It's no secret. If you love the beach, there are tremendous beach communities in Hawaii. Each has its own feel. We were lucky to call Kailua "home" for a number of years. There's a great mix of people there, and lots of small thriving businesses. If you ever find yourself on Oahu, GET OUT OF WAIKIKI and drive over to the Windward side of the island!
Kailua Beach is the largest beach park in the area, lots of families, dogs, swimming, and wind/water sports. Be sure to stop by Kalapawai Market!
If you have access to military bases, Bellows AFB (which is a few more minutes east), also has a large sandy beach with fewer people.
If you like body boarding, Kalama Beach is smaller but has great wave action.
Lanikai Beach is also pretty popular for picnics, although you have to park on residential streets. Just make sure you find public access paths and stay off of private property.
In Kailua, you will want to try Lanikai Juice for a refreshing treat. There are also some great shops with unique, upcycled, hand made jewelry, housewares, and clothes. My favorites are Kailua Verde and Global Village. Lanikai Bath and Body has some really great soaps and lotions. (Beautiful scents, not overpowering... perfect gift for someone on the Mainland who loves Hawaii.)
People who've "known" me for a while will recognize this photo... or maybe just parts of this photo. This photo is the background for my business cards, banner, and many of my online avatars. (It was actually taken in Waimanalo, which is a few minutes down the road from Kailua.) I am not a photoshop guru. This is really the color of the sand, sea, and sky. I love it.
Who doesn't enjoy a road trip every now and then? I've lived in Maryland and Virginia for about 8 years and never made it further west than Richmond... so for Spring Break, we hit the road. One of our stops- Luray, Virginia is a lovely little town near Shenandoah National Park, with breathtaking views and a spectacular cavern with underground lakes. Luray Cavern is a family friendly "attraction" with a stroller-accessible path (although you would need to carry it up/down about 2 flights of stairs). The guided tour of the cavern itself is approximately 1.4 miles, and absolutely amazing. Not only is it beautiful to look at- the geological significance of the site is just amazing, especially if you love rocks!
Additionally, there are three small museums featuring antique toys, cars, and regional history (ie old school house, blacksmith, weapons, tools, etc.) as well as a 1 acre maze. I have a teen and a kindergartener so finding activities that appeal to both can be a bit of a challenge. Both really enjoyed our trip to Luray, albeit for different reasons.
Although I am not a huge fan of fudge, we did get a few slices to bring home that were readily demolished, so don't miss that either.
The town itself is friendly and down to Earth, with lots of great eats up and down Main Street. We had some awesome pizza at Gennaro's, although the poor waitress was an army of one, with no help whatsoever (not even a busser). She did her best though, and the food was worth the wait. We were also quite happy with the food at Uncle Buck's, and heard good things from fellow travelers about Gathering Grounds.
We stayed in the Luray Caverns Motel East. It's a motel, what can I say? The location is great, the view is terrific, the staff is helpful. The furnishings are dated and our room smelled faintly of wet dog, but there was free wifi, so we were happy. I think if we return, we'll try one of the B&B's or maybe the Mimslyn Inn... but I'd definitely like to head back this way again!