Are you planning a big family vacation to Oahu? By just choosing Oahu you are already off to a good start because it’s arguably the best family-friendly travel destination in the world. There are so many Oahu activities for families on this little piece of island paradise.
We recently spent about a year and a half exploring the Hawaiian islands, spending most of that time on the island of Oahu. From stunning beaches and lush rainforests to unique cultural attractions and exciting recreational activities, it just makes sense why Oahu is known as “the gathering place.”
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Our Secret List of Oahu Activities for Families
To make planning your trip easier, we have created a comprehensive list of 46 amazing activities for families visiting Oahu. Whether you are seeking an adrenaline-pumping adventure or just want some quality time together outdoors, our list will help you find it!
This list is our most requested family travel guide as it contains a variety of activities including places to eat that can accommodate all ages and interests. So here is our ultimate list of Oahu activities for families.
Before we get to the list, I want to quickly mention that to fully maximize your family vacation you are going to want to rent a car. Check out everything you need to know about renting a car in Hawaii.
Best Snorkeling Oahu
No family beach vacation would be complete without a snorkeling adventure. Luckily, Oahu has some of the best snorkeling spots in the world! From Hanauma Bay to Shark’s Cove, you will find plenty of colorful fish, sea turtles, and other amazing marine life that the entire family can enjoy.
Here are our favorite Oahu snorkeling spots with kids.
1. Shark’s Cove
Whenever we had friends and family come to visit us we always to them to Shark’s Cove for snorkeling. Located on the north shore of Oahu, this spot is perfect for families as there are shallow, calm waters for the kids to explore.
What many people don’t realize is that two different places at Shark’s offer an amazing snorkeling experience. There is the shallow protected bay on the left which is great for the younger kids and the deeper bay to the right which is better for adults and older kids.
We always spot tons of marine life and turtles on the right however you’ll want to be careful of the ocean conditions as the current can get quite strong.
2. Electric Beach
We love Electric Beach! Also known as “Electrics” by the locals, the official name is Kahe Point Beach Park. Located on the southwest side of Oahu, this spot is known for its abundance of fish (so many fish) primarily because of two huge pipes that bring warm water up from a nearby power plant. We’ve even seen sharks, turtles, and dolphins!
You will need to swim out about 200 yards to reach the pipe openings so being a sound swimmer is best since the currents can be quite strong the further away from shore you get.
3. Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay is perhaps the most famous snorkeling spot in all of Hawaii. This massive bay is located on the east side of Oahu, just a short drive from Honolulu.
The amazing coral reef here attracts tons of fish, turtles, and even octopuses! Hanauma Bay has become so popular that it requires all visitors to watch an educational video before entering the park (it’s actually quite interesting).
They also have a fantastic visitors center that is great for kids and the staff is really knowledgeable about the wildlife in the bay. Best of all, it’s easy to spot fish and other marine life from most spots along the shore!
4. Waimea Bay
Waimea Bay is most commonly known for its beautiful beach and impressive swells but many people don’t know that it is also an incredible spot for snorkeling. Located on the north shore of Oahu, this beach features a protected bay with lots of fish, sea turtles, and even dolphins!
The best snorkeling spots in Waimea Bay are found on the far left side beyond “jump rock” and the along the rocks on the right side.
During the summer months, Waimea Bay can be relatively calm and is great for swimming and snorkeling with the kids. However, during winter months you’ll need to be careful as the ocean can get quite rough.
5. Lanikai Beach
You’ll find Lanikai mentioned multiple times throughout this article because it is just that good. Snorkeling at Lanikai is great because of the protected bay, crystal clear water, and the abundance of coral reef.
It’s also awesome because of its convenient location on the east side of Oahu, it’s easy to get to even if you’re coming from Waikiki or Honolulu.
Best Beaches on Oahu
The number one activity for family vacations to Hawaii is going to the beach. If not, then it should be if you’re coming to Oahu!
Here are our favorite family-friendly beaches on Oahu.
