Aloha, Honolulu: Five Kid-Friendly Pursuits in Hawaii's Capital
The mention of Hawaii conjures palm trees, endless stretches of white sand and frothy surf. And while you'll find those things in Honolulu, the state capital of the island of Oahu offers much more, making it an ideal destination for a family vacation. Honolulu combines carefree fun in the sun with enriching activities ranging from encounters with fascinating animals to explorations of the natural and human history of the islands.
Build Sand Castles by the Seashore
It's not a Hawaiian vacation until you've hit the beach. The most famous stretch of shore in Honolulu is Waikiki Beach, an ideal choice if you're in town with older kids itching for a surfing lesson. Within the Waikiki area, Kuhio Beach Park (2453 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu, HI) and DeRussy Beach Park (2055 Kalia Rd., Honolulu, HI) both offer calm waters and plenty of sandy shoreline where kids can frolic away the hours.
Meet Local Wildlife at the Waikiki Aquarium
Discover the wondrous marine life that lives beneath the surface of Hawaii's waters at the Waikiki Aquarium (2777 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu, HI), home to creatures ranging from not-so-menacing zebra sharks to ethereal-looking moon jellyfish. Some of the aquarium's most unusual residents are found in the Diversity and Adaptations exhibit, including frogfish and eels. To see one of the state's most endearing—and unfortunately, critically endangered—species—stop by the aquarium's Hawaiian Monk Seal Habitat. Admission to the Waikiki Aquarium costs $12 for adults and $5 for children between the ages of 4 and 12. Younger kids get in for free.
Encourage Learning Through Play at the Hawaii Children's Discovery Center
Even the littlest keiki will find a suitable exhibit at the Hawaii Children's Discovery Center (111 Ohe St., Honolulu, HI), an interactive museum that is a perfect outing for an overcast or rainy day. Patrons under the age of 5 put their senses to work in the Tot Spot, while older kids learn about the workings of the human body in the Fantastic You! exhibit and enjoy role playing in Your Town, where they'll explore how communities work. Admission is $12 per person, and children under the age of 1 are free.
Broaden Your Horizons at the Bishop Museum
If the children in your life groan at the mention of a museum, a trip to Honolulu's Bishop Museum (1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI) might change their mind. For maximum impact, start at the Richard T. Mamiya Science Adventure Center, where the entire family can be awed by the natural forces—think volcanoes, volcanoes, volcanoes—that have shaped the Hawaiian islands. Explore the onsite garden to discover the state's diverse flora, peruse the three-level Hawaiian Hall to learn about the importance of land and nature to local peoples and meet the gods worshiped in traditional Hawaiian culture. Admission is $23 for adults and $15 for children between the ages of 4 and 12. Kids ages 3 and under get in for free.
Admire Fauna and Flora at the Honolulu Zoo
The kids might think they've landed in the African savanna rather than in the middle of the Pacific Ocean when they visit the 42-acre Honolulu Zoo (151 Kapahulu Ave., Honolulu, HI), home to more than 900 animals, including hippos, elephants, baboons and chimps. This manageable and relatively inexpensive zoo is also a great place to see Hawaii's state bird, the endangered nene, housed in the Kipuka Nene Sanctuary. Don't forget to stop and smell the pohinahinas, one of many native flowers found throughout the property. Admission is $14 for visitors ages 13 and up. Children between the ages of 3 and 12 pay $6. Children 2 and younger get in for free.
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Since beginning her career as a professional journalist in 2007, Nathalie Alonso has covered a myriad of topics, including arts, culture and travel, for newspapers and magazines in New York City. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Columbia University and lives in Queens with her two cats.