Things to do in O’ahu with Kids | Honolulu, Hawaii
Planning a family holiday to O’ahu, Hawaii? Here you can find a list of things to do in Honolulu with kids and all of O’ahu. You can also find some useful information for your Hawaiian vacation such as when to visit, what to bring, where to eat and what to see and do on this stunning island. If you are dreaming of Honolulu, read on! Make sure to also check out our guide to visiting Maui with Kids and our main guide Things to do in Hawaii with Kids.
Honolulu and O’ahu Family Holiday
O’ahu is one of the best family vacation destinations in the USA no doubt and there is so much to do in Honolulu with kids and around O’ahu.
In this O’ahu travel guide, you can find everything you need to know to travel Honolulu and O’ahu with kids including:
- When to visit O’ahu with kids
- How to get around O’ahu with kids
- Things to do in O’ahu with kids
- Things to do in Honolulu with kids
- Where to eat in O’ahu with kids
When to visit O’ahu with Kids
Let’s face it– any time is the best time to visit Hawaii. It’s Hawaii and quite undoubtedly, one of the best places on Earth.
Summer (mid-June to August) and Winter (late December to early April) are the peak seasons, which means expensive plane tickets and tourists everywhere. However, summer offers warm waters, light tropical breeze, and just superb weather.
In the winter, surfers flock the island to catch righteous swells and compete in popular surfing events. Surfers are not the only ones that head to O’ahu in the winter. This stellar Pacific island also attract humpback whales, which love the tropical waters for breeding.
With that being said, the off-peak seasons are the best times to visit O’ahu. The cheaper flights mean you have more pocket money to spend on malasadas and shark caging, and less tourists mean more ocean and beach for you and your kids.
How to get around Honolulu and O’ahu with Kids
There’s public transportation and Uber; however, the buses are sometimes unreliable, and Uber costs a lot of money. The airport is in Honolulu about 15 minutes away from Waikiki.
These two areas are where tourists usually stay. But if you want to see, do, and eat like a local, rent a car and drive anywhere but Honolulu and Waikiki. It’s the best option because O’ahu has several roadside stands with delicious local food or crafts (but mostly food) and dirt roads leading to fun and exciting adventures.
Best Things to Do in O’ahu with Kids
There’s no shortage of things to see and do in Hawaii. If you and your family decided to rent a vehicle to get around, then you have the freedom to visit more places and do more activities.
The beauty of an island is that the breathtaking spots are just right next to each other just waiting to be explored. The beaches and hikes are generally free and open to the public with free or a small fee for parking.
We have broken this list up into the following categories to make it easier
- Best Beaches in O’ahu
- Best Family Friendly Hikes in O’ahu
- Best Activities to do in O’ahu
- Where to Eat in O’ahu
- What to Pack for your visit to O’ahu
Best Beaches in O’ahu
O’ahu have some of the Best Beaches in Hawaii. Here are some of our favs.
Located in the North Shore of O’ahu, Waimea Bay attracts locals and visitors, big and small throughout the year.
In the winter, families can sit back and relax on the beach while watching pro surfers take on massive waves.
In the summer, the waves are much smaller, which is great for beginner surfers and just enjoying the water. The 30-feet high “Da Big Rock” is fun for rock-jumping for the brave and the daring.
Pupukea Tidepools and Shark’s Cove
Not too far away from Waimea is Pupukea Tidepools and Shark’s Cove, which are both great spots for wading and exploring. Be careful swimming here in the winter, though because the waves can be so rough, and you can get thrashed around onto the reef and huge jagged lava rocks.
In the summer, the waves are gentle, and you can swim around in snorkeling gear observing sea cucumbers, colorful tropical fish, crabs, hermit crabs, sea urchins, and other ocean creatures.
At Shark’s Cove, the water is deeper, and you can observe these sea animals as well as sea turtles. Keep in mind that it is illegal to touch the turtles, not to mention it’s not safe for you or the turtles.
