If you are hunting around looking for your next family trip and wanted to go somewhere that was warm, easy and overseas, then take a look at this article about things to do in Hawaii with kids.
We were there recently and thoroughly loved our week of sun drenched fun filled days (and nights) on Oʻahu, the main island.
In this article you will find the best things to do in Hawaii with kids and links to the best places to buy your tours and entry tickets!
Best time to go to Hawaii
Because Hawaii is blessed with year round great weather, (Oʻahu’s temperatures range from 26°C to 31°C all year long) you can really choose just about any time to enjoy the island. If you wanted to be guaranteed perfect dry, sunny days, the best time to visit Hawaii is April-May and September-October.
The dry, summer season runs from April until September, but June to August is very busy (and more expensive) tourist season. We’d recommend planning for an Easter break in April or the Brisbane September school holidays for a balance of well-priced accommodation, dry sunny days and minimal crowds.
The best things to do in Hawaii with kids
Because we spent our week in Waikiki, we have only covered the best things to do on Oʻahu, the main island, but if you wanted to go to Maui or any of the other islands, there are even more things to do! And if you are looking for road trips or scenic drives in O’ahu, then you must check out that post too!
1. Beach time
The most obvious and free thing for families to do in Hawaii is to chill out at the beach. There are no private beaches in Hawaii, which means you can chill out at any beach that you like. The beaches are clean and the water is delightfully warm, often late into the evening.
For your reassurance, some parts of the Waikiki beach have lifeguards on duty. A lifeguard tower is located on Central Waikiki Beach near the Waikiki Police substation (2425 Kalakaua Ave).
The Hilton hotel on Duke Kahanamoku Beach hosts Waikiki’s only saltwater lagoon, which makes a safe, swimming spot for little ones. You can hire peddlos and little canoes and this was one of our favourite beach hangouts during the week we were there.
If you have older kids, you may like to take them out parasailing in Hawaii. We went out on the water from the Koko Marina with a company called Hawaiian Parasail. When you parasail with this company you can get picked up from your hotel and dropped back at no extra charge! You also have the option of choosing which length of line you want ie. how high you want to go up. We chose the mid-range length, but I suspect that they are much the same.
There are many tour companies to choose from, read the reviews of each and see which best suits your family. We enjoyed the one we chose; the staff were efficient and friendly, and we were able to buy photos of our flight on a USB afterwards. For us, parasailing was a definite bucket list item!
3. Snorkelling with wild turtles
Easily the highlight of our time in Hawaii was the trip we took snorkelling with the wild sea turtles. We took a tour with Ocean Joy Cruises and was definitely worth the investment. They take you to the unspoiled Wai’anae coastline where wild dolphins, turtles and other Hawaiian sea life play and flourish. We even got to see many, many humuhumunukunukuapuaa… and if you don’t know what that is, ask your kids. If they watch Octonauts, they will know!
It is a half day trip with a delicious lunch included. We saw dolphins at a distance and wild sea turtles up close and personal. The water was clear, clean and warm. Master 12 even got to drive the boat. We didn’t want to leave at the end of the tour! This tour is suitable for all ages as it is only a half day so not to strenuous for younger kids.
4. Hike Diamond Head
Diamond Head is approx. a 2 mile/40 min walk from Waikiki to the park entrance, so it is doable, but we opted for the public transport option. Public buses are easy to use and available for a reasonable price – $2.75 per adult per journey or $5.50 for a 1 day pass, $1.25 per child (under 17) or $2.50 for a 1 day pass, under 5s are free. You can get a great deal on the Go Oahu card by reading this review.
There is a nominal $1 entry fee per person (adults and children) to the park.
The hike takes about 30 mins from the park entrance in the middle of the volcano. It is a short but strenuous hike, being all uphill and there is not much shade along the way. It is not suitable for pushchairs or flip flops. You’ll need proper walking shoes, suntan lotion and a water bottle. There is a free water fountain at the start of the trek, near to the toilets, there is nothing further up.
The view from the top is amazing and worth the hot, sweaty, hard work of the hike.
If you fancy seeing Diamond Head (and the rest of Oʻahu), from the air, check out this affordable helicopter ride.
5. Experience a traditional Luau
One of the most traditional things you can do when in Hawaii is take your kids to a luau. Even though I have been to Hawaii 3 times prior to this trip, I had never made it to a Luau! There are so many to choose from, that the decision can be overwhelming. In the end we decided on Chiefs Luau and we were not disappointed. The luau gives the true meaning to ’dinner and a show’!
At Chiefs Luau we were entertained by Chief Sielu Avea who was the MC. He introduced all the dancers and entertainment. There was fire eating, hula dancing, crowd participation and of course, the dinner. Check around to see which luau best suits your family because there are many on offer.
This one combines Sea Life Park with a luau.
6. Visit the Dole Plantation
Originally a fruit stand in the 1950s, the Dole Plantation is 40-minutes out of Waikiki and is the place to enjoy Hawaii’s “Pineapple Experience”. There are plenty of activities to take advantage of including the Pineapple Express Train Tour, the Plantation Garden tour and the Pineapple Garden Maze, as well as free activities like a pineapple cutting demonstration and a fish-feeding pond. Entry is free and activity packages are available.
7. Picnic at Hanauma Bay
According to Wikipedia, Hanauma is a marine embayment formed within a tuff ring and located along the southeast coast of the Island of Oʻahu in the Hawaii Kai neighbourhood of East Honolulu, in the Hawaiian Islands. Hanauma is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the Island. Many people like to snorkel in the bay, but it has suffered somewhat over the years from overuse. We recommend a picnic and a walk along the shore.
You can get there on this Hanauma Bay shuttle service.
8. Pearl Harbour
Visiting Pearl Harbour with children can be a daunting excursion, especially if you have children younger than five years old. If you are planning a trip to Pearl Harbour with your kids, I would recommend doing some reading (and watching videos) beforehand to get a basic understanding of what happened. There are some fascinating facts at the memorial, (like oil is STILL leaking into the harbour as it is too dangerous to remove it!)
9. Polynesian Cultural Centre
The Polynesian Cultural Centre is a Polynesian-themed theme park and living museum located in Laie, on the northern shore of Oʻahu, Hawaii. The Centre encompasses eight simulated tropical villages, in which performers demonstrate various arts and crafts from throughout Polynesia. Do note however, that this is a constructed theme-park/venue and although the displays and shows are that of the local people, it is made for attracting the tourist dollars. You be the judge if this is right for your family!
You can get your tickets to the Polynesia Cultural Centre here.
Visit Kualoa Ranch
Kualoa is a 4000-acre private nature reserve and working cattle ranch, as well as a popular tourist attraction and filming location on the windward coast of Oʻahu in Hawaiʻi. It is located on the north shore and is where the famous Jurassic Park (and many other) movie was filmed. I love, love, LOVED our visit to Kualoa Ranch.
We booked a tour to visit the ranch and spent a full day exploring the farm and enjoying the activities. Amongst animal patting and relaxing, we also did an hour long horse ride and zip-lining on their stretch of 7 sections of zip lines and 2 suspension bridges through the amazing Ka’a’awa Valley.
Included in our full day tour was a buffet lunch and return transport on an air-conditioned coach. I highly recommend booking in advance as the Kualoa Ranch activities get booked out well in advance.
You can buy your adventure tickets to Kualoa Ranch here.
There are so many things to do in Hawaii. There is also a zoo and an aquarium! We did not visit these on this trip as we have been a many other zoos and aquariums around the world. Whatever you do in Hawaii have a great time! Its an easy and fun holiday destination that can be as peaceful or busy as you choose it to be!
Family friendly accommodation on Oʻahu
We stayed in two different hotels during our stay…
Holiday Inn Express
A great family friendly hotel needs to have a specific range of things to warrant the title ‘family friendly’, so in this article I will explain why the Holiday Inn Express in Waikiki is not only worthy of this title, but certainly gives other hotels in the area a run for their money.
Read our detailed review about the Holiday Inn Express in Waikiki to help you make an informed decision to kick start your Hawaiian holiday with your family!
Check out our other international holiday articles:
This article was featured in Issue 39 of our printed magazine, published April 2020.