Aloha! We’ve been fortunate enough to spend our summer in a charming little town, immersing ourselves in the beauty of Oahu. Over the past three weeks, we’ve ventured to a variety of family-friendly spots that we simply can’t keep to ourselves.
The best part? Many of these activities and destinations are budget-friendly or even free! Whether you’re traveling on a shoestring budget or planning an extended stay on the island, this carefully curated itinerary is designed to ensure you make the most of your time in Oahu without breaking the bank. So, get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey as we share our favorite must-visit places and experiences that promise to leave a lasting impression.
A few recommendations to help you plan your trip to Hawaii
Before embarking on your Oahu adventure, I want to share a few essential tips that will ensure you have a fantastic experience on the island.
- First and foremost, be prepared for the island’s unique weather patterns by bringing along a light umbrella. Oahu is known for its occasional short bursts of rain, so having a compact and lightweight umbrella will come in handy.
- Protecting your skin from the Hawaiian sun is crucial, so sunscreen is an absolute must. Remember to apply and reapply generously throughout the day to safeguard your skin from harmful UV rays.
- If you’re traveling with kids who are more prone to sunburn, consider bringing along soothing masks to provide relief and protection for their delicate skin.
- For those seeking Hawaiian souvenirs, chocolates, or clothing, make sure to visit the Swap Meet held every Saturday at the Aloha Stadium. This vibrant market offers a wide array of authentic Hawaiian products, allowing you to find unique treasures to bring back home.
- If you plan on cooking your meals during your stay, consider making a stop at Costco. This bulk warehouse store offers a wide variety of groceries and household items at competitive prices, making it a cost-effective option for stocking up on essentials. You can also get your fruits and veggies at the farmers market.
- Staying hydrated is essential while exploring the island, so remember to bring refillable water bottles. Not only is it more environmentally friendly, but it will also save you money compared to buying bottled water.
- Bring a first aid kit. A well-stocked first aid kit can come in handy for minor injuries, scrapes, or discomfort that may arise during your adventures on the island.
- Lastly, invest in a pair of good-quality and lightweight hiking shoes. Oahu’s stunning landscapes offer numerous hiking opportunities, and having comfortable footwear will enhance your outdoor adventures and ensure you can tackle the trails with ease.
By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be well-prepared to make the most of your time on Oahu and create unforgettable memories on this beautiful island.
20+ Places to Visit in Oahu with your family
From the beaches to the breathtaking hikes, I have compiled our favorite spots for circling the island and visiting unforgettable destinations with your family in Hawaii.
1. Start with Waikiki beach
What better way to begin your Oahu adventure than with a visit to the iconic Waikiki Beach? Build sandcastles, get a shaved ice, learn to surf, or simply relax under the warm Hawaiian sun. The downtown area is conveniently walkable, with an array of shops, restaurants, and entertainment options at your fingertips. If you’re looking to explore other areas of Oahu, I highly recommend considering renting a car.
2. Hike to Diamond Head
Embark on a thrilling hike to Diamond Head, a million-year-old volcano that offers panoramic views of the island. Remember to make a reservation in advance for this popular trail. We recommend starting early in the morning to beat the heat and enjoy the stunning sunrise vistas. It costs $5 per person, with an additional $10 for parking. Arriving 30 minutes before your reservation time is advised.
3. Bishop Museum and ‘Iolani Palace
No visit to Oahu would be complete without diving into the rich heritage of Hawaii. Take your family to the Bishop Museum, a mandatory stop to learn about the captivating culture and traditions of the islands. (Get your tickets on Groupon for best prices!)
For an additional educational experience, make your way to ‘Iolani Palace, the former royal residence of the Hawaiian monarchy. Explore the stunning grounds and gain insight into the history of this remarkable place. Admission is priced at $27 per person.
4. Macadamia Nut Farm
We visited the macadamia nut farm to savor the delicious flavors of Hawaii’s iconic nuts. What makes this experience even more special is that the farm offers a unique opportunity for kids to engage in a hands-on activity. Kids had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the process of gathering macadamia nuts directly from the trees and cracking them open. It was a short-stop but worth it.
5. Kualoa Regional Beach Park and Chinaman Hat
One of my personal favorites is the Chinaman Hat (Mokoli’i), an islet located just offshore. With its calm waters, it provides an ideal spot for kids to enjoy a swim. For the more adventurous, kayak rentals allow you to paddle your way to the island and even embark on a hike. However, if you’re like me and prefer a moment of pure relaxation, simply find a cozy spot on the sandy shore and let yourself drift into a peaceful nap.
6. Thrills and Adventure: Kualoa Ranch
Kualoa Ranch is an all day activity. This is a popular location for ATV tours, horseback riding, or even zip-lining through the lush landscapes. This gorgeous spot has been featured in numerous films and TV shows. Prices may vary depending on the chosen experience, so it’s a good idea to check the official website for up-to-date information.
