One of the best things about Oahu is that it has such a great variety of things kids love to do, from building sandcastles and riding trains to exploring the settings from their favorite movies. There’s no shortage of ways to have fun in the water, either. Parents will be thrilled to see their kids getting outdoors and away from their screens. And the best part? The parents will have fun at the same time, too! Here are eight super-fun things to do with kids on Oahu!
Explore the Jurassic Valley by UTV
Kids will have a blast bouncing over muddy trails, forging streams, and crossing the grassy plains made famous by the Jurassic Park movies, all from a state-of-the-art ultra-terrain vehicle (UTV) on the Jurassic Adventure Tour. Even without real dinosaurs on the tour, kids will love the adventure of exploring dense rainforest and spotting towering waterfalls in the distance on the Jurassic. The UTV offers an advantage for families because, unlike an ATV, it allows even smaller kids to ride along. The tour is guided, but drivers 21 and over will get a chance to drive the UTV at various points.
This two-hour tour traverses the stunning 1,000-acre Kualoa Ranch in the Ka’a’awa Valley — more commonly called “Jurassic Valley” these days — on Oahu’s Windward Coast near Kailua. The meeting point at the ranch is only about a 45-minute drive from downtown Honolulu, and transportation is available. To book your unforgettable UTV tour, visit this website.
Tour the USS Missouri Battleship
Kids ages 5 and up will love exploring this gigantic U.S. Navy vessel from World War II. Anchored in Pearl Harbor near the USS Arizona Memorial, the fully restored Missouri was one of the largest battleships ever built. Kids will marvel at its sheer size and can spend several hours exploring the inside of its 12-plus decks and its giant gun batteries on the main decks. They’ll also get a sense of how its 2,000 officers and crew lived by seeing their quarters below decks. Older kids may appreciate that “Mighty Mo,” then moored in Tokyo Bay, was the site of the Japanese surrender that ended World War II. Visit this website for specific tour information.
Ride the Hawaiian Railway at Ewa Beach
If you have kids who love trains, they’ll love this historic railway right on the ocean southwest of Pearl Harbor. It’s the only operating historic train on Oahu. Kids will have fun riding the restored, open-air train cars along a route that once transported sugar cane to the mills. Along the way they’ll learn about the history of railroading in Hawaii while watching the waves of the Pacific. Some kids may find that the best part is getting some ice-cream when the train stops in a small town during the journey. The Hawaiian Railway is great for larger families because they can book entire passenger cars.
Kids will also have fun exploring the small toy train museum, displays of steam locomotives, and other railcars at the embarking station. It’s a fun way to spend a few hours. Visit the website of the Hawaiian Railway Society for more information.
Explore a Real Submarine
If you have kids that like exploring small spaces, they’ll have a great time crawling through the tight quarters of the USS Bowfin, a fully restored World War II submarine at the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum. If they think their own beds are small, they’ll wonder how 80 grown men fit into the tiny living quarters and narrow hallways of this underwater ship. They’ll also get a chance to poke their heads into some of the 24 torpedo tubes that launched torpedoes during the war. There’s also an onshore museum where older kids can learn more about how submarines helped the U.S. win World War II. The USS Bowfin and the museum are located at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial at Pearl Harbor. To learn more and get tickets, visit the museum website.
Taste Pineapple at the Dole Pineapple Plantation
The kids who love sweet treats (are there any kids that don’t?) will love tasting the sweet, fresh Hawaiian pineapple at the Dole Pineapple Plantation, a real working plantation in the center of Oahu. They’ll soon discover why many say the golden tropical fruit grown here is the sweetest and best-tasting anywhere. When they do, they’ll be glad to learn that Oahu has switched from being the world’s leading pineapple cannery to one of the top growers of fresh pineapple.
Even if they don’t care about the history of pineapple, kids will get a kick out of taking a 20-minute train ride around the grounds of the plantation. They’ll then get a chance to explore the grounds of eight mini-gardens, where they can touch and smell many of the other tropical fruits and flowers grown on Oahu. And the fun isn’t over until they navigate the world’s largest botanical maze. Part of it is even laid out in the shape of a pineapple! At the end of all the excitement, the kids can relax with a refreshing Dole Whip at the on-site restaurant. Visit the plantation’s website here to learn more.
Visit the Polynesian Cultural Center
Even the most jaded kids will be amazed by the real-life Hawaiian culture on display here. They’ll come to understand that Hawaii is part of the great cultural region of Polynesia, which means “many islands.” They’ll get to delve into the singing, dancing, and cooking demonstrations at each of eight mini-villages highlighting the different cultures of Polynesia. These villages cover not only Hawaii, but far away places like Samoa, Fiji, Tahiti, and New Zealand. Younger kids will love watching the parade of different types of Polynesian canoes on the Center’s lagoon, and older kids will get a chance to paddle one.
Even tired little ones will wake up to the hula dancing, fireball-twirling, and traditional fire-knife demonstrations that light up the evening darkness. This amazing multicultural show follows a luau and traditional pig roast that will introduce kids to native Hawaiian foods. This is bound to become one of the kids most memorable times on Oahu. The Polynesian Cultural Center is located on the northeastern shore of Oahu. Visit the center’s website for hours and showtimes.
Snorkel at Hanauma Bay
For kids about age five and up who love the water, Oahu’s Hanauma Bay is the perfect place to take them snorkeling. Many locals say this secluded spot is the best place for snorkeling on Oahu. The bay, formed inside the crater of an extinct volcano, is walled in on three sides, so it feels like swimming in a giant, natural aquarium. The shallow waters are warm and perfectly clear and have gentle waves, which makes it easy to view the many species of tropical fish. Older kids can venture farther out to see even more aquatic life hovering over the coral that fills much of the bay. Between snorkeling sessions, everyone can rest on the beautiful beach that lines the back of the bay.
Hanauma Bay is a protected nature reserve, so entry is limited and everyone must view a safety and environmental protection video before entering. Also, sunscreen is not permitted in order to protect the sealife and coral reefs, so be sure to bring sun hats and coverings. The wide beach has lifeguards, restrooms, showers, and a snack bar, which makes it easy to spend an entire day here. The website at this link has detailed visitor information.
Visit the Animals at the Honolulu Zoo
Kids who love animals will love the many exotic species at the acclaimed Honolulu Zoo. This attraction on the South Shore of Oahu has creatures from the tropical regions of North America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands. Kids will be in awe of animals like the giant Galapagos tortoise, Komodo dragon, 12-foot-long American alligator, Asian elephant, giraffe, black-handed spider monkey, and two-toed sloth. The Honolulu Zoo also hosts various educational programs geared toward kids and a two-hour twilight tour that shows animals “getting ready for bed” and some just waking up! Go to the zoo’s website for visitor information and to learn more.
Find more great Oahu vacation planning pointers here.