6. Pounders Beach (Laie Beach Park)
Pounders Beach is in the top 3 of our favorite beaches on Oahu. Located in Laie on the east side of Oahu, this beach is stunningly beautiful. It gets its name from the seasonal “pounding” waves hitting the shore and the majestic rocky cliff wall.
It’s a great beach for playing in the waves, body surfing, and boogie boarding. There are also picnic tables and plenty of shade so you can plan an entire day here.
7. Waimea Bay Beach
Waimea Beach is a great spot for families who want to spend the day hanging out on the soft white sand, swimming, and enjoying some of the most beautiful views on the island.
There are also plenty of extra activities for the kids in addition to snorkeling (mentioned above) like jumping off “jump rock,” sliding down the steep sand hills, and swimming in the freshwater river feeding into the ocean. This river is also perfect for the little ones who are not quite ready to graduate to the ocean.
8. Castle Beach Kahuku
Castle Beach is located on the north shore and is perfect for families who want a complete beach experience. It’s perfect for kids to play in the sand, swim and even surf since the waves are just right for beginner surfers.
Don’t get this one confused with Castles Beach in Kailua as it is a bit confusing. The easiest way to find it is to search on google maps Malaekahana Beach Campground.
9. Maakapuu Beach
The stunning Maakapuu Beach could be the prettiest beach on the entire island of Oahu. It is located on the east side of the island and features incredible views of Makapu’u Point and the Koolau Mountains.
The beach has plenty of shallow areas for the kids to play in, making it a great spot for families with young children. The waves can be fairly strong so it’s better suited for older kids who are comfortable in the ocean.
10. Turtle Bay
If you are spending any time on the north shore then be sure to at least stop by the beautiful beaches of Turtle Bay. It is a great place for families because of the shallow and protected waters.
This beach has a lot to offer, from reef snorkeling, swimming, body boarding and stand-up paddleboarding. You can even find wild turtles in the bay!
11. Kewala Beach
Kewala Bay Beach is one of the lesser-known gems on Oahu. Located adjacent to Turtle Bay Resort this secret treasure is tucked back away from the roads so it sees very little foot traffic. It’s a great place to swim or to bring a stand-up paddleboard since the water is generally calm.
It’s tricky to find which serves it well. The best way to locate it is to search google maps for Kewela Bay Beach Park and park off the road near the fruit stand. Then walk down the path toward the water. You’ll know you are on the right path when you come upon the famous Banyan Tree. Don’t forget to take a family photo!
12. Banzai Pipeline
I know what you’re probably thinking. The Banzai Pipeline is kid-friendly? No, DO NOT send your kids out to Banzai-even if they are wearing those fool-proof Mickey Mouse arm floaties 🙂
Seriously though, one of our favorite family activities to do in the evening on Oahu is to pull out the beach blanket and watch the elite surfers. Banzai is a perfect spot to let the kids play in the sand, grab a cold one and watch this epicness happen.
Speaking of epic, the sunsets at Banzai Pipeline are ever-changing and mind-blowing.
13. Sunset Beach
Sunset Beach is another popular beach that comes with a parental advisory. The beach is absolutely breathtaking and the sunsets are to die for but the current is usually quite strong. So keep on going down the road if you’re looking for that perfect boogie-boarding stop.
But, if you’re after a Hawaii sunset photo for your Instagram then this is your place!
Kid Friendly Hikes Oahu
No Hawaiian family vacation would be complete without a hike (or two). Luckily, Oahu has a great selection of kid-friendly hikes that offer stunning views and plenty of adventure.
Here are our top Oahu hikes for kids. We also put together a more in-depth guide for the best family-friendly hikes on Oahu.
14. Lanikai Pillboxes
Arguably the kid friendly hike with the prettiest view is Lanikai Pillboxes. Also known as the Kaiwa Ridge Trail this hike ascends to overlook the beautiful Lanikai Beach.
The 2.2 mile roundtrip hike is fairly easy and the kids will love scrambling up to the two pillboxes that offer stunning ocean and mountain views in all directions.
