Waikiki is a great place for tweens and teens to take a surfing lesson. // © 2013 Oahu Visitors Bureau
Tweens and teenagers usually prefer spending time with their friends rather than traveling with their parents and siblings, so designing a fulfilling family vacation with kids between ages 10 and 18 can be a challenge. But if you take them to Oahu, they will be hard-pressed to complain, said Stacey Martin Alford, director of travel industry sales for the Oahu Visitors Bureau.
“The family market is a major segment of Oahu’s visitor mix, and many of these families include tweens and teens,” said Alford. “Oahu is filled with enriching and unique experiences for families to enjoy together.”
From the lights and action of Honolulu and Waikiki to the wild beauty of the North Shore, Oahu ignites enthusiasm in even the most blase of adolescents.
For starters, Alford suggests touring Pearl Harbor, home of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Tweens and teens are inevitably fascinated by the battleships and memorials that bring U.S. history to life.
Alford also urges families with teens and tweens to head to the Bishop Museum, home to the newly renovated J.W. Watumull Planetarium. High-tech shows amaze media-saturated youths with dazzling explorations of the moon, planets and stars.
Young and old alike will enjoy 4,000-acre Kualoa Ranch, set on the island’s picturesque east coast. With offerings such as horseback riding, ocean voyaging and ATV tours, as well as excursions to film sites from top Hollywood movies, Kualoa presents an engaging variety of outdoor activities, educational programs and scenic adventures for the whole family.
Oahu’s vibrant retail scene stands ready to satisfy just about every teenager’s shopping bug, with everything from big-name brands along the Waikiki strip to casual, colorful boutiques in Haleiwa on the North Shore. While the teens shop, the rest of the family can rent snorkel gear or boogie boards for fun times in Oahu’s clean and accessible waters.
For entertainment with multigenerational appeal, it’s tough to beat an Oahu luau, a tradition that’s exotic and fiery enough to keep everyone’s spirits high. By timing their vacation with one of the island’s annual festivals, families have a built-in source of activities.
Tweens and teens naturally crave time away from their elders, and Oahu has plenty of kids-only activities. In Waikiki, for instance, children 12 and older can take a ride on an Outrigger canoe without their parents.
“Outrigger canoe surfing is unique to Hawaii, and it is one of the safest sea vessels, making it a perfect activity for all ages,” said Alford.
At Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa in west Oahu, older kids can hang out at Painted Sky, one of the only teen spas in Hawaii. Activities range from age-specific spa treatments, including a mixology bar for body polishes and face masks, to a yogurt bar, computer stations, and daily teen-inspired programs.
For meals with a twist, moutwatering options await at any of Oahu’s unique food trucks. They serve delicious dishes, including shrimp cultivated on the North Shore, Thai food, tacos, gourmet hot dogs or the local favorite, a plate lunch. But nothing puts smiles on young adult faces quite like a tropical shave ice from one of the mom-and-pop vendors around the island.
With so many distinctive, affordable and energizing activities on Oahu, families tend to grow closer during their vacation, said Alford.
“The Oahu experiences that tweens and teens have now will last a lifetime, and many youngsters will want to return to the destination as adults,” Alford said. “Hopefully they will come back with their friends, loved ones and families in the future.”