If you have enough trouble getting your kids out of the house in the morning, dragging them thousands of miles away may seem like an insurmountable challenge. But family travel can be immensely rewarding, giving you new ways of seeing the world through smaller pairs of eyes. The following itinerary gives you the nuts and bolts you need to plan an affordable, safe, and fun family vacation on Oahu.
Lather everybody up in sunscreen, take sunglasses and a hat, and plop down on a beach the kids will love — Waikiki. If they get tired of playing in the surf, you might consider a catamaran ride or an outrigger canoe ride. After an hour or so on the beach, take the kids to see the marine critters at the Waikiki Aquarium or stop by the Honolulu Zoo. They'll drop off to sleep early.
An Island Drive
Most likely, you'll still be on mainland time today — take advantage of it and get up early for a drive around the island. Head out for Sea Life Park, which opens at 10:30am, and spend a couple of hours on the shows, exhibits, and interactive activities. Grab lunch in Kailua at Zippy's, and head up the coast to the Polynesian Cultural Center, in Laie. Plan at least 2 to 3 hours (or as long as the kids will last) here. On the way home, stop at one of the shrimp trucks in Haleiwa and have a picnic dinner.
Pearl Harbor & Diamond Head
Don't miss the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. Arrive before the 7:30am opening, or lines will be lengthy. After a few hours here, head next door to the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, one of just 15 World War II submarines still in existence. If energy levels hold out, hit the USS Missouri Memorial, where the Japanese signed the surrender agreement on September 2, 1945, that ended World War II. Finish Pearl Harbor by seeing the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, where the kids can sit behind the controls of a simulated plane that flew in World War II. Depending on how tired the kids are at this point, you can head to the beach or hike up to the top of Diamond Head to see the sunset view.
Hanauma Bay & the Bishop Museum
If it's not Tuesday (when the park is closed for maintenance), head out for Hanauma Bay to snorkel in the clear, warm water. After lunch take the kids to the Bishop Museum, where they can explore the interior of a volcano and climb to the top to get a bird's-eye view of an erupting caldera, watch a hula, see the skeleton of a whale, and check out war weapons the Hawaiians used.
After a morning at the beach, wander over to Chinatown for lunch; the kids will be enthralled with the exotic foodstuffs at the outdoor markets.
Wet 'n' Wild Water Park
Take the kids to Wet 'n' Wild. They'll love this 29-acre water park; in fact, plan to spend the entire day here. Highlights include a football-field-sized wave pool, a 65-foot-high free-fall slide, a water-toboggan bullet slide, inner-tube slides, a body-flume slide, rivers, and a zillion other things that will entertain them for hours. You'll also find restaurants here, along with a few food carts, shops, and Hawaiian performances. Bring plenty of sunscreen.
The Children's Discovery Center
In case of rain, take the kids to Hawaii Children's Discovery Center, perfect for ages 2 to 13. This 37,000-square-foot place of color, motion, and activities will entertain them for hours, with hands-on exhibits and interactive stations. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad can get some rest.
Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, Ko Olina, Hawai‘i: Disney built this high-rise hotel and spa (with timeshare condos) on 21 acres on the beach, about an hour’s drive from Waikīkī. It’s a great destination for families, with a full children’s program, plus areas and activities for teens and tweens. Mickey, Minnie, and other Disney characters walk the resort and stop to take photos with kids.
Build Sandcastles on Kailua Beach: This gorgeous beach is kid-friendly, with sand that slopes gently into the water. The waves vary in spots—perfect for the young ones to splash around and older kids to boogie board. The broad stretch of sand is also great for building castles.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.