Cape Cod, Destinations, Eastern United States

What is Cape Cod Known For?

I am always looking for destinations for myself and clients that offer a variety activities that will appeal to different types of people. When clients come to me with suggestions, I want to not only be able to give them suggestions, but also to be able to explain why this is a great destination for their family or group. My research of Cape Cod shows that it marks off all the boxes for a group with varying interests…or just a cozy weekend beach retreat with the family.

When people think of Cape Cod, they often think of beach cottages with steep-pitched gabled roofs. Cape Cod is known for its many beaches which offer ample opportunities to relax, sharks (Jaws anyone?), and the Kennedy compound. Those who have spent any amount of time there know it as a place rich in history, enjoys a beautiful marine ecosystem, and offers an endless array of activities…not to mention all the fresh, mouthwatering seafood. All of these ingredients make it the perfect recipe for a family destination.

Cape Cod is known for its multitude of activities in and around the beaches.

My first trip to New England happened back in 5th grade. My mom and her sister decided to take some of us kids back east on an historical tour. And while organized tours offer many benefits, I think what I remember the most about this trip was riding the bus and the short stops we made at each destination. It was not nearly enough time to view and experience the sites we were visiting.

Our time near Cape Cod was very limited with a short stop at Plimoth Plantation. I remember loving the hands-on experiences of life for the early settlers…and getting a brief glimpse of Cape Cod Bay after we left. I missed out on so much. Plans are underway to return there in the near future. The more research I do, the more excited I get. I have fallen in love with this place and can’t wait to visit.

Cape Cod: The Basics

Geographically speaking, Cape Cod is known for being a cape that stretches out from the southeast corner of Massachusetts. It is approximately 70 miles in length and is considered part of Barnstable County. The northernmost town is Provincetown, and as the peninsula curves south and west, you can find its most southernmost town point at Wood’s Hole.

Fun Fact:

The southern half of the Cape Cod peninsula, while close to land, is called the Upper Cape. The more northerly part of Cape Cod (after the land bends) is called the Lower Cape. It seems that sailors came up with the terminology because the coastal area of Massachusetts encounters southwesterly winds which meant that when ships headed north, they were usually sailing “downwind” towards the Lower Cape.

Cape Cod Canal was built between 1909 and 1914 and separates Cape Cod from the mainland of Massachusetts. Myles Standish of the Plymouth Colony was the first we know to suggest such a canal be built to make trade easier along the coast. It is approximately 7 miles long and cuts through the towns of Bourne and Sandwich. There are two vehicle bridges that cross the Cape Cod Canal (the Bourne Bridge and the Sagamore Bridge). Cape Cod has many quaint villages encompassing 15 towns.

Cape Cod was formed as a glacial terminal moraine (or end moraine), which means that it marks the end of the advance of where a glacier once existed. This lends itself to a somewhat unique ecosystem. Other glacial terminal moraines in New England are Long Island, New York and Block Island, Rhode Island.

Cape Cod: History

Early Cape Cod Explorers

Cape Cod was visited by a number of well-known explorers dating back to the 1500s. One of the first explorers to visit was Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524. Although he hailed from Italy, he explored the New World for France. He drew near to present-day Cape Cod from the south. He named the area he named the area (now known as Martha’s Vineyard) Claudia after the wife of Francis I of France.

Explorer Estaban Gomez was a Portuguese cartographer (or map maker). In 1525, he was working for the Spanish government. He helped explore the area and create maps of this newly discovered part of the earth. He called the area Cabo de la Arenas, meaning Cape of Sands.

Bartholomew Gosnold, an English explorer, named the tip Cape Cod in 1602. This is one of the earliest English place names still in use today in the United States. He was also a lawyer and privateer. He helped found the Virginia Company of London as well as the settlement of Jamestown in the colony of Virginia.

Samuel de Champlain was a French explorer and map maker. He charted the waters and harbors in 1606. This helped make it safer for boats to land in the area–much needed for successful trading in the New World.

And in 1620, the famous Mayflower arrived close to the area known today as Provincetown. The lore of Plymouth Rock is just that. The earliest reference to this story came approximately 95 years after the landing. The area of present-day Eastham is where pilgrims had their first known encounter with the Native Americans.

How Early Settlement Affected Present-Day Cape Cod

The English chose Cape Cod as one of the first places to settle in the New World. The 15 towns along Cape Cod took over 100 years to settle. Early settlements along the Cape were nothing more than clumps of tiny, roughly built homes and huts.

The early settlers needed a way keep warm during the cold winters. The only source of fuel was the wood gathered was from the nearby trees. Much of Cape Cod was cleared of its forests early on.

The early settlers used poor farming techniques which ended up changing the ecosystem. The English settlers tried to farm crops they were familiar with…like wheat. They used the practice of torching the forests (depleting the number of trees even further) hoping to release important nutrients into the soil for planting. Instead, these methods led to an erosion and destruction of the topsoil.

The grass on the dunes was perfect for cows to munch on. That is, until the farmers realized that the grass on the dunes was preventing the sand on the beaches from invading the area and entombing their crops below. This is why today there are more dunes on the outer part of Cape Cod and the harbors have been saturated with the eroded soil.

Cape Cod is known for its beautiful trails along the beaches, grasses, and marsh areas.

The area around Cape Cod was not very good conditions for “modern” industry when the Industrial Revolution happened in the mid-1800s. Instead, Cape Cod became the perfect place for a substantial fishing and whaling. The farmers were happy to leave the Cape Cod area as the American West began to develop around 1860. The mid-1900s found forests starting to re-emerge.

More Modern History

Cape Cod started to become a beach-side sanctuary for those who lived lived in the big cities. The emergence of rail system made the small towns even more accessible. The early 1900s found the elite of the day building large cottages along the area known as Buzzards Bay.

