Cameron and Ali Daddo, with kids Lotus, 16, River, 12 and Bodhi, 6 take a magical getaway to the warmth of Waikiki and fall in love with Hawaii.
After an incredibly busy month of American summer school holidays and prepping to rent out our house we had the tantalising reward of a Hawaiian family holiday on the island of Oahu.
There is something so magical about Hawai’i and it is said that Waikiki, on the island of Oahu, was a place of healing for the Hawaiian royal family many years ago. Here they would swim in the ocean with a lei of seaweed, then toss the lei back into the ocean taking with it any illnesses that the bearer had.
The Hilton group’s Embassy Suites, located a short block from the famous Waikiki beach, offer the best deal in town. We are greeted with pineapple mint water and the genuine Hawaiian friendliness. The five of us fit very well into our two-bedroom suite. Along with the room, the hotel serves a free buffet breakfast (excellent for growing lads and you have to try the omelette bar) and from 5.30-7.30pm is ‘manager’s drinks’ - free alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and nibbles beside the pool. It’s a lovely thing to kick back with a mai tai, feet in the pool, listening to live music and watching the kids swim themselves to a stupor.
After a few nights at the Embassy Suites we head to its sister hotel The Outrigger, just across the way for a couple of nights. This classic Waikiki beachfront hotel offers all sorts of fun, free activities for kids and adults including hula lessons, lei making and art classes. These activities change constantly, so be sure to ask about their weekly offerings. Having unloaded our gear, we waste no time hitting the beach. Entering the warm waters of Waikiki you can feel that touch of magic royalty came for, working.
If you stayed a month you could easily fill your days with activities. There are submarine rides, catamaran cruises that leave the beach for hourly or all-day cruises, whale and dolphin viewing boat rides and parasailing to just to get started.
We choose to rent surfboards, stand up paddle boards (SUPs), and aqua bikes that are not only good for the leg muscles, but a great way to ride around the beach. But watch out for turtles – they’re all around. In fact, we renamed our six-year-old daughter Bodhi “Turtle” as she spent more time under the water than on top.
One Oahu must-do is to rent a car and cruise the easy 45-minute drive from Honolulu to the North Shore. It’s easy to find, especially if you opt for the navigation in the rental car.
The North Shore is remarkably different to Waikiki. The high-rise buildings are replaced by pineapple plantations, horse paddocks, gorgeous homes and a few grocery stores. The beaches - Pipeline, the picturesque natural big wave arena of Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach - are WOW! Folks who surf know it as a Mecca during the USA’s winter months.
We stop and swim at Sunset, where we spot a huge green sea turtle languishing in the shallows. Be sure to bring snorkelling gear as the water is crystal clear with underwater caves and teeming with big colourful fish to check out. This is something that can only be done in the calmer summer months, otherwise bring your surfboards and courage - or, at least, a camera to catch the action.
Travelling a few miles further north and hungry for lunch, we land in Kahuku. We pass a fantastic outdoor market, with funky stalls filled with handmade clothing, uniquely carved wood and a gaggle of food trucks.
Go straight to Giovanni’s Shrimp Shack - DO NOT PASS GO! Yes, it looks like an abandoned campervan covered in graffiti but looks are deceiving! Inside there’s a heart beating with cooks who are rocking out to Hawaiian reggae music and making dishes with the freshest shrimp (prawns) that will knock your tastebuds for six.
With two plates of shrimp and rice in hand, we grab some fresh roasted corn-on-the-cob from another vendor and top the meal off perfectly with local fruit smoothies from another. We ingest the lot under a spectacular frangipani tree a-bloom. With full tummies, everyone is content for the drive back to Waikiki.
The main drag of Waikiki is Kalakaua Street and it is teeming with restaurants, all the great American apparel stores, and the ol’ faithful International Market Place, with several fun “find a pearl” stands.
Our favourite eatery to take the kids is The Benihana, a Japanese teppanyaki restaurant, where a personal chef performs and cooks with lightning fast knife skills right in front of us, keeping the kids (and Cam) entertained!
Every Friday night, the Hilton Waikiki sparks brilliant fireworks out front of their rainbow tower on the beach, and a luau (traditional Hawaiian party or feast) is still the best way to experience the local culture. You simply have to try the poi with barbecue pork, not only is it a Hawaiian staple but it’s good for your hula muscles.
If you are looking for a little greenery, the hiking trails from Diamond Head take you through the lush natural fauna of the island. Once at the top you can look out to sea and marvel at the different colours in the ocean. In the winter months you can even see the whales making their annual migrations.
The Hawaiian people love their island. Stop and chat to a local, ask about any local fun spots they know of - we find they are always full of ideas and great stories of Hawaii.
While eating at the fantastic Roy’s Restaurant one night, the manager, Diva, happily chats to us for half an hour about Iolani Palace - the official residence of King Kalākaua and Queen Lili'uokalani, who were the last in a long line of ruling Hawaiian royalty. Established in 1842, this place is a marvel of opulence, innovation and political intrigue. Still decorated with the original furniture, there’s a great tour to hear all the great stories of the last king and queen of Hawaii.
Diva also suggests the east side of the island for more great hiking in the Kailua area, with excellent beaches at Lanikai, which is off the beaten path. The tropical onshore trade winds make for a perfect place to learn to windsurf, kite sail and other wind sports. Apparently it’s easy - when you fall off the wind just blows you ashore!
Waikiki is ALIVE and as ever, a fantastic place to holiday. The water and air temperature are forever warm, reflecting the hearts of the Hawaiians. It truly offers something for everyone in your family.
In the words of Duke Kahanamoku, father of surfing: “In Hawai’i, we greet friends, loved ones and strangers with aloha, which means love”.
Words: Cam and Ali Daddo. Images: Lotus Daddo
Qantas offers three direct flights a week from Sydney to Honolulu with domestic connections available from all capital cities. Qantas also has daily flights ex Perth connecting with Jetstar on the new Airbus A330-200 aircraft. www.qantas.com
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