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Honolulu is one of the most beautiful cities in the USA, of those cities that has just such an incredible spirit and energy, you really have to visit to full understand and appreciate it's magic. This incredibly popular destination not only has a rich history and fascinating culture, but it also has so many amazing things to do with kids, and also makes for a GREAT family day out, which we love!
Located in the archipelago of the 50th US state, Honolulu is made up on sandy white beaches, lush vegetation, volcanic landscapes and some of the friendliest people you will ever meet, so we can't wait to share with you our most popular things to do in Honolulu, including our "Top 9 Family Attractions" that you can enjoy on your next family day out in the sun!
There are so many fun things to do with kids in Honolulu, so make sure check out our entire Honolulu City Guide we've carefully put together, so you know exactly how to plan your family day out when you visit The Aloha State!
Image Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson
In this Honolulu City Guide, we list out you our top 9 things to do with kids and the family, as well as plenty of attractions that ensure you really get under the skin of Hawaii's capital. We'll share must-do experiences that really will ensure you make the most of your time in Honolulu! We know budgets are a factor when planning a family trip, so also in this Honolulu City Guide we list some super fun FREE things to do with kids!
Honolulu is so easy to explore without a car too, so to help you out we let you know the best way to see the sights via public transport, and we also share some really fun facts all about the city that you might not know, so you can impress your friends!
If you want to explore a bit further out, this Honolulu City Guide also features our favorite day trip from Honolulu - and we are spoilt for choice!. We also check out some famous faces who were born in Honolulu (one you will definitely know!), all of which help make your Honolulu family day out the best it can be.
So whether this is your first trip to the sandy shores and crystal clear waters of Honolulu, or perhaps you were born right in the city but never had time to really explore it all, and you think "I wonder what is there is to do near me in Honolulu?", then keep reading, because we have the top 9 things to do in Honolulu with kids...and so much more!
Image Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Dana Edmunds
The islands of Hawaii were settled somewhere between 124 and 1120 AD by Polynesians, and in fact after that, Hawaiian civilization was actually undisturbed for about 500 years!
Famously, Captain Cook landed on the Hawaiian shores in 1778. Some consider this event to be the moment that Europeans first set foot on the land, but others consider a Spanish captain - Ruy Lopez de Villalobos - was in fact the first European to see the islands much earlier in 1542.
American immigration began soon after the 1778 Cook voyage, and soon the islands saw a host of sugar plantations appear, with immigrants from Japan, Phillipines and China being brought in to work on the fields.
With all this going on, it wasn't until 1794 that Englishman Captain William Brown sailed into what is now Honolulu Harbor - at the time, he was the first foreigner to ever do so. More foreign ships followed Captain Brown, resulting in the port of Honolulu becoming a focal point for the merchant ships traveling between Asia and North America.
Today, Honolulu is the gateway for the islands' tourism, meaning most who visit Hawaii are blessed to experience Honolulu as part of their travels!
Image Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority
Whether you love culture, history, or stunning landscapes, Honolulu has something for you! Really immerse yourselves in what shaped Honolulu to what it is today, from the impressive Iolani Palace, to the Historic Mission Houses Historic Site.
It's hard to visit Honolulu without sensing the history of the Pearl Harbor attack, which is why trips to the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum and the Pearl Harbor National Monument & USS Arizona are so important.
Then, you have the stunning landscapes of Honolulu! Take a trip to Waikiki Beach and enjoy the sandy white shores, or trek up to that impressive crater at Diamond Head. Make sure you take your camera, as there are plenty of photo opportunities to be enjoyed!
Whilst a car is the easiest way to get around Oahu, it doesn't have to be your only way. Walking is an option between some attractions (Honolulu Museum of Art and Iolani Palace are within walking distance as an example), and there are also public transport options too!
TheBus is Oahu's public bus system, and offers routes extensive enough to cover Honolulu as well as the whole island, with services generally running every 15 to 30 minutes.
Another option in getting around downtown Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, is the Waikiki Trolley. This hop-on, hop-off service has a number of lines that service key attractions, such as Diamond Head, as well as some hotels. The routes take between 50 minutes to 2.5 hours to complete. With this, you can buy one, four or seven day passes!
Finally, the MTA Bus Service has over 60 bus routes which include CityLink, LocalLink and Express BusLink, with fares only $1.90 for one route of $4.40 for the day. You can pay with cash on the bus, or download the CharmApp mobile fare app!
Image Credit: Waikiki Trolley
Main Image Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson
Top 9 Family Things To Do in Honolulu
Located on the south short of Honolulu could possibly be the most famous beach in the world: Waikiki. This iconic stretch of Oahu's shores was once a playground for Hawaiian royalty, and today welcomes families from all over the world to enjoy it! The first hotel was built on it's shores in 1901 (the Moana Surfrider), and has grown to be Oahu's main hotel and surf area.