Here, you can also explore an underwater tunnel and if you choose not to swim through it, you can walk on the jagged rocks, so bring your water shoes!
Just a few minutes away is Ted’s Bakery where you can enjoy a nice hot plate lunch with an assortment of desserts to choose from!
Malaekahana Beach Campground
Secluded and has more of an untouched feel to its shore, Malaekahana offers not only a peaceful beach, but also a campground and picnic benches.
You can also spot turtles in the water and wild peacocks on the surrounding land.
Nearby is the row of shrimp trucks, where you and your family can grab a plate lunch after spending all morning playing at the beach.
Lanikai and Kailua
These two picturesque beaches, which lie next to each other, offer stunning views, warm calm waters, and an array of activities for families like yours to enjoy.
You can rent paddleboards, kayaks, go windsurfing or kitesurfing. There’s a shallow wading area for little ones to enjoy.
Within walking distance are restaurants, restrooms, and picnic benches. When you’re tired of the beach, there are a few family-friendly hikes nearby such as the Lanikai Pillbox Trail, Maunawili Falls (meant for older children), and Lulumahu Falls.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
While Shark’s Cove is the snorkeling destination in the North, Hanauma Bay is the snorkeling destination in the South of O’ahu. Located specifically in the southeast of the island, Hanauma Bay offers calmer waters even in the winter, so the whole family can enjoy snorkeling.
As opposed to Shark’s Cove, there is a small fee to go to Hanauma Bay. Head northeast and stop along the route to visit Kahauloa Cove, Halona Blowhole Lookout, and Makapu’u Lighthouse Hike.
Within the Ko’Olina Resort in Kapolei is a public beach that offers white sand, shallow waters, lagoons, and green lawns to sit and have a picnic.
There’s also a luau, snorkeling tour where you can spot dolphins and whales, and rent water gear for fun water activities like stand-up paddleboards, snorkeling gear, and kayaks.
Best Family Friendly Hikes in O’ahu
Diamond Head Crater Trail
The Diamond Head Crater Trail is quite an easy trail offerering spectacular views of Honolulu, Waikiki and Hanauma Bay. The trail is comprised of rugged and paved areas, and stairs.
There are also a few pillboxes to stop and rest, while taking in the impressive sights. Ensure you take your children to a restroom prior to arriving to the trail because there are none available.
There is a small fee for parking and Leonard’s Bakery is located not too far away where you can enjoy a tasty treat after your hike.
Lanikai Pillbox Trail
Also known as the Kaiwa Ridge Trail, the Lanikai Pillbox Trail is one of the most breathtaking trails in O’ahu. This trail is on a steady steep uphill climb, so it may be difficult for small children.
From the top of this hike you are immediately rewarded with the beautiful views of Mokolua Islands, Kailua and Lanikai beaches, Kaneohe Bay, Waimanalo Bay, Chinaman’s Hat and Makapu’u Lighthouse.
Along the trail and depending on how far you go, you can explore old military pillbox bunkers.
Manoa Falls Trail
You will need proper shoes to do this hike. It gets steep and slippery, and may prove challenging for beginners, but it’s manageable with children – patience and one step at a time. The 150-foot waterfall at the end is worth it.
Makapu’u Lighthouse Hike
This hike is easy and fully paved. As is with any hike in Hawaii, the views are simply incredible. You can see the Makapu’u Tidepools, Sandy beach, Koko Head Crater, and the lighthouse.
If you go at the right time, you may be lucky enough to spot whales in the distance.
Located in the North Shore, Waimea Falls is a great short hike for families of all ages. There aren’t very many hiking trails; however, there is a one-mile flat road through the tropical jungle that ends at Waimea Falls.
There are several fun cultural things to do here as well including educational presentations and hands-on activities on Hawaiian history and culture, crafts, tours, and performances. Wrap up your day with a luau in the evening!
