Taking The Adventure

A travel blog by kids, for kids (and their parents)

The Road to Hana, Maui, Hawaiian Islands

Review by Aidyn, Age 12 (Parent Notes below)

You don’t take The Road to Hana to actually go see Hana. I mean, yes, Hana is a cute little town, but the road is what you actually drive for.IMG_2061

The Road to Hana is a sixty-mile long road complete with fifty-nine bridges and just over six hundred hairpin turns. If you go, make sure you get an early start, or you’ll be stuck driving it in the dark (Dad wouldn’t be happy).

Ready for a road trip!

Ready for a road trip!

I know that the idea of sitting for a few hours in the car just for the sake of having a road trip is a little foreign to kids now-a-days, but my angelic six-year-old brother did fine, so I think you can stand it. Besides, you’ll have plenty of chances to get out and see some amazing stuff. You need to plan exactly what you are going to do, or you might end up camping out in your car so you can continue in the morning! If you get out at every single stop along the way, you could easily be on the road three days or more. My Mom picked out six places to stop at, but we only ended up doing three of them. Here they are:

1. Keanae Peninsula (between mile marker 16 and 17)

Our first stop, Keanae Peninsula had some amazing exhibits of the more beautiful-but-deadly side of nature. The waves pounded white near the rocks where you can view it. The walls of spray looked dazzling with the sun shining on them, but you don’t want to fall in.IMG_2076IMG_2092

After hanging out at the rocks for a little while (there were lots of the little snails that latch on to the rocks, and Mom even saw a sea turtle!), we drove a short ways down the road for a snack at small roadside snack shack called Aunty Sandy’s. We got some banana bread (it was still warm) and some Aloha Maid, a Hawaiian juice brand we had all come to love. It was great after being in the car for that long!IMG_2129IMG_2134

With our bellies filled and sense of adventure even more revved up, we hopped back into the car and went further up and further in. Our next stop was:

2. Upper Waikani Falls (between mile marker 19 and 20)

Swimming in a waterfall. What could be better than that? Answer: Swimming in the waterfall with an insulated wet suit and snow gear! Upper Waikani Falls is cold! But it’s super fun to swim in and is really isn’t as bad once you’re in; your whole body turns numb within fifteen seconds.IMG_2247 Make sure you bring a swim suit, but wear tennis shoes to get down to it, because the hike is steep and slippery. IMG_2211Once you get down though, you get to splash around, and Mom can take plenty of awesome pictures!IMG_2218 Upper Waikani Falls can all be one huge waterfall, or, like when we were there, can be three separate smaller falls. It has mist all around near the waterfall, and ivy grows around it. It truly is a picturesque scene.IMG_2221

And last but not least is:

3. Waimoku Falls (inside Haleakala National Park at mile marker 41)

I know what you’re thinking: what is it with all the waterfalls? This is not your ordinary waterfall. Waimoku Falls is a four hundred foot tall waterfall with a two mile hike to get to it- great for stretching your legs. IMG_2266IMG_2299I know you think you can hike that pretty quickly, more or less, but I recommend putting aside just over two hours for there and back. I agree that that may not seem that horrible, but there is lots of going up- up stairs, up hills, crossing couple of small streams- it takes longer that you realize.IMG_2267 And who wouldn’t take half an hour of to climb the banyan tree? Towards the beginning of the hike, there is an enormous banyan tree. Low branches lead to the trunk, and from there you can go almost anywhere on the tree!IMG_2279IMG_2286 There is also a bamboo forest that, no, I’m not exaggerating, blocks out most of the sun. IMG_2294Make sure to bring plenty of water, since Hawaii can get hot, and insect repellent.

