With even more travel restrictions lifted, you might be considering taking a trip to this beautiful state soon! Here’s some highlights of our trip!
Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club
We stayed at this resort on the part of the island known as Ko Olina. It has multiple pools, bars, restaurants, a water slide and activities. It’s also right next door to Disney’s Aulani where we spent a character breakfast (which I will get to later). It’s about 40 minutes from Waikiki/Honolulu and about 36 minutes from the North Shore. What’s nice about these big resorts is that they have access to their own bays that provide private ocean access without the dangerous big surf.
Aulani Character Breakfast
I created an account and reserved this breakfast at Makahiki 30 days ahead of time and I recommend doing the same since slots fill up fast. (That’s the furthest in advance they allow.) You don’t have to be a guest of the resort to participate. Once we arrived we checked in at the hostess stand and soon after got in line for our pics with Mickey. Before we were seated we got to meet Chef Goofy. We also met Pluto and Max while dining. You might have seen our pic with Minnie on Instagram but we had to search for her in the pool area to get that pic. Adults are $45 each and kids are $28 each. The food was delicious! Most of us got the cinnamon bun french toast. My youngest got the kid’s waffles where she had belgian AND red velvet waffles on her plate. You can buy a Disney photo pass for access to your pics (which we did) but they also allow cell phone pics with the characters. There is guest or valet parking available.
We checked out this plantation turned tourist attraction and opted for the train ride and “World’s Largest Maze” ticket but opted out of the garden tour. The train was a 45 min plus wait but we could walk right into the maze. The train ride was a leisurely tour and history lesson of the plantation. The pic below was snapped as we boarded and was available for purchase once we exited. The maze was reminiscent of corn mazes we visit at pumpkin patches every year. Our favorite part was getting Dole whip right from the source and exploring the massive gift shop which included pearls, chocolates, toys, clothes and of course plenty of pineapple paraphernalia. They also serve meals at their grille. You don’t need a reservation and parking and admission is free. Get there in the morning to avoid the crowds. It can get packed.
We heard great things about the Waikiki Aquarium and the Sea Life Park but the aquarium required timed tickets which we didn’t have and the Sea Life Park was a further drive than we were in the mood for. The zoo didn’t require a reservation and is pretty inexpensive at $19 for adults and $11 for children 3-12. The highlights for us were the elephants, giraffes, tiger and hippos. There is a small playground for kids to get out more energy and a children’s zoo/farm section where they had a goat petting area (still closed for covid I’m guessing). There is a dedicated paid parking lot. It wasn’t crowded and was large enough to accommodate plenty.
This state park is a nature preserve and tourist attraction and requires a reservation for entry. To grab tickets we had to book 2 days in advance (that’s as far in advance as they’ll let you) …and wake up early to book it! By 8am we were already limited on which slots we could reserve. It’s closed Mon- Tues. It’s $25 per person ages 13 and up, 12 and under free. Parking is $3 cash and the ticket purchaser was required to show ID at check in. Upon arrival they had us watch an orientation video and then offered to give us a ride in a tram down to the shore. Otherwise it would have been a 4-5 minute walk. The views are beautiful and there is even a gift shop! They also have snorkel gear available to rent but we brought our own. The sand is on the rockier side and the snorkeling was pretty good, definitely better than the bay at our hotel. Reef was everywhere and we saw a few pretty cool fish including a huge parrot fish up close! We had to make sure we had reef-friendly sunscreen for our visit. There were showers and restrooms right on the beach and restrooms up the hill too.
Shark Cage Dive
I will start by saying this, we did this without the kids. According to the website kids 3 and up can do it but I do not recommend it for littles. It’s a bit intense but hey, all kids are different! The part I was most nervous about for this outing was my motion sickness but I took a pill the night before and a pill the morning of and a panic pill once we boarded the boat and was only slightly queasy. When another tour cancelled us due to weather and did not offer to rebook us, we went with Haleiwa Shark Tours. It worked out well as there was only one other couple allowing us more time in the water and the staff was very friendly! It was only a ten minute boat ride from the harbor and then they pulled up to a cage which they tied to the boat. They had snorkel gear available for us but we brought our own. The experience was surreal and the sharks get VERY close. To the extent that I kept checking my toes and fingers to make sure they were tucked neatly in the cage. $135 for adult cage divers. $95 for those super brave kids 3-12.
Paradise Cove Luau
There’s a lot of luaus to choose from on this island but I chose Paradise Cove due to some good reviews and the proximity to our hotel (just down the street). Once we arrived and checked in we were given gift cards to spend at the concession stand/bar or gift shop. The gift shop has toys, gifts, some snacks and drinks. The kids got little stuffies and chips. We were then offered complimentary mai tais (juice for kids) and were each given both a shell and flower lei. There were some activities going on including spear throwing, lawn bowling and crown crafting but all were a bit crowded and not very kid-friendly. It got much better once the entertainment started which included female and male hula dancers and a fire dance toward the end. The food was served buffet style and even though there were about 700 people there, we were able to get our food pretty quickly. It was really good, quality food too with salads, rolls, chicken, pork and fish and vanilla cupcakes for dessert. Packages started at $125 per adult and $105 per child. Transportation is available to book for $35 or there is a dedicated, free parking lot.
Pearl Harbor National Memorial
We also did this outing without kids and were glad we did. It is probably good for kids maybe 8 and up to experience. You don’t need a reservation and entry is free. We did the audio tour for $7.99 each and it is well worth it. We bought the tour online but you can walk up and buy it too. To get a ride to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, I highly recommend reserving a ticket here. It’s $1 and there is a stand-by option but the line for stand by gets very long. There is also a bus tour to Ford Island (also $1) which we didn’t do since we ran out of time. There is a snack shop, gift shop and we were told sometimes food trucks but we didn’t see one. Also, they didn’t allow purses or bags of any kind during our visit. I had to pay $6 to store my tiny cross-body purse and my pockets were not great to hold my stuff. The memorial is open 7 days a week from 7am – 5pm.
I hope this was helpful in some way! Mahalo for reading!