19 Family-Friendly Activities in Oahu
Oahu is the most visited island in Hawaii - attracting over 4.7 million visitors yearly. And for good reason. It’s a beautiful island with lots to offer, but the price of activities can add up quickly. We’ve created a guide for the best affordable family activities in Oahu for you to focus on spending time with the family instead of your wallet!
1. Surfing on Oahu’s North Shore
Surfing in Hawaii | Photo by HTA (Hawaii Tourism Authority)
To have a completely different and unique surfing experience, head to the North Shore for Hans Hedemann Surf School. This is a great place for beginners to learn the basics such as how to stand up the board. A fun experience is their dog surfing program, where it isn’t just the family learning to surf, but the dog join in too! Please note, not all beaches on the north shore are safe beginners - in fact most aren't. That's why we recommend Hans Hedermann Surf School.
2. Visit Waikiki Beach
Waikiki beach is a gorgeous beach with bright blue water and golden sand. It’s another great beach for family activities in Oahu because the water is calm and shallow and the swimming area is protected by the reef. Come here for relaxing, swimming, surfing, paddle boarding, or even to try out some of the water sports such as parasailing! Every Friday, they set off fireworks for you to enjoy as well!
3. Shaka Guide Tours
To do a brief loop throughout Oahu to get your feet wet on the culture and the best things to see, Shaka Guide's Grand Circle Island Driving Tour will take you through mountains, the coast, and some of the best food spots making sure you get the local experience.
Our East Oahu Shoreline Drive Tour will focus in on the south-eastern tip of the island which is rich in history and legends with some cool landmarks such as the blowhole and small hikes! Shaka Guide has a total of six tours on the island. Check them out here.
4. Hike Diamond Head
East View of Diamond Head | Photo by Eric Tessmer, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Diamond Head is Oahu's most famous volcano, and it's right next to Waikiki. But don't worry, it hasn't erupted in 200,000 years! There's an easy hike to the top,where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Honolulu and a nice outlook over the ocean - truly another awesome idea for doing family activities in Oahu. The 30-minute hike is perfect for a little family adventure.
5. Visit Kualoa Ranch
Ben Ono / Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)
Kualoa Ranch is located on the East of Oahu with the backdrop of the Ko‘olau mountains. Several movies such as Jurassic World and Kong: Skull Island were filmed at this ranch because of the beautiful scenery you’ll find here which makes Kualoa Ranch another great stop for family activities in Oahu. You ca go ATV riding, horseback riding, or tour the ranch by foot. You can even support the local community and try their fresh grass-fed beef!
RELATED: Kualoa Ranch Travel Guide
6. Check out Leonard’s Bakery
Leonard’s Bakery is one of the most iconic eateries on Oahu. It’s malasadas have been feeding Oahu residents since 1952. Malasadas are Portuguese donuts, which are well-loved on the islands! Their menu is full of different types of tasty pastries - pies, cupcakes, muffins, and much more. Visit to try some of Oahu’s favorite tastes!
7. Visit Tropical Nut Farms
Located just down the road from Kualoa Ranch, Tropical Nut Farms offer an array of locally grown and produced items - such coffee, chocolates, and macadamia nuts. Peruse their charming store to pick up things you can only get in Hawaii!
8. Picnic at Laie Beach Park
Jakob Owens jakobowens1, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Also known as Pounder’s Beach, Laie beach park is a great place to sit and have a picnic and a swim. The normal surf might be too rough for little ones - however, on the far left side is a protected area where the waters are calm. This picturesque beach has picnic tables, ample shade, and waves all year round! An excellent place to spend the day.
This beach is a stop on our Grand Circle Island Tour!
9. Wander the Laie Temple Grounds
Daniel Ramirez from Honolulu, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons The Laie Temple, a temple for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is surrounded by beautiful gardens, pathways, and fountains. Although tourists are not allowed inside, the surrounding gardens are open to the public - and there’s even a visitor’s center!
