If you’re visiting us here at the Kahala Resort with the whole ‘Brady Bunch’, you’ve chosen one heck of a place for your vacation. Oahu’s an island of dazzling beauty, deep history, and epic cultural attractions, which makes it absolutely ideal for all-ages getaways. Here we’ll run down a few of our favorite family-friendly destinations, all of which are easy to reach from our magical haven.
The Waikiki Aquarium
Here’s one of the standout aquariums in the U.S.: the second-oldest public aquarium in the country, for one thing (it was established in 1904), and situated at the doorstep of a genuine coral reef. Here the whole family can explore in rich, up-close detail the marine world of the Hawaiian Archipelago (and beyond)—and no need to don a snorkel or scuba tank! Exhibits range from mangrove forests and coral reefs to simulated open-ocean habitats; you’ll be particularly absorbed by the displays representing specific Hawaiian ecosystems, from the churning surf of Koko Head to the deepwater reefs of Lana’i.
The Waikiki Aquarium’s tanks feature myriad critters sure to mesmerize the kids. Among the highlights is a pair of dewy-eyed Hawaiian monk seals representing their critically endangered species, found nowhere else but Hawaii, as well as green sea turtles, the Hawaiian form of which is uniquely non-migratory. The “Barrier Reef” exhibit, meanwhile, houses South Pacific giant clams the aquarium reckons are the world’s biggest and oldest captive specimens. Resident fish include everything from ogre-like frogfish and exceptionally delicate seadragons to beautifully patterned zebra sharks and a gargantuan giant grouper. And some of the most otherworldly-looking Aquarium residents reside in the “Ocean Drifters Gallery” dedicated to jellyfish.
All the more reason to visit: The Aquarium offers plenty of interactive programs especially catered to families, including “Critter Encounters” and behind-the-scenes tours.
The Honolulu Zoo
This delightful zoo occupies the grounds of Queen Kapiolani Park, established in 1877 by the royal decree of King Kalakaua. It harbors animals hailing from all corners of the globe: ring-tailed lemurs from Madagascar, hamadryas baboons and reticulated giraffes from Africa, golden lion tamarins and spider monkeys from the Neotropics, Sumatran tigers and Malayan sun bears from Southeast Asia.
Birdlife on display is equally diverse; among the hundreds of species housed at the Zoo are a number of Hawaiian natives, including the nene (or Hawaiian goose) and Hawaiian hawk. On-site reptiles range from skinks and poison dart frogs to Komodo dragons, American alligators, and Nile crocodiles; two different types of long-lived giant tortoise, the Aldabra and Galapagos, also call the Honolulu Zoo home.
The gardened grounds of the Honolulu Zoo are a lovely attraction in their own right: You can admire many native Hawaiian plants as well as flora deeply associated with Polynesian lifeways.
The Zoo also hosts plenty of special events, including the “Wildest Show in Town,” a weekly Wednesday concert series featuring fun kid-friendly activities that runs this summer through August 10.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
A hop, skip, and a jump from our resort, Hanauma Bay is one of Oahu’s beloved places: a flooded, breached volcanic crater edged by pretty bluffs and a stunning beach and floored with coral. Whether you’re eager for a day of R&R with an undeveloped backdrop, or you’d like to snorkel amid tropical fish and green sea turtles, Hanauma Bay casts quite the spell.
Both locals and visitors cherish Hanauma Bay, and you won’t have the scene to yourself. But it’s definitely worth a visit: It’s a remarkably scenic—and remarkably easy-to-reach—introduction to the fabulous biodiversity of Hawaii’s nearshore reefs, plus an outstanding spot for kicking back and soaking up some middle-of-the-Pacific sunshine. The bay’s closed on Tuesdays, which gives the local ecosystem a chance to take a breather, so to speak.
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that Hanauma Bay topped this year’s list of the best beaches in the U.S., compiled by well-known sand-and-surf expert Dr. Stephen Leatherman—aka “Dr. Beach.” Besides citing its conservation-minded management and all-around beauty, Leatherman noted that the bay claims “the best accessible snorkeling in Hawaii.” Not a bad endorsement!
Don’t miss out on next weeks post highlighting family-friendly Honolulu museums, perfect for all your bookworms in the family!
Filed under: activities