Updated October 2023
Visiting Oahu with your toddler? I have you covered on all of the best things to do and where to stay with your littles. After returning from our family trip to the island, I’m sharing everything we loved from our time.
In partnership with O’ahu Visitors Bureau, we embarked on a 6-night trip that took us across the island. And while there is so much to see and experience on this diverse Hawaiian island, we decided to focus our time on two areas.
Our trip began in Ko Olina to slow down and settle in for our week. It was the perfect slow start we needed to get adjusted and made for a lovely time beachside. Afterward, we continued on to Waikiki to experience Oahu’s creative energy, indulge in local cuisine, and more.
I treated this trip entirely differently from the other travels we had done before with our toddler. I went with a fewer, better mindset. Instead of trying to do it all, my partner and I sat down to hand-pick a few things that we knew we would all enjoy. It made for such a wonderfully enjoyable time on the island. A good lesson learned for future travels.
Across Oahu, a warm welcome was felt everywhere we went with our toddler. Whether it was restaurants, parks, or boat rides, there was genuine excitement that we were there as a family. When I say that this has been one of our favorite family trips/vacations, I mean it.
So if you’re considering planning a trip, let this be your confirmation that Oahu is indeed one of the best toddler-friendly destinations around. Here are some tips to make the most of your time!
Short on Time? Here Are My Top Picks for the Best Toddler-Friendly Hotels on Oahu:
- Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina, for the best luxury resort
- Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, for the best Waikiki resort
- Turtle Bay Resort, for the best North Shore resort
For more help planning your trip to Oahu, don’t miss my list of favorite Waikiki restaurants and my roundup of the best things to do on the North Shore.
For more toddler travel tips, read my Must-Have Toddler Gear for Travel List!
Want to Explore Several Sights and Ticketed Experiences on Oahu?
Consider booking a Go City All-Inclusive Pass that includes 40+ Attractions!
Your Guide to Visiting Oahu With Toddlers
FAQ: Visiting Oahu With Toddlers
Do I Need to Rent a Car?
My short answer to this question is yes. Oahu is a very large island and to be able to explore, you will need to have your own transportation. Picking up a rental car at Honolulu is very easy, you just walk across the terminal from baggage.
For renting a car, I would suggest grabbing a low-fare rental on Discover Cars.
How Many Days Should I Stay in Oahu?
One week is a great starting point to fully enjoy Oahu and see a lot of the island. You could easily stay longer as there is much to discover. If you opt for a shorter trip, I would suggest staying in one location.
When is the Best Time to Visit Oahu?
Oahu can be visited year-round due to its mild temperatures and warm waters. One thing that does need to be kept in mind is the strong waves and currents that come seasonally. November-February has massive waves on the North Shore for instance, but come summer, the waters are much calmer.
Where to Stay on Oahu with Toddlers
For Oahu and the time change, my suggestion is to stay a week on Oahu. I found that the seven days were the perfect amount of time for us to have slower days and opportunities to explore. With this in mind, I’d split your stay across two parts of the island.
Oahu is quite large and to account for naps, basing yourself in two different spots will give you a bit more flexibility to explore the island. We opted for 3 nights in Ko Olina and then 3 nights in Waikiki. Both options were absolutely wonderful with our toddler and offered different experiences.
The Four Seasons Resort Oahu offers a one-of-a-kind island experience. Cosmopolitan yet very much relaxed, the hotel is oceanside along the Ko Olina lagoons. Its setting is breathtaking, with 370 rooms, a spa, three pools, and five restaurants/bars.
For us, the Four Seasons Oahu was the perfect kick-off for our vacation with our toddler on Oahu. With an accommodating team, there were so many wonderful little touches that made us comfortable throughout the stay. From a kid-friendly pool to the kids club, our family felt integrated with every element of the property.
When we checked into our beautiful suite that overlooked the ocean, the room had been set up with a teepee and stuffed animal. It’s these kinds of things that made our stay so memorable. Of course for mom and dad, there are wonderful things to enjoy too. I went down to the Naupaka Spa one morning to experience a massage in their outdoor healing hale — couldn’t recommend this more!
One wonderful perk that cannot be overlooked is that kids under 4 dine for free at restaurants with an adult who is having a meal. Each of the restaurants offers kids menus to enjoy throughout the day.
As we walked into the room at Waikiki Beach Marriott, I thought instantly “This is the postcard I had seen my whole life.” It was almost surreal as we stepped into the expansive suite that had not one, but three patios overlooking Waikiki!