15. Diamond Head
The most iconic hike on Oahu is Diamond Head. This short but steep climb will take you to the summit of the volcanic tuff cone and offer 360 degree views of Waikiki, Honolulu, and beyond.
The Kids will love running up the tunnels to get a real feel for what it was like for soldiers during World War II while they defend their post.
This is an easy hike with big rewards, plus the kids will love telling all of their friends that they hiked Diamond Head!
16. Baby Makapuu Tidepools
The baby Makapu’u tidepools are a unique set of 4-5 tidepools that are easily accesible and fun for kids of all ages. It’s not really a hike since you can almost drive right to them but the adventure starts once you get down to the beach and look for them.
Kids will love exploring these unique tidepools that are filled with all sorts of sea creatures, such as crabs and fish. And there’s even a secret cave that some kids might find!
17. Waimano Falls
Waimano Falls is a great hike if you don’t mind getting your feet wet. The 3-mile roundtrip trail takes you to two beautiful waterfalls and swimming holes and a rope swing! A fun reward for a pretty challenging hike especially if it has been raining. This one is best for the older kids.
The falls can be slippery so we recommend wearing appropriate shoes with good traction. And of course, never leave children unattended near the water.
18. Maunawilli Waterfalls
Maunawilli Falls is a fun family-friendly hike that takes you to two stunning waterfalls deep in the lush jungle of Oahu. It is a longer hike and has some steep terrain so probably best for older kids or younger kids carried in the backpack carrier.
The 3-mile roundtrip trail offers plenty of adventure with stream crossings, tunnels, and ropes.
Kids will love scrambling their way up to the twin falls which offer an incredible view of the valley and nearby ocean.
19. Judd Trail – Jackass Ginger Pool
If you’re looking for a kid-friendly hike that is both adventurous and rewarding at the same time, then it doesn’t get much better than the Judd Trail. The trail takes you to two hidden pools of water -the Jackass Ginger Pool and the Black Hole – with plenty of scrambling and rope work along the way.
The trails is a 2.6 mile loop but we always get distracted playing at the Jackass Ginger pool located about a mile in. Fun for kids of all ages.
20. Pele’s Chair
Heading to the Kaneohe side? Then make sure you check out Pele’s Chair, an interesting formation of ancient lava rock that was formed by a volcanic eruption.
The hike is 1-1.5 miles roundtrip and leads to stunning views of the bay and surrounding mountains. The path is flat so it makes for an easy walk for young kids.
21. Makapuu Lighthouse – Tidepools
Located in the same parking lot as Pele’s Chair the Makapu’u Lighthouse trail is another great kid-friendly hike. The paved 2-mile roundtrip trail leads you to a stunning overlook of Makapu’u Beach and to the lighthouse where you can enjoy incredible views of the ocean. Lots of whales here during whale season.
The trail is stroller friendly however it is quite steep and exposed so it is probably best to go early in the morning to avoid the afternoon heat.
Bonus tip: The nearby tidepools and blowholes are also perfect for exploring as they are filled with interesting sea creatures. But, only go to the tidepools if you are carrying little kids in carriers because it’s a little tricky for toddlers and younger.
Directions: Drop off the lighthouse trail to the right when you get to the whale-watching sign. Follow the safest-looking path down to the water.
22. Pillbox Hike Sunset Beach
If you’re looking for an easy hike with stunning ocean and mountain views in all directions, then look no further than the Pillbox Hike at Sunset Beach. This 2.6-mile roundtrip trail takes you up to two pillboxes that were used as observation posts during WWII.
The trail is steep and slippery in places, especially after the rain so good hikers are advised. Park at Sunset Elementary and follow the signs and people up the mountainside.
23. Pink Pillbox
Known as the ‘Pink Pillbox Hike’ or ‘Maili Point Hike’ this 1.6-mile roundtrip trail is a fun switchback trail that takes you up to two pillboxes-one painted a very bright pink! But the pillboxes themselves are not the main highlight but the views!
The hike is fairly short but it is steep from the start and exposed to the sun so it’s best to go earlier in the day.