When your finished with every thing, sit back in your car. If you just keep driving to the end of the Road to Hana, a short ways, you come to a highway, and dad can drive home quicker and on a smoother, straighter road. Watch the sunset and even listen to a book on audio! Ahhhh…IMG_2333


Parent Notes:

The Road to Hana can seem a little intimidating with kids, but we found it to be an amazing experience. I think the key to making it successful with a younger crowd is a little bit of forethought and planning. We researched the stops we thought would be most enjoyable with the kids and mapped them out, but, as Aidyn said, we didn’t get to all of them. We started at the beginning of the road at about 10:00am. Had we gotten an earlier start, we could have worked in another stop or two, but it was still totally worth it.

A couple of our kids have a tendency toward car-sickness, but we didn’t have any trouble that day. Just be prepared to take frequent driving breaks should they be needed. The key to the Road to Hana is being organized, but flexible. If you need to toss or out or modify plans along the way, do it! Take the time to really enjoy each stop, or skip one if no one seems to be into it.

There are places to buy food along the way, but as we had mostly exhausted our Hawaii budget at this point and were trying to do it on the cheap, we just packed sandwiches in a cooler and ate along the road. We went through quite a lot of water throughout the course of the day. While there are places to buy it, definitely try to bring a good supply with you so you don’t end up with thirsty kids and no vendors close by.

To get to Upper Waikani Falls, you have to hike down a little path that starts at the edge of the bridge. The initial jump to get down to the path is a little steep, but don’t let it keep you from trying it. The path is not difficult after that, though the rocks down at the falls are very slippery, so be extra careful once you get down there. Aidyn was not exaggerating about how cold it is, but the kids loved the experience. Definitely take a towel or two down with you because the swimmers will be shivering when they get out of the water!

Waimoku Falls is inside of Haleakala National Park. On a navigation note – the mile markers jump to #56 after Hana town and then start going back down. Haleakala National Park is at marker 41 after they start going back down. Admission to the park is $15.00. In addition to Waimoku Falls, there is a shorter hike to see (and swim in) the Seven Sacred Pools. There are more than seven and they are not actually sacred, but it makes for a great title! We found Waimoku Falls, itself, to be less impressive than we had anticipated, but the hike was awesome. The kids loved the banyan tree and the bamboo forest was like nothing we had ever experienced. Our youngest hiker was 6 and, while he was wiped out at the end, he did fine. If you have very young kids, maybe consider bringing a backpack along for them to ride in. Our youngest had a great time seeing the sights from his vantage point on my husband’s back.

We would definitely recommend going back by way of the newly paved, and much straighter, road that loops back around the island at the end of the Road to Hana. Bring along a fun snack and an audio book to listen to in the car to make it a more enjoyable ride. It will take about an hour and a half to get back to civilization.


The Great Wall, Beijing, China

Review by Aidyn, age 11 (Parent notes below)

The second year that we lived in China, we went to Beijing for Chinese New Year. It was winter and my toes nearly froze off, but we had a lot of fun! We visited a bunch of amazing places including the Summer Palace and the Forbidden City, but my favorite place was Great Wall of China. W-O-W. It is pretty awesome.

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

We arrived at the Great Wall at lunch time and we were all starving, so we ate at a slightly overpriced, but otherwise very good dumpling/noodles/bao-zi restaurant.

After that we walked up to the base of the wall where you got on a ski lift. Yes, you read that correctly. The wall was so tall we needed a ski lift to get to the stairs that would take us up to the top of the wall.

Stairs leading up to The Wall.

Stairs leading up to The Wall.

It has to be at least 25 feet tall! Imagine about five of your average dad’s stacked on top of each other. That’s about how tall it is. It is over 4,000 miles long, and 15-30 feet thick. It’s massive.

The Wall from below

The Wall from below

When we got up to the top the view was pretty awesome. We hiked the wall for what felt like miles. Not an easy feat. It’s not like walking on a sidewalk. It’s more like walking on a rocky, bumpy, up-and-down hiking trail.

Striking Ninja poses on the Great Wall.

Striking Ninja poses on the Great Wall.

The wall goes on as far as the eye can see, up and down, curving and winding.

Winding Wall

Winding Wall

Do not go in the winter without thick boots, a heavy coat, warm socks, warm pants, and preferably gloves. It’s really awesome if you are not freezing your toes off!

