Keiki's Day Out

Activities on Oahu from Miss Mary, the Honolulu Mommy

Windward Mall Play Area

Hokulea Voyage of Discover Play Area

Hokulea Voyage of Discovery Play Area

Windward Mall Play Area
46-56 Kamehameha Hwy  Kaneohe, HI 96744
(808) 235-1143
 

IN A NUTSHELL

Food Court

Food Court

PROS:

  • Awesome free indoor soft play area make this a perfect (and inexpensive) rainy day activity
  • Tiring your children out with the kid’s activities might actually buy you some time to shop while they are content in their strollers
  • Full of kid-approved favorite stores, including pet stores, toy stores, and children’s clothing stores
  • Additional Children’s Activities for a small fee and a food court means you can easily make a whole day out of this.
  • Large comfy lounge area by the food court in front of Sears and Toys R Us makes a great rest spot for tired parents or nursing moms

CONS:

  • You will probably be suckered into pay for the $4 train ride (make that $8 if your child is under 5, because you have to ride with them)

    Lounge Area

    Lounge Area

  • If you have a child who is bounce house magnet, you might want to access the play area on the right side to avoid the indoor Bounce House room on the left.

Worth Mentioning:

The nearest bathroom is in Sports Authority. Go straight in and then all the way to the right. Don’t feel pressured to buy anything because one of the employees there was kind of rude when I asked if they had any workout DVDs “No, mam, this a a SPORTS store, not a DVD store. We only sell sporting goods” Jeez! Excuse me for trying to stay in shape, and for the record, I have bought work out DVDs at Sports Authority before. Good for you, Sports Authority Employee of the year. IMG_3778

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I heard about this place and had been wanting to go. Living in town “our” mall is Ala Moana. Pearlridge if we need something specific (or less expensive than Ala Moana), Kahala pretty much doesn’t do anything for me.

Windward Mall knocked the pants off of all other malls on the island, at least in terms of being family-friendly. It isn’t very big, so as a parent you won’t get that immediate migraine you might find yourself with when overwhelmed with the idea of running an errand with a toddler or two in tow. Plus it seems like this mall was built for parents as everything about it is so kid friendly!

First and foremost is the Hokulea Voyage of Discovery Play Area. It’s alright if you didn’t know it had a name, I don’t think most people do. This is an indoor “soft” play area that is modest in size and great for the under 42 inches crowd. Hokulea means “Star of Gladness” and it was the name given to a canoe that the Polynesian Voyaging Society sailed around the Hawaiian Islands and to Tahiti as part of the State of Hawaii’s bicentennial project. The purpose of the voyage was to show that the ancient Polynesians could travel these distances without the use of modern charts of instruments.

IMG_3800That said, if your child is old enough to appreciate that bit of history, he or she is probably too old for this play area. But I thought I would throw it out there in case anyone was wondering.

The play area consists of a carpeted area (everyone must remove their shoes) with a large green hilly structure with faux waterfall slides and tunnels, as well as a boat, which also features a slide. There are also smaller animals, including a turtle and a shark low to the ground so even babies that are still just “cruising” can participate in the fun.

Coin-operated Rides

Coin-operated Rides

In addition to the soft play area, there are several coin-operated “rides” including a few that seat more than one child. This helps if you have more than one child and would like to avoid turning your entire wallet into quarters. On the day we went, we were “celebrating” the fact that my daughter used the bathroom at preschool. Seriously. She’s been potty trained for quite some time (she’ll be three in May) but would hold it for the entire day until I got there because she was too shy to ask her teachers. Since it was a day for celebration, I went ahead and let her do both the bus (which had a cool movie going on inside of it as if you were really driving on the street) and the merry-go-round. While she insisted that I squeeze my 26-year-old butt into the little bus ride, I went ahead and asked a parent nearby if their kid wanted to do the merry-go-round with her as it seats three. The rides were very affordable with most of them being 50-75 cents.

The Train

The Train

If the play area and the rides weren’t enough, there is also a fully operational TRAIN that travels around the ground floor of the mall! You board at the food court (near Sears and Toys R Us) and it travels from there, through the center pavilion and around the play area and then back to its starting place at Sears. It puffs out “smoke” and makes the toot toot noise and everything. The only downside is that it’s $4 to ride, and if your child is under 5 (which is probably 75% of their target audience) a parent MUST ride with them! And no, you can’t tell them that your two and a half year old IS five, I tried. So that makes it an $8 affair, more if you have more than one child, but like I said, we were celebrating. I have to admit, I did feel a little silly when all the diners at Ruby Tuesdays were waving at us and I felt compelled to wave back, in spite of the fact that I am a full grown adult (most of the time).