24. Kaena Point Walking Trail
Kaena Point walking trail is a longer (about 5.5 miles round trip) but all-flat and extremely scenic terrain that takes you to the westernmost point of Oahu. You can do this hike from both directions Waianae or from the north shore.
The path is sandy with plenty of interesting landmarks and wildlife along the way including a military bunker, abandoned railroad tracks, and a sacred Hawaiian heiau (temple). Perfect for a day hike or sunset stroll.
It doesn’t have any shade so another hike that is best done in the morning or evening.
Best Eats Oahu
With all of this adventuring, you’re going to get hungry! There is no better place to eat than on Oahu. Here is our tested list of the best eats on Oahu.
25. Papa Ole’s Hauula
This little Mom and Pop shop in Hauula is a must-visit spot for the local grinds. You can’t miss it, it’s truly an authentic Hawaiian bbq experience offering large portions and superb quality.
It’s small so not much for seating but we like to grab it to go and head over to the beach for a picnic.
26. Seven Brothers Burgers – North Shore
This just might be our favorite place to eat in all of Hawaii. Best burgers and fries on the planet. I can’t begin to count how many times we have eaten here! The serving sizes are generous and the food is five stars.
They have four locations, Laie, Kahuku, Shark’s Cove, and Haleiwa-all located on the north shore. Not always available so if you spot ‘Mac Coconut Shrimp’ on the menu order it-it will change your life.
27. Surf-n-Salsa Haleiwa
Also located in Haleiwa is Surf-n-Salsa a family-owned food truck that serves up the best Mexican/latin food on the island. Again true to form for Oahu, the portions are huge!
For those picky kiddos they do a kid-friendly quesadilla that is sure to be a hit. The seating is outside but has a fun vibe to it.
28. Matsumoto Shave Ice Haleiwa
Looking for a cold treat that the entire family will remember forever? Matsumoto’s Shave Ice in Haleiwa is your place. With over 50 flavors, this is a must-stop location while you’re in town.
They also have a cool gift shop with fun trinkets and souvenirs to take home with you. So grab your cones and explore the souvenirs before heading back to nature.
29. Papi’s Taco Food Truck Kahuku
Best tacos on Oahu hands down. It’s just a small taco truck off the beaten path in Kahuku but don’t let that fool you. The tacos are amazing-juicy and delicious!
Open most days from 11:00 a.m – 8:00 p.m make sure to get there early as they tend to sell out fast.
30. Leonard’s Bakery
If you’re a fan of malasadas (Portuguese donuts) this is your spot. Leonard’s Bakery in Honolulu has been around for over 50 years and their malasadas are legendary. Light, fluffy, oozing with sweetness- this is the real deal!
They also have other baked goods like puff pastries, cookies, and cakes but the malasadas are the best.
31. L&L Hawaiian Barbeque
We can’t forget the classic Hawaiian Barbeque-L&L. All traditional Hawaiian plate lunches at great prices and quality.
Staples like teri chicken, BBQ beef, fried mahimahi-all served up with a scoop of white rice and some mac salad. The real Hawaiian plate lunch experience.
32. Pupukea Grill Food Truck
If you’re looking for something a bit more unique, Pupukea Grill Food Truck should be your spot. This tiny food truck is tucked away across from Shark’s Cove but don’t let that fool you.
They serve up delicious blate lunches with an interesting twist- adding Hawaiian flavors to their sauces for the perfect blend.
33. Poke Bowls at Foodland
Ok, unless your kids are different than mine this one is more for the parents. The poke bowls at Foodland are a must-try. Chunks of fresh fish, seaweed salad, ginger dressing – all with a Hawaiian twist.
It’s fast and flavorful! Be sure to pick up some poke chips while you’re there-they will be the perfect side item for your meal.
34. Ted’s Bakery
The BEST Garlic Shrimp on the island-maybe even the whole world! Ted’s Bakery has been around for years and they have perfected their garlic shrimp dish.
It’s definitely a must-try while you are out exploring the North Shore.
