Kid-Friendly Activities on Oahu

When you live in Hawaii it’s easy to get stuck going to the same beach or activities time after time.  We know what we love and sometimes it’s easier to just stick with what works!  Every time we venture somewhere new though I always wish we’d done it sooner.  There are a countless number of beaches on Oahu, some kid-friendly and some definitely not.  Here are a few of our favorite beaches that we rotate through pretty regularly as a family, as well as other kid friendly places that are definitely worth visiting.  All are good for little kids!

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Kid-Friendly Activities in Hawaii

Beaches

Ko Olina Lagoons.  Ko Olina is a resort community with four manmade lagoons.  All four lagoons are the absolute best for little kids.  Lots of sand to play in, pretty much no waves, and never super crowded like Waikiki can be.  Parking is tricky because each lagoon has a limited number of free public parking spots, so the best bet is to get there early or go on a week day.  The one downside is that umbrellas are not allowed, but there are lots of trees that provide a good amount of shade.  Lagoon 2 is our go-to, but all four are nice.  At lagoon 1 you have to share the beach with the Four Seasons and Disney’s Aulani Resort, and at lagoon 3 you have to share the beach with Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club.  Their areas are sectioned off but there is still plenty of room for the public.

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Paradise Cove Lagoon.  This lagoon is just behind Paradise Cove (also inside Ko Olina), which is one of the main luau locations on Oahu.  It’s a little known beach and parking is even tougher than the main Ko Olina lagoons.  No public restrooms or showers make it tricky, but it’s a gorgeous spot and wonderful for kids.  We see sea turtles or monk seals almost every time we go.  The path to get there is sandy so it can be tough to push/pull a stroller through, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

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Pokai Bay.  This beach is on the far west side of the island and it’s protected by a large sea wall.  Perfect for stand up paddle boarding and for young children.  Lots of beach and very calm water.  This is a pretty popular hang out for locals so it can be pretty busy at times (so get there early).  It’s a great one though if you’re looking to get off the beaten path!  This is also where Pililaau Army Recreation Center is, and if you’re military you can rent cabins and visit the little shoppette and restaurant that is right on the water.  It’s a great little spot!

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Dog Beach on Hickam AFB.  If you’re military or have access to military installations, Hickam has two really great beaches.  You can also watch civilian and military aircraft take off at the busier “Hickam Beach” but I prefer “Dog Beach,” which doesn’t actually allow dogs.  The water is about knee deep for about half a mile out, so it’s fantastic for toddlers and you don’t have to worry about waves.  It’s often pretty empty and parking is right there at the beach so you don’t have to lug your stuff very far.  Lots of shady trees too.  I’ve only visited this beach once but it’s a new favorite for sure!

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Fort Derussy/Waikiki Beach.  Waikiki is famous for it’s beaches, but honestly in many places it can get pretty narrow and the entry into the water can be steep.  Down by the zoo/Kapiolani Park is always crowded, though the water is calm because of a sea wall.  The beach is a lot wider with more space to spread out down by the Hale Koa, Honolulu’s military resort and Hilton Hawaiian Village.  If you’re going to go to the beach in Waikiki this is definitely the most kid-friendly spot.

Makua Beach.  This beach is pretty far west but it’s nice if you want to get away from it all.  There are a few parking spots off the side of the road and no restrooms.  There are a couple tide pools that are protected by rocks, so it’s a neat little place for kids to play.  Just be aware that there are no restrooms.

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Hikes

Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail.  Completely paved so it’s stroller friendly (though it is pretty steep, so be prepared for that).  See my full blog post on the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail here.

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Likeke Falls.  I did this with a couple moms, my parents, and a handful of toddlers about a year ago.  It’s a short hike to a little waterfall (can get slippery though), and it was doable for young toddlers.  Be sure you go to the correct starting point because Google can kind of lead you astray and send you on the Pali highway.  You want to park in the back corner of the Ko’olau Golf Club parking lot.

