Keiki's Day Out

Activities on Oahu from Miss Mary, the Honolulu Mommy

Likeke Falls

Likeke Falls

Likeke Falls

Likelike Fall’s Hike
Off Old Pali Road
(accessible via the Ko’olau Golf Club Parking lot)

IN A NUTSHELLIMG_2916

Pros:

  • Great opportunity to interact with nature
  • Peaceful
  • Intriguing flora and fauna 
  • Beautiful and relatively accessible waterfall
  • Great views
  • 1.5 miles round trip – short enough for young keiki (and also short enough for mamas and papas with a baby in a carrier) 
  • Plenty of parking at Ko’olau Golf Club

Cons:

pretty muddy

pretty muddy

  • Muddy (this is a debatable con, as some kids love that)
  • Possible potential injuries from trips and falls
  • Easy to get lost! Pay attention to how you go in and remember it when you are trying to get out! 
  • No bathroom facilities, unless you want to ask to use the golf club’s. 

Worth Mentioning:

I’ve heard from  certain windward kids that there is a fun little secret at the big tree where you make the right turn off Old Pali Road. Apparently, kids take turns exchanging gifts inside the back of the tree. I didn’t know this until after we had visited so I didn’t get a chance to check it out, but apparently if you check around, you will find a little toy (something small like a fast-food or arcade toy) and you can bring your own toy and “exchange” your toy for the one behind the tree to keep the tradition going.  

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PicnicI love this hike. It is short, so you don’t have to worry about children getting fatigued, as my two-year-old had no problem. She was so ready to sprint ahead that I had to stop and ask her to hold my hand at the more tricky rocky parts. I’ve read that it’s a mile and a half round trip, and it only takes about twenty five minutes to get to the falls, and another twenty-five minutes back – granted you don’t get lost. I went on a Monday during a long weekend and while there were plenty of other friendly happy people hiking with us on the way up, they we didn’t see anyone on the way back. I packed a small picnic and we ate on the giant rocks by the falls and took our time enjoying the scenery and beauty around us.

cool your feet in the pools

cool your feet in the pools

There are small shallow pools around the falls with pebbles and rocks at the bottom. I did not bring our suits, but we took off our shoes and put our feet in (and we weren’t the only ones). As always, be cautious at freshwater ponds for leptospirosis and avoid if you have any open wounds.

How to Get There:

The hike starts in Ko’olau Golf Club/First Presbyterian Church. To get to the parking lot, you turn you turn mauka on either Kahiko or Kionaole (I think either one) of Kamehameha Highway. There is a sign on a fence for the golf club and you follow it on a road until you get to the parking lot.

  1. Blue water tower

    Blue water tower

    Go ahead and keep going straight to the back, where the last row of parking spaces is lined with trees and borders the forest. The start of the trail is obvious as it is a paved inclined starting at the left back corner of the lot. As of February 2013, there were no signs restricting parking and I saw other families there to hike to the falls, including a couple looking for a geocache site nearby.

  2. Continue on that path and you will see a blue water tower (don’t worry it’s obvious – see photo. Take a left on the path just before the water tower. Keep on that path and soon you will be on an old stone road. This road is the Old Pali Highway from the 1800s! Mention that to any history-loving kids you might have, or just mention it anyway, as I’ve found that trying to convince other people to appreciate history makes me appreciate it more myself.

    This is the tree where you take a right off Old Pali Road

    This is the tree where you take a right off Old Pali Road

  3. Before long you will have to take a sharp right OFF of that road. This is a step that some people miss. I made the opposite mistake. I read that I was supposed to take a right at a tree and so for the whole hike up until the tree I was looking at every tree on the right of me and thinking “Is that the tree? Take a right there? It sort of looks a little bit like a path…”
  4. In order to make it easier, I took a photo of the exact tree. There is a neon orange/pink colored marker tied to the tree (pictured) so keep an eye out for it.

If you start to see the twisty vine tunnels of the Hau trees, you are in the right directions! Plan your trip with enough time to let your children enjoy them. They are simultaneously spooky and intriguing.

