Best of Waikiki for Families – Ideas to Make the Most of Your Hawaii Vacation

For the love of Waikiki

Many people dream of Waikiki with it’s clear blue water, rolling surf and umbrella laden cocktails. You can easily spend a week people watching, playing in the water, shopping and eating all the food – so many desserts and so little time. Parking is pricey and car rentals have skyrocketed in the past years so most opt to go car-less. If you’re stuck in the city and feeling little stir-crazy or if you simply want to experience more I put together a list of the best of Waikiki for families.

young kids hiking in the rainforest near waikiki oahu

Take a Hike

If you’re in the mood for a change of scenery, there are several nearby hiking trails. Even if you don’t have a car you can take the bus or an Uber/Lyft to get you there.

  • Manoa falls Trail – Experience the rainforest with a canopy covered stroll along the stream culminating in a waterfall. It’s a 1.7 mile hike to get to the waterfall and back, but the path is wide and well-marked. Expect to pay a parking fee and go early or late to avoid crowds.
  • Diamond Head – Make your way to the top of this icon crater for stunning Waikiki views. They created a reservation system to limit crowds so plan this one in advance by snagging your spot from the park here. P.S. it can get super hot so try to go early or late.
  • Waahila Ridge – Escape the beaten path with this steep ridge hike or take your pick from an extensive trail system at the back of Makiki Valley just beyond Waikiki.
fireworks over waikiki viewed from ala moana beach park

Alternatives to Waikiki Beach

The bright, clear waters and perfect waves of Waikiki are not to be missed but if you’re looking for alternatives you might consider these nearby options.

Magic island – A bustling park and perfect little crescent beach sit at the top of Ala Moana Beach Park. A great spot for a swim and picnic with sunset views of Diamond Head and the Waianae Mountains. If you happen to visit on a Friday evening, you might luck out with a bonus fireworks show at the Hilton.

Diamond Head Beach Park – If you’re a surfer looking to escape the crowds at Waikiki or have a curious kid who loves tidepools, this narrow rocky beach is a fun change of pace.

Wailalae Beach Park – You can escape the crowds for a stroll along this palm tree lined beach in the upscale neighborhood of Kahala. The water is usually calm and clear but the beach is narrow so it’s best at low tide. It’s spot I love for sunset family photos.

pirate ship in waikiki sets sail for family adventure

Take to the Seas

There are lots of different flavors here depending on your interests. You can dive (meh, not great), snorkel at turtle town (can get very crowded but an easy way to see turtles), take a sunset sail, a whale watch tour (better from the north or leeward shores from Dec-May), charter a fishing boat, see Waikiki from above by para-sail or you can take a pirate ship.

Pirate ship adventure If you’re not a snorkeling kind of family, this is a great way to get out on the water and keep the family entertained.

boy navigating the honolulu zoo with a map in front of lemur mural

For Animal Lovers

If you’re an animal lover you might want to check out the Honolulu Zoo or the Waikiki Aquarium. Both are small and … perfectly fine. No, really, I like them both quite a bit and have spent countless hours at both. However, if you’re visiting and short on time you may want to skip them. Especially if you have access to a nice zoo or aquarium.

Best of Waikiki for Families

Best of Waikiki for Families?

What would you add to the list? If you’re lucky enough to have a car you can find more ideas for the best day ever here.

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