Hawaii is one of the best family-friendly vacation spots, with fun experiences, unique food, and incredible culture. One of the best places to find all this is in its capital of Honolulu. In fact, there are so many things to do in Honolulu with kids, it might be hard knowing where to begin!
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Our Favorite Things to do in Honolulu with Kids
Honolulu is located on the southern shore of Oahu – it’s where you will find sprawling highrise hotels, the vibrant neighborhood of Waikiki, and some great attractions.
I lived in Hawaii for over eight years and went to Oahu a lot for weekend getaways and family vacations. So, I’m always looking for the best things to do in Honolulu with kids. Here are some of my favorite places to take my family in Honolulu, along with a few more fun things to do beyond the city.
1. Have a Beach Day
Of course this is at the top of our list! Enjoying Hawaii’s beaches is a must-do when you’re in the Aloha state. Kids will love the calm waters of Oahu’s south shore, and parents will love the chance to soak up the tropical sun.
But which beaches are best in Honolulu?
Waikiki is a natural choice, especially if you’re staying in the area. Just walk a few blocks (or less) to reach a glistening beach with clear water. This area is crowded, and it can be tough to find parking in much of Waikiki.
For fewer crowds, head to the far edges of Waikiki. Kaimana Beach (AKA Sans Souci Beach) on the eastern side of the neighborhood tends to be quiet on weekdays. On the western end of Waikiki is Duke Kahanamoku Beach. It stays pretty crowded but is a super fun spot for kids, thanks to its calm lagoon and fun water sports for older children.
If you’re up for a drive outside of Honolulu, you will find plenty of spacious beaches that are simply stunning. Check out Kailua Beach on Oahu’s windward side. Or head toward the Ko Olina resort area near Kapolei to discover some of the island’s most beautiful and calm lagoons (and one of the best family resorts in Hawaii).
2. Go Wild at the Honolulu Zoo
Sure, you’ve visited zoos before, but have you ever visited one in a tropical paradise? This won’t be the most impressive zoo you’ve ever been to, but you can’t beat the scenery. Plus, it’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors, learn about animals, and take a break from the sand and surf for a while.
The Honolulu Zoo is right in Waikiki, inside the Queen Kapiolani Park. Exhibits include African Penguins, Black Rhinoceros, Spider Monkeys, giraffes, Asian Elephants, and lions.
A visit to the Honolulu Zoo won’t take all day, so you can combine it with other best things to do in Honolulu, like a trip to the Waikiki Aquarium or a walk through Waikiki. Consider booking a Twilight Tour for a great experience after hours.
3. Hike Manoa Falls Trail
You don’t have to go far outside of the city to find a serene, forested hike. Manoa Falls Trail is an easy hike that’s just 15 minutes from downtown Honolulu. This 1.5-mile trek takes you through thick trees, lush plants, and a natural waterfall.
The trail can get slick and muddy, but it’s otherwise suitable for nearly all skill levels. It’s a great chance to see a different part of Honolulu while enjoying nature and getting active. Plus, the damp, shady setting is great when you need a break from the sun.
4. Shopping in Honolulu
If you’ve never been to Honolulu before, you may be surprised its terrific shopping. You can find a great mix of local boutiques, kitschy souvenir shops, national brands, and luxury retailers, all within a few miles’ radius.
Check out Ala Moana Shopping Center, which has more than 350 shops and restaurants. It’s a great spot to stretch your legs, find some unique treasures, and feed the family at their food court, which has all kinds of dining options.
If you’re looking for even more shopping, head into Hilton Hawaiian Village, which has Louis Vuitton, Volcom, and a year-round Christmas store. Meanwhile, International Market Place in Waikiki is the go-to place for high-end shopping.
And as you shop through Waikiki, don’t forget to stop into an ABC store. It’s a gift shop full of local treasures, great snacks, and cheap souvenirs.
5. Visit Pearl Harbor National Memorial
Pearl Harbor is one of the top places to visit in Honolulu with family. This site of the pivotal World War II bombing offers insight into the tragedy along with unique exhibits that highlight history, warcraft, and Hawaiian culture.
You can get free admission to the USS Arizona Memorial, which includes a brief video presentation and a boat ride to the memorial. I think the video is great at preparing kids for the exhibit, which is very solemn yet enlightening.
The National Memorial also has partner sites, like the Pacific Aviation Museum and the Battleship Missouri, that charge an entry fee. These are more interactive for kids, so they’re a great way to balance your time at the USS Arizona.
6. Learn About Hawaiian and Polynesian Culture
If you’re spending any time in Hawaii, it’s essential to understand the history and culture of its people. That doesn’t mean your family needs to bury your noses in textbooks. Instead, head to one of the great learning sites that offer interactive, enriching information about local culture. Check out these living museums that the entire family will love.
The Bishop Museum showcases Hawaiian cultural and natural history through interactive exhibits, art displays, and artifacts.
Visit their planetarium, explore its ornate halls, and walk through its gardens. Kids will especially love the Science Adventure Center.
Did you know that the only Royal Palace in the U.S. is located in Honolulu? Iolani Palace is the official residence of Hawaii’s monarchy. Today, it serves as a testament to the Hawaiian Kingdom.
