Visiting Oahu, Hawaii with the family for the very first time? Here are the top 20 things to do in Oahu with kids. Oahu is family-friendly and we’ve listed the best family beaches in Oahu especially for those traveling with toddlers, free things to do in Oahu, family things to do in Oahu at night, and activities you can do as a family if you’re visiting Oahu for the first time.
Top 20 Things to Do in Oahu with Kids:
Oahu for first-timers
1. Ride the Waikiki Trolley
If you’ve visiting Oahu for the first time with the kids – I recommend riding the Waikiki Trolley to tour the Waikiki area and beyond. It was our first time visiting Hawaii and we spent 2 days touring Oahu riding different Waikiki Trolley lines. Riding the trolley is not only fun for the kids but it also a good way to view & learn about famous Hawaii landmarks and historical sites.
Waikiki Trolley is your hop on hop off bus in Hawaii and they offers 6 trolley lines – Purple Line for the historic Pearl Harbor route, Red Line for the Cultural part of Honolulu, Green Line for the scenic Diamond Head which takes you inside a volcano crater, Blue Line for the panoramic coastline, Yellow Line for the Honolulu Dining Express, and Pink Line for the shopping stops.
You have the option of just riding the Waikiki Trolley to see and learn about the Oahu attractions (with the driver as your guide) or to actually hop on and off at every trolley stop to tour a particular attraction. Read up on our Guide to Riding the Waikiki Trolley to learn about the cost, the different Waikiki Trolley stops you can visit, tips for riding so you don’t get lost finding the pick-up point (we got lost, haha), and more.
2. Ride a Double-Decker Bus around Honolulu
Have you or the kids ever been on a double-decker bus? If you’d like to experience it – I’m sure the kids do – then ride the Waikiki Trolley Pink Line (it’s a yellow-colored double-decker bus) during your visit to Oahu. It’s only $2 per person to ride and it takes you to various stops around Waikiki.
It was our first time riding a double-decker bus. We rode at the top on the very front and had a good view of everything around us – the kids were ecstatic. We hopped off Ala Moana Center (a huge shopping complex) to try some famous poke from Tanioka’s Seafood. The bus comes to various stops every 10 minutes and it has a stop at our hotel in Waikiki – Hotel LaCroix so it was very convenient for us. Refer to our Waikiki Trolley Guide to learn more about it as well. Our 1 day Waikiki Trolley pass includes a 2nd-day free pass so we were able to take almost all of the lines within 2 days.
3. Taste the famous Matsumoto Shave Ice
I’ve had a lot of shave ice in the mainland (US) but the shave ice at Matsumoto on the North Shore of Oahu was something else. It was creamy, melt in your mouth, perfectly sweet, everything you’d ever want while visiting the tropics. I need not say more, Matsumoto Shave Ice should be high on your Best Places to Eat in Oahu, Hawaii.
4. Take the kids to see Halona Blow Hole
One of the unique things to do in Oahu is to see the Halona Blow Hole. Hālona Blowhole is a rock formation and a blowhole off of Hanauma Bay at Hālona Point overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It is a scenic drive coming here. You can make a quick stop or you can visit it when you ride the Waikiki Trolley – it is part of the blue line. It is a natural wonder created thousands of years ago when molten lava tubes were formed from volcanic eruptions. Don’t worry, there aren’t any active volcanoes in O‘ahu anymore. Strong currents and big waves send waters rushing into the molten lava tubes below the lookout which then sends geysers as high as 30 feet through the blowhole.
5. Snorkel at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Hanauma Bay is the most famous of all Hawaii’s snorkeling beaches because of it’s high fish population, calm shallow water, and white sand. There is a $7.50 entrance fee per person. The fee is waived for those 12 years of age & under or for residents of Hawaii with valid identification. Parking is available for a minimal fee but I do suggest coming early as it does fill up.
Located on an old volcanic crater, Hanauma Bay now limits its visitors to 3000 per day for preservation reasons and it is closed on Tuesdays. You do need to watch a video orientation once a year. If you’ll be visiting more than once a year, make sure to put down your name so you can skip it on your next visit.