Trying to stay warm!

Trying to stay warm!

There are sellers all along the way with things like lollipops, snacks, and postcards. You can buy something if you want, but do not have to.

When we were finished with exploring the wall, we walked to where you get down off of it. This is the fun part. They have this toboggan on rails that, for a fee, you can use to ride down. Of course, we did.

Sledding down from the Great Wall!

Sledding down from the Great Wall!

It was pretty awesome. There was a brake handle to slow yourself as you coast down and around curves to the bottom. It’s so fun!

This guy let us take a picture with him when we got off the sleds.

This guy let us take a picture with him when we got off the sleds.

If you ever get to Beijing, a trip to the Great Wall is definitely a must!

Parent Notes:

We went to the Mutianyu section of the wall, as recommended by our guide. If I recall correctly, it was about an hour and a half outside of Beijing. I’m not certain if there are other access points that have the toboggan ride down, but I would consider it a must. It was definitely a huge highlight for all of us.

There is a Subway restaurant at Mutianyu, but we definitely recommend skipping the Subway and going to the little hole-in-the-wall dumpling joint instead. They were probably the most expensive dumplings we ate during our time in China (they have a bit of a corner on the market there), but they were also some of the yummiest. And it seems sort of wrong to eat western fast food at the Great Wall of China!
The Great Wall is fascinating, but it is well worth your time to read up a bit with your kids before the visit in order to pique their interest a bit more. We find our kids to be far more enthusiastic about historical sites we visit if they get what it’s all about prior to the visit. Our kids love You Wouldn’t Want to Work on the Great Wall of China: Defenses You’d Rather Not Build. We also read The Great Wall of China, which gives a good history. Be forewarned that the history of The Great Wall includes a good bit of violence, something to keep in mind if your kids are a bit more sensitive.

Chimelong Paradise Amusement Park, Guangzhou, China

Review by Aidyn, Age 11 (Parent Notes below)

Chimelong Paradise is one big amusement park, people. Chimelong also has a water park, a crocodile park, and a zoo/safari park. The water park is only open for a few months in the summer, but the other parks are open all year round. I’m just going to tell you about the amusement park for now.

They have a lot of rides, plus a big building filled with stuff for younger kids. For one roller coaster, the Young Star, the height limit is starting at ninety centimeters (my 4-year-old brother was tall enough)! That was one of my favorites.

The Young Star - My sister and I are on the very last car.

The Young Star – My sister and I are on the very last car.

Then Sky Drop, another one of my favorites, takes you up about thirty feet in the air, then drops, almost letting you hit the ground, but not quite, then takes you back up, then down, up, then down. You sit in a long row of seats with a bar that pulls over your chest.

Getting ready to ride the Sky Drop when one of our best friends, Miss Anne, came to visit us in China.

Getting ready to ride the Sky Drop when one of our best friends, Miss Anne, came to visit us in China.

Getting ready to drop - what a rush!

Getting ready to drop – what a rush!

They have a smaller kid’s version, too.

The little kid version was about all my mom could handle!

The little kid version was about all my mom could handle!

They also have a big building for kids. It has a huge area netted off that is FILLED with balls, all over the floor. It has a second floor in there with cannons to shoot the balls, and things that blow balls into the air. FUN.

They also have a miniature bumper car arena on the second floor of the building. It’s super fun. The miniature bumper cars, I think, are supposed to look like space saucers. They have controls that are a little bit hard to get the hang of, but fun once you get it.

The Bumper Cars

They also have some rides I never went on, like the one with the world’s highest vertical drop or most inversion! My dad did ride the drop coaster, and came off laughing! How could he do that?

They also have a billion other rides that I haven’t talked about.

My brothers liked this one a lot. It was in the kid's ride section.

My brothers liked this one a lot. It was in the kid’s ride section.

On this one you ride in a huge boat that goes down a giant hill and gets you soaked at the bottom!

On this one you ride in a huge boat that goes down a giant hill and gets you soaked at the bottom!