Hau Trees

Hau Trees

Also keep your eyes open for kukui nuts all over the ground (the kind they use to make necklaces) as well as the wide variety of flora and fauna. We know they must have wild pigs, as we unfortunately saw a baby one on the side of the road…no longer alive, but that’s nature for you.

this means you are close

this means you are close

Parts of the path are very muddy. I mean, depending on recent rainfall, you’re actually kind of walking in a stream. Be sure to wear shoes with traction. If there are toddlers or young preschoolers with you, you will probably end up helping them over some of the wetter rocks, muddier patches, and larger steps (although I assure you, for the most part, your toddler can enjoy doing the hike themselves).

When the path gets muddier and you hear running water it means you are almost there! Make it fun for the kids by asking them if they hear anything, or notice anything, or think they’re close. Encourage them to use their innate powers of observation to make inferences.

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I Got Lost

Ok, so here is the honest deal. I got lost on the way back. With all my adventurous spirit I suddenly found myself at a fork on the road on the way back. I couldn’t for the life of me remember that fork. It wasn’t the left at the water tower or the right off Old Pali Highway at the tree and those were the only two turns I remembered making.

I guessed based on what looked familiar and I was wrong. I didn’t know I was wrong so we kept on this incorrect path until I realized we had been walking way too long and we were no where near the parking lot. I had been daydreaming, enjoying nature and trying to remember the words to that poem about the fork in the road and the path less traveled and didn’t even think about it until I realized I was really lost. I definitely started to get nervous. No one was with me, just me and my daughter, so I had to keep my anxiety to myself even though that just made me more anxious. I know that one path goes all the way eight miles to the Pali Lookout, but I definitely wasn’t looking to hike for eight miles with a toddler just to catch a cab to my car. Luckily, I was able to retrace my steps with out concerning my daughter and take the other path in the fork, but I did start to use old tricks from girl scouts (Troop 1674-Represent!) like placing fallen branches in specific patterns and symbols so I would know for sure which direction I had gone in order to be able to properly retrace my steps. Maybe it could even make a fun activity. This site has a pdf you can print from your computer and take with you.

If you don’t have a naturally good sense of direction, make sure you pay attention, especially if you don’t have another adult (with a good sense of direction) accompanying you.  And have fun!

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Baby Makapu’u

Tide pools at Baby Makapu’u

Baby Makapuu
Kalanianaole Highway
(across from the exit to Sea Life Park
and HPU Oceanic Institute)

IN A NUTSHELL

Pros:

  • Shallow tide pools for new walkers
  • Reef protects pools from rough surf
  • Sand suitable for playing
  • Gorgeous Views
  • Breathtaking drive from town
  • Parking close to beach

Cons:

lone water fountain

  • No bathroom facilities
  • Parking situation varies, can be a bit of a tightrope walk if it’s crowded and several cars have parked alongside the ramp, however we’ve never had too much trouble finding a space, even on Saturdays.

 

Facilities:

  • Parking lot
  • Water fountain

Worth mentioning:

Although there are no bathroom facilities, there is a lone little water fountain with a spigot to wash your feet. I saw a family bring a big bucket, fill it up from the spigot, and dump it on their keiki to wash the sand off of them. I didn’t have a big bucket but I loved their idea and just used a big jumbo plastic cup I had in the car. There are bathrooms and showers at regular Makapu’u, the turn just before Baby Makapuu (if you’re coming from town) in case of emergencies. As my daughter is two, we just brought her travel potty and didn’t have any problems.

Shallow pool at Baby Makapu’u with Rabbit Island in the background

I think it is safe to say I am in love with Baby Makapu’u. I had heard of it from other moms for years before I ever made it there, as I was never quite exactly sure where it was located. I knew it was close to Makapu’u, which was my favorite beach on Oahu for a long time, but I didn’t know exactly where to turn. Once I found it, I ended up going several weekends in a row as my daughter loved it so much. She calls it “Baby Beach.”

Baby Beach is actually a very appropriate title for this beautiful hidden gem. I have mentioned before that Kailua Beach might be the best beach for families on Oahu, and if that’s true, then Baby Makapu’u is the best beach for the ten and under crowd. If you have a group of children with a variety of ages and comfort levels with the water, this is absolutely the perfect beach for your destination.

