The Pihea Trail ranged from about 10 to 40 feet wide, but with no guardrails or fences and steep drops on either side, we put the baby in a backpack carrier and kept a firm grip on our daughter (strollers can’t maneuver the bumpy, uneven path). The trail descends for one-quarter mile and then gently climbs for three-quarters of a mile to a lookout.
Don’t leave the area without stopping at Waimea Canyon Lookout in nearby Waimea Canyon State Park. Follow the stroller-friendly path up to a platform from which you can see the expansive red-rock canyon, understandably dubbed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific by Mark Twain. Look for tall waterfalls plunging off the canyon’s steep walls.
A big hit with our daughter was the Kamalani Playground in Lydgate Park just south of Kapaa on the east coast. The sprawling wooden structure, built by more than 7,000 local volunteers, has slides, a fireman’s pole, tires and rope netting to scramble across, and more nooks and crannies than a coral reef.
When the kids needed a break, we drove a few miles north to Coconut Coasters in Kapaa, where we rented cruiser bikes and a double bike trailer that came with a snuggly padded insert for our baby. We then pedaled 3.5 miles north of town on a multipurpose paved trail that runs along the coast, called Ke Ala Hele Makalae. The trail took us by popular beaches and numerous “comfort stations,” which are covered picnic areas, and then led out of town along an elevated pathway that gave us supreme views.
One of our daughter’s favorite swimming holes was the keiki (“kids”) pool at the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas, which had a mini slide, four giant squishy turtles that squirted water, and a depth of only 1.5 feet. We liked the toy library, where children can check out anything from Candy Land and checkers to DVDs, and the other family-friendly amenities. The hotel provided a real crib, a diaper genie, and a high chair for free, and it offered a complimentary luggage service upon arrival. The hotel also has a Keiki Club for potty-trained youngsters. Here, children can make leis and sand art, go for nature walks, feed the fish, and dunk in the pool, among other adventures.
Princeville Ranch, just down the road, doesn’t run cattle drives anymore, but moms and dads can go for horseback riding tours while children attend a new Kids’ Adventure Center designed for those 4 years and 8 months to 11 years old. The program, which runs weekdays during school breaks, includes pony rides, a petting zoo, hikes in the “wild pig forest,” bug collecting, games such as hopscotch using Hawaiian numbers, and a chance to learn about horses. Children 4 and older can also take private or semiprivate horseback riding lessons.
Prearrange a tour at nearby Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens and Sculpture Park, a lush wonderland. A guide leads families around the 12-acre formal gardens, where kids can feed koi in a lagoon, wander through a hedge maze, see dozens of playful life-size bronze sculptures, and explore the children’s garden, which has everything from a Navajo settlement with a covered wagon to a tropical jungle gym with bridges, tunnels, and slides.
We spent our last couple of days watching sunsets at Kee Beach on the island’s northwestern-most point, hiking through forests to idyllic places like Secret Beach near Kilauea, and playing in the shallow waters of Hanalei Bay.
Our daughter still talks about the trip, and we have promised her more adventures that suit her size next time: taller waves, longer hikes, and a bigger shave ice. We heard there is even another giant playground on the island.
Kari Bodnarchuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.