Meaning "sprouting waters" in Hawaiian, Waikiki stuns with Diamond Head looming in the background. Photos simply don't do the beauty justice. Not only is Waikiki home to certain attractions such as the Honolulu Zoo, but it's also only half and hour away from Honolulu's iconic attractions like Pearl Harbor and Iolani Palace. Get that sun block on, and get your Waikiki on!
Source & Image Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)
Our Top 9 Fun Things To Do With The Kids In Honolulu
1The Bishop Museum
At over 125 years old, The Bishop Museum really is an impressive part of Honolulu's historic preservation. Not only does this beautiful museum house an extensive collection of Hawaiian artifacts, but it also is home to royal family heirlooms of the princess herself!
If that wasn't enough, The Bishop Museum is home to the millions of artifacts and national treasures that preserve and celebrate the beautiful Hawai'ian culture, as well as heritage from other Pacific islands.
Image Credit: The Bishop Museum
Waikiki Aquarium is the second oldest aquarium in the entire United States, and THAT is the first great reason to visit this Honolulu favorite. Established in 1904 (then known as Honolulu Aquarium), it was created to "show the world the riches of Hawaii's reefs", and it hasn't stopped doing that in over a century!
Today, you can take your time strolling through all of the beautiful exhibits, come face to face with seals, corals, colorful fish, sharks, octopus and more, AND you can learn about marine conservation too!
Image Credit: Waikiki Aquarium
Did you know that Honolulu Zoo is the ONLY zoo within a 2,392 mile radius? AND did you know that Honolulu Zoo is the ONLY zoo in the USA to have originated thanks to a King’s grant of royal lands to the people? Pretty fascinating already, and that's before we tell you about the animals!
From the weirdest to the most wonderful, Honolulu Zoo features mammals, amphibians, birds and reptiles, plus they are a great organisation to teach kids all about conservation, plus offer fun activities such as camps and tours! Let's get WILD!
Image Credit: Honolulu Zoo
Exploring rainforests, learning about the amazing cultures and traditions around the world, understanding what makes Hawaii so special, delving into the wonders of the human body - these are the kind of interactive exhibits that kids can enjoy at the Hawaii Children's Discovery Center!
Here, interactive play is key, and this fun Honolulu attraction is perfect for those kids who want to touch, feel, experiment, create, and use those imaginations - after all, it's all about DISCOVERY, and that is FUN!
Image Credit: Children's Discovery Center
It's not just local artists work that you will be able to experience and appreciate at the Honolulu Museum of Art, but it will also allow you to travel back through the history of Hawaii and the amazing and fascinating cultures that make Hawaii so special.
Not only that, kids can also see art from all around the world, and learn about THOSE cultures too, through the 50,000 plus objects in their impressive collection, representing all major cultures from ancient times right through to today. Kids under 18 years can enter free!
Image Credit: Honolulu Museum of Art
Three restored houses are the highlight at the Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site, and one of these happen to be the OLDEST Western-style house in Hawaii, which is why this Honolulu attraction is so special! Here, kids can really feel like they are stepping back in time, and experiencing 19th century life first hand.
The site has also been a National Historic Landmark since 1965, but has actually been an active site to celebrate Hawaii's history since 1820! In addition to the guided tours, there's also a performance area which hosts musical and theatrical events throughout the year.
Image Credit: Hawaiian Mission Houses
Did you know that Iolani Palace is not just a beautiful building? It's actually a living restoration of an incredibly proud Hawaiian national identity, as well as being a registered National Historic Landmark AND the only official royal palace in the United States!
The official residence of Hawaii's monarcy, your docent or self-guided tour will tell of a time when their Majesties, King Kalakaua (who built the palace in 1882) and his sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani, walked its celebrated halls!
Image Credit: Iolani Palace
Diamond Head could possibly be THE most visited attraction in Honolulu. It also happend to be Hawaii’s most recognized landmark, and is best known for its historic hiking trail, as well as stunning coastal views, and military history.
Diamond Head State Monument spans over 475 acres, including the interior and outer slopes of the crater (the crater was formed around 300,000 years ago!), so there is plenty to explore! It's great for those active families. The park facilities on the crater floor of Diamond Head are fully accessible to those with disabilities, however it's worth noting the hiking trail to the summit is not ADA accessible.
Image Credit: Division of State Parks
The attack on Pearl Harbor was such a turning point not only for Hawaii, but also for the USA so a visit to the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum feels a must. Here, their mission is to highlight the events surrounding the first aviation battlefield of WWII.
The museum is filled with actual artifacts, as well as personal stories, that all tell the story of both the impact and response to the attack on December 7, 1941 as well as the Pacific region battles that followed. The museum also honors those who defended freedom, to ensure all who visit can be educated and inspired.
Image Credit: Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
Famous Folk from Honolulu!
Possibly the most famous face to come out of Honoulu, is American-Kenyan politican Barack Hussein Obama II, best known as Barack Obama: the 44th President of the United States.
He was a member of the Democratic Party, and also made history as the very first African-American President of the United States!
Image Credit: Public Domain
Born Peter Gene Hernandez, Bruno Mars is an American singer, songwriter, producer and musician, famous for his incredible stage presence, retro style, amazing voice and dancing abilities!