7. Beach. Beach and more beaches: Kahana Bay and Laie Beach Park
Both Kahana Bay and Laie Beach Park offer opportunities for swimming and leisurely walks, where you can explore the coastline and admire the beauty of the surrounding landscape.
8. Polynesian Cultural Center
The Polynesian Cultural Center is a must see. You can explore traditional village exhibits, and learn about the customs and traditions of the Pacific islands. (Your ticket is valid for three consecutive days!) In the evening, be sure to catch the mesmerizing Ha: Breath of Life show. This stunning performance showcases the beauty and storytelling prowess of the Pacific Island cultures through dance, music, and fire knife demonstrations.
9. Laie Point, Laie Temple
Laie holds a special place in our hearts, particularly for husband’s family, as they have a deep connection to its rich history. Among the notable landmarks in Laie, the Laie Temple stands out as a sacred place for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While access to the interior of the temple is limited to members, visitors can still admire the temple’s visitors center and experience the peaceful ambiance that surrounds it.
Another gem in Laie is the awe-inspiring Laie Point, which offers panoramic views of the picturesque coastline. As you stroll along the rugged cliffs, you’ll be captivated by the breathtaking vistas that unfold before you. The beauty of the ocean meeting the land is a sight to behold and leaves a lasting impression of Laie’s natural splendor.
10. Food Trucks in Kahuku and Ted’s Bakery
Stop by the food trucks in Kahuku. Make sure to stop by Giovanni’s Food Truck and savor their delectable shrimp dishes, which have become famous among locals and visitors alike. Additionally, don’t miss the opportunity to treat yourself to the irresistible pies and pastries at Ted’s Bakery
11. Sunset Beach and Ehukai Pillbox
This renowned North Shore beach is famous for its stunning sunsets, painting the sky with vibrant hues as the day comes to a close. For those seeking adventure and panoramic vistas, a hidden gem awaits just across the street from Sunset Beach. Park your vehicle at the Sunset Elementary and set off on the Ehukai Pillbox hike. This scenic trail offers not only a rewarding trek but also panoramic views that will leave you in awe. It will take you about 30 minutes to climb up to the top in a steep terrain.
12. Banzai Pipeline
This legendary surf break is renowned for its massive waves and the incredible skill of the surfers who tackle them. Witness the power and beauty of the ocean as experienced riders ride the barrel of these awe-inspiring waves
13. Shark’s Cove
Explore the enchanting underwater world of Shark’s Cove, a renowned snorkeling and diving spot on Oahu’s North Shore. Despite its name, this cove is not home to sharks but rather an array of marine life, making it a haven for underwater exploration. Dive beneath the surface and discover a vibrant coral reef teeming with colorful fish, sea turtles, and fascinating marine creatures. Parking can get tricky so come early.
14. Waimea Bay and Waimea Valley
Continue your beach-hopping adventure at Waimaea Beach, a hidden gem boasting pristine sands and crystal-clear waters. Spend the day swimming, snorkeling, or simply enjoying the serene surroundings with your family. It’s one of my favorite beaches on the North Shore.
For a dose of nature, embark on a hike through Waimea Valley. The location offers a botanical garden, a waterfall area, and a luau. It’s an easy hike that’s perfect for the whole family.
15. Laniakea Beach
This picturesque North Shore beach is renowned for its frequent visits from Hawaiian green sea turtles, or honu, who come ashore to bask in the sun. Keep an eye out for turtles as they navigate the waters or rest on the beach. It’s a humbling experience to witness these ancient creatures in their natural habitat, and Laniakea Beach offers a unique opportunity to observe them up close while respecting their space.
We live by this surf town located on Oahu’s North Shore. This vibrant and historic community offers a unique blend of surf culture, boutique shops, art galleries, and eateries. We love strolling along the streets and explore the local shops. You can cool off with a shaved ice from Matsumoto Shave Ice or get some delicious and affordable pizza at Spaguettini.
17. Pearl Harbor
As you visit Pearl Harbor, take a moment to reflect on the bravery and sacrifice of those who lost their lives during the attack. Explore the USS Arizona Memorial, where you can pay homage to the servicemen and women entombed beneath the water. Gain insights into the events that unfolded that fateful day by visiting the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum. This is a free place but the USS Arizona Memorial requires reservations with time in advance.
19. Manoa Falls
Manoa Falls was our first hike in Oahu. It’s an easy 30 minute hike with beautiful rainforest sights. At the end of the trail, you get rewarded with a beautiful waterfall where people can swim. Make sure to check if the trails are open before you plan to go.
Ko’olina is an ideal location for the little ones to swim or simply take a leisurely stroll along the coastline. Moreover, Ko’olina is renowned for its luxurious resorts, including the Aulani Disney Resort.
21. Dole Plantation
Don’t miss out on the Dole Whip at the Dole Plantation. These delicious treats are the perfect way to cool off on a summer day. You can also do the maze, tour the grounds or get souvenirs.
What else would you add to this list?