Last summer, I finally went back home to visit with my 15-month old in tow. We had such a great time, which made me realize that I need to go home more often. After all, it had been four years since I left and I wasn’t sure when I was coming back. Then, we received a wedding invitation from a friend.
Returning home made me miss everything I took for granted. Seeing my son have such an amazing time made me think a lot about how I wanted him to have similar experiences of Hawaii. So, it wasn’t too difficult to create a list of toddler-friendly places in preparation for our visit.
There are many things to do in Hawaii, but deciding on where to go with a toddler can be tough with all the choices! I decided I would choose areas that were mostly low-budget and more focused on nature and the open landscape. If you are looking for places/activities for very little kids, then this list will hopefully be helpful for you or at least give you some ideas to research.
Here’s my list of 10 toddler-friendly places to visit:
- Shark’s Cove (in the summer). It’s free, the water has many shallow spots, and your little one can see fish! This was the perfect spot for me to introduce my son to water for the first time. He had the biggest smile and loved seeing the little fish swim by.
- Hanauma Bay. A beautiful bay to spend time with your young child. Your toddler can play at the edge of the water and see some fish or enjoy throwing sand for a bit. This is one of my favorite spots for snorkeling! You’ll have to pay a small fee and watch a safety video prior to entering, but it’s worth it. (Note: Closed on Tuesdays!)
- Ko’olina Lagoons. I’ve always enjoyed it here because sometimes, you just want something calm and peaceful. This is another great place for your young child to enjoy water because there are no crazy waves!
- Makapu’u Lighthouse. There’s a paved road up to the lighthouse, so you can take your stroller up for a pretty easy hike. If you visit in the colder seasons (i.e. February or so), you might get to see some whales! (Tip: there are no rails going upward, so a stroller and/or carrier is ideal since toddler’s can be unpredictable in nature).
- Dole Pineapple Plantation. Pineapple ice cream, a train ride, and a maze are things Dole has to offer. If anything, you can always go for the pineapple ice cream! I found some great things to buy here too like Hawaiian honey, a cute Pineapple toy, and other great snacks.
- Sea Life Park. Sea Life Park is a lot different than when I grew up and it’s no Sea World for sure, but it is a small sanctuary where kids can leisurely observe sea creatures. If you can get a military or Kama’aina (resident) discount, it may be worth it. I’m glad I went because my son really enjoyed the dolphins! My husband would probably say “skip it” because there isn’t much here, but this place is somewhat sentimental for me.
- Honolulu Zoo. What child doesn’t love the Zoo!? As a child, I remember we used to go to the Zoo a lot on school field trips. I also went a couple times as an adult. It’s not huge like the San Francisco Zoo or the North Carolina Zoo, but it’s a cool little place in Waikiki to take the little ones.
- Swap Meet. It can be hard to shop with little kids, but if you can bring a stroller/carrier/wagon, it will make it that much easier to buy some gifts for friends and family at the swap meet. I took my son here because it’s an open area for him to burn some energy while I shopped. I found my son a Totoro back pack, an Ukulele, and Aloha attire.
- Waikiki Beach. When I was growing up, Waikiki wasn’t a place we went often. It was for tourists. Many people still have that same feeling towards Waikiki, but there’s a lot to enjoy there especially with a toddler visiting Hawaii for the first time. Take a walk down the beach, enjoy the shops, restaurants, and any other entertainment provided. Your kids will soak it all up!
- Waikiki Aquarium. This is a REALLY tiny aquarium, but if your little one could use an activity, this is a neat place for them to stop by and see.
There are many other places to visit, but I chose the one’s above because I believe they are easier for a small, energy-filled child to take in.
Thinking of our time in Hawaii, I’ll always remember the smile on my son’s face while at Shark’s Cove. He splashed around in the water and tried to swim with the fish. These are memories I’ll cherish forever. I can’t wait to return home again soon.
What are your favorite Oahu activities with a toddler?