Best Things to Do on Oahu with Kids

Best Things to Do on Oahu with Kids

Are you here on Oahu and wondering what kid friendly activities there are?  This post was inspired by the fact that I’ve had co-workers and residents come to me to ask advice about what to do on the weekends here.  If you’re out of ideas for things to do and especially if you’ve got kids, here’s a list of the best things to do on Oahu with kids.  This list is also for the young at heart, not just the young, so feel free to browse if you are also an adult feeling a little of the island fever and looking for something to do.  Because I’m from Kauai, I’m also often asked about the best things to do on Kauai and thus I have made a short list of My Favorite Places on Kauai on my Beautiful Kauai page and post.

on model at bishop museum

Best Things to do on Oahu with Kids

  1. Go to the Beach!

  2. Surfing

  3. Hiking

  4. Fishing

  5. Bishop Museum

  6. Waikiki Aquarium

  7. Honolulu Zoo

  8. Kahuku Farms

  9. Gunstock Ranch

  10. Wet ‘n’ Wild Waterpark

  11. Kroc Center

  12. Sea Life Park

  13. Polynesian Culture Center

  14. Art Explorium

  15. Children’s Discovery Center

Polihale Beach

1. Go to the Beach!

Of course we are in Hawaii, so going to the beach is number one on my list!  Not to mention it is FREE!  As to where the beaches are kid friendly, there are a lot of places here on Oahu, but I do wish they all weren’t so crowded.  I started to put little disclaimers next to the beaches that have potential for crazy crowding and then realized that was almost all of them here on Oahu.  So, just be aware depending on time and day they all can get crowded.  My kids are early risers, and thus so am I, sigh!  I haven’t slept in past 6:00 am since my kids were born, so we usually get to the beach in time to get parking.  Kid friendly beaches we visit are listed below:

  • Ko Olina (Lagoon 2 or 3)
  • Magic Island/Ala Moana Beach Park
  • Waikiki, we go in front of the Sheraton Rainbow Tower Area
  • Haleiwa (to the right of the harbor, where we stand-up-paddle)
  • Kaimana
  • Lani Kai
  • Kahala (when it’s not windy, which could be anybody’s guess)
  • Hanauma Bay (there is a fee)

I almost forgot camping at the beach.  This requires more planning and a permit.  I recommend Bellows camp grounds, which is really safe and a lot of fun in a big group.  We’ve gone with family and it was a blast.  There is also a military only section with rental cabins or you could consider renting a beach house on the north shore, for people who would prefer glamping (Glam-camping, i.e. not roughing it).

stand up paddling

2.  Surfing

I made this a separate item because it requires equipment and with kids this means more planning and foresight.  My kids are little, so we haven’t actually taken them full on big wave riding yet, though I know lots of people who have by their age already.  We take them stand-up-paddle surfing and thus far they really seem to enjoy it.  My 6-year-old is standing and paddling on her own a little, while my 4-year-old is usually on a board with me.  I would recommend the same beaches as above, somewhere flat to start out with and then you can progress with your kids as their abilities improve.  Surfing unfortunately costs money.  Our stand-up boards were expensive.  Fortunately they sell inflatable stand-up-paddle boards now that look so much more convenient!

I’ve placed links for some inflatable stand-up paddleboards from Amazon below, and if you have one already please comment and let me know what you think about them.

3.  Hiking

This activity is also FREE!  There are a lot of hikes that are kid-friendly, I’ve listed some below that I recommend, from the easiest to the hardest. Again, my kids are age 4 and 6, so these are really easy trails.  However, I wouldn’t even expect to do Diamond head without having to carry the 4-year-old for some of it.  Remember to have good shoes, sunscreen, water, and a snack.  Trust me, because I’ve done it, don’t forget the snack, ’cause hearing “I’m hungry,” the entire hike back ages you and tests the patience and calm you are trying to create by hiking in the first place.

  • Makapuu Lighthouse
  • Aiea Loop
  • Manoa Falls
  • Pu’u Pia
  • Diamond Head
  • Lanikai Pillboxes

Na Pali Coast Kauai

4.  Fishing

When we go fishing we use super cheap bamboo poles and bread.  We found a ditch and catch Tilapia, just to let the kids have the thrill of catching something.  We always release the fish.  I would not recommend eating the Tilapia from where we catch, as I said it really is a little ditch we found in Kahala that has all these super hungry Tilapia in brackish, dirty water.  The main thing is the kids have fun and the bonus is this experience is FREE if you find a ditch like us or try ocean fishing.  We tried Ocean fishing, but this requires more patience than my kids have yet at this age.  There are of course other fishing experiences good for kids on Oahu, some you pay for as well, and I’ve listed some of them below.

Playing at bishop museum

5.  Bishop Museum

My kids love the museum and usually get to go with their school and the grandparents.  The planetarium is pretty awesome and you get a view of current constellations in the night sky.  It’s a great place to learn about Hawaiian history and culture and they’ve really tried to expand on their science exhibits with the science adventure center.  They also provide guided tours, which is helpful for out-of-town visitors.  We just bought a year family membership, which I recommend, as it costs $110.  You’ll more than make up for the cost if you go just twice with a family of 4.  Plus they charge $2.95 per person extra for each of the planetarium shows which are also included free with the family membership plan.  Check them out and see the latest featured exhibits on their website here.


6.  Waikiki Aquarium

We go once in a while to the aquarium, and have gone to several events there as well, including birthdays.  Annual family or grandparents membership is $65.  Total cost for a Kama’aina (local) family visit for us is $26, so we’d have to go 3 times in a year to make up the cost of membership.  Because we’ve gone to a lot of events there, where our entrance was paid for by others, we haven’t yet paid for the annual membership.  They have a touch and feel area and several seals in residence.  See more info on their website here.

