Hawaii is one of the munchkins favorite destinations and rightfully so as there are SO many things to do in Oahu alone. Speaking of which you should definitely check out our best things to do in Oahu with kids below. We made sure to include something for each member of your family. If you are planning on island-hopping you won’t want to miss our Ultimate Guide to Maui with Kids or if you head to Kauai see why Koloa Zip Line is our best pick!
The Best Things To Do In Oahu with kids [25 amazing activities]
Hawaii really is a magical place and it’s one of those vacations we can go on again and again without ever being sick of. When we got married in Maui, we agreed we would have tried to get our kids back to the islands at least once a year. We’ve been pretty faithful to that goal and now have so many family memories of the islands from lazy pool days to thrilling adventures. Over the last few years, we have really fallen in love with Oahu because of our stays in Disney’s Aulani and all this island has to offer. There’s something for everyone in our family from our youngest to our oldest! Check out some of our favorite things to do in Oahu below.
Our Top 10 Favorite Things To Do In Oahu with kids
1) Waimea Valley
We love Waimea Valley for several reasons. 1) The path is paved so strollers are welcome, 2) There is a waterfall at the end complete with complimentary life vests and lifeguards and 3) It is absolutely GORGEOUS!!! You can read more about it on Yelp here. Note there is an entry fee for this hike. Below are some pictures of us at Waimea this past November.
2) Shaved Ice at Matsumoto’s (it’s a MUST)
If you head to North Shore you need to stop by Matsumoto’s Shaved Ice it’s seriously the BEST shaved ice on the island plus you can walk or drive to North Shore to watch the incredible surfers. There are also cute little shops to walk around and a great coffee shop next door too.
3) North Shore
As long as the weather permits you should be able to hang out and watch some amazing surfers doing what they do best. My boys could sit and watch those surfers for hours. Just make sure to grab some Matsumoto Shaved Ice before you hit the beach. View on Yelp here.
4) Food Trucks by North Shore
Great food… try the infamous Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. Read what others say about Giovanni’s here on Yelp. But, be warned there are wild chickens running around and a fair amount of flies
5) Manoa Falls
This hike is a little more work and not for those with super little munchkins as the path is muddy, slippery and not fit for strollers. But, if you are a more adventurous family this is a fun (super muddy and messy) gorgeous hike. I would recommend old sneakers and a change of clothes and shoes for when you are done. See more on Yelp here.
6) KA WA’A Luau at Aulani Resort
Yes, we are fans of Aulani so some may say that we are partial, but hear me out. I have many travel writing friends who don’t have little kids, do not stay at Aulani when they travel to Oahu and they still say that this luau is the BEST luau in Oahu! The food is INCREDIBLE, they have a Keiki (kid) sized buffet with foods the munchkins will love and the entertainment is top-notch. Read our full review and see more pics of KA WA’A here.
7) Gunstock Ranch
I am a huge horse-lover and thankfully so are my kids so I try and find a ranch pretty much everywhere we go. This ranch is amazing for families. Besides the trail rides, they also have pony rides and the sweetest animals for the youngsters to check out. Our fav was the donkey. You can read our Day 10- Trailride with Gunstock Ranch in Oahu full review of Gunstock Ranch here.
8) Sea Life Park Hawaii
Ella has asked to swim with dolphins for a long time and she finally had her chance a few years back at Sea Life Park in Hawaii. It was a bit of a drive from Aulani (clear on the other side of the island) but it was worth it. The trainer’s relationships with their dolphins were amazing and I was impressed with all the programs they have there. The guides around the park were incredibly knowledgeable and patient with all of Ella’s questions. Check out more about our experience here. This was definitely one of my favorite things to do in Oahu with kids, what am I saying, without the kids I would have had a blast too!
9) Dole Pineapple Plantation
This one is a love/ hate thing. It is fun to go here once I think. The kids get a kick out of seeing how pineapples grow, riding the train, eating the soft serve Pineapple treat etc… However, it is a complete tourist trap with ridiculous prices, pushy salespeople, and cheap trinkets. But, if you know it going in at least you will know what you are walking into. And, as long as you get the pineapple dole whip life will be good!
10) Diamond Head Hike- There are plenty of places to go on a hike around Oahu, but Diamond Head is definitely one of the most well known and the views from the top are gorgeous. It is totally doable for the whole family and a great bonding experience. Many people love to do this as a sunrise hike because you get to see the whole island light up.
Best Family Beaches
When you are looking for things to do in Oahu with kids you have to hit up the beaches. I mean it is pretty much a given. Here are our favorite spots to take the kiddos and play in the sand.
- Kailua Beach Park- This once hidden spot on the island is gaining popularity, and if you visit you’ll see why. It’s a two and a half mile long stretch of powdery sand and turquoise blue waters. Kailua has lots of picnic benches and BBQs making it perfect for a family day. There are bathroom facilities and showers, as well.
- Lanikai Beach- When I think of paradise, it sure looks a lot like Lanikai Beach with its crystal clear waters that are teeming with sea creatures from reef fish to sea turtles. Keep in mind this is a pretty secluded beach, with no restaurants or bathrooms so come prepared. Parking is sketchy and you need to exercise caution crossing the street. If you’re with teens kayak out to the little islands offshore here for some extra fun.
- Sunset Beach- While the strong tides here in the winter mean we keep our kiddos out of the water, it’s one of the most jaw-dropping gorgeous beaches to take a walk down or toss a football or cuddle up to watch the sunset together. When the big waves roll in, it’s a great place to watch some of the most experienced surfers do their thing.
