Things to Do in Honolulu With Kids

The short and easy Manoa Falls Trail is perfect for a family hike.
The short and easy Manoa Falls Trail is perfect for a family hike. (Image: SPrada/iStock/Getty Images)

The primary gateway for visitors to the Hawaiian islands, Honolulu seamlessly integrates big-city attractions with a distinctively island combination of surf, nature and Polynesian culture. Experiencing it all might just require a child's energy.

Take in the Trees

The popular Manoa Falls Trail, not far from Waikiki, is a leisurely 1.6-mile round-trip hike, making it ideal for families. Though hardly removed from civilization, children will relish the adventurous feeling of wandering through a rainforest of eucalyptus, bamboo and other majestic trees en route to the namesake cascade. The trail can be muddy, so hold young children by the hand if it has rained recently, and use insect repellent in any weather. You can combine your hike to Manoa Falls with a few hours at the 194-acre Lyon Arboretum, the main entrance to which is near the start of the trail. The arboretum, home to some 5,000 species of tropical plants, offers a hands-on children's garden and additional hiking trails.

Head to the Seashore

As the most famous beach in a state synonymous with sand and sun, Waikiki Beach is a must-see on any trip to Honolulu. But after the kids have their fill of watching would-be surfers try to tame the waves, head west to Ala Moana Beach Park. (The Travel Channel recommends Ala Moana for families with young children). While it can get crowded like Waikiki, Ala Moana's tranquil waters, courtesy of a protective reef, mean that you'll be more relaxed while the kids frolic away the hours in the ocean. And unless they are desperate to splash around with dolphins -- and you're willing to splurge to indulge them -- skip Honolulu's Sea Life Park in favor of a more authentic "immersion" at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, where even youngsters new to snorkeling can know the thrill of coming nose to nose with a rainbow of tropical fish in their natural environment.

Visit a Zoo and an Aquarium

With its elephants and giraffes, the Honolulu Zoo is more reminiscent of Tanzania than Hawaii. Notably, Hawaii's endemic state bird is represented, a goose called the nene that is as endearing as it is endangered. Another iconic local species, the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, is among the creatures your child will see at the small but worthwhile Waikiki Aquarium, where the species has its own outdoor exhibit. The seals might win for charm, but the reef sharks will likely take the crown for most thrilling part of the experience.

Explore the Bishop Museum

If your child is the type who groans at the mention of a museum, the volcano eruption simulation at Honolulu's Bishop Museum could change his mind. The 50-foot-long skeleton of sperm whale that hangs from the ceiling of the museum's Hawaiian Hall or the planetarium show might also do the trick. Devoted to the natural science and anthropology of Hawaii, the Bishop Museum has plenty of other objects -- some 25 million of them -- that invite further curiosity. They include a feathered cape once worn by a Hawaiian monarch and an authentic grass hut created by the indigenous people of the state.

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