Many families consider Hawaii a favorite vacation spot. If you’re looking for things to do on Oahu with kids, I’ve got an entire list for you! I’ve also added some extra info at the end to help you even more.
There’s so much to do in Oahu with kids so you’ll want to have at least a rough idea of what you’ll be doing each day. That way, you can make necessary reservations ahead of time.
I’ve also noted any activities included in the Go Oahu Pass, which can be a great way to save money on excursions.
(Note: the 3, 5 and 7 Day passes allow you to choose one premium attraction and as many of the general attractions as you’d like.)
1. Ka Moana Luau
By Karee at Our Woven Journey
One of the most kid friendly activities Oahu offers is a luau, and there are many to choose from. Native dancers with lavish costumes, lively music, and traditional foods for dinner always make for an attention-grabbing show, no matter how old you are!
There is no shortage of opinions over which luau is best, but you can’t go wrong with taking your family to the Ka Moana Luau at Sea Life Park. The view of the coastline getting to the park is stunning, so the show essentially starts before you even get there.
Your ticket to the luau also includes a day exploring Sea Life, so if your itinerary allows for it, plan time to come early and explore the animal exhibits before your luau starts. (Note: they don’t always operate on the same schedule, and some days one is open and the other is not.)
Kids will be entertained by the coconut tree climber who kicks off the show and the performers’ constant flow of new dances and costume changes. The highlight of the luau is the fire dancer, who performs a phenomenal finale to wrap up the show.
The entire evening is fun and fairly informal, making it the perfect luau to bring your family to!
2. Swim With Sea Turtles
By Sally at our3kidsvtheworld
Hawaii is famed for having perfect weather all year round. It is the perfect place to visit in every season. Waikiki is the place you’ll see on all the Hawaii postcards; a sun-drenched white sand beach, bikini-clad tourists sun-baking or swimming in the year-round perfect conditions. It’s also a place with plenty of activities to keep tourists entertained.
One of the coolest things to do in Oahu is swimming with turtles. There are various areas you’re almost guaranteed to see them; one such place is a reef just off Waikiki. Spending an afternoon snorkeling with turtles will be a highlight of any trip to Waikiki.
One of the best and most popular tours is Pink Sails Waikiki. It lasts two hours and includes all snorkeling equipment and amazing and experienced guides. This tour is suitable for kids over seven years old.
The tour departs from the main pier off of Ala Moana Boulevard. Expect to have a full 90 minutes of swimming with the famous Hawaii green sea turtles at the inner reef code-named Turtle Canyon. Staff ensures people don’t get too close to the turtles, and it’s a completely eco-friendly experience for both humans and the turtles.
All you need to take is your camera (lots of great photo opportunities!), sunscreen, towel, and a sense of adventure. Drinks are provided following the tour. The views of the Waikiki hotel strip and Diamond Head in the background are pretty spectacular as well. Check Groupon for some great deals on this tour, and you might just nab a bargain!
3. Dole Pineapple Plantation
By Keri of Bon Voyage With Kids
One of the best things to do in Oahu with kids is to visit the Dole Pineapple Plantation. Not only is it a fascinating look at one of Hawaii’s biggest exports, but the “Pineapple Experience” is so much fun for kids as it is a place that engages all of the senses.
Even toddlers enjoy the Plantation, as most simply adore the Pineapple Express Train. You’ll enjoy the narration as you learn about the pineapples in Hawaii and how the Dole Company came to be. Older kids will enjoy the Pineapple Maze, and there is also a guided tour of the garden.
It’s a great way to learn about all kinds of tropical plants that grow there, from which many tropical fruits and favorites like coffee and Cacao grow, not to mention pineapples, of course. The garden is a rainbow of colors kids love as there is much to see and smell.
No visit to the Dole Pineapple Plantation would be complete without a taste from the on-site Pineapple Grill. Whether you dive in for a pineapple chili dog or stick to a Dole Whip or pineapple float, you will enjoy a delight with something delicious grown right on site.
