This is a part of a series of posts I am doing related to a summer trip we took to Hawaii this year. We traveled as two families four kids were with us, ages 9-13. Im bringing some of my experiences to you guys hoping that those of you traveling with families to Hawaii might get some recommendations of interest from us based on what we did.

The first island in Hawaii that we visited as a family was the island of Oahu. We flew into Honolulu and had 3 nights and about 2 and half days to visit the sites.

Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Waikiki Beach Marriott. Loved the location. It’s right on Kalakaua Ave, the main street in Waikiki, and on Waikiki Beach. There is literally something going on at all hours in this location. Which was nice given that we were jet-lagged for the first few days we were in Hawaii. Hawaii is 6 hours behind. Breakfast started at 5 am and was always hopping so apparently we weren’t the only early risers.

I sure enjoyed this Lava Flow (pictured above) on our first night when we arrived. We were trying hard to stay up as it was about 11 pm back home when we sat down to have “dinner” poolside at the Marriott.

Here’s a view from our room – each room has a balcony and I think every room pretty much has a nice view as I didn’t see any rooms on the backside:

A must-see if you’re going to be on Oahu is Pearl Harbor. It’s such a huge part of American History and visiting it, especially the USS Arizona Memorial, is very moving.

1177 soldiers lost their lives when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on that day. The battleship sunk in the harbor and it still rests there to this day. This white memorial literally sits above it’s resting place. It’s a solemn and touching experience to walk through the memorial.

The names of those who lost their lives that day are listed on a wall at the end of the memorial:

As as you look out the sides of memorial, you can see various parts of the battleship above and below water. As well as oil that is still leaking into the ocean to this day.

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There’s a small museum you can see for free at Pearl Harbor but you have to pay for a ticket to see the USS Arizona Memorial. The ticket includes a short educational movie and the ferry ride over to the memorial.

The other piece of history in the area worthy of a visit is taking a walk through the USS Missouri. This battleship was NOT present for the bombing at Pearl Harbor but rather is the site of the signing of the treaty that Japan signed to surrender at the end of World War II.

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There are a couple of snack and gift shops here so it’s a good lunch time pit stop after you’ve visited the Pearl Harbor Museum and the Arizona.

We visited all of these through this tour on the Pearl Harbor website. It was 7 1/2 hours and included a driver getting us to and from our hotel and to the various areas, plus our tickets. If I had to do it over again, I’m not sure I would book a tour.

Buying individual tickets to each battleship would have been easy enough, although for a first day on the island when we were jet-lagged, I’ll admit it was nice to have someone chauffeuring us around.

Waikiki Beach (Honolulu)

You’ve probably heard of Waikiki Beach. The cool thing about itis that it’s a great spot for ALL ages. The official Waikiki Beach actually has this small swimming area that is great for even little guys. There’s a man-made wall built where the waves seem to break so it’s like a big-swimming pool that doesn’t seem to get over 5 feet tall even at high-tide. There are also lifeguards on this part of the beach.

Immediately next to it is the surfing area, with no wall, so there’s all sorts of surfers and water sports going on at all hours of the day here.

Here’s Cole posing in front of the beach most people were swimming on, the section with the wall:

We ate a couple of great places but I want to highlight two here. The first is the Hula Grill in Waikiki. It was about a half mile from our hotel so we had a nice walk down one evening. I selected it because it was located on the water and had great reviews on TripAdvisor.

The food was awesome. Here’s Cole having a Virgin Guava drink of some kind and he had the Poke Ahi Tacos, which were delicious. The rest of us had fresh fish which, you can’t really go wrong with in Hawaii since it’s all fresh caught. Our favorite fish to eat while in Hawaii were Opah and Ono, which seemed to be the common fish throughout most restaurants.

For dessert, we shared this Creme Brule in a pineapple. It was amazing.

The other restaurant I wanted to mention was Eggs ‘n Things. It’s a chain in Hawaii and we visited the one in Waikiki on the beach. It’s just a basic diner but the food was priced right and delicious. Plus, when you’re still jet lagged and up at the crack of dawn, it’s nice to find good restaurants that are open. We got to this one around 6:30 and there was a short line and wait. You order before sitting down so it moves a little more quickly and efficiently than you would think.