The first transatlantic wireless transmission happened from Cape Cod in the town of Wellfleet. The man who made this first transmission was named Guglielmo Marconi. Below the bluff where his transmitter was stationed is now known as Marconi Beach. A new receiver station was built in the town of Chatham. Its main enterprise was as a maritime radio station allowing ships at sea to communicate with each other.

Many well-known aviators were supported by this station. Some examples are Admiral Byrd, Amelia Earhart, Howard Hughes…and even the famed Hindenberg. Chatham was the perfect place because it was surrounded on three sides by water.

President Kennedy and Other Famous Residents

The Kennedy Compound, located in Hyannis Port on Cape Cod, was known as the summer White House during the presidency of John F. Kennedy. President Kennedy was so enamored with the beauty of the area that he set aside an area in 1961 to be the Cape Cod National Seashore…thus ensuring over development of the area would not occur.

Through the years, Cape Cod has been the home (or summer residence) of many famous people. Among those individuals are:

  • Louis Brandeis: U.S. Supreme Court Justice
  • Canary Burton: Composer and radio talent
  • President Grover Cleveland: Maintained a summer home in Bourne
  • Todd Eldredge: Six-time U.S. national champion figure skater
  • Julie Harris: Emmy-winning, Tony-winning, and Grammy-winning actress
  • Norman Mailer: Author
  • Kurt Vonnegut: Author

Tourism at Cape Cod

The height of tourist season at Cape Cod runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Baby boomers, millennials, and individuals with no school-age children enjoy hanging out all the way through to mid-fall…making the “off season” a little shorter than it used to be.

There are many opportunities to enjoy the water and marine life around Cape Cod. For example, take a whale watching excursion to see the many different species of whales abundant in the waters surrounding the area…including the endangered North Atlantic right whale.

Cape Cod is known to attract artists of all mediums…writers, painters, and sculptors, to name a few. Provincetown Art Association and Museum is Cape Cod’s most visited art museum. It’s definitely worth a stop for anyone who has an appreciation for the arts.

Cape Cod has nearly 560 miles of coastline. While some beaches are private, there are over 60 public beaches. If you are looking for walking paths and sandy beaches, the Cape Cod National Seashore offers more than 40 miles of paths to explore.

Cape Cod offers an abundance of outdoor activities with something for every interest. Golfing anyone? There are 27 public courses and 15 private courses scattered throughout Cape Cod…and even miniature golf. In addition, you can comb the beaches for treasures, enjoy a day of biking through the cape, or go fishing on a chartered boat. Quaint little shops offer an abundance of shopping.

Cape Cod for Families

So you may be wondering if Cape Cod is a good destination for families…more specifically, your family. Cape Cod is known to be a fantastic destination for families of all ages and sizes…whether it’s a weekend couples retreat or a week-long reunion. It is one of those destinations that truly offers a little something for every taste. It is easy to do as much or as little as your family wants.

Cape Cod can be the perfect escape for a weekend couples retreat.

There are a wide array of accommodations available from quaint little inns to house rentals along the beach. But be sure to book early (especially if you’re traveling with a larger group) for the best selection and prices.

The history of Cape Cod is fascinating. Cape Cod history helped to shape the New England of today. Knowing how it all fits together and has affected the ecosystem is a remarkable story. Spend the day reading, visiting lighthouses, enjoying fresh seafood, or just hanging with your family on the beach.

I am already looking forward to our family’s trip to Cape Cod. I am researching the activities that I know my family will enjoy. And because our family enjoys a little good humor thrown in, maybe I’ll even a schedule a stop for some lobster ice cream (yes, that’s a real thing).

Have you ever been to Cape Cod? I’d love to hear what you enjoyed experiencing. I always appreciate tips and insight into our destinations. Leave them in the comments below…and feel free to share this article with your friends or family who might enjoy this article.

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Alaska, Cruises, Destinations

Discover Alaska’s Inside Passage as a Family

I remember not long after we got married, my hubby and I often talked about the places we wanted to travel to in our lifetime. Destinations were often categorized as ones we would do as a family and others where we would wait to have an empty nest. Honestly, Alaska was one of the places that neither of us were very interested in. Living in the Pacific Northwest, the pictures of Alaska all seemed similar to what we saw almost every day. Then one day…

…after our son was grown and moved out, my parents suggested taking a family cruise to Alaska. As they were aging, they were having trouble getting around on their own and appreciated the thought of having their grown kids along with them. We all coordinated a trip that included my parents, two of my siblings and their spouses, as well as a couple of friends that we consider family. Even if I wasn’t excited about the destination, I knew I’d enjoy the time with them.

Getting on the ship in Seattle, I started to get a little cranky. My hubby and I seemed to be the youngest ones on the ship…(although I think we found one couple who were younger than us). We were traveling on Princess Cruise Lines which does tend to have a slightly older clientele and cruising in September after all the kids were back in school definitely changes the demographic. But…

…can I just say how much I loved cruising the Inside Passage!!! Being able to sit on my balcony and watch the scenery and wildlife float by was an amazing experience. Having naturalists onboard the ship explaining what we were seeing and teaching us how to spot whales was phenomenal.

Where is Alaska’s Inside Passage?

Alaska’s Inside Passage is a coastal water route that travels from the Puget Sound region in Washington state, up the west coast of Canada, and reaching all the way to Alaska weaving in and out of islands. It is popular by ships (and passengers) who wish to stay out of the rougher waters of the open ocean.

A bonus is the stunning scenery you encounter as you wind your way through the passage. It is true northwest frontier with unspoiled forests and beaches. You view glaciers, waters abundant with icebergs, cascading waterfalls, fjords enshrouded by mist and fog…all from the deck of the ship or your cabin’s balcony. You can watch eagles soaring above, orca and humpback whales playing and eating in the waters, white mountain goats perched along the cliffs, and occasionally a bear down by the water trying to catch a meal.

