a comment and let me know!

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  1. says

    Mel, six months on Lanai guiding kayak tours?!? When will you cease to amaze me with the adventures you&#39;ve had? :)<br /><br />Sharlene, we&#39;re excited and ever so grateful for all of your wonderful insights on places to visit on Oahu. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  2. says

    I have to admit I&#39;m a little envious. I spent 6 months on Lanai guiding kayak tours, but never made it anywhere on Oahu other than the airport. Looking forward to reading about your trip. Have a great time!