Oahu Tide Pools | Ke Iki Beach on the North Shore

Ke Iki Beach, Worthy of a Staycation

I was recently at a birthday celebration at Ke Iki Beach Bungalows on the north shore of Oahu. Adults chatted on the lanai with microbrews in hand while our children played in a wild mob below on the beach. “What do you call a group of children?”, a friend mused. We went over animal counterparts. There is a pod of dolphins, a gaggle of geese, a murder of crows … Wait, that last one. There’s something to it. We eyed the children who were deeply involved in an imaginative world with a clear power structure. They were armed with a variety of large sticks and there was a great deal of militant shouting. It all felt very Lord of the Flies.

In other words, we all had an amazing weekend. I may have undervalued the concept of the staycation in the past. After all, it’s hard to spend money on a vacation rental when you already live by a beautiful beach. Maybe age has made me appreciate comfort more. Maybe I got carried away with too many cheap international flights last year (I blame you Pomelo). In any case, i’m fully sold on the staycation concept and Ke Iki may be my new favorite place. Don’t worry. It’s not just for staycations.

Love for Oahu Tide Pools

Over the winter months, Ke iki is a bit of a bear. Big surf, a steep shore break and rip currents make it hazardous for kids. Come spring, the waters of the north shore begin to mellow and beckon to snorkelers and paddleboarders.

If the conditions are too rough to go in, plan for a low tide visit. Delicate feet can explore the exposed tidal shelf for crabs, sea slugs, urchins and other critters. It’s not as expansive as adjacent Shark’s Cove, but fun nonetheless. And at any time of year, sunset is a spectacle worth a visit.

best tide pools for kids on oahu
exploring tidal shelf at ke iki beach
best family beach on the north shore of oahu
boy with a sea slug in a tide pool on the north shore
girl exploring tide pool at ke iki beach north shore oahu
ke ike beach tide pool on the north shore of oahu
family beaches on oahu
tide pool reflections north shore hawaii
sea salt along oahu's north shore
purple clouds at sunset in hawaii

Are You Looking for More Oahu Tide Pools?

Paradise Cove in Koolina and Baby Makapuu on the windward side are two family favorite tide pools. Sign up for the Little Bird Post beow for more family-friendly ideas.


Family Reunions in Hawaii

The Bigness of Sherwood Forest in Waimanalo

When you live on a small island and the press of traffic and bodies and heat seems to grow every year, you treasure the few last open spaces. Wide open areas where you feel you can breathe. There are still a few beaches that make you feel small against the vast beauty of nature. Sherwood forest, tucked against the Koolau Mountains in Waimanalo, is one of those special places. For a family reunion dominated by small boys bursting with energy, the bigness of Sherwoods Beach was the perfect setting.

Fun and Chaotic Family Reunions in Hawaii

Although it’s often seen in a negative light, there is fun and beauty in chaos. When you combine families with a total of six boys under five years of age, you get chaos. It’s unavoidable. There is a constant hum of energy with the occasional personality clash. Shy and sensitive abutting boisterous and energetic. Yet, in the in-between moments, there are also tender displays of love and affection. A helping hand, an arm around the shoulder or a silly joke to put a smile back on the tear-streaked face of a cousin.

If you’re calm and collected like these amazingly patient parents, you will find love beneath the chaos. We spent a lovely morning in the wide-open space of Waimanalo and made beautiful memories. I left them exhausted and in dire need of a coffee and nap, but everyone was still smiling. It was all worth it.

Family Reunions in Hawaii
grandma opening arms wide for a hug from grandson at the beach
hawaii vacation photo at waimanalo beach
grandparents snuggle newborn baby at the beach in hawaii
Mom snuggling her three boys during a beach photo shoot in hawaii
dad gives toddler son a fierce hug at the beach
a group of young boys climbind a tree captured by little bird photography
oahu newborn portraits at the beach
boy grabbing dads son during a family photo session on oahu
boys playing at the beach
cousins playing together at the beach during a family reunion
boy holding dads hand at sherwood forest in waimanalo
cousins running on the beach in hawaii
grandpa looks lovingly at new grandson during a family photo shoot in oahu
dad and his sons
cousins share a silly story at the beach
sisters share a laugh at the beach during a family reunion
family sharing a laugh during a photo session in waimanalo
couple celebrating a 50th anniversary at the beach in hawaii
mom and her adult daughters hug at the beach during a family photoshoot
grandma proudly holds new baby at the beach
oahu newborn photographer at waimanalo beach
boys sharing a story at the beach
family portrait in hawaii at the beach

Are You Planning a Family Reunion in Hawaii?

