We recently had a chance to go to the beautiful Oahu, Hawaii as a family. We certainly took advantage of everything to see and do! Of course, we can mention Pearl Harbor, a hike on Diamond Head, and the Battleship Missouri but we let’s talk about some hidden and not-so hidden gems. We’ll start with the North Shore and work our way down.

1: Turtle Beach

Laniakea Beach on Oahu’s North Shore is also known as Turtle Beach. We highly suggest going here to check out the turtles in action. They literally wash up on shore and fed on the green algae located on the rocks right at your feet. We do have to warn you, it is extremely slippery and dangerous for anyone who doesn’t have a good sense of balance. If you slip and fall on the rocks, it can be very scary if you hit your head. During our short time there we saw at least 7 people slip, so please be careful! Make sure you bring your bathing outfit because you can swim with the turtles and if that scares you a little, there is a small cove to the right where you can snorkel. Parking is free and right across from the beach.

2: Opals Thai Food

Lopez family with Opal himself

Let me tell you something, Michael (dad), and the two boys, David and Nico (11 and 6) do not have palates for Thai food and they absolutely LOVED this place. So the first time we got there, we sat down and the owner,Opal, came to us and took our menus from us. Just about when were about to tell him our order he stopped us and said, “I’m Opal, I will be taking care of you. What do you NOT like to eat? Spicy, non-spicy, meat, fish, any allergies?”  We told him our likes/dislikes/allergies and he walked away letting us know the food will be coming soon. We did not order anything specifically and were a little nervous because we had NO IDEA if we were going to like it. Fifteen minutes later we were in absolute heaven. All four of us couldn’t stop eating! It was just THAT GOOD! You have to go to Opal’s. He recently moved to Honolulu so make sure you go to the right location.  Their Yelp page.

3:  Atlantis Submarines

We wanted to do something the kids would really enjoy and they did! We got to go into a submarine and naturally, went under the water. Atlantis gave us a pamphlet with different fish we can locate and name as we were under water and the kids really got into it trying to identify the fish. It gave the kids a new way to really enjoy looking thru the windows as they were trying to scratch off all the fish in the scavenger hunt. It was a lot of fun! We highly recommend it!

4: Go where there locals go! Lanikai Beach Shhhhhh! Dont tell anyone.

If you want less crowds and beautiful white sand and perfect turquoise water- this is the place to go. I highly recommend you rent a car and drive over to Lanikai Beach. It may seem a little confusing but if you hit this link, because it will lead you to this cute neighborhood where you will have to find street parking and then walk in between the houses to get to this secret beach. Bring coolers, food, drinks, water, umbrellas, towels, anything you may need for the beach because I never saw anything around there to purchase food or rent beach gear.  This beach doesn’t have any surf so it’s perfect for the elderly and kids. Parking can be a little tough….so go early!

5: Surfing on Waikiki

Yes, we became “tourist” in Waikiki. First off, thanks to the Marriott Waikiki. They are right in the middle of the beach and in our opinion, in the best possible location on the Waikiki strip. You walk outside and you are on the beach. My son David, 9 at the time, wanted to try surfing so we went out and got lessons from the beach instructors. Let’s set up the story for you. It was the first time for Michael and David. They had never surfed before in their life. They got a 15 minute lesson on the beach and then the instructor took them out into the water. By this time of the day, the beach was busy and there were lots of people surfing. David was setting up his first time on the board. The instructor gave him a push and off he went. A few yards in front of him were a couple sitting on their board. David crashed right into them. It wasn’t good as this was his first time. It really scared and rattled him. When he got his breath and sat on his board, he told Michael he didn’t want to surf anymore. He was definitely scared. Michael asked him to try it one more time. It took a few minutes but David got right back on the board. The instructor gave him a pep talk and also a push right after. David stood on the board and surfed that thing all the way into the beach. His second try was incredible!! Michael caught up to him and David was swimming back into the water. Michael was screaming in joy and when Michael asked David if he wanted to stop, David replied, “No way, I want to do it again!!” They spent the next 3 hours surfing. Michael wasn’t so lucky with it but they had a blast. It’s a MUST do!

6: Dolphins and You

We seriously have to take our hats off to this group of people. From the beginning to the end of this experience was an absolute joy. First the tour bus picked us up at our hotel and it was a short ride to the boat. From there the young employees really did their best to greet every single person walking on board and make them feel welcome.  The crew was so helpful and fun to be around. They really went beyond of what was expected from them. On this day we did see some dolphins but we spent more time chasing them than actually enjoying them. It really didn’t matter because the whole day was so much fun! They took us snorkeling at a great spot and made Hawaiian burgers for everyone. One of the crew members threw some meat next to my son and I while we were in the water and all of a sudden we were surrounded by hundreds of fish. It was scary at first as it took us by surprise, but afterwards it was pretty cool. David had such a blast checking out the beautiful fish swim right up to him. Dolphins and You is something we are definitely going to do again!



7: Polynesian Cultural Center

OMG, we learned so much! This was truly an educational experience for us and the kids. We took our 85 year old grandmother with us on this trip and getting the VIP service tickets was the best investment ever. We had a personal tour guide who not only helped wheel our grandmother around but while we were at some shows, he went ahead to the next show and reserved the best seating for us. So when got to the next show, we had the best seats in the house. Our guide was so nice and helpful that he felt like Ohana, which in Hawaiian means “family”.  He was not only super sweet but also gave us so much information we wouldn’t have known about otherwise (even by reading the signs). It took the stress off of the adults to figure out where we were going (this place is HUGE), times of the shows, getting seats together, etc. It was memorable, stress free and educational and so if you can- VIP is the way to go!!  This was an all day event and honestly, we could have been there for 2 days as we felt like we didn’t get to see and do everything! It was a long drive from Waikiki Beach (close to an hour) and we just drove ourselves. If you’re on a bus stopping at multiple hotels then I can see it taking close to 2 hours).  I say this because if you want to maximize your time- be there when it opens!   All the shows were not only extremely educational but were so much fun and entertaining! There were also games and crafts that the kids got into that added to the experience. We even learned about what the verse (“I killed an eel, I buried its guts, sprouted a tree, now you got coconuts”) in the Moana song “You’re Welcome” meant.  We can’t say it enough, if you can, get the VIP tickets. It will save you time, energy, and get you right into the luau a lot faster and at the big show at the end of the day we were in the front row and the kids got so into it being so close to the actors.  In the above picture, Nico had just woken up from a nap (so don’t base his experience on this pic!!). Go check out this gem!