With a spacious suite that featured a living and dining space and two full bathrooms, it was the perfect place for our family in Waikiki. The Waikiki Beach Marriott knows so well how to make guests comfortable, and you could feel that in the rooms and spaces.
On the third floor, the large pool, splash zone, and game area were a favorite for us. It was plenty of room for us to stretch out and enjoy our slower mornings after breakfast at the Kuhio Beach Grill inside the hotel.
One element that made the Waikiki Beach Marriott so wonderful for us was its location. Across from the toddler-friendly, Kūhiō Beach and walking distance to all of the best restaurants, it made it very convenient to explore Waikiki.
From the private cabana experience at the pool to our very family-friendly suite overlooking Waikiki, the Waikiki Beach Marriott was the postcard send-off for our time on Oahu. I will not forget those sunsets from the patio with views of those shimmering waves filled with surfers. Book the best rates here.
One of the other highly-rated resorts on the island that came recommended was Turtle Bay Resort. While we didn’t make it here on this trip, I wanted to call this option out for those who want a resort experience on the north shore. The expansive property offers so many things to do for the family, including pools, beaches, and curated activities. Book the best rates here.
Where to Dine Out in Oahu With Toddlers
For me when it comes to dining with my toddler, it’s all about how comfortable I feel at a place. I wanted to be very thoughtful that this list includes places where we felt comfortable with our toddler in Oahu.
Spoiler Alert: everywhere we went in Oahu we felt so comfortable and welcomed.
Most of the restaurants had “keiki” menus or a kid’s menu to choose from. Oahu is now at the top of my list of family-friendly dining destinations. Here are our favorites from the week:
Mina’s Fish House at Four Seasons
Our best meal of the trip was at Mina’s Fish House at the Four Seasons. Done by Chef Michael Mina (a personal favorite of mine), the menu here is fish-forward. You also can’t be the incredible setting with Ko Olina as well. On the menu, highlights included the tuna tartare done tableside, lomi lomi octopus, and the Hawaiian Butterfish Puolo.
With several locations on the island like the North Shore, Kailua, and Honolulu, the Sunrise Shack is delicious. Stop in for fresh fruit smoothies, acai bowls, and papaya boats. We loved our food from here on the North Shore!
Our favorite food truck was the taco plate from North Shore Tacos. It was just an easy-going meal, but packed with flavor.
Set inside the Four Seasons, Noe was an elevated dining experience that featured a modern take on Italian classics. It was formal but very toddler-friendly as we sat on the patio surrounded by koi ponds. The food was deliciously good, loved their housemade pasta like the truffle tagliatelle and bucatini with guanciale and egg.
Our favorite meal in the Waikiki area was at the iconic Pig and The Lady in Chinatown. A fresh take on Vietnamese food, this sleek restaurant had such a wonderful selection of classic dishes. Loved the beef pho and our daughter loved her “keiki” meal too.
This large shopping mall and market have so much food to choose from. From sit-down to fast casual, you can eat your way around the world here. Do stop by Liliha Bakery for their mochi donuts while here!
Another favorite was the Japanese institution, Marugame Udon. There was always a line out the door, so keep in mind (no reservations. As you walk through, pick your udon bowl, and add on tempura and other side bites. Highly recommend!
Our favorite poke bowl of the trip was from Maguro Brothers. While our toddler didn’t have any, we thoroughly enjoyed it at our hotel during one of her naps! (Tip: Grab musubi across the street from the famous Musubi Cafe Iyasumi!)
For more on where to eat in Waikiki read The Best Restaurants in Waikiki
Toddler-Friendly Things to Do on Oahu
At the top of our list for Oahu was our morning at Waimea Valley. One of the most serene and sacred places on the island, this historical site is a must-see. It’s incredibly toddler-friendly (paved paths for strollers, yay!).
If you’re coming to the North Shore, I’d suggest starting here when it opens at 9 am to experience it sans the crowds. As you walk through the valley, there are significant sites like the Hale o Lono and kauhale to learn about Hawaii’s culture.
The hike to Waimea Falls is around 30 minutes each way, completely doable with a stroller. Along the way, botanical gardens, Hawaiian cultural sights, and lots of scenic views. In Waimea Valley, there are gift shops, a coffee shop, and a small cafe which are all open in the morning. There is a lot of free space to enjoy here as well.
General Admission: $25 for adults, $18 for seniors, $14 for children 4-12, and free for under 4.
Want to Explore Several Sights and Ticketed Experiences on Oahu?
Consider booking a Go City All-Inclusive Pass that includes 40+ Attractions. Waimea Valley is included!
