The rustic town of Waimanalo stretches lazily along the windward coast of Oahu along the foothills of the Ku’ulou Mountains. This laid back Hawaiian beach town is usually only a rest stop for tourists on the way to the North Shore from the resorts in Waikiki. A smattering of restaurants and lunch trucks along the narrow two lane highway providing them a place to stretch their legs and grab a shave ice or plate lunch before continuing on their way to the better known beaches and attractions to the north. Locals, undoubtedly, are ok with this. They prefer to keep their rural, sleepy lifestyle separate from the hustle and bustle of nearby Honolulu. It also happens to sit on one of the largest and most scenic beaches on the island. A long, curving white sand beach that stretches for nearly 3 miles provides an ideal location some of Hawaii’s best for body boarding and beach going all set against the postcard-perfect backdrop of the steeped mountain range it fronts. Behind the village rises acres of land ideal for farming, the rich volcanic soil and sunshine providing perfect conditions for growing a variety of plants and vegetables. In autumn, this includes pumpkins! The rich foothills are home to Waimanalo Country Farms and their 2nd Annual Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze. Only in its second year, the event delivers nicely on the nostalgic yearly family trip to the local farm to select the perfect Halloween pumpkin, with a Hawaiian twist of course. Hot apple cider and mittens are replaced by rainbow colored shaved ice and slippers. The typical farm expanse tragically littered with awe inspiring views of the nearby ocean instead of changing foliage! Open every Saturday and Sunday in October from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the family owned and operated farm hosts a fall celebration including pumpkin picking, hayrides, corn maze, games, photos, face painting, food, shaved ice and other family activities. Pumpkins of all shapes and sizes line the farm’s fields for your family’s scrutiny, evaluation and selection. Pumpkins are priced by size and start at about $2.00 (slightly better than prices at other farms or the grocery store!). Activities are grouped into packages of four activities and each package is $6.00 per person. The last two weekends of the month, the maze and hayride will take on a far more sinister and haunting attribute and will reopen from 6:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. (they stop selling tickets at 10:00 p.m. to ensure ticket holders can get through prior to closing) for those seeking a more frightening experience. Tickets for these two events cost $12.00 for one or $20 for both. Bring plenty of cash, the pumpkin patch is cash only and there are no ATMs on site. There is no charge for parking or for admission. There are restroom facilities on site (Port-a-johns only). Food and drink are available for purchase. We highly recommend that you bring a wagon, preferably the All Terrain type with a sun shade, for carrying your children and pumpkins around the farm! Trust us on this one, you will thank us later! Jogging strollers will work too if you do not have a wagon. Additionally, we recommend you dress the family in clothes and shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty—it is a working farm! The farm is off Lupe Street in Waimanalo across the street from Waimanolo Beach Park, follow the signs from Kalanianaole Highway. At the end of Lupe Street, follow the narrow dirt road leading to the farm. Use caution, the road is narrow (one way traffic only) and quite rough. Pay attention to the staff along the road managing traffic flow, it can get backed up at times. You won’t need a four wheel drive but you may wish you had it! The experience at Waimanalo Country Farms is similar to other island pumpkin patches in that the pumpkins are pre-picked and placed in the field, replenished each night for the next day’s customers. The patch is slightly smaller than other farms but there is still a large selection of quality pumpkins available. Likewise, the number of activities is not as plentiful; however, there is more than enough to keep the children entertained for the afternoon. Despite the smaller scale of the event at Waimanalo Country Farms, we actually greatly preferred the more picturesque surroundings, the typically cooler temperatures found on the windward side and the smaller crowd size over neighboring farms and patches --although that may change as word continues to grow out about it! The farm’s smaller size somehow made the visit more intimate and the experience less overwhelming. The weather was balmy but not oppressive, and its super friendly staff made this feel like the vintage family friendly trips we so fondly look back on and want our children to experience as well. We highly recommend you consider visiting Waimanalo Country Farms if you are looking for a uniquely Hawaiian family adventure to the pumpkin patch. Neighbor Islands: Oahu is certainly not the only Hawaiian Island that holds these terrific family friendly fall events. If you are visiting or reside on Maui or the Big Island, there are farms on those islands that also offer pumpkin picking during the Halloween season. Consider checking out Kula Country Farms in upcountry Maui and Kohala Mountain Farm Pumpkin Patch on the Big Island.
