What would your family-friendly adventure look like?
As an active and adventurous young adult, I don’t usually look for group tours, especially those that cater towards young families with kids. But the other day, my friends and I found an eco-adventure tour that was thoroughly enjoyable for us AND the two kids (ages 5 and 9) on tour with us.
We start off the day bright and early with a pickup by luxury minibus at 7:00am in front of our Ko Olina hotel. Our guide Kauka (pronounced COW-kah as explained by him) is prompt and full of good humor and aloha which helps start us on a positive note. The delicious purple poi donuts that he passes out don’t hurt either! His lively anecdotes and wealth of interesting historical information make the rush hour traffic seem non-existent.
The first stop on our adventure is the Pali Lookout. True to form, this historical landmark is cool and very breezy (wear a jacket and hold onto your hat!) and boasts a spectacular view. After reading up on what the site is known for and snapping a lot of windblown photos, we hurry back to the warmth of the minibus.
The Byodo-In Temple in Valley of the Temples is our second stop. Though I’ve lived on Oahu for several years, this is my first time visiting the serene grounds of the striking structure. The vibrant reds and golds of the non-denominational Buddhist temple contrast magnificently with the rich emeralds of the trees and Ko’olau Mountains. If you have a great tour guide like we do, you might even get to feed the birds! (cue Mary Poppins…)
Since we’re making good time, Kauka fits in a special stop at Tropical Farms for us to learn about harvesting and roasting macadamia nuts. We sample some delicious varieties – the honey-glazed mac nuts are my favorite – and stock up on their own homegrown, roasted-on-site coffee.
We continue our journey to North Shore with a brief photo stop at Kualoa Regional Park to view Mokoli’i (aka Chinaman’s Hat) and also one at Sunset Beach, a top surfing beach on Oahu. Our adventure gets even better when we pull into Waimea Valley. Kauka, ever-knowledgable on local history and lore, takes us on a lovely educational stroll through the grounds of the botanical garden and through the kauhale – the ancient Hawaiian living site – to the base of the grand Waimea Falls.
Next comes everyone’s favorite stop – LUNCH! Just kidding. But not really… Lunch is at Tsue’s Farm where the food is delicious and fun is guaranteed. Owned and operated by locals, much of the food is locally grown and harvested – shrimp from Kahuku, greens and pineapples from local farms, etc. and the food is served in recyclable/compostable containers. What’s not to love? After stuffing our faces with some ono (delicious) garlic shrimp, kalua pork, and shave ice, we head onto the peaceful Anahulu River for some kayaking and standup paddleboarding.
Bellies full and bodies happy, we clamber back onto our luxury minibus. Our final stop of the day is at Ko Hana Rum Distillers. The tour is highly informative and gives us an in-depth look at the history of sugar cane in Hawaii and the process that Ko Hana uses. The coolest thing? EVERYTHING from the growing of sugar cane to the processing, to the distilling, to the bottling is done on the property. Talk about keeping it local! We get to try four varieties of their rum; my favorite is the Kokoleka. For those who are under 21 or prefer not to drink, Ko Hana Rum also offers their own gelato (also delicious).
We enjoy the scenic drive back to Ko Olina and arrive sometime between 4-4:30. The kids chatter excitedly about all the fun they had and my friends and I recount our favs of the day. As we disembark, I gather up all the local treasures we’ve gathered throughout the day’s adventures. But even more special are the intangible treasures: time spent and memories made with our friends and family on this wonderful tour.
Hoku Hawaii Tour’s Travel Blogger Ruth B is an avid hiker, ocean-lover, and foodie (poke and acai bowls… yes please!). For more adventures and recommendations, follow her on IG @adventures_of_ruthb and shoot her a DM.