Oahu Hawaii has a multitude of fun stuff for families. When we moved here for military PCS orders I knew our family was in for a treat. I have gathered my favorite family activities in one giant list to come back to for inspiration and to share our favorite island adventure spots.
We spent 60 days in 5 different Hotels in Waikiki and were smitten with the diverse city. Beyond the infamous Waikiki Beach you will find high rise hotels, designer fashion stores, high-end and hole-in-the-wall eats side by side. There is so much to explore and do here and is a great place for families to sight see and adventure.
Beware you will find a large dose of homeless wandering EVERYWHERE. Just keep track of each other and your belongings as in any large city area.
Always a fun place for the kids is the zoo. The Waikiki zoo is small but offers a beautiful place for the kids to let out some energy with a large field, park, a fun interactive koi pond, and is home to a large Komodo dragon. We didn’t stay long either times we came and a good number of habitats were empty. The Waikiki Aquarium is across the street and we enjoyed it after the zoo both times.
Very small but well kept aquarium. They are home to the only public view tank of the rare peppermint angle fish. You will also find monk seals, jellyfish, coral, and other Hawaiian reef fish. Our favorite part was the outdoor hands-on exhibit where you get to hold sea slugs, starfish, and more.
Waikiki Wall / Queens Beach / Sans Souci State Recreational Park / War Memorial Natatorium
Across the street from the Waikiki zoo and next to the Waikiki Aquarium you find a multitude of great spots. All directly next to each other, these locations make for perfect morning or evening stroll. You will find a little beach cafe for yummy eats, large banyan trees on the sand for the kids to play in, and a great beach walk for a casual stroll.
Kapi’olani Regional Park
This is a lovely park with an awesome view of Diamond Head. We would walk over here for morning picnics and were always finding fun scenes taking place. Brides getting pictures taken, newbie surfers practicing on boards, and intense workouts on the fitness equipment.
Hilton Hawaiian Village Lagoon and Beach Walk
We spent a good portion of out time in this wonderful lagoon during our 60 days stay in Waikiki. The lagoon is perfect for small children and they offer tons of fun activities. Rent paddle boards, water bikes, paddle boats and more. The Beach walk is perfect for a sunset stroll and you will find lots of good eats, parks and drink shacks. Plus every Friday night there is a free firework show above the lagoon!
Atlantis Underwater Adventure Submarine
Dive 100 ft into the deep blue in premium submarines. Witness how remnants of hurricane-swept airliners, pyramid structures, and other objects have combined with Mother Nature to attract green sea turtles, sharks, yellow tangs, eels, and other underwater marine life. Children must be 36″ in height.
Once you cross over the little bridge past the marina you are technically outside of Waikiki and what the locals call simply. Town.
Across the water from the Hilton Hawaiian Village and marina, you will find Magic Island. With its own lagoon and a beach on both sides it offers a perfect place to picnic, sight see, or take a sunset walk. Sunsets are very busy and you better come early for parking if you want to see an epic sunset from this popular vantage. This is also a popular spot to watch the Friday night free fireworks show.
Ala Moana Beach Park
This is a beautiful large beach park full of large trees, canals, cute bridges, and homeless. Seriously they are everywhere out here. The park is also across the street from Ala Moana shopping center full of high-end shopping, movie theaters and more. We would often grab a burrito bowl from one of our favorite Waikiki hole in the walls, Surf n Turf Tacos, and bring it here to eat and let the kids roam.
At the trailhead to Manoa Falls you will find Lyon Arboretum. A 200-acre arboretum and botanical garden. I personally like it better than the falls with small children. There is plenty of well marked paths, amazing foliage, trees, and historical structures. Be sure to grab a map at the visitiors center because it is large and there is so much beauty to see. It is free but a donations are greatly appreciated.
Manoa falls hike is one of the most well known hikes on Oahu. To get to the famous 150 ft waterfall only takes about 30 minutes. The walk is through a lush trail that will make you feel like your in Jurassic Park or a Lost Episode. Partly because you kinda will be. Both were filmed on this beautiful trail. It does get slippery and there is a 90% chance you will come out muddy. Manoa falls gets the most rain fall on the island of Oahu but thats what keeps it so gorgeous!
Bishop Museum is an awesome place to take the family. There is plenty of Hawaiian and Polynesian culture and the grounds and buildings are stunning. There is a science center, art shows, and lots of hands on activities for the kids. Our favorite part is the science center that showcases a large volcano and had lots of bugs and odd stuff that completely fascinated my kids. Read My Full Post on Bishop Museum Here.
Pearl Harbor Memorial
The emotional history at the Pearl Harbor Memorial is intense. I am not one for history but being as my husband is in the navy, and his father before him was also military, we visited as a family during one of his visits. You will watch a short video that will most likely make you cry, I sure did, (both times) and then, while you are filled with emotion, you will take a short boat ride to the memorial. It is a stunning site to behold and will make for an enriching, educational day.
A perfect stop after the Pearl Harbor Memorial is the USS Missouri. An old naval war ship turned museum makes for an impressive showcase of ship life. The battle ship is adorned with massive turret guns, and you have the opportunity to see all parts of the ship, from the engine rooms, surrender deck, and sleeping quarters. Find more information and tours here.
Naval Air Museum
A day of naval history wouldn’t be complete without a quick stop at the naval air museum at barbers point. The kids loved they can get hands on with the aircraft. In the showroom you can see the old aircraft they have reclaimed and are working on, along with the bullet holes adorning the windows from the Pearl Harbor attack.
Childrens Discovery Center
Our favorite rainy day activity on Oahu. It is pricey but there is so much to do and offers a complete interactive, educational day for the whole family. My husband even loves coming just to play with the massive bubbles. There are multiple rooms throughout that offer dress up for real world scenarios. Your kids can be pilots, cooks, store clerks, firemen, mechanics, clim bridges, pick pineapples, and interact with so many different cultural set ups. It is pretty amazing.
East Coast of Oahu
Maka’pu’u Light House Trail
A short stroller-friendly hike that is perfect for all ages. Perfect for a sunrise hike with the family. We often do this hike along with a day of snorkeling at Hanauma bay that is right around the coast. See more pictures and read about the whole trail here!
Pele’s Chair / Lower Maka’pu’u
At the bottom of the paved trail leading up to Maka’puu Lighthouse you will see another gravel trail that leads out towards the beach. You will just be able to make out a large rock that goes by Peles Chair. The beach at the end of this trail offers great tide pools for the kids to play, snorkeling in pools of fish, amazing views, and a perfect place for lunch.
A perfect spot to take the kids for their first snorkel experience. It is one of the most famous snorkel spots for good reason and advanced snorkelers and beginners alike will swim here. There is a hike along the rim and the beach is a serene and scenic spot for laying in the sun or building sand castles. They only let in so many visitors a day though so be sure to come early. Read More about Hanauma Bay and our kids first time Snorkeling Here!
Sea Life Park
Right across from Maka’puu Lighthouse is Sea Life Park. We scored annual passes here during Black Friday for less than the price of normal tickets and go often. Swim with the dolphins, watch shows, feed sea turtles, watch performing monk seals and more. Sea Life Park is home to only rescued marine animals and birds and they go through a high rotation of animals as they are rescued and released. A highly educational, and entertaining experience you can feel good about.
A famous sunrise hiking spot, Lanikai Pillboxes is one of the most picturesque trails on Oahu. An intermediate hike that takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half depending on how far you go. This is a great hike to get you out of your comfort zone and see why Oahu is known for its hikes.
Waimanalo Sunflower Farms
Waimanalo Sunflower fields are a great spot to take the kids for a fun summer day. Hitch a ride on the back of a trailer out to pick sunflowers and learn about Waimanlo Country Farms. When you get back in enjoy a mason jar full of ‘nalo made pineapple, mango, or li hing mui lemonade! The fields are only in bloom a few times a year, so check their FB events page for good dates.
Close to Makapuʻu Beach and Sea Life Park, Waimanalo Beach offers some the prettiest, turquoise water on the island. Backed by ironwoods for shade, this 3 mile stretch of white sand is the longest on the island. Perfect for a casual stroll or letting the kids run wild.
You will need a military i.d. to get base access to part of this beach but on the weekends their is plenty of beautiful spots on Bellows open to the public. One of my favorite beaches on the island due to the amazing mountain views, forests of ironwoods, and azure water. This is also a great camping spot and we spend 2 weeks a year camping in their cabins, and ocean front tent spots.
Drive The Scenic East Coast
If you are overwhelmed with choices or can’t think of a specific spot you want to experience I suggest a drive along the coast. Taking the scenic route from Waikiki to North Shore lets you really enjoy the island on a different level. This is an absolute Must Do and something I recommend to every one who comes to the island.
Kahana Bay is a beautiful beach and great for the family. The water is almost always calm, there are rope swings in the trees, and a grove of ironwood trees for shade and play. This is the bay that one of my favorite hikes looks out over. I wouldn’t recommend Crouching Lion Hike for children, though I have seen some wild baby wearing mommas on this dangerous hike.
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens
Ho’omahulia Botanical Gardens offer the greatest views of any of the gardens. You can easily spend an entire day here if you wanted. They even offer little wooden fishing sticks to the kids for the large pond on Saturdays. The pond is great for littles to feed ducks and the fish, and you can explore endlessly on all the trails the lush park has to offer.
Kualoa Ranch Tours
Discover Jurassic Valley in the scenic 4000 acre park. They offer everything from jungle tours on mountain bikes, jeeps, horseback, and even offer private atv tours. You can also go on ocean adventures and ziplines. This park offers a world of possibilities for your family to explore. Not to mention your kids get to take pictures with a life size T Rex and you can tell them you are in Jurassic Park. I mean, C’mon.
Kualoa Regional Beach Park
If your not into the tours there is still plenty of reason to go by the ranch. Across the street is an amazing park with stunning views of the mountains and the is closest you can get to china mans hat island. If you walk the beach from here you will find all kinds of hidden gems. I’m very tempted to tell you all the good stuff, but that would spoil the fun. If you are lucky then along the road when you drive by the ranch you may see the horses grazing at the fence. People often stop here to feed the horses and it makes for a great spur of the moment experience.
Polynesian Cultural Center
The Polynesian Cultural Center is a Polynesian-themed theme park and living museum located in Laie. Set on 42 acres along Oahu’s Scenic Shore, the Polynesian Cultural Center has a lagoon that hosts daily canoe tours and an exciting cultural Canoe Pageant. Learn about Hawaii’s royalty while enjoying traditional Polynesian food and entertainment.
The park is expensive but offers an unparalleled Hawaiian experience. Visit Their Site For More Info And Ticket Prices
North Shore Oahu
Kawela Bay / Turtle Bay
A favorite spot to spend the day is Kawela Bay, by Turtle Bay Resort. At the entrance, there is a fantastic fruit stand with cold cut local fruit and fresh cold coconut. There is a gorgeous banyan tree and a multitude of hiking trails. You can horse back ride on the beach trails, or spot turtles lazing in the sand. We can spend any where from an hour to a full day here.
Pipeline and Sunset Beach
The legendary bonzai pipeline, at Ehukai Beach, is a perfect place to see barreling waves and world famous surfers. A stretch of surf reef break causes some of the biggest waves around the island, and brings surfers from all over the world. On any given day you can see a multitude of surfers, and photographers catching and capturing waves.
Fun Fact | This famous waterfall starred in all kinds of movies and shows, including the hit tv show Lost. Want to see more famous movie locations? Check out These Romantic Movie Locations That Will Inspire You To See The World.
Across the street from the entrance to Waimea Falls is Waimea Beach. This little stretch of sand offers great fun for the day. Known best for Waimea rock, people flock here to jump into the clear waters. There is even a hole under the rock you can swim through, if your brave enough. The beach gets crowded quickly and the parking can be tough so plan on coming early during a weekday.
Sharks Cove is known for 2 things. Snorkeling and food trucks. Enjoy famous shave ice, or fish tacos after a day of adventuring the cove. While a good portion is shallow, and for the most part it is a fun safe place for families, it can be dangerous, especially in the winter months. Bring snorkel gear and water shoes!
Haleiwa Beach Park
This was one of the first stops when we got to Oahu and we go back All. The. Time. It is my go-to for an easy, relaxing day with lots of choices for fun, in a beautiful setting. The beach, mountains, playgrounds, tide pools, palm tree groves, sea turtles, food trucks, surfing. Our whole family loves this little spot for good reason.
Macadamia Nut Farm
Across from Haleiwa Beach Park is Tropical Farms Macadamia Nut Farm Outlet. A cute little gift shop on a farm that offers the yummiest of treats and souvenirs, in a beautifully landscaped setting. From chocolate covered nuts to coffee, gift baskets, and handmade keepsakes. This is a great place to stop for an authentic Hawaiian experience.
Ka’ena Point North Shore
At the very tip of the island, away from all the maddening hustle of Waikiki you will find Kaena Point. You can get to this point from either the West side or the North side, but it is only accessible by trail. There is no driving around this part of the Oahu. The 5 mile trail is perfect for families and offers, beaches and paths galore. See my family Hike K Point and lots of beautiful pictures and Info Here.
For being such a tourist spot, Dole Plantation is actually pretty cool. The pineapple whip is worth the trip if you like sweet eats. There is a nice educational train ride that tells the history of Dole and Hawaii and cute little picture worthy spots all over the plantation.
Wahiawa Botanical Garden
A hidden little gem and favorite spot of ours is Wahiawa Botanical Gardens. This little garden has bamboo stalks, foliage galore, and plenty of running room for the littles. With an upper and lower level to explore, the surprisingly small area has so much to see.
West Side Oahu
Waianae gets a bad rep from locals and tourist alike. The crime here is very high but this side of the island is where you will find an Authentic, Raw Hawaii Vibe. We never had any trouble over here, and as long as you respect the people and the island, you will probably be just fine.
As with anywhere on the island, don’t leave valuables in your car, and lock your doors.
Ko’ Olina Lagoons
Ko’olina lagoons offer a perfect spot for families to enjoy the water. A lot of the beaches on Oahu have large surf break and can be scary for little ones. Each of the four lagoons offer unique qualities, such as snorkeling at lagoon 4 and paddle boarding at lagoon 1. If you follow lagoon 1 around you will also find a pathway that leads to a secret lagoon. This spot is abundant in sea life, turtles, and away from the crowds.
Pu’u O Hulu
Pu’u O Hulu, or the pink pillboxes, is a great hike in Maili on the west side of the island. We lived in the community under this mountain for 2 years and hiked it often. It was my first hike on the island, and later my 3 year old sons first hike. This is probably the best bang for your buck mountain hike when it comes to views. It doesn’t take long to get to the top and the abundant views start almost instantly.
Pokai Beach Park
My family frequented this spot often. It comes off a little rough at first glance, and there are homeless camped along some of the best spots. The bay has a stone wall local kids jump from and fishers take over, along with an absolutely beautiful vantage point at the end beyond the playground.
Our favorite family beach on the whole of Oahu. Often called pray for sex beach (supposed to be pray for sets from the surfers name for it) this spot has it all. Tide pools, caves, hikes, hidden gems, ever changing landscape, and always stunning views.
When you’ve gone as far as you can and the road runs out, you will find yourself at Yokes. Yokahama Bay is another picturesque bay where you can stay away from the tourist and take in the raw beauty of Hawaii. This was the first beach that I saw waves that took my breath away. It holds a special spot in my heart and I highly recommend it to anyone who stays on Oahu and is up for a little adventure.
Ka’ Ena Point West Side
A long, hot trail, full of non-stop views that leads you to the tip of the island. Here you can bask in the sun with monk seals and observe large sea birds. There are lots of instagram famous spots on the trail and is well worth the hike.
I hope you found some inspiration for your trip or a new place to explore for your time on Oahu. Let me know your favorite place or which spot seems like a must for your family!