A family holiday in Hawaii is iconic and allows everyone to indulge in perfect sunny days filled with fun, active adventures. There are endless attractions to keep kids happy and entertained on the island of Oahu but many travellers find themselves not leaving Waikiki which is a true injustice to the beautiful attractions on the rest of the island.
Our interests and style of travel mean we love the nature based, active type of travel rather than commercial attractions. Hawaii is such a gorgeous place for natural adventures, however when you are in Waikiki it can be difficult to realise what is on the doorstep just beyond the urban jungle of the Waikiki strip.
If you don't have time to venture to one of the other Hawaiian Islands then you must consider seeing the real Oahu.
Make the most of your Hawaii trip by hiring a car and hitting the open roads to visit the must-see natural highlights of Oahu.
If you are concerned about driving on Oahu, be rest-assured that the roads are simple to navigate and generally speaking the pace is leisurely and scenic. If driving is just way out of your comfort zone then you can check out these circle island tours which can take you to all the best places as well.
Diamond Head Crater
It looms impressively from all points along Waikiki beach so it goes without saying that hiking diamond head crater should be high on your to-do-list for a Waikiki getaway.
Affording amazing views north and south along the Oahu coastline the final summit sees you reach the rewarding vista with cooling sea breezes after a hot and sweaty climb from the inside of the crater.
Climbing with kids? No problem.
I would recommend tackling this in the cooler parts of the day if possible and the walk is even possible with an all-terrain style pram. With a few water breaks along the way our three and six year old kids managed the walk comfortably.
Keep an eye out for interesting wildlife on the way with some cool lizards and other creatures venturing close to the trail.
Nu’Uanu Pali Lookout
With arguably the best views of the lush valleys of Oahu, the N’Uanu Pali Lookout is easily accessible via car and well worth stopping in if circling the island. The kids will be highly amused and entertained by the resident chickens and parents can enjoy the panoramic views which are hard to beat anywhere else on the island.
Oahu’s North Shore
Famed for its extreme surfing the north shore is quintessential old school Hawaii with windswept beaches, minimal crowds and scenic picnic stops around every bend. Just half an hour from Waikiki sees you cruising along the north shore where you can take your pick from secluded beaches to dip your toes in the water.
If you are after some more traditional Hawaiian culture and lifestyle, the north shore boasts some quintessential laid back towns such as Haleiwa with its delicious cafes and plantation era buildings back-dropped with tropical plantations. Idle, relaxing strolls just become part of your day in these parts.
Whilst Waikiki beach is highly photogenic the real Hawaiian beaches that you want to visit are those that you can find completely free of selfie stick wielding tourists and this is exactly what you can find on your own self-guided circle island tour. There are so many beaches along the way that will spoil you for choice so the decision will really come down to personal preference.
Surfers will adore the north shore with the likes of famous surf spots such as the banzai pipeline. For families, the safer beaches with more forgiving currents and complete with facilities and easy access can be found on the east coast with Kailua being a firm favourite.
Want to come eye-to-eye with a Hawaiian green sea turtle then Laniakea beach is a tucked away gem that draws the overseas tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of these intriguing creatures.
Driving around the island the most strikingly pretty part of the trip for me is the beautiful coastline and Ko’olau mountain ranges on Oahu’s north-east coast. The drive along this part of the island is simply stunning with winding roads splitting the green mountain ranges (think disney’s Moana) and water’s edge views competing for your gaze.
There are some really fun adventure activities that can be found in this area as well such as horse riding, ATV adventures and diving trips to neighbouring islands - check the options out here!
Next time you dream of a Hawaiian holiday make sure you plan to spend time away from Waikiki – you just never know what wonders exist with a little further exploring.
If a trip to Hawaii is sitting high on your family’s wishlist you can check out the best flights to get you there here.
If you want to take your Hawaii aspirations to another level make sure you read this comprehensive list of AMAZING things to see and do on the island of Kauai, just a tiny thirty-minute flight from Honolulu. A stunningly beautiful garden island filled with magical beaches, astonishing wildlife and endless fun activities, Kauai is an island to cater for every desire.