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Moanalua Valley Trail.  This hike starts at a small neighborhood playground and there are bathrooms too!  Parking can be limited but you can often find a spot on the road outside of the parking lot.  It’s nice and flat and shaded, so great for kids.  We never make it very far and often turn around once we hit the little stream that runs through the trail, but this is definitely a wonderful one to let the kids take the lead.  (The stream disappears when there hasn’t been much rain but sometimes it’s flowing nicely and the kids enjoy splashing in it.)  This can be a really muddy hike though so be prepared for that.

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Waimea Valley Trail.  We LOVE this hike!  It’s all paved so it’s stroller friendly, there are all sorts of things for kids to see and learn about along the way, it’s mostly shaded, and it ends at a waterfall that you can swim in (so bring a swimsuit.  Life jackets are provided for free.).  Admission is a bit pricy but it’s worth it.  See my full blog post on the Waimea Valley Trail here.

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Aiea Loop Trail.  This is a beautiful loop trail in the mountains in the middle of Oahu.  It smells like lemon eucalyptus, it’s shaded and is relatively flat with beautiful views.  I’d suggest bringing toddler carriers for any kid under 5 if you want to do the full ~5 mile loop…or make sure you turn around before you get too far because otherwise kids will get tired (obviously this goes without saying but we learned this the hard way and only had one carrier).  Full blog post on the Aiea Loop Trail can be found here.

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Activities

Honolulu Zoo.  We get an annual membership because it makes so much sense and saves money if you plan on visiting at least twice in one year.  There is a big banyan tree that the kids love playing under, there are lots of animals (it’s a zoo, so that probably goes without saying), a couple play structures (they aren’t covered though and get super hot, so make sure you get there right when the zoo opens to make for a more enjoyable visit), and a keiki (kid) area where you can pet goats, climb through a tunnel under a koi pond, and see some domesticated animals like a cow, donkey, sheep and turkey.

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Honolulu Aquarium.  We’ve only visited this once (we’re partial to the zoo) but we had a fun time visiting.  It’s very small though, and if you have a kid like Jack they’ll run through the whole thing in about 10 minutes, which isn’t worth the money in my opinion.  But if you have a kid with a longer attention span who likes fish this is definitely a great way to spend some time.

Keiki and Plow.  This children’s farm is located at the bottom of Koko Head and there are chickens to hold (and eggs to harvest), goats to pet, a big dirt/outdoor play kitchen, a giant slide, a huge sandbox with tons of toys, a wooden ship to play on, vegetables to pick…and it’s almost all in the shade.  Make sure to check their Facebook page to see when they’re open.  (It’s normally only Tuesdays and Fridays from 9-11AM).  It’s $10 per family and then you pay additional money if you want to pick vegetables or harvest eggs.  My kids LOVE this place!

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Hickam Splash Pad.  If you have military installation access this is a really great splash pad for kids!  It opens at 10AM though, which is one downside because I wish it opened earlier (and it’s been closed for repairs for a while, and I’m not sure if it’s been reopened yet).  There also are no restrooms near it either, so be prepared for that.  It is right next to a playground though, and the kids typically end up going back and forth between the two structures and it’s fun for them.  Just search “Hickam splash pad” on Google maps and you’ll find it.

Ka Makana Ali’i Splash Pad.  This outdoor mall in Kapolei (west side of the island) has a little splash pad and my kids always love playing in it.  I’ll often shop/browse the mall first and then will end at the splash pad for the kids to play as long as they want to.  It’s kind of random since it’s in a mall, but that makes it nice because there are rarely other kids using it.  There is also a covered green area at the center of the mall and there are always toddlers running around there.  There are weekly toddler yoga classes and other activities there too, so be sure to check the Ka Makana Ali’i website for info on upcoming events.

