Planning a trip to Oahu with kids? Hawaii is a wonderful place for a family vacation, with pristine beaches, tasty food options and endless outdoor activities. Oahu is the most populated Hawaiian island and is a great option for both adults and children, but there are several things to know before your trip in order to make it as smooth as possible.
If you’ve ever traveled with children, you know that fun trips require a lot of advanced planning, and a trip to Oahu, Hawaii with kids is no exception. This post will go over some of the most important things to know when visiting Oahu with kids, including when to make reservations for food and activities, tipping culture in Oahu, what driving is like on Oahu, what to expect for Oahu weather and the best activities on Oahu with kids.
Make Reservations For Oahu Restaurants & Activities
One of the most surprising things to most tourists in Hawaii is that while it is a popular vacation destination, it is also made up of relatively small islands that have limited restaurants.
Depending on when you visit, you will likely need to make advanced reservations for everything you plan to do during your Oahu trip, including daily restaurants, boat tours, car rentals and more.
Keep in mind that if you are visiting during school holidays (Australian and/or US) everything will be busier than during non-holiday times.
You may find this post relevant – Is it OK to take kids out of school to travel?
In order to ensure that you are able to secure all the restaurants and activities that you are planning on seeing during your Oahu trip, it is best to make reservations at least one month in advance.
While that might seem extremely early, especially for restaurants, you run a risk of not being able to find places to eat or activity tickets if you wait until closer to your trip start date.
If you are traveling with a group of 6 people or more, you may want to consider beginning the reservation process as early as two months before your trip.
If you’re reading this closer than one month to your trip and wondering if you’re going to starve while on Oahu, keep in mind that there are obviously grocery stores, food courts and smaller restaurants in all the tourist areas.
However, if you have specific places on your list that you would like to visit or would like to eat in sit-down restaurants every evening, your best bet is to plan far in advance.
If you are staying in Honolulu, one of the most popular areas for hotels and restaurants is Waikiki. There are numerous restaurants in Waikiki that have great views and tasty food for both adults and children.
There are options for both takeaway food and sit-down restaurants in Waikiki, and they are often very easy to access by walking rather than needing to drive a car.
Gratuity and Tipping in Oahu
Another thing worth noting in Oahu is that while Hawaii has its own culture, it is still apart of the U.S. and tipping standards in restaurants are the same as in the rest of the country.
For meals in restaurants, plan to tip 15-20 percent for service. Gratuity is generally not included in the restaurant bill, and it is something you will need to add afterwards.
Coffee shops and smaller restaurants with takeaway food will often also offer an option to tip when paying, and generally in the U.S. you should tip for those as well even though it is not a sit-down service.
In other words: plan to add 15-20 percent to the majority of your food bills while in Oahu.
Best Activities on Oahu With Kids
As mentioned previously in this post, the key to a successful trip to Oahu with kids is to plan ahead and make reservations in advance – including for Oahu activities with kids.
Some incredible activities to consider booking on Oahu with kids are parasailing in Waikiki (from 5yo), snorkel tours to see turtles (all ages) and tours of Kualoa Ranch where Jurassic Park was filmed (from 3yo).
If you are more interested in enjoying the island’s natural beauty and skipping organized tours, there are still plenty of activities to do on Oahu with kids.
The best free attractions on Oahu with kids are the island’s beautiful beaches, which are some of the most stunning in the world.
If you’re looking for a great Oahu beach to visit with kids, consider Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, where you can snorkel in clear, shallow water and see tropical fish.
Waikiki Beach is another good option with kids, as there are many food options and amenities nearby, along with surfboard rentals and easy wave conditions.
Kids between 4-12yo can even take surf lessons on Waikiki beach with the Surfer Girl Academy.
Check availability and make bookings here
On the island’s east side, Kailua Beach is another great option for a beautiful beach with turquoise water where you can also kayak.
Driving in Oahu
If you’re debating whether or not to rent a car while on Oahu with kids, I strongly recommend getting a rental car. Honolulu is a large city and has a lot of available public transportation and taxis, but if you plan to visit any of the island’s many beaches or other stunning areas, you will want to get there with a car.
You should also plan make your Oahu rental car reservation at least a month before your trip, as many of the Hawaiian islands often run short on rental cars. You might still be able to find a car in the days before your trip, but will likely pay a much higher premium.
Driving in Hawaii is the same as in the rest of the U.S. (on the right side of the road), although there can be significant traffic in Honolulu and limited parking.
Many hotels also don’t include free parking with your stay, so make sure to check if there is an additional daily premium to park a vehicle.
If you are traveling to Oahu with young kids, many Hawaiian rental car companies also have options to rent car seats or booster seats for children when making your car rental reservation.
You can even rent a baby stroller in Oahu if you want to avoid the risk of your expensive stroller getting lost in transit or damaged by baggage handlers.
If you wondering what to expect in terms of weather during your Oahu vacation, odds are that you will be treated to sunshine and overall warm weather most months of the year.
There is a lot to see on Oahu and flights are obviously fairly long to get there, so I would recommend booking at least one week in Oahu, which will also give you very good odds to have at least several days of excellent weather.
While some of the Hawaiian islands have definite rainy seasons, Oahu has less than 5 rainy days per month throughout the entire year with warm weather.
The high temperatures during the day running between 78 to 85 Fahrenheit (25-29°C) year-round, so unless your trip falls on an unusually cold or wet week, plan for warm weather and sunshine.
I would recommend bringing a light jacket for evenings or in the case of rain, especially when traveling to Oahu with kids.
Rain in Hawaii is often warm, so even if you deal with a wet day while on your Oahu trip, you will likely still have warm temperatures – and if you’re lucky – a rainbow.
That wraps it up for this list of things to know before visiting Oahu with kids!
Are you planning a trip to Oahu with kids, or have you previously gone on a family trip to Oahu? If so, comment and tell me about it!
Denise is a former international journalist and avid traveler who lives in Hawaii. She loves helping others find the best hidden gems to visit in Hawaii, and when she’s not blogging, you can usually find her at the beach.Website: hawaiianislandstravel.com