Likeke Falls Hike | Oahu Family Activities

Story of A Tour Guide

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.

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Family Photos at Lanikai Beach

A Beautiful Lanikai Sunrise

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.

Beach Babies

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.

mokulua islands at sunrise at lanikai beach oahu
mom holding baby at sunrsei at lanikai beach
big messy family hug during a lanikai family portrait session
boy surprises mom with a big kiss during a sunrise photo session in hawaii
mom and baby portrait at lanikai beach
family portrait at the beach
happy baby
grandparents play with grandbaby at the beach
happy baby on the beach at lanikai
dad and son portrait
family portrait at lanikai beach in kailua
mom and baby cuddle on the beach in hawaii
baby portrait on the beach

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    Oahu Child Portraits | A Kawainui Marsh Sunset in Kailua

    The Best Compliment

    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.

    portrait of a girl swinging her hair during oahu child portraits session
    portrait of a boy
    kids play on a tire swing at kaha park in kailua
    girl standing on the levy in kailua
    portrait at kawainui marsh in kailua by little bird photography
    siblings hug at kawainui marsh in kailua during a family photo session
    siblings standing on the levy in kailua
    siblings share a laugh during a oahu child portraits session in kailua
    boy on a tire swing in hawaii
    girl walking on the levy with mountains behind during a kailua photography session

    Does Your Family Have a Hectic Schedule?

    No worries! Let me plan something that fits your needs and keep it simple and fun. Find out more about my fun family and child photography sessions here.

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      Things to Do in Oahu with Kids | Best Day Ever on Oahu

      Planning the Best Day Ever on Oahu

      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.

      girl looking out her bedroom window by little bird photography

      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.

      girl on an orange kayak at kaneohe sandbar in oahu hawaii

      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.

      secret island kaneohe as part of the best day ever on oahu plan

      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.

      kayaking in kaneohe bay things to Do in Oahu with Kids

      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.

      view of waimea bay looking out and from the water north shore beaches oahu

      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.

      tide pools in hawaii make a for a great things to Do in Oahu with Kids

      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.

      underwater view of fish at shark's cove on the north shore of oahu

      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.

      boy at a campfire in hawaii

      Afterward, we’ll make the drive to Gunstock Ranch with a quick stop for pie at Ted’s Bakery. At the ranch, we’ll saddle up for a private sunset dinner ride that ends with s’mores around a campfire.

      Best Day Ever Plan 4. A Break From the Beach

      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.

      boy ice skating at the ice palace in oahu

      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.

      fire dancers at the toa luau in waimea valley north shore of oahu

      So there you have it. Four opinions on the best day ever on Oahu. Does anything stand out to you?

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        Family Reunion Photographer | Koolina Lagoons, Oahu

        The Reunion

        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.

        group portrait at paradise cove by hawaii family reunion photographer
        dad tossing son in the air during a beach photo shoot
        group portrait at paradise cove by hawaii family reunion photographer
        mom and tween daughter being silly during a family photography session in oahu
        siblings playing on the beach at paradise cove lagoon in oahu
        mom kissing daughters head during a family photoshoot
        mom cuddling toddler boy during a beach photo session at koolina
        family photos at the beach in hawaii
        mom and son sitting on the beach looking at shells during a koolina beach photo session
        a family hug portrait at the beach in hawaii
        portrait of mom and tween daughter at paradise cove beach in oahu
        portrait of a girl at the beach in Koolina
        portrait of mom and teen daughter at the beach in hawaii
        mom and daughter sharing big laughs during a fun family photo session by little bird photography
        mom and daughter hugging on the beach in koolina by little bird photography
        toddler boy with sandy feet against a dad in gingham during a hawaii family photo session
        closeup portrait of a toddler boy at the beach in hawaii
        girl spinning with palm trees behind at koolina lagoon
        boy sticking his tongue out at a beach in hawaii
        portrait of a couple at koolina lagoon in oahu

        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.

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          Oahu Birth Photographer | A Long Journey

          The Beginning

          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.

          Waiting, Waiting

          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 –

          couple and their doula in the labor room at tripler hospital
          man supporting his wife through labor
          mom in labor at tripler hospital by oahu birth photographer
          dad comforting mom during a long labor at tripler hospital by oahu birth photographer
          pregnant belly at tripler hospital during labor
          dad comforting mom during labor at tripler hospital
          black and white portrait of labor by oahu birth photographer
          dad holding newborn daughter for the first time
          hospital bands
          checking vitals of newborn baby at tripler hospital by oahu birth photographer
          newborn baby and mom at the hospital by oahu birth photographer

          A Fresh-48

          To document a bit more of baby Arlo’s first days of life, we met again at their home for a fresh-48 session.

          mom and dad on the couch watching newborn baby sleep
          newborn baby sleeping in her crib by oahu newborn photographer
          mom and dad cuddle newborn baby during a lifestyle newborn session in hawaii
          mom and dad cuddle newborn in the nursery during a newborn photography session in oahu
          closeup of newborn sleeping
          mom holding newborn baby with bow by little bird photography

          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.

          [email protected]

          tel : 808.783.3602

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