Oahu is the most populous of the Hawaiian islands and offers a wide range of activities for the whole family to enjoy, from water sports to unique cultural experiences to hiking trails and much more. Most visitors stay in the bustling neighborhood of Waikiki and rent a car at some point to explore the other parts of the island. I’d highly recommend making time for day trips to the North Shore and Windward Coasts as well as to visit Pearl Harbor and the Polynesian Cultural Center.

We visited Oahu for two weeks with our son, who was nearly 2 years old at the time, and it was a truly memorable family holiday. In this destination guide, I’ll be sharing our recommendations for family-friendly things to do, where to eat and where to stay on Oahu. And I’d love to hear from you too – if you have any questions to help in planning your trip or have recommendations to share, please let me know in the comments!

Where to Stay

Hotel Review - Moana Surfrider, Waikiki, HawaiiMOANA SURFRIDER, A WESTIN RESORT AND SPA
On our last two trips to Oahu, we stayed for two weeks at a time at the Moana. We love the convenient location right the beach, the stunning ocean views and the topnotch restaurants and Beach Bar overlooking Waikiki Beach. Click to read our hotel review for more on our experience.

Like more info? Click to read the latest reviews on TripAdvisor
Turtle Bay Resort North Shore OahuTURTLE BAY RESORT
Turtle Bay Resort is a beautiful oceanfront 800-acre resort on the North Shore, offering many outdoor activities and excursions, from horseback riding to kayaking to golfing and more. We have visited the Turtle Bay Resort two times as part of a day trip, most recently to bring Little T to the pony experience. Click for to read more about our visit.

Like more info? Click to read the latest reviews on TripAdvisor.
SHERATON WAIKIKI
Sheraton Waikiki is a very family-friendly hotel right on Waikiki Beach, featuring an all-ages swimming pool with a large water slide, an on-site creche and Kid's Club and cultural activities for families. In addition, there's a stunning oceanfront infinity pool and the hotel is conveniently located to the shopping centres and restaurants of Waikiki.

Like more info? Click to read the latest reviews on TripAdvisor.
AULANI, A DISNEY RESORT AND SPA
Aulani is a stunning resort with a touch of Disney magic, offering several fantastic swimming pools and a lazy river, a water play splash zone and resort beach. There are many activities on offer, from fire pit storytelling to pool parties with Disney characters, along with a supervised activity center for children.

Like more info? Click to read the latest reviews on TripAdvisor.
FOUR SEASONS RESORT OAHU, KO OLINA
The Four Seasons is a luxury oceanfront resort on Oahu's west coast, close to Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, yet still a relaxing oasis with its own beach. The resort offers an array of recreational activities for the whole family.

Like more info? Click to read the latest reviews on TripAdvisor.

 

Things to Do

Along with its stunning coastline and laid-back countryside, there is a lot to explore on Oahu for a fun family adventure. Some highlights from our Oahu vacation were seeing local marine life up close at the Waikiki Aquarium, bringing our son to the Turtle Bay Resort for his first pony experience, visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center and having a picnic at beautiful Kailua Beach. Here’s a list of our suggestions of family-friendly activities for your visit to Oahu – for more details, have a look at our post: 10 Things to Do on Oahu with Kids.