What is the Best Way to Experience Alaska’s Inside Passage?

There are three ways to experience Alaska’s Inside passage. You can see it via car travel stopping and staying in small hotels or campgrounds along the way. Some areas of the Inside Passage are not accessible by car, so this makes it the least desirable way to see it.

You can travel via Alaska Marine Highway System ferries. These passenger and cargo ferries are colored in blue and yellow. You can catch a ferry out of Bellingham, Washington. You can look at the schedules and choose where you will stop along the route and plan how long you wish to stay in each. The Alaska Marine Highway System has a helpful website for planning if you want to go this route.

My preferred method for seeing Alaska’s Inside passage is via cruise ship. One of the things I enjoy about cruising the Inside Passage is that many cruise lines offer something for everyone no matter your age or what you enjoy doing. People who enjoy adventure can go zip lining or hike on a glacier. Those who are interested in culture can enjoy a salmon bake and some traditional Native American dancing. If you want to sit back and enjoy a scenic train ride, they’ve got you covered too. And at the end of the day, you can all gather back for dinner and share your experiences.

Princess Cruise Lines has been rated the #1 cruise line for Alaska for a number of years. But Royal Caribbean’s Anthem class ships are definitely giving them a run for their money. The ability to experience the Alaskan scenery suspended 300 feet in the air on the North Star 360-degree glass capsule (exclusive to Royal Caribbean Cruise Line) can’t be beat.

Also highly recommended for Alaska is the Norwegian Cruise Line ship the Bliss. This ship was specifically designed with Alaska in mind and includes a two-story indoor observation area on the front of the ship. A good travel advisor can help you find the cruise ship and cruise line that best fits you or your group’s wants and needs.

Where You Can Expect to Stop on an Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

Most Alaska Inside Passage cruises start their round trip voyages in ports at either Seattle, Washington, or Vancouver, British Columbia. Typically these cruises last seven nights but could be longer or shorter depending on the cruise line and time of year.

Typically, cruises stop in the ports of Juneau and Skagway. You also usually have several days of just cruising the inside passage or along an iceberg-filled fjord.

Juneau is Alaska’s state capital. It lies between a waterway that never freezes over and ice fields that never melt. Some of the top things to do in Juneau include taking a seaplane ride over Mendenhall Glacier…or maybe even a helicopter that stops on the top of the glacier. Visit a summer sled dog camp where you will be taken on a ride via a wheeled sled led a team of huskies. Another popular favorite is a whale watching trip and salmon bake. Again, there is pretty much something for everyone’s age and level of adventure.

Skagway also has some unique excursions to enjoy. You can ride the White Pass Train along the mountainside and enjoy some breathtaking scenery while you learn about the miners heading to the gold rush in Alaska. Their stories are intriguing and often tragic. You can visit the Liarsville Gold Rush Camp and enjoy some fun entertainment and try your hand at panning for gold. If you’re up for some real adventure, try zip lining over the Alaskan wilderness.

How to Save a Little Money on Your Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

There is no way around it…cruising can be expensive. But when you take into consideration all that a cruise includes, it doesn’t cost significantly more than taking the Alaska Marine Highway System and piecing everything together yourself. There are also a few ways to try to keep your costs on a cruise reasonable.

Some of my top tips for keeping cruise costs down are:

  • If possible, travel during May or September. May is the start of the cruising season into Alaska. Since the kids aren’t out of school yet, you will find the ships not as full and less children running around. The same holds true for September after the kids have all gone back to school. This makes for a great opportunity for families traveling without school-age kids or families that home school.
  • Avoid the “specialty dining.” The food on an Alaska cruise offers lots of fresh and local foods in the dining rooms. There really isn’t much need to pay extra for the “specialty dining.”
  • Compare cruise lines. Some cruise lines offer better rates but lack some of the amenities offered by the more expensive cruise lines. If the main attraction of this cruise is experiencing Alaska, these amenities probably won’t be important to you and makes it easier to forego them.
  • Don’t book your port excursions through the cruise line. There are lots of useful websites like Shore Excursions Group where you can book the same excursions offered by cruise lines at a lower price. Most offer money-back guarantees in case a ship is unable make a port. Always check the fine print to be sure you understand terms and conditions. However, I’ve had nothing but excellent feedback for Shore Excursions Group from my clients.
  • Understand the factors of how a cruise is priced. This article titled Beginner’s Guide to Cruise Prices continues to be one of my most popular blog articles of all time.
  • Use a travel advisor to help you watch for and apply any promotions to the cruise you’re interested in. A trained travel advisor is worth their weight in gold.

How Can I Learn More About Alaska’s Inside Passage?

One of the best ways to find more information about Alaska’s Inside Passage is to contact your travel advisor for more information. A good travel advisor will be able to find the answers to your questions and make recommendations to you based on your travel preferences. If you are getting serious about booking, many travel advisors will send you information and brochures that you can go through.

I always recommend doing a little research at home, too. I find one of most informative and unbiased ways to find out about destinations is by searching for and checking out books, magazines, and videos through my local library.

Alaska’s Inside Passage Offers Something For Everyone

If you had told me 15 years ago that Alaska is a great destination for everyone, I would have given you the stink eye…seriously. I thought Alaska was for the person who enjoyed rustic camping and adventure that required a person to be in tip-top shape physically. I was so wrong.

I absolutely love Alaska’s Inside Passage for all that it offers. And it doesn’t matter if you’re 5, 35, 65, or 95, there is something that will inspire you and take your breath away. The food, the nature, and the activities provide something for every member of your family to enjoy, remember and talk about.

I always say that the family that plays together, stays together. Alaska is the playground of the last frontier. It is best experienced with your family and friends.

