Hawaii is known for its relaxing beaches but it is also packed full of adventurous activities that will leave you smiling from ear to ear. Whether you're traveling with kids in tow or just want to experience a new side of Hawaii, we've got you covered! Just because you have kids doesn’t mean the fun has to stop.
We know finding family-friendly adventurous things to do that works for the whole group can be challenging. So if you’re planning a vacation to Oahu, here are our top adventurous activities to do with the family!
1. Drive an ATV Raptor through the Jurassic Park valley
One of our favorite things to do on the island is to drive the ATV Raptors through the picturesque 1,000 acre Ka’a’awa “Jurassic Park” Valley at Kualoa Ranch. The raptors sit upto 6 people so there is enough room for the whole family to ride together. The ranch offers 1-hour or 2-hour tours for ages 5 years old and up! You'll get to drive your own raptor as you follow a guide through the valleys while making a few pit stops along the way to see famous movie sites! Make sure to take advantage of the goggles they offer you as the roads can be dusty. Don’t worry if it rains, the mud makes it more fun!!
*Tip: Book early as most tours fill up weeks in advance
2. Swim with sharks
Wait, did you say sharks?!? Yes, our number one thing we would recommend is to book a wildlife conservation research tour through One Ocean Diving! This extremely educational encounter will dive deeper into Hawaii’s marine animals, biology, behavior and conservation. I loved how they educated the whole family on shark safety which is a must for any active ocean goer. Located 3 miles off the stunning North Shore in crystal blue waters you’ll get the opportunity to experience endangered sharks, fish and other marine animals in their natural habitat. There’s nobody I trust more than Ocean and Juan with over 20 years of experience and a perfect safety record. My kids were surprised to find how peaceful and beautiful it was to watch the "doctors of the ocean" in their world. All dive gear is provided for you, just make sure to bring a towel. To swim, children must be at least 4 feet tall. Ride along tickets are also available for guests who wish to watch from above on this once in a lifetime experience.
“We protect what we love and love what we know...and endangered sharks need our protection” - Sunrise Voyagers
*Tip: Book the earliest time slot possible because you’ll experience calmer waters and have more chances to see wildlife.
3. Ride horses along the scenic North Shore
Take a beautiful trail ride through the tropical rainforests of Oahu’s north shore with Happy Trails Hawaii. Perfect for ages 6 and up, these highly trained horses will take your family through fern forests, wild fruit orchards and up to a panoramic overlook of the ocean and Oahu’s lush Waimea Valley! Our kids loved spotting the hidden horseshoes staged throughout the trail ride, it was a fun game that made the ride even more exciting.
4. Hike Waimano Falls
An island adventure isn’t complete without a scenic hike to a waterfall. Waimano Falls Trail is a 2.9 mile round trip heavily trafficked trail located near Pearl City. The hike leads to three beautifully cascading waterfalls, complete with a rope swing for all your little monkeys to swing into the pool below. The hike can be steep as you hike into the valley but our 7 year old managed it without any trouble. Bring a bathing suit and cool off for a swim in the cold fresh water before hiking back out. Make sure to follow the colored markers tied to the trees to stay on the right trail. We always like to download AllTrails app to help track our location on GPS.
* Tip: The hike can be muddy, so bring a change of shoes for afterwards and a jug of water to rinse off with before loading the kids back into the car.
5. Take a discovery scuba dive tour
Discovery dives are the perfect way to introduce someone to scuba diving! There’s no dive certification required! During a discovery dive you’ll have a certified scuba instructor brief you on safety tips and practices right at the anchor site, then your instructor will supervise you throughout the entire dive. All you need to do is breathe and watch the beautiful Hawaiian underwater world come to life before your very eyes. Perfect for families, ages 10 and up, to experience something new together!
6. Splash down water slides at a water park
Take the whole family to enjoy a fun filled day at Wet N Wild Water Park. This tropical water park has it all from a relaxing lazy river and huge splash pads for the younger keiki (kids) , take the entire family in a raft down O-Hana Highway slide or race the older kids down the 240 foot raceway at Volcano Express! We love that a lot of the rides have double rafts so you can enjoy the fun together! Finish off the day with at the 400,000 gallon wave pool for a twilight dive-in movie night!
7. Learn to surf at Waikiki
A classic must do if you’re staying on Oahu is to learn to surf at Waikiki Beach. You can rent a surfboard from many different shops located around Honolulu or book lessons to learn to surf, stand-up paddleboard or surf a Hawaiian canoe! Spend the day catching the perfect wave with the whole family with views of Diamond Head crater in the background. Younger kids will love playing in the calm lagoons right next to the beach. At the end of the day grab a shave ice, take a picture with Duke's statue (surfing legend) and watch the sunset after the perfect beach day.
8. Kayak to another island
If you want a unique island experience only found on Oahu, consider renting a kayak and paddle to the small island of Moku Nui. Tours are also available if you wish to have a guide. It’s the perfect family adventure as you pass white sand beaches and cruise over Hawaii’s crystal clear waters as you scout out for sea turtles! Moku Nui is a seabird sanctuary, so once you land at the beach, take a short walk along the sea coast to see Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Bulwer’s Petrels nesting in tunnels under the ground.
If you want to feel like a voyager but don’t want to paddle as far, try paddling to Flat Island, a small island directly in front of Kailua Beach. Your kids will still be wow’d as you discover new lands from the not-so-distant shore.
*Tip: Pack a small bag with snacks, water and sunscreen so you can have refreshments when you get to the island.
9. Zip through a forest on a zip line
If you’re looking for a thrilling way to bond with the family, look no further! Our favorite zip line course on Oahu is Climb Works at Keana Farms in Kahuku. This course has it all, after a short practice line you’ll take an ATV up to the first course, where you’ll encounter 8 world class dual zip lines, 2 rappels, 3 sky bridges and a rope ascender climb. Perfect for ages 7 and up, this zip line course will build confidence in your children and create lasting memories! It was so cute to watch my 7 year old become bolder as she conquered each line, while at the same time we laughed our heads off watching them climb with ascenders. It was a blast!
10. Parasail up in the sky
Ages five and up can fly above the crystal clear Hawaiian waters and take in breathtaking views when you try parasailing! If your kids wish they had super powers this may be the time to take flight.
11. Swim with dolphins
A highlight for families is swimming with the dolphins at Dolphin Quest. Located at the luxurious Kahala Hotel and Resort, families ages 5+ will get the chance to meet and swim with the local bottlenose dolphins. The resort also offers a meet and greet for children ages 0-4. Likewise, you can also swim with dolphins, sharks and rays or meet a sea lion at Sealife Park! The encounter is open to children ages 3+ for the dolphins or ages 8+ to meet the sealions. It's every animal lovers dream.
We hope these tips help spice up your next island vacation on Oahu! We have no doubt you’ll be creating memories your family will be talking about for years to come!
Aloha and happy travels,