10 Best Things To Do In Oahu, Hawaii With Kids

We recently spent 7 days on Oahu with kids. (Or do I say “in” Oahu? The whole island thing is complicated!)

sunset flying into honolulu
We flew into Honolulu just in time to catch the most incredible sunset

Oahu is part of the Hawaiian island chain, and home to the capital, Honolulu. Consequently with that comes lots of traffic, congestion, parking difficulties, lots of people and lots of sky-rise apartments and hotels.  Regardless, we found many cool and amazing spots, and many were off the beaten path.  Below are our best parts of Oahu, that are not necessarily on the tourist activity lists.

Eat from a Shrimp Truck

sunset on the north shore of Oahu Hawaii
We ate during sunset on Sunsets Beach… and didn’t even plan it! 😉

There are TONS of delicious food trucks on the side of the road leading to the North Shore to stop for food.  One of the more famous trucks is  Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. The shrimp industry is booming, and you can even visit shrimp farms.  We ordered the classic garlic and butter shrimp which consists of a dozen shrimp marinated in butter and fresh chopped garlic, and served with salad and rice drizzled with garlic butter. It was incredible!  The food trucks add to the charm and laid-back vibe of this part of Oahu.

Stay at Turtle Bay Resort

We drove along the North Shore to Turtle Bay Resort, where we spent a couple of days.

Turtle Bay Resort, North Shore, Oahu Amazing views at the turtle bay resort in OahuTurtle Bay Resort was beautiful and had every amenity and comfort we could ask for!  Our peaceful room overlooked the ocean on the very tip of the island, and we enjoyed panoramic views. It was the perfect spot to sit with morning coffee, work though emails, and enjoy the solitude.

working at the turtle bay resort
Seabass doing his morning surf check!
dog surfing
Yes… that is a dog on the front of that surfboard!

It’s a far cry from Waikiki.  We snorkeled, surfed, ate by the pool and enjoyed the amazing on-site restaurants and peaceful surroundings.  It was lovely to escape the touristy stuff of Waikiki.North Shore, Oahu sunset oahu

Drive Around the North Shore of Oahu With Kids

On our way to Turtle Bay Resort, we stopped to visit the famous North Shore beaches; Sunset Beach, Pipeline, and Waimea Bay.

sunset beach north shore oahu, wishing for a bigger swell
Searching for Surf!

Small waves on the north shore, but a beautiful beachSebastian was on the quest for surf, however the waves during summer are less than ideal.  We didn’t get to witness the epic waves you see in contests, so we settled for amazing sunsets, beaches, delicious food trucks, and quaint art galleries scattered along the North Shore.Kids in Hawaii having a blast with mom sunset and clouds over the ocean

Eat Matsumoto’s Shave Ice With Kids

“Shave ice” is a popular dessert in Hawaii and it’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s NOT shaved ice, by the way — make sure you don’t act like a tourist when putting your order in.

shave ice is not shaved ice shave ice is a Hawaiian delicacyIt’s made by shaving a block of ice into a bowl, and adding various flavored syrups that soaks into the ice.  We ate it most days and were on a quest to find the best shave ice on Oahu.matsumoto shave ice oahu

You can also add ice-cream or a “snow-cap’ which is condensed milk drizzled over the top.  Soooo many people recommended we visit  Matsumoto , so we pulled into the town of Haleiwa to check it out.

matsumoto shave ice is great

The line was insane, and while we didn’t want to wait, we decided to suck it up to see what all of the fuss was about.  Verdict from Julian:  “This is the BEST shave ice I have ever tasted… it’s epic!”.

The kids agreed, it was definitely delicious.

Visit Waikiki Beach With Kids

Waikiki beach turquoise water
The turquoise water is like something out of a movie…

Waikiki Beach is world-famous and definitely worth a visit.  The water is seriously an amazing and ever-changing shade of turquoise, it’s just gorgeous to look at. Be warned, however — the beach gets very crowded and it can be hard to find a place to settle in for the day.

surfing in waikiki beach oahu

Once you find your spot, you are steps away from a delicious cold cocktail at Duke’s, a surf board rental, or a delicious acai bowl. The water is the color turquoise you see in movies, and it’s quite safe for kids to swim and surf the calm waves.

waikiki beach surfing experienceIt’s the perfect spot to take your first surf lesson!  However, at the risk of sounding bratty, there were just too many tourists crammed into too little space for our liking.

