We’ve been going there for 5 years now very regularly. The kids absolutely love it.
For the great budget stay, here are some recommendations. I have a few more on tongfamily http://tongfamily.com but didn’t have time to ferret them out, so here are the tips from the cheapest to the most expensive things to do:
1. STay at a condo. Hotels are expensive and so are meals. The best thing to do is to find a condo. We found ours in Kailua, this is 20 minutes from Oahu but in a great suburb. You hit the Costco (they have a monster one near the airport) on the way from Honolulu airport and you are great shape.
2. Go to the beach. The best things in life are free and I don’t mean the Honolulu beach. This place is just overrun. There are an amazing number of community beaches out there that no one goes to. Now of course, all Hawaii beaches are dangerous. the tides are very tricky as are the currents, so be careful. Probably the safest we’ve found is the Kailua Beach (hence why we stay in Kailua). It is five miles of perfect crescent. There is a state park there, so it is free. It is one of the top 10 beaches in the world. The locals are not money rich, but they are life rich. Do what they do, load up the kids, rent a boogie board and head for the beach. Most are smart, they do it in the evening and the morning when the rays are not as strong though.
2a. Everyone raves about Honumulu Bay (sp.). Frankly, it seems overrun and there are fish, but it is a disaster after 10AM. So if you do it, get there as early as you can. Much better is Diamond Head. The hike there is really amazing, although you should have a flashlight, there is tunnel right through the crater wall that defines the term dark. We’ve done it a couple of times though and loved it.
3. Go to North Shore. In the summer, there is a beautiful Audubon park there with a waterfall. The beach below in the winter is an awesome spot where there are 20 foot waves, but in the summer, there is a great river and the swells are just fine.
4. Head for the water park. They have a water park just north of Honolulu airport. It isn’t expensive (there are ticket books everywhere). And the kids really love it. Get there early.
5. The pineapple plantation. Dole has a completely kitsch pineapple plantation int he middle of the island, but the kids just love going through the pineapple maze.
6. The Missouri and the Arizona. These are in the Navy base. Even 50 years later, seeing the Arizona 50 feet underwater while you hear taps playing makes everyone quiet. It isn’t expensive and makes you think. The Missouri is just an awesome site. The biggest battleship in the world. If you have boys, they will absolutely love it. There is a very cool submarine next door too. Not expensive.
7. Avoid all the cheapo luaus. We’ve done them and they stink. The Polynesian Cultural Center is incredibly expensive but worth it. Just make sure to get there early as the various tribes and games are super fun. It is a huge drive and most of the folks there are actually college students at the Mormon university there (branch of Brigham Young), so it is more Disneyland than authentic, but the show is amazing. If you have young kids be warned, it is a good hour plus to get there and back and the luau show ends after 9PM.