It is quite a hike down so if you’re traveling with young kids, consider riding the tram up and down (for a fee). Try to also bring all your beach essentials but make sure they are lightweight. It’s important to have a light beach towel, reef-safe sunscreen, water shoes, a waterproof case for your phone, and your own snorkeling gear or you can rent on location if you don’t have one. Check our Hawaii Packing List with free printable checklist so you have all the essentials for your trip to Hawaii.
6. Let the kids shop for souvenirs
Do you remember shopping for souvenirs as a kid? Like looking for a magnet with your name on it during vacations? If it was fun for you then, it’s time to let your kids enjoy it this time. Whether you’re going to let them really buy or just to look around – it’s a fun activity for the kids while visiting Hawaii.
I found the souvenirs in Oahu to be quite inexpensive considering we were in a tourist destination. Let the kids enjoy some shopping to bring home keepsakes from their vacation – magnets, keychains, stuffed toys, bracelets, anything. Around Waikiki, you can find souvenirs at ABC stores. ABC store is the 7-Eleven equivalent of Oahu and you’ll find them at almost every block in the Waikiki Beach vicinity just right below the hotels and major retail centers. Our daughter brought home a bracelet, and the other picked a stuffed toy. But truly, after discovering the ABC store in Oahu, we were there on a daily basis just browsing everything.
Family Things to Do in Oahu at Night
7. Watch the Hilton fireworks
If you’re looking for family things to do in Oahu at night, check out the Friday fireworks courtesy of Hilton Waikiki. Hilton Waikiki puts up a stunning fireworks display every Friday night. You can view the fireworks from Waikiki Beach or if you happen to be eating at Eggs N’ Things (Saratoga branch) like we were, then you’re also in luck as you get to view it while having your late dinner. We just arrived from the airport and the fireworks display was a great way to start our visit to Hawaii. It also helped wake us up a bit as we were really sleepy at that point after our 5 hr long flight. The Hilton Waikiki fireworks display times are seasonal: Sept-May at 7:45 pm, June – Aug at 8:00 pm. If you can make time for it, do add it to your Oahu Hawaii 7 Day Itinerary.
Best Family Beaches in Oahu
8. Play at Ka Olina Lagoon in front of Disney Aulani
Looking for a beach in Oahu for toddlers? Take them to Ka Olina Lagoon at Disney Aulani. Pack your beach gear as you can enjoy Ka Olina Lagoon for free. The lagoon is perfect for kids visiting Hawaii as there is hardly any wave. Ka Olina Lagoon is located in front of Disney Aulani resort and parking is free but limited unless you arrive early. If you can no longer find parking at the lot next to the resort then you’d have to shell out $12 per hour or $37 all-day parking at Disney Aulani.
We visited on a Monday and had no problem finding a free parking spot. If you’re not a guest of Disney Aulani, there is a walkway from the free parking lot to the lagoon but going through Disney Aulani is fine as well. I wanted to book a character dining experience but their only available time was 6:45 AM. Too early so we just visited and looked around before enjoying the lagoon. Ka Olina Lagoon is perfect for toddlers or younger kids, our 9 yr old wanted more waves so we drove out to check out Kailua Beach.
In case Ka Olina Lagoon in front of Disney Aulani is full, you can go to the other Ka Olina lagoons, there are 4 of them. Each one has a designated parking lot near the lagoon. There is a walkway to access all 4 but because it may be a far walk, I would recommend checking each one out before unloading your beach gear.
9. Swim at Lanikai Beach or Kailua Beach
What’s a trip to Hawaii with the kids without plenty of time at the beach. If you’re looking for a beach for toddlers in Oahu, Hawaii, head to Lanikai Beach for its calm waters. For easier parking though, I would recommend Kailua Beach.
The famous Waikiki Beach is actually pretty rough for the kids, well, even us adults. The waves were strong and the bottom was rocky so it was really nice that we drove to Kailua Beach. The kids had a lot of fun here. We drove from Disney Aulani on the other side of Oahu and the roadside mountains near Lanikai Beach were so beautiful. It was unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
Between Ka Olina Lagoon and Kailua Beach, Ka Olina is calmer but had greener water. At Kailua Beach, the wave was slightly more but the water was clear.
