We Tried It: Windward Mall’s New Play Area

A new look and new climbing structures offer the same free fun for kids.

If you’re a regular at Windward Mall, we bet you’ve asked the question “Where did the play area go?” It’s back with a new theme and in a new location.

The popular canoe-themed spot with slides, tunnels, tons of soft places for kids to land and benches around the perimeter (usually full of parents looking at their phones while waiting for the shoppers to return) closed down earlier this year in from of The Sports Authority. Friday, May 6, it reopened in fronting Macy’s. The area has a new underwater theme and is 100 square feet bigger than the old space. But the soft flooring and the look and feel of the climbable sculptures are very familiar.

Parents will appreciate the streamlined design of the enclosed area. The seven obstacles are lined up side by side. This is an improvement from the previous Hōkūle‘a-themed area where kids coming off of the taller island or canoe, often at kid-style breakneck speed, often jumped directly into the path or very near smaller keiki hanging around the lower sculptures. In this layout, kids largely slide or jump into the main pathways on either side of the play spaces.

Make no mistake, like any open, active area, there is always the possibility of collisions. So you will need to watch carefully. The busiest spots during the media preview were right near the entrance across from Big City Diner. The boat was constantly packed with small bodies jumping in, then racing down the “dock” slide. The surfboard on the raised wave seemed like a place to hang 40, with as many as four kids all balancing on top. It was also a favorite photo op spot. We expect to see a lot of those snapshots popping up in Christmas cards this year.

The smallest kids found quieter places to play at either end. My 8-month-old spent quite some time just sitting in the whale tunnel as older kids climbed above her. In the walls, you will also find three areas with tiles that the toddlers loved to spin. Remember, shoes need to be left at the entrance and kids must be 42 inches or shorter to play.

Windward Mall and owner Kamehameha Schools hope the underwater theme will help bring awareness of the need for ocean protection. Kamehameha Schools also announced three rain gardens–gardens in a depression that help collect and absorb rain water that would normally turn into runoff—are now operating at the mall.

Windward Mall will celebrate the grand opening on Saturday, May 7. From 10 a.m. to noon, kids can get free glitter tattoos, balloon animals, make an underwater-themed foam frame. The first 100 kids will also win a free train ride and everyone can and enter to win prizes such as Sea Life Park Passes. See more, including a short video of the space on  HONOLULU Family’s Facebook page.

Windward Mall, 46-056 Kamehameha Highway in Kāne‘ohe. 235-1143. windwardmall.com