The Locals’ Guide to Exploring Oahu With Kids

things to do on oahu with kids
No matter where we are in the world, whether it be skiing down the slopes in Whistler, taking a food tour, or viewing the cherry blossoms in Tokyo, Hawaii will always be home to us. As most of you know, I am Hawaiian, while my husband is Lebanese – we met while living in Dubai back in the 90’s and moved back to Hawaii a few years ago to start our foodie-loving family.
     
Our family has grown from just me and my husband to include my two Hawaiian-Lebanese kid-foodie children, Lou Lou and Jaf. Oh, and we recently got a dog named Legend, too!

When we’re not traveling the world (which we’re getting ready to do – follow along on Instagram), we spend our time on the island of Oahu, my hometown.
     
Hawaii is an extremely diverse state – just read about the diversity that exists in my family – which is why we love watching our kids grow up here. The spirit of aloha can always be found, and after slow traveling through Europe in an RV, we’ve grown to enjoy the slower-paced island life.
     
So if you and your family find yourself on Oahu, here’s what I’d recommend you see and do. All the places mentioned below are where the local families (like my own) go to spend time, hang out with their ohana, and just be grateful of the nature that fills the islands.
     

THINGS TO DO ON OAHU WITH KIDS – TIPS FROM A LOCAL

things to do on oahu with kids     

The Beach

things to do on oahu with kidsActually, beaches would be more accurate. If we’re not at home, the next best place to look for us is at the beach. Us locals love spending as much time as we can at the beach, and with good reason – the Hawaiian islands are home to stunning coastlines and we have something for everyone. Whether you’re into snorkeling, SUPing, or surfing the big waves – there’s a beach for you on Oahu.

Enjoying our #Winter weather in #Hawaii ☀️💦🌴#alamoanabeach #visitoahu #paddleboard

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It’s hard to pick a favorite, but our favorite family-friendly one has to be Magic Island at Ala Moana Beach Park. Check out our list for more family-friendly beaches on Oahu.
     

Take a Hawaiian Art & Culture Class

things to do on oahu with kidsIt’s very important for my kids to learn about both mine and my husband’s culture, and as homeschoolers in Hawaii, I found the lack of art & cultural immersion classes to be a problem. Which is why I created The Art Loft – it’s a DIY community arts space in Honolulu’s Kaka’ako emerging arts district that aims to support the development of Hawaii’s arts scene through its arts program, educational initiatives, and community projects.
  
In addition to arts workshops and DIY paint sessions, we also offer adult and kid Hawaiian Art to both tourists and locals. Check out our April Events schedule here: http://bit.ly/april-artloft-events
     

Hawaii State Art Museum

This free art museum, known as the “People’s museum” is located in downtown Honolulu and if you’re looking to spend the afternoon getting acquainted with Hawaiian art, this is the place to go. It’s not a big museum, which is perfect if you have small children – expect to see paintings, sculptures, traditional Hawaiian crafts and even some digital art.

FYI, the museum is open late (from 6:00pm-9:00pm) on the first Friday of every month and offers live-entertainment making it the perfect way to start your weekend.
     

Eat the Street

It should come as no surprise that one of our favorite weekend activities includes food…Eat the Street is a food truck rally that happens every Friday in Kaka’ako, with each week showcasing a different culinary theme.

Chocolate Mint Chip ice cream sandwich with #fruitypebbles ❤️💛💚💜 @nokaoicookie #kidfoodies #hawaiieats #eatthestreet

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It’s a great way to sample Hawaii’s thriving street food scene, and hang out with the locals. Check out the Eat The Street Facebook page for upcoming events.

  

Manoa Falls

things to do on oahu with kidsOahu is home to some breathtaking hikes – you can spend a couple of hours climbing and your reward is a refreshing panoramic ocean view. One of our favorite kid-friendly hikes is Manoa Falls takes you away from the beaches, and into the valley: this relatively easy hike is through lush rainforests filled with bamboo and ends at the stunning Manoa Falls.
  
The Manoa Valley gets the highest amount of rainfall annually, which means a wonderful waterfall, but also muddy trails. We recommend going earlier in the morning, around 6-7am, before the tour buses start pouring in – it’ll feel like you have the waterfall all to yourselves!
     