It is a sensory experience like no other and one of the best Oahu activities for families (ohana in Hawaiian). It is also why Oahu is one of the best Hawaiian islands for families to visit.
4. Polynesian Cultural Center
By Karee at Our Woven Journey
For many people, a visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center is a must-do each time they visit Oahu. It’s certainly one of the most kid-friendly things to do in Oahu, and you can easily spend an entire day there! Plan to arrive when it opens at 12:45, and as the guides will tell you, keep moving right along if you want to try to see most of it.
The main attractions are divided into six “islands” or villages with each featuring a different native culture found on the Hawaiian islands. There is live entertainment scheduled throughout the afternoon at each village, and you’ll want to keep your map and schedule handy so you can plan which one to go to next.
In between shows, visitors can learn how to start a fire without matches, play traditional games, learn to hula, and so much more! You can also take a ride in a canoe on the canal to get a better look at each of the villages.
Tickets are also available for the Ali’i Luau Buffet and the Gateway Buffet for dinner time. You can also plan ahead and book tickets to the award-winning Ha: Breath of Life show and make it a full day of entertainment your family will never forget!
One more thing to note is that your entrance ticket to PCC is good for three days, so if you don’t get a chance to see everything you want, you can always come back again. This makes it even more valuable and one of the best kids’ activities on Oahu you can find.
5. Visit Waimea Waterfall and Botanical Garden
By Noel at This Hawaii Life
If you are looking for a cool, family-friendly waterfall to explore on Oahu, then consider visiting Waimea Waterfalls. Located along the North Shore area and directly opposite Waimea Beach, Waimea Waterfall and Botanical Garden is a fantastic place to visit. It’s one of the most kid-friendly hikes on Oahu and includes a swimming area with a lifeguard on duty.
Swimming in the pond area is permitted, and everyone is required to wear a life jacket. These are available at the check-in desk area of the pond area. The hike to the waterfall is less than a mile and on a flat, paved road with beautiful gardens and landscapes to view or explore in more detail when you have more time.
You can also take a docent tour to learn a lot about the culture, traditions, and daily life of a mock ancient village that used to be part of this beautiful valley. You’ll also learn about native indigenous plants used for eating, herbs, and medicinal purposes in the valley.
When you visit the waterfalls and gardens, you’ll be supporting a non-profit group that helps to educate and maintain the valley, gardens, and pristine nature of the area. There is an authentic luau you can experience on the grounds. With the price of entry to it, you can also get entry to the waterfall and botanical garden tour.
Waimea waterfall is definitely the safest and easiest waterfall to visit on Oahu, although there are plenty of other waterfalls in Oahu to explore as well. It’s fun, and educational, and you can also hang out next door at the gorgeous Waimea Bay Beach Park.
Read next: Your Ultimate Hawaii Packing List
6. Cruise in a Catamaran
By Sydney from A World in Reach
Taking a catamaran cruise off the coast of Waikiki Beach is one of the best Oahu kid-friendly activities and a must for your Oahu bucket list. Not only will you get to enjoy the views of the water and the coast, but if you’re lucky, you’ll also get to spot wildlife like sea turtles, and dolphins, and even do some whale watching.
There are a few different catamaran companies in Waikiki, but one of the best is Maita’i Catamaran. Their most popular sailing is the Tradewind Sail, which sails once in the morning and again in the afternoon. Depending on where you sit on the boat, you can get pretty wet – kids especially love getting splashed at the front of the boat!
The entire cruise is scenic, with gorgeous views of the Oahu coast, Diamond Head, and the crystal blue water. Adults on board can enjoy a beer or a mai tai during the cruise, and they have juices and sodas for the kids. If you’d rather skip the midday heat and sun, you can also opt for a sunset cruise or moonlight sailing.
Depending on the sailing you choose, prices range from $49-$79 for adults and teens and $25-40 for kids. Traveling with a kid under 3? They sail for free! Just one more reason it’s one of the best Oahu kid activities you can plan for your vacation.
7. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
By Corritta at Itz A Family Thing
Oahu is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. One of the best beaches for families in Oahu is Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve.
If your kids are water lovers, then this place will not disappoint. With beautiful turquoise water, a protected reef, and loads of fish, this is one of the best beaches on Oahu for kids to swim. If your kids aren’t strong swimmers, they can still see fish in the shallow areas closer to the shore.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is a protected marine life conservation area with the best snorkeling on the island. Over 400 species of fish call it home, making it the most popular destination for anyone visiting Oahu.
Be sure to stop at the Marine Education Center, where your family can learn about the history of this natural wonder.
Due to the nature preserve’s massive popularity, measures have been taken to ensure the safety of the wildlife. The entry fee has been increased to $25 for kids over 12 and adults. Along with the increased fee, only 1000 visitors are allowed per day, plus the bay is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Even with the latest changes, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is a must when visiting Oahu with kids.
If you plan on visiting this beautiful state park on your next vacation to Oahu with kids, be sure to get there early. The gates open at 6:45, but there is oftentimes a line of cars waiting as early as 6 am. Get there early to pick a good spot and jump in the water. This is one of the best activities in Oahu for kids, and you won’t want to miss it!
There is a concession stand for food, so you don’t have to leave to eat. If you decide to bring your own food, please remember to leave no trace.
8. Bishop Museum
By Trijit at Dog Travel Buff
Looking for the best family activities Oahu has to offer? Visit the Bishop Museum, the largest museum in Hawaii. The museum is both fun and educational, and it has the largest collection of Polynesian art and culture in the world.
The museum is located west of Waikiki, just off the Likelike Highway. If you have a keen interest in the history of Hawaii, the Bishop Museum is perfect for you. The museum displays the exhibit to preserve the culture and history of Hawaii, and it has something for all ages to enjoy.
The Pow! Wow! exhibit is awesome and the most famous in this museum. It showcases graffiti, murals, and street art. “POW!WOW” is a Native American word that describes a festival that celebrates culture, art, and music.
There are lots of artifacts to see here. The colorful murals and the art installations are excellent.
There is another exhibit on the Gallery Lawn which is about ocean solutions. The science center is very fun and interactive. Children as well as adults, everyone can enjoy this place. Visitors can walk through a volcano. There’s a glow-in-the-dark tunnel that looks very beautiful.
You can also buy souvenirs from the gift shop, which is quite large and has a great selection.
Paid parking ($5) is available, but it might be difficult to get a spot during weekends and public holidays. Therefore, try to get here as early as possible in the day.
9. Iolani Palace
By Erica at Trip Scholars
Swords, crowns, a king, and a queen—a visit to Iolani Palace is one of the best things to do with kids in Oahu. Iolani Palace is the only royal residence in the entire United States. It is also a fascinating place to learn about Hawaiian royalty and history.
The palace was built in 1882 by King Kalakaua, the last king of Hawai’i. It remained the royal residence through the reign of his sister, Queen Liliʻuokalani until the Hawaiian government was overthrown in 1893. The palace captures an important time in Hawaiian history and offers an engaging way for kids (and adults) to learn more.
Iolani Palace was inspired by European palaces of the time but is unique in the powerful Hawaiian cultural influences throughout the building, artwork, and artifacts. This makes touring the palace unlike a visit to any other site and very interesting for visitors of all ages.
Purchase your tickets online and, depending on your group, plan to spend one to two hours. You can enjoy docent-led tours or go on a self-led tour with the audio guide.
Here are a few tips for making the most of visiting with kids. Consider learning about it as a family before you visit. The website offers some videos and activities for kids, and there are books and documentaries available online.
If music is a special interest, learn about the song Aloha ‘Oe and other songs by Queen Liliʻuokalani, who was a talented and prolific composer.
Once you are there, let your kids’ interests inspire more activities nearby. If they were especially interested in learning more about government because they visited the palace, take a tour of the state capitol next door.
