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11 BEST Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii with Kids

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This list of the absolute best things to do in Oahu with kids will make you fall in love with Hawaii’s most visited island! I have been visiting the Aloha State since I was a child and now I enjoy returning with my own kids. Much has changed in Oahu over the decades, but the island remains an incredible family vacation destination with an exciting variety of kid-friendly activities. I’m pleased to share my favorites in this list of the 11 best places for the whole family to visit in Oahu.

Oahu with kids
Oahu with kids (Photo credit: kritchanut, Depositphotos.com)

1. Diamond Head

Diamond Head is a volcanic tuff cone that has become a symbol of Oahu. For a memorable family experience, hike Diamond Head together. It’s really not a strenuous hike, provided you are healthy and mobile.

Leave early in the morning to avoid the day’s heat. Be sure to bring water and a bit of cash for nominal entrance and parking fees. The views of Honolulu and the Pacific from the top of the 350-acre crater are stunning and worth the effort.

Waikiki Beach with Diamon Head in the distance
Waikiki Beach with Diamon Head in the distance (Photo credit: tomasfoto, Depositphotos.com)

2. Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial are among the most popular things to do in Hawaii. They form the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Take kids here to learn about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the subsequent U.S. entrance into World War II.

Pearl Harbor Visitors Center

The Pearl Harbor Visitors Center exhibit galleries provide a highly detailed account of the actual Pearl Harbor attack. A self-guided torpedo display and a poignant submarine memorial garden shed light on the circumstances of all the submarines that were lost during the Pacific War.

Pearl Harbor Memorial
Pearl Harbor Memorial (Photo credit: jandu, Depositphotos.com)

Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater

In the Memorial Theater, visitors view a 23-minute documentary on the attack. Then you board a boat to visit the USS Arizona Memorial. The memorial site is a moving and contemplative place. You can still see the oil that has been slowly seeping from the sunken battleship for the past 70 years.

How to Get Pearl Harbor Tickets

Those who don’t reserve entrance tickets ahead of time must arrive at Pearl Harbor by 7 am to join the queue to obtain entrance passes. On the day we visited, all of the day’s tickets were gone by 8 am.

Tickets to Pearl Harbor are reservable online (with a nominal service fee), and free to the public. Thankfully, you can purchase Pearl Harbor tickets for same-day, next-day, and beyond via GetYourGuide. For a skip-the-line guided tour with Waikiki hotel pick-up, book Honolulu: Pearl Harbor Tour with Arizona Memorial.

USS Battleship Missouri

Also located at Pearl Harbor, you can explore the USS Battleship Missouri. This retired naval ship was the site of the surrender of the Empire of Japan, which ended the Second World War. Most Pearl Harbor tours include this extra attraction, but there is an entrance fee.

USS Missouri battleship at Pearl Harbor
USS Missouri battleship at Pearl Harbor (Photo credit: Lindasj2, Depositphotos.com)

3. Oahu’s North Shore

Escape the bustle of Waikiki Beach and Honolulu by heading to the North Shore of Oahu. Boasting serious surf action, Waimea Bay is an epic North Shore beach park. It offers amenities like showers and washrooms plus a great picnic area for families.

Winter is big wave-watching time, so keep the little ones close to shore and admire the huge waves from afar. The shore breaks can be pretty harsh for adults as well.

Any North Shore beaches will please those seeking bigger waves than those found at Waikiki Beach. Unfortunately, due to erosion and sand infill, Waikiki’s surf has suffered greatly, and the ocean in Waikiki is more like a mellow lake.

Surfers on the North Shore of Oahu
Surfers on the North Shore of Oahu (Photo credit: steveheap, Depositphotos.com)

4. Polynesian Cultural Center

Also located in Oahu’s North Shore, the Polynesian Cultural Center showcases the distinctive cultures of the South Pacific, its history, and life as it was on the Hawaiian Islands before it was colonized by the U.S.

The open-air center provides insight into Hawaii and other Polynesian cultures with six themed villages. Sign up for a luau package complete with Hawaiian buffet and HA: Breath of Life live show. If you’re feeling adventurous, then I encourage you to taste the poi.

Fire dancers at the Polynesian Cultural Center
Fire dancers at the Polynesian Cultural Center (Photo from the Polynesian Cultural Center Facebook page)

5. Snorkeling in Oahu with Kids

Located 10 miles east of Waikiki, Hanauama Bay is a snorkeler’s paradise. Arrive early to explore this protected marine habitat. Your family will see turtles, live coral, and beautiful tropical fish while you float in warm ocean water. Bring your own gear or rent fins and snorkels from a small hut on the beach.

