Aloha, fellow Oahu adventurers!
I’ve spent countless hours researching and experiencing the best of Oahu’s family-friendly tours, handpicking activities that will keep both kids and adults entertained. But let me tell you – I’ve been feeling a bit like Indiana Jones here, navigating through a jungle of tour options with my boyfriend by my side.
You see, we’ve traveled to Oahu many times with our loved ones, and I know how important it is to keep everyone happy on vacation. My mission? To help you find the perfect tour that caters to your family’s interests while eliminating any worries or stress.
Throughout our island escapades, we’ve discovered incredible circle island tours, awe-inspiring ziplining adventures over lush rainforests, and thrilling horseback rides on breathtaking North Shore beaches. And guess what? There are fantastic perks for families too! We’re talking discounts, free tickets for children, small-group excursions just for your tribe – even local guides who specialize in entertaining keiki (kids).
Warning: You might actually have such a good time on these tours; your family will be begging to extend the vacation!
Now grab your sunscreen and let’s dive into an unforgettable Oahu adventure together!
Polynesian Cultural Center Tour and Luau
The Polynesian Cultural Center on the North Shore offers an incredible display of old Hawaiian customs and traditions through six immersive village replicas. Touring the Center is a perfect day trip for families as they can engage in cultural activities like lei-making and hula lessons, followed by an entertaining luau in the evening.
The tour takes you through the villages of Hawaii, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, Fiji, and more. Here, you can explore each culture’s traditions through interesting hands-on workshops like playing the ukulele, trying Samoan cooking techniques, spear-throwing, and rowing an outrigger canoe.
Towards the evening, you can attend the Ali’i luau which includes a terrific show called ‘Ha: Breath of Life’ with hula dances and fire performances. In addition, the luau dinner is a delicious meal, which is kept family-friendly with no alcoholic beverages served.
My boyfriend and I always bring our families to the Polynesian Cultural Center, especially our nieces and nephews who love the activities. Here’s why it’s the best Oahu tour for families:
- You’ll learn about Hawaiian history during the luau through stories of earlier generations.
- Kids can get temporary tattoos, and adults can learn the Hukilau fishing technique of old Hawaiians in the pre-show.
- Your ticket includes a three-day pass to reenter the villages and explore them.
Waikiki Glass Bottom Boat Tour
Oahu is home to tons of native marine life hubs, which you can explore through boat tours and see the sea creatures up close. So take this glass-bottom boat tour from Waikiki, which is perfect for families with children as you can see turtles, dolphins, and tropical fish swimming by without getting into the water.
The tour departs from Kewalo Basin Harbor in Waikiki and sails towards the Diamond Head volcano. The boat’s captain steers to a magnificent coral reef that attracts schools of tropical fish, Hawaiian green sea turtles, eels, spinner dolphins, and reef sharks. Children and adults alike will love seeing the marine life up close as it swims past the glass-bottom boat’s viewports.
In addition, the trip passes by one of Hawaii’s shipwrecks, which is an incredible sight.
My boyfriend and I loved taking this trip with our family and seeing the beautiful marine life, and it’s also one of the best Oahu tours for families.
- An onboard guide gives great insights into the Park’s sea life and its habitats.
- You’ll enjoy breathtaking views on the deck of the Waikiki shores and the distant volcano.
- This tour is ideal for children who haven’t learned to swim or snorkel yet as they can still see marine life.
Horseback Riding on the North Shore
Oahu has a history of cattle ranches run by Hawaiian cowboys (called paniolos) which have been around for decades. Today, you can ride horses on these well-maintained ranches, as there are great horseback riding tours for people of all ages and skill levels, like at the Gunstock Ranch.
The Ranch offers a great 1.5-hour horseback riding tour which allows riders to walk their horses along the North shore’s mountainside trails with stunning ocean views. You’ll be matched to horses according to your skill level and led by expert wanglers who maintain your safety throughout, making the tour ideal for families.
In addition, the Gunstock Ranch has pony rides for younger children between the ages of two and seven, where they can learn to ride gentle creatures alongside guides and their parents.
My boyfriend and I love horseback riding on the North shore, and it’s also one of the best Oahu tours for families.
- You’ll learn to ride like an authentic paniolo from your guides on the ride.
- The instructors narrate stories of the Ranch and the history of paniolos.
- The tour only takes small groups at a time, so everyone gets individual attention.
Swimming with Sharks in Oahu
Oahu’s North shore holds many wonders, and a chance to swim with sharks is one of them! As scary as it sounds, the tour is completely safe, as you’ll be inside a cage and led by expert instructors who always maintain your safety. This tour is also ideal for children from all age groups, as older kids can go underwater in the cage, and younger ones can stay on the boat to see marine life from the deck.
You’ll sail to the shark diving area on a boat, and encounter spinner dolphins, green sea turtles, and even humpback whales breaking the shore. Then, after receiving a safety briefing divers are lowered into the protected cage with their guides, and can see a variety of shark species up close, such as Galapagos, Hammerhead, and Sandbar sharks.
In addition, the sharks can range from 5-15 feet in length, depending on their age, and swim right up to the cage to make eye contact with you.
We had a thrilling experience swimming with sharks on the North shore, and it’s one of the best Oahu tours for families looking for a thrilling adventure.
- The clear waters increase underwater visibility up to 200 feet, so you can see the sharks coming from a distance.
- Groups of eight divers can go at once in the cage, so families can go together.
- The crew is terrific and keeps passengers safe and entertained at all times.
Circle Island Tour of Oahu
If you want to see the top sites in Oahu in one visit, a circle island tour is the best way to do it. The full-day tour is great for families as you get to swim and snorkel in Oahu’s best beaches, visit coffee and pineapple plantations, and enjoy lunch at famous local eateries.
The tour begins with pickups from your hotel on a comfortable bus, then drives to the Diamond Head beach to see surfers ride the waves and the Halona Blowhole as it spouts water at great heights. You’ll also stop at Oahu’s gorgeous beaches, like Sandy beach, Haleiwa beach, and Eternity beach, for swimming and snorkeling.
Additionally, the trip includes sampling the island’s best fare, like macadamia nuts from the Tropical Macadamia Nut Farms, fresh fruit from the Kahuku farms, a shrimp lunch from Kahuku, and Oahu’s golden pineapples from the Dole Plantation.
My boyfriend and I loved taking the circle island tour and seeing the many gorgeous sights, and it’s one of the best Oahu tours for families.
- The tour includes bottled water and snorkeling equipment for the guests.
- A stop at Green World Coffee Farms lets you sample coffee from beans grown on the island.
- You’ll learn about Hawaii’s history and culture from your guide.
Sea Life Park Tour
Experience an aquarium like no other at the Sea Life Park in Oahu, which is nestled between the Ko’olau Mountains and Makapuu Point. The Sea Life Park is ideal for families as they can interact with unique marine life habitats, and see them up close, such as sea lions, dolphins, penguins, and sea turtles.
The Park aims to educate people about Hawaii’s native marine wildlife and preserve their natural habitat through immersive exhibits. For example, the Humboldt Penguin is a great exhibit to watch these South American birds swim, waddle, and dive. Another one of our favorites is the Discover Reef Touch Pool, where sea stars, urchins, and baby Hawaiian green sea turtles (called honu) interact in the only active breeding colony in the US.
In addition, the Park has an aviary where guests can see its free-flying birds such as cockatiels or lovebirds, and even feed them during their visit.
We loved exploring the Sea Life Park and its many interactive displays, and it’s one of the best Oahu tours for families.
- The trainers explain the behaviors of each sea creature with its exhibit.
- You can see dolphins in action, playing tricks and performing feats in the dolphin show.
- The Park’s Hawaiian Reef Aquarium lets you see sharks and stingrays up close.
East Shore Tour: Kualoa Ranch, Chocolate Tasting and Beaches
Combine sightseeing on Oahu’s beautiful East shore with chocolate tasting on this tour, which is ideal for families as it only takes small groups at a time. You’ll also visit the Kualoa Ranch, known for its lush gardens and vast grounds, and swim in the nearby beach park.
The tour begins with your group taking in views of the Halona Blowhole and Makapuu Lighthouse before heading to the Manoa Chocolate Factory in Kailua. Here, you can learn about the sustainable chocolate-making practices used by local chocolatiers and sample the unique flavors.
The next stop is the Kualoa Ranch, whose stunning mountainscape has made it the backdrop of many major motion pictures. You’ll enjoy a locally sourced lunch at the Ranch before heading to the Kualoa Regional Park, which is ideal for swimming and snorkeling in its calm waters.
We were in awe throughout our trip to East Oahu, and the fun activities made it one of the best Oahu tours for families.
- The tour also stops at macadamia nut farms to sample the fresh nuts and flavored products.
- You’ll visit the Tantalus Lookout Point towards the end to take in aerial views of Oahu.
- The tour takes you to secluded places on the island away from the tourist crowds.
Ziplining on the North Shore
Take part in a thrilling zipline adventure on the North shore from the island’s longest zipline at the Keana Farms in Kahuku. The zipline course has eight side-by-side lines ranging from 500 to 2400 feet in length, which offer stunning views from their height. In addition, the tour is great for families as there are expert instructors present who supervise children and teach them how to ride the lines.
The tour lasts three hours and takes guests on ATVs to reach the zipline site, past farmlands, and lush forests. From there, you’ll get strapped into gear and start your journey on the whisper-quiet ziplines, which steadily increase in speed as you move between them.
The zipline course also has other fun additions like rappels, sky bridges, and scenic boardwalks, which provide unmatched views of the landscape.
My boyfriend and I love ziplining with Keana Farms, and they offer one of the best Oahu tours for families.
- The ziplining is suitable for children aged seven years and older.
- You can ride with an instructor or a family member on the tandem lines.
- The ziplines give beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean and Ko’olau Mountains.
Winding Up The Best Oahu Tours for Families
If you’ve made it this far in the article, you know Oahu has the best tours for families, which offer fun activities for all age groups. You can try cultural activities like attending a luau, interacting with marine life through boat tours, and trying sporty activities like horseback riding and ziplining.
We’ve been bringing our families to Oahu for vacations every other year, and it’s our favorite island in Hawaii because of the entertaining tours on its shores.
Want to introduce children to marine wildlife? Try swimming with sharks on the North shore and visiting the Sea Life Park.
Need to teach your family about Hawaiian culture? Visit the Polynesian Cultural Center and attend its terrific luau.
Want to see the best sights in Oahu in a single day? Take a circle island tour or a tour of the East shore.
When it comes to family-friendly fun, you can never go wrong with Oahu!
Last Updated on March 31, 2023 by Brigitte