People from all over the world travel to see the beautiful islands of Hawaii. Not only is it a gorgeous tropical escape, but flights are affordable and there’s plenty to do with family. With perfect year-round weather, it is a bucket list worthy destination. If your family loves the beach and tropical locations like ours does, you will want to read how we spent our 5 Days on Oahu with Baby!
My husband’s company had their annual incentive trip in Honolulu, Hawaii. I was excited to find out he earned it & that we were going because I grew up on Oahu as a kid. These are some of the most memorable years of my childhood & I have core memories tied to places on that little island! I hadn’t been back in over 10 years, so I was looking forward to having a relaxing 5 days on Oahu while reminiscing. My hope was that my husband would capture a sense of the Aloha spirit & develop the same love of the islands as I have. And I hope you leave feeling that as well, if this is your first time!
Our trip was only 5 days, so we were not able to see everything there is to see. Since we brought our 1 year old daughter, our focus was to relax & see some of the top attractions. If you are looking for a complete guide of What To Do on Oahu, click here. It is a lengthy list of every single awesome thing I know of on Oahu. You could easily fill 14-21 days with that list! But even if you can only go for 5 days, it is worth it and you’ll absolutely want to go back!
To download my exclusive, in depth OAHU TO DO LIST, click HERE:
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Not sure if Oahu is the island for your family? Read my post: Best Hawaii Island with Baby, to see which is the best fit for what you’re looking for.
Our day of travel started before the sun was up & went directly to Honolulu on Hawaiian Airlines. We arrived around 11am local time, giving us a full day to enjoy the beach. We stayed downtown at the Sheraton Waikiki. Many of the rooms have a gorgeous ocean view with Diamondhead Crater in the background like this:
There are two pools at the Sheraton Waikiki. The family pool has a shallow area on the top (safe for inexperienced swimmers), a water slide, and lounge chairs all around the rest of the pool. The second pool is a luxurious-feeling infinity pool with a swim up bar. Both overlook the ocean and have a path leading down to sandy Waikiki Beach. They are both fairly small pools, but we didn’t spend much time there so it wasn’t an issue for us. If you are planning on spending the day at the pool, you will want to get down there early enough in the day that you can get a lounge chair or two.
You can also rent shaded cabanas around the pool for a daily rate. Ask at check in what the procedure is because they frequently change policies for that.
The other perk of staying at the Sheraton Waikiki is that you are steps away from the Waikiki Shopping Plaza. High end shops, restaurants, and fun entertainment are all within walking distance. Hula dancers & fire dancers frequent the open plaza area behind ANTEPRIMA Wirebag which is directly north of the entrance to the Sheraton. We had dinner & ice cream a couple times at spots nearby. There is a Longs Drug Store within half a mile, which has all your basic needs, and souvenir shops across the street along Seaside Ave.
This is a great area to stay in because of the convenience, and when you are traveling to Oahu with your baby or kids, you want to max out on convenience! Convenience means more relaxing for mom & dad. If you want an extra special time with your spouse away from the kids, the Sheraton does offer childcare services. Read about it here for more information. If you are traveling to Oahu with a baby, I suggest looking at the Sheraton or somewhere nearby! We really enjoyed our stay there. It felt luxurious and you can’t beat the location.
Day 2: Diamondhead Crater Hike, KOA Cafe, Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor*
We woke up early this day because we hadn’t adjusted to the 3-hour time difference. Since we were up, we caught the gorgeous sunrise on the beach just below our room. There’s something so peaceful and serene about watching the sunrise. I almost like it more than watching the sunset. It’s just you and nature… most of the world is still asleep. (Ahh, makes me want to do it more frequently!)
Once the rest of our group was awake, we piled into someone’s rental car and drove a short 3 miles to hike Diamondhead Crater. It costs $5 per person over five years old once you have paid $10 to park. I don’t know that I would pay to do this hike again, but it did have a beautiful view at the top. There are other free hikes nearby, if you are looking for something more budget friendly. This was a fun 2 mile round-trip hike with lots of stairs. It is partially paved, I would rate it as “easy” and doable with littles.
I wore my 20 pound one-year-old in a forward facing wrap, up & down with no issues. (definitely not the carrier I would recommend for hiking, but it was all I brought this trip. Check out my post about the Best Baby Carriers for all types of activities) We also had a five-year-old in our group who hiked most of it on his own. Although, if your kids aren’t used to walking or hiking a lot, this may be a little much for them. There are shorter, less strenuous hikes on the island that could work for your family.
