A shore-side destination in the heart of Honolulu, Waikiki easily lives up to its reputation as one of the most famous beach resort areas in the world. While the vibrant tourist favorite has a celebrated nightlife scene, it’s family-friendly vibes and the rich trove of entertainment options make it a popular place to travel with kids. Here, the excitement of Honolulu meets the natural beauty of the Pacific. Whether you’re looking for kid-friendly beaches, adventurous hikes, mesmerizing luaus or even an enchanting submarine ride alongside pods of dolphins, Waikiki has something for everyone. Here are the 10 best things to do with kids on your upcoming beach vacation, all within steps of your Waikiki vacation rental.
1. Hit the Beach
The soft sands and warm waters of Waikiki’s beaches are perfect for laying out some beach recliners and an umbrella from your vacation rental and breaking out the sand toys. Kahanamoku Beach on the west end of Waikiki and Kuhio Beach on the east side are great options for families with little ones, thanks to their calm swimming areas protected by reefs and breakwaters. Although the central Waikiki Beach is a bit busier, it’s closer to the main shopping areas where you can pick up some souvenirs.
2. Dive Into a Snorkeling Session
Buy a few snorkeling sets to spot tropical fish in the clear waters of Waikiki’s beaches. While you don’t have to travel far from your beach-side vacation rental for excellent snorkeling conditions, families looking for an even more exciting experience can snorkel at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, which features a quiet cove of reefs teeming with sea life.
3. Visit the Waikiki Aquarium
This fun aquarium showcasing the sea life of the Hawaiian islands and beyond is a favorite among younger kids, offering the chance to greet monk seals, watch drifting jellyfish, and view seahorses. The aquarium also hosts coral reef habitats, giant clams, and ocean predators, and the educational programs such as Critter Encounters are always a hit.
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4. Go Surfing or Stand-up Paddle Boarding
Visiting Waikiki with older kids or teens? Head to one of the surf schools or surf kiosks for some basic lessons. Then, rent a few surfboards so your kids can hit the waves. The main Waikiki beach has some great surf, but keep in mind that the water can get crowded during peak hours. You can also rent stand-up paddle boards, a Honolulu favorite, for a more relaxing time on the water.
5. Hike up Diamond Head
Marking the easternmost border of Waikiki, the iconic extinct volcano is a must-visit for any Honolulu vacation. While the switchbacks and stairs leading from the crater to the summit of Diamond Head may be too strenuous for younger children, older kids and teens are sure to enjoy the panoramic views of Waikiki and the Pacific. This is a popular Waikiki attractions, so be sure to arrive early in the day to beat the crowds.
6. Float Through the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon
If you’re traveling to Waikiki with younger kids, spend some time at this laid-back salt water lagoon where you can rent a paddle boat, cruise on a water bike, or balance on a stand-up paddle board. This is also a great place to splash in the shallow water with some float toys. The lagoon has a water circulation system that keeps it clean and clear, and kids are sure to love paddling by the man-made tropical island.
7. Attend a Luau
Celebrate Hawaii’s Aloha traditions at one of Waikiki’s luaus. While these can get pricey, a luau is sure to create lasting memories for long after you leave your breezy vacation rental and head home. The luau at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel is one option, offering a three-hour experience with traditional performances and a Hawaiian feast, and the Starlight Luau is another favorite among families.
8. See a Hula Show
There is no place like Waikiki to catch a festive performance of authentic hula dancing any day of the week. Kids of all ages are sure to enjoy seeing the traditional dance, which you can find taking place at one of the many beach restaurants and resorts along the beach. You can also see a free hula performance and torch-lighting ceremony near Kuhio Beach several nights a week.
9. Embark on an Atlantis Submarine
Atlantis Submarine tours offer a unique experience for kids who don’t mind plunging 100 feet below the ocean surface to see dolphins, sea turtles, and tropical fish through the many windows. Your friendly guide also points out shipwrecks and plane wrecks that now house hundreds of colorful fish, and if you get really lucky, you might just spot a whale swimming through the blue abyss.
10. Stop by the Honolulu Zoo
Just two blocks from the Waikiki Aquarium, this 42-acre zoo is a great place for families to encounter island wildlife such as the Hawaiian goose as well as animal favorites from the tropical rain forests and African savannas. Here, you can see giraffes, elephants, Komodo dragons, and primates. Tiny tots may also enjoy the playground equipment and petting zoo area. Best of all, this zoo is within easy walking distance of most Waikiki vacation rentals.
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