Learn about the history and overthrow of the monarchy, and see the grandeur of their palace. It’s a great way to better understand the islands’ history as you explore other attractions and landmarks.
Hawaii’s Plantation Village
Just outside of Honolulu, is Hawaii’s Plantation Village, which highlights the workers and culture of the islands’ plantation era.
Walk through a recreated plantation village and explore the onsite museum. Your entire family will learn a lot as they see what Oahu was like at the turn of the 20th century, when plantations stretched across the island.
Polynesian Cultural Center
If you’re up for a road trip, consider heading up the windward coast to Laie, home of the Polynesian Cultural Center. The 42-acre property features a collection of cultural villages and exhibits that the entire family will enjoy.
Kid-friendly activities include spear-throwing, canoe paddling, and learning traditional dances, all in a lush, serene setting.
In the evening, the Polynesian Cultural Center offers an authentic Hawaiian luau, complete with a dinner buffet and incredible entertainment. It’s definitely worth the trip outside of Honolulu to enjoy this great place.
7. Snorkel at Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay State Park is one of Honolulu’s best white sand beaches – and one of the best places to snorkel. A beach day here will offer the chance to swim among abundant marine life while taking in amazing scenery.
You will likely see green sea turtles, colorful corals, and tropical fish. Even novice snorkelers tend to feel safe in the calm waters of Hanauma Bay.
Just know that Hanauma Bay is one of the few Hawaii beaches that isn’t free. In fact, it’s $25 per person for a one-day ticket. However, it’s still free for children under 13 years old, Active Military (plus their dependents), and Hawaii residents.
It’s worth it if you want an awesome snorkeling spot in Honolulu and plan to spend lots of time at the beach. If you’re more of a beach hopper who likes to splash around and then head out, you may be better off visiting one of Oahu’s many free beaches.
8. Cool Off With Hawaii Shave Ice
Even if you’ve had shaved ice or snow cones before, you’ve never had anything like real Hawaii shave ice. Here, the ice is shaved into a powdery consistency that’s incredibly soft yet refreshing. Many places use local ingredients for one-of-a-kind syrups that will put any mainland place to shame.
Here are some of the best places to try shave ice in Honolulu:
- Waiola Shave Ice is a fan favorite for shave ice right in the city. They have two locations in Honolulu, but the classic is right on Waiola Street.
- Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice is a Maui original, but they’ve got a great location in Honolulu too.
- Shimazu Store is a true old-school, hole-in-the-wall shave ice spot in Honolulu’s Liliha neighborhood. Servings are huge, and flavor options are seemingly endless. Get a taste of local life by joining the line and trying a new flavor.
- Island Vintage Shave Ice has a great location right on the main drag of Waikiki, so you can take your shave ice along for a relaxed stroll or across the street to the sunny beach.
9. Join a Surf School
Honolulu is a great place to go surfing. Whether your family is into watersports or has barely touched the ocean before, you can try your hand at Hawaii’s favorite sport.
Waikiki is a great place to learn to surf. In fact, it’s where famous surfer Duke Kahanamoku first learned the sport and where millions of aspiring surfers first stood on a board.
Many Waikiki surf schools promise they’ll get you riding a wave during your lesson. Once you’ve learned the ins-and-outs of riding waves, you can rent a board and spend the entire day out in the ocean, catching the best Waikiki waves.
Surf lessons are a great activity for the entire family, but anyone who may want to skip this activity can enjoy the sights from shore, since many schools operate just off Waikiki Beach.
10. Take a Day Trip to the North Shore
No trip to Oahu is complete without visiting the island’s North Shore. This is the home of big wave surfing, and it’s got a totally different vibe from Honolulu. Spend the day journeying along the seven-mile stretch of shoreline between Haleiwa and Pupukea.
Here you will discover delicious food trucks (the area is famous for its shrimp trucks), scenic beaches, small-town boutiques, and relaxed surfer vibes.
Top beaches in the area include Waimea Bay Beach, Haleiwa Beach Park, and Sunset Beach Park. In winter months, the water will be too rough to swim, but you can enjoy the sights of brave surfers tackling monstrous waves. During the summer, these beaches are a hot spot for families and snorkelers enjoying the quiet atmosphere and calm waters.
On your way to the North Shore, consider visiting the Dole Tropical Plantation, which has a train tour and a 3-acre maze. Or, visit Waimea Valley, a nature preserve with an easy hike and a waterfall swim.
11. More Great Things to Do in Honolulu With Kids
There’s really no shortage of great things to do in Honolulu with kids, and even more fun awaits throughout Oahu. Here are a few more of my favorite activities that I love to do with kids on Oahu:
- Discover great hikes, like the Lanikai Pillbox Trail or Kaʻena Point Trail.
- Spend the day at Kualoa Ranch, where you can go horseback riding, zipline, or join one of their ATV tours.
- Tour North Shore’s Kahuku Farms and eat at their farm-to-table cafe.
- Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii is a small and fun water park in Kapolei. It’s a good place for kids to play if your hotel doesn’t have waterslides and a big pool.
And don’t forget to get in plenty of relaxation during your family trip to Honolulu! You won’t be able to see and do it all, but if you balance worry-free quality time with great activities, you’re sure to have a great vacation here!