The Jumping Machine is one of my favorites! It spins you around and around while bouncing you up and down.  Then it does it all backwards!

The Jumping Machine is one of my favorites! It spins you around and around while bouncing you up and down. Then it does it all backwards!

It’s super fun. But the food there isn’t always that good, so pack snacks! And definitely bring lots of water (or you can buy it there)! It’s a super good experience, but you don’t want to cut it short cause you’re thirsty!

Parent Notes:

Chimelong Paradise is a huge park and has something for everyone. There are a large number of rides for young children, many of them housed in an air-conditioned building, a life-saver on some of those stifling days of summer in Guangzhou. There are rides for the thrill-seekers, as well as plenty that fall somewhere much lower on the panic scale. As a note of warning: the locals don’t seemed to be intimidated by rides they know will make them vomit. They simply bring a bag onto the ride with them, vomit into it, and toss it into the trash can on the way out. We’ve been to Chimelong many times, but never without seeing at least a couple of “incidents”. Just prepare yourself to look away.

On that note, the food inside the park leave quite a bit to be desired. We’ve eaten it, but the dumplings (normally our fall-back food) taste like they might have been fried in flame retardant and the other options are pretty equally appealing. You aren’t technically supposed to bring in food from the outside, but they tend to be lenient with foreigners and we normally brought along some snacks.

The park has plenty of parking and can also be reached by metro. Go early and try to avoid week-ends and holidays in order to miss the crowds.

Legoland Malaysia

Our guest-poster today is Rachel. Congratulations to Rachel for winning the Taking the Adventure contest! Rachel is nine-years-old and lives in Thailand.  She has also lived in the United States, Germany, and Poland and has been to 24 different countries (wow!). She likes to play soccer, softball, and tennis and do jazz dance. She also loves to read and play with her friends .

In Malaysia there is a theme park called Legoland and its theme is Legos.

Legoland Malaysia Entrance

So the first thing we did in Legoland was put all our bags in the hotel. Here are the things we did the two days at Legoland: We started the rides with a ride called Lego Mindstorms. Me and my brother Simon loved the driving school and did it two times!

Legoland Driving School

We also went to this Lego Star Wars miniland model display.

Legoland Star Wars Display

Next there was a ride called the Dragon. Cool right?

This picture was taken from the tower. You can see The Dragon roller coaster in the upper left-hand corner.

This picture was taken from the tower. You can see The Dragon roller coaster in the upper left-hand corner.

Also at Legoland there is a waterpark. At the waterpark there is a lazy river and a little playground with a big bucket pouring water down on your head.

Legoland Waterpark

Me and my brother and dad had a lot of fun there. We did the waterpark on the second day at Legoland, but all of the days were fun!

Bamboo Rafting in Yangshuo, Guangxi, China

Review by Aidyn, Age 11 (Parent Notes below)

Crash! We bumped down the small water fall, more like a SUPER huge bump in rapids. Splash! the front of the raft hit the water and went under a bit before popping up and getting our tennis shoes all wet. It didn’t really matter, cause we were already sopping everywhere else possible. Anderson turned in his chair from the the raft in front of us and- squirt, made us even wetter with his water gun.

bamboo rafting

We had been staying at the Outside Inn in Yangshou, Guangxi, China.

The Outside Inn

The Outside Inn

While we were there, we did a lot of cool stuff outdoors, including biking, hiking, and, of course, bamboo rafting on the Li River.  And, as I said, we got really wet.

Flat Stanley happened to be along for this trip!

Flat Stanley happened to be along for this trip!

We were walking down to the docks when a LOT of ladies ran up. They were trying to sell us water guns, crowns made of fresh flowers, and other things, too. Mom got crowns for herself an us girls, and Dad got a water gun for each raft. Pretty soon we were in rafts and shooting at each other like mad.

All of the rafts waiting for passengers. Flat Stanley is first in line!

All of the rafts waiting for passengers. Flat Stanley is first in line!