Living in Hawaii, it may not be easy to tell, but as the calendar moves into late September, it is technically the beginning of Autumn once again. Lacking the normal seasonal queues that most mainlanders enjoy (colorful changing foliage or a sudden crisp chill in the air), islanders only indication of the change in seasons is the start of the school year, the return of Spiced Pumpkin Lattes at Starbucks, and the beginning of the football season. Despite its amiable tropical packaging, the annual transition to the second half of the year also means that Halloween is just around the corner. It is a special time of the year no matter the location or weather pattern when little ghosts and goblins appear and Linus returns with Charlie Brown in search of the Great Pumpkin. It means digging out the house decorations from storage and beginning the exhausting brain wracking search for the perfect Halloween costume for the kids. Perhaps the most important item on your “to do” list, though, is making the trip to the local store for that most iconic of Halloween decorations, the pumpkin. There are a few alternatives available if you are one of those families that are repulsed by the thought of picking out a store bought pumpkin, or if you are a relocated mainlander and used to more traditional means of obtaining your pumpkins. We will spend the next couple of weeks looking at a few of those options that are available right here on Oahu. Grab your Spiced Apple Cider and read on! Aloun Farms, located between Waipahu and Kapolei, offers public pumpkin picking from its fields on the Ewa Plains. Every Saturday and Sunday for the last 3 weeks in October (Oct 15/16, 22/23, 29/30), Aloun hosts the Ewa Picking Good Time @ The 9th Annual Great Kapolei Pumpkin Picking Patch! A tremendously popular family event featuring not only the chance to pick your own pumpkins (priced per pound), but also enjoy tractor pulled hayrides, pony rides, petting zoo, photo booths, maze field, carnival rides, inflatables, and a Farmer’s Market, and special appearances by Mr. and Mrs. Ewa Sweet Onion (Aloun Farm Family Characters). This year, Aloun Farms is partnering with the Hawaii Foodbank with a food drive during the month long event. Look for the Hawaii Foodbank tent and with a donation, you will receive a free mini-pumpkin or a colorful gourd. A change from past years, parking will be free but in its place will be a $1.00 per person admission fee with children 2 and under admitted for free. There is also a Military Appreciation Day on October 29 when military and one guest will get in free with I.D.! The pumpkin patch will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The event is cash only, so remember to stop by the ATM before heading out to the leeward side, there are none on site. There are additional charges for most of the activities (hayride, petting zoo, rides, etc) so bring a little extra if you plan on doing any of those. If you have never been to the Ewa plain in October before, it’s hot! The earlier in the day you go the better! Bring lots of water, wear sunscreen and wear a hat for protection from the sun, it can be brutal! Not only is it wise to go early to avoid the heat, but your early arrival will also improve your chances of getting the best pumpkins available. We also recommend that you go earlier in the month for the same reason. You will not need to bring any tools to get your pumpkin, they are, in reality, pre-picked and placed along the rows, replenished at night for the next day’s customers. But this does nothing to detract from the thrill of the hunt for the perfect family pumpkin. Kids will fanatically run from row to row, finding various pumpkins, each with their own peculiar special qualities and then spend the next several minutes passionately debating with you or their sibling over which is, in fact, superior and why! Our recommendation, and this comes from experience, is to bring a wagon (jogging strollers work will too!), preferably the All Terrain type that comes with a sun shade. Inevitably, a child will get tired and hot from all of the activity and want to be carried, making you, in turn, tired and hot from carrying them. Or, the massive pumpkin that they simply must have, will be three times their bodyweight and they will turn to you to carry it across the fields the 200 yards back to the car. Or worst case, both of these things happen! A sturdy wagon to put everything in will prove invaluable and will make the experience significantly better for all! The pumpkin patch is in the fields of a working farm so facilities are very limited. There are a few port-a-johns available for emergencies but that is it. We also recommend that the entire family wear old clothes that you do not mind getting covered in the field’s saturating red dirt. This is a very nice family event. You may not save any money over buying a store bought pumpkin but the experience will be much more pleasant for the entire family and the selection will be significantly better. It may seem odd at first to be picking pumpkins in shorts and slippers with Diamond Head looming in the background, especially if you have done this on the mainland before, but it is a unique and memorable family experience that you may one day look back on affectionately in years to come when you are doing it in much different and colder climates! Children will enjoy not only the pumpkin patch but also the other events and activities taking place in celebration of the holiday! This is definitely a worthy holiday family adventure. Check back next week when we look at Waimanalo Country Farm Pumpkin Patch on the windward side!