Make the most of your time together with a family photo session. Whether you have a wild, energetic family or a more subdued group, I can plan a session that’s right for you. Find out more about my fun family photo sessions here.

Hawaii Mini Portrait Session | First Trip to the Beach

Is a Hawaii Mini Portrait Session Right for Your Family?

I’m terrible at mini sessions. Terrible. The idea is to make photography more affordable by taking a few images over a short time. In the name of expedience, these 15-20 minute sessions are highly structured and formulaic. Stand there, hold baby, smile, click, click, click. It takes me back to photos from my youth at Olan Mills and JC Penny portrait studio, which is painful for everyone involved.

Still, people often reach out requesting a smaller gallery of images. Maybe they had a photography session recently, but can’t pass up the chance to have more photos taken with Hawaii as the backdrop. Maybe they have a baby and can’t resist taking as many photos as possible at every possible milestone. Whatever the case, sometimes a shorter session and smaller gallery is best.

My goal is to create a great experience where you can play and connect as a family. From that time together I will produce beautiful, meaningful images. I want your gallery to be full of personality and feel like your family. I want them to make you laugh. Make your cry. Make you feel.

And that’s how my Short Story Sessions were created. Sessions include up to an hour of fun and play. The locations are limited to a few stunning beaches and parks that I know extremely well so I can make fast decisions.

A Sunrise to Shock and Awe

They made the long journey to from the mainland and then across the island to Lanikai Beach for baby Sarah’s very first beach experience. Would she love it? Scream in protest at the shifting sand beneath here feet? We walked toward the beach full of anticipation.

As we emerged from the beach path her tiny mouth opened and uttered a small “oh!” as she marveled at the scene before her. After that, everything was amazing and delightful. The sand, the water, dogs walking on the beach, boats offshore, birds overhead, the sun, the sky – everything.

With wide eyes and excited words she full emerged herself in her surroundings. It was love at first sight for this true water baby and an incredible morning that none of us wanted to end.

family photo shoot with a baby at sunrise in hawaii
mom and baby sitting on the shore at lanikai beach
mom and baby photoshoot at lanikai during sunrise
baby with a bouqet of flowers at the beach in hawaii
mom and baby photo session at lanikai beach
family playing at the beach captured by oahu family photographer
dad handing baby a flower at lanikai beach in hawaii
baby exploring a beautiful beach in hawaii
baby giving mom a big kiss at a beach in hawaii

Is your little one making their first trip to the beach?

Let me suggest a baby-friendly beach so you can make some memories. Find out more about my fun family photography sessions here.

Big Island Family Photographers | Off the Beaten Path

Family Adventure on the Kohala Coast

Big Island family photographers are spoiled for choice. Terrain varies dramatically over the island and you can travel from the dripping greens of Hilo to the harsh volcanic steam at Volcano and end at a sandy stretch of beach on the Kohala Coast for sunset. There’s a little something for everyone.

Part I : Pololu Valley Hike

Maryam is a talented family photographer based in San Francisco. However, her roots are on the island of Guam and she’s always felt a strong kinship and love for Hawaii. Her family made the trip to Big Island for a bit of adventure and she wanted it documented.

We were torn between the ocean and forest so we decided to visit both. Our journey began at the end of the road with a steep hike that descended into Pololu Valley. In the valley, we stacked rocks smoothed by the rhythmic pounding of the ocean. We climbed fallen logs, trees, and even braved a tree swing As we stood on the shore, marveling at the black stand and towering cliffs above, we knew it was time to go. The light was getting softer coloring the salt spray a slight golden hue. Ah, but it was so hard to leave.

You can see their mini film from their hike here –

and images here –

family hiking pololu valley trail during a family photoshoot in hawaii
oahu documentary photo session on big island
hawaii family hike to pololu valley on big island
girl stacking rocks in pololu valley
mom and daughter playing on a black sand beach in hawaii
family talking during photoshoot in hawaii
girl with braids hiking in pololu valley
mom and daughter take in views of pololu valley on big island

Part II : A Waialea Beach Sunset

We finally pulled ourselves away from the beach to meet … well, another beach. We huff and puffed up the switchbacks, jumped into our cars and made a mad dash to catch sunset Waialea Beach (Beach 69).

