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How to Plan a Military Vacation to Hawaii: A Complete Hawaii Military Guide

Wondering if there are any perks to traveling to Hawaii as a military family? Keep scrolling to find out how to plan a military vacation to Hawaii from a mom who has done it!
This guest post about planning a military vacation to Hawaii contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Guest post by Cortney of Tin Can Living

Oahu is amazing. It has near perfect weather, beautiful beaches, and tons of food to delight the senses.

Many military families visit Oahu for vacation to bask in the glory that this island has to offer.

This military vacation guide to Oahu will give you everything that you need to know to save money on lodging, food, and activities. See my favorite accommodations option here.

By the time you are finished reading, you will be ready to pack your bags, grab your Mai Tai, and listen to the sound of waves by the beach!!

First trip to Oahu? Here’s what you need to know before you go!

Don’t have time to read a bunch of Hawaii blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Oahu.

Popular Oahu Tours/Activities

Favorite Oahu Resorts/Hotels

Want to skip all the planning and just access my detailed Oahu Itinerary complete with daily schedules, kid-friendly activities, and travel hacks? Click the button below.

Click here for step-by-step Oahu travel planning help

Military Vacation to Hawaii FAQs

Which Oahu hotels have the best military discounts?

There are tons of Oahu hotels with military discounts. Some of the most popular include the Kahala Hotel, Shoreline Hotel Waikiki, Hilton Waikiki Beach, ‘Alohilani Resort, and the Moana Surfrider. And the Hale Koa is one of the best military places to stay in Hawaii.

Does Disney Aulani offer military discounts?

YES! Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa offers some pretty hefty military discounts (up to 40% off!) To get Aulani military discounts, just show your valid military ID and make sure the active military member is listed on your reservation.

Is there a Pearl Harbor military discount?

Not for visiting the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. But, active duty members are allowed to drive onto Ford Island to see the U.S.S. Utah Memorial (which isn’t on any tours.) And the U.S.S. Bowfin Submarine will give you a $4 discount for active military. And there are several Pearl Harbor tours that offer military discounts.

Find out how to plan a military vacation to Hawaii by top Hawaii blog Hawaii Travel with Kids.

Where To Stay on a Military Vacation to Hawaii

The first thing that you need to figure out is where to stay when planning your fantastic tropical vacation. There are many options.

Here are some of the best places to stay on Oahu for military families. 

1. Hale Koa

The Hale Koa Hotel is located on the beach in Waikiki. This Hawaii military hotel has discounted rates for active duty, retired, surviving family members and all other veterans of the armed forces.

The Hale Koa is the top place to stay for a military vacation to Hawaii. Image of a beachfront hotel with pool area.
Photo credit: Hale Koa Hotel

You can check to see if you are eligible HERE.

The hotel is packed with amenities and is close to local restaurants, activities and shopping. They host a weekly luau and fireworks show. You really can’t beat the location and prices. Check out the latest prices and more details.

2. Bellows Air Force Station Cottages, Condos, and Camping

One of the best options for lodging, and is not known to many people outside of Hawaii, is Bellows Air Force Station’s cabins and camping options.

They are located right on the beach. The cabins and camping are SUPER affordable and very spacious. The beach is just awesome. The best part is that you have your own private area.

Plus, the amenities on the base include a mini store, a putt putt golf course, a small restaurant, a brewhouse, and beach equipment rentals. Everything that you need, plus the surrounding beauty.

Reservations fill up very quickly, so make sure to make them far in advance. Check out the latest prices and more details.

3. Kaneohe Bay Vacation Rentals

Kaneohe Bay is an absolutely stunning area with plenty of activities to engage in.

The military family is very lucky to be able to rent stunning vacation rental homes right on the Marine Corp base at Kay Bay!! There is camping available as well.

Just as the Air Force Base above, be sure to book far enough in advance. These rentals are very affordable, on the beach, and they book up quickly!! Don’t let these deals slip through your fingers!!

Other Military Resorts in Hawaii?

While Hale Koa is the premier Hawaii military resort, there are many military discounts at Oahu hotels.

Some of the most popular places to stay on Oahu for military families include the Kahala Hotel, Shoreline Hotel Waikiki, Hilton Waikiki Beach, ‘Alohilani Resort, and the Moana Surfrider.

Best Things to do on Oahu for Military Families

Now that you know where to stay and you are settled in, it is time to fill in your days.

Wait?!! You don’t want to spend every moment at the beach? Ok. There are plenty of things to do and see on this very small island of Oahu.

1. U.S.S. Arizona Memorial

You may have already been planning on visiting the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. It is definitely a Hawaii must-do.

You can visit Pearl Harbor for free and it's a top thing to do on a military vacation to Hawaii. Image of the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.
USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor.

