Unique Oahu Activities for Adventurous Families

oahu activities for adventurous families

Who is this list for?

Oahu activities for adventurous families is list of personal favorites. This list is for families who love nature, the beach and like to get off the beaten path to try something a little different. There are ideas for a few beaches, a few hikes and a bonus.

jumping off the waimea bay rock at sunset on north shore of oahu

Adventurous Beaches

Is an adventurous beach a thing? Yes, it most definitely is. These are spots where should know how to swim and keep an eye on ocean.

  • Halona Beach Cove – This tiny beach is tucked away along Oahu’s southeast rugged shores. The steep ascent and high surf make it tricky, but rewarding.
  • Snorkel at Electric Beach – Oahu’s Leeward coast has a thirsty, rugged beauty. You’ll find raw beaches studded by sharp kiawe trees and pounded by the surf. Experience the power of the ocean from the stretch of coastline beyond Koolina to Kaena Point.
  • Waimea Bay – In the summer months this bay is a placid lake dotted with sailboats, but in the winter the shore break is a beast eager to slam you into the sand. The popular jumping rock tests your bravery and the memories stick with you for a lifetime.
  • Ke iki Beach – This wide expanse of beach has my heart – from the mountain view to the glorious sunsets silhouetting whales, dolphins, and manta rays. True, the massive rocks draw you in but then threaten to shred you feet, but it’s worth it. At low tide, there is a fun little tidal shelf to explore. Not nearly as big as adjacent shark’s cove, or Three Tables but a lovely alternative. If you can brave the shore break (easier in summer), you can snorkel out and around toward Shark’s Cove.
dramatic view of kids hiking from the koolau summit on kuliouou trail in oahu hawaii

Adventurous Family Hikes

Hawaii has no shortage of adventurous hikes with its knife ridges and slippery waterfalls. This list is safe enough for families who don’t want to cheat death necessarily, just adventure a little further. A little harder.

  • Kuliouou Trail – This is a ridge trail so you get great views and a summit trail so you get views of both Honolulu and windward Oahu. The final bit takes you through some native vegetation which you can examine with great care as you pant for breath.
  • Poamoho Trail – This may be my favorite hike on the island. True, it’s not accessible without a 4WD and (an easy to obtain in advance permit), but it’s level, beautiful throughout and its a summit hike.
  • Crouching Lion Trail – Crazy steep and a bit sketchy but super short. You can keep going up the mountain if can’t get enough but we prefer to make our way down for lunch at the Poi Factory instead.
horseback riding option for Oahu families

Bonus Family Activity

We regularly have this conversation at our home on weekends – Do you want to go to the beach? No. Do you want to go for a hike? No. Well, then there’s nothing else to do. Honestly, we don’t have this conversation anymore because –

1. There no free weekends. They all belong to soccer and we spend most of our time moving back and forth from Kailua to Waipio Soccer Complex.

2. We know the answers will invariably be no to both questions because as teens/tweens my kids never want to go to the beach or for a hike. It’s frustrating.

Anyway, if you’re at the point in your trip where you don’t feel like the beach or a hike but still want to do something active (that doesn’t involve soccer, the mall, or PokemonGo), you can ride horses at Gunstock Ranch.

And there you have it, Oahu activities for adventurous families. If you’re looking for ideas, you can see four versions of the “Best Day Ever” on Oahu here.

Hanalei Family Beach Portraits | Kauai’s Bluest Blues

family plays on the beach during family photos at sunrise hanalei bay kauai

The Best of Kauai – Hanalei family beach portraits

Hanalei Bay is hands down my favorite spot on Kauai. The white sand beach curls gently around the deep blue of the ocean while bold mountains watch over the salty scene. When Melissa reached out for family photos and mentioned it was her favorite beach too, I was happy to jump onto a flight and meet them on the north shore of Kauai.

It’s the perfect spot for a family who deeply loves the ocean. I had to hold the kids back for a bit for some, well, dry family portraits. Not to worry, I have lots of tricks up my sleeve in the forms of games and random silliness to distract from the lure of the ocean – at least for a little bit. Slowly we moved closer to the water and began to explore. Tiny seashells and interesting sticks were all examined with care.

Low tide left a smooth slick of water on the sand and waves had carved out mini streams. Navigating these obstacles kept us busy until it was too warm to deny the ocean any longer

Into the blue

After a quick change it was finally time to dive into the bay. I readied my water camera and braced for impact. Honestly, it was the perfect temperature – a slight chill to ward off the bright heat of the sun. However, I’m a definite wimp in the face of anything moderately cold and it shocks me every time. While I waded in slowly with a pained expression, the kids showed no hesitation. One look at the perfect, clean waves and they were submerged.

