The mere mention of “Hawaii” brings to mind pristine beaches, crystal clear water, and big waves. Hawaii boasts some of the best beaches in the world and a major part of a Hawaiian vacation is some serious beach time.
One of the best things about Hawaii is that all the beaches are public with the exception of a few that are strictly for the federal government, meaning the military. Developers are required to provide public parking and access to the shoreline in areas that are residential. Hotels and resorts around the island must also allow the pubic to use the beaches directly in front of their property, however access thru hotel property and use of hotel facilities can be restricted to hotel guests.
But beaches are not all Hawaii has to offer, there are many family friendly activities on the islands.
In my previous post 14 Things to Do in Hawaii with Kids
I listed some fun activities that have a fee, in this post I will list some FREE things to do with kids. You can decide to include a few activities from each category to make your Hawaiian family vacation memorable.
Most families who visit the islands generally rent a car, it makes getting around to the places I list so much easier. It is possible to get around on public transportation. Hawaii, at least Oahu has a pretty good bus system. Bus fares are $2.50 one way per adult, kids 6-17 $1.25, under 6 is free. Visitors can also purchase a 4 day pass for unlimited use for 4 consecutive days. Price of the pass is $35. For more info click here.
You can’t go to Hawaii without spending time at the beach. The islands are full of fantastic beaches.
Our favorite family beach in Honolulu is the Ala Moana Beach Park where the water is calm and the sand is fine.
Other favorites are the Ko’olina Beach lagoons on the Leeward coast of Oahu, and Kailua Beach Park on the Windward coast.
A drive around the island will take you to many more beaches, I’m sure you’ll find your favorite ones.
Turtle watch at Laniakea Beach a.k.a. Turtle Beach. Located on Oahu’s North Shore just past the town of Haleiwa this beach is consistently visited by the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles. You’re almost sure to see at least one or two on the shore.
This beach is not the easiest beach to find. The best way to find it is to drive on Kamehameha Hwy. thru the historic town of Haleiwa. Pass the town, the ocean is on your left.
About 1.5 miles past Haleiwa town you will probably see cars parked on both sides of the road, in the dirt. This is the area where the beach is. If you park on the mountain side of the road you will have to cross the very busy street, or you can try to make a U-turn further up the road and double back so you can park on the ocean side. From the road you will have to walk down to the beach, be careful as it’s rather steep in some areas. You will be rewarded with the site of these gentle sea creatures basking on the beach, but don’t get too close they are endangered and are protected by conservation laws.
There are no facilities at this beach so you must bring food and drink with you. The nearest restrooms would be back in Haleiwa town or further along the coast at one of the other beach parks on the North Shore.
This beach is not really a family day out kind of beach, it’s best as a short stop-over on your way to one of the other beaches on the North Shore like Waimea Bay or Sharks Cove.
Or if you like the kids can go sand boarding down the slope that is further along the beach and less crowded. All you’ll need is a cheap kick board you can buy at any ABC Store in Waikiki or a flat cardboard box. This keeps our boys entertained for a little while.
Explore the tide pools at Pupukea Beach Park
– this beach is actually 2 “pocket” beaches along the coast – Sharks Cove and Three Tables. Both spots are a favorite for divers and snorkelers.
Located further along Oahu’s North Shore just past Waimea Bay, across the street from the Foodland Supermarket. This beach is calm and safe during the summer but has very high surf in the winter.
Low tide reveals tide pools and lava formations that are fun to explore. Keep safety in mind, the best way to explore is to start as far out as you wish to venture and work your way towards shore. You don’t want to be caught far from shore when the tide comes in, there are no lifeguards.
Go fishing! You’ll find fishermen fishing off the coast at many beaches, you may even see some spearfishing.
We usually go fishing in Haleiwa Harbor or at Kakaako Waterfront Park by downtown Honolulu.
All you need is fishing pole and some bait. Hawaii does not require a fishing license for recreational saltwater fishing.
You can cast your line from any beach on the island except Hanauma Bay which is a marine wildlife preserve.
Spend a relaxing day at Moanalua Gardens
located about 5 miles Northwest from Honolulu.
This small park is home to a variety of native plants and flowers which line the short paved trail that is suitable for strollers. It’s a wide open space that’s great for picnics, tossing a frisbee, and relaxing on benches and tables under the shade of the many banyan trees.
There’s a Koi pond where you can feed the fish with Koi food that can be purchased from the small gift shop at the entrance, you can feed the ducks bread if you have some. King Kamehameha V’s summer cottage and tea house are located within this park, as is the famous “Hitachi” monkey pod tree which has been used by the Japanese company as their corporate symbol since 1973. The company pays the park foundation an annual fee for the tree’s upkeep.
There’s also a small stream running along one end of the park. My kids used to bring small nets to catch tadpoles in the stream. I’m not sure if they still allow you to do this, you may want to check with the caretakers first.
History buffs and older children would enjoy a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial which is in Pearl Harbor.
There are displays and information about the war in the Pacific. Then there’s the boat shuttle to take visitors to the memorial which is built directly over the sunken ship.
It’s a very moving tribute to all the troops who served in the Pacific during World War II. Older children will definitely learn a lot of history, but younger ones may find it a bit boring.
