Have you ever dreamed of going to Hawaii? I have! That’s why when we came to live in the United States, spending a Hawaii vacation with kids was one of our pending trips. In this article I tell you about our experience with two little 2 and 4 year olds, places to visit in Oahu, a hotel where to stay in Hawaii and activities and food you can’t miss. Will you come with me to Hawaii?
1. Traveling to Hawaii in the time of Covid
Traveling in the middle of a pandemic was not the best time to visit Hawaii, and it was not an easy task but not impossible either. Hawaii has its own requirements regarding Covid, so I recommend you to check this page (it is available in several languages).
In our case, since we were traveling within the USA and with children under 5 years old, we only needed the Covid adult vaccination card. Before flying, all 4 of us had a PCR to make sure there was no risk, and 3 days after returning, we had another one in Denver.
2. Long distance flight with little children
Hawaiian Island of Oahu – is the third-largest of the Hawaiian Islands. There is a 7-hour direct flight from Denver. If you are going with little children, I recommend choosing a direct flight rather than connecting at a third destination, as wait times are often complicated if they are very young.
We try to follow all of these tips for air travel. My kids were painting, watching movies, listening to their favorite audio stories on their MP3 player, reading books, eating snacks and finally sleeping for a few hours.
When it comes to choosing flights, we always opt for those that coincide with their nap or bedtime, to spend a few hours sleeping on the plane. This makes the trip much shorter and allows us to arrive at all our Hawaii destinations more rested and take advantage of the day.
3. Where to stay on vacation in Hawaii with children
Hawaii is made up of several islands. We chose Oahu, one of the best islands to visit in Hawaii, where the famous Honolulu Beach and Waikiki are located. However, we avoided the crowds and went to Ko Olina, the west coast, as this area is one of the best to go to with young children.
It was also clear to us that with 2 and 4 year old toddlers we could not do our desired backpacking trips of spending all day walking around and getting lost discovering the city. This was a trip to relax, to try to rest and discover the island little by little, without the need to know everything and see everything in 6 days.
So we opted for the Marriott Beach Club resort via vacation rentals website Karta, as it had direct access to the beach, rooms with a kitchen to give us flexibility and independence at mealtimes, several swimming pools and children’s activities. Ko Olina’s beaches are perfect for both boys and girls, as there are hardly any waves so they are not afraid to explore the shore.
The idea was to spend most of the time in the vicinity of the hotel and do some outings in the surroundings trying to keep the routine of naps and bedtime. And it worked!
4. Things to do in Hawaii on vacation with children
Playing on the shore of the beach
The waters of Ko Olina beach were so crystal clear that we could see thousands of colorful fish swimming between our legs. There is no feeling like it! Get some water shoes and explore the beach surroundings with your toddlers, especially those where there are rocks and hardly any waves.
Making sand castles or collecting pebbles and shells were also among your favorite activities. In Hawaii you will hardly find shell beaches, as they all wash up on the shore quite broken, but my toddlers would pick up the stones they liked the most from the sand.
There is nothing better than combining swimming at the beach with the hotel pool. In this resort they had different pools, one of them even with sand for children, as well as jacuzzis for adults to which I could escape more than once.
We arrived at the hotel at night and the first thing my children wanted to do was to go and try out the pools, so bathing at night with them is another good suggestion. The water is usually heated and warm, so it’s a pleasure to swim under the stars.
Children’s activities inside the hotel
Another advantage of a resort versus a hotel is that every day there were different free children’s activities for different ages. From learning to dance the hula (typical Hawaiian dance), to making flower crowns, arts and crafts, yoga and what we liked the most… A visit from a mermaid! My daughter was fascinated listening to her stories, learning to communicate with fish or diving with her mermaid tail. She still remembers it!
Sunset walks along the coast
Another advantage of the Ko Olina area is that they are different beaches connected by a sphalted road, so another perfect activity at sunset is to stroll along the coast. It is common to see some professional photographers capturing the moment, as well as weddings and celebrations, as sunsets in Hawaii are hard to forget.
Luau: Traditional Hawaiian Festival
These shows are almost a must if you are vacationing in Hawaii with kids and want to experience the real thing as a tourist. If you expect to arrive at the airport and be greeted with a flower necklace, forget it. For that you have to pay an entrance fee at a luau.