Destinations, Hawaii

7 Experiences Unique to Oahu

On my first trip to Hawaii as a young girl, we visited two of the islands. The bulk of our stay was on Oahu. It’s easy to understand why Oahu would be a first choice, as there are so many activities for all ages…especially for a family with five kids ranging in age from 7 to 19.

Oahu has a unique range of experiences from historical and cultural experiences, to outdoor activities like surfing and hiking, to relaxing on the sandy beaches while reading a book. There is truly something for every personality and interest.

1. Hiking Up Diamond Head

The panoramic views from this 760-foot extinct volcano peak cannot be be beat. You can look all the way to Waikiki and Honolulu on one side and Koko Head the other way. You can see the surfers scattered throughout the waves below.

On a really beautiful day with great visibility, you can see the island outlines of Molokai and Maui.

The hike up the crater is approximately 3/4 of a mile and starts from the parking lot below. It has a fairly steep incline and lots of stairs, so if you’re not used to a lot of exercise, you may want to think twice before making the the trek up.

It is highly recommended that get up early if you’re going to take the hike. If you can get there before 8 a.m., you’ll miss some of the crowds and the heat.

2. Exploring Hawaiian History and Culture at the Bishop Museum

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The Bishop Museum is a must-see destination for anyone who is interested in learning about the culture and history of the Hawaiian islands.

The museum was begun by Charles Reed Bishop in 1889. It was built to honor his wife, Bernice Pauahi Bishop…who was the last known descendant of the royal family – the Kamehamehas.

Bishop Museum houses the largest collection of archaeological artifacts from Hawaii and the Pacific that can be found anywhere in the world. It also houses many royal family heirlooms that had been owned by the princess. Over the years, millions of documents, objects as well as art and photographs about Hawaii as well as other Pacific cultures have been added to the collection.

The Bishop Museum enjoys worldwide recognition for not only its cultural acquisitions, but also for its educational programs and research projects. If you want to delve into the history and culture of Hawaii, this is the place to go.

3. Beaches and Beach Activities of Oahu

The beaches of Hawaii all offer something a little different based on the flora, fauna, wildlife, and geology of the individual island.

Waikiki Beach

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge fan of Waikiki because of the crowds that I’ve experienced every time I’ve gone. But many people feel it’s a must-do at least once to say you’ve been there. You might enjoy it because of all the action that can be found there.

Waikiki Beach is approximately two miles long and starts from Hilton Hawaiian Village at the north end and heads southeast all the way to Diamond Head and Kapiolani Park at the other end. There are areas of shade for those who want to enjoy people watching. If you’re a sports enthusiast, you can find just about every kind of beach sports here without ever having to get in a car.

Kailua Beach Park

Many consider Kailua Beach park one of the best beaches for families. It is not uncommon to find the locals hanging out here on the weekend. The water is calm and a beautiful blue color. It offers a long and wide beach of powdery sand. Kailua Beach has a line of palm trees that provide some really nice shade on the sand. There are covered picnic areas and a park.

Because Kailua Beach is a little windier than some of the other beaches, it is the perfect place you to try out kiteboarding or windsurfing. Kayaks, stand up paddle boards, bicycles & bike locks, snorkel gear & fins, boogie boards, surfboards, beach chairs and so much more can be rented from the nearby Kailua Beach Adventures.

Makapuu Beach Park

Makapuu Beach Park is on the windward side of the island. It is protected by Makapuu point. One of the highlights is watching the hang gliders as they circle the beach from above. It’s also a great place to watch the body boarders in the water. The currents at Makapuu Beach can be quite strong, so it’s always best to check with a lifeguard to ensure your own safety.

Just off the coast of the beach is Bird Island. It’s a bird sanctuary for water fowl. It rises out of the beautiful blue waters here.

Makapuu Beach also boasts of the most beautiful outdoor shower on Oahu. (Is that really a thing?) The water from the shower is quite cold, but the tropical flora and fauna around the shower makes it a fun way to rinse that sand off of your feet. This beach is best for surfing and walking.

Waimea Bay Beach Park

If you remember the old Beach Boys song “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” you’ll remember nod to Waimea Bay as a surfer’s delight. Waimea Bay Beach Park is home to some of the largest waves around…often reaching 25 to 30 feet during the winter months.

During the summer months, it’s a great place to snorkel as the waters become very calm. The shore break also makes it a fantastic place for those who are still fairly new to body surfing.

White Plains Beach Park

White Plains Beach Park used to be part of the former Barbers Point Naval Station. It is a fantastic alternative to Waikiki Beach without all of the crowds and condos.

The beach was named after the white sandy beaches. It offers a long beach that slopes downward with lots of surf breaks. It also offers some mild shore line that is gentle enough for older kids to be able to play around a little more freely.

It has some great views of Pearl Harbor and Diamond Head. It offers a larger parking lot as well, restroom facilities, and areas to barbecue that are tree-covered offering some comfortable shade.

4. Refreshing and Quick Visit to the Dole Plantation

It’s been many years since the Dole Plantation actually functioned as a plantation in Hawaii. But that doesn’t mean that this tourist hotspot isn’t worth a quick drop in. Although some people see this place as a bit of a tourist trap, I think this place has some fun personality.

Here at the plantation you can celebrate Hawaii’s sweet pineapple. It offers a small little center with some exhibits, a gift shop, some snacks, as well as some displays. Beyond the visitors’ center is the world’s second-largest pineapple maze. Are pineapple maze’s actually a thing?

The Dole Plantation offers two ways to take a tour. You can opt for the self-guided tour (which is free) or take a fun little train ride aboard the Pineapple Express. The Pineapple Express is about 20 minutes long and teaches a little bit about how life on a pineapple plantation was. My brother actually worked one summer on a pineapple plantation as a teenager. I think he might tell you this tour isn’t quite accurate, but it’s all about fun and quirky here.

