Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pu'u Ualaka'a State Park

Places like the Pu'u Ualaka'a State Park are the reason why I made this website. To help readers like you find amazing places to take the family they otherwise might have overlooked.

There are quite a few stops on the way to the top of Round Top Drive where the park is located offering amazing views of Diamond Head, the Pacific Ocean, and the city of Honolulu. Parking is FREE.  

I was surprised to find the park was well equipped with restrooms, picnic tables, and a few trails to hike.

As you can see from the photo above the view is accessible by stroller or wheel chairs for the disabled.

Here is an incredible view best viewed at sunset. I imagine the Fourth of July firework display the city of Honolulu puts out every year would be a spectacle from this vantage point.

Behind the view point, near the picnic area, you will find access to a few hikes, some well fed feral cats, and a few unexpected surprises.

Here is the entrance to one of the trails. I was ill prepared with flip flops to attempt the hike and it looked quite steep to take small children, therefore I just took some photos of the entrance.

If you plan on hiking these trails use caution and come prepared with proper shoes, a hiking carrier, and maybe a light windbreaker as it was a little chilly towards the evening at that altitude.

   What I thought were squirrels running around the park were actually mongooses. Here one of the mongooses steals some of the cats food. The impressive speed at which the mongoose moves makes it quite difficult to snap a photo, but I managed to get a this picture and a video demonstrating just how fast these animals were. The mongoose is not a native species to Hawaii, but rather introduced in the 1800's.

The 1800's were a huge century for sugar cane and plantations shot up on many tropical islands including Hawai'i and Jamaica. With sugar cane came rats, attracted to the sweet plant, which ended up causing quite a bit of crop destruction and loss. In 1872 a gentleman by the name of W. B. Espeut, in an attempt to control the rising rat populations introduced Indian Mongoose from Calcutta to the island of Jamaica. A subsequent paper published by Espeut, that praised the results intrigued local Hawaiian plantation owners who, in 1883, brought 72 mongooses from Jamaica to the Hamakua Coast to the Big Island. These were raised and their offspring were shipped to plantations on Oahu.


 Check out the video below.


   Mongooses weren't the only wild animals roaming the park. Look closely at the photo above and you may spot the wild chickens.


  On the way back on Round Top Drive we spotted a swing hanging from a tree over looking one of the view points. This would be a great spot for a Kodak moment. Use caution if your kids use the swing because it is on a very steep hill. Pu'u Ualaka'a State Park is a great place to bring the family to have a picnic or unwind from a hectic day. Don't forget the camera!
The address for Pu'u Ualaka'a State Park is Round Top Dr Honolulu, HI 96805

TIP: you will need to rent a car and bring a GPS to help navigate the windy road. 

Don't have a GPS? Pick up the: Garmin nüvi 265W/265WT 4.3-Inch Widescreen Bluetooth Portable GPS Navigator with TrafficPortable Vehicle GPS Units)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Kualoa Ranch

This Easter Weekend our family decided to visit The Kualoa Ranch located on the windward side of the island. The Kualoa Ranch has a rich history as an ancient residence of kings and a training ground for royalty who were instructed at Kualoa in the arts of war, history and social traditions. 

In 1850, King Kamehameha III sold approximately 622 acres of land in Kualoa to Dr. Gerritt P. Judd. Dr. Judd that had previously been a missionary doctor who arrived in Hawaiʻi in 1828 and who served as personal advisor to King Kamehameha III. The Ranch is now is now owned under the Morgan Family name, who are Dr. Judd’s descendants.


The Ranch has a ton of activities and tours to choose from including horse back riding, Kualoa Ranch ATV Ride, Film Location Tour, jungle tour, secret island beach, ocean voyage tour, ancient Hawaiian Fishponds & Gardens, and legends & legacy tour. There is also a Keiki horse riding tour where guides give children ages 3-9 a 5 minute ride . We ended up choosing the movie tour since we didn't have reservations and it was the best choice for our 2 year old. 1 hour tour tickets are 23$ adults, 15$ children (3-up), 15$ for locals, free for children under 3.

