Oahu with Toddlers: Ko’olina Beach Park and Downtown Honolulu

As we continue to look back in time, our family continued to explore the beaches of Oahu, Hawaii. This particular day took us to the lagoons of Ko’olina Beach Park, followed by an exploration of Honolulu that included a visit to the Iolani Palace, Kawaiahao Church – the first church on Oahu, and the Mission Houses.

We did have a slight Google Maps malfunction where it initially sent us to a sewage plant just south of the beach, but once there, we quickly figured out our error and corrected it. This was in April of 2010, so we imagine this issue has been fixed in the last many years, but it is always helpful to sanity check directions.

Ko’olina Beach Park

When thinking about where to go on Oahu, Ko’olina Beach Park was one of my favorite day trips of our vacation, especially considering that we had our then-toddlers in tow.

It’s in an intentionally relatively isolated location, roughly a 27 mile drive from of Waikiki, and feels more newly developed (perhaps more Disney-like?) than some of the other Oahu beach areas.

A bit more crowded, but tons of fun!

There are 4 lagoons that are connected with a resort. The lagoons made a great gentle place to swim with kids this age and introduce them to the warm, clear water.

The resort grounds are private, but the lagoons (like all beaches in Hawaii by law) are open to the public. If we were intending to go to a higher-end resort and were still traveling with toddlers, this would definitely be a location that I would consider for my next family vacation.

(Jeremy is more one for exploring many different areas, rather than picking a single resort location and chilling for a week. Somehow, we managed to put 500 miles on our rental car in a week, on an island that’s only 44 miles x 30 miles.)

The boys were quite happy!

What a lovely beach!


We found some pizza for lunch, then decided to head back into the city. At this age, the afternoon entailed some naps, and afterwards, we explored some of the historical sites in downtown Honolulu.

Iolani Palace

Our first stop was Iolani Palace, which was built by King Kalakaua in 1882 as a residence for the Hawaii monarchy. His sister, Queen Liliuokalani, became the queen after him and also lived in this delightful palace.

Currently, the palace is requiring advance reservations, but you can decide between a docent-guided tour, a self-guided audio tour, and a few other options. If you are traveling with preschoolers, you will probably quickly discover that audio tours are quite miserable and that it might be wise to spend a few extra dollars to see the palace with a docent.

Religious Sites

Our next stop was Kawaiahao Church, only a block away from the Iolani Palace. It is the first church on Oahu, and the second oldest in all of Hawaii.

We continued wandering until we reached the Mission Houses, two of which are the oldest buildings in Hawaii.

We had a lot of fun wandering through this area!

What a great day exploring both beaches and the downtown area!

Keep reading our travel blog for more adventures in Hawaii!

Here are some more posts from this Hawaii Trip:

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