10. Play in the sand at Fort DeRyussy Beach or Kuhio Beach
I’ve mentioned that the water at Waikiki Beach is quite rough – it’s more known for surfing but it is sandwiched between Fort DeRyussy Beach where the water is still strong but not as strong and Kuhio Beach which is a family-friendly Waikiki beach park with shallow, lagoon-like water. Since we were staying at Hotel LaCroix in the Waikiki area, the closest beach to us if we walk towards the beach is Kuhio Beach. On our 6th day in Oahu, we played here for many hours building sandcastles and covering the hubby with sand and turning him into a mermaid (what 2 daughters will do to you, haha). We started in the morning, walk to try Waikiki Beach – too rough, kept walking towards Waikiki Aquarium then riding an Uber to bring us back here to play some more.
Free things to do in Oahu with Kids
11. Watch a free show at either International Market Place or Royal Hawaiin Center
One of the many free things to do in Oahu with kids includes watching a free show or taking complimentary classes at the shopping centers in the Waikiki Beach area. The shopping centers at the Waikiki area offer free shows and activities – from hula dancing to lei making.
International Market Place offers O Nā Lani Sunset Stories from 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM and Lei Making Workshop from 12 PM to 2 PM while Royal Hawaiin Center offers complimentary classes Monday–Saturday, and live entertainment Tuesday–Saturday. Join expert kumu (teachers) in such arts as lei making, lauhala weaving, hula, ‘ukulele playing and more! Both shopping centers can be found on Kalakaua Ave. – walking distance to Waikiki Beach.
Note: check the event schedule before going, it is not year-round.
12. Watch a show on the street of Kalakaua Ave.
Free shows in Oahu are not limited to the shopping centers. On Kalakaua Ave., you’ll find street performers in the late afternoon. It is not culturally-themed but it could actually be a nice break from watching the hula or something similar all week. During our visit, we chanced upon a dancing crew while strolling the streets before heading back to our hotel. The kids really enjoyed watching them while finishing off their ice cream cup from Magnolia Ice Cream located inside the International Market Place – make sure to get the Halo-Halo. As a spectator, you may even be called to participate in the show. It is free, donations are greatly welcomed.
Unique Things to do in Oahu with the family
13. Dolphin Encounter at Sea Life Park
In Oahu, you can take the family on a dolphin encounter experience. From a waist-deep platform, participants touch and observe the dolphins while they swim right in front of them and perform high-energy behaviors. Dolphins play, kiss and may even “hula dance” with the guests! Individual (not group) photos with your dolphins are available for purchase.
We didn’t do it during this first trip of ours to Oahu because I wasn’t sure if our youngest was ready but I’m definitely eyeing it on our next visit.
You can save on the Dolphin Encounter experience if you buy the Go Oahu card which bundles other Oahu attractions for one low price per the number of days of your choosing. You may be able to get the Go Oahu Pass cheaper from Groupon – it’s available from time to time. The dolphin encounter is a premium attraction and you may need at least a 3 day Go Oahu Pass to be able to include this activity.
14. See Sea Turtles at Turtle Beach
Turtle Beach is located along Kamehameha Hwy in the North Shore where you’ll find sea turtles that the kids may really enjoy looking at. Based on my research, you’d have a good chance of seeing them during the Spring. You’ll find Turtle Beach between Matsumoto Shave Ice and the famous Giovanni’s Shrimp truck’s 2nd location.
15. Do Hands-On Activities at Polynesian Cultural Center
Bring the kids to Polynesian Cultural Center while visiting Oahu, Hawaii to learn about the different islands and cultures in Polynesia. Fun things to do in Polynesian Cultural Center include watching a canoe show and immersing in hands-on activities like starting a fire using a stick, spear throwing, learning how to dance the hula, paddling a canoe and more. Tip: don’t forget to try the shave ice during the canoe show.
We didn’t get to do everything at this cultural theme park so I would suggest allotting 2 days if you’re actually going to be in Oahu for a long time. We can only allot a day on our Oahu 7 Day Itinerary.
