Once upon a time, during grad school, long, long before children and photography, I worked as a tour guide. My customers thought I had the coolest job. I … well, I did not agree. In part because I had to drive a minibus around Waikiki while talking into a headset. Ugh.
Anyway, the hike to Likeke Falls was our most popular Oahu hike – the “rainforest hike”. Understandably so – it is a short, easy, jungle-icious hike to a pretty waterfall all with the stunning backdrop of the Koolau pali. Nice. It’s close to my house so I have taken the kids many, many, (many) times over the years for a bit of exercise and nature.
There are a couple of downsides. It tends to be muddy and slippery after rains and can be crowded with tour groups. Most problematic, however, is that the unmarked trails can be confusing. In fact, i’ll tell you a little secret. I got lost there … while leading a tour group. It had been raining a lot and I turned onto a trail that wasn’t actually a trail. I had my group slogging up the mountainside through ankle-deep mud telling them it was due to a recent mudslide. There were some pretty large plants growing in that recent mudslide, but never mind. I managed to get them back safely and they thought it was the height of adventure and tipped me very well. Go figure.
Likeke Falls and the Old Pali Road
There are different hikes in the area and you can connect and explore different paths. One of my favorite routes is a loop that starts at the bottom of the old pali road, makes a detour to the waterfall, and finishes back at the parking lot. It’s short, scenic, and fun, but potentially confusing. Send me an email and i’ll take you some time. Another favorite is walking up the Old Pali Road to the lookout and taking the much longer path to Maunawili Trail.
FYI: leptospirosis is a concern with all freshwater sources in Hawaii. I wouldn’t recommend letting the kids play in the water if they have open cuts and definitely don’t drink the water.
Looking for more family fun on Oahu?
Sign up for the Little Bird Post to receive monthly updates on off-the-beaten-path adventures.
Life under quarantine has shifted our morning routine. I’m not normally a morning person, but one or two sunrise sessions a week kept me on an early morning ritual. But now, with no sessions and no school in sight, we seem to wake up later and later each week; shifting into night owls. If my husband didn’t use our bedroom as a temporary office, mornings would probably stretch into the afternoon.
It’s one of those weird things. I love being at the beach at sunrise, yet I won’t do it unless forced. Us humans are strange that way. If you’re a morning person, maybe you can pull it off. The payoff for early risers is a vivid, ever-changing sky over an empty beach. If you’re lucky you might see seabirds foraging quietly offshore and crabs digging fresh holes for their daytime naps.
Fortunately, Allison and her family are early risers. Plus, coming from California means they have jet lag in their favor. We made plans to meet before sunrise at Lanikai Beach in Windward Oahu. Not only is it a famously beautiful beach, but it’s also great for kids. She wanted me to capture a little snapshot of their Hawaii family vacation. It was a gift for her parents who they were traveling with and for herself.
Since they live near the beach in California the kids are quite comfortable in the water. As soon as the sand tickled their toes, they knew what to do – dig and splash and chase waves – which they did with great exuberance and joy. The baby tried hard to keep up with her big brother but it’s hard when you’re not very mobile. She crawled through the sand at top speed. Even when she fell behind, she still clapped and cheered wildly for his antics. Actions he rewarded with fat kisses on her baby cheeks.
Big energy comes with a cost and before long the duo were exhausted. Time for a quick nap and the rest of the day was open for more adventures.
Want to Capture a Snapshot of Your Life in This Moment?
Let me plan something fun and painless so you can enjoy a lovely morning together as a family and take home beautiful memories. Contact me to start planning today.
As the golden sky faded to a cool blue and we walked to our respective cars, he called out in an earnest tone, “When can we see you again?” “Soon, I hope” I called out and drove away with a smile on my face. That may be the biggest compliment you can get from a 9-year-old boy.
Portraits ticked off the must do list
Shannon reached out for a family photo session at the end of last year. They are a busy family involved in multiple sports and activities at different schools in different parts of the island. There is a lot to juggle on any given week and the year was rapidly drawing to a close.
They needed to update their annual family portraits, but their regular photographer had just moved off the island. A bit frantic, Shannon reached out for a last-minute session. She wanted something simple and easy that not only captured her children’s (sometimes serious, sometimes goofy) personalities but also fit their hectic schedules.
