Your time is valuable. If you want to cut through the clutter and find the best activities, read on for my list of the top 14 things to do in Honolulu with kids.
I believe the best way to see the Hawaiian Island of Oahu is by driving a self-directed route around the island’s perimeter or said another way, driving the island’s Circle Island Tour. This 119 mile, one day tour will allow you to hit all of the crucial Oahu activities and will give you insight as to what areas to further examine on another day.
Along the way, you will be treated to an assortment of shrimp trucks where you can nosh on seafood to your heart’s content, slurp on one of the delicious shaved ice concoction that can be found dotting the highway and you must stop at the Macadamia nut farm to sample the tasty treats that put them on the map, then end the day with an Oahu hike to burn the extra calories.
Please note that there are plenty of tour companies that would be happy to take your family (and your cash; a family of four can expect to spend around $200.00 US) on such a tour, but hold onto your wallet. If you can drive, you can easily drive this delightful sightseeing Oahu tour and experience my top 14 things to do in Honolulu with kids.
The first thing that you will need to know is that you will need to drive counter-clockwise around the island so that the ocean will be on your right. Otherwise, your view will be obscured by the Ko’olau Mountains and oncoming cars on the other side of the road. Leave early as it will take you about eight hours to complete the tour.
Stop 1: DIAMOND HEAD STATE MONUMENT
Beginning at Kalakaua & Kapahulu Avenues at Waikiki Beach, take Kalakaua Avenue and bear left onto Monsarrat Avenue ( which becomes Diamond Head Rd.) go 1.6 mi. to crater entrance road (right side). Turn Right onto entrance road.
Hawaii’s most famous landmark – the extinct volcano rising 760 feet above sea level. A hike to the top offers a panoramic view from Koko Head to Barbers Point.
Note: Open daily 6-6, entry fee ($5/car, $1/walk-in), tel. 587-0300, picnic, restrooms.
Caution: This Oahu Hike is 0.7 mi. one-way/approx.90 min. round-trip. The last hike is at 4:30 p.m. Stay on the trail; wear hiking shoes; take water. Go early to avoid heat and crowds.
Stop 2: HANAUMA BAY NATURE PRESERVE
Return to Diamond Head Rd.
Turn Right onto Diamond Head Rd.; go short way (0.7 mi.) to Kahala Ave. (stop sign)
Turn Left onto Kahala Ave.; go 1.5 mi. to Kealaolu Ave. (follow signs to Hwy 72E)
Turn Left onto Kealaolu Ave.; go to Hwy 72E
Turn Right onto Hwy 72E; go 6.3 mi.to entrance road
Marine preserve located in a beautiful horseshoe bay is home to hundreds of tropical fish. One of Oahu’s foremost snorkeling areas – ideal for novices.
Note: Entry charge. Open daily 6-7 except for Tues. (closed Tues., open ’till 10:00 pm on Saturday), tel.396-4229, education center, free educational tours, snack bar, snorkel rental, picnic, showers, restrooms.
Caution: Parking lot fills early. Taking marine life is prohibited.
Stop 3: SEA LIFE PARK HAWAII
Return to Hwy 72E
Turn Right onto Hwy 72E; continue 4.5 mi. to Sea Life Park entrance (left side)
Oahu’s world-famous marine park. Over 4,000 sea creatures make Hawaii’s underwater sea world come alive. It’s hands down one of the best things to do in Honolulu with kids!
Note: Entry charge, open daily 9:30-5, tel.259-7933, restrooms. Shops, restaurant, whaling museum are free to the public.
Stop 4: NUUANU PALI LOOKOUT
Turn Left onto Hwy 72E; go 8 mi. to Hwy 61S
Turn Left onto Hwy 61S; go 4.8 mi. to Pali Lookout Exit (right side-0.9 mi. beyond tunnel)
Turn Right onto Pali Lookout Exit; go 1.1 mi. to the parking lot
Breathtaking overlook-from 1,200 feet, you will get a beautiful 180-degree view of the Ko’olau cliffs below. There are several areas on Pali Hwy (Route 61) to see great views, but stop at the main entrance to get the best one. The Site of the final battle uniting the Hawaiian islands.
Caution: Strong winds at lookout-dress appropriately. I had my eyeglasses blown off of my face, so be careful. Do not exit overlook the same way you entered-take left exit.
Stop 5: BYODO-IN TEMPLE
Take Left Exit from Pali Lookout; go to Hwy 61N
Turn Right onto Hwy 61N; go 2.3 mi. to Hwy 83W (Kamehameha Hwy)
Turn Left onto Hwy 83W; go 2.3 mi. to Hwy 63
Turn Left onto Hwy 63; go short way (0.5 mi.) to the continuation of Hwy 83W (now called Kahekili Hwy-right side)
Turn Right onto Hwy 83W; go 2.6 mi. to entrance
Turn Left onto entrance road; go short way (0.8 mi.) to the parking lot.
