Visiting Oahu with teens and tweens

See incredible views while zip lining at CLIMBWorks Keana Farms

Keana Farms Adolescents and adventure go hand-in-hand — their brains are wired for it. And zip lining at CLIMBWorks is an adventure that the adults won’t want to miss, either. As a first-time zip liner with a fear of heights, I was really nervous, but the very kind and competent guides made the experience both easy and enjoyable. The views of the Pacific Ocean along the North Shore are spectacular. There are eight different lines, three sky bridges and some fun surprises along the way. I appreciated that you zip over a working farm and in addition to learning about what food they grow and how, you also got to taste some items along the way, and they were delicious. Kids must be 7 years old to zip, and all those participating must weigh under 270 pounds.  

Hike to the top of Diamond Head State Monument 

The views from the top of Diamond Head are breathtaking. If your kid uses Instagram, you can bet they’ll share the photos of both Honolulu and the Pacific that they take up here. Diamond Head is the edge of a crater created by a volcanic eruption 300,000 years ago. The trail to the top is just under a mile long, but it’s pretty uneven (not paved) and steep, ascending 560 feet. Early in the morning is a great time to hike, because it is cooler and less crowded. Don’t forget to take water with you. 

Relax at Painted Sky Teen Spa at Aulani

You don’t have to be a guest at Aulani to enjoy services at Painted Sky, the spa that’s just for teens. Facials and massages are approximately half an hour, during which time parents can enjoy a mai tai or explore the resort. While the pools are for guests only, you can check out the resort and the beach, as all beaches on the island are public. Teens who are 14 and older can enjoy services at the Laniwai Spa as long as a parent is present, and they can even enjoy treatments together, as well as the Kula Wai hydrotherapy garden.  

View amazing sea creatures while snorkeling 

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be inside an aquarium, head to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. Located 10 miles east of Waikiki, is a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park. You can rent masks, fins and snorkels at the beach, or bring your own. Be on the look out for the humuhumu-nukunuku-a pua’a, the state fish of Hawaii and one that you may know how to pronounce if your kids were fans of “High School Musical” back in the day. Hanauma Bay is closed every Tuesday. 

If you’re on the leeward side of Oahu visiting Aulani, another option is the beaches of Ko Olina. Sea turtles often hang out at the beach at Paradise Cove. You can come face to face with them by snorkeling here (equipment rental is not available but you can buy some at the ABC store nearby) or just wave hello as they swim along the shore. Remember not to touch them, as that’s prohibited by law. 

See where movies were filmed at Kualoa Ranch 

If your tweens and teens loved the Jurassic Park films (and the Field Museum exhibit), they will love the movie site tour at Kualoa Ranch, where “Jurassic Park,” “Kong: Skull Island” and many other movies and television shows like “Lost” have been filmed. There are many different tours offered, some including ATV tours and horseback riding. 

Learn to surf at North Shore Surf Girls 

Girls and guys alike will love a one- or two-hour lesson from the North Shore Surf Girls. The all-female surfing staff, many of whom are former champions in the sport, have a ridiculously high success rate: 99.9 percent of students make it up on their board in their first lesson. They teach all ages how to ride the waves — parents, too! — and offer private lessons for families. Trying something new together can be a great way to bond with your kids. 

Visit Pearl Harbor to pay respects at the USS Arizona 

Reading about the attack on Pearl Harbor is one thing, but visiting the memorial in person gives teens a whole different perspective on this major event in U.S. history. Tickets for the USS Arizona Memorial are available 60 days in advance from for $1.50. If you don’t get tickets in advance, 1,300 free walk-in tickets are available daily at 7 a.m. on a first-come, first-served basis. They go quickly. There are also many tours available through providers. You can visit just the USS Arizona, or you can also tour the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, the Battleship Missouri Memorial and the Pacific Aviation Museum.  

Swim under a waterfall at Waimea Valley 

Waimea Valley offers something for everyone — botanical gardens, cultural and archaeological sites, and a chance to see Waimea Falls and swim in the falls’ pool. You can even climb up the falls a little and jump into the pool. The walk to the falls is approximately three-quarters of a mile and the trail is paved. Lifeguards are on duty and they require you to wear the provided life vests. 

Taste some shave ice 

Shave ice is a Hawaiian tradition, and it’s delicious. Taking a break to enjoy a treat with your teen may just be one of the favorite parts of your trip. Ask a local for a recommendation of a favorite spot near your location, or head to Matsumoto Shave Ice on the North Shore, an island favorite.

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