Outrigger Canoeing off Waikiki Beach, OahuEnjoy water spots at Waikiki Beach
There are plenty of places where you can rent surfboards, stand-up paddle boards, kayaks and other water sport equipment. Taking a surf lesson and going out outrigger canoeing are two great experiences to enjoy at Waikiki Beach! Outrigger canoeing is suitable for all ages and abilities - children ages 3+ are welcome as long as they have their own life jacket or flotation device and a parent or guardian is present to hold the child during the ride.
Kuhio Beach, WaikikiRelax at the family-friendly Prince Kuhio Beach
One of the most kid-friendly beaches in Waikiki is Prince Kuhio Beach, near where you’ll find the Duke Kahanamoku Statue on the boardwalk. The beach is in an area protected from the surf by a break wall, making it a safe spot for swimming with calm waters. There are umbrellas and loungers available to rent and nearby toilets and showers, along with a big ABC store across the road for drinks, snacks and beach gear.
Windsurfing at Kailua Beach Park, OahuTake a day trip to Kailua Beach Park
Due to its steady, cooling trade winds and a protective reef, Kailua Beach Park is popular for all sorts of water sports, mainly windsurfing, kite surfing, kayaking, body boarding and stand-up paddle boarding. With a grassy area near the beach, Kailua Beach Park is also a great place for a picnic and a popular spot for local families. I've shared more from our visits in my Snapshots from Kailua Beach Park post.
Hanauma Bay, OahuGo snorkeling at Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is a beachfront protected park and popular spot for snorkeling. The calm waters of the cove, which is an old volcanic crater, make it ideal for swimming and snorkeling for all ages and abilities. Facilities at this family-friendly spot include a snack shop, lockers and snorkel gear rental services.
Polynesian Cultural CenterVisit the Polynesian Cultural Center
The Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu is an excellent place to visit, featuring authentic villages from 6 Pacific cultures, art and music demos, shows and presentations and plenty of hands-on activities and games. In the evenings, at extra cost, are a luau and performances.
Waikiki AquariumView local marine life at the Waikiki Aquarium
The Waikiki Aquarium offers a good look at a wide array of fish, coral, sea anemones, jellyfish and more in exhibits highlighting the marine communities throughout Hawaii and other parts of the Pacific. There is also an outdoor coral reef exhibit with the typical marine life you’d see snorkeling along Hawaii’s reefs and an interactive area with a tide pool. More details and photos in Our Visit to the Waikiki Aquarium post.
Paradise Cove Luau Experience, OahuExperience a traditional Hawaiian luau
There are several luau venues throughout Oahu where you can get a taste of Hawaiian food, watch the hula and learn more about the local culture. We enjoyed the luau experience at Paradise Cove, which started off in the late afternoon with Hawaiian arts and crafts, activities and demonstrations and then over dinner, we watched performances of the hula and dances from across Polynesia, including the Tahitian dance and Samoan fire-knife dance.
Turtle Bay Resort Horseback Riding OahuGo horseback riding in the countryside or at the beach
Oahu's valleys, forests and beaches are great for horseback excursions, and there are many ranches around the island offering lessons and trail rides. For younger children, some ranches also offer pony rides. We brought Little T to the Turtle Bay Resort for the Pony Experience they offer for children 6 and under - click to read our review about the Pony Experience at the Turtle Bay Resort.
View of the Pacific Ocean from Diamond HeadHike the Diamond Head Trail
Hiking the Diamond Head State Monument is a popular activity with tourists and locals alike, and at the summit you're rewarded with breathtaking views of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean, with the trail bringing you to the edge of a 300,000 year old crater. Allow 1 1/2 to 2 hours for the hike and ideally go in the early morning or late afternoon - make sure to bring plenty of water!
Laniakea Beach, North Shore OahuWatch sea turtles at Laniakea Beach
Laniakea Beach, or Turtle Beach, on the North Shore is a beautiful family-friendly beach and a popular spot for sea turtles to come by to eat the seaweed on the rocks or bask in the sunshine. They're wonderful to see - just keep in mind to always keep your distance and never touch the turtles!
Photo Courtesy of National Parks Service 020523-N-9769P-057Visit the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor
This memorial is built over the remains of the sunken battleship USS Arizona, and marks the resting place of 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on board during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941. It is a memorable and moving experience with starts with a documentary film then visitors take a boat to the memorial.
Sans Souci Beach, OahuGo snorkeling near Waikiki at Sans Souci Beach
Sans Souci Beach is near the Waikiki Aquarium and Honolulu Zoo and is a fairly quiet, family-friendly beach - one of the best spots close to Waikiki for snorkeling and swimming. Follow the rock wall out on the left end of the beach for more fish and better visibility. Nearby facilities include restrooms, showers and food concessions.
Chinaman's Hat off Kualoa Beach Park, OahuHave a picnic at Kualoa Beach Park
If you're visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center or Kualoa Ranch, from Waikiki, chances are you'll be driving by Kualoa Beach Park on the Windward Coast. There's a large grassy area with a small beach that is a good spot to stop for a picnic. Just offshore is the islet of Mokolii (Little Lizard), also known as the Chinaman’s Hat which is now a bird preserve.
Kualoa Beach Park, OahuTake a guided tour to visit Kualoa Ranch's famous filming locations
Kualoa Ranch is a 4000-acre private nature reserve and working cattle ranch on the Windward Coast, a popular spot for horseback riding through its valleys. Kualoa Ranch is also known for its filming locations, with over 50 movies and TV shows filmed there over the years. You can book guided tours to visit popular spots from films including Jurassic Park, Lost, Hawaii Five-O and Pearl Harbor.
Tropical Farms Macadamia Nut Outlet, OahuStock up on macadamia nut products at the Tropical Farms
Also along the Windward Coast and near Kualoa Beach Park is the Tropical Farms macadamia nut farm outlet. Stop in to taste delicious macadamia nut or Kona coffee, sample their wide variety of seasoned or chocolate covered macadamia nuts and stock up on food and cosmetic gifts at reasonable prices.
Matsumoto's Shave Ice, Hale'iwa North ShoreHave a colorful shave ice at Matsumoto
Stop by this famous family-owned shop in Hale'iwa, North Shore, for refreshing shave ice and ice cream in a wide variety of flavours that include cotton candy, guava, honeydew, creamy coconut, and white cake. The queue can very long (we waited about 40 minutes) but it's well worth it to try the delicious creations from this local favorite!
Dole Plantation Train Tour, OahuMake a stop at the Dole Plantation
The Dole Plantation is worth a stop on the way to or from the North Shore for some fun family activities including the Pineapple Express Train Tour, the Plantation Garden Tour, and the Pineapple Garden Maze - and trying out the famous Dole Whip. Expect a queue for that scrumptious treat! The train tour is fun for little ones and my favorite part of the plantation is seeing the different types of pineapples from all over the world.

Where to Eat

Since we stayed in Waikiki, my recommendations are primarily from that neighborhood. You can find more details and photos on most of these Waikiki restaurants in my post – 6 Beachfront Restaurants in Waikiki. Note that while Waikiki can be an expensive place to dine out, you can still find budget eats at King’s Village Shopping Center, the Royal Hawaiian Center Food Court and along Kuhio Avenue.

Tip:  If you’re staying at self-catering hotel room or apartment in Waikiki, then there are Safeway or Foodland grocery stores about 1 to 2 miles away to stock up on essentials and groceries.

Hawaiian Crown Plantation Acai BowlHawaiian Crown Plantation
The Hawaiian Crown Plantation café and shop, just off Kuhio Avenue, offers smoothies, acai bowls, healthy snacks and delicious baked goods - along with a selection of food gifts, fresh pineapple products, chocolate and coffee all grown locally on Hawaiian Crown’s 7 family farms statewide.

Hawaiian Crown Plantation | 159 Kaiulani Ave #105, Honolulu, HI 96815
Vegetable Wrap at Moana Surfrider Waikiki Beach BarThe Beach Bar, Moana Surfrider
The Beach Bar has excellent views overlooking Waikiki Beach and offers a selection of appetizers, sandwiches, burgers and salads. Also a bonus: kid’s meals are complimentary for hotel guests with purchase of an adult meal.

The Beach Bar, Moana Surfrider | 2365 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815
Crispy Thai Salad at Royal Hawaiian Surf LanaiSurf Lanai Restaurant, The Royal Hawaiian
The Royal Hawaiian’s casual eatery, the Surf Lanai, is an outdoor beachfront restaurant offering classic dishes with a tropical twist - tasty sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, soups, salads and fish.

Surf Lanai Restaurant, The Royal Hawaiian | 2259 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815
Cheesecake Factory, WaikikiThe Cheesecake Factory Waikiki
The Cheesecake Factory has to be the most popular place to eat in Waikiki - they don't take reservations and you can expect a wait of an hour or more in the evenings and over the weekend. It's popular because of its wide selection - 250 menu items and more than 50 cheesecakes and desserts - and its great value - the portions are huge!

The Cheesecake Factory | 2301 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
Chicken with Broccoli and Sesame Chicken at P.F. Changs WaikikiP.F. Chang's Waikiki
P.F. Chang's is one of my favorite restaurant chains in the States - my favorite dish is the kung pao shrimp. It's a family-friendly restaurant offering a good kid's menu and the Waikiki restaurant is conveniently located at the Royal Hawaiian Center.

P.F. Chang's | 2201 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
Porcini Crusted Ahi Loin at Beachhouse at the Moana Surfrider WaikikiBeachhouse at the Moana, Moana Surfrider
Some of the best dishes we had during our stay were at Beachhouse at the Moana, the elegant restaurant at the Moana Surfrider. The best tables are right at the end of the veranda overlooking Waikiki Beach.

