5 Kid-Friendly Gems on the Island of Oahu to Add to Your Must-See List
We had so much fun planned for the island of Oahu, which was our third stop on our Hawaiian island hopping adventure. After all, there’s hiking Diamond Head, visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center, exploring the Dole Pineapple Plantation, navigating the famous North Shore; the list truly goes on and on.
Best of all, there’s a ton for kids to do on the island of Oahu! We had planned to stay at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, which we were all very much looking forward to.
Unfortunately, however, Hurricane Hector had different plans for us, so as is the case often in life. We were forced to adopt a new itinerary and game plan on the fly. And, while our itinerary certainly shrunk, we were still able to uncover the following five family-friendly gems and loads of breathtaking beauty on the island of Oahu.
Oh, and did I mention … the hurricane ended up missing us entirely, moving away from the islands. Our travel lover prayers were answered!
1. North Shore
First stop, Hawaii’s famous North Shore. I had heard that it was super cool and loaded with food trucks, boutiques, salty air, and “totally rad” surfers. So, obviously, this is one of the places I was most excited to visit on the island of Oahu. Naturally, however, this meant we had to go directly there from the airport – just in case the hurricane came early. It was truly our first stop!
We made it as far as the town of Haleiwa—just shy of the Banzai Pipeline.
This little surfer town offers a great bay for stand up paddleboarding or kayaking that’s safe for kiddos, surf shops, and yummy food vendors like Haleiwa Bowls and the locals’ favorite – Haleiwa Joe’s, situated right on the water.
Be sure to also stop for an Insta-worthy pic and shaved ice outside of Anahulu’s on your way out of town.
And, right up the road, you’ll find The Growing Keiki (Keiki = kids in Hawaiian)—our favorite shop for kids’ surfwear and accessories.
Tripbound Traveler Tip: Get a free shaved ice at Anahulu’s (with up to two flavors) with a purchase or SUP rental next door at Tropical Rush Surf Company.
2. Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor was at the top of my husband’s to-do list on the island of Oahu. And, for a good reason! Operated by the U.S. National Park Service, this spot offers a variety of attractions to engage children and teach them about this important moment in U.S. history.
Not to mention, it also participates in the Junior Ranger program. Simply stop in the gift shop for the scavenger hunt kit, which also includes a badge that your child can proudly earn after finding a number of relics around the park. Of course, keeping the kids engaged isn’t difficult, however, considering the USS Battleship Missouri Memorial and USS Bowfin Submarine Museum are part of this must-visit attraction. And, both are really interesting to school-aged kids!
3. Waikiki Beach
Now, I knew Oahu would be the most densely populated island on our island hopping adventure. But, nothing prepared me for Waikiki!
Waikiki is a full-on city with high rises, loads of tourists, and the highest of highest-end shopping. We’re talking Jimmy Choo, Gucci, and Vivienne Westwood. For this reason, you may want to negotiate for some shopping time with your husband before your arrival.
We happened to visit in August during Duke’s Annual OceanFest, enabling us to take in some really great surfing from some of the areas finest. The event offers surf exhibitions and lessons for kids and adults of all ages.
And, Duke (the OceanFest’s namesake) Kahanamoku is a bit of a royal in Hawaii. He was a Native Hawaiian competitive swimmer who popularized the ancient Hawaiian sport of surfing. In fact, he’s a legend in the surf world, riding a monster wave for 1 ⅛ miles at Waikiki Beach.
Additionally, you can visit Duke’s restaurants in Hawaii, which really capture the essence of him and the “aloha spirit.” I can personally vouch for the mai tais (in every flavor)!
Where to Stay? If you love to shop as much as I do, Wyndham at Waikiki Beach Walk is the perfect resort option. Our suite was located INSIDE the town center with a view right out at the storefronts and down the street to Louis Vuitton.
Best of all, there’s an outdoor pool, and you’re also just a block back from the famous Waikiki Beach. We love it for the suite deals on two and three bedrooms (sleeping up to 10), full kitchens, and all the comforts of home.
When staying here, there’s no doubt the entire family will be entertained!
4. Dole Pineapple Plantation
You cannot even imagine the amount of pineapple-themed activities, attractions, and items for sale at the Dole Plantation. It’s truly mind-boggling! They’ve fully capitalized on their opportunities, and then some. The train, maze, and walking tours are the main attractions.
My family and I opted for the 20-minute train ride and maze. And, instead, we wish we’d just done the train and saved our money for some Dole whip treats afterwards. Reason being, the train ride was cute, fun-enough, and interesting. But, the maze was hot and lost its luster 10 minutes in!
5. Beaches of Kapolei
As I mentioned previously, Hurricane Hector was scheduled to come ashore Oahu as a Category 5 at one point in the forecast. We tried to get a flight back to the mainland, but the flights were already completely booked. Apparently, we were not the only ones with this idea!
After running through all of our options, we decided to move north to a full-service resort on a generator to ensure we’d have plenty of water, food, and entertainment for our daughter. We had no idea how long we’d be on Oahu before we could get over to Kauai, and we wanted to put ourselves in the best possible position for the remainder of our stay.
This ended up being a really great decision for many reasons. But, mainly because of the kid-friendly beach and sunsets! We experienced some of the most magical sunsets we’ve ever seen over those few days. This area of Oahu called Kapolei also offered a tranquil beach cove area that was perfect for kids. It was very calm, and offered lots of non-motorized water fun and snorkeling.
Ultimately, Oahu’s attractions and businesses closed in preparation for the storm. So, we weren’t able to go out and explore all of the sights on our list. We did, however, get to enjoy this quieter, less crowded, and more picturesque side of Oahu. For that, we were all really grateful.
And, when determining where to stay, three resorts share this beach cove area in Kapolei: Four Seasons, Disney Aulani, and Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club. It’s honestly a perfect little slice of kid-friendly paradise.
Tripbound Traveler Tip: Go over to the Ko Olina Center and Station for more affordable dining options outside of the resorts. Try Eggs ‘n Things for breakfast, Just Tacos Mexican Grill & Cantina for lunch, and then splurge at Monkeypod Kitchen for dinner with the money you saved earlier in the day. You won’t regret the splurge!