Children under 5 are not allowed on the launch that goes to the memorial. Admission is free as it is part of the National Park Service. You may want to rent an audio guide for $5 to get the most of your visit. The Junior Ranger booklet is available to young visitors free of charge, just ask for one at the ranger desk.
This is the 3rd. most visited attraction on Oahu, it is busy year round. Click here
for more info.
Go fishing at Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Kaneohe on the windward side of Oahu.
Every weekend the garden sponsors a catch and release program. The visitor center provides free bamboo poles you can pick up and plunk in the water, casting is not allowed. You must bring your own bait, I’m told white bread is the best bait.
Hoomaluhia means ” a place of peace and serenity”, and that it is. It’s a great place for a picnic and short nature walks in the lush garden. Bring bug spray, wear good shoes, and bring snacks.
The park is located in Aiea on Oahu at the end of Aiea Heights Drive.
The trail loop is 4.8 miles and takes about 3 hours to complete. It’s billed as an easy hike suitable for families with kids. It can be strenuous specially if you’re carrying infants and toddlers. There’s a short paved portion at the beginning mistakenly leading one to believe that it’s a cake walk. It is not. The trail has narrow portions at the edge of the cliff so make sure little ones are kept close. You may have to climb over or crawl under several downed trees that block the path, and the trail has some steep sections. There are a couple of benches strategically placed along the trail where you can rest and enjoy some awesome views. There is also remnants of a plane that crashed there in 1944, it’s been slowly disappearing over the years but you can still make out a few pieces.
We’ve done this trail many times with the kids. We started taking them there as toddlers but never really completed the loop until they were about 7 years old or so. We’ve taken our old Doberman on this trail, but she had to be carried over some trees and bribed to go up the steeper slopes, not so much fun when your dog weighs 90 pounds.
Do bring plenty of water on the trail and perhaps some energy snacks for the kids. If you like you can camp at the park, but you must obtain a camping permit.
You don’t have to be a guest at The Kahala Hotel
to watch the dolphin feedings at 11:00am/2:00 & 4:00pm daily.
You can park at the hotel for a fee or park for free at the Waialae Beach Park and walk along the beach to the hotel. You can wander around the hotel grounds and enjoy their landscaping with lush tropical greenery and waterfalls. You can even enjoy the beach fronting the hotel and dine at one of their restaurants. The beach is free to all but beach and water sports equipment is limited to hotel guests. Restaurants and bars are open to the public, but they are rather pricey.
For a nice respite from Waikiki relax at the Kakaako Waterfront Park. It’s a great open space in the middle of Honolulu’s industrial area. The kids like to slide down the hill on cardboard boxes. You can walk along the paved sidewalk along the shore or even go fishing. There are picnic tables and benches throughout the park and restroom facilities.
Listen to a free concert by the Royal Hawaiian Band while enjoying a picnic lunch on the Iolani Palace
lawn. The Royal Hawaiian Band gives a free concert at the Palace most Fridays between 11:00 – 1:00 weather permitting.
Iolani Palace is the only real royal residence in the United States. It is located on King Street in Downtown Honolulu across the street from the famous King Kamehameha statue.
Tours of the Palace start at $14.95 for an audio guided self-tour. Children under 4 must be carried during the tour.
There’s also a museum in the basement that houses artifacts from the days when Hawaii was a Monarchy. They also offer Hawaiian Quilt Making Classes.
Fly a kite or ride a bike at the Blaisdell Park in Pearl City. This neighborhood park in Pearl City is a local favorite. The wide open space is a great place to fly a kite and the bike path along the water has great views of Pearl Harbor.
We’ve hosted many kid’s birthday parties at this park. There are picnic tables and benches, restrooms, and exercise equipment the kids can climb and hang from.
The park is located on Kam Hwy. a few miles west of Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial. You can pick up a picnic lunch at one of the many restaurants along the way and enjoy it under one of the many trees in the park.
Spend Saturday morning at the KCC Farmers’ Market
. Located on Diamond Head Road at the Kapiolani Community College parking lot the market is open every Saturday from 7:30 am – 11:00 am.
You’ll find the best locally grown produce and flowers here, as well as a large assortment of freshly baked goods, jams & jellies, and much more.
There are other Farmer’s Markets around the island click here
for schedule and locations.
Don’t forget the Hawaii State Public Libraries
. They offer free activities, classes, movies nights, and events year round at most of the libraries in the state.
My grandsons and I attend Children’s Story Time and Craft Time weekly and have attended various events at different libraries around the island. Click here
for more info, schedules, and locations.
Pearlridge Center located in Aiea has a free kids’ program called Connect Kids. Members can participate in events and activities at the mall throughout the year.
My grandsons enjoy performances by Chris the Clown, and interactive song and dance programs by Gymboree.
for membership application and event schedule.
Watch a free Hula Show at Ala Moana Center’s center stage. There’s a Hula show presented by Old Navy Monday – Saturday from 11:00 – 11:20 am. There are other performances and events throughout the year.
for schedule of events and other mall info[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Every Friday night the Hilton Hawaiian Village
puts on a fireworks show that can be seen on the beaches along the coast from Ala Moana to Diamond Head.
Pick a spot and enjoy the free show.
For a list of the best kids friendly hotels in Hawaii Click Here!
For more kid friendly activities in Hawaii Click Here!