A shallow pool perfect for baby’s first beach trip

Baby Makapu’u features four or five tide pools separated by rocks with their depth ranging from very shallow (as low as six inches) to three and a half feet (on the far right when facing the ocean). The rocks protect all but the deepest tide pool from any surges due to incoming surf making it perfect for keiki who might be uncomfortable with rapidly moving water, toddlers just learning to walk, or even babies in floatation devices or mommy’s arms. When my normally fearless daughter got caught in the waves at other beaches one too many times and didn’t want to go anymore, Baby Makapu’u was the perfect way to reintroduce her and remind her that she does in fact love the ocean.

There are a plethora of activities for older children to enjoy at “Baby” Makapu’u as well. The water in the tide pools are filled with beautiful little fish that I was completely unaware of until a child offered me her goggles. I looked under water for only a moment and saw a school of white and silver angel fish swimming right by me and around our feet. Although the tide pools are surround by lava rock, on the left side the rocks is much smaller, and many families can be seen snorkeling in the shallow water beyond the tide pools.

Besides snorkeling, the rocks are perfect for the rough housing of the seven to eleven set. Every time I go there a group of kids will be taking turns jumping off the rocks into the tide pool (most of the rocks don’t rise more than a foot or two above the water). While this is fun (we even let our two-year-old jump off a few times, holding our hands) the rocks are very slippery, and seem to be even MORE slippery for adults so proceed with caution and always keep a close eye on your keiki at all times. Use your own judgement when it comes to this activity.

Two-year-old on a body board at Baby Makapu’u

There is a very small current that runs from the deepest tide pool on the right, to the shallower pools on the left. While it depends on the tide, this can be a good setting for pre-bodyboarding, as the preschool set can enjoy hopping on their body board and allowing the current to push them gently across the pools.

The sand, which does have the occasional rock or piece of debris is still soft enough for playing and sand castles.

Oceanic Research Institute mauka of Makapu’u entrance

To access Baby Makapu’u, take the next right turn after the entrance to regular Makapu’u if coming from town. The first Makapu’u (which is gorgeous) is across from the entrance to Sea Life park and has stone bathroom facilities on the hill next to its parking. It is frequented by experienced body boarders due to the large surf close to shore. Baby Makapu’u is the next right off of Kalanianaole Highway. If you see the entrance to Sea Life Park, keep going. The entrance to the parking lot for Baby Makapuu is the next right, across from the exit of Sea Life park, across from a sign that says “Oceanic Research Institute” for Hawaii Pacific University. You make that right and it will be a parking lot and then a left turn down an incline. Head down the short incline and that parking lot is closest to the tide pools.

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Kailua Beach

Kailua Beach

Kailua Beach Park
450 Kawailoa Rd
Kailua, HI 96734 

IN A NUTSHELL

Pros

  • Soft sand beach and ocean floor
  • Gentle but fun waves

    Bathroom Facilities

  • Plenty of available shade
  • Beautiful views and clear water
  • Away from the Waikiki crowds

Cons

  • The small parking lot leaves many circling the lot and waiting for others to leave
  • Tiny prickly plants in some areas on the grass so wear your slippers when walking to and from your car

Features

  • Bathrooms
  • Showers
  • Parking lot
  • Paved pathways
  • Picnic Tables

 

Kailua Beach is perhaps the best family beach on Oahu and given the amount of beaches on the island, that is no small feat. It is consistently rated amount the top beaches of the world, voted #4 in U.S. News “Best Beaches in the US” and the 1998 winner of Dr. Beach’s America’s Best Beach.

Plenty of shade under the trees

One of the biggest advantages of Kailua beach is the availability of shade. To access the water, beach goers climb a small hill with shade-providing trees lining the top. Then there is a downward slope of sand and water meaning one can spend a whole day at the beach, playing in the sand, eating a snack, or taking a nap, while still avoiding the harshest of the rays. This is particularly attractive for families with young babies who still may be sensitive to sunscreen.

smooth white sand

Additionally, the actual beach itself is rather perfect. The sand is soft without any sharp rocks. The water is clear and the surf is gentle enough that it is safe for children but the small waves that break on the shore still provide excitement for the little ones. The ocean floor is soft and sandy as well, with the reef being far enough out that it is of little concern.