Tip: You can save on tickets to Polynesian Cultural Center using a Go Oahu card which bundles other Oahu attractions for one low price per the number of days of your choosing.
16. Check out the marine life at Waikiki Aquarium
Waikiki aquarium is the second-oldest still-operating public aquarium in the United States, after the New York Aquarium. It is a quick walk from Waikiki Beach and though it is not big, we enjoyed checking out the different exhibits. Admission is $12 for adults with discounts for residents and seniors. Children 3 and under are free. Inside, you’ll enjoy tropical fishes, sea horses, jellyfish, etc. Outside, you can touch a starfish. There is a Hawaiin monk seal exhibit but it was not available during our visit.
We enjoy visiting different aquariums, big or small as each one has something different to offer. At Waikiki Aquarium, I was intrigued by the suckermouth catfish. I’ve never seen it before and I was (sucked, haha) into looking at it. Before leaving, I do recommend visiting the gift store to find many curios. The kids bought a stuffed animal and a water toy that looks like a lava lamp.
Enjoy your Family Friendly Oahu Resort
17. Stay at Disney Aulani Resort
If you’re looking for a family-friendly resort in Oahu Hawaii, look no further than Disney Aulani resort. Families can enjoy multiple pools including a lazy river, a tunnel body slide, play structure, splash zone, and many more. Parents can also enjoy the adult pool while the kids enjoy supervised activities at Aunty’s Beach House. You can also enjoy ukelele lessons, a movie under the stars, live entertainment, and interact with Disney characters during character dining or for photos around the resort.
Disney Aulani Resort is not located in the Waikiki area where most of the tourists stay at. It is located in Kapolei – about 30 minutes from the airport or 45 minutes northwest from Waikiki Beach. During our visit, we weren’t able to secure a room as it was an impromptu trip but we did visit to check out the resort during the 3rd day when we rented a car to visit various beaches in Oahu.
18. Swim at your hotel’s pool
Usually, when you visit Hawaii, you won’t think of using the hotel pool because you’re thinking of only swimming at the beach but it’s more relaxing to hit the pool especially when you’re traveling with the kids. In the pool, you have full control of not having to deal with waves, you can easily shower the kids right after, and at the same time, you can play games or just talk while lounging in the spa. So even if your hotel pool is not as huge as Disney Aulani’s, it’s still convenient and fun.
Our hotel in Waikiki didn’t have a huge pool but there was hardly anyone there and it was actually new and beautiful. If your itinerary is pack, look into squeezing an hour or 2 on the day of your departure before driving out to the airport if you have an afternoon flight. Just bring a dry bag for the wet swimsuits!
Fun Things to do in Oahu with the Older Kids
19. Visit a Water Park – Wet N’ Wild Hawaii
Looking for fun things to do in Oahu with the older kids? Take them to Wet N’ Wild water park for all the water thrill rides. Located in Kapolei (middle part of Oahu), Oahu’s “Second City”, the park features more than 25 exhilarating attractions. There are tons of slides, tunnels, water raft rides, wave pool, bodyboarding, and more. The younger kids can also enjoy the Water World Kids Playground and the Keiko Kove splash pad. Check on operating days before going.
Tip: You can save on tickets to Wet N’ Wild Hawaii using a Go Oahu card which bundles other Oahu attractions for one low price per the number of days of your choosing. You may be able to get the Go Oahu Pass cheaper from Groupon – it’s available from time to time.
20. Experience water sports activities for the first time
If the kids or the entire family had never surfed, kayak, or paddleboard, might as well try it in Hawaii! In Oahu, you can take surf lessons, rent a kayak or even a paddleboard. You can save on surf lessons by checking out Groupon for different surf schools on the island or you can get the Go Oahu Pass which offers all 3 on top of other Oahu activities you can do with the kids.
Please note that we did visit Dole Plantation and rode the train ride and tried the Pineapple maze but our kids did get bored so we didn’t include it here. Dole Plantation is great for souvenir shopping and to have some Dole Whip and it is still a must-visit on your first trip to Oahu, Hawaii. We will include it on our list of Fun Things to do in Oahu, Hawaii (the general guide-coming soon).