A stunning replica of the 900-year-old Buddhist temple at Uji, Japan which is complete with Japanese bridges, ponds filled with koi, peacocks, swans, a tea house and perhaps not so old world, a gift shop. It also houses an 18 foot Buddha, the largest that has been carved in the past 900 years. Also, if you are a “Lost” fan, this is where Jin proposed to Sun.
Note: Entry charge of $3.00 per adult, $2.00 senior citizen, $1.00 child, cash only. Open 9:00am – 5:00pm daily , Phone (808) 239-9844, gift shop, restrooms.
Caution: Please don’t disturb the peacocks!
Stop 6: KUALOA PARK
Turn Left onto Hwy 83W; go 7.2 mi. to entrance
Spectacular view of Koolau mountains and Mokolii Island (nicknamed “Chinaman’s Hat” for its cone shape).
Note: Lifeguards all year (during winter, on weekends only), picnic, showers, restrooms.
Caution: Swim at your own risk-currents, deep holes.
Stop 7: POLYNESIAN CULTURAL CENTER
Turn Right onto Hwy 83W; go 12.2 mi. to Cultural Center entrance (left side at Mile Marker 19)
A Hawaiian-style theme park-seven model villages designed to authentically recreate ancient Polynesia. It’s one of my favorite Oahu activities for kids.
Note: Entry charge, open Mon.-Sat.12:00-9:00, tel.293-3333, restaurants, Luau, Polynesian Revue, gift shops, restrooms.
Stop 8: KULIMA COVE
Turn Left onto Hwy 83W; go 6.8 mi. to entrance road for Turtle Bay Resort
Turn Right onto entrance road; go to the public parking lot (on right just before security gate)
A sandy inlet at the Turtle Bay Resort. One of the nicest areas for swimming and snorkeling on the North Shore of Oahu.
Note: Food concession, showers, restrooms. The cove is located on the right when walking toward the hotel.
Caution: No lifeguards-swim and snorkel at your own risk. Inlet has a sharp coral bottom, dangerous current beyond buoys.
Stop 9: SUNSET BEACH
Turn Right onto Hwy 83W; go 3.7 mi. to the parking lot
Famous board surfing beach-site of professional surfing contests. Spectacular winter surf reaches heights of 20 feet.
Note: Lifeguards all year, picnic, restrooms.
Caution: Swim at your own risk-very dangerous in winter.
Stop 10: PUU O MAHUKA HEIAU
Continue on Hwy 83W & go 2.3 mi.to Pupukea Rd. (left side, by Foodland)
Turn Left onto Pupukea Rd.; go short way (0.6 mi.) to entrance road (first road on right at Heiau sign)
Turn Right onto entrance road; go short way (0.7 mi.) to pkg. lot
Oahu’s largest heiau (sacred place of ceremony)-a historic landmark. Spectacular overlook of the north shore.
Caution: Please show respect for this sacred site and stay on designated trails-help preserve Hawaii’s past for the future.
Stop 11: WAIMEA VALLEY AUDUBON CENTER
Return to Hwy 83W (by Foodland)
Turn Left onto Hwy 83W & go short way (0.7 mi.) to the park entrance road (left side)
A historic nature park on 1,800 acres with over 6,000 species of plant life. Plenty of Oahu Hiking trails, picnicking, birdwatching, It has one of the most beautiful waterfalls with a 45-foot drop. Botanical and environmental self-guided tours. It’s a very fun and educational thing to do in Honolulu with kids, so you can’t go wrong.
Note: $8.00 entry charge, $2 .00 parking. Open daily 9:30-5:00, tel.638-9199, visitor center, restaurant, snack bar, gift shop, picnic, restrooms.
Caution: Wear hiking shoes on trails.
Stop 12: HALEIWA TOWN
Turn Left onto Hwy 83W; go 4.7 mi. to unpaved parking
lot in town (right side, opposite Church)
A plantation town that has come of age-old general stores coexist with modern boutiques, art galleries, and eateries.
Note: The “in-spot” on the north shore-great shaved ice!
Stops 13 & 14: DOLE AND HELEMANO PLANTATIONS
Continue on Hwy 83W; go 1 mi. to Hwy 99S (at Weed Traffic Circle)
Bear Left onto Hwy 99S & go 6.2 mi. to Dole Plantation entrance (left side)
Dole Plantation-showcases varieties of pineapples grown worldwide. Be sure to try their pineapple sorbet for $3.95…YUM!!
Helemano Plantation-people caring for people in a “real world” work environment. Enjoy an 8.50 lunch buffet at Helemano Plantation which is 2.08 miles from Dole Plantation.
Note: Dole is open daily 9-5:30, tel. 621-8408, snack bar, gift shop, maze, train tour, restrooms.
Helemano is open Mon.-Fri. 8-3, Sat. & Sun. 8-2, tel. 622-3929, gift shops, restaurant, bakery, farm produce, and restrooms.
END OF DRIVE-RETURN TO WAIKIKI
99S80SH-2SH-1EEXIT 25A:KING ST
(29.1 Mi./50 Mins.)
**Thanks to Alternative-Hawaii.com for their immeasurable assistance with this report! For the most comprehensive, in-depth resource for all things Hawaiian, please visit them and be sure to patronize their sponsors!