After taking the tour and maybe spending some time in the 3-acre maze, it’s the perfect time to enjoy a nice refreshing snack. You can pick up a Dole Whip…a pineapple-flavored soft serve ice cream served at the cafe in the back.

5. Delving into Hawaiian Royalty at Iolani Palace

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Iolani Palace is the only official royal residence located in the United States of America. It was built in 1882 and is located on a site of a previous palace. Iolani Palace contains the thrones of Queen Liliuokalani and her predecessor King Kalakaua.

While we often think of Hawaiian life as simple, the Iolani Palace actually had things like electric lights before the White House did.

Downstairs the areas have been restored to the days when Hawaiian monarchy lived there. You can visit the kitchen and offices that once thrived…as well as visiting a showcase of royal jewelry.

The palace offers self-guided audio tours as well as guided tours. Tours are only available in the mornings and space is limited, so if you have your heart set on taking a guided tour (I highly recommend this), call a few days ahead of time to make a reservation.

6. Seeking Serenity at Byodo-In Temple

The Byodo-In Temple is a reproduction of the Temple located at Uji in Japan that was built in the 11th century. It is located towards the back of the Valley of the Temples cemetery.

Here you can find a 2-ton wooden statue of Buddha. This carved statue presides over the main temple building.

Near the temple building you can find gardens and a meditation pavilion. Here you can ring the 5-foot, 3-ton brass bell for good luck as you enjoy the sheer, green cliffsides of the Koolau Mountains.

There is a 2-acre pond here where you can feed the ducks, swans, and koi that inhabit the water. Or if you’re just looking for a peaceful moment, you can sit and relax and take in the serene surroundings.

7. Honoring History at Pearl Harbor

Every year on December 7th, we are reminded of the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The Pearl Harbor attack was the impetus that made the United States enter into World War II. There were a dozen ships that sunk and more than 2,000 people that died at Pearl Harbor.

It is here at Pearl Harbor where the attack is remembered every day by thousands of visitors flocking to the memorial.

There are five distinct sights at Pearl Harbor, but only two of them are operated by the National Parks system. The other three are privately operated.

Pearl Harbor Visitor Center

The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center acts as an entry point for visitors visiting the Pearl Harbor complex. Here you can find two different galleries…one featuring the leading up to the war and the second focusing on the attack at Pearl Harbor itself. They feature lots of personal relics and photographs from veterans of World War II.

You can also find a bookstore, a few other exhibits, and a Remembrance Circle that teaches a little about those who lost their lives during the attack on December 7th, 1941. If you are lucky enough, you might even catch a survivor there who is willing to share their story and answer questions.

The visitors’ center is also where you can start your tour of the USS Arizona Memorial. It is highly recommended you reserve a time for your tour during busier times.

USS Arizona Memorial

The USS Arizona took a direct hit from the Japanese on December 7, 1941. The ship still rests at the bottom of the shallow water. You can reserve a time ahead of time to go out to visit or utilize a standby line if you’re not ready to commit to a time.

The tour starts out with you watching a short documentary in a small theater. It prepares you for the somber visit out to the memorial. You then board a ferry out to the memorial. The memorial straddles the wreckage of the USS Arizona. This is a place where 1,777 people died. You can read the names of those who died as they have been inscribed into the white marble wall.

To this day, you can still see a light oil sheet on the water’s surface above the USS Arizona as oil continues to still escape at a snail’s pace from the sunken ship.

Which Experiences Are Right For You?

Everyone and every group or family has something different they want to get out of a vacation…especially a vacation to Hawaii. I always recommend to my clients to choose the activities that provide the experiences that they are wanting…but be sure to keep an open mind should you change your mind once you get there.

If you are headed to Oahu and are looking for an itinerary that is customized for you and your family, feel free to contact me using the “Contact” page above. I’m always happy to help you put together ideas to suit your vacation…whether it’s your first or hundredth visit to Oahu.

Destinations, Hawaii

4 Fun Ways to Bring a Little Hawaii Into Your Home

One of my fondest school memories as a kid was when we would have “culture fairs” or “culture days” at school. I know I must have been in at least three different classes in elementary school where we had planned out these events. Sometimes I was asked to present a culture from my personal heritage. Other times I was assigned a culture by the teacher or could choose from a list.

The games and food were always the favorite things we enjoyed during these fairs. Honestly, I’m not sure how much of the food prepared was truly authentic and what had been Americanized versions of the foods. As long as it tasted good, I don’t think I gave it much thought as a kid.

Today, I think it’s great when families try to do something similar. I like to think of it as a destination staycation – visiting and learning about a destination while at home.

1. Cook (and Eat) Some Hawaiian Food

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I think this could be said for women and kids and grandparents and pets and…well, you get the picture. Who doesn’t love some good food?


If you’re wondering how SPAM got its name, it comes from a shortened version of “spiced ham.” It is said the military tries to take credit and gave it the name as a shortened version “special Army meat”…but that could really be true of a lot of different meats served in the military. When there turned out to be a large surplus of SPAM during World War II, the meat made it’s way throughout the islands in the Pacific where it was embraced by the locals.

SPAM is a popular food in Hawaii. You can find it on the menus even in places like McDonald’s and Burger King. It has been lovingly named “Hawaii’s steak.” At the end of April each year, a special festival named “SPAM Jam” is held in Waikiki.

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If you’re looking for some great recipes to try out, has a whole section of “Hawaiian” recipes on their website. Go ahead and give one a try. Let me know in the comments below what you tried and whether or not you liked it.

Poke Bowls

Poke bowls have actually become quite popular over the last decade or so outside of Hawaii. So what exactly is a poke bowl? In the Hawaiian language, poke means “to slice or cut” and refers to raw meats that have been sliced up and marinated…most often tuna. The poke is then placed on top of a bowl of rice along with vegetables and sauces.