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If the Play Area, Train, and Rides trifecta wasn’t enough, there is also the most adorable pet store. We stopped in and saw teeny tiny Chihuahua puppies, baby chicks, fish, turtles, exotic birds, rabbits, and the weirdest thing of all… hairless guinea pigs… which kind of scared me at first.

On the particular day that we went, they were preparing for the Easter Bunny to visit, and there was also a performance by Kailua Intermediate School Band – which was kind of adorable if – like me – you played the clarinet in 7th grade and remember the days of desperately trying to find a white shirt, black skirt and a fully intact reed  somewhat fondly now that it’s all over and you never have to do it again. All in all it definitely gave you the feeling of a small town family-friendly mall.

In short, I can’t think of a better place to go next time you need to grab a birthday gift or just need to spend a rainy afternoon out of the house. See you there!

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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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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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Nu’uanu Valley Park and Queen Emma’s Summer Palace

Nu’uanu Valley Park

Nuuanu Valley Park

Basketball Court

Pu’iwa Road
Honolulu, HI 96817
 

IN A NUTSHELL

Pros

  • Cool breezes
  • Mostly Shady
  • Beautiful location

Cons

  • Lots of bugs, including mosquitos, so wear long pants and/or bug spray

 Features

Rope Swing

  • Playground
  • Swings
  • 4 Picnic Tables
  • Parking Lot
  • Bathrooms
  • Water fountain
  • Basket ball court
  • Volley ball court
  • Short but beautiful “trails” behind Queen Emma’s Summer Home

Be Sure to Check Out:

There is a rope swing down the trail located behind the basketball court and Queen Emma’s Summer Home. It is as much fun for the parents as it is for the kids, but the mosquitos tend to gather in this area and fruit falls from the trees overhead so proceed with caution. 

Nu’uanu Valley Park is a beautiful and breezy park located just off the Pali Highway on Pu’iwa Road right behind Queen Emma’s Summer Palace, and in front of the Daijingu Temple.

Missing parts on playground

Initially what brought to this park was Honolulu Family Magazine, which rated it as the runner-up for best playground on Oahu. Upon my first visit these accolades took me by surprise as the playground itself is not spectacular – in fact, it is actually missing some of its parts. Although the park does have four functioning swings (a rarity in Honolulu) I soon realized one does not necessarily come here for the playground, but rather its atmosphere.

It is easy to see why this was where Queen Emma liked to spend her summers. The breeze through the giant trees and the rustling of the leaves takes one back to an idyllic childhood spent outdoors and instantly relaxes. The mountains rising up on either side of the Pali are a stunning backdrop and quite peaceful.

Playground

There are also a multitude of things to do in this park besides the playground. The slightly inclined paved pathways were perfect for my toddler who is learning to ride her tricycle but sometimes needs that extra momentum of a downhill slope to get the pedals started. And for some reason, she loves to play with her ball at the basketball court here more than any other basketball court we have gone to, perhaps because the fact that it is a lower level than the playground makes it something special for her.

Path behind the playground

If you continue on past the basketball court and the bathrooms, there is a very brief but delightful little path that covers the area behind Queen Emma’s Summer Palace, but be sure to hold little one’s hands as parts of the trail are steep and crisscrossed with roots. At the bottom is a rope swing that might be the number one thing that draws me to this park. I feel like I am swinging on a vine through the jungle – never mind what the keiki think of it. Not to mention the impressive flora surrounding the area, fruits falling from trees, bright flowers like birds of paradise, enormous trees with roots high enough for a child to hide behind.

Naturally the downside to all of this is the insects, specifically the mosquitos. Because we were wearing long pants, we did not get bitten, but I was brushing them off my arm almost continuously.

There is a large clearing that you can imagine being Queen Emma’s “backyard.” If you climb up the hill towards her home, there is a very small stream running through the park, which fascinated my daughter who is used to the beach. A freshwater stream was something entirely new to watch. Since at this point we were so close to the summer home, we decided to go ahead and check it out.

QUEEN EMMA’S SUMMER PALACE

Queen Emma’s Summer Palace 
2913 Pali Highway
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808)595-3167

Flowers outside the Summer Palace

As soon as we approached the front of the home I instantly noticed the pervasive smell of honeysuckles, which added to the overall serenity of the location. Entry to the home is $4 for kama’aina (locals)  and free for keiki. It does not take ten whole minutes to walk through the entire house, although it is quite interesting to imagine how people lived hundreds of years ago, and how the home is still incredibly nice in spite of its age. I could just picture them opening the doors and window to let the breeze in, while living in the lap of luxury with their beautiful four poster beds, hand-made quilts and piano.