It’s known by many different names but the narrow strip of sand which runs from the Royal Hawaiian Hotel along the Outrigger Waikiki to the Sheraton Moana Surfrider is the heart of activity along world famous Waikiki Beach. Surrounded by Waikiki’s oldest and most historic hotels, the beach hearkens back to the early days of Waikiki when societal elite first began to arrive on the island. It was here that local surfers first mingled with guests and began to teach them not only about Hawaiian culture but also water sports, breathing new life into the ancient Hawaiian sports of surfing and canoeing. The “beachboys” embodied the Hawaiian way of life and provided comprehensive concierge services to visitors often serving as local guides, surf instructors, lifeguards, and entertainers who frequently serenaded guests with Hawaiian music on the ukulele often for nothing more than friendship, a handshake, and a diminutive tip! This tradition continues even today as visitors can relax on the verandas of the very same hotels or beachside in linen lounge chairs and still be catered to by modern “beachboys” offering Mai Tia drinks, sailing catamaran charters, surf lessons, or outrigger canoe rides. Today’s “beachboys” are more organized, either working for the hotels or beach services companies that line the beach, and work on a fee-based service concept but they still reflect the spirit of aloha reminiscent of their Hawaiian waterman lineage. They have endured over the past 90 years though, not because of the services they provide or the spirit in which they provide it, although both are superb, but because of the tremendous beaches that front the hotels and the throng of beachgoers that it beckons. Packed with golden sand, surrounded by shallow and well protected water, and with easy access to some of the best beginner surf breaks in the entire world, this is vintage Waikiki. The beach here is surrounded by magnificent hotels, open air beach bars, easy public access, and numerous beach services stands, making it an ideal location for beachgoers of all type. Families, in particular, will like the soft sand, perfect for small children to play in, and the modest surf, which is ideal for little swimmers. Older children and teens will love the variety of water activities that are available and will probably yearn to catch a wave on a surfboard. There’s no other wave in the world that has taught more people to surf than the one that can be found right off shore this beach. All of this perfection does not come without its downside though as this section of Waikiki Beach is also the most densely crowded. The adjacent hotels chain off areas of the beach near their beach access points in order to make lounge chairs and umbrellas available for use by their guests. Catamarans beach themselves as they await their next departure. Outrigger canoes come and go with regularity. Surf schools line their students up along the beach for instruction. All of which makes for a beautiful cacophony of beach activity, but limits the amount of beach actually available for, well, enjoying the beach! If you plan to bring the family, arrange to get here early, you will do well to find a spot to claim by midmorning. There are limited pockets of shade available but they too are always taken early and shift with the arcing sun. Your best bet is to bring a small beach tent or umbrella for shade and lots of sunscreen! Lifeguards monitor all of the water activity from a couple of lifeguard stations located on the beach. Restroom facilities are available at all of the hotels or there are public facilities available at the east end of the beach on the Diamond Head side of the Moana Surfrider. Dining options are abundant if you plan to stay over lunch. There are numerous concession stands available as well as a number of restaurants lining the beach and nearby Kalakaua Avenue. By far the most famous, and well worth a visit if you have never been there before, is Duke’s Waikiki in the Outrigger Waikiki, where shoes and shirts are optional and bikinis and board shorts preferred. Popular for its beachside location and access, open aired dining with a view, and Hawaiian music the oceanfront retreat is named for Hawaii’s most famous son, Duke Kahanamoku, and offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. This vivacious hotspot is constantly crowded but the experience is worth whatever waiting you may have to endure (Hint: we recommend reservations, even for lunch!). Consistently ranked among Hawaii’s best, be sure to check out all the Duke memorabilia and the kids will love the Hula Pie! Parking can be a little hard to find if you plan to drive to the beach. Most of the hotel parking is only for guests or patrons of their shops and restaurants. There are a few public lots on streets perpendicular to Kalakaua Avenue and at some of the nearby shopping centers but your best bet is to park at the lot next to the Honolulu Zoo or in stalls along Kapiolani Park and walk to the beach. There is no beachfront sidewalk that parallels this section of beach so accessing the beach from the eastern end, which is where most of the available parking is located, and walking to an open spot of beach will be a challenge in the soft sand especially if you are carrying an entire family’s amount of beach gear! If this is your family or you intend to bring a stroller, be sure to walk along Kalakaua Avenue and access the beach through the hotels public beach access locations. It will make your life much easier! This is a terrific beach for all beachgoers, especially families. Terrific conditions and abundant activities make it ideal for children of all ages. Its popularity derived from both, and its superb location next to some of Waikiki’s finest and most admired hotels. There is a friendliness and tropical euphoria among all visitors that overshadows any unpleasantness as a result of the crowds. It’s somehow fitting that the center of Waikiki, the heart of the “Gathering Place,” is itself a hub of activity and a gathering place for all to enjoy. We highly recommend a family trip here. You will not be disappointed and you may even catch a glimpse of vintage Hawaii and why it has been, and will continue to be, one of the world’s top beach destinations.