And if it was the stunning artwork in the palace that caught their attention, the Hawaii State Art Museum is also next door.
Your trip to Iolani Palace is sure to be one of your most memorable family activities on Oahu.
10. Oahu Atlantis Submarine
By Marcie at Hawaii Travel With Kids
One of the best kid friendly things to do in Oahu is the Atlantis Submarine ride. It’s located at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, which is easy to get to by rental car, Uber, or the Waikiki Trolley.
You’ll get to take a short boat ride out to the submarine. From the boat, you’ll see gorgeous views of the Waikiki beach area as well as Diamond Head.
Then, you’ll climb into a real submarine and go 100 feet below the surface. Kids will love seeing the sunken ship, airplane, and Japanese seaweed farm. But the real thrill is that you never know which sea animals will swim in front of your window.
The entire submarine ride is narrated, and they do a great job of turning the submarine around so that all passengers get to see everything. This is an awesome activity for families who want to see Hawaii’s sea life without actually getting wet.
When the submarine ride is over, make sure to stay on the top deck of the boat that takes you back to shore. That way, you’ll get the best view of the submarine plunging back into the water with the next load of passengers.
Kids must be at least 36 inches tall, so it’s ideal for families with preschoolers or elementary-aged children looking to plan kid-friendly activities on Oahu. Plus, the whole experience is only a couple of hours.
When you’re planning kid-friendly things to do in Honolulu, consider adding this to your list!
11. Visit Pearl Harbor Memorial
By Karee at Our Woven Journey
No trip to Oahu is complete without visiting the Pearl Harbor Memorial. Although younger children won’t understand the gravity of what happened there on December 7, 1941, they will carry with them the memories of having been there.
The memorial honors the 2,388 Americans who died during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Visitors can spend time touring several museums that chronicle the events of that day. There are several tributes outside as well, so you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to read them.
The USS Arizona Memorial is the main feature that most people come to see. You’ll need a ticket to take the short boat ride across the harbor to the Memorial, but they are free. If you’re planning to visit Oahu during a busy season, you can reserve your ticket ahead of time for $1 each. Without at ticket, you’ll have to wait in the standby line until there’s extra room on the boat for your group to go.
You can also rent audio guides to learn more about the attack on Pearl Harbor and each of the exhibits you’ll see there.
This piece of history is well worth taking time away from the beach to memorialize what happened there. Although it is a war memorial, most of it is outside, and since it’s located on that harbor, it’s a beautiful place to spend a couple of hours.
12 Snorkel at Lanikai Beach
By Luke at Wild About BC
Lanikai Beach is one of the most beautiful stretches of sand on the island of Oahu and makes for the perfect day out for you and your family. The beach is located on the East side of Oahu and is so popular because of the fine white sand, crystal clear blue water, and palm trees that line the beach.
You’ll also get a beautiful view of the Mokalua Islands, which sit a few hundred yards from shore.
As this beach is on the East side of the island it is quite sheltered, meaning it doesn’t really get any waves. This makes it ideal for kids to be able to swim safely in the calm waters and one of the best beaches in Oahu for families.
You can also enjoy snorkeling, stand-up paddleboarding, and kayaking from this beach.
There isn’t a parking lot at Lanikai Beach, so you need to find parking in the surrounding residential streets and access the beach along one of the paths between the houses that line the beach.
The easy access, calm waters, and beautiful scenery make this an ideal place to visit in Oahu with kids. You can enjoy a few hours basking in the sun and swimming in the blue water.
13 Kualoa Ranch
By Sharon from Tasmania Explorer
If you’ve got a dinosaur-crazy kid like me, there is one place you will definitely want on your must-visit list in Oahu, and that’s Kualoa Ranch. Most famous for being the location of Jurassic Park, this place is beautiful and well worth your vacation time.
Kualoa Ranch is a private nature reserve consisting of 4,000 acres of reserve and a working cattle ranch. Like they like to say, if you’ve seen Jurassic Park, you’ve seen this ranch, so it gives you an idea of what to expect.
