With its world class beaches backed by palm trees, amazing watersports opportunities, immersive educational venues, and fun-packed Disney themed resorts, the Hawaiian capital of Honolulu on the island of Oahu is a haven for families. Idyllic year-round weather and an enticing fusion of Western and Eastern cultures add to the innate charm and appeal of the island and its capital city, where dining, nightlife and shopping provide plenty of adult entertainment too.
If you’re planning a trip to Oahu with children in tow and would like to plan some fun and exciting things to see and do that suit their tastes, we’ve done some research and picked out 12 of the most family-friendly activities, events and places of interest that the island and its famous capital have to offer. We hope you find our selection useful.
Attend an authentic Hawaiian Luau
There are few more quintessentially Hawaiian activities than a luau, a traditional party or feast complete with live music and hula dancing. Many visitors try to fit a luau into their itinerary, and those who wish to do so certainly aren’t short of options, with regular luaus held across Oahu and beyond. Each luau event typically includes a lavish buffet dinner, drinks, and an authentic Polynesian dance and music show. Kids aged five or below are typically allowed in for free.
Get submerged with sharks
While shark diving may sound like an activity that should be the preserve of adults, thanks to One Ocean Diving this magical experience has been opened up to kids in Oahu too. As well as performing important research duties, the renowned local company also operates regular recreational shark diving expeditions that leave adventure-seekers with memories to last a lifetime. There are a variety of programs on offer, including the option to observe the mesmerising marine animals from the vantage point of a boat, or the full monty that take you deep into the ocean waters, accompanied all the while by professional divemasters and instructors to ensure your experience is both sensational and safe.
Get acquainted with horse riding on a pony
If you’re keen to get your little ones into horse riding, then a pony ride is the ideal way to ease them in gently. Located in one of the most scenic spots on Oahu’s North Shore, Gunstock Ranch offers kids’ pony rides for riders aged 2-7 years old. An experienced ‘wrangler’ leads the small horse while the child sits in the saddle enjoying the sensations and the beautiful ranch scenery. Parents can choose to either walk or ride a horse alongside their child. After the ride, your littles one has the chance to feed and pet their four-legged transport. Tours can be booked through Viator.com.
Discover exotic marine life
Let the kids get up close and personal with an array of exotic marine life during a fun-packed day at Sea Life Park. Overlooking Makapu’u Beach, the park features a total of 5 unique habitats and exhibits, including penguins, lovebirds, sea lions, rays, sharks, and more. Highlights include the Discover Reef Touch Pool, where you can encounter sea stars, urchins, and even baby honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles) at America’s only active breeding colony. There are dolphin shows and daily trainer talks too. Single-day admission including transportation from select Waikiki locations can be purchased at GetYourGuide.com.
LOCATION 41-202 Kalanianaʻole Hwy, Waimanalo HOURS Mon-Sun 9am-4pm
Peruse an amazing array of Hawaiian art
Dating back to the late 19th-century, the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum is Hawaii’s biggest museum and a favourite family attraction for those occasional rainy days on the island. It is home to not only the world’s most extensive collection of Hawaiian and Polynesian art and artefacts, but also a major display of zoological, entomological, and natural history specimens. There’s also a science centre, a planetarium, a hall for traveling exhibits, and a native plant garden.
LOCATION 1525 Bernice Street, Honolulu HOURS Mon-Sun 9am-5pm
Swim with the fishes at a state park
Offering an ideal way to introduce children to the wonders of marine ecosystems, Hanauma Bay State Park is a mecca for snorkelers thanks to the myriad of tropical fish that live here. There’s also a marine education center designed to teach visitors about marine preservation, as well as the safety rules around the park. For absolute relaxation after a long day of marine life exploration, the park is also home to a beach that boasts the honour of recently being voted the best in the US.
LOCATION 7455 Kalanianaʻole Highway, Honolulu HOURS Weds-Mon 6am-6pm Closed Tues
Check out a fascinating discovery centre
Spread across some 38,000 square feet near downtown Honolulu, the Children’s Discovery Center features a huge mix of hands-on interactive exhibits designed to teach, entertain and inspire in equal measure. The venue is split into four distinct areas, including one focussed on the human body, another on town centres, another on the history of Hawaii, and a final zone dedicated to teaching kids about other countries and cultures. Little surprise that more than 200,000 visitors descend here each year.
LOCATION 111 Ohe Street, Honolulu HOURS Tues-Fri 9am-1pm Sat-Sun 10am-3pm Mon 10.30am-1.15pm
Visit a captivating zoo
Set within a pristinely landscaped zoological and botanical garden, a short hop from Waikīkī Beach, Honolulu Zoo contains over 1,230 tropical animals. Such exotic species as komodo dragons, orangutans, elephants, primates, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and a variety of African animals can all be viewed in their specially-designed habitats, while the nearby sandy shore provides a perfect recuperation zone after a captivating day viewing animals.
LOCATION 151 Kapahulu Avenue, Honolulu HOURS Weds-Sun 10am-2.30pm Closed Mon-Tues
Cool off at a fun-filled waterpark
Featuring 25 exhilarating rides and attractions, Wet’n’Wild is Hawaii’s only water park and attracts huge numbers of visitors every year. With something to suit every age and predilection, the park is ideal for families. Regular favourites include waterslides that end in a 36-foot free fall into a swimming pool, cruising in a tube along an 800-foot long artificial river, and an interactive children’s playground filled with waterfalls, mini-slides, water cannons, and more.
LOCATION 400 Farrington Highway, Kapolei HOURS Weds-Fri 10.30am-3pm Sat-Sun 10.30am-3.30pm
Marvel at vintage WWII aircrafts
Aviation has played a pivotal role in the history of the region and the Pacific Aviation Museum provides an eye-catching visual narrative of that often tumultuous heritage. The focus of the exhibits is on the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor in Honolulu and World War II more broadly, with two WWII era hangars which survived the infamous attack among the most fascinating exhibits on display. There are also several vintage aircrafts to admire, photo exhibit, a variety of artefacts, and a combat flight simulator. This is a great way for kids of a suitable age to learn about the often tragic realities of war.
LOCATION 319 Lexington Boulevard, Honolulu HOURS Weds-Sun 9am-5pm Closed Mon-Tues
Hike to a magical waterfall
Kids with a taste for adventure and plenty of stamina can embark on a 1-2 hour family-friendly hike that takes in an enchanting 150-foot waterfall. Located along Manoa Falls Trail in Honolulu, the visual splendour of Manoa Falls, with its water cascading powerfully down the mountainside, is a worthy reward for your efforts. The last 100 yards of the hike tend to be the most challenging, involving climbing over large boulders to finally reach the falls.
Delve deep at a top class aquarium
Among Hawaii’s myriad of cherished animal-themed attractions is the Waikiki Aquarium, situated directly on Waikiki Beach, alongside a living reef. One of the oldest aquariums anywhere in America, it houses more than 500 marine species that can be observed by visitors, as well as maintaining more than 3,000 marine specimens as part of its commitment to oceanic preservation. Some of the most notable exhibits here are New Hawaiian Green Sea turtles, Peppermint Angelfish, and one of the world’s rarest fishes.
LOCATION 2777 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu HOURS Mon-Sun 9am-4.30pm