7.  Honolulu Zoo

We previously were gifted a Honolulu Zoo membership for a year, which was a really nice and thoughtful gift.  We went to the zoo a lot and definitely made good use of the membership.  The kids love the animals and the petting zoo.  But, honestly what we really had a hard time dragging them away from at the end of the day was the playground in the middle of the park.  The elephants and tigers are always popular, and every time we go we seem to see an animal that we missed previously.  An annual membership is $55, where a family of 4 would pay $24 Kama’aina rate per visit.  See more details on their website here.

Kahuku farms food
Kahuku farms fresh salad and basil focaccia

8.  Kahuku Farms

I’ve gone with the kids to Kahuku Farms on a school field trip previously and recently we also went to a birthday party there, which I never even knew they did.  They feature a tractor ride around this locally owned farm and have some absolutely wonderful food with fresh ingredients available at their cafe.  During the school excursion they taught the kids about their hydroponic lettuce farming and the children got to plant their own lettuce.  At the birthday party they entertained with massive bubbles that the kids loved to chase.  Read more all about Kahuku Farms here.  The only drawback is the long drive to the north shore.

Kahuku Farms food 2
Kahuku Farms Fresh Salad, Vegetable Panini, and Basil Focaccia

9.  Gunstock Ranch

I have never been, but have heard that it’s a great place to get the kids to ride on horses.  They also have birthday party packages.  Please comment below about your experience if you’ve ever been.  The cost is a little more pricey with pony rides at $45 per child, or the 1 hour scenic experience for $82 per person.  There are featured swimming lessons by certified instructors.  Unfortunately, they are also located far from town out in Laie.  They have a website with full details for Gunstock Ranch here.

10.  Wet ‘n’ Wild Waterpark

This is another activity we have yet to do as a family, largely because of the high cost and because we would likely rather go to the beach.  However, I would definitely recommend it for older kids.  I’ve heard there are not a lot of slides/rides for the younger kids.  The cost is $36.99 for Kama’aina.  They also sell season passes, which are often almost the same cost as the day pass.  For example the fall pass is now $39.99 for visits until December 31st.  Visit their website here.

At Ko Olina

11.  Kroc Center

We had my son’s 1st birthday party here and I highly recommend it.  If we lived in Ewa or Kapolei membership at the Kroc center would be a no brainer.  It is run by the Salvation Army and has tons of extras like classes for all ages and an awesome fitness center.  The aquatic center is excellent and has some cool slides and a play areas with a separate lap pool.  Membership is monthly and is $99 for up to 5 people.  Day passes are $16 for adults and $12 for children.  For driving directions and more info see the Kroc Center Hawaii Website.

Family Picture at the Kroc Center Hawaii
Kroc Center Hawaii

12.  Sea Life Park

Definitely a fun time for the whole family.  This is the aquarium on Oahu known for the larger sea mammals like the dolphins, sea lions, and seals.  They also have sharks and penguins  My kids love it here.  The shows are reminiscent of sea world and you can purchase more up and personal adventures if desired.  The cost is definitely more at $39.99 per adult and $24.99 per child age 3-12 years old, where an annual pass runs $49.99 and $39.99 respectfully.  So if you’re planning to go twice in a year then the annual pass is definitely cheaper.  We’ve only gone once all together.  The kids go with their school on excursions at least annually.  See more on Sea Life Park here.

13.  Polynesian Cultural Center

I have only ever gone here with special first-time visitors to Hawaii.  It is very expensive.  However, they have the best Luau in my opinion.  It’s worth it also to at least go once to experience the Polynesian cultural village they have.  They have sections for different Polynesian islands and you get to learn, do, and experience a little from all over Polynesia.  Areas include Tahiti, Fiji, New Zealand (Aotearoa), Samoa, Tonga, and Rapanui.  Cost just for a 3-day pass for the cultural villages is $59.95 for adults and $47.96 for children age 4-11.  Luau packages are much more and start at $114.95 for adults and $91.96 for kids.  See full details on their website here.

Kahala Beach

14.  Art Explorium

This is a super cool nonprofit art studio for kids.  Children get to come and create with tons of provided art supplies and materials and they can make and take as much as they want for $5 per child during their open studio times.  They have special art workshops and classes you can sign up for.  A lot of their supplies are recycled, thus you also help reuse materials for art and reduce waste that goes into our landfills  You can hold birthday parties here and they accept school groups.  My daughter loves to go to create and explore.  My son gets antsy a bit sooner, but I’m hoping this will improve as he gets a little older.  Check them out at the Art Explorium website.

Bug at bishop museum

15. Children’s Discovery Center

The Children’s discovery center is really a huge interactive playhouse.  They have different sections where kids can play dress up and pretend.  Examples are the firestation, bank, airplane, and grocery store.  They have different cultural areas from all over the world as well as Hawaiian cultural highlights.  The Kama’aina rate is $10 per person older than 1 year of age, or annual membership is $300 for 2 adults and 2 children.  I would recommend membership only if you live close by and plan on going a lot.  They are also a popular spot for birthdays and you can see their website for more information.


Don’t forget to check for military discounts if they apply to you, as the paid options above all have them.  In order to get the Kama’aina (local) discount you usually need a valid Hawaii State driver’s license or Hawaii state ID.

Please feel free to comment below and let me know if you have any additions to this list.  It is NOT an exhaustive list and I apologize if I have left anyone’s favorite activity off inadvertently.

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Beautiful Kauai

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