Since we were early for the 3:30pm tour, we decided to check out the free petting zoo next to the ticket booth. The petting zoo had pigs, goats, baby cows, and rabbits.

Here was our tour bus. We liked the fact there was no windows to hinder our view.

As our bus pulled around the parking lot of the Ranch, our tour guide/driver explained the history of the remains of the sugar mill in the photo above.

Between 1863 – 1870, the Kualoa Sugar Mill was built and operated by Charles H. Judd and Samuel G. Wilder until the mill was closed after years of meager rainfall that effectively brought an end to sugar farming here. Our tour guide also pointed out the soil on the ranch wasn't the most productive for growing sugar cane.

Our first stop on the tour bus was a World War II bunker turned into a memorabilia hall commemorating all the films that were shot at the Ranch.

 Kualoa has been the site of many television shows and Hollywood films such as Jurassic Park, Windtalkers, Pearl Harbor, Godzilla, Tears of the Sun and 50 First Dates. TV shows including the old and new Hawaii Five-O, Magnum P.I. and LOST.

Here is a submarine that appeared in LOST that the ranch preserved and put on display at the end of the WWII bunker.

  The view outside of the bunker was amazing.

         In this valley the scene in the movie Jurassic Park where the father and son are running for the hills from the stampede of dinosaurs was filmed.


    Further down the path, the tour guide stopped in the valley to a spot where they filmed another scene in Jurassic Park. If you have seen the movie, you probably remember the scene where the kids duck behind the log to hide from the hungry T-Rex in pursuit.

   Scenes from the LOST TV series were filmed all over the Ranch.    

    Here are the 2 footprints from Godzilla when they filmed the 2000 version at the ranch.

    50 First Dates starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymoore was also filmed on site.

The last site of the tour was a recreated ancient Hawaiian village the ranch built for local schools to take field trips to learn about Hawaiian culture.

The Kualoa Ranch is a must see family attraction in Oahu. The address for Kualoa Ranch is 49-560 Kamehameha Highway, Kaʻaʻawa, HI 96730.  Research tour information, prices, and reservations at the Kualoa Ranch Website.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Shrimp Shack

Today we made a stop for an early dinner at the Shrimp Shack on our way home from the Kualoa Ranch on the windward side of the island. The Shrimp Shack is one of many popular shrimp trucks that specialize in selling local farm raised shrimp cooked up and served plate lunch style. 

The majority of the shrimp trucks are located at the North Shore, but they can be found almost anywhere since most of them are mobile. The Shrimp Shack has been featured in the Travel Channel's Beach Eats series and won a people's choice award.

As you can see the menu is quite extensive and features an array of different foods to satisfy any palate.

We had the spicy shrimp and the pan fried garlic shrimp plates. We also tried the guava tropical juice and the 100% Kona Coffee float with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The shrimp plates and the floats were just OK. There is a huge selection of Shrimp trucks on the island so I guess we are a little spoiled.

 I will say this about the Shrimp Shack. The service was friendly, it is cheaper/tastier then Giovanni's Shrimp Truck, and the location next to a beautiful beach is an added bonus. Our families' favorite shrimp truck is hands down Big Wave Shrimp in Haleiwa Town, North Shore. We have tried a dozen and they still have the edge in my honest opinion.

However, that shouldn't stop your family from stopping by the Shrimp Shack for a snack if you are in the area.

Here is the beach across the street where we caught the sunsetting while enjoying our shrimp plates. The Shrimp Shack is located at 53-352 Kamehameha Hwy Punaluu, HI 96717.

TIP:  There are many beach parks on this side of the island off of Kamehameha Highway that are uncrowded and gorgeous. Beaches on the windward side of the island are also great for snorkeling and kayaking.  

