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Military families vacationing on Oahu have a wide variety of accommodations to choose from, even more than civilian families do. This is because the military has several properties that cater exclusively to families with members in the service. Among those options are the campsites and other accommodations at Bellows Air Force Station.
While the City & County of Honolulu manages and maintains a portion of Bellows Beach for civilian use, further down the road along the beach is the Air Force Station and its assortment of lodging and recreation options not available to the civilian public. The soft, white sand beach is secluded and quiet, and generally very calm and shallow waters. The beach is also monitored by lifeguards, and so is perfect for even novice swimmers. And for campers, there are clean bathroom facilities with hot showers.
The most basic option for families are the family and group campsites. There is no lodging or electricity at these campsites, but there are picnic tables and a charcoal grill at each of them. Families will have to pack everything in (except the grill), and generators and campfires are not allowed. But that’s what camping is all about, isn’t it?
The Cedar Camper Cabins are the next step up, with a cabin and porch, picnic tables and a charcoal grill. The cabins are equipped with a queen-size and bunk beds. The cabins are not fitted with electricity, and as with the family campgrounds, generators and campfires are not allowed. The cabins are perfect for families that don’t want to be bothered with wrestling with an uncooperative tent, but still want to enjoy the outdoors.
The Standard Cabins at Bellows Air Force Station offer considerably more creature comforts. These include a television and DVD player, ceiling fans, a sleeper sofa, a microwave oven and coffee maker. The Standard Cabins also feature cookware and flatware. For those that can’t bear to be untethered to their technology, these cabins also offer free Wi-Fi access.
And for those families not interested in actual camping, the Na Mokulua Condominiums offer all of the creature comforts of home just a few steps from the beach: central air conditioning, ceiling fans, an outdoor patio and furniture, with room enough to sleep four adults comfortably. The Na Mokulua Condominiums are named for the picturesque twin islands parked a half-mile offshore.
Whatever the choice of accommodations, Bellows Air Force Station offers an abundance of recreational activities. For ocean lovers, rentals for paddleboards, kayaks, boogie boards, surfboards, and snorkel gear are available at more-than-reasonable fees.
While the beach is the most obvious attraction, the visitor center at Bellows Air Force Station also has three beach volleyball courts, and basketball and tennis courts. There is a golf driving range and a miniature golf course, for which rental clubs and balls are available. For Frisbee golf enthusiasts, there is a course with “holes” set up throughout the compound. There’s also a childrens playground for the youngsters.
The Bellows Loop Hiking Trail is just short of three miles long, and is covered by shade for about half the way. It’s a mild hike and family-friendly, but there are also options to head back to the start if three miles is too much.
All in all, Bellows Air Force Station is an ideal way for military families to spend a camping (or not) vacation in paradise, away from the bustle and tourist traps of Waikiki.