Kid-friendly activities outside Aulani


May 29, 2013
We booked our May 2019 trip today and now am excited about planning the activities while we're there. I know some of this is covered in other topics, but wanted to get advice from those in the know on our specific situation.

What should we be looking to do as far as activities outside Aulani while we're there? A few things to note:
-we are planning on renting a car so transportation shouldn't be a problem.
-we have 3 kids, ranging in age from an 11 yo girl to a 5 yo boy. For example, I want to do Pearl Harbor, but am not sure how difficult or age-inappropriate that might be with our 5 year old.
-we also have read about the Kualoa Ranch. I know they offer multiple types of tours there, which would be best for our family? Our 5 year old loves Jurassic Park and would enjoy anything they have related to the movie.

Also of note, one of the things my wife stresses is that she wants this to be much more of a relaxing, laid-back trip, especially compared to our many WDW trips that usually turn hectic racing from park to park and ride to ride. We want to keep the non-resort activities limited to just a few must-do's that will be a good fit for our family and the kids' ages. Any other good options other than the ones listed above?Thoughts and recommendations greatly appreciated.


DIS Veteran
Oct 28, 2006
We did a day where we drive to a North shore for shrimp (shoulda shopped and explored), went to the tide pools (bring swim suits), went to the botanical garden and hiked to the waterfall- easy paced hike, my kids were 3 and 4) and then to dole plantation and did the train. It was a busy day, but the only one we did off site.


DIS Veteran
Mar 7, 2016
We went in May/June 2016, when DD had just turned 11 and DS was 7. We did way too much off-site, but I was worried we'd never get a chance to go back. Don't be me. Take your wife's words to heart. :)

The kids loved the Dole Whips at the Dole plantation but thought the rest of it was a waste of time; it was hot and the train ride skews younger and involved a long line, and the maze was unshaded and quite hot. We did Pearl Harbor, and of course DS didn't grasp the significance on an adult level (didn't expect him to feel the emotions of course), but he had been reading about it in advance to understand a bit. By far their favorite part was going in the submarine. I would go, but manage your expectations and eat at a weird time. (We had a meltdown at lunch time at the food truck by the Missouri. We're talking a 45min line for food, eek.) The Kualoa Ranch tour was a big hit. DS is also a big Jurassic Park/World fan; he was the only little boy on our tour, clearly the most excited, and the tour guide stopped the vehicle so we could get a good photo of him at the Jurassic gate. The drive there is also AMAZING. That and the catamaran tour (saw dolphins etc) were the kids' top off-property activities. Honestly, we did too much, and we should have stayed on-site more to keep everyone happier. What we'd skip, if I knew then what I know now: waterfall hike (it was hot and they were super whiny about the uphill walking), aquarium with dolphin meet (DD loved this, DS freaked out and refused to meet the dolphins, and the whole thing was kind of sad compared to the wild dolphins), Dole plantation, swap meet (lots of people love this, just not our thing). I fully own that we may be oddities, in finding the swap meet and Dole plantation entirely skippable. Also - the waterfall hike on a cooler day when the kids weren't tired already - probably a very different experience!

There is no way to sugar-coat it - the traffic is awful. This is coming from someone who lived in the DC area and was used to the beltway. Doing too much off-site means driving in too much traffic, and it affected all of our enjoyment. We did Kualoa on a Sunday to avoid the traffic (HIGHLY recommend). We tried to time everything else around rush hour, but it was a losing battle. I thought I had everything figured out, and that we would have a lot of half-days of touring... inevitably, traffic extended that, and we'd get back too late to do much on-site. Alternate on-site/off-site days, and limit your expectations of how much you'll do off-site. We never did get to the Polynesian cultural center. My original itinerary was far too ambitious.


May 4, 2010
You may need to check its current status, but earlier this year you couldn’t visit the USS Arizona memorial due to an issue with the dock. You could get on a boat which went near it, but it couldn’t dock at the memorial. We went earlier this year with our son (who was 6) and just did the Battleship Missouri and Aviation Museum. The submarine would have been cool too, but we thought those two would’ve been enough for him. When you go, try to time lunch to occur at the aviation museum. There is a nice counter service type place there.

Doing a trip up to North Shore is fun. We’ve always used yelp to find the food trucks we want to try. Giovanni’s shrimp is a very popular truck, and there are lot so of other yummy trucks parked with it.

If you want to do something low key, the train that goes through Ko Olina is nice.
If the kids just need a playground to run around and play, there’s a nice one in Kapolei.
Also in Kapolei is Koa Pancake House. Which is yummy!

Waimea Valley is also nice. We like to do that first thing in the morning, and then do North Shore food trucks after.

We drove north along the coast on our last trip, to Ka’ena Point State Park. The drive was gorgeous and the park was gorgeous! Had we done more research, we would have brought shoes to walk in (we were in flip flops), but we took photos and enjoyed the view.

Let me leave a disclaimer, we have been to the Ko Olina area 5 times. We usually stay at the Marriott. So we’ve had a lot of time to see the popular spots, and also the less known spots. We always do Koa, Andy we typically do food trucks. We only done the train once, and we’ve done Waimea twice. If you want family photos, even just with your own camera, consider Ka’ena. It’s really that gorgeous.


Sep 16, 2012
We've been to Aulani twice, last time our kids were 6 and 8. I second Waimea Valley. It was beautiful, inexpensive, relaxing, not touristy, and an easy "hike" with kids. The waterfall was cold (we were there in November), but they provide life jackets, which is awesome with kids. We also love the Koa pancake house and getting malasadas from the Leonard's truck. We stop there each time on our way to the resort. Dole Plantation was fun, but touristy for sure. My kids loved the maze and the dole whip.

As someone who likes to stay open-close at Disney Parks and plans trips very carefully, we love Aulani because it is so much lower key. There is a ton to do if you want to, but we LOVED that it really felt like a vacation for us. That's why we keep going back. We loved that the kids were happy at the kid's club and we could walk on the beach or go get drinks. I hope you are able to find a good balance on your trip and have a great time!


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