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I'm a writer for an upper end mom magazine in California. Do you have any suggestions -- on any island -- for a really neat experience for families? Something that every magazine hasn't already featured. Something really neat but not well known.
Second Question: do you know of an "all inclusive" vacation in the islands? Sort of like Sandals or Beaches where you pay once and everything but drinks is included?
Basically, Nancy (owner, captain, whatever) knows where the dolphins like to hang out. So you hop on her boat in the morning, bop in and out of coves listening to cool stories and enjoying the sea. When she finds some dolphins, you get dumped into the water with snorkeling gear and get to swim with them. If they take off, she won't give chase. It's up to the dolphins if they want to play or not. In the winter, you'll also see whales while you're out there (which is pretty amazing, seeing them from a tiny little boat).
It's way better than those "swim with dolphins" things in the pools of hotel resorts. There's real respect for the animals and the environment. You & the kids will learn a lot, plus have amazing memories of the dolphin swim.
I have heard that swimming with wild dolphins is a no no there due it has depleted the numbers over the years in the hawaiian islands. I thought I saw it on this forum but I guess it was another. I saw people pleading someone who was interested saying it really did hurt them in the long run. I though have heard there are places you can swim with ones that are not wild.
We have been looking at things to do and for us, we are going to go to the big island and see the LAVA and my 6 year old is very excited about that. We are also going to go and watch the whales as long as it is deemed safe and legal. I went Orca whale watching about 8 years ago in the San Juan Islands and it was magical. The captian of the boat had to turn off his engine and had to be almost a football field length away. We saw them off from a distance. My daughter then 5 started singing Mary had a little lamb and all the sudden one of the whales started to head towards our boat( we were one of many boats circling the pod) and he rose up next to us like a submarine, parked side by side not even 5 feet from the boat. He then submerged and swam under the boat and jumped up on the other side maybe 40 feet away. He then returned to his pod. The captian said his name was Ruffles and that all of the pod had been named by the scientist. He also said that he has never had that happen before. When we go out to watch the whales, my children will be singing Mary had a little lamb.
We are also going to stay on Oahu and are not set on where to stay. I would love to do a home exchange but DALLAS FORT WORTH, I don't think anyone would be interested in exchanging. I am not in California or Florida where most want to go from Hawaii. We would love to stay at Turtle Bay Resorts, where lost was filmed as well as the series North Shore but we are probably going to stay in Ko'olina.
To the OP. I am excited about going and more importanly sharing it with my children. We too crave to see unique things and experience things not of the norm. One tid bit I heard that is really cool, if you get invited by a local family to go to a family luau, don't pass it up. It will be extremely memorable. Good luck and have a fantastic time.
Please refrain from swimming with dolphins as it negatively effects the dolphins. I know in Kauai there are boat tours around Na Pali, where the dolphins swim around your boat (obv it is hit or miss)- but the dolphins have the choice to approach the boat, rather than invading their space.
Please see a recent debate on the topic from tripadvisor.
I have to say that I see too many visitors get caught up in looking for a particular activity and hoping that it will give them a rich, exciting, different experience. This can lead to disappointment, because I think the best experiences, family or otherwise, is in how we approach what is happening and before us.
You can book the hottest, most recommended tour or luau or boat trip, and come home with cranky and bored kids or fighting parents. Or you can go down to the beach with just a couple of chairs, towels, and a cooler, and come home with exhausted laughing children and happy parents.
My advice is to really spend the time with each other, before, during, and after the activity. For example, if you go on a whale watch (February is best), talk to the kids about whales before hand. Make it a point to stop at the Whale Foundation store at Maalaea Harbor a day BEFORE the trip, and look at posters, listen to whale sounds, talk to the staff, etc. You can't do this the morning of your trip (you leave too early) or after (you will be sunburned and tired and ready to go eat or rest). Then, on the boat, pay attention to the kids, let them use the binoculars and camera, and generally include them in all the information. When you are done with the trip, relax with some ice cream and talk about what you saw.
Or if you go to the beach, play with your kids in the waves. Every time I go to the beach I see parents reading or laying on their towels, with the kids quietly playing by themselves. But then there are the families who's parents are in the waves with the kids, and THOSE kids are laughing and shrieking and having the best time.
It's usually YOU the kids want, not so much the activity.
That said -
I think kids like whale watches that also include snorkeling, because just seeing whales gets boring.
Long car trips - drive to Hana - are the worst for young kids. Nothing much interests them, and remember they only have side windows to look out from the back seat.
Day at the beach - rent or borrow boogie boards. Spray the kids a lot with sunscreen or they will be burnt and cranky later. Be willing to be a villan about this; just make sure the kids don't burn. Either chase them now with the sunscreen or later with the Aloe gel.
Surf lessons - Every family that visits us - first day the kids are reluctant, then every day that's all they want to do.
Movies - sounds crazy, but a matinee movie after a hot day in the sun is heaven to kids. The nice cool theatre, a movie with YOU, popcorn. It's a dream come true. Remember to them a vacation is doing something they don't get to do all that often, not just the location.
Crafts - if any of your kids like to make things, get some waxed twine, find some shells, and make a necklace. Or find a bead shop. Or get blank t-shirts and fabric markers and make you own Hawaiian shirts. More memories that way.
Thanks Calico. I have to ask: are you homeschooling your kids? You sound like my friends who homeschool! And that's a compliment!
As a travel writer, though, I actually must have a destination to write about. With pics. My editor would fire me if I came back w/ stories of crafts and movies (as fun as that sounds when you're spending time w/ the kids!!)
Actually, no kids at all! God children and little neighborhood buddies, but no children of my own.
OK, I would think that even 'upper end' moms would like to hear about spending time with their kids, but maybe not. Too bad - an article on a Kids Day of a family vacation might be welcomed - by the kids! A day where the kids get to help advance plan the day by looking at activities available at their destination, get to plan what to bring (with parents acting as wise backup), get to make some real decisions.
But as far as neat family experiences, if you kids are older, there are mud jeep tours. The riders get totally splattered with Maui mud. I suggest you go ahead and wear white t-shirts that you intend to be souvenirs of the day only. Or there is a zip line. Zooming through the trees, screaming. Those two could be a part of any family that wants more physical activities. Be a Maui Mudpie!
How about taking a ferry over to Lanai and camping at the campgrounds there? It is one of the most beautiful spots I've seen on the islands. And, for the upper end families, they can stay the second night at the Four Seasons right next door. Or maybe just book the FS room, and sleep down on the beach one night. You can get lightweight flannel sleeping bags at ACE Hardware for $12. each, and they are plenty warm for the Lanai nights. An inflatable beach mat for $3.99 from Longs Drugs, all those on Maui before you ferry over. Swim in the beautiful bay, see dolphins jumping and spinning, snorkel, sit in the natural rock 'pool' in the bay. Then swim in the FS pool, get treated like royalty. At night, walk down to the beach and sleep on the sand looking up at billions of stars. Watch the incredible sunrise over nearby Maui's Haleakala dormant volcano, and the wedge tailed shearwaters flying back to roost for the day. Shower in your luxury FS room or at the beach showers, have a fabulous breakfast at the Challenger golf resort restaurant. You can also take the shuttle bus into Lanai City, or to the FS Lodge.
Campfires and smores on a Hawaiian beach. How can you beat that?
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