Hawaii for kids

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Spend a short time in Hawai’i and you’ll understand how important a sense of family, or ohana, is to Hawaiian culture. And children, or keiki, are beloved and treasured across the islands. The best way to embrace the love is to share some authentic Hawaiian adventures with your kids amongst Oahu’s stunning landscapes and wildlife-rich waters. Here some fun activities in Hawaii for kids.

Although surfing the Banzai Pipeline might not be something you’ll want to do with the family, there are plenty of famous landmarks in Hawaii to visit and other activities in Hawaii, both in and out of the water, that the kids will love. 

So make sure to add some of these fun adventures to your Oahu itinerary

Hawaii for kids

1- Sailing an Outrigger Canoe 

hawai for kids
Spending time on the water is one of the fun things to do in Hawaii for kids.

There’s something about water and boats that appeals to all kids and Hawaiian Ocean Adventures taps into the earliest Hawaiian history whilst giving families a terrific water and wildlife experience.

Owner Nakoa Prejean has been involved with ocean canoes since he was 17 when his family began the Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Association to honour the art of Hawaiian canoe sailing.

Since then he has learned the craft of traditional canoe building and was crew on a Big Island voyaging canoe during her maiden voyage from Hawaii to Tahiti and back using traditional Polynesian navigating techniques.  And if you’re planning on visiting the Big Island too, here are some things to do on the Big Island for families.


While sailing and paddling (you can join in if you wish), Prejean tells you and your kids stories about the remarkable history of Polynesian voyaging canoes, how traditional sailing canoes are built with native plants as well as the historical significance of the Hakipuu and Kualoa area.

He sails around the island of Mokoli’i (or Chinaman’s Hat) offshore from Kualoa.

Often you will encounter spinner dolphins riding the waves just in front of the canoes, while at the island there is time for snorkelling with green turtles or honu.

Two-hour tours around Chinaman’s Hat run from Kualoa on the East Coast (online booking).

One-hour tours are also offered at the Disney Aulani Resort on the West Coast.

2- Exploring Kualoa Ranch 

horse riding in oahu hawai
Horse riding is a fantastic activity in Hawaii for kids.

The lush terrain of 4,000-acre Kualoa Ranch on the Windward Side of Oahu is every kid’s paradise.

It’s a majestic awe-inspiring landscape that spreads from broad green valleys and dense rainforest to verdant cliffs that plunge to white sand beaches.

There is something for just about everyone on this working cattle ranch including a petting zoo and beginning horsemanship lessons for young children and a cruise to a secret island where you can build sandcastles, splash in the calm waters, canoe, paddleboard, and play volleyball.

The highlights, however, are undoubtedly the horse, ATV and jeep tours to explore the Jurassic landscape.

Yes, your kids will be looking for tyrannosaurs right where Jurassic Park was filmed.

Parts of Godzilla, George of the Jungle, Lost and both the old and new Hawaii Five-0 television shows were also shot here.

Teenagers love the freedom of exploring the wilderness on ATVs while one five-year-old said the jeep ride “was like the Indiana Jones Ride at Disneyland, but way better!”.

There are also hula lessons for the young and not so young, and in the evening you can tuck into a traditional luau buffet whilst enjoying a Legends of Kualoa performance.

There are lots of Hawaiian legends and myths that will enchant kids of all ages.

Kids will be entranced by the ancient Hawaiian stories told through chants and hula dance.

3- Go hiking on Oahu

As Hawaii has fantastic views, one of the fun activities in Hawaii is hiking and fortunately, there are several hikes suitable for kids.

There’s a good range of hikes on Oahu and most have amazing views, so you don’t need to island hop to enjoy a fun hiking holiday in Hawaii.  

Lanikai Pillbox Trail is a popular family hike that is safe and has amazing views looking towards Lanikai and the Mokulua Islands.

It’s a good trail to tackle at sunrise and there’s usually a cool ocean breeze along the trail. 

The Manoa Falls Trail will reward you with a cool dip under the waterfall but bring lots of insect repellant if you’re doing this hike in summer. 

Another hike to do with kids is the Makapuu Lighthouse Hike, which has well-maintained pathways that makes it easier to push a stroller.

The walkway offers lovely views but there’s not a lot of shade, so bring sunscreen. 

4- Swimming with sea turtles and dolphins 

hawai dolpins
Swimming with dolphins is a bucket list experience do try when visiting Hawaii with kids.

Family cruises aboard the 42ft Island Spirit offer fascinating encounters with Oahu’s remarkable diversity of marine life.

Water-savvy marine biologists help with interactive hands-wet immersion in the ocean’s wild realm while snorkel gear and flotation devices ensure an enjoyable, safe and family-friendly adventure.

Wild Side’s owner Tori Cullins says, “Swimming with the island’s turtles is a life-changing experience, for children and grown-ups.

The sound of kids squealing with delight through their snorkels makes me grin just thinking about it.

turtle in Hawaii for kids
Swimming with turtles is an amazing activity in Hawaii for kids.

” But that is not all, there are reef snorkel hunts, the opportunity to make friends with bottlenose and spinner dolphins, according to appropriate wildlife friendly dolphin ‘wet-iquette”, and during the winter season, watching humpback whales breaching.

On any given trip you might also see monk seals, manta rays, albatross as well as a wide range of colourful reef fish.

Kids will also be amazed to hear the whales sing and dolphins chatter with their unique clicks and squeaks via the onboard hydrophone which broadcasts whale and dolphin vocalisations from underwater.

Visiting the USA soon? Here are more things to do.

Hawaii for kids

Hawaii for kids

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Sue Henly
I'm a writer, photographer and blogger. An Australian, currently based in Melbourne, I am married to an American while continuing an abiding love affair with France.