There are a variety of experiences and tours here, and it’s not just about Jurassic Park although you’ll want to make sure you sign up for one of the tours that visit the movie sites, such as the Hollywood Movie Sites Tour – many movies have been filmed here beyond Jurassic Park. This will also give your family the chance to pose with a tyrannosaurus rex (just a statue, don’t worry!).
For more adventurous families, there is a zipline over the gorgeous valleys, mountain biking, horseback riding, and tours of the farm and on the water. There really is something for every family.
Located about 23 miles from Waikiki, Kualoa Ranch runs shuttle buses, or you can easily drive yourself here. There is plenty of parking.
14 Snorkeling at Shark’s Cove
By Brittany at Travel By Brit
It’s no secret that taking a day trip to the North Shore from Waikiki is a must-do activity in Oahu. However, one of the best things to do on the North Shore often flies under the radar—snorkeling at Shark’s Cove!
Shark’s Cove is a small, rocky bay located in Pupukea Beach Park along the North Shore. The area offers excellent snorkeling, but it’s far less crowded than iconic Hanauma Bay.
Your family will love swimming together in the crystal-clear water and spotting abundant marine life, including triggerfish, butterflyfish, parrotfish, needlefish, trumpetfish, and sea turtles!
Plus, admission to Shark’s Cove is free, unlike other popular spots on the island.
It’s important to note that Shark’s Cove is surrounded by jagged rocks, so unless your kids are experienced swimmers and can navigate these obstacles, it might be best to skip this activity.
However, for families with solid young swimmers, pre-teens, and teenagers, this is a fun experience that you and your family can’t miss! Expect to spend at least two hours here—it’s best to slot out three hours, just in case!
Pro Tip: Bring your own snorkel gear from home with you to Hawaii to save money on expensive rentals. Plus, remember to wear reef-safe sunscreen to protect the beautiful coral reefs!
15 Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery
By Karee, Our Woven Journey
You might not have expected to see a cemetery on the list of things to do in Honolulu with kids, but this isn’t a normal cemetery. Punchbowl has become one of the most popular attractions in Oahu, with more than five million people coming to pay their respects each year.
While there, visitors will get a spectacular view of Waikiki and the downtown area. Since Punchbowl sits in the crater of an extinct volcano, visitors can walk the rim to see all the way to the out across the water.
History buffs will find the well-maintained grounds a fascinating tribute to the many soldiers of the American Armed Forces who died during World War II, Korean, and Vietnam wars. Currently, there are over 53,000 veterans and eligible family members interred there.
Families can either spend some time walking around the beautiful grounds (it’s 116 acres, so you’ll only see part of it) or drive a loop around the main part of the cemetery. There is no cost to visit Punchbowl, and it’s one of the most memorable things to do on Oahu for free.
A visit to Punchbowl may seem too solemn for a family vacation, but it’s actually a quiet respite from the busy agendas many families have when planning what to do when visiting Hawaii. A visit here is definitely worth making time for.
16 Shop at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet
While you’re planning things to do with kids in Honolulu, save time for shopping at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet. Not only is it a fun place to spend an hour or two, it’s the best place to get souvenirs on Oahu.
Located in the parking lot outside the Aloha Stadium, the swap meet features around 400 vendors. You’ll find tons of cheap trinkets like magnets, t-shirts, hair clips, and Hawaiian-themed bags. You’ll also find hand-made clothes, locally-made jewelry, and beautiful artistry.
Plan to come early, as it gets pretty hot as the day goes on. Remember to bring a water bottle and you may want to apply sunscreen before you get started.
Parking is free, but the entrance to get into the Swap Meet is $1.00 per person for everyone 12 and over. Ages 11 and under are free, and you can only pay in cash. Also, while some vendors can process credit cards, most only accept cash, so make sure you bring what you need.
The swap meet is only open three days a week, which means you’ll need to plan your week’s agenda around spending one of your mornings there.
