Family friendly Oahu: Things to do and see around the island

Welcome to your dream Hawaiian vacation! On the island of Oahu, which happens to be the most visited island in the chain, families will find a large assortment of things to do and see that are both adult and kid friendly, making the vacation more enjoyable for all parities involved. Though Waikiki and Honolulu are where you’ll most likely be staying, there are fun things to do around the entire island that are only a short, yet beautiful road trip away. To get you started in the planning process, here are our top choices for the best family friendly things to do and see on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

Taking a family vacation on Oahu

With lots to do and see for all ages, Oahu is a prime destination for family vacations, even for those with young children. The main few points to keep in mind is to secure a nice hotel, a rental car so that you can easy venture out, to bring water and snacks on any trip and to plan a few days out before you land on the island. Often times as well, you’ll find brochures or a concierge in your hotel that can further recommend places to go and things to do the maximize your family vacation.

Kid and family friendly beaches

Though Oahu is known for her winter swells, there are actually quite a number of family friendly beaches where the water is safe for kids to enter and enjoy throughout the entire day. These beaches are either free or require you to pay for a parking space. Some of the best are:

Diamond Head Cliffs Beach

Closely located to Waikiki Beach, this beach offers fine sand to play in as well as shaded areas to escape the sun. Another great thing about this particular beach is that it doesn’t tend to get that crowded, offering more ‘play space’ without having to worry about accidentally dumping sand on your resting, sun bathing neighbor. If visiting during the summer, keep an eye out for a resting Hawaiian Monk seal. Though you have to stay a certain distance away, seeing one of these rare creatures is certainly a treat the whole family can enjoy.

Ala Moana Beach Park

Another beach close to Waikiki, Ala Moana offers calm waters where you can swim or take a paddle boarding lesson. It also offers a great view of Diamond Head, meaning that you’ll want to make sure to pack your camera. This beach is mostly sand with little shade so you’ll want to make sure to also pack some sort of umbrella. Better yet, come lunch time head across the street to the Ala Moana Mall where you’ll find a large assortment of different dining choices in their food court.

Halona Beach Cove

An extremely small beach made up of sand and rocks, this beach is more suited to older children as there is a slight current and a bit of a hike to get down to the sand. However, this is a great spot to stop at for an hour while driving along the coast and is literally right next to the Halona Blowhole. Sometimes sea turtles can be spotted swimming in the surf here as well, adding to the overall experience.

Hanauma Bay Park

Without doubt the most famous of Oahu’s beaches, Hanauma Bay Park is not only a beach, but a snorkeling experience that the entire family will find amazement in. It’s also a safe choice as swells are blocked from the reef, making a snorkel very calm and relaxing. This particular park costs money to enter and park, though only a small amount at US$1 to park and US$5 per child aged 13 and up to enter the park.

Unlike other area attractions, all visitors must watch a short program about the reef and bay before entering the park. Keep this in mind when planning your day.

Lanikai Beach

Ranked one of the planet’s best beaches, Lanikai Beach is a great choice for those who love endless sand and beautiful blue waters. Located in a residential area, parking is a little harder to find, but once found it is an easy walk to the beach. Off in the ocean, within clear view, are two islands- Moko Nui and Moki Iki, where you can rent a kayak and travel to. Once on the islands, you can take a short hike around before returning back to the beach.

Waikiki Beach

Famed Waikiki Beach is perfect for families as it is close to a large number of hotels and resorts and also offers tons of activities to choose from including swimming, snorkeling, paddle boarding, rowing, surfing lessons and sand castle building. Here you’ll also find fantastic views of the beach in both directions along with a great view of Diamond Head. In addition, there are a ton of different dining options to choose from both right on the beach and a block or two into town. Some favorites include shave ice, plate lunches and burgers.

Kid and family friendly things to do and see

Aside from Oahu’s beautiful beaches, there are tons of other island activities to enjoy that are well suited to the younger members of your family. These activities range in various categories, making it easy to find a few here and there that appeal to every member of the family. Some of the best and most recognized kid friendly activities on the island are:

Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center

Opened Tuesday through Sunday, this discovery center is perfect for those who love to learn and experience new things having to deal with science and the ocean. With various exhibits and educational experiences and programs, there’s always something new and exciting at the center. This is also a great way to meet other traveling families and compare notes.

Admission is US$10 per person but if you’ve got a Go Oahu Card, you’ll find that admission is free!

Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park

Located on 25 acres, Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park is a fun filled day that will leave you and the whole family with smiles ear to ear. With a variety of rides ranging from small to large slides, every person in the family will find something they can enjoy. As far a prices are concerned, this park is a little more on the expensive side with day passes available starting around US$40 per person. Because of this, you’ll want to stay the entire day to really get your money’s worth.

Sea Life Park

At this park, family members will get to enjoy personal interactions with dolphins via a variety of swim adventures and encounters, a swim with a sea lion, get close to sharks and watch a few shows. In addition, guests will get to view all five habitats while learning about sea life behavior. General admission varies due to age with children 3 to 12 at US$24.99 per child and adults at US$39.99.

Polynesian Cultural Center

Most travelers who come to the island plan a visit to the famous Polynesian Cultural Center where they’ll be able to learn about different Polynesian cultures through food and shows. During the day, visitors will get to view authentic villages while mingling with persons from six different Pacific cultures. After that, guests will get to enjoy a luau that includes traditional luau food such as kalua pork, pio, lomi salmon and much, much more. After dinner is completed, the real show begins. With over 100 Polynesian natives, visitors will have the pleasure of enjoying a show filled with dance, music and theater. Prices range around US$50 to US$150 depending on the package you choose.

Waimea Falls

Located on the North Shore just across the road from a few choice beaches, Waimea Falls is great for morning and afternoon fun with a short paved hike ending at a waterfall, gardens to enjoy and a cafe with various food options, many of which are very kid friendly and approved. The hike itself is stroller friendly, making it a good place to travel to if you have a baby or toddler who tires easily. The hike itself is mostly flat with a few up hill moments that ends at a kid friendly waterfall where life vests are rented out. Before the hike begins however, you’ll pass by a cafe styled eating area that offers a selection of western food choices such as ice cream, fries and burgers along with a covered dining area. Keep your eyes open as you might come across a curious peacock or two.

Admission fees are US$6 per child ages 4 to 12 and US$13 for adults. This attraction is also covered with the Go Oahu Card.

Photos from Rachel Campbell and Flickr user Kim.

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