Maunawili Falls Trail
Located in Kailua, this moderate 2-mile hike may turn into a difficult hike with young children in tow as you traverse through tree roots, mud, steep steps, and a stream.
But you know your skill and fitness level and can determine whether this is a hike for you because the views along this trail and the falls at the end is so worth it! You can jump off the 35-foot falls or simply swim in the refreshing water. Remember to wear appropriate shoes for hiking!
Best Activities in O’ahu
For those who are brave enough, the Shark Cage one of the best things to do in O’ahu with kids. It is a terrifying yet exhilarating experience of safely swimming with and observing sharks. The keyword here is observe. It’s not a petting zoo, so please keep your hands inside the metal cage. They may seem harmless, but they’re sharks after all and you’re in their territory.
It’s best to do this anytime but the winter because of rough and big waves. Children as young as 4 years old can participate and earn the bragging rights to say they’ve swum with sharks.
Families with children ages 5 and up can enjoy the views of Waikiki from 300-600ft up in the air. If you have children under the age of 5, you can still go on this adventure and they can simply enjoy the experience as an observer on the boat.
Looking at the shores of Waikiki from so high above the ocean is quite exhilarating and an experience none like other. One of the best things to do in O’ahu with kids for those up for adventure.
This place is a popular tourist spot and location where many movies were filmed. In fact, they offer a movie tour where they show you the different spots where different films were shot. They also offer other tours like ATV, Jurassic Valley zipline, horseback riding, and jungle jeep expedition.
Across from this ranch is the Chinaman’s Hat. You can wade the water to get there when the tides are low, or you can kayak. But be careful as this is a favorite spot for sharks!
Polynesian Cultural Center
The PCC ranked top for Best Attraction in Hawaii in 2017. If you are looking to not only show, but also have your children experience authentic Polynesian cultures, then this is the place to go. Cultures include Hawaiian, Samoan, Tahitian, Tongan, Aotearoa, and Fiji.
You can spend the whole day at this place doing various hands-on activities, watching dances and shows, partaking in cultural traditions, hearing beautiful traditional music, eating local food, and of course, the luau!
After exploring Waimea Falls, you can end your day at the Dole Plantation for some delicious Dole Whip. This historic plantation offers a train ride, an unbelievably large maze, and a Circle Island tour that takes you to the popular must-see spots around the island.
Byodo-In Temple, Valley of the Temples Memorial Park
Located at the foot of the Ko’olau Mountains, the Byodo-In Temple is perhaps one of the most peaceful spots in O’ahu. This is a short stop on your way to the North Shore. Visit the Buddhist temple, enjoy the Koi pond and black swans, and ring the sacred bell.
If your family is into history, this place would have made it into your bucket list of must-see places in America. In this National Park, you’ll learn all about the people and places and hear stories of the attack on Pearl Harbor during WWII.
Places to eat in O’ahu with Kids
Other than the ocean, food is a big part of the culture in Hawaii. The locals love their scrumptious dishes, and as a tourist, eating the local food – and loving it – is a pivotal cultural experience.
Eating and loving the local food is just as good as exploring the ocean and hiking the trails.
You can’t say you went to Hawaii and not taste dishes made by locals. So, head over to the must-visit places below, introduce these dishes to your kids, and you can confidently declare you’ve been to Hawaii.
Garlic shrimp trucks on the North Shore
Everyone will say one truck is better than the other, but truthfully, you cannot go wrong with what truck you pick. They are all mouth-watering. Among these trucks are Giovanni’s, North Shore, Famous Kahuku, Romy’s, Big Wave, and Honos.
Not too far away from the shrimp trucks, near Malaekahana Beach, is a favorite among locals and tourists alike – the famous Ted’s Bakery. You can find Ted’s Bakery’s pies all over the island in any grocery store, but don’t be fooled by its moniker.
This roadside bakery also offers patrons hot meals like chicken katsu, Portuguese sausage, spam, egg, and rice, mac salad, and blueberry pancakes among others. Order one of these and finish it off with a chocolate haupia pie, while watching the waves crash at Malaekahana.