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Children’s Discovery Center.  This place is AMAZING!  My kids could spend all day there.  There are so many interactive things that are great for toddlers and older kids too.  There is a baby section full of great toys and things to climb on for little ones, a water play area, hospital section, firehouse section, lots of cars, a diner, grocery store, a stage, tons of costumes, and the entire upper two floors are about Hawaiian culture and the many Asian countries that have had a big influence on Hawaii.  It’s a bit pricy (there are military and kama’aina discounts though!) but 100% worth it.  I always pack sandwiches and we’ll take a break and eat outside and then head back in.  The one huge downside is that there is only one restroom…and it’s at the entrance.  So if you get deep into the center (it’s huge) or up on the second or third floors and your child realized they have to go potty it’s a bit of a pain to get there and then go all the way back to where you’d left off.

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Wading Pad at International Marketplace.  I wouldn’t consider this a splash pad the because the water is about 1 inch deep (maybe less), but for some reason the kids loooooove running through it (and it’s nice and shaded too).  It’s right in the middle of the bottom floor of the International Marketplace and we’ll often go to the zoo then head there to let them play a bit more before they pass out in the stroller (so we can enjoy a meal while they sleep).

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Playgrounds

Ala Moana Center Playground.  There is a neat netted climbing structure on the top floor in between Target and Janie and Jack.  It’s a nice way to break up a shopping trip, though it’s always really busy.  It’s netted so kids can’t fall (gosh it’s nice to not worry about that at a playground!).  On our most recent visit to the mall Caroline was finally tall enough to be able to climb on it, so I’d say this is best for kids 2 and over simply because of the distance between the “petals,” plus you don’t want them to get stuck at the top because I can imagine that climbing up to retrieve them would be really challenging.

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Sand Playground on Hickam.  This sprawling playground on Hickam Air Force Base is over a giant sandbox so it’s super fun for kids.  Only problem is that it’s not covered so it gets super hot…so get there early in the morning or in the evening once it has cooled down a bit.  There are so many playgrounds on all of the military installations here, so really you can’t go wrong.  We’ve also really enjoyed the large one on Kaneohe MCBH.

 

Restaurants

Green World Coffee Farm.  This coffee shop near Schofield Barracks (before you get to the North Shore) has a huge fenced in lawn so you can let your kids roam free!  I’ve only stopped here once but Caroline had fun playing and there were several mom groups there too.  You can also walk through the coffee plants and they were blooming with beautiful white flowers when we visited!

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Maui Brewing Company.  We often go here after the zoo or when we’re in Waikiki.  The main reason is because it’s never crowded, there is always room to park the stroller next to your table if the kids are sleeping, and the food and beer are really good.  It’s up on the second floor but it’s an easy elevator ride up there.

The Street, in The International Marketplace.  When we’re in Waikiki we loooove to visit The Street.  It’s basically a foodcourt full of so many different options, and all of the “hawker” stalls are run by the same celebrity chef, Michael Mina.  We love the Mediterranean stall for delicious lafa (flatbreads), the kids love the pizza stall, the vegan stall has great acai and chia seed pudding bowls, the ramen stall is delicious, as is the Mexican stall.  (There is also BBQ, froyo, a couple bars (great price on beer!), fried chicken, burgers…You really can’t go wrong.)  They also have a really great military discount (25%, I believe).  It’s definitely a kid and stroller friendly place.

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Aulani Disney Character Breakfast.  If you or your kids love Disney then you’ve got to go to the character breakfast at Aulani (Disney’s resort here on the island, and you don’t have to stay at the hotel in order to attend).  Make sure you make reservations because the seating occurs at different set times so that you get an entire show/session while you’re there.  It has the biggest spread of food I’ve ever seen (including Mickey waffles!) and it’s really interactive with all the characters and songs and dances for the kids to do.  Lots of fun!

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Did I miss anything?  What would you add to the list?  I know I’ve barely scraped the surface so I’ll updated this post as I find new favorite kid-friendly spots on Oahu!

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