This post contains affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no cost to you. Please see our disclosure policy for more information. All opinions are my own.
When my brother decided to propose to his girlfriend (she said yes) he wanted to surprise her by having both families literally pop out of the bushes as he got on one knee. Of course we had to be there and decided to make a vacation out of it. We spent 3 days in Oahu after first visiting the Big Island of Hawaii and here were our favorite things to do in Oahu with kids.
How to Get to Hawaii: Cheap Flights to Honolulu, Oahu
Affording travel as a family sometimes requires creativity. While we normally allow flight deals to dictate our travels since we had specific dates and a specific location finding a deal would be unlikely. To lower the costs I looked into the frequent flier miles we had. Our Delta Skymiles accounts had the most miles but wasn’t quite enough for all 3 of us to fly round trip from Miami. However, it was enough for us to fly from LAX to Kona and then from Honolulu back to LAX for a grand total of $16.80.
Most of these miles were earned from the sign-up bonus from our Delta AMEX Gold Credit Cards. When we signed-up the bonus was 60,000 miles, which really jump-started our balances and is enough for a round-trip flight. Sign up here for the 60k mile bonus and each time you refer someone you will earn up to 10,000 miles. Don’t think you can only get miles from flying, here are 12 Ways to Earn Miles Without Flying.
Now to get from Miami to LAX I checked my other accounts and I had enough miles with American Airlines to get 2 out of the 3 of us from Ft. Lauderdale to LAX, the 3rd ticket cost $116 and taxes on the two free was $11.20, totaling $127.50. For our return from LAX, United had a flight deal to Ft. Lauderdale for $56pp, yes $168 total for 3 people! Being willing to fly more than one airline made our flights to Hawaii a minimal cost of $312.30.
LAX offers a free shuttle to get you from one terminal to the next and the 2hrs we had in between flights was more than enough time (team carry-on). Had we flown Delta round-trip we would of spent $940 on top of using the 162,000 SkyMiles we would have still used for the LAX to Hawaii round-trip portion. To save $627.40 I’ll gladly transfer terminals, those savings ended up being used for our accommodations.
The Islands of Hawaii We Visited
Hawaii is made up of 8 main Islands: Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, and the Big Island of Hawaii. We had 7 full days (+ 2 travel days) and decided to visit both the Big Island and Oahu. The Big Island is home to Hawaii’s Volcano National Park while Oahu is home to Honolulu.
Car Rental in Oahu
Just like on the Big Island of Hawaii, based on our itinerary getting a car rental in Oahu was necessary. We rented from Alamo this time and got a Jeep Wrangler. They too provided car seats for the girls and were the Cosco ones.
3 Days in Oahu: Where to Stay in Oahu with Kids
When deciding where to stay in Oahu with kids we found hotels to be extremely expensive for families. Due to this we opted to get a two bedroom Airbnb and share with my parents, splitting the cost. When we arrived to our Airbnb and were so happy with our choice. This was one of the best Airbnb’s we’ve stayed in, they literally thought of everything. The location was also perfect, we could walk to so many restaurants and were a 5 minute drive to Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach. Want $40 off your first Airbnb stay? Sign up here!
3 Days in Oahu: Things to Do in Oahu with Kids
Day One: My Brother’s Proposal
This day was dedicated to the reason we were in Hawaii, my brothers proposal! My family and his soon to be fiancés family were all in town and she had no idea we were there or what was about to happen. Just know she said yes and it was beautiful, so was our celebration dinner afterwards!
Day Two: Diamond Head, Dole Plantation, & the Polynesian Cultural Center
Things to Do in Oahu with Kids: Hike Diamond Head
Since our first day in Oahu with kids was dedicated to family we had only two full days to explore the island. This really isn’t enough. Fair warning this day was jam-packed and if we had more time we would have only done Diamond Head and Dole Plantation. The Polynesian Cultural Center really deserves an entire day!