Out of Waikiki, the Glass Bottom Boat Tour was such a fun way to get out on the water and see wildlife. This 1-hour boat tour was the right amount of time for our toddler to be out there. Along the way, we saw sea turtles, dolphins, and fish. The scenery was incredible as well of Waikiki and Diamond Head. I’d suggest an early morning tour as the water tends to be more calm and flat. All passengers 3 years and over are $40. Book the glass bottom boat tour here.
Explore the North Shore For Beaches and More
You could spend a few days exploring the North Shore and all of its gems. There is a lot to do like the mentioned Waimea Valley where I’d start your time. One tip is to visit mid-week, the weekends bring a lot of traffic here. From eateries to beaches, here are a few highlights:
Head to the Sunrise Shack for a treat like a smoothie or a papaya bowl to enjoy. If the chickens are out, ask to feed them, and they’ll give the kids a cup of granola for the chickens!
The best beach we found for us as a family was Sunset Beach as it was quite wide and had plenty of space to roam. You do want to bring your own shade here as it is rather exposed.
Afterward, we made our way to the North Shore Tacos food truck. It’s set with a few other food trucks, with a central space to sit down and eat on picnic benches. Music was playing, and it was just a fun atmosphere to enjoy. Our final stop was the iconic Matsumoto Shaved Ice, well worth the wait.
Enjoy the Ko Olina Lagoons
Whether you’re staying at a Ko Olina hotel or not, the Ko Olina Lagoons are open to the public. 642 acres set across four lagoons, it is the absolute best with littles. The water is calm due to how they created the lagoons and yet the water still cycles out. Each lagoon has its own parking, just follow the signs as you enter Ko Olina. Parking is first come, first serve and does fill fast.
Spend a Day at the Beach
Is there anything better than a day at the beach with kids? There are so many kid-friendly beaches to enjoy on Oahu. Kūhiō Beach just across from the Waikiki Beach Marriott was perfect for our toddler as there is a shallow lagoon built right in front.
Another favorite beach was Waimanalo Beach on the eastern side. The sand was powdery soft and plenty of space to roam about. There are also restrooms and showers here.
Go to the Honolulu Zoo
I think this was our daughter’s favorite thing we did in Oahu as she is obsessed with animals. And for us as parents, it was great to have a space for her to explore freely. The Honolulu Zoo is easy to walk to from Waikiki, and once inside, it’s a lovely experience. There are a lot of elements of the zoo’s dedication to preservation and education (geared for older kids). After getting to see some favorite animals, our toddler enjoyed the park and plenty of grass to run about.
One of the things I was hoping to experience on Oahu was a luau. Waikiki Beach Marriott hosts this intimate Luau called a “Pa’ina” which is a small gathering. It’s hosted at sunset right on the pool deck area in a private space (convenient for when we had to dip upstairs for bedtime).
It was so much fun, our toddler loved getting to experience the music and dancing and enjoyed the food. For us, it was an amazing experience to learn more about the Hawaiian culture and traditions. Advanced reservations are recommended. Book the luau here.
8. Make the Drive to Kualoa Regional Park
If you’re spending time on the eastern side of Oahu, there are dozens of cultural sites, beaches, and parks to enjoy. A lot of people book tours at Kualoa Ranch as well since this is a popular activity.
One of my favorite areas to explore that was kid-friendly was Kualoa Regional Park. You get epic views of the mountains and the ocean here. Lots of space to run, picnic facilities and so scenic. My suggestion would be to pick up traditional Hawaiian comfort food at Waiahole Poi Factory on your way through for lunch.
Things to Pack For Your Toddler
Every Day Things
- Caraa Baby Travel Backpack
- Portable Sound Machine
- Travel Water Bottle
- Collapsible Snack Cup
- Slumberpod Blackout Tent
- Mini Flexible Fan
- Baby Monitor No WiFi Needed
- Favorite Travel Crayons
- Fold Flat Beach Tent
- Collapsible Beach Bucket + Toys
- SPF Hat with Wide Brim
- Hands-Free Sunscreen Applier
- Reef-Safe, Baby-Safe Sunscreen
- Baby Swim Float (packs flat)
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Use Booking.com for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.
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4. Book Your Car
Use Discover Cars or Rentalcars.com to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.
5. Don’t Forget Airport Lounge Access
Get a Priority Pass membership to gain access to 1,400+ VIP lounges and airport experiences worldwide. The Priority Pass app is the first thing I check when I have a layover. I’ve been a member for over a decade, and having a comfortable place to relax before and between flights makes air travel so much more enjoyable.
6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.
My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are: