Oahu is one of Hawaii’s most popular islands, as many tourists are drawn to famous Honolulu and beautiful Waikiki beach. And while there are many incredible activities to do on this gorgeous island, not all are suitable for children.
Parents know they need to look for activities that involve the entire family, and luckily, there are plenty of kid-friendly activities to do here. To make planning your trip a little easier, we’ve compiled 14 of the best things to do on Oahu with kids.
Table of Contents
- 1. Swim with dolphins
- 2. Visit the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
- 3. Take a road trip
- 4. Go sunbathing at Hanauma Bay State Park
- 5. Visit the Honolulu Zoo
- 6. Play volleyball at Hanauma Bay
- 7. Check out a plantation
- 8. Go ATV riding at Kualoa Ranch
- 9. Go to the Children’s Discovery Center
- 10. Hike the Diamond Head State Monument
- 11. Go on a train ride with Hawaiian Railway Society Train Rides
- 12. Go diving at Atlantis Submarines
- 13. Have a family dinner on the Star of Honolulu
- 14. Try a zipline adventure
1. Swim with dolphins
Oahu offers many places to swim with the dolphins, which is a fantastic experience for the entire family.
When you swim with the dolphins, you are under the supervision of one or multiple trainers, and both kids and adults receive proper training and life jackets to ensure the safety of both you and the dolphins.
These tours tend to be very popular during the summer, so you will need to book your place in advance if you are going during peak season. Dolphin Quest and Sea Life Park are just a couple of places where you can go to book your tour.
When choosing your dolphin experience, consider the base price as well as the price of any extras you’d like to add to your tour. For instance, some companies take custom videos of your family during your experience so that you don’t have to worry about missing the moment.
Children typically love dolphins, and we know the adults will too. This type of experience is different from a zoo in that you actually get to interact with these amazing creatures rather than just viewing them from the sidelines.
Most swimming sessions with the dolphins last around 30 minutes. This doesn’t involve the training period, so you will get a full half-hour to play with the dolphins.
2. Visit the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
Going on holiday and having a history lesson at the same time is possible at the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. Most exhibitions here are connected to the Pearl Harbor bombings and World War II, and these shocking events from the past can be seen through the restored war airplanes at the museum.
While it’s not the largest WWII museum in the world, it certainly has plenty to offer. The official tour starts with a Pearl Harbor history movie, which may be your child’s first exposure to these tragic events. The fun part for children, however, starts when you step into the museum’s exhibits and get to see airplanes from different parts of the world.
The museum and its volunteers have been highly praised for restoring its exhibits successfully – most of the WWII airplanes here are completely restored so viewers can have a clear understanding of how they looked a few decades ago.
Most of the museum’s exhibitions are indoors, which means you can spend hours here even if the weather isn’t perfect – the perfect plan B for rainy days.
3. Take a road trip
A road trip can be the ultimate way to see Oahu. This is one of the more expensive ways of seeing the island, but it can also be highly rewarding as you get to stop wherever you want.
You need to rent a car to comfortably see the island yourself, and the best place to find affordable car rentals in Oahu is in Honolulu which is a great place to start your trip.
Most tourists take up to 7 days to drive around the island. While it may sound tiring, there are plenty of rest stops and affordable hotels to stay at along the road.
The main benefit of such a vacation includes seeing and doing more things in a short period. You can see the North Shore, the Dole Plantation, and Honolulu within a week.
4. Go sunbathing at Hanauma Bay State Park
The Hanauma Bay State Park is a natural reserve unlike many others in the world. With clear blue waters and stunning reefs, this state park is a huge draw for nature lovers. Snorkeling fans are mesmerized by its waters and its generous beach, but if your kids are quite young, be sure that they are always snorkeling with sufficient supervision.
Kids can sunbathe and play on the beach all day here. If you plan on getting in the water, it is recommended that you use natural sunscreen so that the water remains clean and the reefs are protected and healthy.
There are also many restaurants and cafes in this area, so you will have plenty of options for grabbing a snack or quick bite to refuel after the day’s activities.
5. Visit the Honolulu Zoo
The Honolulu Zoo is easily one of the top 10 locations in Oahu – especially if you have children. It stands out as a pristine location that spreads over 42 acres and is home to over 1,000 species.
Children will love seeing exotic animals such as the Asian Elephant and White Rhino – the largest animals at the Honolulu Zoo.
Children will also enjoy marveling at the twisted horns of the rare, Nyala antelope, an animal that is not often seen in zoos. Rain or shine, the Honolulu Zoo is a must-visit if you are traveling on Oahu with kids.
6. Play volleyball at Hanauma Bay
Located on the Southern Coast of Oahu, Hanauma Bay is the most popular beach destination on the island. You can buy a volleyball and take your kids out on the beach to spend a day in one of the most idyllic places on earth.
Keep in mind, however, that this beach may close in future years so that it can recover from the millions of tourists who visit here each year.
7. Check out a plantation
Plantations are present in high numbers on all Hawaii islands, but The Dole Plantation on Oahu tends to be one of the most popular due to how easy it is to access. This historic plantation has played a strategic role in how locals and tourists understand Oahu.
It specializes in pineapples, which is a favorite fruit for many children. The little ones can see pineapples grow, sample some of the tasty fruit, and learn a little something along the way.
8. Go ATV riding at Kualoa Ranch
Kualoa Ranch covers a surface of more than 4,000 acres – this means it’s one of the largest in Oahu.
ATV riders can easily spend a few hours exploring this beautiful ranch. Your kids (and your own inner child) will love zooming around on these exciting vehicles.
Other things to do at this ranch include taking a tour to view its animals and gliding across the ranch’s exciting zipline. A visit to Kualoa Ranch is sure to be an adventure-filled day that is fun for the whole family.
9. Go to the Children’s Discovery Center
The Children’s Discovery Center is another very popular destination for families exploring Oahu. This spot is designed like an interactive museum where kids can see basic structures miniaturized such as pharmacies and hospitals. Since all of these structures are interactive, kids can play and get their hands into the action.
There’s a small entrance fee and strollers aren’t allowed here, so keep these things in mind if you are considering a visit here. If you’re able to swing the trip here, the activity center can offer a fun experience for kids that will easily keep them occupied for a few hours.
10. Hike the Diamond Head State Monument
The volcanic tuff cone of Diamond Head is a must-see Oahu destination. The hike up the volcano isn’t technical or too demanding. However, since you’re hiking with kids, make sure you hike at a slower pace.
This place is ideal during sunrise. Most parents have trouble waking up the kids before sunrise; however, those who can wake up the kids before 6 am will see an amazing sunrise from this volcano.
One of the downsides of this popular hike is that it tends to be crowded nearly every day of the week, so be prepared to share that view with others.
11. Go on a train ride with Hawaiian Railway Society Train Rides
Trains are fascinating to kids. Heck, even some adults love trains. Old, restored trains are used by the Hawaiian Railway Society Train Rides and they take you on a beautiful 6-mile ride that the kids will love. These trains only run on Sundays, so make sure you plan accordingly and book your tickets in advance.
12. Go diving at Atlantis Submarines
This should be high on your list of priorities if you’re visiting Oahu, with or without kids. There’s nothing like taking a dive in a submarine and seeing the beautiful depths of the ocean from this unique perspective.
The water is clear throughout the year, so you will have a great view regardless of the weather conditions above the water. Submarines, giant turtles, incredible fish, what’s not to love?
13. Have a family dinner on the Star of Honolulu
The Star of Honolulu is a ship famous for its dinner cruises. After a long day of exploration, this can be the best place to go to have a solid dinner with the family. Alternatively, you can consider it for lunch as well when they serve food buffet-style.
This cruise ship also organizes tours that are a hit with families. Whale watching is one of their most popular tours, but a classic dinner combined with the ability to walk on a ship deck should be enough to impress the kids for life.
14. Try a zipline adventure
North Shore’s best zipline takes visitors over Keana Farms, where you can zoom above some pretty spectacular views. If you have adventurous kids, this is a great place to take them to give them a thrill they’ll never forget.
Don’t worry about getting up to the zipline towers – park administrators can take tourists up in ATVs, which is a pretty fun experience all on its own.