Oahu Activities for Families
When we first arrived on Oahu we were worried that we would get ‘island fever’ and get bored. However, after a full year on Oahu, we never ran out of things to do.
Here are some of the best activities on Oahu for families.
35. Paddle Board Anahulu River – Haleiwa
The Anahulu River in Haleiwa is one of the most popular places to paddle on Oahu. This river is generally smooth and calm making it perfect for beginners and kids.
There are many rental companies located onsite that offer stand-up paddle boards and kayaks by the hour. It’s a perfect way to try something new and adventurous with the whole family.
36. Shark Cage Experience
We have mixed feelings about this experience but it is one of the activities that we often talk about when we think about Oahu. Being in the water with these beautiful fish and large predators is an amazing experience that no one in the family will forget.
We highly recommend doing this half-day shark cage adventure because the team is great with kids and operates professionally.
37. Climbworks Zipline
This is by far the best zipline adventure on Oahu! You get 8 really fun lines and not just short ones. One line is a half-mile long.
The staff is friendly and knowledgeable and the views are incredible. It’s a great way to get your family outdoors for an adventure that everyone will enjoy.
38. Kayak to Sandbar at Kaneohe Bay
The Kaneohe Sandbar is one of the most popular sandbars to paddle to in the world. It’s located in Kaneohe Bay and only accessible by boat or kayak.
Once you get to the sandbar, it’s nothing but crystal clear water and white sand-the perfect spot for a day of fun with the family. Pack some food, lots of sunscreen and some beach toys, and enjoy!
39. Kayak to Mokulua Islands
Take the family on a kayak tour to the twin Mokulua islands. It’s a beautiful paddle with some breathtaking views of the east side of Oahu.
Once you get there, it’s great for snorkeling and swimming-just make sure to bring enough snacks and sunscreen! You can do this adventure yourself by renting kayaks from a local vendor or if you prefer a guide we recommend going with this Twin Mokulua Tour.
40. Polynesian Cultural Center
Get immersed in the Polynesian culture by visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center. It’s located on Oahu’s north shore and is a great way to spend an entire day learning about different island cultures.
There are interactive demonstrations, shows, food, shopping and more! It’s one of our favorite places to take visitors and it’s definitely worth the drive up north.
41. Toa Luau at Waimea Gardens
To put the cherry on top of your Hawaiian family vacation schedule in a luau. There are several good options on the island but we suggest going with Toa Luau at Waimea Gardens.
We really like how intimate this luau is. It’s a smaller setting so you get to really experience the culture and connect with the people that are there.
The food is absolutely delicious featuring a traditional Hawaiian plate plus some fun twists like kalua pork quesadillas, teriyaki beef skewers, and poke tacos!
42. Swim with Dolphins
This is the ultimate experience in Oahu! Swimming with dolphins is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you and your family won’t forget.
We highly recommend spending the day at Sea Life Park and taking part in their interactive dolphin program. You get to feed, touch, and swim alongside these majestic creatures of the sea.
It’s truly an amazing experience that you’ll be talking about for years to come!
43. Pearl Harbor
No trip to Oahu is complete without a visit to Pearl Harbor. The USS Arizona Memorial is the most visited site in Hawaii and we highly recommend it as part of your itinerary.
This solemn experience will be one of the most memorable parts of your vacation. Make sure to book tickets ahead of time because they usually sell out early.
44. Dole Pineapple Plantation
If you have kids with you, a stop at the Dole Pineapple Plantation is a must. They will love running around the plantation and learning about how pineapples are grown.
And of course, no visit to Dole is complete without trying the famous ‘Dole Whip’ pineapple ice cream. It’s delicious!
45. Kualoa Ranch
Kualoa Ranch is one of the most unique places to visit on Oahu. It’s a 4,000 acre working cattle ranch and has been featured in a number of Hollywood films and TV shows like Jurassic Park, LOST, Hawaii Five-O and more!
At Kualoa you can go horseback riding, zip lining, explore the ranch on an ATV, or take a movie tour to see some of your favorite filming locations. It’s definitely a unique experience you can only get on Oahu.