It’s gentle surf makes it a natural hot spot for water sports like wind surfing, kayaking, or paddle boarding. Plenty of rental shops are available nearby. Off shore are the small islands “Flat Island” and Mokolua Islands to the east, and accessing these can be a fun adventure for anyone on vacation (or a staycation for that matter)

Islands in the background

Reaching Kailua can be a drive for those in town with young restless children, but I have always found the Pali to be quite beautiful stunning in and of itself. The only downfall is that parking can require a few trips circling the lot and bit of a wait, so head their early morning if possible. Additionally, you might want to suggest that the keiki (and adults) keep their slippers on while crossing the grass to get to the sand, as the grass has those prickly little plants that poke your feet.

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Kaimana Beach/San Souci Beach

Kaimana Beach

Kaimana Beach a.k.a San Souci Beach
Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii 96815

Diamond Head behind the trees at Kaimana Beach

IN A NUTSHELL

Pros

  • Soft Sandy Beach Floor
  • Gentle but fun waves
  • “Private” Showers and Bathrooms
  • Shade available in the morning

Cons

  • Weekend parking is difficult, particularly if there are events at Kapiolani Park

Features

  • Bathrooms
  • Showers both on the beach, and indoors
  • Small Semi-Circle Parking
  • Volleyball court next to Natatorium

Worth Mentioning: 

If you want the safety of shade but hate dealing with umbrellas or tents, the New Otani Hotel keeps half the beach in the shade, while the water stays warm in the sun. Come in the morning to take advantage of this feature, as the shady spots quickly start to disappear around noon. 

The Natatorium War Memorial

Kaimana Beach, also known as San Souci Beach, is located just south east of Queen’s Beach in Waikiki, between the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial just past the Waikiki Aquarium, and the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel.

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For years I called this beach “Kaimana Beach” as that is what everyone else I knew called it, assuming it was called this due to it’s proximity and views of Diamond Head (kaimana is the Hawaiian transcription for diamond). It was not until I was visiting the beach to take photos for this post that I realized all the signs said San Souci beach (“san souci” being French for “without care”) Whatever caused the discrepancies is beyond me, I tend to go with the Hawaiian name since we are in Hawaii, not France, but either name suits this gorgeous beach perfectly.

Shaded by the hotel in the morning

The beach park as a whole has a large grassy area and benches and palm trees lining the outer sand. In the morning, the New Otani hotel shades the left side of the beach until noon. This makes it perfect for keiki to play in the sand without the risk of a sunburn.

The surf is more existent than the practically motionless water close to shore at Ala Moana, but it is tranquil enough for my two-year-old to stand and play without assistance. It is a perfect beach for children who are no longer afraid of the constant movement of the ocean, but still too small to enjoy much larger surf.

soft ocean floor

The sand at this beach is absolutely perfect, and the ocean floor is equally soft aside from a few large rocks further out that are easy to avoid. During one of my visits I actually saw a hotel employee combing the beach with a large wide rake, which explains how the sand stays to soft and relatively free of debris.

A friend of mine from the mainland came to visit and immediately stated that there must be something in the water because this is the “pregnant” beach. And indeed, there was quite a lot of pregnant women enjoying the sand on that particular day. In fact, I came to this beach a lot when I was pregnant myself, and the beach continues to be a favorite for families. Because it’s slightly removed from the rest of the stretch of Waikiki by the Natatorium, the beach seems to usually be less crowded and chaotic.

Indoor bathroom and shower facilities at the Natatorium

If you find yourself missing sunscreen or in need of a soda, there is a mini mart attached to the New Otani. Additionally, there are showers located both directly on the beach, and in the Natatorium facilities on the far right of the beach. Nobody is saying the facilities are pristine, but if you have a child or if you yourself are more private and prefer to change out of your swim suit behind actual walls (instead of an open car door) this indoor area can be a welcomed feature.