To sum it all up, there were miniature waterfalls, our brothers shooting water at us, and we got drenched. It rocked. Plus it was cheap too! I seriously recommend it!

A fun fact: the picture on the back of the 20 yuan Chinese bill was taken on the Li river near Yangshuo!

A fun fact: the picture on the back of the 20 yuan Chinese bill was taken on the Li river near Yangshuo!

Parent Notes:

Bamboo rafting on the Li is a very gentle ride. Do expect your shoes to get wet, though, as there are a couple of places you go over a little ledge and the raft dips just enough for the water to come over it a bit. It’s definitely not rapids or anything close to it, though, and we felt perfectly comfortable bringing our baby along for the ride.

As you approach the river to get onto the raft, you will likely be ambushed by Chinese grandmothers selling water guns and crowns of fresh flowers. They will give them to your children and then turn around and hold their hand out for money. Just decide beforehand whether or not you care to buy anything and don’t feel badly saying no.

That said, the water guns can be fun on the river. You fill them by putting the end into the river and drawing back on the handle. Then you can shoot your friends and family members on other rafts. The flower crowns are also very pretty and make for fun pictures.

One More Day!

There is still one more day to send us your submissions for the Taking the Adventure contest. We would love to hear from you! See the details here.

-Aidyn and DelaneyAidyn and Delaney

Parque Chico, Bogota, Colombia

By Anderson, Age 7 (Parent Notes below)

Parque Chico is a really fun park in Bogotá. You walk in a grassy field to get to the entrance.

Parque Chico Entrance

When you walk inside the park you find yourself in a big grassy space with merry-go-rounds, see-saws, lots of trees, some ducks, and a cafe named Brot.

Parque Chico

The cafe is a double-decker bus with a kitchen in it and there are tables, too, and windows on the top floor that you can open to get fresh air. I like to get a chocolate croissant when I go there.

Brot Bus Inside Brot

There are lots of ponds too. The space is great for playing games and sports.

Parque Chico PondParque Chico


Parent Notes:

Parque Chicó is a fantastic park located at Carerra 7 and Calle 93 in northern Bogotá. It used to be a finca, or week-end villa, located north of the city, but the city has grown up around it and the park is now surrounded by both residential and commercial areas.

The original villa, donated by the owner to the city, still resides inside the walls of the park and has become a museum showcasing antiques she collected on her extensive world travels. Admission to the museum is very inexpensive and, while probably not thrilling for the kids, is an interesting guided tour that takes less than an hour if that’s the sort of thing that interests you.

The park itself is free and is one of the nicest in the city. Dogs are not permitted inside, which means you don’t have to watch where you step. The park sprawls across a huge hillside dotted with trees. There are merry-go-rounds, swings, slides, monkey bars, and see-saws situated throughout. There is also plenty of space for running or kicking a soccer ball around.

The Brot bus bakery is one of our kids’ favorite features of the park. It’s an authentic British double-decker bus with seating and tables on the second level. The breads and pastries are awesome (my favorite are the cinnamon rolls) and they have coffee, espresso, and a variety of other drinks.

The park is an extremely popular destination on the week-ends and holidays. Colombians gather with picnic blankets and baskets of food to celebrate birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries. It can get crowded, but it’s a fun atmosphere even with the crowds.

Books, Books, Plus a Few More Books

Hey! This is Aidyn, the all time bookworm- just ask my parents! I wrote this as sort of special edition post, for reading. Traveling usually involves lots of downtime and reading is one of my favorite downtime activities. I am listing some of our favorite books by age category. The age categories are just a suggestion, though.  I read some of the one’s in the 10-12 category when I was 8 and I still love to go back and read some of the books  in the 6-8 category, even though I’m 11 now.

6-8 year olds

8-10 year olds

10-12 year olds

What about you?  Tell us some of your favorites in the comments section and we can add links to them in the blog!

