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.