I’ve never previously been that interested in going to Hawaii. I always thought of it as an expensive honeymooner’s destination, but after my first taste of Hawaii, I am TOTALLY hooked. I cannot wait to plan my next trip back! I can’t believe it took me this long to head to Hawaii.
We did a trip to Oahu, Hawaii with kids (our family and Duy’s cousin’s family) and it was amazing. Hawaii has so many beautiful beaches, gorgeous hikes and great food. I really enjoyed Oahu a lot. It doesn’t happen to be everyone’s favorite island, but I really like how much stuff there is to do all over the island and you can’t beat the food on this island. Still dreaming of fresh poke and acai bowls everyday!
I’ve only been to one other island – Kauai, check out my guide here, which is beyond beautiful and adventurous, but as a family destination, I preferred Oahu, Hawaii with kids (toddler). I know many people will disagree with me, but I guess you will have to go to all the islands to find out which one is your favorite!
Duy’s aunt and cousin live in Honolulu, which was awesome since they were able to take us around and show us a few local spots. We spent about 5 days in Oahu, which was not enough time to see everything, but definitely gave us a good feel for the island!
This guide is a comprehensive guide you can do WITH and WITHOUT kids!
WHERE TO STAY:
Even if you base in Waikiki, which is considered very touristy, definitely venture out and see the other parts of the island! I liked staying in Waikiki as it is walkable to the beach, close to Ala Moana shopping center, with lots of restaurants and shops are all around.
If you are looking for a quieter stay, I would recommend heading to North Shore! I would love to stay at one of the resorts in Ko Olina (West Oahu) – Disney Aulani is there, which might be perfect for the kiddies!
Duy and I loved our stay at the boutique hotel, Shoreline Hotel Waikiki, check out our review here! It was right in the heart of Waikiki and only 2 blocks from the beach. It was super chic with modern decor and the staff was excellent. We spent most of our time staying in Honolulu at Duy’s aunt’s home, but this hotel stay was a great little getaway!
There are so many great beaches in Oahu! We surprisingly did not go to the beach as much as I thought we would as we filled our schedule with hikes, eating and touring the island. Although, the beach was the perfect place to explore Oahu, Hawaii with kids!
- If looking for calmer, safer waters, head to the section with the rock lagoon, which is better for kids!
- More crowded beach
- Don’t forget to check out the beautiful sunset!
- Beautiful clear blue calm waters
- Rock lagoons, which are great for the kids
- Less crowded than Waikiki (I liked Ko Olina Beach better more personally!)
Halona Blowhole & Halona Beach Cove
This is a quick stop to check out this natural formation to see water splashing out of a blowhole. I would recommend doing a quick stop on the way to another destination. We stopped here before heading to our luau to take quick photos and see if we could catch the blowhole in action. You can also hike down to Halona Beach Cove with some difficulty.
I would recommend checking out these beaches as well, but unfortunately we didn’t have the chance to since we split our time between Oahu and Kauai. We also tend to travel a little more leisurely when we bring our 2 year old!
- Waimanolo Beach
- Lanikai Beach
- Consider kayaking to the Mokulua Islands (mokes)
- Kailua Beach
- Ala Moana Beach Park
- Hanauma Bay
- Great for snorkeling
- $7.50 per person for 12 years and older, $1.oo parking fee
TAKE A HIKE
- Easy, popular (crowded) hike with beautiful view of Waikiki & the Island
- Great trail with kids, paved path (stroller accessible), easy hike to the lighthouse
- For more of a challenge – check out Makapu’u tide pools
- Disclaimer: this isn’t the Makapu’u tide pools, but we did see a trail and followed it found a mini tide pool and some beautiful waters with few people around. This was at the start of the Makapu’u Lighthouse trail and then we ran back to catch up with the family to finish off the trail!
Duy’s cousin who lives in Oahu, took us on this hike. She’s a huge fan of ridge hikes. This one is great due to the changing landscapes and the beautiful panorama view of Hawaii.
Unfortunately, we got caught in some rain while doing this hike, but once we got to the top, it stopped! The view was more spectacular in person as some clouds rolled in right when I started taking some photos! We left our tot with Grandma for this hike and good thing we did as it was a little dangerous with the rain that came down.
Other hikes I wanted to check out, but didn’t have the chance to:
- Lanikai Pillbox Hike
- Sunrise hike is a MUST! I would recommend doing it on the first day you arrive as you are likely going to be jet lagged and be up early anyway!
- Koko Crater Trail
- Manoa Falls
- Ehukai Pillbox Hike (North Shore)
Head to a Luau
I had this idea that the luau was going to be very cheesy and overrated, but I ended up loving it. The whole family really enjoyed the luau and I would highly recommend that that you go to one on your first trip to Hawaii!
Chief’s Luau has since moved from when we saw the show initially in 2017 from the Sea Life Park to Wet ‘N Wild Park. I would recommend getting to the show early as they have fun pre-show activities beforehand. You can get tattoos, create a head piece, learn how to start a fire, etc. The show started at 5PM and we ended up leaving around 8/8:30PM. We had Royal Experience tickets, which gave us front row seating, additional drink tickets, and allowed us to skip the lines.
The Chief was super hilarious. If you get easily offended, you may not enjoy his jokes, but I thought he was entertaining. Our toddler was more interested in roaming around vs. watching the show, so depending on the age of your kids, that would definitely be something to consider!
Other luaus that I’ve heard good reviews on:
EXPLORE NORTH SHORE
We were short on time so we did as much of North Shore as we could in one day. I would definitely recommend more time exploring North Shore as there are so many places to see!
- World famous surfing spot, come to see the surfers catch some waves!
- Famous for the Pipeline Masters Surf Contest
- We were planning to go to Sunset Beach to check out the sunset, but couldn’t make it in time so we decided to stay and watch the sunset here
- We stopped by this resort to see if we could find some turtles, but instead we found a Hawaiian Monk Seal!
- If you are lucky, you will find a turtle laying on the beach here!
- Otherwise, the beach views are spectacular at sunset as well!
Other places to check out in North Shore:
- Dole Plantation
- Don’t forget to try the pineapple soft serve!
- Waimea Bay
- Try cliff jumping if you dare!
- Shark’s Cove
- Great for snorkeling in the summer
- Besides shopping, you can stop by and see a cute little hula dance at their Centerstage (depending on season)
- There is also a koi fish pond that runs through the middle of the mall
- The best part of Ala Moana would be the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk, which is a Japanese food court. We liked everything we tried from the various vendors and they have also have $1 beers! My food guide will be coming soon!
- Open area flea market for souvenirs
- We didn’t personally buy much besides a few little souvenirs, but our moms really liked looking through the stuff here
- Look for discounted ticket prices for luaus and other activities here
There are a lot of farmer’s markets in Hawaii, check out:
Kid Friendly Attractions
We didn’t do any of these attractions as my 2 year old enjoyed just going to the beach, but depending on the ages of your kids, you may want to check out:
There is seriously SO much to do in Oahu, Hawaii. Definitely make sure you venture out of Waikiki and explore all the different areas of the Island. Oahu, Hawaii with kids is the perfect family vacation! I can’t wait to make my trip back. I will be doing a food guide next, so stay tuned for all my favorite eats!
Let me know what you thought – was Oahu overrated and touristy or did you love it? Any other suggestions on what to see or do in Oahu, Hawaii with kids and without?!
Don’t forget to check out my Kauai guide as well!
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* We had a complimentary stay at The Shoreline Hotel Waikiki, but as always all opinions are our own and we wouldn’t recommend a stay that we didn’t enjoy!