Beachhouse at the Moana | 2365 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815
Grilled Teriyaki Ahi Steak at Ocean House WaikikiOcean House, Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort
Known for its seafood and slow roasted prime rib, the Ocean House at the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort has outstanding views of Diamond Head and is one of the best spots to watch the sunset. Ocean House also has a great keiki menu.

Ocean House, Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, 2169 Kalia Road, Waikiki, HI 96815
Baby Back Ribs at House without a Key, Halekulani Hotel WaikikiHouse without a Key, Halekulani Hotel
The House without a Key is located in the Halekulani Hotel, a lovely place for oceanfront outdoor dining with live entertainment, offering a great selection from light appetizers to signature entrée dishes such as prime rib, lobster and fresh catch of the day. Check the website for special dinners including a Sunset BBQ.

House without a Key, Halekulani Hotel, 2199 Kalia Road, Honolulu, HI 96815
Steak at Hula Grill WaikikiHula Grill, Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort
The menu at the Hula Grill, located in the Outrigger features local specialties prepared with Hawaiian fresh fish, premium steaks and locally grown produce. We liked the friendly, casual atmosphere, unique menu and the great view of the ocean and the lively Duke’s bar, which is just downstairs.

Hula Grill, Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, 2335 Kalakaua Avenue, Suite 203, Honolulu, HI 96815
Legend Seafood Restaurant, HonoluluLegend Seafood Restaurant, Honolulu
This popular Chinese restaurant in Downtown Honolulu offers a wide variety of authentic dim sum for lunch & other Cantonese-style dishes. We ate well here - good food and reasonable prices!

Legend Seafood Restaurant | 100 N Beretania St #108, Honolulu, HI 96817

Where to Shop

There is no shortage of shops in the Waikiki area, from souvenir stores to luxury boutiques. We like to visit the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu for our favorite brands that we don’t usually find in the UK. If you’re heading to the North Shore, you’ll find a number of souvenir outlets and independent shops in Hale’iwa selling aloha wear, handmade products and artwork at much lower prices than in the Honolulu area.

Groceries & Essentials

  • Food Pantry, 2370 Kuhio Ave – The closest place to Waikiki’s hotels to shop for toiletries, medicine, groceries and baby/toddler essentials. Prices at a slight premium compared to larger grocery stores, although keep an eye out for manager’s specials.
  • ABC Stores, many locations in Waikiki – Convenience store selling deli foods, souvenirs, beach gear, clothing, snacks and some groceries. Great spot for cheap and cheerful beach toys, towels, inflatable mattresses and rings that can be inflated at cashier at small cost.
  • Safeway, 888 Kapahulu Ave – This is a large grocery store near Waikiki with reasonable prices. Great for stocking up on groceries and essentials if you’re staying at a self-catering condo or apartment.

Shopping Centers

  • Ala Moana Center, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd – There are over 300 retailers at this shopping mail, along with several restaurants. Check out the mall’s events webpage for live performances, Farmers Markets and more.
  • Royal Hawaiian Center, 2201 Kalakaua Ave – This shopping mall in the heart of Waikiki has more than 110 shops and restaurants, including a food court, and regularly features hula performances in its outdoor courtyard.
  • Waikiki Beach Walk, 227 Lewers St – A shopping center offering a selection of unique home and clothing boutiques, art galleries and fine dining restaurants.

If you’re traveling with little ones, I’d recommend these two shops for aloha wear, books and toys;

  • Hilo Hattie, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd. #1254 – This shop offers an excellent variety of matching outfits for the whole family, including baby and toddler sizes, with a much better selection of prints and styles than typical souvenir shops.
  • Little People, The Outrigger Waikiki, 2335 Kalakaua Ave – Children’s boutique with a collection of high quality items made in Hawaii, including aloha wear (sizes include baby/toddler), books by local authors and plenty of Hawaiian themed kids’ souvenirs and toys.

More Tips and Reviews

I hope you have found our destination guide helpful in planning your family vacation to this amazing island. Check out our other posts on Oahu for more tips, snapshots and reviews.

Hotel Review: Moana Surfrider, Waikiki 

Travel Tips: Waikiki with a Toddler

10 Things to Do on Oahu with Kids

Our Visit to the Waikiki Aquarium

Pony Experience at Turtle Bay Resort

6 Beachfront Restaurants in Waikiki

Snapshots from Kailua Beach Park, Oahu

Have you visited Oahu and have any recommendations you’d like to share? Or have any questions about planning your own trip? I’d love to hear from you – please let me know in the comments below!

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The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Oahu with Kids

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