The state of Hawaii has worked very hard to restore and protect the bay and its ecosystem from many years of overuse. Respect nature and tread lightly in this pristine environment on Oahu with kids. That includes wearing reef-safe sunblock.

Snorkeling Tour

For a guided snorkeling experience, book an Oahu: Morning Snorkel Sail Along Waikiki Beach. Set sail aboard a 53-foot Catamaran on Waikiki Bay during a two-hour excursion. All ages are welcome to come along for the ride. Snacks, unlimited non-alcoholic drinks, fins, and swim vests are included but you must bring your own snorkel and mask. Hotel pick-up is included.

You are guaranteed to see green sea turtles or you can sail again at no charge! Also, during the whaling season (December through April), you may get a chance to see majestic whales in the wild.

Hanauama Bay, snorkeling paradise for families
Hanauama Bay (Photo credit: eddygaleotti, Depositphotos.com)

6. Dole Plantation

Get your “complete pineapple experience” at the Dole Plantation. Pineapples and Hawaii are pretty synonymous in my book. A visit here provides an intriguing look into the pineapple industry and how it shaped (and continues to shape) Oahu and the other Hawaiian Islands. Bonus: the pineapple samples are super sweet and tasty. Top off your visit with a Dole Whip!

Kids will enjoy learning how pineapples are grown and wandering through the world’s largest maze here. (Don’t get lost!) Then take the Pineapple Express train for a 20-minute guided tour of the plantation grounds.

View a variety of guided and self-guided tours that include a Dole Plantation visit offered by our friends at GetYourGuide.

 
Kids love riding the train at Dole Plantation
Kids love riding the Pineapple Express train at Dole Plantation (Photo credit: markpittimages.gmail.com, Depositphotos.com)

7. Honolulu Zoo

Did you know you can find wild animals like cheetahs and orangutans in Hawaii? Kids who love animals will adore the Honolulu Zoo. It’s easy to spend hours wandering the extensive, beautifully landscaped zoo grounds. The Zoo is located between Waikiki and Diamond Head, just on the edge of Kapi’olani Park.

Listen to the birds while watching the feeding of the giraffes or the playful elephants’ bath-time. Plus, you can also spy on the Official State Bird, the nene (a.k.a. the Hawaiian goose).

The facility welcomes families to bring their own snacks, drinks, and even coolers to enjoy picnics at the zoo. Just don’t feed the animals! 

Giraffes and zebras at the Honolulu Zoo
Giraffes and zebras at the Honolulu Zoo (Photo credit: ericbvd, Depositphotos.com)

8. Byodo-In Temple

The Byodo-In Temple delighted my family. It’s located in the stunning Valley of the Temples in Kahalu’u on the windward side of Oahu. Just 13 miles from the Honolulu airport, you can reach the temple easily by car.

This non-practicing Buddhist temple is a smaller replica of a 950-year-old temple in Japan. It is a quiet place of meditation and reflection. Kids can ring the sacred bell, the Bon-Sho (just once please), before entering the temple.

Intrigued? You may be interested in booking a tour of Oahu that includes a visit to Byodo-In Temple through GetYourGuide.

Byodo-In Temple in Oahu, Hawaii
The peaceful and pretty Byodo-In Temple (Photo credit: Claudia Laroye)

9. Waikiki Aquarium

Located on a living coral reef, Waikiki Aquarium is home to 460 different marine life species. View green sea turtles, sharks, and rays in watery exhibits. Be on the lookout for Hawaii’s Official State Fish, humuhumunukunukuāpua‘a, a pretty yellow fish with a name that is oh-so-fun to say!

You can also see rare Hawaiian monk seals at this aquarium. This sea mammal species is found only in the Hawaiian Islands and is unfortunately critically endangered. Unlike other seals and sea lions, monk seals are solitary creatures. But they sure are cute!

Monk Seal at the Waikiki Aquarium on Oahu, Hawaii
Monk Seal at the Waikiki Aquarium (Photo credit: ericbvd, Depositphotos.com)

10. Glass-Bottom Boat Tour

Experience the wonders of the Pacific Ocean without getting wet on an Oahu: Afternoon Glass-Bottom Boat Tour in Waikiki. Take in the beauty of Diamond Head from the water on this one-hour journey. Keep your eyes open for sea creatures like honu (sea turtles), dolphins, reef sharks, and more. All ages are welcomed.

Hawaii Glass Bottom Boat Tour in Oahu with kids with Diamond Head in the background
Hawaii Glass-Bottom Boat Tour in Waikiki with Diamond Head in the background (Photo from GetYourGuide.com)

11. Bishop Museum

What is there to do on a rainy day in Oahu? Head to the Bishop Museum! Plan to spend two to three hours exploring Hawaii’s history and living culture at this impressive museum.

