Updated August 25, 2023
Traveling to Oahu? Here are three can’t-be-missed things to do in Honolulu Hawaii with kids.
If you are a city person, Honolulu is the Hawaiian destination for you. You have the beautiful Waikiki beach with towering skyscrapers and Diamond Head Mountain in the backdrop; along with a bustling city full of amazing restaurants and contemporary nightlife.
If you aren’t a city person (like me), it is still well worth your time to spend a few days in Honolulu. Even if you are staying on another island for the majority of your Hawaii vacation.
Top 3 Things To Do in Honolulu Hawaii With Kids
There are so many things to do in Honolulu Hawaii, you could easily spend a week there and not get bored. But, if you only have a few days, here are the top three things to do in Honolulu with kids.
Hawaii is one of the more expensive family vacation destinations. Read- Family Travel on a Budget – 11 Helpful Tips to Make Family Vacations More Affordable for some great money-saving tips
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Visit Pearl Harbor
The devastating attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 was a significant event in United States history. Today Pearl Harbor is a memorial site filled with informative exhibits.
After reading the book “I Survived Pearl Harbor” Eli was extremely interested in going to the historical site. We had a trip to Maui planned and added a few days at the beginning of the trip to visit Honolulu so we could see Pearl Harbor.
You could spend hours walking around the multiple exhibits in Pearl Harbor. But, the three things that we found to be most enjoyable for kids are the USS Arizona Memorial, the Bowfin Submarine, and the Battleship Missouri.
Tour the USS Arizona Memorial
Touring the USS Arizona is a must-do when visiting Pearl Harbor. The USS Arizona was one of the ships hit in the attack. The damage to the ship was so extensive that it could not be recovered from the harbor. Many of the bodies of the 1,177 soldiers killed in the attack were also not able to be recovered. A beautiful memorial has been built over the ship.
The tour consists of a 25-minute documentary film followed by a shuttle boat ride out to the memorial. There is enough time to visit the memorial before taking the boat back to the harbor.
Tickets to visit the USS Arizona are free but there is a limited number given out every day.
The first time we visited Pearl Harbor the tickets were gone and we weren’t able to see the USS Arizona. If you plan ahead you can reserve tickets 8 weeks in advance from the National Park Website. The 8 weeks in advance tickets are limited. If you are like me and always booking last minute, you’ll have another chance to secure tickets 24 hours in advance on the same National Park Website.
If you are still unable to get tickets 24 hours in advance, the Park Rangers and volunteers will sometimes have stand-by availability. It is worth it to ask if any are available on the day you visit.
Explore the Bowfin Submarine
The Bowfin Submarine is an old World War II submarine. For a fee, you can take a self-guided audio tour through the submarine. It is interesting to see the control room and living quarters. The audio explains everything you are looking at as you go through the submarine.
Purchase tickets to explore the Bowfin Submarine after you arrive at Pearl Harbor. Tickets are $21.99 for adults and $12.99 for kids 4-12.
*Kids must be four years or older to participate in the tour.
Tour the Battleship Missouri
The Battleship Missouri is the last battleship commissioned by the United States. It is famous for being the location where the Japanese surrendered, marking the end of World War II. The Battleship was retired at Pearl Harbor in the early ’90s.
The Battleship Missouri is located across the Harbor from the Visitor Center. To get there you take a bus (included in the ticket price).
You can explore the gigantic battleship on your own or take a guided tour.
Book tickets to the Battleship Missouri after you arrive at Pearl Harbor. Tickets are $34.99 for adults and $17.49 for kids 4-12.
Helpful Tips For Visiting Pearl Harbor With Kids
- There is no entrance fee for the Pearl Harbor historical site.
- Bags are not allowed. You can check your bag for $7 near the entrance.
- There is a Junior Ranger program available but because it’s free to get into Pearl Harbor, the Junior Ranger booklet costs $3 at the bookstore.
- The food choices inside the cafeteria are limited but there are many restaurants within a few miles. They aren’t within walking distance but if you have a car it’s worth leaving the historical site for better dining options.
- Don’t book the Bowfin Submarine or the Battleship Missouri until you arrive. These tours are very unlikely to sell out and booking at Pearl Harbor historical site is the cheapest option.
