As I wound my way up the windward coast, I could tell it was going to be spectacular. Although it was a full half-hour until sunrise, the horizon was already glowing a deep red-orange. I don’t like driving. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that I h ate driving. Oh, but that coastal road that winds through sleepy neighborhoods with intermittent glimpses of the ocean is a different story. It’s like a sneak peek of the coming attraction and it’s just lovely.
A northwest swell was creating the first wave action the coast had seen in weeks. Salt spray hovered at the edges of the shoreline because the wind was too lazy to whisk it away. It was a beautiful morning for photos, but it was going to be hot. As I pulled into the empty parking lot, a resounding boom filled the space. Welcome to Pounders Beach in Laie.
About the Session
At nine and seven-years-old, the boys are at wonderful ages for a photo session. They’re equal parts curious, mischievous, and snuggly, but the latter was on the decline. They’re approaching that border of adolescence. In a few short years, mom and dad will be (gently) pushed aside as they seek their independence. I made sure to capture every snuggle and every handhold I could because those moments will become priceless.
Of course, the boys didn’t know any of this. They simply enjoyed a morning at the beach with their family. It was full of tree swings and wave jumping and left them with beautiful memories of Hawaii.
Photos are the Best Kind of Souvenir
Make the most of your family vacation. I’ll match you with a great location where you can play, explore, and make memories under the tropical sun. You’ll take home beautiful images so you can surround yourself with warm memories all year long. Find out more about my family adventure photography sessions here.
Driving rain and wind gusts have kept us cooped inside the house for days. People are wearing pants outside, sweaters even. That’s how you know it’s winter in Hawaii. But I know, I’m not allowed to complain. In fact, a client from Minnesota scoffed at me the other day when I mentioned the chilly, gloomy weather and said, “Oh, you’ll survive”.
Although long stretches of rain can be annoying for locals, if you’re visiting the islands on a family vacation, it can feel devastating. Your vision of a tropical vacation destroyed. But fear not. There’s still fun to be had. Below you will find four fun Oahu family activities for rainy days to keep everyone happy.
Seek the Sunshine
Sometimes all it takes to find some sun is to wait a while. Hawaii’s weather changes quickly and showers often pass in a flash. If you’re lucky, the rain will leave rainbows in its wake. However, if the clouds are stubbornly staying put, you may need to drive to another part of the island in search of the sun. Waikiki on the south shore and Ko Olina on the leeward side have the driest climates and are your best bets for finding pockets of tropical warmth.
Dark Sky is a great app for hyperlocal weather information with down-to-the-minute forecasts for your exact location. It can be eerily accurate and help you decide to wait out a rain squall or seek a sunnier spot.
Embrace the Water
Light or intermittent rain is perfectly fine hiking weather and it adds a little extra adventure. After all, that’s when waterfalls like to show off. For a family-friendly hike visit Manoa Falls. Skip the hike if it’s been pouring all day as flash floods can be a concern.
Explore marine life while staying dry with a visit to the Waikiki Aquarium. The small but charming aquarium is home to fish, giant clams, coral, jellyfish, and Hawaiian monk seals. Plan to spend an hour or two at most.
If you’re up for a drive, Interstate H-3 is a must. The highway takes through the Koolau Mountain Range where waterfalls spill from every crack and crevice. Keep an eye out for the Haiku stairs – an impressive staircase to the summit that clings to impossibly steep cliffs (currently a closed hike).
If you were planning to swim anyway, you might as well head
to the beach and play in the waves. You just might have the beach all to yourselves.
Avoid swimming near stream mouths after heavy rains. Brown water from runoff often
indicates a high bacterial load.
Visiting museums is a great way to get to know the island’s history while avoiding the rain and you have three great options.
The Honolulu Museum of Art is the largest fine arts museum in the state, focusing on Asian Art and American and European works. View over 50,000 pieces, spanning over 500 years of art in their permanent collection. Admission is free every first Wednesday of the month but the best time to visit is every third Sunday of the month for Bank of Hawaii Family Sundays when they offer free crafts and activities.
Bishop Museum is a family favorite and offers something for everyone. Their Hawaiian Hall is a treasure trove of Hawaiian history, culture, and artifacts. The Planetarium programs are excellent and kids will especially enjoy the interactive exhibits in the Science Adventure Center.
Airplane lovers and history buffs will enjoy a day at the Pacific Aviation Museum. Occupying two seaplane hangars on the historic Ford Island, which survived the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. The 1930s era hangar exhibits vintage aircraft and artifacts from World War II. Self-guided audio tours and docent-led aviator and B-17E Swamp Ghost tours are available.
Visit Ala Moana Mall
I wouldn’t normally add shopping as a family-friendly activity, but Ala Moana Mall is an exception. A visit might include some kid-friendly shops like the Lego or Disney stores followed by a hula show on the center stage and a visit to the arcade. Dessert opportunities abound so save room to try something different. Make sure to look for the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk on the ground floor for a taste of Japan. There are 32 food stalls serving everything from musubi and pasta to yakisoba and bubble drinks. When you’re full, browse the surrounding stalls for collectible toys and adorable stationery and end with a visit to the rows of toy capsule vending machines.