The sun sank lower and lower as we followed the winding coastal road south. It cast a heart-breakingly beautiful reddish-orange glow on the landscape and I was desperate to capture that color.

As we pulled into the beach parking lot, crowds of sandy, sunburned families were making their way back to their cars. Good news for us as the beach was fairly empty when we arrived and the colors were beginning to intensify. We had just enough time to explore the shallows and share laughs against a most beautiful sunset.

See their mini beach film here

And their images here –

family at sunset in hawaii during a documentary family photo session by little bird photography
mom and daughter cuddle at sunset at waialea beach on the kohala coast of hawaii
family exploring tidepools on the big island hawaii
portrait of a mom and daughter at a family photo session as the sun sets in hawaii
family portrait at the beach in hawaii
dad and daughter sharing a laugh at waialea beach hawaii
stunning hawaii sunset during a family photography session
mom and daughter snuggle at sunset at waialea beach (beach 69) on the kohala coast of hawaii
Big Island Family Photographers capture mom and daughter at sunset in hawaii
a serious family portrait at sunset

Big Island Family Photographers Can Capture Memories of Your Adventurous Family!

Whether you prefer a hike through the jungle or a exploring a hidden beach, we can plan a fun afternoon for your family so you can make beautiful memories. Find out more about my fun family photo sessions here.


Best Baby Friendly Beaches on Oahu

Searching for the Best Baby Friendly Beaches on Oahu

As you follow the coastline around Oahu, you will discover that not all beaches are created equal. From rocky shores pounded by surf to placid lagoons that feel like a bathtub, you are spoiled for choice. But not all beaches are safe for babies. If you have a baby, toddler or even a young child hesitant about the ocean, you want to seek out a spot that’s gentle and calm. I’ve pulled together some of what I think are the best baby friendly beaches on Oahu.

a dreamy seascape of water and mountains in hawaii
toddler in pink swimsuit playing at the beach during a lifestyle family photo session
close up of sand in hawaii

Time of Year Matters

Hawaii has a distinct winter and summer season. The summer season stretches from May to October and winter, the cooler, wetter season, lasts from November to April. With an average temperature difference of about 10 degrees, it may not feel like a dramatic shift, but it makes a big difference in terms of the ocean conditions.

Winter brings big swells to Oahu’s North and West shores and with it, the best surfers in the world. These same wild beaches become tame over the summer months and make for great snorkeling and paddle boarding. Eastern (Windward) and southern beaches tend to remain calm year-round.

closeup of baby feet walking on the beach in hawaii
mom and baby sharing a laugh at the beach during a family photoshoot at koolina

South Shore Beaches for Babies

South shore beaches tend to be calm and sunny year-round making them an ideal spot for families. The tradeoffs are bigger crowds and little available shade.

Ala Moana Beach Park and Magic Island

  • Highlights. A la Moana Beach Park likes just around the corner from Waikiki. You can escape the hustle of the city, but still enjoy stunning sunsets and views of Diamond Head and the Waianae mountains beyond. The best spot for families is the sheltered, crescent-shaped beach at the end of the peninsula called Magic Island. This man-made lagoon has a shallow entry and is sheltered from big surf making it ideal for babies and toddlers.
  • When to Go. The beach is calm year-round. If you visit on a Friday evening, you can watch the fireworks display from the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
  • Find More information on Magic Island and the Fireworks Here
reflections of sunset at ala moana beach park in waikiki hawaii
toddler at the beach in waikiki during a family photo session

Waikiki Beaches

  • Highlights. Many adventurous travelers scoff at a visit to Waikiki, but the mix of urban life, beach life, and a mesh of cultures make it surprisingly delightful. Music and bright colors make the stroll along Kalakaua Ave an activity in itself. You may find street performers, tasty treats, or an impromptu hula show on your way to the beach. The beaches all have a shallow entry calm water making them ideal for families. My favorite spots are on either end of Waikiki at the Hawaiian Hilton Lagoon and Queens Beach near the Zoo and Aquarium.
  • When to Go. These beaches are typically calm and sunny year-round. Box jellies which give a painful sting can be found along Waikiki Beaches after a full moon. Watch for posted signs or check the calendar here.
  • Find More information on Waikiki Beaches Here.
mom hugging sleeping baby in waikiki beach
views of waikiki from the water at queen's beach

