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Hawaii is an epic bucket-list destination for a family vacation. The memories of exploring this vibrant tropical paradise will stay etched in the minds of your children forever! There are so many different options for enjoying a vacation in Hawaii with your family, regardless of your kids' ages.
Oahu, the most populous island in Hawaii and home to the capital city, Honolulu, is an excellent choice for families with children of all ages, especially if it’s your first visit to the state. In Oahu, you’ll find an outstanding number of beaches, jungles, viewpoints, restaurants, nature parks, and wildlife experiences to enjoy together.
You can easily find plenty of “typical” tourist attractions and activities to enjoy around the island, but since those are so common to come across, we won’t mention them here. Keep on reading to learn about some of our favorite, top tips for unique activities for families visiting Oahu!
An endless stretch of beaches
When most of us picture Hawaii, soft, white-sand beaches lined with turquoise waters and coconut palms come to mind. This mental image is the reality of Oahu every day! The island of Oahu is blessed with some of the most stunning beaches in the state, brimming with clean shores, clear waters, and delicious salty air. There are countless beaches to explore in Oahu, so read more about each one to know which ones to prioritize visiting during your vacation.
Each of the many beautiful beaches in Oahu has something slightly different and unique to offer. If you’re seeking clear, azure waters and perfect white sands, head to Lanikai Beach. This beach is often considered among the most beautiful beaches not only in Oahu, but in the world. Known for its idyllic scenery, the beach is spectacular for swimming with its calm, crystalline waters. And it’s great for families with young children because the waves are small and gentle, making it safe for beginner swimmers.
Kailua Beach is another top-rated beach in Oahu not to be missed. The sand here is soft, clean, and a pearly shade of white. The water is a clear, aqua blue and excellent for a refreshing swim. It’s a great place to take a long walk along the shore, or to admire the beautiful mountains and forests visible in the background. Bring snorkel gear to see some tropical fish swimming around the shore. There are restrooms here and ample parking, making it a great place for families to enjoy a relaxing beach day.
Waikiki Beach is considered among the most famous beaches in Hawaii! It is known for its urban surroundings, including the high-rise buildings and hotels visible from the shore line. While it’s a popular beach among surfers, it’s also a great choice for families with its vast number of restaurants, cafes, shops, and other nearby attractions. It’s also close to the exotic animals of Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium, making it easy to visit many popular points of interest all in one day!
Ko Olina is a popular man-made beach cove consisting of pristine blue waters and a waveless swimming hole adjacent to the beach. The beach park is perfect for families with small children because the waters here are shallow, clean, and safe for swimming. The sands here are pearly white and perfect for sunbathing, relaxing, and building sandcastles. Ko Olina means “Place of Joy” in native Hawaiian, and is indeed a joyful beach choice for families on vacation!
Discover the island’s stunning tropical nature parks
While Oahu has plenty of urban and modern areas filled with attractions to explore, the island is also full of natural beauty not to be missed. Apart from the many beaches, there are spectacular natural areas and parks filled with wildlife, tropical jungles, and sea-turtle filled bays. Wildlife encounters are abundant in Oahu if you know where to look! Plus, it’s an engaging and interactive way to keep children entertained and having fun.
If you’re wondering what to do with family in Oahu, look no further. Spending time exploring the unique and intriguing habitats around the island while discovering the many marine creatures and native Hawaiian wildlife is among the best things to do in Oahu! It’s an unforgettable and educational experience for families of all ages.
For sea turtle sightings, head over to Laniakea Beach, or Turtle Beach, as referred to by the locals. Here you can find Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles often resting on the sandy shores. The best time to spot the turtles is between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. Also, arriving at the beach just before sunset offers a good chance of spotting the turtles, as well as a stunning view of the sunset over the water. This beach is beautiful, with enormous rocky mountains which line the sandy white shoreline.
Head over to Sharks Cove for world-class snorkeling. Don’t let the name scare you away, there are no sharks here! This rocky cove is filled with marine life. Bring your snorkeling gear and flippers, and hop in the water to see an underwater world filled with brightly colored fish, coral reefs, and other vibrant sea creatures. It’s one of the best spots for families with kids to go snorkeling on the island.
Swim alongside thousands of tiny fish at Hanauma Bay. This is an excellent choice for Oahu kids activities. The bay is a nature preserve formed from volcanic cone and is home to a spectacular marine ecosystem, brimming with an assortment of tropical fish. The bay is nearly enclosed, making the waters here shallow and calm and perfect for young swimmers. The waters here are completely crystal clear, with perfect visibility for spotting all sorts of fish and marine life. There’s not a better place to swim among the tropical fish of Hawaii with kids than at Hanauma Bay!
If you enjoyed these recommendations for fun wildlife experiences to enjoy with your kids in nature during your Oahu vacation, then we know you’ll absolutely love our next recommendation, so keep on reading!
Discover Hawaii’s premier marine experience park!
Sea Life Park is the premier marine experience park in Hawaii and a top-rated choice for families activities in Oahu. There’s not a better place on the island to experience wildlife up-close or fun educational animal experiences.
Sea Life Park focuses on education with interactive, hands-on learning experience and up-close encounters with all your favorite marine creatures. The park offers something fun for all members of the family to enjoy. Whether your kids are young, pre-teens, teenagers, or nearing adulthood, there’s an experience for visitors of all ages to love and enjoy during a visit to Sea Life Park Hawaii.
Meet hundreds of adorable sea creatures up-close, including seals, walruses, dolphins, sea lions, sea turtles, sharks, and more! At Sea Life Hawaii, you can choose from an array of interactive programs, encounters, and activities alongside your favorite marine animals. Browse the lengthy offering of educational programs, where you can learn about the park's special conservation projects, attend shows led by an expert trainer, and more. The possibilities for up-close interactions with live animals and wildlife are endless during a visit to Sea Life Park Hawaii!
Between all the exhibits, animal encounters, and exciting experiences, you’ll be sure to work up an appetite during your Sea Life Park visit. Luckily, the park offers some excellent family-friendly dining options. Whatever you’re craving, you’ll be sure to find it here! Grab special Hawaiian-style hot dogs, local dishes like Kalua pork and short rubs, sweet treats, French fries, soft serve ice cream, and more! Even the pickiest of eaters will find a yummy option to satisfy their hungry belly here.
On top of all the regular activities, exhibits, encounters, and programs offered by the park, there are regularly scheduled events with special themes! Be sure to check the calendar before your visit to see if any upcoming events are approaching. If you’ll be visiting close to Halloween, you won’t want to miss out on our Spook Life Park event, where you can show up to the park dressed in your favorite Halloween costume and enjoy a spooky theme as you visit the aquatic animals.
Perhaps one of the most unique and spectacular offerings at Sea Life Park is the daily Ka Moana Lu’au event, where guests can experience the vibrant culture of Hawaii. When you attend Ka Moana Lu’aus, you can enjoy a traditional Hawaiian outdoor dinner and an authentic lu’au show. Set in a scenic outdoor setting with breathtaking ocean views and surrounding mountains, this award-winning production will be something you and your family fondly remember forever.
There’s not a better or more memorable way to experience all the best and most quintessential elements of Hawaii than with a family visit to Sea Life Park. Discover Hawaiian culture at a lu’au, enjoy up-close encounters with marine life, admire the spectacular natural surroundings, and touch the essence of the true “aloha” spirit at Sea Life Park.