Last year, my family of four decided to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Hawaii. While our time on Oahu was short, it was a memorable introduction to a fascinating island.
After a few adventurous days on Maui, we boarded a short flight to Oahu for a stay at Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club, our home base for the next two nights. My husband, Alex, and I were traveling with our 9-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter, and we decided on a mix of recreation and relaxation during our limited time on the island. But if you’re staying for longer, you’ll find plenty more to explore.
Since we didn’t have much time on Oahu, we made it a priority to visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. The historic site tells the stories of World War II in the Pacific and the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Visitors start at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center to watch a short documentary, and then can board a boat to view the USS Arizona Memorial. There’s lots of informational signage, but we opted to go on the audio tour with headsets, which brought the story to life for the kids.
Later, we took the Ford Island shuttle to the battleship USS Missouri Memorial. Known as “America’s last battleship,” Mighty Mo’ served through three wars over 50 years. It was on the Missouri’s deck that the Japanese surrendered in 1945, ending World War II. During the tour, we all enjoyed learning more about the daily life of the ship’s residents while exploring the engine room, gun turrets, crew quarters and more.
- You can also go on a guided tour that includes the USS Arizona Memorial and additional points of interest.
- The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. However, the USS Arizona Memorial is currently closed for maintenance, so check availability in advance.
- If your kids are history buffs, you can also visit the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park or Pacific Aviation Museum, which both offer child-friendly learning experiences.
We wanted to fit in some beach time — we were in Hawaii, after all — so we drove over to Lanikai Beach. The island offers plenty of beaches, of course, but we’d heard that Lanikai was one of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii (it ranked as #23 on FlightNetwork’s World’s Best Beaches in 2018) and we couldn’t resist seeing it for ourselves.
Even though it was about a 90-minute drive from the resort, it was worth the trip. The sand was the consistency of powdered sugar, and the waters were calm and sparkling (and very child-friendly). It was a gorgeous place to relax, and we enjoyed spending an afternoon there simply soaking up the island scenery.
- Visit Lanikai Beach on a weekday to avoid crowds, and go earlier in the day, before the sun travels behind the mountains and the beach is shadowed.
- Kailua Beach Park is next door and offers restrooms, beach showers, picnic tables, barbecue grills and kayak rentals
- For refreshments, bring a cooler with food and drink or head to the town of Kailua, which offers some great restaurants and grocery stores.
Diamond Head State Park
For one final adventure before we went to airport, we hiked the trail at the 475-acre Diamond Head State Monument. The .8-mile trek is a bit strenuous but still do-able for kids. It’s a great activity if you’re looking to burn off energy.
Along the way, you’ll climb several sets of steep stairs and walk through a lighted tunnel. The final steps are a challenge, but once you reach the top of the crater, you can take in gorgeous views of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean. At the summit, you’ll also see a Fire Control Station bunker and lighthouse built in the early 19th century.
- Bring plenty of water and sunscreen, and go in the early morning to avoid the heat — there’s no shade along the trail.
- Last admittance to the Diamond Head trail is at 4:30 p.m.
- For an easier, kid-friendly stroll, try one of the Kaena Point trail hikes on the island’s western tip. Both are mostly flat routes leading to Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve, where you can see seals and nesting albatross.
A Resort Retreat
Although we spent most of our time on Oahu exploring the island, we enjoyed unwinding at Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club as much as we could. In fact, the resort was probably the most beautiful property we stayed at during our trip. If I were to return to Hawaii solely for rest and relaxation, that’s where I’d choose to go.
To conserve our Vacation Club Points, we stayed in a one-bedroom villa, with the kids sleeping on the sofa bed. It still felt like there was plenty of space for all of us, and we got to enjoy the convenience of a fully equipped kitchen and washer and dryer.
The resort’s beach is ideal for kids, with a sheltered and shallow lagoon for swimming. You can choose from several family-friendly on-site dining options, and even experience authentic Polynesian music and entertainment at the Fia Fia Polynesian Dinner Show every Tuesday (reservations are recommended). The activities schedule also features island-inspired fun for all ages, including lei making and hula lessons.
Where to Stay: