My boyfriend and I recently took our annual Hawaii trip, accompanied by my sister and her three kids ages four to ten. Oahu is the perfect destination for families with children of all ages; with lots of beaches, malls, sea parks, and yummy food, there’s something to keep everyone entertained.
We made sure that the kiddos had plenty of kid-friendly luaus to explore, toy stores to shop in, and horses to ride – it was a great opportunity for us adults too! It was so much fun planning activities around them and seeing how excited they were.
I’m now officially an expert on what Oahu has to offer for kids and can confidently say that it’s one of the best family spots out there.
We found that Oahu is a great destination for families with younger children or teenagers; the island is full of beaches, malls, sea parks, and lots of delicious food so your kids won’t be bored for even a second! From all our adventures together this trip I now have a list of my top things to do in Oahu that families can enjoy together – speaking from personal experience!
Let’s head into some kid-friendly fun in Oahu!
Attend a Family-Friendly Luau
Luaus are a terrific way to keep kids entertained for hours, as they include dance performances, games, fire shows, and delicious buffet foods. Traditional Hawaiian luaus are usually family-centered events; you can find some great ones in Ko Olina.
Paradise Cove Luau
This is the most famous luau in Oahu, which happens nearly every night at Paradise Cove Beach. However, it fills up quickly, so get reservations beforehand or arrive early.
The luau starts with fun activities for kids like lei making, dancing, and crafts that the kids enjoyed. Then, the dancers started a traditional Hawaiian dance, which was entertaining to watch, and they even took some guests on stage.
Near the end, you get a great buffet-style meal served at your table, with many kid-friendly options on the menu. Finally, enjoy the gorgeous sunset from the beach, which is a great end to the luau.
Ka Wa’a Luau
The Disney Aulani Resort hosts this fun luau and includes guest appearances from Disney characters. They also have great activities like getting tattoos and learning the Ukulele, which my nephew tried and still raves about.
The dance performances afterward are terrific, and a delicious gourmet-style meal is served later. Finally, they end the luau with fireworks from the Resort’s large towers that feel like watching a Disney movie.
We loved the luaus in Oahu, and they’re a perfect activity to take kids of all ages.
- The Disney luau is only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
- The Paradise Cove Luau costs $150 per person (check the Aulani Resort’s website for their fee.)
- You need reservations for the Disney luau as they don’t accept walk-ins.
Meet Local Animals at the Honolulu Zoo
Honolulu’s local zoo is a great place to take kids as there are plenty of animals, and kids can get a closer look at them. The zoo is located between Waikiki and Diamond Head and is small, so you can let kids roam around without fear of getting lost.
The zoo has lots of native Hawaiian plants and animals, like species of mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. The kids were delighted to see lemurs, porcupines, and a Sumatran tiger, which were all well-kept.
Also, kids will enjoy seeing the giraffes being fed, and elephants during their bathing time as they spray water around their trunks.
The zoo offers different tours you can take, like the Twilight tour, where guides explain the animals’ history, exhibit by exhibit. We recommend packing lunch and having a picnic on the zoo’s picnic tables, to get a break from exploring.
Seeing the animals at the zoo was a lot of fun, and we got a few good hours with the kids, which is always a plus. Overall, visiting Honolulu Zoo is one of the most fun things to do in Oahu with kids.
- There’s a $19 admission fee for adults, and $11 for kids, that goes towards maintaining the animals.
- Feeding animals is strictly prohibited here.
- You can get a yearly family membership that allows discounts and visits to the zoo.
- They have a gift shop with great zoo-themed souvenirs.
Go Shopping in Oahu’s Fun Malls
Oahu has some of the largest malls in Hawaii, located in Waikiki and Honolulu, where you can find international and local brands, a big food court, and kids’ play areas.
The Royal Hawaiian Center – Best Mall for Indoor Kid Activities in Oahu
Located in the heart of Waikiki, this shopping mall has indoor and outdoor areas for shopping and public performances. In addition, they have fun cultural programs held often, which include hula dances and lessons, live music shows from bands, and lei-making classes, among many others.
You’ll love the food court at the Royal Hawaiian, which has a Cheesecake Factory, Panda Express, Subway, and local Hawaiian eateries to try shaved ice and desserts. The kids loved spending time here, and we got their favorite snacks from the ABC Store.
