24 Hours in Paradise: Aloha to Honolulu
There is probably no place on earth that says “Welcome to your tropical vacation” more than “The Big Pineapple Town” of Honolulu, Hawaii. Enjoy fabulous Hawaiian cuisine, stellar surfing, stunning scenery, high-end shopping, rich historic sights, THE most famous beach in the world and true Aloha spirit!
Like many families, my gang stopped over in Honolulu on our way to other Hawaiian Islands. While there are so many incredible things your family may want to do on Oahu, this article offers you my personal favorites to make the most of your 24 hours on the south shore of Honolulu and Waikiki Beach.
3 Fun things to do in Honolulu with Kids
With only 24 hours in Honolulu, I suggest you could comfortably fit in two of three of the activities suggested below, or if you are really ambitious, you can go crazy and squeeze in all three! If you could extend your stay to two days, you would have plenty of time to do all three activities at a leisurely pace.
Very simply, Waikiki Beach is the most famous beach in the world and is a must-see! Two miles of gorgeous sand (ironically imported from Australia!); waves full of body boarders and surfers (you can take family surfing lessons); and crowds of sun worshippers abound. And beyond the beach, there’s plenty more to do!
We loved strolling along vibrant Kalakaua Avenue, Waikiki’s main strip, lined with restaurants, resorts and plenty of luxurious shopping. We had a blast taking selfies with the world-famous Duke Kahanamoku statue. Duke is Hawaii’s own Olympic gold medalist in swimming and known affectionately as “the father of modern surfing.” We really enjoyed meandering down the Waikiki Historical Trail, learning the history of Waikiki by reading the adorable surfboard signs posted on this path.
There are many ways to get around Waikiki: on foot, by bike or moped, on local buses or the convenient hop-on hop-off Waikiki Trolleys. Or, for an extra exciting treat, take a family Segway ride. You may also want to consider visiting the super family-friendly Honolulu Zoo or the Waikiki Aquarium.
EAST OAHU SHORELINE TOUR
After traveling practically half-way across the globe, we wanted to see more than just downtown Waikiki, so we took E Noa’s East Oahu Shoreline Bus Tour. Our witty and pleasant guide took us on an enthralling afternoon tour, passing multi-million dollar mansions and the rugged stunning coast.
Some highlights included seeing the cliffs of Nu’uanu Palu, Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Halona Blowhole and Lookout, Sandy Beach, Makapuʻu Lookout, Waimanalo Hawaiian Homestead, Waimanalo Bay and Recreational Area. On the way back into Waikiki, we drove through the heart of downtown Honolulu, enabling us to see the exterior of Iolani Palace and other historical spots.
While there are many family-friendly excursions within an hour of Waikiki, I highly recommend making time to visit Pearl Harbor. Get an early start and head 45 minutes west of Waikiki to the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor. Don’t miss the USS Arizona Memorial and the well-executed museum exhibits. If you have time to explore more, then you can check out other sites such as the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and the Battleship Missouri Memorial.
Tip: To avoid long lines and the possibility of being shut-out, book your reservation online two months before you arrive, and note that tickets will be reserved very quickly. If you find there are no more tickets on your date, arrive at Pearl Harbor as soon as it opens at 7 am to stand in line for a timed pass for entry that day.
While we were busy in Waikiki, as a family of self-declared foodies, we had to make time to experience the culinary adventures, too! There are hundreds of restaurants ranging from street food to authentic Chinatown establishments to upscale fine-dining.
While we enjoyed some casual meals during our visit, I wanted to mention a few very special standouts from our trip.
As fans of the Iron Chef’s Philadelphia restaurant, we were excited to try his Morimoto Waikiki location. What a treat! The white and chartreuse restaurant is trendy and sleek. Sitting on the patio outside overlooking the yacht harbor, we had a dramatic stage for our fabulous lunch. Every dish is artfully presented and bursting with flavor.
We started our meal delighting in the contrasting tastes of the sweet pineapple tempura topped with salty jamon iberico. We loved their gourmet sandwiches, such as Mini Wagyu Burgers, Lobster Melt and Chicken Katsu, all served with wasabi fries, mixed green salad and housemade pickles! My younger daughter absolutely loved her heaping bowl of ramen! We topped off our lunch with an exquisitely delicate tofu cheesecake (with extra spoons for sharing!). Morimoto is open for breakfast (Japanese style), brunch, lunch and dinner.
For a true Waikiki experience, we dined at a balcony table at the Hula Grill which overlooked outrigger canoes, a golden sand beach, turquoise waters, and Diamond Head looming in the distance. We delighted in the family-friendly setting of this plantation-era decorated restaurant with its deliciously inventive locally sourced food.
We devoured our appetizers, including tasty Sweet Soy Duroc Ribs and addictive Crab and Macadamia Nut Wontons. We also relished our standout entrees, including flavorful Coconut Seafood Chowder and a duo of Miso Garlic Glazed Hebi and Ginger Scallion-Crusted Opah atop gorgeous Okingwan Purple Sweet Potato and sautéed vegetables. Make sure to save room for their delicious desserts including their Mile-High Hula Pie which is large enough for a whole family to share! Hula Grill also has an extensive kids’ menu and serves breakfast through dinner.
WHERE TO STAY in Waikiki
For our Waikiki visit, we found the sprawling Hilton Hawaiian Village to be a delightful home base. (We could have been happy just playing there all day!) Our family enjoyed the beautiful pools, beach-side lagoon and many restaurants.
The perfect end to our stay in Waikiki was relaxing in lounge chairs around the pool watching the Friday night Rockin’ Hawaiian Rainbow Review, including Hawaiian dance and music topped off with torch lights, drums, fireworks and spectacular overhead fireworks!
You may also enjoy:
- Zip Lining in Oahu with Kids
- Day Trip to the North Shore, Oahu
- 6 Days in Kauai with Kids and Chickens
- 5 Fantastic Things to do in Hawaii’s Big Island with Kids
Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more, visit our About Us page.
Lisa’s family was provided with discounted and/or complimentary meals and a tour so that she could try them and review them for your information. Lisa chose the above restaurants and tour based on their social media reviews and recommendations from friends.
Lisa has been traveling all her life…and loving it! Leaving the sunny skies of Miami, Lisa traveled to Philadelphia where she attended the University of Pennsylvania…stayed for…