Perfect, clean waves made it an ideal playground. They spent the rest of the morning jumping waves and body surfing. Deep belly grumbles put an end to our fun and they headed off for breakfast with promises to return soon.

boy playing on the beach hanalei bay
mom and daughter portrait on the beach north shore kauai
mom and son portrait sunrise hanalei kauai
kauai family portraits at sunrise in hanalei
mom and daughter photo at hanalei beach on kauai
calm blue water at hanalei bay
portrait of a girl with a plant and mountains on the beach in hawaii
sibling portrait at sunrise during family photoshoot on kauai
siblings jumping in synchrony north shore kauai vacation photos
photo of a boy with glasses laughing and kauai mountains in the background
girl with long hair watching the waves in hanalei bay during family photoshoot
dad hugs daughter at the beach in hawaii with mountains beyond
portrait of mom and son laughing during family photo session kauai haawaii
family beach portrait at hanalei bay kauai
girl at the beach with blue sky beyond hawaii beach
dad and son tossing a ball at hanalei beach kauai
boy body surfing at the beach
kids swimming in hanalei bay
kids playing on a sand bank at a beach in hawaii
family plays in the blue water of hawaii

Do you have a beach loving family?

Family photos don’t have to be a painful, stressful affair. Let’s meet at the beach to make some beautiful family portraits alongside salty Hawaiian memories. Find out more about my easy family photo sessions here.

Lanikai Beach sunrise photo session | A morning to remember

lanikai beach sunrise photo session for family on vacation

If I was to make a must-visit, best ever, don’t miss it beach list for Oahu, it would certainly include Lanikai Beach in Kailua. The sand is light and fluffy underfoot and palm trees perpetually dance in the tradewinds. Just offshore, Flat Island and the Mokuluas shimmer in turquoise waters. If you look carefully you can see turtle heads surfacing for a quick breath while they scour the reef for snacks. In the winter months you can catch the sunrise directly between the islands. It feels magical – as if anything is possible.

Memories captured: still and video

I’ve always loved photos, but video has become more important to me as my memories begin to get jumbled and faded. That’s why I added video to my photo sessions. They’re like little precious time capsules that you can escape into.

Watch their mini family film here –

And see a sample of their photos here –

kids watching sunrise over the mokulua islets from lanikai beach oahu
kids playing on lanikai beach at sunrise
boy playing with the fine sand at lanikai beach kailua
mom and daughter hug during a lanikai family photo session
couple kisses at lanikai beach while kids run around
sunrise family photo session at lanikai
family photos at lanikai
dad kisses toddler son with palm trees behind during sunrise photoshoot in hawaii
sisters play along the waters edge in hawaii
family plays at lanikai beach oahu
dad and son build a sandcastle at lanikai beach kailua
closeup of girl with glasses laughing at the beach
mom and daughter snuggle during hawaii family photos at lanikai beach
dad carry laughing boy at the beach
couple portrait at lanikai beach in kailua
happy family hugging at lanikai beach by little bird photography
family walking along empty lanikai beach at sunrise
dad and daughter
family watching the waves at lanikai beach kailua

Into the Lanikai Blue

About an hour after sunrise the call of the clear blue water because too strong and it was time to jump in. Sunblock was applied, floaties were hastily inflated and it was a mad dash to the ocean. This time of morning – about an hour or so after sunrise – is a magical time at the beach. Any ambitious sunrise gawkers have taken their photos and departed while the morning beach crowd has yet to arrive. A normally crowded beach can suddenly become a private family adventure.

My personal favorite way to experience Lanikai is with a pre-sunrise hike to the Lanikai pillboxes towering above the beach followed by a refreshing ocean dip. First you take in the view and then you experience it close up. Spectacular.

girl leaping into the ocean at lanikai beach
girl playing on a float during hawaii photo session
dad throwing daughter in the air against blue sky during fun family photo session in hawaii
family building sand castles a the beach in kailua
boy playing in an inter tube at lanikai beach
girl sitting in a rainbow float at kailua beach as waves wash in
toddler boy plays in the surf at kailua beach
tattooed dad holds daughter in the water during hawaii family photos

Want to make the most of your vacation?

Let’s take advantage of all beautiful Hawaii has to offer with a family photo session. I’ll put together options that fit your needs and you enjoy an easy morning of fun and laughter! Learn more about my family beach photo sessions here.