Ala Moana Center
This is Hawaii’s biggest mall, with 290 stores, 70 dining options, luxury retail brands, and four major department stores. Plus, festivals and activities are going on all the time, which include kid-friendly games.
Since this place is so big, you have to walk a lot which tires younger kids, so we recommend bringing strollers or improvising with a shopping cart!
They also have the local Hawaiian favorite Foodland Farms in the gigantic food court, where my ten-year-old nephew braved his first poke bowl and really liked it.
Your kids will love these Olympic-sized malls and have fun exploring them, as it’s one of the most fun things to do with kids in Oahu.
- These malls are a walking distance of Waikiki’s resorts, and a taxi will only cost you $10.
- There’s free parking at the Ala Moana Center and free for the first two hours at the Royal Hawaiian Center.
- You can shop from great local Hawaiian brands at reasonable prices from both malls.
Swim and Learn to Surf on Oahu’s Family-Friendly Beaches
You can’t come to Oahu without visiting its beaches which are a great place to take kids. With big shores, kids can run, build sandcastles, swim in protected waters, and even learn to surf.
Visit Turtle Bay Beach to see Hawaiian green sea turtles, or honu, up close. They lounge on the sand all day long and in the waters so you can get close enough to take pictures with them. However, Oahu protects their marine life well, so ensure the kids don’t get too close.
The water here isn’t too safe for swimming with children, but you can set up a camp and watch the turtles.
Head to Kailua Beach on Oahu’s East Shore, which has gentle and safe swimming waters perfect for kids. We came here on a local’s recommendation and were met with wide shores that the kids loved playing on.
You can also enjoy watching kite-surfers in the distance or just lounge on the sand as kids swim under the lifeguard’s protected watch.
Waikiki Beach is Oahu’s most famous family beach, as it’s next to all the major resorts and shopping malls, plus it has excellent activities for children and adults alike.
You can go swimming here, enjoy views of Diamond Head, and get surfing lessons for older children from on-site instructors, all day long.
Visiting the terrific beaches is a must in Hawaii, and it’s the most fun thing to do in Oahu with kids.
- All the beaches in Oahu are open for public access.
- There are lifeguards on duty on each beach.
- There’s plenty of parking space in parking lots close to the beaches.
Play With Dolphins at Sea Life Park
This isn’t just any sea park but is known as Hawaii’s ‘Best Wild Animals Exhibit’, which boasts rare marine life, and hosts entertaining shows with trained animals.
They have a few exhibits and habitats with animals in them, like the California Sea Lion show, Hawaiian Monk Seal, Humboldt Penguin, Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin, Wholphin, and Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle.
We took the kids to the dolphin exhibit, which they really enjoyed as the trainers were super friendly with the dolphins and gave interesting information about them.
Some other great things kids can try are swimming with dolphins and sharks, encountering a seal line, or a Hawaiian reef. There are always trainers nearby, and the entire experience is safe.
In addition, there’s a touch reef where kids can hold different marine animals.
We had so much fun at the Sea Life Park with the kids, and we highly recommend families to come here as it’s one of the most fun things to do in Oahu with kids.
- The entrance fee is $50 per person and $10 for each vehicle.
- There are penguins in one of the exhibits and a swim with stingrays too.
- Sea Life Park hosts an extravagant, award-winning luau on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays.
Go Horseback Riding at the Kualoa Ranch – Best Family Activity in Oahu
The Kualoa Private Nature Reserve is known as Hawaii’s “Jurassic Valley,” a private family-owned 4000-acre paradise. This was the filming site for famous TV shows like 50 First Dates, Jumanji, Godzilla, Jurassic World, Jurassic Park, and LOST, among others.
You can do tons of stuff in this valley, like ziplining, taking an ATV tour of the lands, traveling on electric bikes, touring the ‘Jurassic Jungle, and Hollywood movie sites.
Although these are great family activities, we loved horseback riding the most since all three kids could participate and learn from the instructors. They had 120+ gorgeous horses in the well-maintained stables, and our younger one loved petting the ponies.
Aside from this, they offer a free kids’ animal exhibit, a ranch museum, a sculpture garden, and a mini-theatre showing a film on the history of the Kualoa Ranch. The kids especially enjoyed the animal exhibit, and the guides were friendly in explaining them.