Aloha Stadium Swap Meet Hours
Wednesday’s from 8:00 am – 3:00 pm
Saturday’s from 8:00 am – 3:00 pm
Sunday’s from 6:30 am – 3:00 pm
Family Friendly Things to Do at Night in Oahu
- Twilight Tours at the Honolulu Zoo
- Take a sunset dinner cruise
- Experience a traditional luau
- Go for Moon Walks at Waimea Valley
- Take a picnic to Magic Island Beach and stay for sunset
- Get shave ice and take a moonlit walk on Waikiki Beach
What Is the Cheapest Way to Travel to Hawaii With Kids
- Plan ahead and get the Southwest Companion Pass; one person gets to fly free with each companion pass holder!
- Book a hotel room with a kitchen and plan to make at least a few meals yourself
- Bring your own easy-to-fix breakfast and snacks like instant oatmeal and granola bars
- Take advantage of lower rates in winter and early fall to book your vacation
- Pick one or two excursions to pay for, then plan your agenda around having (free!) fun at the beach
- Avoid pricey resorts and book a mid-range hotel
- Save money on souvenirs by shopping at Walmart before heading home
- Check out the many free shows and activities around the island kids can participate
- Get the Go Oahu Pass to save money on many of the island’s main activities
If you’re looking for cheap things to do in Hawaii, just remember that Hawaii is famous for its gorgeous beaches. Spend the majority of your time playing there, and you’ll save a lot of money right from the start!
What Are Some Good Places to Eat on Oahu
- Get a treat from Matsumato Shave Ice
- Eat hot malasadas from Leanardo’s Bakery (hit up their food truck on the way to Ko Olina Lagoons!)
- Head to Hale’iwa Bowl for a fresh açaí bowl
- Find Poke at Foodland (and pick up some groceries while you’re there!)
- Enjoy Hawaiian comfort food – loco moco – at Fatboy’s Hawaii or Liliha Bakery
- Try kalua pork at a traditional luau or at Button Up Cafe
- Sample home-grown tropical fruit at the Aloha Swap Meet
- Chow down on some finger-licking good garlic shrimp at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
- Devour some delicious Dole Whip at the Dole Plantation
What Are Fun Things to Do on Oahu With Family
As a recap, here are the things listed above that are fun family things to do in Oahu.
- Ka Moana Luau
- Swim with Sea Turtles
- Dole Pineapple Plantation
- Visit Waimea Waterfall and Botanical Garden
- Cruise in a Catamaran
- Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
- Bishop Museum
- Iolani Palace
- Oahu Atlantis Submarine
- Snorkel at Lanikai Beach
- Kualoa Ranch
- Snorkeling at Shark’s Cove
- Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery
- Shop at the Aloha Stadium Swapmeet
Some of these family activities on Oahu are free, but most cost money. Check out the Oahu Go Pass, which includes many of the activities listed here. You can definitely save some money by purchasing the pass and making reservations before you go.
I hope this helps with your vacation planning!
Southwest to Maui: How to Fly to Hawaii for Free
Is Hawaii on your bucket list of places to go on vacation? You’re not alone! Each year almost 10 million people visit the Islands (not counting 2020), but as I’m sure you know, it’s not cheap. Good news, though. I’m going to share with you how you can fly on Southwest to Maui and any other Hawaiian island for free!
Southwest Airline Companion Pass: Exactly how to use it for Free Flights
Southwest’s Companion Pass is one of the best bargains in airfare, and if you plan to do any flying in the next two years, you can actually bring another person along for free! I know we haven’t been able to travel much lately, but things are starting to shape up in the travel industry. Now’s the perfect time to start thinking about it!
Karee Blunt is a nationally syndicated travel journalist, focused on discovering destinations and experiences that captivate and inspire others through her writing. She is also the founder of Our Woven Journey, a travel site focused on inspiring others to create memory-making adventures with their loved ones. Karee is passionate about encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and live the life they dream of. She is the mother of six kids, including four through adoption, and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. You can learn more about Karee on her about me page.