Since they aren’t a big beach family, we chose something greener and met on a sunny afternoon at Kawai Nui Marsh trail. The kids are about the same age as mine and we had fun talking about their lives and playing silly games.
I sometimes worry about keeping older kids entertained if we’re not doing an activity – catching waves or climbing trees – but the conversation flowed and time passed quickly. Asking if we can meet again really was the best compliment. Hopefully, we can meet again soon for more laughs and another mini session.
Businesses are slowly beginning to open and change feels imminent. In the meantime, however, we grow restless under persistent stay-at-home orders. To combat the repetition and isolation, we’ve started to fantasize about the future. When things re-open and we can move about Oahu freely once again, what will we do first? What would be the best day ever?
I asked each family member to plan their version of the best day ever with the caveat that we had to stay on the island and it would just be the four of us to keep it simple. I’m sharing the results with you in case you find yourself with a beautiful day on Oahu to fill.
Best Day Ever Plan 1. Snorkeling Windward Oahu
My best day starts early with a drive to Heeia Pier in Kaneohe. The pier isn’t that fascinating itself, but it’s a great launch point for the Kaneohe sandbar, one of my favorites places on the island. From the pier, the kayak/paddleboard armada will make the journey to the sand bar while scouting for turtles, fish, and rays along the way.
This plan is highly weather dependent. Not so much the sunshine (although that’s a definite plus), but the wind. It’s a long paddle and requires a low wind day for a 9 and 11-year-old to muscle their way across the bay. Plus, snorkeling isn’t much fun on a windy day.
Ideally, the trip will coincide with low tide exposing the sand bar so you can rest on solid ground and bask in the sun in between bouts of paddling and snorkeling. After eating all the snacks it’s time to head back. Don’t worry, traveling in this direction is much easier and you can float to shore along with the current.
The next stop is the Waiahole Poi Factory to pick up a Hawaiian plate lunch. So good, but you can’t dive in just yet. Take your food to go and drive to Kualoa Regional Park at the north end of Kaneohe Bay. Here, you’ll make your way to Secret Island Beach where perfectly spaced palm trees await your hammocks. Enjoy your meal with a view.
If energy remains after dining and lounging, paddle out to Mokolii Island (Chinaman’s Hat) or simply explore the bay until sunset. On the way home pick up poke bowls from Tamura’s.
Best Day Ever Plan 2. Snorkeling North Shore Oahu
My husband and I independently came up with very similar versions of the best day, just at different parts of the island. At first, I wanted him to come up with a different plan for more variety, but I really like his version of the best day too.
His day beings early with excess amounts of coffee before the long drive to the North Shore. Keep in mind that the north shore is a chameleon with massive waves in the winter months and calm, deep blues in the summer. This is definitely a summer plan.
On this day, we arrive early enough to beat the crowds and heat and park at Waimea Bay. The clear blue water and the massive expanse of white sand make it idyllic. With cliffs and a botanical garden hugging the bay you feel isolated and far removed from reality. However, all that sun and sand means it gets brutally hot by mid-morning. Bring a canopy, snorkel gear, cool drinks and a paddle board for an epic beach morning.
After you overheat, over-snorkel, or simply run out of snacks, make the drive along the north shore to Turtle Bay for an early dinner at Roy’s Beach House. Afterward, grab your hammocks and follow the path along the beach away from the hotel in search of a small, protected pool against a tree-lined shore. Give the kids fishing nets and goggles and explore until the sun sets.
Best Day Ever Plan 3. From Mauka to Makai
Mila (age 9) has decidedly more expensive taste. She struggled with the logistics of incorporating all of her activities – eating tasty food, horseback riding, zip-lining, snorkeling, and sunset on the beach – into a single day.
If she was a little older and bigger we would be able to schedule a combination of zip-lining and horseback riding at beautiful Kualoa Ranch. Sadly, she’s a year or two away from the size limits. There wasn’t a good zip-lining alternative so I modified her plan.
Her perfect day starts with breakfast in Kailua at Crepes No Ka ‘Oi. With full bellies, we make the long drive to the north shore for a morning snorkel at Shark’s Cove. Although she wanted to end at the beach for sunset, I made some surprise modifications that I know she will love. If the conditions are calm enough we will snorkel out of the cove and around to nearby three tables. Lunch will be an easy trip across the street to the food trucks.