Caffè Mondo – Guangzhou, China

Review by Aidyn, age 11 (Parent notes below)

Have any of you ever been to the IFC tower in Guangzhou, China? Have any of you eaten in splendor? Here’s my review of Caffé Mondo, on the 71st floor of the IFC tower! IFC Tower

You are sitting at home, when suddenly your dad sweeps you into the car. You are going to the Caffé Mondo!

You choose the buffet. Although there are delicious pizzas, soups, grills, and other yummy stuff on the menu you choose the buffet. Why?  The buffet is made up of long counter tops. There are four different counters, one for each type of food. You start at the bread counter.

You never knew there were so many types of bread! And it’s not just bread either! There are many types of cheeses, and you weren’t told there are over four types of salami! You set a slice of French bread on you plate. Focaccia? You don’t know what the bread with herbs is but it looks good. You pile salami on top of that. And then you smother your French bread in goat cheese, placing a sun-dried tomato on top of that. Should you get some parmesan? You decide your plate is full enough.

You sit down. You eat. It’s all very delicious. You get up to go get more.

The view of the city lights from Caffé Mondo.

The view of the city lights from Caffé Mondo.

You choose the salad bar. You heap you bowl with Caesar salad, drench it with balsamic vinegar dressing, and cover it with cranberries and walnuts. You find the bell peppers and take some carrots too.  You sit down, and find your dirty plate has been cleared and you water cup filled. You eat your salad. You are full, but there’s one more stop you have to make…

On your way to the dessert table you pass the seafood. Prawns, mussels, oyster- You wish you had room! You arrive at the dessert – and gawk. The long counter is jam packed with sweets. There are éclairs, tiramisu, chocolate pudding covered in whipped cream, cheese cake with sauces and fruit, and so many others! You are more than content. You just had one of the best nights ever.

The Canton Tower, the tallest building in Guangzhou, is just across the river.

The Canton Tower, the tallest building in Guangzhou, is just across the river.

*Not recommended for large families due to formalness and pricing.  Children go half price on the buffet. Highly recommended for dates.

Parent Notes:

As noted by Aidyn, this is an expensive restaurant. You may not want to take the whole family unless you are really looking to splurge, but it is a really fun place to take a kid for a special date. The views are great and the food is quite good. 

A Contest for You!

Hey kids!  We would really like to expand TakingtheAdventure.com to include stories and reviews from kids living all over the world.  We think that the site will be most useful if kids and their parents can get on and find information, from a kid’s perspective, about lots of different places.  It could help with planning a vacation, or even learning more about a place to which your family might be moving.  But to do that, we need your help! So we have decided to try having a contest.

Here’s what were looking for:

  • We want to hear about a unique experience you have had while living or traveling outside of the United States. It can be a restaurant you loved, a cool place you stayed, something really unique you got to do, your favorite park, etc.  The possibilities are really unlimited!
  • It must be written by a kid age 16 or younger.  It’s fine for Mom or Dad to help with spelling and minor editing, or even to type while a younger child dictates.  The main thing is that we want to hear it from a kid’s perspective and in a kid’s words.
  • The length of the entry is not as important as what you have to share, but please keep it to less than about 400 words.
  • Please include at least 3 or 4 pictures to go along with your submission.

Here’s what’s in it for you:

  • The top three entries will be published on TakingtheAdventure.com for your grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends back home to read!
  • The writer of the winning entry, in addition to being published, will receive a pair of Kidz Gear Headphones that were featured in Aidyn’s post about what to pack for a 14-hour plane ride.

The Details:

  • Submit your entry and pictures to takingtheadventure@gmail.com. Please include your name (we won’t include your last name if we publish it) and age in the subject line.
  • Please submit your entries by the end of Saturday, February 7th.
  • We will notify the winners and publish their entries by Saturday, February 15th.
  • The winner must have a U.S. mailing address in order to receive the headphones.
  • We reserve the right to make minor edits to your entry before publishing, but will not make any substantial changes to the content.
  • We will keep all submissions on file for possible future publishing.  If we use it in the future, we will contact you to let you know at that time.
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