Hike Diamond Head
Diamond Head is the most recognizable landmark in Honolulu. Hiking the trail to the top of the crater is a must-do when visiting the island of Oahu. The view of Honolulu and the coastline from the viewpoint at the top of the crater is absolutely spectacular.
For more great hikes on Oahu read – Best Hikes Oahu (Easy to Hard Options)
Is Diamond Head a Suitable Hike For Kids?
The hike isn’t too challenging for kids but you will want to keep a close eye on them once you get to the top. The trail is 1.6 miles round trip from the parking lot to the viewpoint with an elevation gain of 560 feet.
The trail starts out as a paved walkway but quickly changes to dirt. There are quite a few switchbacks up the steep crater and then stairs up to the viewpoint at the top.
Because Diamond Head is such a great hike, the trail is usually packed with people. (It is one of the most crowded trails I have ever hiked). There isn’t really a good time to go to avoid the crowds but if you go early in the morning you can avoid the heat.
* As of May 12, 2022 reservations are now required to hike Diamond Head. Hopefully, this will help control the crowds.
How Long Does It Take To Hike Diamond Head?
Plan to spend about two hours hiking Diamond Head. Although the trail is only 1.6 miles round trip, it is steep at the end. You will also want to allow time to take in the incredible views from the top.
Things to Know About Hiking Diamond Head
- Reservations can be made 14 days in advance through the Hawaii State Parks website
- The gate is open from 6 am to 6 pm but 4:30 is the latest you can enter to start the hike.
- Wear a hat, and sunscreen, and bring plenty of water. For most of the hike, you will be in the sun.
If you love hiking and plan to visit the Big Island of Hawaii read – 10 Best Easy Hikes on The Big Island of Hawaii
The almost two-mile-long Waikiki Beach is world-renowned. The sand is soft and fine, and the waves are perfect for surfing, boogie boarding, or simply playing on the shore. What makes Waikiki Beach so unique is the bustling city of Honolulu bordering the beach.
Even if you don’t splurge and book a room in one of the resorts right on the ocean, there are many hotels within walking distance of Waikiki Beach. Because the beach is so long, the crowds can spread out and it doesn’t seem too crowded.
Beach chairs, boogie boards, stand-up paddleboards, and surfboards are all available to rent from shops along the beach. There are also numerous restaurants right along the beach or a short walk away. Waikiki Beach is the perfect place to spend a day.
Waikiki Friday Night Fireworks
Every Friday evening the Hilton Hawaiian Village puts on a free firework show that starts around 7:45. The best views of the fireworks are from the beach surrounding the Hilton. If you happen to be in Waikiki on a Friday night, the fireworks are something you don’t want to miss. Seeing the palm trees and ocean lit up by fireworks is an incredible sight.
*There were no fireworks at the Hilton Hawaiian Village for several years because of COVID but they resumed again in June of 2022.
There are a few restaurants at the Hilton Hawaiian Village but they are packed on Friday nights. If you don’t have a reservation, plan to eat dinner at one of the many fabulous restaurants in Honolulu before heading to watch the fireworks.
Don’t forget to bring a towel or chair to sit on.
Where To Stay In Honolulu Hawaii
The best area to book a hotel in Honolulu is right in Waikiki. All hotels in Waikiki are within walking distance of the fabulous Waikiki beach, shopping, and plenty of restaurant options.
For the ultimate experience (with a price to match) book a room in the Hilton Hawaiian Village. The Hilton is located right on a beautiful stretch of Waikiki Beach. There are several awesome kid-friendly pools, one with waterslides. There is also an onsite luau.
Another great resort for families right on Waikiki Beach is the Sheraton Waikiki. The Sheraton is in an ideal location and also has great pools for kids and a waterslide.
The Polynesian Residences Waikiki Beach hotel isn’t right on the beach but is only a few blocks away. There are fewer amenities but the price point is much lower and the hotel is very well maintained. The highlight of the room for Eli was the bidet.
If you have any questions about Pearl Harbor, hiking Diamond Head, or Waikiki Beach, feel free to leave me a comment below. If you have visited Honolulu, I would love to hear about your experience.
Planning a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii? Read – 15 Amazing Things To Do In Waikoloa Hawaii
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