Family Activities on Oahu

Beach days are what family fun is made of. There are many wonderful things to do with children on Oʻahu. Spending the day at the beach, however, takes the cake.

Waikiki Beach Days

If you are staying in Waikiki, just about the entire stretch of beach is an excellent place to set down your towels and picnic basket. Be sure to bring, or rent, a beach umbrella as well. You’ll appreciate the mid-day sanctuary from the warm Hawaiian sun, especially if you have very little ones.

Babies and toddlers will enjoy playing in the sand and making their way down to the gentle lapping water. Older children will find adventure swimming, snorkeling or even surfing. They’ll love the way the water, sun and sand feels on their skin. And Mom and Dad can soak in the joy of their laughter and squeals of delight.
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The Best Family Beaches Around the Island

If you’d like to explore outside of Waikiki, the first family-friendly beach on your list should be Hanauma Bay. Please note, however, that Hanauma Bay is closed on Tuesdays and not ideal when it’s windy. Kailua Beach is also an excellent choice for families; it’s also less than ideal when the winds pick up.

If you don’t mind the drive, Ko Olina Resort offers four lovely lagoons that are ideal for younger children. Ko Olina is located on Oʻahu’s west side and is home to Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa as well as Four Seasons Resort Oʻahu at Ko Olina. The beach areas are open to the public, and you will find public restrooms and showers. This area of the island is almost always sunny. So, if it’s raining where you are, you might consider driving out west to Ko Olina. The added bonus is that the sunsets here are spectacular.

Family Attractions on Oahu

Aside from the beach, Oʻahu is full of attractions. In Waikiki alone, there is the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium. Local parents love these spots, because there is a great shaded park within the zoo and the aquarium is air-conditioned. Oh, yes, and these are also great learning environments for the children.

Sea Life Park is a family favorite. Located at scenic Makapuʻu, children are invited to revel in the beauty, wonder and fascination of ocean animals. There are dolphin shows (sit in the splash zone), penguin feedings, and reef creatures to marvel at.

The biggest, and quite possibly the best, attraction on Oʻahu is Kualoa Ranch, where the Jurassic Park movies as well as many other blockbusters were filmed. Movie site tours, ziplining, ATV rides, horseback escapades and secret beach adventures are all part of the fun at this private nature reserve.

Other places of note are the Polynesian Cultural Center, Waimea Valley and the Dole Plantation. The Polynesian Cultural Center is a vast expanse of living villages where you can interact with cultural demonstrators. And don’t miss the canoe pageant that happens daily at 2:30 p.m. Each village shows its best with singing, dancing and storytelling over the lagoon.

At Waimea Valley, located along the North Shore’s 7-mile miracle of gorgeous surf spots, you will find an easy hike to the valley’s waterfall. There you can take a dip under the watchful eyes of a lifeguard. There is a popular beach just across the street, Waimea Bay. However, the surf here can often be very dangerous, particularly during the winter months.

The Dole Plantation boasts the largest outdoor maze in the world. Keiki, children, have lots of fun making their way through. Parents, be sure to bring some cool beverages. It can take close to an hour to complete the maze. Visitors to the Dole Plantation can also enjoy riding a train, strolling through a botanical garden and feeding the resident koi fish.

Things to Do with Children

We’ve covered here the best family beaches and main family attractions on Oʻahu. We haven’t, however, begun to scratch the surface of possible things to do on Oʻahu.

You can rent a beach house on the North Shore during the summer and watch your children frolic in the ocean until sun down while you sit, hand-in-hand with your spouse sipping on your new favorite local craft beer. You can take a snorkeling tour off of the west coast and swim in crystal clear blue waters with turtles and dolphins. You can hike to Makapuʻu Lighthouse under the silvery glow of the full moon, ascending the gentle, stroller-friendly incline to behold the endless blue Pacific. You can savor a sumptuous picnic at the Spalding House Museum, where children will happily laugh and chase each other across the grassy lawn and through the garden trails.

With endless options, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. The most important thing to remember is that it’s not about how many sights your family sees or how many activities get checked off your itinerary. It’s about reconnecting and savoring the sound of sweet laughter, which is why family beach days are so perfect.

Surfing in Waikiki. Photo: Edmund Garman.

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Family Activities