KOA Pancake House
Following our hike, we ate an incredible Hawaiian style breakfast at Koa Pancake House. If you’ve never had rice, scrambled eggs, and Portuguese sausage, I highly recommend getting it! It is my favorite breakfast meal and it will keep you full for hours. The coconut syrup on their french toast was also heavenly & the Loco Moco is a popular plate too. I don’t think you can go wrong ordering anything there! I do want to mention that if you don’t pay the meter to park at the 12th Ave location, you more than likely will get a ticket on your windshield. Learn from our mistakes and pay the $1 for parking instead of the $35 ticket.
Once we were finished, we headed back to our resort where we spent the rest of the day on the beach. Someone in our group had brought a Spikeball set & there were a couple of volleyball nets set up on the beach as well. It was relaxing to just hang out under our shade cabana and play in the sand after naptime in the room.
Other people in our group went to Pearl Harbor this day. We could have done both activities and sacrificed some beach time, but we wanted to relax. If you do incorporate this as part of your itinerary, you can acquire tickets for the Pearl Harbor Memorial when you arrive at the ticketing kiosk. Just know, they are available on a first come, first serve basis. I would suggest securing your time slot in advance on their website with a $1 donation. It takes about one hour for this very sobering tour out into the bay. I think everyone should do it at some point & we will for sure include it on our itinerary next time. It’s a family friendly activity, just keep walking children close.
Day 3: Pick Up TURO, North Shore
TURO CAR RENTAL
The Sheraton has a few convenient breakfast spots on site. We grabbed a coffee & breakfast sandwiches from the café before leaving to pick up the minivan we rented off Turo. Turo is a peer-to-peer rental car app. If you aren’t familiar with how it works, check out my other post all about it here. After a cheap Uber ride to the pick-up spot, we were off for the day to the North Shore. We timed it pretty well that our daughter napped for an hour driving up there, giving us some happy playtime on the beach once we stopped.
Turtle Bay & Seven Brothers
I was hoping to see some turtles so we stopped at Turtle Bay & most of our group met us there too. I packed our snorkels from home which were easy to share with the group because you don’t have to put your mouth all over them. Get yours here. We walked around the tide pools a bit, snorkeled, and unwound in the shade. Unfortunately, no turtles were out that day, but we did see some colorful fish! I got to take our friend’s son out snorkeling in the shallow water for his first time which was really exciting. He was awestruck, and it gave me all the feels thinking back to my first time snorkeling in that same Hawaiian ocean.
Once lunchtime rolled around, we packed up and went up the road to Seven Brothers Burgers. The burgers were amazing, I highly recommend going here! We got the Shem Burger and the Teri-Samoa, but we heard the shrimp was delicious & will be ordering that next time too. Shrimp is only available at the Kahuku location, so take advantage of that if you’re there!
Before going back to Waikiki, we spent some time at Waimea Bay Beach Park. This is a beautifully unique spot where the ocean & river meet. The sand is white and powdery and the water is perfectly blue. During the winter, the North Shore has bigger waves, but during the summer it is nice and calm. It is kind of a steep beach, so be careful with your littles no matter the season. If you set up closer to where the river comes up along the sand, that is calmer water year round.
Right on the other side of the road from the beach park is Waimea Valley. I remember loving going there as a kid because of the peacocks! There are always colorful peacocks roaming around this cultural landmark. If you have some extra time, you should stop here with your kiddos, they will enjoy seeing the natural life!
If we would have had more time before needing to return to Waikiki for a company dinner, we would have gone to Laniakea Beach (a popular basking spot for turtles), downtown Hale’iwa, and Matsumotos Shave Ice stand.
Other food suggestions on the North shore:
-Ted’s bakery (delicious pie!)
-Seven Brothers Burgers
-Dave’s ice cream
-Leonard’s Bakery (malasadas)
Day 4: Halona Blowhole, Ho’Omaluhia Botanical Garden, Byodo-In Temple*, Polynesian Cultural Center
This was by far, my favorite day of the trip! It was exhausting, but so much fun. We grabbed breakfast at KOA Pancake House again and then relaxed at the resort for a bit before heading out for the day. The timing was just so that our daughter fell asleep on the scenic drive along the east side of the island. I’m telling you! This is the way to road trip around the island with babies. You also wanna grab my Top 10 Travel Toys to keep them entertained on a long driving day. Here’s the route we took:
Our first stop was the Halona Blowhole Lookout. It was a clear day, so when we stood at the lookout, we could see a neighboring island! (I think it was Maui). This is such a pretty spot, I remember going here with my family as a kid because my mom loved the view. The black lava rock against the white crashing waves, and deep blue water… It’s so dreamy! And would be incredibly romantic at sunset.