The Daily Burn offers 7 Quick and Delicious Poke Bowl Recipes. You can try some of their recipes. If your family members aren’t very adventurous eaters, you can always modify a recipe a little to make a bowl your family might be a more willing to try. You can use these recipes for inspiration or do a quick internet search to try to find something a little more child friendly.

Traditional Luau Foods

When visiting Hawaii, many people like to try a Hawaiian luau. The food is often served buffet style or family style with plenty of different Hawaiian foods to try. Some of the more popular buffet items are Kalua Pua’a (roast pork), Teriyaki beef, baked mahi-mahi, and chicken long rice.

I remember as a kid at my first luau being asked to try poi. I found poi to be an acquired taste. Poi is considered a staple at many Hawaiian meals and luaus. It is made by boiling the taro root, pounding it, and then adding water until it comes to a smooth consistency. I have been told that if you haven’t had it before, you might find it more palatable if you add some Kalua Pua’a to it first.

For those families with a sweet tooth (and we have lots of sweet teeth in my family), some of the more popular desserts are: pineapple upside-down cake, coconut cake, macadamia nut pie, and chocolate mochi.

A lot of these traditional luau foods along with their recipes can be found through a simple search online. You can pick a few to make a meal…or if you’re holding a bigger family gathering make it a potluck and let people sign up for some of these Hawaiian favorites.

2. Play Some Hawaiian Games

Every year the Makahiki Games are held in Hawaii. These games are often thought of as the Hawaiian Olympics. Traditionally, the games were open to warriors, alii (Polynesian kings or chiefs), as well as commoners. The games were meant to help warriors stay active and prepare for times of war. They also helped the commoners learn some skills should they be needed during war times.

Today, Makahiki games are held on every island. The competition is often accompanied by a celebration that also includes local arts & crafts, food, hula dancing, and music.

Here are a few traditional (and a few not so traditional) Hawaiian games.


Konane is very similar to checkers and if you are lacking a Konane board, a checkerboard can easily be substituted. The game traditionally uses white coral and black lava rock (although you can substitute as needed).

The game starts by filling in the game board with an alternating color of black lava rock and white coral. The players then take turns hopping over the opposing player’s game pieces and capturing them. Every move made must capture an opponent’s piece. You can hop left, right, up, or down. You lose the game if you are unable to capture one of your opponent’s pieces.


Kukini means “runner, swift messenger, as employed by old chiefs, with a premium on their speed.” (Hawaiian Dictionary) Today, kukini is simply a foot race to determine the fastest runner.

Pass the Coconut

Okay, so maybe this isn’t a “traditional” Hawaiian game, but it is a little easier for younger kids to understand. Think of it as playing a game of “hot potato” but using a coconut instead. You sit in a circle while someone plays Hawaiian music. Everyone keeps passing the coconut along while the music plays. Whenever the music stops, the person holding the coconut is “out.” You keep playing this until there is one person left who is deemed the winner. If you have a larger group, you can make the game more fun by adding a second coconut.

Kumu Hula Says…

This is another game your kids may be familiar with but with a Hawaiian twist. Kumu Hula means hula teacher. Similar to the “Simon Says” game, someone is picked to be the Kumu Hula. They must say “Kumu Hulu says…” and then mention a hula move and/or direction. If they tell the group to do something without saying “Kumu Hula says,” anyone in the group who accidentally acts out the move is taken out of the game. You keep on playing until one person is left.

Below are some traditional hula moves you can include if you choose (or for younger kids you may allow them just to show a hula move):

  • Ami – You rotate your hips counterclockwise while holding your shoulders still.
  • Ha’a: Stand with your knees bent.
  • Hela: Point your right foot forward while swaying to the left, and then you point your left foot forward and sway to the right.
  • Huli: Rotate and sway your hips.
  • Ihope: Move slightly backwards.
  • Ilalo: The body goes down a little (by bending the knees)
  • Iluna: The body goes up a little (by unbending the knees)
  • Imua: Move slightly forward
  • Kaholo: Move two steps to the right, then two steps to the left.
  • Lava: Everyone stops…it is lava after all.

Hula Skirt Relay

This is another game that is a take on a traditional relay game. In this game you split your group into two teams. Each team gets a full hula outfit. It can include such items as:

  • A flower to tuck behind your ear
  • A flower lei
  • A top made of coconuts
  • One band of flowers to go around each wrist
  • A grass skirt
  • Flip flops or sandals for the feet

Each member of the team, one by one, has to put on the complete outfit, run down to a designated spot and touch it, then run back to their group and take the outfit off. Once the outfit is completely off, the next person in line begins the whole process over again. This continues until everyone has had a chance to put the outfit on.

3. Learn a Little Hula

I have really grown to love the hula. I have taken the time to learn just a little bit and have come to appreciate that the hula is beautiful language of storytelling.

My favorite online resource to learn hula is iHula Hawaii. The owner also has a fantastic YouTube channel where she visually teaches some of the basic as well as more advanced moves and hula dances. Although I have not watched all the videos, it does appear to be a family friendly channel.

Go ahead and give it a try. The video above is simple and easy for kids to follow. If you enjoy it, try some more of her dances.

4. Learn to Speak Some Hawaiian

I am certainly no master of any language. But I do try to learn a little of the local language when I am traveling.

Below are a few Hawaiian words and phrases that are easy to pronounce and understand. They might be fun to add to your home.


Pronounced: a-lo-ha.

This is one that is familiar to a lot of people which makes it easy to remember. It is a greeting that means more than “hello.” Its literal meaning is “love,” and implies a wish for a good day.


Pronounced: mah-hah-loh.

It simply means “thank you.” It is an expression of gratitude.

A Hui Hou

Pronounced: ah-hoo-wee-ho-oo-uu.

It’s meaning is very similar to “see you soon.” It is also sometimes used at a luau concert instead of chanting ‘encore!’