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We were an absolute mess after having our first baby. Micah arrived early catching us off guard. Although I had prepared and froze several meals as recommended, we hadn’t purchased a microwave yet. I remember standing in front of the full freezer with tears streaming down my face. I was simply too tired, hungry, and sore to figure out how to solve the problem. Although things slowly improved over the next weeks and months, we struggled to adapt his entire first year.
That’s why I’m always amazed and delighted to meet couples with a new baby who seem to have it all together. I didn’t have the energy to even think about baby portraits, but here Chris and Jasmine had merely tacked on their mini photo session to a first family trip to Hawaii. They didn’t look tired at all. In fact, it’s fair to say that they were glowing with the love and pride of new parents.
The family was staying at the very hip and stylish Laylow Hotel in Waikiki. If you can have a crush on a hotel, the Laylow would be mine. If I had realized they were staying there in advance I would have suggested starting our session at the photogenic hotel. Instead, they made the journey over the Pali to Lanikai Beach for their mini baby portrait session.
The Best Baby Beach on Oahu
The impossibly blue water, powder-fine sand, and epic views put Lanikai Beach on many “best beaches in the world” checklists. It’s definitely beautiful and inviting, but most appealing to me is that it’s kid-friendly. Baby-friendly even. Loud, crashing waves and steep shore breaks often have beach neophytes in tears before they even touch the water. It can feel scary and overwhelming. But Lanikai is gentle. A barrier reef absorbs the biggest waves only letting playful wavelets come to shore. There, tiny toes can quietly investigate the water. It’s a great first beach experience and baby Willow was delighted with her first beach day.
Do You Have Any Upcoming Baby Milestones?
Let’s find a park to explore or a mellow beach where we can spend the morning splashing under a golden sun. I’ll document your big milestones and you can have fun in the process! Find out about my family photography sessions here.
Four years ago I made my very first client film for this family. It was Sophie’s first birthday and her very first visit to the beach. Even though they live minutes from the Koolina lagoons, they’re not big beach people and had never made the trip. We thought it would be a fun occasion for a visit. We reminisced about that day when they called to schedule a follow-up photo and film session. I remember the soft, glowing light on that perfect Hawaiian morning. I remember Sophie’s inquisitive nature and how her parents couldn’t keep their eyes off her. They beamed with pride and love. But memory is a funny thing because I had completely forgotten that I had full-blown bronchitis during that session including a wicked cough that made talking a struggle. Maybe that makes me an optimist.
The Magic of Nuuanu Valley
For their new photo session, they wanted a change of scenery so we traded the beach for a park. Not just any park, but Nuuanu Valley Park. A park dripping with the green and tropical-ness of their Hawaii home.
They pulled into the parking lot and an excited girl with long, brown ringlets emerged from the car in a burst of energy and questions. Which outfit should she wear? Which accessories? Could she wear them all at once and what were we all waiting for? They’re a creative family that values imagination so dressing up was a must. Princess dresses, superhero capes, and intricate Haku lei were jammed into a bag along with a hefty edition of Harry Potter and we set off for a bit of adventure.
It was a fast-paced session and I struggled to keep up. Sophie’s inquisitive, fun nature has only grown and she wanted to do everything all at once. She joyfully skipped from one spot to the next. Eager to keep moving and twirling and climbing. Laughing all the while. We only paused to read a bit of Harry Potter and imagine dragons lurking in the forest.
Watch their family video below.
See a sample of images from their photo gallery here.
Alex and his family live the country life on Oahu. A path on one side of their house leads to a small stream where they spend many days happily exploring. If they want bigger water, they simply head across the street to Kahana Bay. Their small community is isolated and that brings them closer together. It’s not unusual to return home to a gift of ripe papayas or bananas on your doorstep.
They delighted in this slow pace of life in idyllic valley tucked away from the hectic pace elsewhere on Oahu. It’s been their beloved home since their daughter was born, but that was about to change. With heavy hearts, they needed to make a big move to the mainland. Our photo session was a way to capture one of their favorite family rituals so they could always keep it in their hearts.
Sunrise at Kahana Bay
Kahana Bay has a wild feel. It’s one of the rainiest areas on the island. As a result, the surrounding mountains and valley are a deep green and often cloaked in rain clouds. It’s a dramatic backdrop to a family photo session and a fun place for any kid to explore. Crabs scuttle along the shore while small fish swim in the shallow rivulets leading to the ocean. The waves are long and gentle and there is usually a tree swing somewhere in the bay. For adults, the perfectly spaced trees along the shore demand a hammock and a long nap.
I was expecting the typical gloom that hangs over Kahana, but on this particular morning, we were met with sunshine. Bright rays streamed over the adjacent ridgeline where ambitious hikers were already taking in the view from above. An extremely low tide mirrored the surrounding beauty and made for an excellent, natural splash pad. The family wasted no time. This was their home and the raced straight to the ocean to play in the shallows.
After a bit of fishing and hide-and-seek in the adjacent forest, it was time for waves. The tide was low enough that we were easily able to walk out to the sandy shores adjacent to the fish pond. The views were breathtaking, but our focus was on the perfect sandcastle followed by the perfect wave. We mastered them both.
What Does A Great Day Look Like for Your Family?
Let’s head to the beach or mountains for some much-needed family time and a bit of adventure. We’ll have a great morning and you can walk away with beautiful images that feel like you. Find out more about my fun family photography sessions here.