Here’s a picture of my Hawaiian Acai Bowl:

So after that morning, we rented a car and headed to the North Shore. The North Shore is famous and you have seen it in many movies and probably don’t even realize it: Point Break (the original), 50 First Dates, Soul Surfer, Pearl Harbor, Jurassic Park and more. It’s known for its big waves and surfers visit from around the world just to get a chance to catch a ride here.

The waves were actually somewhat tame when we were visiting. There’s also amazing snorkeling and other various hidden spots that you can find to stop and visit on.

We used this book: Oahu Revealed: The Ultimate Guide to Honolulu, Waikiki and Beyond to help us find the good spots along the North Shore – there are many.

Here we stopped at a hidden “turtle beach.” We actually didn’t see any turtles this day (which was fine because we saw hundreds later on the Big Island) but there was great snorkeling.

And our favorite stop was here. This spot is called Shark’s Cove and it’s several naturally formed tide pools that you can snorkel and walk around in. You can see Jon and the boys off to the right in this picture below but beyond where they are standing, the water was deeper (like 4 feet) and we snorkeled here for HOURS.

The one recommendation I would make for anyone stopping here is to wear water shoes. We bought some for everyone later in the trip but didn’t any here and there were sea urchins EVERYWHERE. The kids were good but I wasn’t so lucky and stepped on one. Ouch. Luckily I pulled out the thorn pretty quickly but it did sting.

This photo’s just with my iPhone – there were funky fish everywhere.

And I have to mention one of the best parts of that day. Right across from Shark’s Cove is a little parking lot full of food trucks. I had read and heard about Hawaii’s food trucks. We walked across the street and the choices were overwhelming! From food trucks feeding you shrimp that had just been caught to fish and beyond, the smells were out of this world.

I used Trip Advisor again and we actually ate at a Thai food place, which is only shocking in that my family doesn’t normally eat Thai. But we thought we’d try something different and the reviews were so glowing that we thought we would give it a shot.

You guys. Not only will we go back to Hawaii someday, but I KNOW we will have to visit Oahu with that visit. Not because of all the other amazing locations and things to do (and those are great), but because of this food truck. Several times during the rest of our trip, my kids asked if we could take a puddle jumper back to Oahu to visit the Elephant Truck. Words can’t describe how tasty this food was.

So you order at the truck and then sit at picnic benches in front of the truck. This picture above has Jon and Nate hanging out. Jon and I were sharing the Thai Iced Tea (orange drink on the table) and it was so refreshing.

And here’s the menu. We got the Kapow, Pad Thai with Shrimp & Chicken and the Veggie Fried Rice:

Argh. I’m getting hungry just writing this review. Seriously. Amazeballs. Here’s a picture of the Kapow:

After lunch, we hit up Waimea Bay Beach where they had a more public beach. There were showers and bathroom facilities here and the water was crystal clear and fun to swim in. Tons of families here.

I could go on and on. Other spots that are worth stopping that we did NOT do include the Polynesian Cultural Center and the Dole Plantation. We did neither just because we were running short on time but they would be great stops in a rainstorm or bad weather day.

We left around lunch on our third day but not before we just took a stroll down Kalakaua Ave. We stopped at a pier where a local man was feeding these birds and we spent a good hour just chatting with him and playing with the birds and watching the surfers:

My kids just loved this. In this last shot, you can see Diamond Head off on the right upper-side of this photo:

If you’re looking for a day hike, I’m told this is the spot in Oahu. Diamond Head is a crater formed by a volcano and up at the top there are apparently sweeping views of Hawaii. We knew we would be visiting volcanos on the Big Island and ran out of time but for outdoorsy types, check it out.

The one other kid-activity I wish we could have sneaked in time for was the Honolulu Zoo. It’s literally next door to the Marriott and we just didn’t have the time but the folks at the hotel told us it’s fabulous and only takes a few hours to walk through. So that’s another option if you’re on Oahu and have a little more time to spare.

Mahalo for reading! Please comment and share if you have cool family-friendly recommendations for Oahu and look for my review of the Big Island coming next!


  1. As someone who has done a family trip to Oahu, I have to say your tips were en point! We also stayed at the Waikiki Beach Marriott and loved it! Fabulous pool, loved being right on the beach, and walking distance to so many things if we wanted to do something other than the beach and the pool! Glad you had a fabulous time!

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