Eat a Plate Lunch

things to do on oahu with kids
If you’re looking to try the local cuisine, skip the hotel luaus and eat like the locals do: a plate lunch. A lot of Hawaii’s diversity is seen in what we consider “Hawaiian food” and the plate lunch is the perfect example. We love (and pretty much every local) Rainbow Drive-In. Opened up in 1961, they’ve been serving affordable plate lunches for decades – I would go there as a kid growing up, and now I’m happy I can take my kids there…check out our vlog on what the kid-foodies ate when they visited.
 

 
We love traveling and seeing what the world has to offer our family. But there’s nothing better than when we fly back home, spend time with grandma and our ohana on our island. When we hashtag #luckywelivehawaii, we really mean it!
  
Are you planning a family visit to Oahu? We’d be happy to help answer any questions or give you family-friendly recommendations! Be sure to check out our Hawaii archives as well.

21 Comments

  • I always thought Hawaii was more of an outdoors / extreme sports destination. It’s nice to see that there is more to this region and that kids won’t get bored while I’m surfing, haha!. Thanks for this post!

    • Yes, there’s soo much to do and see here. A ton of kid-friendly hiking trails if you want to take the kids along with you. My lil ones love body surfing as well 🙂

  • These are even great tips for adult travelers! I’ve not been to Oahu yet, but I know Manoa Falls and Eat the Street would be at the top of my list. I love street food and did;t experience anything like that on Hawai’i or Kaua’i. You’ve got me wanting to book a ticket now!

    • Oh yes, Eat the Street is definitely worth coming to Oahu for. It’s such a unique experience and you get to sample the variety our island has to offer…we love it!

  • Some fantastic suggestions there! We actually eloped in Oahu and can’t wait to return but with our two little boys! We loved the beaches so I can see that being at the top of our list when visiting too.

  • We loved Hawaii – I got married there (I’m from Australia so it was a destination wedding), so had our wedding party with us, and totally agree – the kids loved the beaches! Cool idea to take a Hawaiian arts and culture class – will definitely include that on the next itinerary. And thanks for the tip on Eat the Street – will keep an eye out – I love food vans!

  • Even without kids, all these activities sound awesome to me. Despite the muddy trails, I’d love to visit the Manoa Falls. Eat the Street sounds funny, too. I guess I understand why you love living in Hawaii. It’s quite a paradise, isn’t it?

  • Always had pictured Oahu as a beach bum’s paradise. But guess there’s more to that. An art museum now? And loved your panoramic image of the valley. Can picture myself lazing there for an hour at least.

    • There are many beautiful nature trails that are easy and difficult. I’m like you though, I love being lazy and relaxing in my surroundings.

  • Manao waterfall looks lovely, though I am not sure if I am keen to trek for two hours to get there. I love the posts that talk about the author’s hometown. There is an intimacy that is difficult to get in traveler stories. It like you are telling the world about your home, your art and your culture.

    Thank you for introducing me to Hawaii.

    • You’re welcome. I love my home, though at times I feel it is marketed as a touristy destination. I want people to know what locals do 🙂

  • Hawaii is a dream destination for its turquoise shores and natural beauty. Being a local you have listed some off the map things like the Manoa falls! I hadn’t heard of those at all. A hike through Bamboo forests would be just so amazing. That Chocolate Mint Chip ice cream sandwich looks absolutely YUM! It is so lovely to immerse yourself in a local art and skill workshop when traveling. The Art loft is a great option for travellers to unwind and learn about local arts!

    • Most people come to Hawaii and don’t really get to do Hawaiian things. The hang out only at the beaches but don’t get to really learn about our wonderful culture.

  • Ever since I read the book Hawaii by James Michener, I’ve been dying to visit! When I go, I’m definitely going to check out eat the street! I never knew that Hawaii had a thriving food scene which makes me want to visit even more. The rainbow drive sounds fabulous! Also, love the idea of hiking through the lush rainforests and seeing the Manoa falls. Thanks for a great post!

    • We have so many mixed-races here so the foods here are so different. Lots of fushion. Japanese/Hawaiian, Portugese/Filipino and its all available at the food rallies. 🙂

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