Our day started with a morning hike of Diamond Head. It’s open from 6AM-6PM but there is no entry after 4:30PM. The fee to enter is $5 per car or $1 per pedestrian and it’s cash only, we had to turn around. Get there early, the sun gets hotter by the minute and it gets really congested on the narrow paths so the earlier you arrive the less people you have to fight to get through. The parking lot is extremely small so arriving early guarantees you a spot as otherwise you will have to wait for a car to leave to park.
The hike is .8 miles to the top but between the steep areas and look out points along the way it took us about 40 minutes to get to the top. Jordyn walked the entire way herself and I used my Ergobaby to carry Kennedy on my back. Another option is this tour that goes to the summit of Diamond Head Crater and includes a boat cruise along the Waikiki shoreline.
Things to Do in Oahu with Kids: Dole Plantation
Afterwards we showered and headed to Dole Plantation. There are many activities to do there and each ticket is sold a la carte. We took the Pineapple Express through the plantation; it was nice for the kids but a little underwhelming for us adults. In addition to the train ride they have a botanical garden and a maze.
For us the main attraction was their infamous Dole Whip! My mom thought it would make sense for the 5 of us to share the Pineapple Split instead of each ordering a separate cone. Once we got it I realized why is cost $27! While the price is justifiable it was way too much for us, Pineapple Split 1, The Traveling Child 0!
Things to Do in Oahu with Kids: Polynesian Cultural Center
Completely full we headed to the Polynesian Cultural Center, one of our favorite things to do in Oahu with kids. The center is open from 12PM-9PM. We decided on the Ambassador Luau tickets, which come with a tour guide and reserved seating for the night show. The Cultural Center is a ton of walking so I rented a stroller upon arrical. It was a baby trend stroller and a pretty nice one. It cost $20 to rent but you get $10 back when you return it.
The Polynesian Cultural Center highlights the six Polynesian cultures of Hawaii, Somao, Tahiti, Tonga, Aotearoa, and Fiji. There are 6 different villages, which highlights the history and customs of each place. We watched the canoe pageant to get a feel of the traditional dances of each place.
The kids each got a passport from the information desk. After completing certain activities in each village they earned stamps to exchange for a toy at the end of the day. Check them out taking hula lessons in the Hawaiian Village to get a stamp.
We were able to watch a traditional marriage ceremony, take canoe rides, try some traditional foods, play some traditional games, learn how to throw spears, and more. After exploring we attended the luau which included a buffet, the food was decent. At the end of the show a junior fire dancer performed, watch the video below. Can you believe he is only 14 years old? We were all blown away by his talents.
While the center is only open 9hrs per day it takes an average of 14 hours to go through the center. They allow you to use your tickets for 3 days so you can return another day during your visit. You just go to the office before leaving to get the return ticket.
Day Three: Wild Dolphin Snorkel & Waikiki Beach
When looking for things to do in Oahu with kids my girls saw dolphins and that’s all that was on their minds. Since it was a last minute decision to do a wild dolphin snorkel I feel like we lucked out choosing Ko Olina Adventures. We had to check in at the ungodly hour of 6:15AM. Since it was a 45min drive from Waikiki we got up way before the crack of dawn.
Kids 3 and under are only $30, kids under 12 are $114, and adults are $139. The tour also includes lunch and morning snacks. My youngest daughter who was two was allowed to go on the boat but not snorkel.
Two snorkel spots are included in the tour in addition to snorkeling with the dolphins. We saw some sea turtles as well, they were huge! Check out this video swimming with dolphins in their natural habitat was amazing!
After the wild dolphin snorkel we went to the beach from some much needed relaxation. We chose Waikiki Beach because it was close to our Airbnb and I read they had a little cove perfect for the girls. Honestly I didn’t get the hype on Waikiki Beach or any of the beaches on the Big Island or Oahu. Most were rocky, cold, and extremely rough. You can read more on the Instagram post I made about it and read the feedback of others who have traveled to other islands of Hawaii, there is some really good information in the comments.
Unfortunately our 3 days in Oahu were over and it was time to go home. With our limited time we weren’t able to experience all things to do in Oahu with kids but we’ll be back! While we didn’t like Waikiki beach we really enjoyed our beach vacations in Aruba, Negril, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Did you find this article helpful? Please share it!
The Traveling Child is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.