Best East Side Beaches for Babies

The winding path up the windward coast starts with wave worn cliffs before transitioning to miles of white sandy beach and finally jungle before rounding the corner in Kahuku. On good days this stretch of coastlinie is a perfect blend of cool ocean breezes, grand views, and calm waters.

toddler bear crawling on the beach in kailua

Lanikai and Kailua Beaches

  • Highlights. Lanikai beach is consistently rated as one of the best beaches in the world characterized by its stunning shoreline and views of Mokulua Islands. The waves are generally calm and the sand is powder fine. Adjacent Kailua beach shares the beauty of its famous neighbor but with the added benefits of bathrooms, showers, shade, lifeguards and parking.
  • When to Go. Both beaches are usually calm year-round, but high winds can bring stinging Portuguese Man-o-War inshore. Look for the bluish-purple blobs with long tentacles along the beach. Avoid on holiday weekends when there is no public parking in Lanikai.
  • Find more information on Kailua Beach and Lanikai Beach here.
mom and daughter at kailua beach with reflections of the sky during a photo session by little bird photography
mom and baby at kalama beach park during a family photoshoot
family watching the sunrise over lanikai beach in hawaii
mom and daughter take in sunrise at lanikai beach during a family photo session

Bellows Beach

  • Highlights. Stunning mountain views, shade trees, and a shallow entry make Bellows Beach perfect for babies. This hidden gem is an active military training area, but on the weekends, the Air Force opens it up to the public. If you are an active or retired military (or DOD) family, there are additional amenities and over 100 beachfront cabins for rent on Bellows AFB itself. The calmest part of the beach is just before the second guard gate.
  • When to Go. If you have a military ID, you can access the beach at any time. For everyone else, you can visit over the weekend.
  • Find More information on Bellows Beach Here.
sandy feet on the beach
boy jumping off a log at bellows beach oahu

Baby Beaches on the North Shore

Turtle Bay

  • Highlights. This beach is perfect for a decadent, relaxing afternoon or a bit of adventure. If you want to keep life easy, you can lounge close to the Turtle Bay Resort which has easy access, bathrooms, and delicious food. If you want to get away from crowds and explore a bit, park at the hotel and walk east along the beach. At low tide, you can find little protected pools to splash in.
  • When to Go. When the surf is up, you can find calm pools at low tide. If you want to swim, the bay adjacent to the hotel is your best option.
  • Find More information on Turtle Bay Here.
boy building a stick house on the beach at turtle bay oahu
shadow of a girl fishing with a dip net at turtle bay oahu

Shark’s Cove (Pupukea)

  • Highlights. This protected cove is an explorer’s delight. Bring a dip net and reef shoes (the rocks are sharp) and plan to spend many happy hours exploring the shallows.
  • When to Go. In summer months or when the surf is down.
  • Find more information on Shark’s Cove Here.
fish swimming at shark's cove with mountain views in the background

Best West Side Beaches for Babies

Koolina Lagoons

  • Highlights. The protected lagoons making beach-going easy and safe for families. The larger lagoons have amenities include bathrooms with showers, grassy areas, and rental opportunities. My personal favorite is the much smaller lagoon – Paradise Cove.
  • When to Go. The lagoons are typically calm and sunny year-round, but parking is limited. Go early or pay to park at one of the hotels.
  • Find more information on Koolina Lagoons here.
boy burying his feet in the sand at paradise cove during photoshoot by little bird photography
sisters splashing in the surf at koolina lagoons
boy running along the shore at paradise cove oahu during a family photo session

Yokohama Bay (Keawaula Beach)

  • Highlights. Yokohama Bay marks the end of the road. It’s a pristine, stunning beach framed by the Waianae Mountain Range. Most tourists never see this side of Oahu so you can often find this grand beach empty. The ocean drops off steeply here and there can be a strong surge, but at low tide, there is a small protected intertidal area that’s fun to explore.
  • When to Go. In summer months when there is low surf. Ideally at low tide.
  • Find more information on Yokohama Bay here.
family walking along the beach at yokohama bay oahu
family relaxing at a tidepool in yokohama bay oahu

Looking for more ideas for family fun on Oahu?

You can find a bonus baby-friendly beach on the windward side here. And sign up for the Little Bird Post Below for a monthly dose of tropical, off-the-beaten-path fun.