Hawaii: Top Ten Attractions with Kids

My parents always go to Hawaii for the month of March, so I decided this month to blog about OUR trip to Hawaii three years ago to visit them!  Fun fact: I was born in Oahu, Hawaii!!!  My parents moved there when they were first married and had my twin sister and I while they were living there!  (Oh yeah, another fun fact... I'm a TWIN!) :)

Hawaii was one of our first big trips with Dylan, when he was only 8 months and we were definitely novice family travelers!!!  Haha!  You should have seen my suitcase... it was packed to the brim with sooo many clothes, baby hats, shoes, diapers, wipes, sunblock, blankets, pacis, floats, even baby sunglasses!!! LOL!  I definitely went a little overboard and have learned to pack much less when we travel.  Worse comes to worst, you can always buy something if you need it because there are babies everywhere, even in Hawaii. :)

We stayed on Oahu in Kaneohe with my parents who were renting an apartment for the month - a condo in the exact same complex where they lived when I was born!  It was super fun for them to reminisce their time as new parents 30+ years ago, but I wouldn't suggest this area if you are a tourist on vacation- it's about a 20 minute drive from any of the beaches or big sights.

So I have a pretty hefty list of attractions in Hawaii.  Obviously, since my parents lived there, they knew all the sights, we did everything we could fit in for the short week we were there.  I'm going to list my top ten things to do, see, and eat in Hawaii, in order from least to greatest!

Top Ten Attractions in Hawaii with Kids

10. Matsumoto’s for shave ice!  Matsumoto is the perfect afternoon stop for families and definitely worth it!  Hawaii is known for their shave ice and Matsumoto is by far the majority favorite!  Founded in 1951 and located in Haleiwa, this the real deal, with more flavors than you can imagine. This is nothing like the snow cones I had as a kid!

9.  Hiking: Manoa Falls
Let me preface this with saying that the hiking we did in Hawaii would be close to number 1 if you asked my husband Matt. A few things made hiking difficult... the obvious one was that we had to carry Dylan EVERYWHERE and although Matt mostly did the task, it is definitely more difficult... bringing diapers and snacks, etc.  Also, for me, between the heat, exercise, and nursing Dylan, I got VERY dehydrated after one on our hikes and ended up in the emergency room for IV fluid that evening... so you can see why the hiking in Hawaii wasn't my favorite.  ;-)
Manoa Falls is an easy hike to a pretty waterfall at the end!  The entire hike is in the rain forest, which is really fun to see and nice because you are protected from the sun.  We also did a couple other hikes: Kailua, and another along the north shore at sunset.

8. Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
This is in Haleiwa and definitely a North Shore local favorite... it's AMAZING!!  We went late afternoon and still had to wait in a line for their local garlic shrimp, but it was definitely worth it!  There were also a number of other food trucks to try in that same area if you don't like shrimp. :)
7. Pearl Harbor
Obviously a must see if you are from America or interested at all in World War II history. There is a very informative museum, an explanatory movie and then a short boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial. Timed tickets are free but required.  You can reserve a time well in advance of your visit through the recreation.gov website (search “Pearl Harbor tours”) or take your chances.... there are 1300 tickets available daily - first come first served.  Pearl Harbor was definitely more moving than I expected to see where so many people serving our country lost their lives.

6. Kailua Beach
This beach is my parents absolute favorite beach!!!!  Seemingly never ending white sand, perfect sized waves and the most picturesque view of Rabbit Island in the ocean.  It is definitely the best walking beach for those beach walkers out there... and great body surfing for the kids.
5. North Shore
If the waves are running high, (you can check online before hand) a drive to the North Shore is a must to watch the surfers at Sunset Beach or Pipeline. On the way, you can stop at  Laniakea Beach  to see huge green sea turtles nesting.  While we were there in March, it wasn't hard to find sea turtles right along the shore!!!
4. Island Vintage Coffee
Oh my goodness, writing this section makes me want to go back to Hawaii just for this place! LOL!  We LOVED Island Vintage Coffee sooooo much!  Best Kona Coffee drinks, açaí bowl with granola and fresh fruit and great lunch food.  I would lying if I said we didn't try to go there at least once, sometimes twice, a day.  :)
3. Waikiki Beach
A tourist favorite, Waikiki Beach sits right in front of a long line of hotels, restaurants and stores.  Matt and I loved this beach because the water was always pretty calm; we were even able to try surfing there; but also, you can literally walk right off the beach into the city and grab a bite to eat or drink at all kinds of restaurants.  Of course the whole area is super touristy, but we enjoyed it a lot because we are not good beach people so it was nice to not feel "stuck" at the beach all day and we could go and explore in the city a bit whenever we got bored! We also always had AMAZING weather at this beach because it was on the leeward side of the Island.
2. Diamond Head
If you see a picture of Hawaii, Diamond Head is probably in it because it is one the most popular landmarks there!  It is extinct now and a great hike if you want a fantastic view of Waikiki Beach.  We did it carrying Dylan and although there were A LOT of stairs to climb, it was definitely manageable and the view was incredible!   I would definitely recommend doing this!

1. Hanauma Bay
This is by far my favorite place in Hawaii and still my most fond memory as a little girl when we'd go back to visit!  The whole bay is surrounded with cliffs and a natural reef that keeps the water completely calm.  It is very shallow and literally swarming with fish of all kinds swimming in the coral.   The snorkeling is amazing. This beach is definitely a huge tourist attraction and it does cost a bit to get in, but completely worth it!!!  If you do decide to go, make sure you get there early because the parking lot fills up fast! :)

For many people, a trip to Hawaii is something they dream about! I’ve shared my personal highlights of Oahu - the place where I was born. Of course, there are other beautiful islands in Hawaii to discover, and each one is different.  No matter what you choose, get out and explore!


  1. I love this list! Would you go to another island to visit?

  2. Yes definitely! It is fairly easy to go from one island to another. We would love to see more islands next time. This trip, we decided to stay in Oahu because we knew we could fill up a whole week with different things to do there!

  3. Nice list! Hawaii is on our family's travel bucket list. My daughter was born on the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, so she definitely wants to get to the memorial. This is helpful to round out the list! :)

    1. Oh yes, the memorial is so moving! I hope you can go soon! <3

  4. Hawaii is my families happy place. Thank you for your list. I agree with you about Hanauma Bay. What a magical spot.

    1. Yes, I have the best childhood memories there and it was so fun to return with our son... however we will have to take him again when he is old enough to snorkel! :)

  5. I've always wanted to go to Hawaii but the stinking flight is SO long for my kids (ages 1 & 3).. how do you do it!?

    1. I actually wrote a post on traveling with toddlers! ;-) http://www.sarahctravels.com/2017/07/flying-with-toddlers.html Hope this helps!!!

    2. Lol! Thank you! I definitely need to change my perspective about the whole travel thing. I even dread a few hour road trips! lol!!!

    3. Haha! I know what you mean.. sometimes I'm like "can I please just check out for a few minutes!!?!?!?" but then I remind myself that I will miss these days when my kids actually WANT me to spend time with me and it always helps me push through ;-)

  6. How fun to go back to the exact same place you were born! Hawaii sounds incredible - for families, or for any traveller, for that matter. I'd love to visit at some point.

    1. It really is the perfect place for all types of travelers!!


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