Best Hawaiian Island for Families: Oahu

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Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to visit Hawaii? Simply put, Hawaii is the perfect destination for families.

Each island has its own pros and cons, but wherever you choose to go, you’re pretty much guaranteed good weather, lovely beaches, wildlife, and adventure.

But in a sea of fantastic options, which Hawaiian island do you prioritize for your next family vacation?

We visited Maui and Oahu for a 10-day adventure and it was fantastic!

In my opinion, Oahu is the best Hawaiian island for families.

The Island of Oahu

coast in Hawaii

Oahu is a favorite island of the Hawaiian archipelago, even though it isn’t the state’s largest.

Despite its relatively small size, Oahu packed a ton of family fun into our vacation.

We visited Pearl Harbor and the Polynesian Cultural Center.

The zoo and the aquarium are also possibilities when you opt to stay on the island.

The state’s capital, Honolulu, is here, and everything that goes along with a larger city made this little piece of paradise a top choice for our family.

In this guide, we’ll share the many reasons why Oahu is the ultimate family-friendly Hawaiian destination.

The family-friendly atmosphere in Oahu extends beyond its shores, and if you’re visiting Maui and curious about what to do and where to dine, our guide to the best family restaurants has you covered.

There’s just so much to do!

Family-friendly beaches

Waikiki Beach

people on beach in hawaii with hotels in background

Waikiki Beach is a world-famous stretch of golden sands and azure waters, which makes it perfect for families with children.

We love beach vacations, so we spent the afternoon playing in the sand and snorkeling in Oahu.

The waves are gentle, which is ideal for the littles, and families can enjoy just about every beachside activity you can think of here.

Building sandcastles, reading, paddleboarding, basically, the only limit is your gear and imagination. 

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Sandy Beach

Like a little adrenaline rush with your family vacation?

Head to Sandy Beach, known for its powerful shore break, which is a playground for bodyboarders of all ages.

Whether or not you add this to your itinerary will depend on the ages of your kids.

The waves may be too challenging for the little ones, but older kids and teenagers are well-suited to this activity.

Kid-approved Attractions

girl behind pearl harbor exhibit

Oahu, the third largest Hawaiian island after The Big Island (obviously) and Maui, translates to the “Gathering Place,” and Honolulu means sheltered harbor.

Doesn’t that sound nice?

There are too many attractions to mention on this slice of paradise, but whether your kids are animal lovers, adventure lovers, or history lovers, Oahu has something that they’ll enjoy.

Here’s a few things you can do:

Historic Pearl Harbor

Oahu is an island steeped in history, and no visit would be complete without a tour of Pearl Harbor.

We immersed ourselves at this historic site and heard somber yet profound stories.

We also explored the USS Arizona Memorial and the Battleship Missouri.

It was a great opportunity to understand the depth of the island’s role in American history.

We had an early ride and our tour guide started our day with poi donuts. They were the best!

Oahu’s Wildlife

man holdinng octopus

One of the main features of Oahu, and Hawaii in general, is the native wildlife. You’ll see animals you will probably never see at home.

While on the beach, a native Hawaiian caught two octopi while snorkeling. He even allowed us to see them up close and hold them briefly.

There are two great places to get up close and personal with the island’s residents: The Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium.

The Honolulu Zoo, located in the heart of Waikiki, is ideal for animal-loving families.

Kids will be intrigued by the diverse range of animals, including lions, giraffes, and exotic birds.

The zoo also focuses on conservation and education to ensure that these magnificent species are around for a long time. 

Located near Waikiki Beach, the Waikiki Aquarium has the mission of bringing the marine life of the Pacific to the masses.

Part of the University of Hawaii, it’s the ideal activity before or after spending time at the iconic beach.

The aquarium blends natural and not-so-natural (tanks) habitats beautifully so that you will travel in and out of buildings on your tour.

The colorful fish will draw your attention, as will the playful sea lions and intricate coral reefs.


Turtles, turtles, and more turtles

The Waikiki Aquarium is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to seeing marine life on Oahu.

Forget the fish tanks and head to Laniakea Beach, also known as Turtle Beach, instead. Or head over to Turtle Canyon for a sea life snorkel excursion.