Pronounced: how-zit

This phrase used in Hawaii means “what’s up” or “how’s it going”.

‘Ono Grinds

Pronounced: oh-no grinds

It means “delicious food” and is a way to show appreciation for a delicious Hawaiian meal. Grinds can also be used by itself to describe tasty food.

A ‘O Ia!

Pronounced: ah-oy-yay

It means “there you have it!” It can be used to cheer on performers — especially anyone willing to give a hula performance a try.


Pronounced: hoe-new

Honu is basically a green sea turtle which can be find all over the Hawaiian islands…especially while snorkeling or scuba diving. They are officially listed as endangered species.

Want to Learn More Hawaiian?

If you want to learn a little more of the Hawaiian language, there are lots of great resources out there if you do a little digging. One of my favorites is Duolingo. It gives you lessons in a bite-sized 5 minutes each. You can move along as quickly or slowly as you like earning rewards along the way.

Duolingo’s lessons can be adapted for family members of different ages. Duolingo offered a fantastic resource for families when the COVID-19 crisis hit and parents found themselves scrambling to help keep their children busy and learning as schools shut down.

Have Yourself a Hawaiian Destination Staycation

Sometimes circumstances like a financial loss or a health crisis like COVID-19 make traveling a little more difficult. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a destination staycation to Hawaii.

Pick and choose some of these activities, then plan and have an evening, a weekend, or maybe even a whole week dedicated to your Hawaiian staycation. When you do finally get to go on that trip to Hawaii, your family will be more prepared on what to expect and have a better appreciation of the Hawaiian culture…even if some of it isn’t exactly traditional. Have at it and have fun!

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    Remember: Families that play together, stay together.

    Destinations, Hawaii, Uncategorized

    Get Your Kids Excited for Hawaii Through Hawaiian Literature

    When I was a little girl, our family vacations were far and few between. Most of the time they involved all seven of us piling into the family station wagon, no air conditioning in the heat of summer, off to visit a member of the extended family.

    If it weren’t for books, I wouldn’t have known there was a whole other world out there. I was an avid reader and liked to read about life in other places…whether it was Paddington Bear in London, life on the frontier through the Little House on the Prairie series, or Canadian life in the early 1900s through Anne of Green Gables. Books took me somewhere exciting and different.

    The old classics are still there, but in today’s world the possibilities of travel through books are endless. If you’re eager to get your children anticipating your trip to Hawaii…or maybe just planning a “destination staycation” where your family can escape to Hawaii through books…no matter their age.

    The number of books available relating Hawaii are quite extensive. The key is to find the books that you or your family will enjoy the most. Whether you’ve got little ones who like picture books or the ultra planner who wants a guide to activities, there is something for everyone.

    My family always checks availability at the library first hoping to save some money. But when it comes to guidebooks, you always want the latest edition and something you can scribble notes in, so I recommend purchasing your copy.

    Hawaiian Books for the Youngest Family Members

    For the real little ones, it’s fun to have them settle down in your lap while you read them a story. There are some great books for the younger kids in your bunch.

    • Good Night Hawaii by Adam Gamble. A beautiful board book written for toddlers teaching them about Hawaii’s beaches, foods, and beautiful coral reef. Geared to the 0- to 4-year-old.
    • Rock-a-Bye Baby in Hawaii by BeachHouse Publishing. This board book can be read…or sang to your little one to the traditional lullaby “Rock-a-Bye Baby.”
    • Hawaiian Ocean Lullaby by Beth Greenway. Another board book that introduces your toddler to the Hawaiian ocean wonders like whales, dolphins, and mantas.
    • Aloha, Hawaii by Martha Zschock. This book is part of an “around-the-world” series by the author. In this installation, a mother and child macaw visit Hawaii. Geared for the 2- to 5-year-old.
    • Seashore Touch-n-See Hawai’i by Ellie Crowe. This book takes your child on a journey through the Hawaiian waters. It’s both educational and fun as the little ones want to touch the cute little Hawaiian critters over and over.
    • ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – in Hawaii – by Valjeanne Budar. A Hawaiian twist on a Christmas classic. It includes a glossary of common Hawaiian words. Geared toward ages 5 and up.
    • A is for Aloha: A Hawai’i Alphabet by J’ilani Goldsberry. A great opportunity to learn the language as well as some history and many wonderful things about the Aloha State. Geared towards ages 6 to 9.

    Hawaiian Fiction for Beginning Readers

    These books are great for those kiddos who are just beginning their independent reading journey. They can read independently, read to you, or maybe even read to their siblings.

    • Froggy Goes to Hawaii, by Jonathan London. The “Froggy” series is a bestseller. In this book, Froggy is off to Hawaii. Even things never seem to go as planned, he still manages to hula, surf, and swim and have an overall good time.
    • The Hawaiian Heist by Geronimo Stilton. This is a whodunnit mystery as Geronimo Stilton, mouse publisher, tries to figure out who the thief of a jewel heist is. Geared towards ages 7 to 10.
    • Junie B., First Grader: Aloha-Ha-Ha! by Barbara Park. Those who love the Junie B. Jones series knows that trouble accompanies her wherever she goes…even Hawaii. Geared to ages 7-9.
    • Recipe for Adventure: Hawaii! by Gia De Laurentiis. This book is #6 of a series where the character Zia’s magic ingredient takes the children Alfie and Emilia on an island adventure to Hawaii, famous for its delicious food, luaus, and surfing. Geared towards ages 7 to 9.
    • Thea Stilton and the Legend of the Fire Flowers by Thea Stilton. Book number 15 in the Thea Stilton series. This book finds the Thea Sisters in Hawaii to compete for a hula competition. Things go awry when a volcano is about to erupt. Geared towards ages 7 to 9.
    • High Tide in Hawaii: Magic Tree House Book 28 by Mary Pope Osborne. If you have a reader just getting into chapter books, the Magic Tree House series can be a lot of fun for kids to learn about places and events in history. In this particular book, the main characters Jack and Annie are headed to Hawaii. They help an island community survive a tidal wave and learn to surf.
    • Calvin Coconut: Hero of Hawaii by Graham Salisbury. Calvin has great plans for his sister’s birthday. Unfortunately, a big storm hits his home in the Hawaiian islands causing unforeseen complications. It’s up to Calvin to save the day. Geared towards ages 8 to 12.