Upcountry Maui family photographer | A colorful beach alternative in Kula

a family walks along a winding road in kula maui during a family photoshoot

Relief from the heat

A trip to Maui is always a treat. It makes a great excuse to visit friends and explore the island a bit. This was one of the first inter-island adventures I took post-pandemic. Or post the start of the pandemic anyway. Traveling after such a long break was a strange experience full of hand sanitizer, masks, and long lines.

Once I snagged the last rental car and made it out of the airport successfully, I made a beeline to beautiful Kula. Winding roads took me up the mountain past strawberry farms and flowering jacaranda trees. The air was instantly cooler and if was a welcome relief the oppressive summer heat at sea level. Welcome to Maui.

So we meet again

Kim first asked me to photograph her family on a Maui vacation a few years ago. We planned at sunrise beach session near their hotel in Kaanapili. This time, they wanted something a little different. Something that felt uniquely Maui. So up the mountain I drove loving every minute.

We met at a quiet little pull out tucked against rock walls holding in herds of curious animals. The boys were overflowing with energy from the long drive and probably just a break from the heat. We played games, laughed and made memories while watching the sun set from up high. It was a lovely afternoon and I was sorry when it was time to head back down the mountain and make the long journey back home.

family portrait on maui
siblings hugging during maui family photo session
mom and son hug against flowering jacaranda trees on maui
dad and kids being silly
boy jumping into father's arms during photo session
squishing boys cheeks during a fun photo session in hawaii
family walking at sunset in upcountry maui
parents play with kids in kula maui
portrait of a smiling boy
mom and son walking along kula road
dad and son portraits during maui family photo session
mom and son against flowering jacaranda trees in kula maui
colorful portrait of a boy at sunset
dad and son share a laugh
dad playing with sons during hawaii family photo session
dad and son at sunset
family enjoying sunset upcountry maui
dad and son watch a maui sunset

Looking for something different for your family photo session?

Let me put together some fun options so you can relax and play together as a family. You get to have fun and take home beautiful images from our time together – the best combination! Find out more about my fun family photography sessions here.

Lanikai Beach Family Photo Session | From Makai to Mauka

family watching sunrise over the mokes from Lanikai beach

A change of plans

One of the great perks of being a professor is the option to take a sabbatical. You can take a year off to work at a different university or on a special project or just travel. Why don’t they allow that for more professions because it sounds amazing? This family hit a snag in their plans – COVID. Their trip coincided with the start of hte pandemic and ultimately rerouted them from Italy to Hawaii – Lanikai Beach specifically. Less romantic, but not a bad place to spend a year.

Sunrise to Sunset, makai to mauka

They asked me to document their days in photos and video to remember their time in Hawaii. We simply strolled down the street from their house and met at the beach for sunrise. After much running, hugging and general silliness on the beach, it was time to jump in.

We launched a paddleboard and the kids took turns steering and jumping off, but the clouds were stubborn that day and the water was a bit chilly. We didn’t last long under the winter clouds. No worries, we would meet again that afternoon for part II of our adventure – a hike above their Lanikai home.

< click play to watch their family below >

< and see a sample of their images here >

mom and daughter hug
closeup of a toddler boy with freckles
mom and daughter hug with the mokulua islets behind at sunrise
Lanikai Beach Family Photo Session
closeup of siblings laughing
family playing at lanikai beach
kids loving on mom in hawaii
girl spinning at the beach
kids loving on dad during a family photo session at lanikai beach
dad and son playing at the beach
portrait of mom and son smiling
parents watching kids play in the water at lanikai beach
dad and daughter portrait oahu hawaii
mom kissing daughter on the forehead
boy paddleboarding at lanikai
mom and son play in the water at lanikai beach
family playing at lanikai beach
family on paddleboards at lanikai beach
underwater portrait of a boy swimming at lanikai beach oahu

Oahu Memories, Part II: Lanikai Pillbox Hike

We met again that evening at the Lanikai pillbox trail. It was a hike they make regularly and they sped up the mountainside, skipping and hopping happily along. The howling winds encouraged us to keep moving. We got a little carried away by the pretty pastel sky and muted landscape and walked too far. Soon night was setting and we had to rush back. It was a long day and a great memory from the place they once called home.

lanikai pillbox trail
boy on the lanikai pillbox trail oahu
boy examining the view from the top of the lanikai pillbox hike oahu
mom and daughter on a windy day
night blooming cerus on the lanikai pillbox trail
girl resting on a windy ridgeline lanikai pillbox hike
family hikes along the lanikai pillbox trail at sunset
siblings taking a hike break to share a laugh
racing home at sunset from the lanikai pillbox trail

Do you have plans to visit Oahu?

Let’s plan a fun morning do something you will actually enjoy so you can make family memories and take home beautiful images. Find out more about my family photo + video sessions here.


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