Kids will love the opportunity to see sea turtles up close, and this is the perfect spot for this magical experience.

These gentle creatures often bask on the beach or swim near the shore, so make sure you have your camera handy!

Oahu’s Nature

girl standing on rock near waterfall

The natural beauty of Oahu is second to none.

The island is full of captivating landscapes, from lush rainforests to pristine beaches and striking volcanic craters.

Get out to these places and explore as much as you can as a family.

Diamond Head

A visit to Oahu is incomplete without hiking the iconic Diamond Head Crater. This volcanic wonder stands as a sentinel, guarding the sparkling city of Honolulu.

The panoramic views from the summit will take your breath away. It’s a moment to savor the epic views of the island as they unfold before your eyes.

Hike to hidden treasures

For families with a taste for exploration, Oahu offers a treasure trove of hidden gems waiting to be uncovered.

Embark on a journey along the Kealia Trail, a hiking path that reveals panoramic views of the island’s windward coast.

The island has many scenic hiking trails to explore. For a stunning view, follow the Rainforest Trail through lush vegetation to cascading waterfalls.

Your family will climb into the heart of a lush, emerald world, with photo ops around every corner.

Hanauma Bay

For an unforgettable snorkeling experience, Hanauma Bay is a must.

This protected nature preserve is teeming with Pacific marine life.

The water is clear, the fish are dazzling, and the experience is nothing short of magical.

Don’t forget your snorkel gear!

Culture of Oahu

women dancing at luau

Oahu is a cultural melting pot where the traditions of the past are visible in the cuisine, attire, attractions, and streets of the island.

Here are a few ways to dive into this culture with the whole family:

Attend an authentic luau

It would be a shame to travel all the way to this remote island and not see a traditional Hawaiian luau at Paradise Cove.

Immerse yourself in the melodies and rhythms of hula dancing, and savor the flavors of local cuisine.

You’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the island’s rich cultural heritage.

Polynesian Cultural Center

The Polynesian Cultural Center is a living testament to the diverse cultures that call Oahu home.

Families can explore the customs and traditions of the Pacific, from Tahitian dance to Samoan fire knife performances.

It’s an educational and entertaining experience that all members of your family will cherish.

Culinary Delights of Oahu

best hawaiian island for families
Taro Chips
poi donut
Poi Donut

Oahu’s food scene is full of tempting flavors that cater to most palates.

From basic comfort food to new age and modern, even the pickiest eaters won’t go hungry here.

One of the best ways to sample local dishes is to visit food trucks and market stalls.

There is a bunch of street food available near the Children’s Discovery Center (another great family attraction), and otherwise, food trucks pop up at Waikiki Beach all the time. 

Make sure you try the kalua pork and shave ice, which is perfect on a hot day.

Also, keep an eye out for the world-famous malasadas, a Portuguese donut that’s become an island favorite.

Know Before You Go

Hawaiian sunset
  • Traveling to Hawaii is sure to keep you busy, so it’s important to sort out luggage storage in Honolulu for any unnecessary items, Bounce can definitely help with that!

Find a location for Bounce luggage storage.

  • Be prepared for inclemate weather during non-peak seasons. Bring a water proof jacket or rain gear.
  • Oahu is a popular destination during peak season. Plan your itinerary ahead of time so that you can book your flight, hotels, activities, and attractions in advance.
  • Public transportation on the island can be limited, so renting a car is recommended if you want to easily access attractions more than 2 miles from your hotel. Having your own vehicle will allow you to conveniently explore the island’s rugged coastlines, rainforests, and volcanic landscapes.

Final Thoughts on Best Hawaiian Island for Families

family vacation photo

Hawaii is a dream vacation. What are you waiting for?

Plan your journey to this enchanting island and watch as your shared memories of fun and adventure set against the backdrop of Oahu’s stunning beauty and rich culture last long after you’ve returned home. 

In Oahu, you’ll find the perfect blend of adventure, culture, nature, and relaxation, all served with a generous helping of aloha spirit. 

It is the best Hawaiian island for families!

Safe travels.

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