46. Turtle Beach – Laniakea
Head to the north shore and check out Laniakea turtle beach. This is one of the few beaches on Oahu where you can observe sea turtles in their natural habitat.
If you’re lucky, you might even get to swim with them! Just make sure to be respectful and don’t touch or feed the turtles-you don’t want to scare them away or stress them in any way. It’s a great experience, and there’s nothing quite like watching these gentle creatures glide through the water.
Oahu Activities for Families FAQ
Planning a family vacation to Oahu is a fun and exciting experience. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about Oahu family activities.
What is there to do in Oahu with kids?
There is so much to do in Oahu with kids. Beach time, hiking, snorkeling, paddle boarding, cultural activities, and don’t forget the good eats including shave ice, pineapple ice cream, and malasadas! Above we just listed 45 of our favorite activities to do with our family-but there is so much more!
Is Oahu a good family vacation?
Oahu is an excellent destination for family vacations! With its spectacular beaches, diverse activities, and delicious food-it’s the perfect place to make lasting memories with your loved ones. Plus, there’s plenty of accommodation options available so you can find something that fits in your budget.
Which island is better for kids Maui or Oahu?
Having spent considerable time on both islands they both have their pros and cons. Oahu offers more to do in terms of attractions and activities while Maui tends to have better beaches and natural wonders. So it really depends on what kind of experience you are looking for! But no matter which island you choose, both will provide your family with an amazing vacation experience.
Is 7 days enough for Oahu?
Seven days is the perfect amount of time to spend on Oahu with kids. Anything less wouldn’t be enough and anything more may be pushing it. With seven days you can see and do the main attractions, plus have plenty of time to relax on the beach or explore some of the hidden gems.
Do we need a car in Oahu?
Yes. It is best to rent a car in Oahu to be able to maximize your family experience. Public transportation is available, but having a car will give you the freedom to explore the island at your own pace. Plus, it’s an excellent way to get off the beaten path and discover some of Oahu’s best kept secrets!
What time of year is best to go to Oahu?
Oahu is one of the few places where your experience will be amazing any time of the year. However, if you are looking for the best weather, then June, July, and September is the best time to visit. During these periods the high temperature ranges from 83-88 degrees and there’s usually little to no rain. It’s the perfect time to enjoy all of the outdoor activities Oahu has to offer!
Is Oahu an expensive vacation?
Yes and No. While it can be an expensive destination, there are many ways to make your vacation to Oahu more affordable. For example, using frequent flyer miles or travel rewards points can save you thousands. Also, look for package deals on flights and hotels that offer discounts. Plus, there are a lot of free tourist attractions or activities such as the beach or a hike in one of the parks. Finally, if you plan ahead and take advantage of the discounts available, you can have an amazing and affordable vacation in Oahu!
What part of Hawaii is best to visit for the first time?
To get a well-rounded taste of the Hawaiian islands for the first time I suggest visiting Oahu. With its bustling city life, stunning beaches, and cultural attractions-it’s the perfect way to experience what Hawaii has to offer. Plus, it’s easy to get around by car and there are plenty of accommodations available so you can find something that fits in your budget.
What month is the cheapest to visit Hawaii?
The cheapest months to visit Hawaii are during the shoulder seasons. These run March-May and September up until thanksgiving. During these months you will find the lowest prices for flights and hotels. Plus, it’s still nice enough to enjoy all the outdoor activities Oahu has to offer. So if you are looking to save some money-these months are perfect!
Wrapping It All Up: Oahu Activities for Families
Oahu is an amazing destination for families! Whether you want to relax on the beach, explore some of Oahu’s hidden gems, or visit one of its many attractions there’s something here for everyone. With seven days and a car rental, you can make the most out of your time in Hawaii while still keeping within budget if you plan ahead. Don’t forget that March-May and September up until Thanksgiving are typically the cheapest months to visit so keep these dates in mind when planning your trip! So get ready to create unforgettable memories with your family this year!