- Bellows Beach (open to the public on weekends)- The first part of this beach is open to the public and it one of the more picturesque spots on the island with lots of shade and beautiful white sand to relax on. If you travel a little farther down the road, you’ll find the entrance to Bellows Air Force base, which is accessible with valid ID. Once inside there’s a cool castle playground and cabins available for rent. There’s also pool tables, disc golf, volleyball, tennis courts, snack, and drinks. There really is a great community feel.
Babies and Toddlers
- Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon- With lots to do from paddle boarding to taking a ride on a water bike to snorkeling this beautiful calm beach is fun for the whole family, but it’s especially great for families with little ones. The lagoon is calm and shallow leaving you with minimal worries compared to some other spots with strong tides. There’s also bathrooms and shower poles, which any mama knows is a beach necessity for a baby or toddler.
- Honolulu Zoo- The zoo has beautiful grounds to walk around with little ones. There’s all your normal zoo finds like zebras and giraffes, but they’ve also got a lot of native Hawaiian species that are super cool to check out.
- Waikiki Aquarium- If your kiddo isn’t ready to snorkel and explore the Hawaiian waters yet, the aquarium is a good place for them to get to see sea creatures of all kinds.
- Rent a Cabana- Some of our best memories are poolside with our kids at resorts and having a cabana just makes it easier. It gives everyone a spot to take a break from the sun and possibly even catch a little nap, which is such a nice option if you’re traveling with babies.
Older Kids and Teens
- Pupukea Tide Pools near Shark Cove- Make sure to bring a pair of sturdy shoes so you can walk around and explore these tidepools all afternoon. It’s teeming with life and there are so many interesting things to find. Just be careful not to go on a day with large Northern surf, as this peaceful little cove can be completely flooded then and dangerous to walk through.
- Dolphin Quest at Kahala Hotel & Resort- Because what kid doesn’t dream of swimming with dolphins? The guides here are great and you’re sure to have a fun time with them. This place treats the animals so well and does not take any of their dolphins from the ocean, so you can take comfort in knowing you’re supporting an ethical company.
- Atlantis Submarines- This is definitely one of the unique experiences you can get in Oahu. While it might be a little scary to take a submarine ride, it is well worth it. You get to see so many reefs, a sunken boat and plane, and of course lots of sea life. Some people say they’ve even spotted whales and dolphins.
- Kualoa Ranch- This is the one must do stop for the adventurous at heart. It’s where Jurassic Park was filmed, so you can go on behind the scenes tours or you could just zip line over it! There’s also ATV tours, horseback rides, and a secret island beach. Check out their website to set up your perfect day here. http://www.kualoa.com/oahu-tours/secret-island-beach/
- Polynesian Cultural Centre- You might think there’s no way your older kids could be interested in a cultural center, but so many actually really love this place. There’s plenty of dancing and singing performances to see. Keep in mind, it’s run by BYU and supporting the tuition of many of their students.
- Sunset Suzy Surf lessons- Suzy and her dog Coco love teaching kids and first-time surfers and are well known for getting everyone up on their board by the end of a lesson. The beach the lessons are on is pretty quiet making it a great place to learn, and there’s often sea turtle spottings!
- Holokai Kayak and Snorkel Adventures- While there’s plenty of beach spots around the island to snorkel on your own, it’s worth it to take one of these trips as well. It’s nice to have a guide show you the best spots to look, and Holokai guides definitely know their way around the island.
- Trolley Ride through Honolulu- If it is your first time visiting, this bus ride can actually be a super fun way to get to explore and know the island. There are different tour options and they can all be checked out here. https://waikikitrolley.com Depending on how old your teens are, you can even get them the unlimited pass and send them off on their own as it gives them the chance to hop on and off as many times as they want. This way they can see the historic landmarks, shopping areas, and new beaches themselves.
- Ala’ Moana Mall- a Gorgeous mall with everything from the high-end boutique shops, name brands and little mom and pop shops. You can walk the mall and several blocks around it. Don’t forget to stop by the Hawaiian Cookie Store for some free samples 😉 My only complaint is that they recently shut down our favorite open-air International Market right there next to the mall. Heartbreaking really. So many memories of my own childhood there (sniff!) See more on Ala Moana here
- Poke at Pa’ina Cafe- No more needs to be said that this is known to be the very first poke spot on the island. The trend has spread far and wide, but you really can’t ever beat the original.
- Shaved Ice at Matsumoto- Nothing tastes better than shaved iced after long sunny days spent by the ocean. It’s an Oahu tradition, so while Matsumoto is one of the most popular there are tons of other little shops worth giving a try.
- Pizza at JJ Dolan’s- You might be thinking to stop at an Irish pub on your Hawaiian vacation is a little strange, but trust us when we say this pizza is worth it. Its hand-tossed always piping hot and made with fresh local ingredients.
- Wonuts at TR Fire Grill- Waffle donuts are pretty much a breakfast dream, so make sure to stop into this Hilton Garden Inn restaurant to give them a try.
- Acai Bowls from Da Cove Health Bar & Cafe- A yummy acai bowl is the perfect fuel for an adventure fueled day. Da Cove’s bowls are delicious and piled high with fresh fruit. Plus, they are right by Diamond Head State Park.
- Lappert’s Ice Cream- Whether you’re in the mood for ice cream or coffee, this little shop is a great place to stop in. The coffee is locally grown in Hawaii and roasted to perfection. For dessert, there’s a bunch of unique ice cream, sorbet, and gelato flavors. Our honest recommendation is just to go back every day and try a new one.
What do you do with your family when you visit Oahu?
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