    Hawaiian Historical Fiction for Children

    • Lydia and the Island Kingdom by Joan Holub. This is part of the “Young Princesses Around the World Series.” This is the story of the young Princess Liliuokalani. Geared towards ages 6 to 8.
    • Attack on Pearl Harbor (Ranger in Time Series) by Kate Messner. This book is set to be published in July 2020. In this installment of the “Ranger in Time” series, Ranger the dog travels back in time to Hawaii and where he makes new friends…just as the attack at Pearl Harbor begins. Geared towards ages 7 to 10.
    • Pearl Harbor (American Girl: Real Stories from My Time) by Jennifer Swanson. This installment of the “Real Stories from My Time Series involves fictional American Girl Nanea Mitchell and takes place around Pearl Harbor. It includes a glossary, historical photos, and a timeline.

    Children’s Hawaiian Fiction and Travel Guides

    • What’s Great About Hawaii? by Mary Meinking. In this book you can find out the top ten things to places to go and things to do in Hawaii. Geared towards grades 2 to 5.
    • Hawai’i Volcanoes (A True Book: National Parks) by Karina Hamalainen. This book is part of the National Parks series published by True Book. Geared towards grades 3 and above.
    • Hawaii: The Aloha State by Emily Rose Oachs. This book investigates what makes Hawaii unique from the other states. It talks about how volcanic activity helped form the islands and the beaches, bursting rain forests, and waterfalls. Geared towards grades 3 to 7.
    • A Kid’s Guide to Hawaii by Jack L. Roberts. This book will take young readers on a journey to learn all about Hawaii. They can learn about Hawaii’s nature, wildlife, state history, and more. Geared towards grades 4 to 6.
    • Hawai’i: True Stories of the Islands by Rick and Marcie Carroll. This book features many personal stories by different contributors as it explores Hawaii in a new way. Geared towards teens.

    If you don’t find anything that hits your fancy, feel free to do a search using your local library’s online search function. See what comes up. You never know what kind of gem you’ll find…often written by local authors.

    Hawaiian Coloring and Activity Books

    Other things I enjoyed doing as a kid were coloring and activity books. We had an “educational” bookstore just about a mile from our house. We’d head over there the beginning of the summer and my mom would buy us some activity books to keep us busy (and I’m pretty sure to keep us out of her hair).

    • The ABC Hawaii Coloring and Activity Book by Ruth Moen. Coloring pages and activities to help in learning your ABC’s and 123’s…while introducing Hawaii to your little ones. This book is advertised as geared towards grades 2 to 3, but it looks like many activities would be appropriate for the kindergartner and 1st grader also.
    • Coloring Hawaii by Kelly Monis. This book is advertised as an adult coloring book, but the pictures are all drawn on a medium scale with lots of beaches, ocean, flowers, animals, and landscapes. It would be great for a slightly older kid (or an adult who still loves to color).
    • Wonders of Life Hawaiian Edition: Coloring Book for Adults and Children by Natasha Nicole Portman. This coloring book is inspired by the art of zentangle and is meant to help you relax as you color. The details are large making it easier for older children to color. (Again, this one would also be fantastic for teens or adults.)
    • Hawaii’s Ocean Animals Coloring and Activity Book by BeachHouse Publishing. This book contains 25 activities (dot-to-dots, word searches, color by numbers) and 64 pages to color. This book focuses on the ocean animals found around Hawaii. Geared towards 1st and 2nd graders.
    • My Hawaii Coloring and Activity Book. by Hollyanne Shell. This book is advertised as geared towards 2nd to 3rd graders, but the simpleness of the activities would be easy for many kindergartners and 1st graders also. The pictures to be colored are nice and large.
    • Pineapple Coloring Book for Kids by Ocean Front Press. This coloring book is a little silly and all pineapple. It’s especially great for anyone who loves this juicy and sweet fruit.
    • Hawaii Coloring and Activity Book for Boys and Girls by Amelia ZaZa. This coloring book offers to help kids discover the beauty and culture of Hawaii. It also offers single-sided coloring pages to avoid tge bleeding through of markers.
    • The How ‘Bout Hawaii Coloring Book! by Carole Marsh. This book includes reproducible coloring book that introduces you kids to important people, places, and facts to know about Hawaii. Geared towards Preschool to 3rd graders.
    • Story of Hawaii Coloring Book (Dover History Coloring Book) by Y.S. Green. The “Dover History Coloring Book” series has been around for a long time. It offers lots of interesting and informative captions to accompany the pages to be colored. This coloring book is more detailed and is geared towards 8- to 12-year-olds.

    I’ll admit it. Even at my age, I still enjoy sitting down with a good coloring book at the end of the day. I keep one by my desk along with some pens. It never gets old.

    The Adventure Continues Through Hawaiian Books

    In my house, the planning of adventures never ends. Sometimes we plan a trip, and it doesn’t happen because life gets in the way. We put it on the back burner until we’re ready to put the trip back on the calendar. But that doesn’t stop my hubby and I from reading and learning about our destination…whether through fiction, historical fiction, guide books, biographies…the possibilities are so extensive and each book adds to our appreciation of the trip when we finally get to go.

    Do you have any favorite books that you enjoy about Hawaii, the culture, the history, the folk tales? I’d love to add them to the list. Just put them in the comments below.