If you are feeling adventurous and confident in your kid’s abilities, you can pass the sign that says “caution” and walk down to the little beach and out onto the lava rock where the actual blowhole is. The beach is beautiful but the waves are strong & it is not safe for casual swimming. Don’t stand too close to the edge of the cliffs, my husband and daughter got completely soaked from an unexpected wave that came up near the blowhole! We were peering over the edge at a turtle swimming along the coast and had a couple big splashes come up as well.
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
Once my husband and daughter air dried enough, we got back in the car and drove towards the Ho’Omaluhia Botanical Garden. The drive alone was beautiful. Scenic lookout points along the way are worth stopping for. As soon as you see the Ko’Olau Mountains you will wonder why you haven’t been hanging out on that side of the island more. They are huge, lush green mountains that put you right into the Jurassic Park movie set.
The Botanical Garden is basically an up close view of these beautiful mountains and tropical flora. It is open 9am-4pm daily and free to the public. We did not get enough time here. We could have easily spent an entire day walking around, there is so much to see. (I also really love flowers lol). I will absolutely be going back here on my next visit and you will definitely want to include it on your itinerary.
We briefly got out of the car, took a few pictures and looked at the extensive map before deciding we wouldn’t have time to see it all. The rest of our afternoon & evening had been booked for the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) and we needed to get over there. If we had had time, we were going to also stop at the Byodo-In Temple, a stunning Buddhist temple nearby. If you get an earlier start to your day, you could easily include this in your itinerary!
Polynesian Cultural Center
The Polynesian Cultural Center is in Laie, just miles away from the northernmost tip of the island. You can purchase a package that grants you entrance into the Island Villages from 12:45-5:30pm, a buffet dinner, and the evening show, which is what we did. We had so much fun being totally enveloped in the different island cultures. You learn how unique each island is as you watch and participate in the performances. The food at the Gateway Buffet was not very good, I would suggest eating somewhere else or upgrading to the Alii Luau.
It is a late night staying for the evening show, but it is worth it. If you are traveling with kids, know the show doesn’t end until about 9pm. I brought our wrap carrier so I could rock our daughter to sleep while wearing her. I stood in the hallway, but I still had a good view of the performances. It can be pretty loud, so I also would suggest bringing earplugs if you are concerned about your children’s hearing.
Day 5: Electric Beach, Ko’Olina Lagoons*, Travel Home
This was our last day, but our flight didn’t leave until 11:30pm so we had the entire day to fill with activities. We extended the checkout time for our room at the resort until 5pm so we could go to the beach and still shower before getting on our long flight. It is an added fee to extend your checkout time that much, but if you have a really late departing flight, it is worth it.
Before we left the island I wanted to swing by the house I grew up in and show my husband I could still get there without Google Maps’ help. I grew up in Kapolei which is on the west side of the island. The plan was to drive by the house, snorkel for a bit at Electric Beach, and then relax at the Ko’Olina Lagoons.
Our Turo host suggested we go to Electric Beach for good snorkeling and I was shocked I had never heard of this spot considering it was only 10 minutes away from where I grew up! When I got in the water, I felt like I had been dropped into a gigantic aquarium! The coral was beautiful, there were hundreds of fish, and I swam with 2 turtles!
This was honestly some of the best snorkeling I have ever done. Because my husband and I did this day apart from our group, we had to trade off going into the water and staying on the beach with our daughter. We both wanted a few turns snorkeling because it was so incredible, but this meant we didn’t have time for the Ko’Olina Lagoons. I was bummed because we spent a lot of time there growing up and it is my #1 recommendation for a family friendly beach on Oahu.
Swimming with turtles made up for it, and we will come back some other time. Plus our daughter was kind of over being at the beach, so it worked out. She napped on the drive back to our hotel where we took showers, finished packing, and loaded everything into the van. After eating dinner, we dropped off the Turo in the same place we picked it up and took an Uber to the airport.
The Honolulu Airport is a hassle. You will need sufficient time to get checked in (especially with kids), check bags, get through security, and walk all the way to your gate. There isn’t AC in the main areas of the airport, so I’d suggest wearing light clothing to avoid getting sweaty before the flight. Bring a jacket and blanket in your carry-on if you’re worried about being cold on the flight.
Overall, we had a great time on Oahu with Baby. It was fun being there with my little family and our friends from my husband’s work. We will be going back soon because we only checked off a tiny portion of my to do list! It isn’t a very big island, but there’s so much to do! Oahu is one of the best spots to take a vacation with a baby. There are so many family friendly spots and nothing is more than an hour away.