Sorry, no photographs!

The story of Queen Emma’s Summer Palace is actually somewhat tragic. She was the wife of King Kamehameha the 4th and this was their summer retreat. When she had their son, Prince Albert, they frequented the home even more as she loved to bring him up there to play. Prince Alberts presence in the home is quite evident by the beautiful rocking bassinet in one bedroom, and the canopied crib with a teddy bear in the next. My daughter even quickly pointed out his “Juice Cup” which was actually called something like “The Prince Royal Silver Cup” or something of the sort. Additionally they show a little jacket and other pieces of clothing that his mother made as she loved to sew outfits for him.

Sadly though, he got appendicitis as the age of four, something that could be taken care of today but back then was fatal. After he died, Queen Emma fell into a dark period of her life where she spent years alone at the Summer Home in mourning. The site is located near the Royal Mausoleum, where members of the Kamehameha dynasty were buried, and the guide told me this offered Queen Emma some solace to be near to her son’s resting place.

Although Queen Emma’s Summer House was very interesting for me, it is not the very best place to take a toddler. The reason being is that all the furniture is set out the same way it would be in a normal house, only you are not allowed to touch it. This was not an easy concept for my two-year-old, who wanted to rock the baby’s 200 year old bassinet and sit in the rocking chair and see Mama go “night-night” in the “Mama bed.” This one is best left for older children, or infants you can keep in the baby carrier.

picnic tables

Bug in our pasta

In addition to the various opportunities for fun available at the park, there are plenty of picnic tables in the shade for a lunch or a snack. After all that activity it might have been the first time my daughter remained seated through out her entire lunch. We did however catch a bug flying into her pasta, and there were many bugs everywhere, but the bugs at the picnic tables we not nearly as obnoxious as the mosquitos down the trail so all in all it wasn’t a bad picnic at all.

For More Information on Queen Emma’s Summer Palace visit:

http://www.hawaiimuseums.org/mc/isoahu_queenemma.htm

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Kaimuki Community Park

Kaimuki Community Park

Kaimuki Community Park 
3521 Waialae Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii
Park Director: (808) 733-7351
Gym: (808) 733-7352

Pros: 

Events Bulletin Board

  • Unique Playground Equipment
  • Swings
  • Fun Climbing Wall

Cons:

  • The bathroom facilities are a walk away from the children’s playground, so if visiting with more than one children you might have to gather everyone up for a bathroom trip
  • Boys Bathroom locked during our last trip “due to recent incidents” according to a sign on the door
  • No parking lot 

Features: 

  • Playground
  • Swings
  • Bathroom Facilities
  • Tennis Courts
  • Basketball Courts
  • Volleyball Courts
  • Stage
  • Rec Center with Indoor Gym featuring Adult, Kid, and Senior Classes

Kaimuki Community Park Playground

Kaimuki Community Park offers lovely outdoor fun in an otherwise urban setting alongside Waialae Avenue across from Boston’s Pizza.

The large tree offers shade over the playground protecting young children’s skin from the heat and sun. The playground itself has unique and fun equipment, a stark contrast the typical standard blue stairs/orange slide combo at most playgrounds in the city. My daughter had fun exploring every nook and cranny.

Fun climbing equipment

My personal favorite was a climbing area that reminded me of those “Better Blocks” from the 80s and 90s. And they provided the perfect challenge for a toddler, while still being a fun change of pace for older children.

Kaimuki Community park spans from 10th to 11th avenue on Waialae avenue. The recreation center, indoor gym, and bathroom facilities are located on the 11th avenue side while the park is on the 10th avenue side. This can make a bathroom trip a bit of a event if you are trying to supervise more than one child, as you can not see the playground from the bathrooms.

The recreation center offers classes and activities for children, adults, and seniors during spring, summer and fall. The indoor gym is open for free play generally during after-school hours, although times vary through out the week. Visit the park for the playground, and while there check out the bulletin board at the recreation center for an updated schedule of activities.

Street parking is available but can be a pain during the weekend or special events. Our family rode our bikes there once, although bike riding along Waialae is not the easiest task. On another occasion, we parked at Boston Pizza, ordered a pizza, and took it across the street to the park for a picnic.

The Park is also known for hosting a variety of events through out the year, such as Kamuki Kanikapala (a community crafts fair), Halloween Costume Contests, and the Diamondhead Complex Easter Egg Hunt (see: http://keikisdayout.com/2012/03/31/diamond-head-complex-easter-egg-hunt/ in our event’s section).


Stage area at Kaimuki Community Park

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