Many people dream of Waikiki with it’s clear blue water, rolling surf and umbrella laden cocktails. You can easily spend a week people watching, playing in the water, shopping and eating all the food – so many desserts and so little time. Parking is pricey and car rentals have skyrocketed in the past years so most opt to go car-less. If you’re stuck in the city and feeling little stir-crazy or if you simply want to experience more I put together a list of the best of Waikiki for families.
Take a Hike
If you’re in the mood to escape Waikiki for a change of scenery, there are several nearby hiking trails. Even if you don’t have a car you can take the bus or an Uber/Lyft to get you there.
Manoa Falls Trail – Experience the rainforest with a canopy covered stroll along the stream culminating in a waterfall. It’s a 1.7 mile hike to get to the waterfall and back, but the path is wide and well-marked. Expect to pay a parking fee and go early or late to avoid crowds.
Diamond Head – Make your way to the top of this icon crater for stunning Waikiki views. They created a reservation system to limit crowds so plan this one in advance by snagging your spot from the park here. P.S. it can get super hot so try to go early or late.
The bright, clear waters and perfect waves of Waikiki are not to be missed but if you’re looking for alternatives you might consider these nearby options for the best of Waikiki for families.
Magic island – A bustling park and perfect little crescent beach sit at the top of Ala Moana Beach Park. A great spot for a swim and picnic with sunset views of Diamond Head and the Waianae Mountains. If you happen to visit on a Friday evening, you might luck out with a bonus fireworks show at the Hilton.
Diamond Head Beach Park – If you’re a surfer looking to escape the crowds at Waikiki or have a curious kid who loves tidepools, this narrow rocky beach is a fun change of pace.
Wailalae Beach Park – You can escape the crowds for a stroll along this palm tree lined beach in the upscale neighborhood of Kahala. The water is usually calm and clear but the beach is narrow so it’s best at low tide. It’s spot I love for sunset family photos.
Take to the Seas
There are lots of different flavors here depending on your interests. You can dive (or snuba), snorkel at turtle town (can get very crowded but an easy way to see turtles and take in Waikiki views), take a sunset sail, a whale watch tour (better from the north or leeward shores from Dec-May), charter a fishing boat, a submarine, see Waikiki from above by para-sail or you can … take a pirate ship.
Pirate ship adventure. If you’re not a snorkeling kind of family, this is a great way to get out on the water and keep the family entertained.
For Animal Lovers
If you’re an animal lover you might want to check out the Honolulu Zoo or the Waikiki Aquarium. Both are small and … perfectly fine. No, really, I like them both quite a bit and have spent countless hours at both. However, if you’re visiting and short on time you may want to skip them. Especially if you have access to a nice zoo or aquarium.
Want More Ideas? Consider these for the best of Waikiki for Families
Best places to eat while you’re in Waikiki
Waikiki is packed with with food options from hole-in-the-wall delights to Michelin star restaurants. Here are a few personal favorites.
Marugame Udon. Comfort food! A popular spot for freshly made udon noodles and tempura. It’s affordable and consistently delicious.
Musubi Cafe Iyasume. Musubis are a local staple. Sample various types of musubi (rice balls) and other Japanese snacks at this cozy spot.
Basalt. Something a little fancy. Offering a modern take on Hawaiian cuisine with a farm-to-table approach. Their cocktails are also fantastic.
Leonard’s Malasadas. How many malasadas is too many? That’s really the only question you need to answer here. And maybe what filling you like. P.S. The answer is dobash.
Best of Waikiki for Families – Something different
Ala Moana Mall. I’m not much of a shopper but this mall has a lot to offer. Not only is there great food but it’s lovely to stroll around the covered outdoor mall and people watch. There are often live performances at the main stage and you can find an arcade, bowling alley, and pups of war if you have energy to burn on a rainy day. You can even catch a trolley there from Waikiki.
Rent a bike. Grab a Biki bike and make your own a tour up to Kapiolani Park, around Diamond Head, along the Ala wai canal and all the way to Ala Moana Beach Park.