Helena’s Hawaiian Food
This place is perhaps one of the oldest Hawaiian restaurants. They say to truly know a place; you must eat their traditional food. Helena’s serves authentically tasting Hawaiian food like kalua pig, laulau, poi, pipikaula short ribs, lomi salmon, fried butterfish collar, and haupia.
This might not bode well to picky eaters, but poke – raw, fresh, bite-sized chunks of fish – is a staple in Hawaii, and Fresh Catch offers the yummiest and freshest poke in O’ahu. This place also serves plate lunches such as seared ahi salad, garlic salmon, ahi katsu, and smoked meat fried rice.
This place may not look like much on the outside, but their menu is comprised of local favorites and comfort food such as loco moco, teriyaki BBQ chicken, mahi mahi, saimin, corned beef hash with gravy, and chili plate. Head over to this place for lunch after hiking Diamond Head in the morning, which is only about a 10-minute drive away.
Because Hawaii is such a mixing bowl of cultures, there is a long list of sweets any visitor must gorge on endlessly upon arrival. Below are the most favored sweets among locals and tourists alike and where you can find them:
- Chocolate haupia pie at Ted’s Bakery
- Shaved Ice at Matsumoto
- Malasadas from Champion Malasadas
- Acai Bowl from Hale’iwa Bowls
- Dole Whip from the Dole Plantation
What to pack to visit Oahu with Kids
What to pack relies naturally on the age of your children (babies need diapers, while older children don’t); however, there are a few basic must-have items in a tropical island no matter the age.
You can’t really expect to visit an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean without swimsuits, can you? In Hawaii, as opposed to everywhere else in the mainland United States, the saying “no shoes, no shirt, no problem” is taken very seriously. Should you or your children prefer to only wear your swim trunks inside the store, no one will bat an eye or turn you away.
There are three kinds you need to bring:
- Flip flops, sandals, slip-ons
Whatever you prefer to call them, they must be lightweight, airy, and comfortable.
- Sneakers/tennis shoes
Or running shoes. Something you can wear for hiking.
- Water shoes
These shoes are especially helpful when and if you want to wade in the water and protect your feet from corals and sharp rocks.
If you don’t own any, this can easily be found at any store in Hawaii. There are also rental places, but we suggest you plan and look up where the locations of these rental places.
Even if your kids do not know how to swim yet, they will have so much fun just going under shallow water for a minute while you’re holding them so they can see life under the sea.
A light sweater/jacket
Your body can easily adapt to the warm weather Hawaii has to offer, so when the temperatures drop even a bit and there’s a light cool breeze, you or your kids might get a bit chilly.
You’re going to want to take cool photos of your kids swimming with turtles and colorful fish.
Make sure to bring a hat, some reef safe sunscreen and UV-protective sunglasses. It gets hot in Hawaii and the sun can be unforgiving too often. The weather is so incredible though that sometimes, tourists don’t even realize they’re getting sunburnt.
A supportive and comfortable backpack
This is especially beneficial when you go on long tours or hiking, and you are carrying diapers,
Visiting O’ahu with Kids on Your Family Trip to Hawaii
With all these exciting adventures ahead of you, please remember to be respectful of the culture and the laws that protect the area and its inhabitants (yes, the animals too).
The locals are doing their best to preserve their land and their culture, and it’s viable to help them in their quest as you explore O’ahu.
Enjoy getting in touch with Mother Nature as you tackle the waves, meet colorful and tropical ocean and land creatures, and eat the culinary wonders that will tickle your taste buds.
Happy exploring in Honolulu with kids. Let us know your favorite things to do in O’ahu with Kids!
Visiting more of Hawaii? Check out the ultimate guide to Things to do in Hawaii with Kids which includes what to do, where to visit, where to eat and more.
For more family destinations in the US check out our Family Vacation Guide.