When you booked your trip to Hawaii, you probably envisioned plenty of time in the sun while playing in the waves on a sparkling beach, or splashing in an amazing hotel pool. But what do you do when the weather just doesn’t cooperate?
Sadly, even Hawaii has its share of rainy days, but that doesn’t mean your family needs to be stuck in a hotel room or Airbnb glued to your device screens. Assuming we aren’t talking about a nasty storm, you may want to brave a few sprinkles and still play outside, but if you are looking for some different options, take the opportunity to get out and explore Honolulu. You’ll find a vibrant, culturally rich city with plenty of indoor, family-friendly activities, from museums, to shopping centers, to cultural and historical sites.
Most visitors to Oahu will probably want to rent a car, but there are other ways to get around, including Uber and Lyft. (A one-way ride from the Ala Moana Shopping Center to the Waikiki Aquarium is about $15 with Lyft.) The island also has a public transportation system called TheBus. The cash fare for a one-day pass for the bus, which includes unlimited rides, is $2.75 for adults and $1.25 for kids. Seniors pay $1. Buy your tickets right on the bus and, on the first ride, ask the driver for the 1-day pass before putting your money in the fare box.
1. Waikiki Aquarium
More than 500 marine animals are on display in the Waikiki Aquarium, with a special focus on species found in the waters of Hawaii and the South Pacific. Check out the nautilus exhibit for a look at these rarely seen creatures of the deep, and marvel at the aquarium’s collection of seahorses, seadragons and pipefish, which includes a seahorse nursery display. “Afternoons at the Aquarium” is offered Wednesdays at 3pm and includes an interactive Critter Encounter or ocean-themed craft. Admission is $12 for adults (13 to 64), $8 for juniors (4 to 12) and active-duty military personnel, and $5 for seniors 65+. Children 3 and under are free.
2. Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center
This interactive museum for little ones offers plenty of space to get hands-on and explore. Kids can pump gas, work a cash register, drive a firetruck and try other jobs in the “Our Town” exhibit and learn about the human body in “Fantastic You.” Inspired by Hawaii’s melting pot of cultures, the center has a special focus on diversity and multiculturalism. Families can serve tea in a Japanese house or go fishing in a Vietnamese village in the “Your Rainbow World” exhibit. Admission is $12 for ages 1–61, $10 for military with ID, $7 for seniors 62+ and children under 1 are free.
3. Ala Moana Shopping Center
The largest open-air mall in the world, with more than 340 stores, Ala Moana Shopping Center is sure to have something for everyone in your family. When you’re done ogling the designer dresses at Escada and Dior and admiring the fish swimming in the mall’s koi pond, head to the sprawling downstairs food court where you can sample a range of cuisines, from pizza to a plate of traditional Hawaiian dishes. For an impromptu trip to Japan, check out the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk, a mini Japantown featuring food booths, merchants, fortunetelling and a wall of gachapon, or capsule toy vending machines.
4. Honolulu Museum of Art
In addition to works by van Gogh, Monet, Gauguin and other European and American masters, this Downtown Honolulu museum boasts more than 23,000 objects from Asia, including a huge collection of Japanese woodblock prints. Kids might enjoy the museum’s textile collection, which includes 19th-century Japanese bridal robes and Noh costumes, ceremonial Chinese robes from the imperial court and elaborate feather capes worn by Hawaiian ali’i (chiefs). Admission is $20 for adults 19+ while ages 18 and under are totally free.
5. Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum
Explore the history, culture and natural world of Hawaii and the Pacific in this extensive museum dedicated to Oceania. The museum’s centerpiece, Hawaiian Hall, is a three-story collection of Native Hawaiian artifacts and material culture, from precontact stone tools, to objects of the Hawaiian monarchy. The Richard T. Mamiya Science Adventure Center introduces kids to Hawaii’s natural environment through interactive activities and exhibits. In addition to the usual shows about space and the night sky, the museum’s planetarium offers presentations on how ancient Polynesians used the stars for navigation. General admission is about $25 for adults, $22 for seniors 65+, $17 for ages 4–17 and the museum is free for those under 4. There are discounts for members of the military.
6. Iolani Palace
Take a step back in Hawaii’s history and visit the residence of the islands’ monarchs. The only royal palace in the United States, Iolani Palace was luxuriously modern for its day — the building was wired for electricity and telephones in 1887, years before the White House. Today you can take in the crimson and gold opulence of the Throne Room, where Hawaii’s kings and queens greeted their subjects, and stroll through the upstairs royal bedrooms, which were equipped with the modern innovation of indoor plumbing. A visit to the Imprisonment Room, where Hawaii’s last queen Liliuokalani was kept under house arrest after being removed from power, is an opportunity to talk with older kids about the United States’ history of colonialism. Guided tours cost $27 for adults, $6 for kids 5–12 and free for those aged 4 and under. Self-led audio tours are $20 for adults, $6 for kids 5–12 and free for ages 4 and under.
7. Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
Kids of all ages will love exploring this museum’s collection of more than 40 replica and restored historic aircraft, from a World War II-era Dauntless dive bomber and Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress to a Seahawk helicopter and an F-16 fighter jet. The museum, on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, is housed in two aircraft hangars that survived the Dec. 7, 1941, attack — bullet holes from the battle are still visible in the hangar’s blue glass windows. Visits include a film about the attack and an exhibit on what life was like in Honolulu in 1941. Aviation junkies can see what it was like to be a World War II pilot in one of the museum’s combat flight simulators. General admission is $25 for adults, $15 for military, $12 for ages 4–12 ($10 for children of military personnel) and free for kids 3 and younger. A guided visit is also available for an increased fee and you can book a 30-minute combat flight simulator ride for $10.
There are plenty of activities to keep you busy in Honolulu — even when it’s raining. What destinations have your family enjoyed on Oahu?
Planning a trip to Hawaii? Don’t miss these resources:
- The Best Ways to Get to Hawaii Using Points and Miles
- The Best Way to Fly With Kids to Hawaii
- Things to Do on Hawaii’s Big Island With Kids
- 9 Common Mistakes Tourists Make in Hawaii
- Everything You Need to Know About Inter-Island Travel in Hawaii
- Review of the Hyatt Regency Waikiki
Featured image via Shutterstock.
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