They are expensive shows, like all of Hawaii, but in my case it was worth it. We chose to go to Paradise Cove, although the hotel itself also had its own luau (Fia Fia Show) for a separate entrance fee. We spent a whole afternoon learning about Hawaiian culture (their dances, history and traditions).
Afterwards, we enjoyed a pretty decent buffet while watching a music and dance show. My daughter ended up falling asleep on top of her father, but my 2 year old son was fascinated watching the dancers dancing with the fire.
If you want to be the perfect tourist, don’t forget to wear your Hawaiian shirt or dress. If the whole family wears the same print, all the better. You will see professional photographers taking pictures of families at sunset as souvenirs. My husband couldn’t help but buy the tackiest shirt he could find to wear to this traditional luau party.
5. Places to visit on vacation in Hawaii with children
Honolulu and Waikiki
Despite choosing the Ko Olina area, you cannot miss visiting the city of Honolulu and Waikiki beach – definitely the best places to visit in Hawaii. We were planning to go one afternoon, but we had a quick trip earlier than planned because I ended up in the ER due to a super silly fall. There are no boring trips in this family!
At this point in our lives I’m running away from crowded party beaches, so for me, Honolulu and Waikiki had no more tourist attractions in Hawaii than the famous statue of Duke Kahanamoku, the founder of surfing, the towering skyscrapers of hotels next to the beach and the streets full of expensive clothing stores. So we quickly returned to the relaxation of Ko Olina and the rest of Oahu.
Buddhist Temple on the east side
In the Valley of the Temples, you will find the Byodo-In Buddhist Temple. An impressive, well-kept structure surrounded by a Japanese garden that will help you find some peace traveling with two little 2 and 4 year olds. You’ll need it!
At the entrance is a giant peace bell that you’ll definitely want to ring. Apparently ringing this bell brings happiness, blessings, and long life. So I, just in case, rang it twice.
Inside you will see a golden statue of Buddha which I also enjoyed very much, explaining to my children the existence of different religions and their symbols. They were 2 and 4 years old at the time, so it was the most entertaining conversation.
Eastern beaches and H3 highway
From the Kapolei area, where our resort was located, you can cross the island on the H3 highway to reach the eastern beaches and the Buddhist temple above. This toll-free highway is famous for being one of the most beautiful Hawaii roads in the world to drive on. And believe me, it is breathtaking.
Of the eastern beaches, the one I liked the most was Lanikai, but it is so popular that the parking lot was full and we ended up at the beach next door called Kailua. As you can understand, my children didn’t care much for one or the other, so they enjoyed it just the same.
On the last day, despite promising that this trip would be quiet, we could not avoid preparing a route by car along the coast of Oahu. First we hit the northern Hawaii Beaches and then we drove down the east coast to Lanikai.
One of the northern beaches recommended to us was Turtle Beach, famous for seeing the little turtles walking into the water. It is ideal for kids as again there are hardly any waves due to the moon shape of the beach. The beach was a little crowded for my taste, without being as crowded as in Waikiki. Although it was on this beach where my kids had the best time and picked up more pebbles.
Except for small coves like Turtle beach, the northern part of Oahu is famous for having the best waves for surfing. Eternal beaches with giant waves that will delight surfers, with or without children.
6. Food to try on vacation in Hawaii with kids
Whenever we go on a trip we always try to taste the typical food of the place, so Hawaii could not be less.
I especially enjoyed the fish, as Denver is not particularly famous for its fish and seafood – there is hardly any fresh fish! I loved my Mahi Mahi or Mahi Mahi dish, but I was left wanting to try the famous Hawaiian poke, a dish with raw fish and rice that I love to eat here and prepare at home.
But the most popular is Loco Moco, although the name is not very appealing, is it? However my husband loved this dish with hamburger, fried egg, gravy and mac and cheese. A perfect caloric explosion to burn off later at the beach.
Another typical Hawaiian dessert is Shave Ice, which my kids enjoyed a lot. As simple as crushed ice and syrup of different flavors that they pour on top and you can mix.
At the luau we were able to try Kalua Pork cooked in an earth oven. The Hawaiian tradition on these holidays is to bury the food while it is cooked with volcanic rocks and wood burning for several hours. The result is a very tender pork ideal for adults and kids.