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Aikahi Playground

Aikahi Playground


Aikahi Elementary School
281 Ilihau St., 
Kailua, HI 96734

IN A NUTSHELL

Pros: 

  • Unique Equipment
  • Several Variations of classic equipment
  • Shade 
  • Sea animal theme
  • Voted best playground on Oahu by Honolulu Family Magazine

Cons: 

  • Only open to public during non-school hours
  • Bathrooms far away from playground
  • Can be a bit of a drive for babies and toddlers if living in town
  • Water fountains out-of-order (or turned off during non-school hours)
  • No swings (the abundance of other equipment more than make up for this fact, but since my daughter mentioned it, I thought I might as well)  

Features:

  • 6 Monkey Bars/Rings
  • 5 Slides
  • 3 Different bridges
  • 4 Different Playgrounds
  • Parking lot
  • Rock climbing wall
  • Equipment available for all ages

Be Sure to Check Out: 

Everything! The equipment on this playground is different than any playground I have ever seen on Oahu so be sure to provide plenty of time for your keiki to explore out every nook and cranny (including fun hiding places for a game of hide and seek). If visiting on a Saturday, head over to the baseball field behind the school and check out a little league game. 

It is not possible to exaggerate the novelty of Aikahi Elementary School’s wooden playground. Voted Best Playground on Oahu by Honolulu Family Magazine, the playground has qualities other playgrounds do not even touch, like a sea animal theme, or the overwhelming feeling that you are in the kind of tree house of your childhood fantasies. Prior to visiting this playground, I heard about it from several different mothers via word of mouth, as “that great wooden playground in Kailua by the Kaneohe Military Base.”

Sea Dragon

Sea Dragon Tiles

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A large sea dragon lines the park, separating it from the parking lot and featuring children’s artwork on the scales. Children’s artwork and “thank you” tiles also line the entrance gazebo.

Treehouse

The park boast: six different types of monkey bars/rings, some that spin, some that swing, and some closer to the ground for shorter or younger children; five different slides, multiple moving balance beams, and three different bridges. The fun variations in what could otherwise be typical equipment works muscles children might not normally use and keeps exercise fun and interesting. There are methods of “crawling” or “scaling” the playground that I can not even begin to name because I have never seen them before. My favorite was a series of roped nets used to get up to the the “tree house.” They reminded me of a cross between the orangutang enclosure at the zoo, and a fast-food restaurant PlayPlaces. The rock climbing wall, and various rope climbs are equally different and fun.

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Rock climbing wall on the “Volcano”


Parts of the playground are better for older children, as climbing a rope or manipulating a net with gaps large enough for them to fall through can be impossibility for toddlers. That said, my two-year-old was able to do the “volcano” rock climbing wall (with Mama or Papa standing behind her just in case). Nonetheless, the wooden turtle and tunnel features, as well as the hammerhead shark platform and “boat” is perfect for even the very youngest of children. Babies can crawl along the boardwalk and those just learning to walk will get a kick out of cruising from walkway to walkway. Many mothers spread their blankets in the shade by these features and relaxed or nursed their infants while their older children explored the playground for hours. And I literally mean hours as we stayed for three hours and families who were there when we arrived were still there when we left.

Hammerhead Shark and Sea Turtle Features are perfect for the younger crowd

In addition to their spectacular wooden playground, there are three additional standard playgrounds on the property, one directly next to the main playground, one just slightly off in the distance but still visible, and one by the baseball field on the other side of the school.

Playground #2

Playground #3

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The bathrooms are located all the way on the other side of the school behind the baseball field, so bathroom trips with many children can be a pain. In magazine and internet articles it warns that the playground has no public restroom, probably because it is an elementary school playground, but the baseball field around the building is part of the department of parks and rec and offers a public restroom behind third base. Also, the water fountains at the playground did not function. More than once I saw children open a little door at the bottom and attempt to pull a few valves and get it working. My guess is that they turn the water fountain off during non-school hours, so bring water for the keiki.

Pretty, but turned-off water fountains

Parking is available at the school parking lot as well as the on the street along side the playground. For families coming from outside of Kailua, the nearby Aikahi Shopping Center has a Safeway, L & L, Burger King, and Sizzler  for grabbing lunch or snacks, and also hosts a classic car show from 5pm-9pm on the first Saturday of every month.

For an additional learning experience, have your child recycle in the large recycling unit in the parking lot next to the playground. Proceeds benefit school programs and participating and learning about recycling can help children feel more connected and invested in their environment.

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