Surf Like The Locals, Brah

Hawaii is home to many of the best places to surf in the U.S. and the world for that matter.  From the endless beaches of the North Shore (I’m looking at you Pipeline, Sunsets, Waimea, Backdoor…) to the gentle push of the waves on Waikiki Beach that are perfect for beginners, there’s a wave for everyone.  surf waikiki beach oahu
That’s assuming there’s surf of course… we didn’t exactly luck out with the pumping waves Seabass was hoping for since it was summer, but he was able to find a few fun ones.

Eat Hawaiian Poke

Poke is very popular in Hawaii and for good reason: it’s healthy, delicious and totally unique from place to place.  This cubed fish is eaten raw in a tasty sauce, or over a bowl of sushi rice.  Poke is quite trendy right now, and there are many variations (poke with pineapple and teriyaki sauce anyone!?!?) but I’d recommend starting with a classic version such as spicy tuna Poke or shoyu ahi (Poke with soy sauce) and serving it over a hot brown rice bowl with seaweed.

Hike Diamond Head on Oahu With Kids

Diamond Head crater was created 300,000 years ago during a volcanic eruption. It’s a huge an unmissable sight when looking down the beach at Waikiki. You can walk to it from town, but it’s a good uphill hike.

diamond head hike
View from the top of Diamond Head

diamond head hike - view of the ocean

The ash settled and today, Diamond Head State Monument is one of Oahu’s most scenic hiking trails.  We made the mistake of walking from our hotel in Waikiki around the crater and up to the beginning of the trail at the crater floor.  And it was a loooooong and hot walk.   Many people drive to the crater floor and begin the 760 foot (almost straight uphill) hike from there to the top.

hiking up diamond head with kids

We’re all pretty fit and it took us about 45 minutes to hike to the top from the crater floor, and 30 minutes to hike back down.  We certainly earned our Mai Tai’s that day!

Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach is consistently rated the best beach in Oahu. It’s located on the windward coast of Oahu, Hawaii, which is the Eastern side. It’s quieter over there but you can commute to Honolulu. This beach is famous for its scenic beauty and for it’s tranquility.  The clear, turquoise waters and fine, white sand make it a picturesque destination that seems lifted from a travel guide’s top picks.

Lanikai is a place of peace and relaxation, offering visitors a break from the hectic pace of Waikiki. The calm waters are ideal for kayaking, especially with the Mokulua Islands nearby, providing a unique opportunity for exploration and a closer look at Hawaii’s natural wildlife.

lanakai beach

It’s fairly easy to find on the East coast, but the challenging part is finding a place to park.  After we found our (slightly illegal) parking spot, we found a beach entrance nestled in between two houses and stepped onto the most beautiful beach we have ever seen.

We were surrounded by miles of calm aqua blue water, and spent an afternoon feasting on the incredible scenery. lanakai beach turquoise water

Lanikai Beach is often listed among the world’s best beaches because of its pristine condition and the quality of the visitor experience. This is a must-visit on Oahu if you have a rental car.

Drive Around the Island of Oahu

banyan tree hawaii oahu
There are beautiful banyan trees on the island

Living in California, we are fortunate to get plenty of beach time.  Since we were based in Waikiki Beach for this trip, we decided to drive around the island to check out the scenery. oahu drive along the eastern coast Oahu drive with kids - beaches and palm trees

The drive is breathtaking and once you leave the city of Honolulu the traffic thins out.  Your kids will even look up from their devices at the scenery. It was such a pretty drive, and we all enjoyed the air-conditioning of the car since the temperatures outside were hot hot hot!

Rainbow drive-in oahu - don't miss it!

You’ll notice I didn’t put Pearl Harbor, the Dole Pineapple Plantation or a Luau on this list… all good places to visit I’m sure, but not what we were looking for in this vacation.

What are your favorite things to do in Oahu?

Let me know in the comments below!

{Disclosure: This post is sponsored, however all opinions and views are 100% my own.}

About The Author


I’m a travel and health writer, digital brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising an active family, life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

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