His most famous chart hits include "24K", "Uptown Funk", "Grenade" and "Just The Way You Are"
Image Credit: Brothers Le
5 Fun Honolulu Facts
Impress our friends with your amazing Honolulu knowledge!
- The word "Honolulu" means Sheltered Harbor
- There is a mountain that overlooks Honolulu that is 300,000 years old!
- Honolulu is home to the only royal palace in the entire USA
- Honolulu is located on the island of Oahu!
- The closest point to mainland USA is Point Arena Lighthouse in California, and it's 3,787km from Honolulu!
Top 5 FREE Things To Do With Kids In Honolulu
Hawai'i Army Museum
The Hawai'i Army Museum is a fascinating way for the family to learn all about the history of the state in various battles and conflicts throughout history - both the events themselves, and the stories of those brave enough to be part of them.
From the Vietnam War, to Battery Randolph, and exhibit on the mammoth task of defending an island, and of course an inspiring Gallery of Heroes, this free admission museum is a worthy and eye-opening experience for all who visit Honolulu.
Image Credit: Hawai'i Army Museum
Pearl Harbor National Monument and USS Arizona
Any visit to Honolulu has to include a visit to the Pearl Harbor National Monument and USS Arizona, as the attack on Pearl Harbor was one of the most pivotal moments in US history. This even changed the nation, as that infamous bombing became the subsequent entry of the United States into World War II.
The USS Arizona, the visitor center and museums are all free for all who visit, so there is no reason not to include this incredibly poignant experience on your trip. Older kids can learn more of the details surrounding the event, whilst younger kids can be inspired by the bravery of the men and women who were part of it.
Image Credit: NPS
Explore Aloha Tower Marketplace!
The 10-story Aloha Tower was built in 1926, and was actually once the tallest building in Honolulu. Back in the days when all tourists arrived in Hawaii via boat, the Aloha Tower was there to greet them!
Today, whilst the Hawaii Pacific University occupies much of the building, you can take the elevator to the top floor observation deck free of charge (open dailt 9am - 5pm), and enjoy those stunning 360 degree views of Honolulu as well as the waterfront! There is also plenty of shopping and dining to be enjoyed there too!
Image Credit: Aloha Tower
Stroll the peaceful Royal Mausoleum State Monument
Open weekdays, The Royal Mausoleum State Monument is where you can spend the day with royalty, as it's actually the burial place of past Hawaiian royals, including members of the Kamehameha and Kalakaua Dynasties. It's also a beautifully peaceful place to visit, and incredibly sacred to Hawaiians.
Also known as Mauna ʻAla (or "Fragrant Hills" in Hawaiian), the mausoleum is the final resting place of almost all of Hawaii's monarchs, as well as their consorts, and a number of princes and princesses. It was built in 1865, featuring a stunning Gothic Revival chapel listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Image Credit: Division of State Parks
Feel blessed at the Izumo Taishakyo Mission
Built by Japanese immigrants in 1906, this Shinto shrine's beauty really makes a trip where worthy in itself. It was actually confiscated by the city during WWII, but released back to the community in the 1960s.
Througout the year, a number of events, services and Blessings are held - all of which are open to the public. Examples of these are New Years Blessings, Thanksgiving Festivals, and special traditions the first of every month.
Image Credit: Izumo Taishakyo Mission
The Ultimate Hawaii Food Tour in Honolulu!
Normally our day trip suggestions are nearby towns or cities, but for our best day trip from Honolulu, we couldn't list anything other than Kualoa Ranch. Why? Well, when you arrive, you just might find yourself saying "Welcome, to Jurassic Park!"
This private ranch and nature reserve is also known as "Jurassic Valley", as (you guessed it), it also doubled as the location where that 90's blockbuster "Jurassic Park" was filmed.
Kualoa Ranch was established back in 1850, and today acts as a 4,000 acre working cattle ranch, as well as producing food such as bananas and papaya thanks to it's rich, fertile lands. Since the 1970s, the ranch has also achieved two listings on the National Register of Historic Places!
Today, it's an explorers paradise, where adventurous and nature loving families can enjoy the magnificent beauty of this region of Hawaii. Take a guided tour of the ranch via a number of transporation options, from ATV, to horseback, kayak, or simply walk.
Kualoa Ranch wasn't just the setting for "Jurassic Park" either. You might also recognise the backdrop from films such as "50 First Dates", and TV series such as "Lost" and "Hawaii Five-O".
Kids, welcome....to "Jurassic Valley!"
Image Credit: Kualoa
Here’s our top 4 Kualoa Ranch tours:
- Best of Kualoa Total Experience
- Hollywood Movie Sites Tour
- ATV Raptor Tour
- Secret Island Beach Adventure
We hope you found this content useful! Please share with your friends, and if you have any comments, or want to let us know what we can do to further help you find fun days out with the family, then just email our team at [email protected]!
Let's get the family adventure started!