There is something special about loading the family into the car and hitting the open road. The momentous sense of adventure, the exciting awareness of freedom, and the relief of leaving the confined urban landscape behind and escaping with those most important to you with nothing ahead but miles of pavement and yet to be written stories. Taking the family for a relaxing drive in Hawaii though can be a bit of a challenge! Living on a small island thick with traffic where it’s possible to get nearly anywhere within an hour thanks to the freeways, it’s tough to find a peaceful stretch of road to unwind and enjoy the countryside. However, just a few minutes outside of Honolulu and Waikiki lays a truly spectacular stretch of road that winds around an extinct cinder cone, through rain, bamboo and ironwood forests, and offers some of the most spectacular vistas of south Oahu that can be found, where you just might find an hour or two of driving nirvana. Relatively unknown to most except residents, the ten mile drive along Tantalus and Round Top Drives meanders around Mount Tantalus, a 2,000 foot high extinct cinder cone within the Ko’olau Mountains. The narrow two lane road switchbacks up and down the mountain past some of Oahu’s most exquisite and expensive homes, offering splendid views from a multitude of roadside lookouts and pullouts. At the top of Mount Tantalus is the entrance to Pu’u Ualaka’a State Park. This is a must see! The park offers picnic and restroom facilities, but the highlight of the park is the lookout. Enter the park and stay to the left when the road forks and head to the small parking lot for the lookout area. Head down the concrete (stroller friendly) path to the lookout. If the view seems familiar, it should. This is where Chad Gates (Elvis Presley) and his girlfriend Maile Duval (Joan Blackman) had their picnic in the film Blue Hawaii. The Waikiki skyline below the lookout has undoubtedly changed since 1961 but the view remains postcard perfect and is one of the best in Hawaii! More recently, the road leading to the park and the lookout itself were both featured in an episode of the new Hawaii Five-0 (Season 1 Episode 17 “Powa Maka Moana”). The entire south coast of Oahu can be seen from the lookout. The view stretches from Diamond Head, Waikiki, Ala Moana, Sand Island, Punchbowl, and Pearl Harbor all the way to Barbers Point and the Waianae Mountains beyond. Below the lookout is a small grass field that is ideal for spreading out a blanket and enjoying a family picnic—just like the King of Rock and Roll himself! This is also a perfect place to enjoy one of Hawaii’s fantastic sunsets. Be sure to bring your camera to take advantage of this lofty perch to capture one of the most memorable views in Hawaii. The park is open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. (7:00 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. after Labor Day to March 31) and admission is free. It can be quite windy at the lookout and as the sun sets there can even be a slight chill in the air, so bringing a light sweater or jacket is advised. As a precaution, be sure to not leave valuables in your car, break-ins are not unheard of here. Tantalus and Round Top Drives are very popular with joggers and cyclists so be alert when rounding the many hairpin turns as the roads snakes around the mountain and share the “aloha” with all. Also, be watchful for hikers, numerous trail heads are located along the roads. The amount of vehicle traffic is usually low, although it increases around sunset as people scramble for a viewing spot, but beware the preoccupied driver who makes frequent stops or wonders across the road distracted by the remarkable views that seem to burst into view around every turn. There are no service stations, restaurants, or restroom facilities (other than those at Pu’u Ualaka’a State Park) along the drive so be sure to plan accordingly. To get to Tantalus Drive, take the Punahoe exit off the H-1 Freeway and go north. Turn left on Nehoa Street, the right on Makiki Street. In about one block the road intersects with Makiki Heights Drive, stay to the right, then take the next left onto Round Top Drive. Round Top Drive will later turn into Tantalus Drive. You can stay on Tantalus Drive until it intersects with Makiki Heights Drive as you descend back down the other side of the mountain near the end of the drive. Makiki Heights Drive will bring you back to Makiki Street completing your journey! This is a terrific late afternoon family drive and a perfect way to escape for a few hours. Depending on the frequency and length of stops you make, the drive can easily be completed in about 2 hours. We highly recommend heading to Pu’u Ualaka’a State Park with a picnic dinner (or famous Hawaiian plate lunch!) for the family, spreading out a blanket and letting the kids explore while you and your spouse enjoy a perfect tropical sunset!