We were in awe of the size and beauty of this gorgeous ranch, and this is one of the best things to do in Oahu with kids.
- There’s a family restaurant and a gift shop on the property
- The admission fee is around $51 per person.
- A real WWII bunker built on a cliff is a great site to explore here.
Learn About Polynesia at the Polynesian Cultural Center
If you’re in North Shore Oahu, don’t miss a trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center, a great tourist spot for families. The Center hosts six authentic tropical villages representing the island’s various native cultures. Plus, you get to mingle with locals and try great music and dance activities.
Come here early in the afternoon when it’s less crowded, and explore the villages, each with different activities. Some great things we got to try were learning to fish without a net, playing native Hawaiian musical instruments like the Ukulele, and taking hula lessons.
The kids enjoyed roaming through the beautifully decorated villages and seeing people dressed in the cultural Polynesian clothes.
Visiting the Center was a day-long activity that ended with an action-packed evening event, including a fire show, musical performances, and dances featuring over 100 Polynesian performers.
We loved participating in this experience, and the kiddos were happy to learn so much about Hawaii’s history.
- There’s a great buffet dinner after the show and luaus.
- The entrance fee is $50 per person.
- The Center takes 2-3 days to explore fully, for which you can stay at nearby hotels.
Have Breakfast with Disney Characters at Disney Aulani
As one of Oahu’s top resorts and run by the infamous Disney enterprise, this place has lots of luxury spots for guests and visitors, like spas, tennis courts, pools, and much more.
However, if you’re with kids, the main attraction here is their Character Breakfast, hosted every Sunday, where famous Disney characters come dressed during the buffet meal and entertain kids. You can get a family photo with Mickey and the gang, and chat with classic Disney characters throughout the breakfast.
During breakfast, they take kids for some singing and dancing on the stage area so that the adults can enjoy their meal too.
There are other fun things for kids here, like water slides, splash zones, a free kids’ club called Aunty’s Beach House, complimentary boogie boards, and sand toys on the beach.
The kids had a great time at breakfast, and we recommend families to bring children here, as it’s one of the best things to do in Oahu with kids.
- The breakfast buffet costs $48 for adults and $28 for kids aged 4-12.
- There are kid-favorite foods on the menu, so even picky eaters will enjoy it
- The Character Breakfast is open for everyone, guests and visitors.
Is Waikiki beach safe for kids?
Waikiki Beach is pretty safe for kids of all ages. Since it’s usually crowded, you’ll have many people nearby, and lifeguards are always on duty. Plus, water activities are guided here, so instructors supervise kids.
Is it better to go to Maui or Honolulu with kids?
After traveling to Oahu with kids, we’d have to say Honolulu is great for children of all ages. There are so many activities on each Shore, shopping malls, kid’s parks, safe beaches, and lots more.
What is the best part of Hawaii for kids?
There’s so much for kids to enjoy on Hawaii’s islands, but after taking kids to lots of places, we can say that beaches are the most fun. Children never get tired of building sandcastles, running around, and swimming. Just make sure to do your research on family-friendly beaches before going.
What are good indoor kids activities in Oahu?
Take kids to the shopping centers like The Royal Hawaiian and Ala Moana Centers, where you can shop, eat, and play in kids areas. The Disney Character Breakfast is also a great option that keeps kids entertained for long.
Wrap Up: The Best Things to do in Oahu With Kids
Being Hawaii’s most famous and most-visited island means Oahu has a range of activities for its visitors. The island caters to all age groups, with family-friendly beaches, amusement parks, expansive ranches, occasions to meet with wildlife, and more for tourists to explore.
We had so much fun on our Oahu trip with kids that it’s become their favorite vacation spot! So look out for a little helper or two in my next articles who might be making an appearance on our yearly visits.
Want to know about the safest, family-friendly beaches in Oahu? Head to Turtle Bay Beach, Wailua Beach, and Waikiki Beach.
Want a look into Hawaiian history in Oahu? Stay at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
Need to introduce children to local animals? Head to Honolulu Zoo, and Sea Life Park.
The most fun things to do in Oahu with kids are a treat for everyone!
Last Updated on February 8, 2023 by Brigitte