Kualoa Beach Park

Kualoa Beach Park is located on the east side of Oahu in Kaneohe across the street from the Kualoa Ranch.  Parking is free and is right in front of a sprawling lawn facing one of the most beautiful beaches on the island.

The island off in the distance is called Chinaman's Hat. The water is calm, clear, and shallow making this a perfect beach for families.

This park has plenty of trees to supply shade for a family picnic. The huge lawn is great for flying a kite, soccer, or throwing a football.

Kualoa Beach Park offers an awesome view of  the Ko'olau  Mountain range. If this look familiar its because this mountain range is a backdrop for the Lost TV series. Many Hollywood films were also shot at the Kualoa Ranch right across the street.

Chinaman's Hat is easily reachable by Kayak. Off in the distance we could see quite a few people on the island. The calm, shallow, and clear waters of Kualoa Beach Park make it perfect for kayaking and snorkeling.

For a hike, kayak, and snorkel combo package of Kualoa-click here.

Here is a departing shot of the beautiful view. Kualoa Beach Park is conveniently located near the Tropical Farms Macadamia Nut Farm Outlet which is a great place for the family to shop.  We stayed only for a bit to have lunch and check out the Kualoa Ranch across the street, but we could have just as easily spent the whole day here. It was quite relaxing and a great way to de-stress.

It takes about 40 minutes to get to Kualoa Beach from Waikiki. The address for your GPS is 49-479 Kamehameha Highway. Enjoy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pearl Ridge Mall

Last week we took a trip to Pearl Ridge Mall,  home to the island's only monorail. Visitors can enjoy a scenic ride between the downtown and uptown centers while enjoying views of historic Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial. Pearl Ridge Mall is also home to Macy's, Bed Bath & Beyond®, Sears, and the State's only Toys "R" Us.

Pearlridge Center is the largest enclosed shopping center in the State of Hawaii and is also home to more than 170 stores, restaurants and services. In addition to the monorail, Pearlridge has 2 food courts, 12 full-service restaurants, a miniature golf course, 2 arcades, and 16 theaters.

On the second floor of uptown by Border's Books, we found a place called 808 bounce. 808 bounce is packed with massive and bright colored inflatables including slides, obstacle courses, bounce houses, joust, and a carousel. For $8.75 Children get a wristband and can come and go all day. Entry is free for adults and accompanying children.

808 Bounce would be a great place to bring the kids to celebrate a birthday party. Parents can call to reserve the party area and bring their own food, drinks, balloons and decorations, gift and party favors. For more information check our post on 808 Bounce.

In the middle of the uptown mall there is a map of the Hawaiian Islands our kids found to be very entertaining. It is also conveniently located next to the food court so parents can take a rest and watch the kids have fun.

Upon closer inspection, I found the map was actually British Captain James Cook's route when he discovered the Hawaiian Islands in 1778.

 A monument statue of James Cook stands in Waimea, Kauai commemorating his first contact with the Hawaiian Islands at the town's harbour on January 1778.


  Down town Pearl Ridge is home to the Movie Theater, Ross, California Pizza Kitchen, food courts and a Fun Factory. Fun factory is an arcade for kids to play with plenty of entertainment for the family. Think Chuckie Cheeze without the mouse.

    There is always some kind of event for kids happening at Pearl Ridge Mall. In fact, there is a free membership program for children ages 0 to 12 years old called the Keiki Club. Every Tuesday for free, kid-friendly entertainment from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Activities include crafts, storytelling, face-painting, songs and more.

 Members receive a Keiki Club Card which can be presented at participating merchants throughout Pearlridge Center for special discounts and offers. This past week kids had a chance to get a photo op with the Easter Bunny for 20$. The Pearl Ridge mall is located at 98-1005 Moanalua Rd. #231Aiea, HI 96701
For more information on upcoming events and coupons for retailers at Pearl Ridge Mall visit their website.