As anyone with children knows, planning a vacation is no longer the same once you have one, two, or especially three mini-mes running around. Much more thought must go into the ins and outs of ensuring that every member of the family has a fun-filled and enjoyable vacation.
This includes planning excursions at your destination of choice, picking family-friendly dining establishments, and making sure that accommodations are as fitting for your 17-year-old as they are for your 3-month-old. Traveling as a family is an exciting opportunity to share precious moments and create amazing memories together.
If you are considering Oahu as your family travel destination, you’re making a perfect choice, as this island has unforgettable adventures to offer to guests of all ages. The kids definitely won’t get bored, as there are so many activities available to keep them entertained all day long.
In fact, you aren’t likely to have enough time to explore everything, and choosing only a few things to do can get overwhelming. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Before we dive into the activities, how about a little overview for those not so familiar with the beautiful Hawaiian Island?
Oahu is home to the capital of Hawaii, Honolulu, and, as such, is the top destination for tourists out of all the Hawaiian Islands. Though Honolulu may be the only true metropolitan region in the state, that doesn’t mean that Oahu itself doesn’t offer quite a lot of fun adventure activities for families of every size.
You’ll find a mixture of all kinds of travelers, from honeymooners to retirees to corporate groups to generational travelers and everything in between.
Oahu isn’t simply a naturally beautiful island (although it definitely is that too if you’re looking for scenic serenity!), there’s also a ton of engaging activities that you can do together with your family while you are there!
You’ll want to spend time with your loved ones on a family vacation, and Oahu has some of the best and most unique activities of any island getaway! To start us off, here is a selection of the most fitting activities that you can partake in with your family of 3 while you are visiting the wonderful island of Oahu.
Pearl Harbor Memorial Museum & Visitor Center
Looking to start off with something that is a little more culturally fulfilling than lounging around the beach? Look no further! The Pearl Harbor Memorial Museum & Visitor Center is a great place for your young ones to explore history, and learn about the start of America’s involvement in one of the great World Wars.
The museum follows historic events that led up to World War II, including the attack on Pearl Harbor itself in 1941. Many brave men and women lost their life that day, and homage is paid to them at sites like the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. The Arizona was a battleship that was sunk during the attack, and now rests in the harbor.
The juxtaposition of this historic event, and the picturesque backdrop is something no child will soon forget! The Pearl Harbor Memorial Museum & Visitor Center is a fine choice for smaller families, as you can really enjoy the ins and outs that it has to offer without having to keep track of 4 or 5 extra people!
After taking in all that culture at the Pearl Harbor Museum, it’s probably time to take a break from seriousness and satisfy that sweet tooth. Head to the Dole Plantation and experience pineapples on a totally different level as a family.
With guided tours, the largest pineapple maze in the world, a souvenir shop, and a Pineapple Express train ride, your children will have an amazing time at the Dole Plantation! Featured on site for when hunger strikes, The Plantation Grille features a wide assortment of island favorites including teriyaki chicken and kalua pork.
For those picky eaters, the grille also offers cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and salads. Save some room for a world-famous Dole Whip, the refreshing pineapple treat that is guaranteed to quench your thirst and cool you down after a sun-filled day.
Experience a Hula Show
Now that you’ve refueled yourself and your kids, how about a little local culture to go along with the U.S. culture that you experienced earlier at the Pearl Harbor museum? Hula shows are entrancing, and truly a sight to behold. Your children will be mesmerized by the colorful outfits and the generally enthusiastic attitude of the dancers and ushers.
Although they are enjoyable at any time of day, a hula show pairs exceptionally with a sunset on the beach, and luckily for you this is normally when they are performed. Hear traditional Hawaiian music and watch the ceremonial torch lighting as you soak in this one of a kind experience with your loved ones.
We understand that the addition of even one family member can entirely change the dynamic of a trip, so hold on tight ‘cause we’re moving on ahead to our next group of suggestions. Below are the 8 best things to do in Oahu for a family of 4!
U.S. Army Museum
Do we have any history buffs in our midst? Couldn’t get enough of the military might of the U.S. at the Pearl Harbor Museum? Worry not! If you or any of your loved ones are infatuated with tanks, military history, or weaponry, head on over to the U.S. Army Museum located at Fort DeRussy.
The location couldn’t be more prime as it is located on beautiful Waikiki Beach. The grounds are complete with gorgeous green landscapes, that are kept so well manicured that golf courses get jealous. Peek inside the history of pre-imperial Hawaii, and honor those brave soldiers who received the Medal of Honor, the highest military accolade possible.
Again, this is an activity well-suited to families or 3 or 4, as it ensures that you won’t have to sacrifice taking in all the history for chasing your young ones around!