It was more of a struggle to get Micah (age 11) to participate in the best day ever game. I couldn’t get him to think beyond friends, food, and ice-skating.
His best day starts with breakfast at Over Easy followed by a visit to the Ice Palace – an ice skating rink in Salt Lake. Arrive as it’s opening for fewer crowds and clean ice. His plan is to stay until his feet are raw alternating between skating, playing video games, and noshing on musubi and li hing gummies. Only when he is physically unable to skate any more can we leave the noise and chaos of the ice rink for a late lunch of spicy ramen at Golden Pork.
He ended the day there, but I would add one final activity to his best day. He’s been to the Polynesian Cultural Center with school and talks about it all the time, but he’s never been to Toa Luau in Waimea Valley a smaller more intimate show. His best day should definitely end with fire dancers.
So there you have it. Four opinions on the best day ever on Oahu. Does anything stand out to you?
Looking for More Things to do in Oahu with Kids?
Sign up for the Little Bird Post for monthly updates on off-the-beaten-path family adventures.
When you live in Minnesota and have family in Singapore, Hawaii makes the perfect reunion destination. They simply had to meet in the middle. Still, it was a big trip for all involved and one they didn’t want to forget. A family photo session was the perfect way to capture the candid moments of joy and laughter as they met again and played together on a sun-soaked Hawaii beach.
A Happy Group
Kirsten and her family made reservations at the Four Seasons in peaceful Koolina, Oahu. To keep things easy for the big group, we stayed nearby with an early morning visit to Paradise Cove Beach.
A light breeze welcomed us to the little cove which was empty save a small flock of shorebirds. They darted artfully along the beach seeking treasure while avoiding waves.
The sun was slow to wake that morning, but the group was in high spirits. We played nonsensical games, ridiculous enough to make the tweens belly laugh and searched for our own treasures in the cove. Even the men who declared the perfect photo session would be 5 minutes long got swept up into the fun. Time passed quickly before our natural timer – a hungry toddler – told us it was time to leave.
The sun had begun to shine and crowds were filtering into the cove for their own morning of beach fun. With promises to return, we gave one last longing glimpse at the cove and succumbed to growling bellies. Until next time.
Do You Need a Family Reunion Photographer for Your Next Hawaii Vacation?
Make the most of your time together with fun photos against a beautiful backdrop. We can plan a day at a secret beach, take a hike or visit a vibrant green park. Find out more about my family photography sessions here.
I opened the door to soothing music and a delicate floral scent. It was a dramatic transition from the sterile hospital corridor with buzzing overhead lights. I arrived in the middle of a dance. Mike and Amanda gently swayed back and forth as she worked through a contraction while their doula flitted about adjusting and comforting. None of us knew it at the time, but we had a long journey ahead.
Amanda reached out early in her pregnancy in search of a birth photographer because she knew she wanted photos to capture the birth of their first child. The baby’s very first moments in the world. The look on Mike’s face seeing the baby for the first time and proudly declaring if it was a boy or girl. After years in the military, Amanda was a strong, independent woman with a clear vision and she was ready.
Fourteen hours after her water broke, I was called to Tripler Hospital. Assessing her progress adds an element of risk so the procedure was postponed until it seemed we were close. As contractions intensified and became more frequent over the next 10 hours, we thought we were close. The nurses, the doula, everyone thought she was far along – 7cm? perhaps 8cm? Finally, it was time to check. Sadly, deep moans and intense pain belied her progress. We were all heartbroken to learn she was at 1 cm.
Their exhausted faces crumpled in disappointment and I was sent home for the night. However, sleeping proved difficult as I kept dreaming I missed their call to return to the hospital. Morning came and went, but still no news. I checked my phone obsessively and paced through the house until I finally received an update some 40 hours after labor began. They were heading to the OR for an emergency C-section and photographers aren’t allowed in the room. My heart sank for them. It may not have been the experience they hoped for, but the end result was a beautiful, healthy 10-pound(!) baby girl and they were delighted.
Click the play button to watch a video of their birth story.
And see a sample of their photos here –
To document a bit more of baby Arlo’s first days of life, we met again at their home for a fresh-48 session.
Looking for an Oahu Birth Photographer for Yourself?
Reach out to me here and we can talk about capturing your own birth story through photos and film.