by Gerry Chambers
It dawned on me that for the first time in many years, all our spring breaks coincided, from Durango, Colorado to Columbia, SC, Augusta, Georgia, and the mountains of Western North Carolina. The week of April 6 in 2013 beckoned for a rare and extended family vacation, bringing together the whole bunch — grandparents in their late 60s, adult children in their early and mid-40s, and grandchildren ages 5, 6, 9, 16 and 18.
But first we had to decide where to go. The venue had to appeal to everyone. When I mentioned the tropics (thinking Caribbean), my older son Jason said, “Let’s do something really big.” “Like Hawaii?” I asked. “Bingo!” was the immediate answer.
Now it was time to research and I headed to Barnes & Noble for a guide. I generally like Fodors and they didn’t let me down this time. After our travels in Malaysia and Indonesia, Hawaii had always seemed somewhat tame, but I soon realized our island state was just right for a something-for-everyone family vacation.
“Must have a house,” I thought. I began to investigate sites such as HomeAway and Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO). A relative who had lived in Hawaii insisted that we get close to Lanikai Beach, one of the world’s most beautiful, in the Kailua section of Oahu. After a week of reading, Googling and emailing, I settled on a 4-bedroom house with pool, lanai, deck, and luxurious landscaping—only two blocks from the beach.
The rental cost
The house was affordable with a rental cost of $5800 that included departure cleaning. We paid more than that for a week in a comparable oceanfront house on the Atlantic for previous family vacations.
When we arrived, everyone thought it was a dream house. The size, amenities, and location suited us perfectly. We made the most of the full days that we had on the ground in Hawaii.
- a hike to the Makapu’u Lighthouse, high on a cliff overlooking the Pacific, where we saw whales cavorting
- canoeing to a nearby island in a six-man outrigger at amazing speed
- another hike, to Manoa Falls, with happy children mudsliding all the way down the path
- tours of the Arizona Memorial, a sobering experience for everyone, and of the Bowfin, the Pearl Harbor Avenger attack submarine launched on December 7, 1942, one year after the infamous attack
- a drive to the North Shore, the beaches frequented by world-class surfers, to enjoy views of the magnificent waves and outrageous surfing acrobatics, with stops for obligatory “ices” (we’d call ‘em sno-cones) at Matsumoto’s Grocery and close-up views of the green sea turtles, the basking honu, at Laniakea Beach
- snorkeling at world-famous Hanauma Bay and surfing lessons on Waikiki
- the gorgeous Waikiki Aquarium and the incredibly lush Foster Botanical Garden, dating from 1853
On our last night, the whole gang enjoyed a luau at the Hale Koa Hotel. Both male and female dancers performed traditional Polynesian dances, including the breathtaking fire dance and the graceful, sinuous hula. Lovely maidens crafted flower bracelets for the little girls, and handsome warriors created reed headbands for everyone; a muscular demonstration of how to climb a coconut tree provided yet another highlight of the evening.
And the food was excellent—pig roasted underground, grilled fish, beef and chicken, rice, purple Hawaiian sweet potatoes, the tastiest pineapple ever, and of course the poi, which looked like refried beans pureed to a high degree. Everyone tried it and pronounced it “interesting but tasteless.”
With the exception of surfing lessons and the Arizona Memorial, not considered appropriate for the two youngest, all ages were able to participate in these excursions. Would we do it again? When I posed the question to the group, they gave me a jaundiced look, amazed that I’d even ask the question. Everyone ranked Hawaii the best family vacation so far.