Basking in cultural fulfillment is great and all, but what about relaxing and working on your tan? After all, palm trees and picturesque beaches is what the mind conjures up when Hawaii is mentioned! That’s why we recommend Waikiki Beach; nowhere in the world will you find a beach this beautiful.
The water is that perfect temperature to offer refreshment, without leaving you needing a warm blanket afterwards! If you’re up for it, this is the perfect place to practice your surfing skills, snorkel and check out some of the underwater life, or even take off on an excursion to deep sea fish.
If you’ve always wanted to learn to surf, but never had the chance, now you’ve got it. First-time surf lessons are easily available at the Waikiki beaches, and are offered for every age and skill level. Experienced instructors will make sure you stay safe while enjoying the unforgettable experience of surfing in Hawaii.
After all those activities you’re bound to have an appetite, so sign up for a wonderful dinner cruise, or enjoy one of the several pristine restaurants along the coastline.
Throughout many hardships, including the Great Depression, the Honolulu Zoo has endured. This fantastic zoo stands as a symbol of what can be accomplished when people rally around a common goal. Having fallen into disrepair through the middle of the last century, it looked grim for the zoo.
However, in the 1970’s, spurred on by some wonderful donations of new animals, the Honolulu City and County hatched a master plan to bring this exhibit back to its former glory. Fast forward to the 1990’s, and another revival was set about to make the exhibits look more like natural habitats.
You and your children will love the new and improved 42 acre Honolulu Zoo! The Zoo is home to 905 different animals from the tropics. Komodo Dragons, orang-utans, elephants, primates, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and a variety of African animals can be seen daily.
Now we’ve ventured through a ton of different activities, but we’re only up to 4 family members. Keep on trucking to find the true treasures that cater to families of 5 or more on your beautiful island vacation!
Get Wet’N’Wild At the Water Park
If the weather is nice, and you are travelling with kids and teenagers, you are not likely to get away without visiting the only water park in the state of Hawaii! Head off for a spectacular 40-minute drive west of Waikiki to visit this popular attraction, and you won’t be disappointed.
The adventure park occupies 25 acres of land and has all kinds of open and enclosed water slides. Some of the slides are only for the bravest, and are capable of dropping over seven stories. For a more relaxing experience, discover a wave pool or go for a lazy tubing river ride.
There is also a supervised kids-only area, as well as the spa for adults. For those keen for a shopping spree, drop the kids at the water park and visit the big outlet mall and other shopping opportunities located nearby the park.
This activity caters perfectly to parents of larger families, as the water park is enclosed, and has specific areas where children can be supervised. Worst case scenario, there’s only so many places they could be inside this area!
Touch a Dinosaur
Need a break from the sun? A visit to the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center will be enjoyable for both kids, and the “young-at-heart”. The Center, located in Honolulu, offers a unique, hands-on learning environment. Forget the boring expositions where you have to closely supervise your younger ones, losing your voice by constantly having to yell “Don’t touch this!”
Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center is the complete opposite of such dreadful trips, as the visitors are encouraged to use all their senses to explore numerous exhibits! Together with your family, touch a dinosaur, solve a puzzle or two, or participate in one of the exciting rotating classes – and let your imagination run wild.
Stimulation is so important for kids who are developing, and the exhibits at the Discovery Center will be engaging for both their mind and their body. A win-win all around!
Looking to do something outdoors and enjoy the fresh air again? Hiking is a big draw on Oahu, as the most recognizable summit in all of Hawaii is located here—Diamond Head. No matter your level of fitness, the Diamond Head trail is the perfect hike for you! Once an active volcano, this giant crater in the ground offers a fascinating geological experience for all ages.
The vantage point at the top offers amazing views of the surrounding area, definitely Instagram-worthy. For travelers who need a hiking trail that’s just a little forgiving, but equally as enjoyable, there’s Manoa Falls. Take the kids to see film locations for Jurassic Park and also enjoy views of the most easily accessible waterfalls.
Prefer history to film? Another easy trail is the Aiea Loop Trail, though it may take you a while, as it’s about five miles long. The loop passes through a variety of important sites, including World War II remains and views of Pearl Harbor.
Not only will you fall in love with the fun-filled time you spend during this relaxing and unforgettable hike, but you’re guaranteed to cherish these picturesque views when you finally reach the top stairs.
If you love watching marine animals and crustaceans in their natural habitat, or even if you simply enjoy being in the water, you should definitely consider taking a guided snorkel tour through the Hanauma Bay. Grab your fins and head to this underwater masterpiece that will be sure to take your breath away.
Formed by what used to be a volcanic crater, Hanauma Bay is now home to some of the most exotic, unique, and beautiful fish species. Don’t worry if you have never snorkeled before — this paradise is open to all experience levels and a snorkeling instructor may be provided for you.
The bay offers an underwater experience of a lifetime, showcasing stunning coral reefs of all colors and housing some of the Pacific’s most exotic underwater species. Totally worth capturing in your waterproof camera! If the beautiful and fascinating view wasn’t enough, you will also be comfortably floating in warm water.