This area is a stop on our Grand Circle Island Tour!
10. Try some Matsumoto Shave Ice
Anthony Quintano from Honolulu, HI, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Shave ice is a must-have for any Hawaiian vacation. Matsumoto Shave Ice has been serving Oahu for over 70 years, so it’s a good bet! They carry dozens of flavors, and lots of extras to liven up your shave ice. Shave ice is a fun treat to compliment a day around town!
11. Explore the Dole Plantation
Nandaro, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The Dole Plantation is one of the most expansive places to visit on Oahu. Explore the massive maze, take a ride on the train, and wander the gardens! At the plantation, there’s tons to do with the family. Definitely worth spending a day.
This is a stop on our Grand Circle Island Tour!
12. Roam the Polynesian Cultural Center
JayH, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
The Polynesian Cultural Center is quite the experience. There are three main things to check out. One of the coolest things to explore is the Island Villages - where you can walk through different Polynesian villages and learn from natives about their cultures. Another memorable experience to hit is the royal Ali’i Luau that they offer. This includes an array of islander food and authentic entertainment. It’s one of the higher rated Luaus on Oahu. The last main attraction is the Ha: Breath of Life evening show, which includes over 100 Polynesian dancers! The Cultural Center is absolutely worth spending a day. It’s a stop on our Grand Circle Island Tour.
13. Snorkel in Hanauma Bay
Dave Gingrich, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
If you’re an inexperienced snorkeler, Hanauma Bay is the place to be. The water is calm, and fish can be seen by merely wading in. There is a dense coral reef a short distance from shore. Aside from the snorkeling possibilities, this bay is one of the most popular on Oahu! Because of this, the government is making an effort to preserve its flourishing yet fragile ecosystem. Before being able to enter the bay, there is a mandatory 9-minute safety video for all visitors. There is also a fee to enter the park, and reservations are required.
14. Chow Down on Dave’s Ice Cream
Serving award-winning, from scratch ice cream, Dave’s Ice Cream is known across the islands for its quality. Their local flavors are unique and tasty - flavors like Ube, Poha Berry, and Haupia. Dave’s Ice Cream has several locations around Oahu, so you’re never far from good ice cream! This is a great place to have a post-beach snack.
15. Hike in Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
Daniel Ramirez from Honolulu, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Aptly referred to as “a peaceful refuge,” this majestic 400-acre garden has much to explore. Hiking trails snake through the lush landscape - and visitors will find that the variety of plants are marked with descriptive plaques. Perfect for a peaceful walk surrounded by nature.
16. Taste Shimazu Shave Ice
Craving some shave ice? Shimazu is a great place to stop by! The portions are massive, the flavors are varied and tasty, and the prices are low. It’s highly rated, and has two locations on Oahu. Their Castle St. location is just around the corner from Waikiki! Definitely worth a stop.
17. Stand Atop Tantalus Lookout
LASHLEY, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Tantalus Lookout is famous for its legendary panoramic views. Take in the entirety of Honolulu, Diamond Head, and more, all from one spot! Also located at the top of Mount Tantalus is a large grassy area, perfect for picnicking among stunning views. A sunrise or a sunset from this vantage point is unforgettable!
18. Hike Through the Tantalus Arboretum
LASHLEY, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
A short quarter mile loop, this trail leads the hiker through a lush forest teeming with life. This brief hike is easy - perfect for a family walk through nature. The flora surrounding the trail is diverse, and the atmosphere is serene.
19. Hike to Manoa Falls
Edmund Garman from Salem, Oregon, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Just like the previous entry, this is a perfect nature walk for the whole family. The trail sits at only 1.6 miles long, with an easy uphill grade. Even better, it’s only a 15 minute drive from Honolulu! This jaunt through Manoa Valley will transport you to a different place entirely.
Shaka Guide tours will help you get the best, affordable experiences for family activities in Oahu! Enjoy activities in Oahu where the whole family can learn about Hawaiian culture, and check out some local gems.