Ka’alawai Beach lies at the base of Diamond Head’s eastern slope between Kuilei Cliff Beach Park to the west and Black Point to the east. This narrow strip of sand fronts the upscale community of Ka’alawai which isolates the beach from typical crowds, virtually ensuring you will only be sharing the beach with a few surfers and local neighborhood residents. The only public access is hidden in a maze of residential streets with no signs pointing the way or identifying beach access. This golden stretch of sand is one of Oahu’s most picturesque with its backdrop of multimillion dollar homes framed by Hawaii’s most famous volcano crater. Unfortunately, the shallow reef that flanks the beach extends all the way to the shoreline making for poor swimming conditions. The beach is mainly used by surfers to access popular surf spots beyond the reef. There are a few pockets of small sandy bottom areas suitable for swimming along the beach, but they are rare. There are other beaches better suited for swimming, especially for families, nearby. If a family dip in the ocean is your objective, consider Wai’alae Beach Park and the beach fronting the Kahala Hotel and Resort just a few miles to the east. The reef, however, does create an excellent opportunity to do some tide pool exploration with the children! This is an excellent place to bring some water shoes and check out some of Hawaii’s varied marine life. The beach is also lined with palm trees and shrubs, mostly used to maintain privacy for nearby houses, but they consequently create vast shady areas suitable for a cool respite when you are ready for a break from the sun. There are no restroom facilities at the beach nor amenities for food or drink, so come prepared with your own. It is an ideal location for a picnic lunch! At the east end of the beach near Black Point, a black lava rock peninsula, is Shangri-La, a mansion turned museum, built by Doris Duke, the daughter of James Duke, the founder of the American Tobacco Company, and her husband, James Cromwell, in 1937. Upon her father's death, the socialite became one of the wealthiest women in the world. On her honeymoon, she visited Hawaii and the Middle East and became enamored with both. The newlyweds purchased five acres of beachfront property and built the manor which upon her death, per her wishes, became a center for the study, understanding, and preservation of Islamic art and culture. Perhaps its most popular feature though is not the house’s architecture or extensive Islamic art collection, but its small cove created to accommodate their yacht. Named after her husband, Cromwell’s Cove is now a popular swimming spot for local teens. It’s protected blue waters, deep depth, and sandy bottom make it an ideal location to jump off the surrounding lava rock wall and go for a swim. Caution: There have been incidents of swimmers getting injured here recently. Be aware of your surroundings and be careful around the lava rock wall. To access the cove, head to the left of the beach access and traverse a deteriorating rock wall to the east, be prepared…you will get wet. We don’t recommend trying this when the tide is high or if the surf is rough. It is also not recommended to attempt this with your young children. This portion of the trip should be for older children, teenagers or parents only. Its quite difficult and slippery scaling the wall and your likely to fall in the surf. Once you round the small point, you will see the cove straight ahead. To get to Ka’alawai Beach and Cromwell’s Cove take Diamond Head Road east and turn right on Kulamanu Street and park curbside. The beach access is at the end of Kulamanu Place. This is a picture perfect beach! Bring your camera as this is an oft overlooked part of Oahu but a worthy diversion from the norm. The swimming conditions and lack of facilities make the beach not as family friendly as others nearby, but the tide pools are nice to explore and Cromwell’s Cove is a fun side excursion.