All this while relaxing and spending time with your loved ones and enjoying the experience this unique treasure has to offer. And now for the elephant in the room; what will I do with my family of 6 or more!? Don’t fret for a minute. These next few activities are perfect for larger families that are still looking to enjoy everything Oahu has to offer.
The North Shore
The fantastic Waimea Bay Beach Park at the North Shore is perfect for all those who want to go for a great picnic with the family! This public beach is rarely crowded despite being such an enjoyable natural attraction. Also, the park is fully open to the public, so you are free to bring along as many people as you’d like!
If you and your loved ones can appreciate some massive waves and enjoy soaking up the sun, then a day trip to this beach park is perfect for you. The Waimea Bay Beach Park is especially well suited for those who find themselves itching for a little surfing action on some rather impressive waves.
If you happen to be in Oahu during the winter months, it’s best to observe the stellar waves from the beach, as they tend to be rather dangerous for those without the proper experience. However, if you’re no newbie to hangin’ ten, throw on a wet suit and show the tourists what you’ve got!
All that being said, you needn’t be an avid surfer to still take in the awesomeness of mother nature as she crashes against the shoreline. Waimea Bay Beach Park is truly a delight for all ages and sizes! If you’d rather hit the waves than the shore, Oahu’s 128 beaches mean you have more than enough sandy spots to choose from, regardless of the water activity you prefer.
Diving is an excellent choice for families with older children, as everyone can participate and enjoy the beautiful depths together. Diving excursions can easily be arranged through your hotel or resort, many offering transport from Waikiki and Waimea. In addition to exploring the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, you can also enjoy World War II wreckage.
Swimming with Dolphins
There is something that every family must do while they are in Oahu; swim with the dolphins of course! Whether you’re an avid swimmer, or someone who is taking their first foray into the ocean, this is an activity for you. Dolphins are very intelligent, love to play with humans, and are extremely friendly with children!
This is the opportunity for you to make a special kind of bond that you can’t find on the mainland. One that will reside in your heart for the rest of your life! Become educated on the different type of communication used by dolphins. Wade into the dolphin lagoon. Get face to fin with the dolphins, and hang onto its dorsal fin as you zoom on this one of a kind experience.
Who doesn’t love mesmerizing fireworks? Every Friday night, a spectacular fireworks show is organized by the Hilton Hawaiian Village around 8 PM. The firework show is also visible from the beach near Fort DeRussy as well. This is the perfect way to end a day in which you’ve had a ton of draining adventures.
Grab a ticket (they go fast!), grab some treats, and grab hold of a loved one. You’re in for some much needed rest, and some more quality time. Fireworks are the most beautiful way to spend a lovely evening in Oahu with the family, and your children will be delighted.
Fun with Fishies
If you visit Oahu during the right times, you may have the joy of seeing a magnificent humpback whale. December through May is the perfect time to book a whale-watching trip, and an event many visitors plan their entire trips around. Guides will show you the best spots to see these huge but friendly beasts.
You can choose between a group tour or a private charter, but in each instance, professional guides are present to ensure both your and the animals’ safety. Sport fishing is another great activity to enjoy as a family. Charter boats will take fishermen of all skill levels into the big blue to hunt down yellow -fin tuna, marlin and more.
Everything is provided for you — all you have to do is show up!
Bonus Activity – Helicopter Tour
The amount of varied landscapes that can be toured via an aerial experience on Oahu are truly astounding. As we’ve already discussed, near to Honolulu there’s legendary Waikiki Beach, the Diamond Head hiking trail, Pearl Harbor and its beautiful waters, as well as many more that we couldn’t list without risking taking up your entire day reading!
However, take a quick hop by helicopter and you’re swooping in and out of spectacular shorelines out of a movie, valleys with cascading waterfalls, and unblemished tropical paradise sights like Hanauma Bay and Mount Olomana. Continue on just a few short minutes and you’ll be engulfed by luscious rainforest, one of the most vibrant ecosystems on the planet.
Helicopter tours can either be a compliment to your vacation, or they can be the pinnacle of the entire trip. Some families love to lounge and enjoy lazy days on the beach. For them, a helicopter tour can be a quick way to see a ton of the island in one fell swoop.
Other families enjoy scouting out the areas they’ll visit later from a high vantage point, and then tackling them on the ground later on. Whatever your style, there’s an avenue for you when you visit beautiful Oahu. We’ve covered a ton of information here, but that doesn’t mean that this list is entirely comprehensive.
This list has been tailored to be a one-size-fits-all for families, but we couldn’t possibly hope to list all the activities that Oahu has to offer in one sitting. For more information, feel free to contact one of our specialists, and we’d be more than happy to discuss your options with you.