Kids will especially enjoy watching a faux volcano erupt in the museum’s Science Adventure Center, complete with spewing lava and flying rocks. Additionally, your family will feel like you’re gazing up at a real nighttime sky in the J. Watumull Planetarium, as you learn about the Polynesian method of navigating across vast oceans using nothing but stars as guides.

Bishop Museum in Honolulu
Bishop Museum (Photo from Go Hawaii)

Explore More of Hawaii

For a glorious blend of Disney plus Hawaii, check out our review of Disney Aulani Resort on Oahu.

Considering island hopping? Take a peek at this list of things to do in Maui with kids.

Those venturing to the Big Island of Hawaii must read our Hawaii Volcanoes National Park tips.

Discover even more things to do in Oahu with kids with these Waikiki tips and tours from GetYourGuide.

 

Save Money on Your Oahu Family Vacation

Want to save money on your Hawaiian holiday? Of course, you do! You can save up to 55 percent on admission fees when you purchase the Go Oahu All-Inclusive Pass.

You’ll get free entry to over 45 top Hawaiian sites. Choose from such options as the Polynesian Cultural Center, Bishop Museum, USS Battleship Missouri, and many more Oahu attractions and activities.

Things to Do in Oahu with Kids

Keep These Things to Do in Oahu with Kids

Considering a trip to Oahu with kids? Be sure to save these kid-friendly activities for future reference! Simply save the image above to Pinterest. Go ahead and follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Which of these kid-friendly Oahu activities appeals most to you? Let us know in the comments below!

About Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama

Claudia Laroye lives in Vancouver, Canada, with her husband and two sons. She started traveling at a very young age, and has never stopped. She’s had the fortune of visiting more than 20 countries on four continents, and has also lived abroad in Sweden. Claudia is passionate about the travel experience and the value of traveling as a family. She is the founder of claudiatravels.com, and contributes to many online and print media publications around the world. Connect with Claudia on Twitter as @travelling_mom or Instagram as @itsclaudiatravels.

Comments
  1. If your kids want to see wildlife the place where you have the best chance is Electric Beach/Kahe Point. If your kids love climbing I recommend the Lanikai Pillbox Trail. It is short and you are allowed to climb up on the pillboxes and inside of them. Make sure your kids are safe. Going down there are ropes you can hold on to as the trail is steep going down.

  2. My husband and I will be taking our almost-3yo and 4 1/2 yo to Oahu in October. We are curious if the Polynesian Cultural Center and Pearl Harbor tours would be too much for the littles to enjoy? Are they worth the time and/or money with little ones that young?

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Nicole – Rather than booking a guided tour of these attractions, I would recommend renting a car and visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center and Pearl Harbor on your own. That way, you can stick to your own schedule, go at your own pace, and leave whenever you please. Your young children may not get a lot out of visiting Pearl Harbor, but you and your husband will! The whole family will love the Polynesian Cultural Center, though!

  3. Hi! Thanks for this post. We are heading to Hawaii in June with a 6 and almost 3 year old. I can’t wait! It looks so beautiful. The kids will be snorkelling for the first time. I am not sure how they will go. Should we take ‘reef’/”river’ type shoes to walk into the water? Thanks!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Hi Amber – It depends on where you snorkel. Most beaches in Hawaii are soft sand, making water shoes unnecessary. If you will be snorkeling somewhere very rocky, you could benefit from these shoes. Renting flippers might be more fun, though, so your family can easily swim around and see all of the fish and sea life. Enjoy Hawaii!

  4. Agness of eTramping says

    Oahu seems like a perfect summer destination and your pictures left me speechless, Claudia. I would love to visit the Polynesian Cultural Center when being there!

  5. Thanks for the the suggestion. Nice list for my children.

  6. You can add the aquarium on your list as well!!

  7. I love visiting the Ko’Olina Lagoons. It is only 10 minutes from my house. Super child friendly and the waters there are so calm. Next to the Disney Aulani hotel. Also we love visiting Bellows Beach, it is open to the general public on the weekends.

  8. Excellent tips, thank you. My family are heading there from New Zealand in October and your straightforward advice is much appreciated.

  9. Laurel- Capturing la Vita says

    Beautiful photos! One of the two states I haven’t been to. I think I’ll try to get to Hawaii before North Dakota 🙂 That temple looks incredible!

  10. Claudia Laroye says

    Thanks Wandering!

  11. wanderingeducators says

    great tips – it makes me want to go! 🙂

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