This is why Pearl Harbor is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Hawaii. There is bound to be a line. Plan to get there early. This is especially important when visiting Pearl Harbor with kids.

If you get there before 0700, 1300 free tickets are given away daily and you are likely to get one.

Or, if you go HERE, you can book your tour up to two months in advance for a small contribution. There are also plenty of private Pearl Harbor tours worth booking.

2. Polynesian Cultural Center

The Polynesian Cultural Center is an immersive experience where you get to tour and learn about the Polynesian cultures.

Oahu, Hawaii, USA - July 6, 2006: A Fijian dancer performs at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Operated by Brigham Young University, the living museum features the cultures of Hawaii, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, Fiji, and the Marquesas Islands.
Fijian performer at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

You will get to see six different villages, an erupting volcano, a lagoon, and waterfall. You will also get to sample food, sing, dance, and play. This is one of the best things to do in Oahu with kids and teens.

Military discounted tickets are available at all ITT offices on the island. There is even a luau at the end of the day should you choose to participate.

3. Oahu Luau

Speaking of luaus. How can you plan a trip to Hawaii without attending a luau?

There are plenty of Oahu luau options to choose from. Many have discounted military prices available at ITT

The Ka Wa'a luau is one of the best luaus on Oahu for families. Image of several female hula dancers wearing ti leaf skirts and playing with split bamboo.
Ka Wa’a Luau at Disney Aulani. Photo credit: Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

Paradise Cove Luau

This Oahu luau is located in Ko Olina. There is an all-you-can-eat buffet, fire dancing, and entertainment. It is rated 4 out of 5 stars and is 4 hours in duration. Check latest rates and availability. Read our full Paradise Cove Luau review HERE.

Germaine’s Luau

Germaine’s Luau is located in Kapolei, Oahu and is rated 4 out of 5 stars. They have a large buffet and a wonderful show. The show itself is 4 hours 30 minutes long.

Ka Wa’a Luau

Ka Wa’a is located at Disney’s Aulani hotel in Ko Olina. This one does not offer military discount.

It is however, a bit different in that it offers a three-course meal. It has a full luau show and is two hours long.

4. Honolulu Zoo

The Honolulu Zoo located right off of Waikiki Beach is spectacular. They have tons of animals, a beautiful park, a play area for the kids, a petting zoo, a shopping area, and places to eat. It is a nice area to stroll through with the family.

The Honolulu Zoo has awesome military discounts. Image of a giraffe at the Honolulu Zoo.
Giraffe at the Honolulu Zoo with trees and tall grass.

They offer a lot of educational opportunities as you walk through the many paths and visit the different animals.

The zoo has a generous military discount and you can also bring your own packed lunch, which also saves you money!! Read my ultimate guide to the Honolulu Zoo HERE.

5. Atlantis Submarine

Have you ever wanted to tour the beautiful crystal clear waters of Hawaii and see the wildlife and coral reefs?

Atlantis Submarine kid-friendly Waikiki tour
Photo credit: Atlantis Submarine

Atlantis offers just that opportunity with their unique submarine tour. It is an environmentally safe option to see sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, and more.

They offer a military discount, so spend the day learning and visiting the sea creatures!!

6. Waimea Valley Falls

Hike the Waimea Valley and see the beautiful waterfalls on Oahu. Wear the correct shoes. It can get muddy. The reason everything is so lush and green is because of the lovely rain the area receives.

Waimea Falls is one of the best Oahu waterfalls worth checking out for military families. Image of a tropical waterfall in North Shore Oahu.
Waimea Falls on Oahu.

Don’t forget to bring a camera to capture the gorgeous botanical and wildlife that you may see. There is an admission fee but, it is greatly discounted for military!! Check out this full guide to visiting Waimea Valley on Oahu.

7. Beaches

What do you think of when you think of Hawaii? Beaches!! The best beaches are only available to military!! 

Bellows Beach is one of the best beaches on Oahu for a military vacation to Hawaii. Image of Rock outcropping at the shore of Bellows Beach at dawn on Waimanalo Bay on Oahu, Hawaii.
Bellows Beach on Oahu.

Bellows Beach

If you’re looking for an amazing beach, Bellows beach is located on Bellows Air Force Base. It is a popular beach but is far less crowded than the beaches of Waikiki.

It is gorgeous and the perfect place to spend a relaxing day basking in the sun. 

Hickam Beach

Hickam beach is located on Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam. It is less crowded than many of the Oahu beaches and it is absolutely beautiful.

It is not too rocky on your feet and there is not a large undertow. This is great for the kiddos that want to get out and play.

It also makes it a fantastic place to learn how to stand up paddle board if you have never tried it. The beach has a shack that rents out equipment for a fair price. 

8. Haleiwa

Haleiwa is a town, not an activity as you may have guessed. It is a super cute North Shore town that makes for the perfect day trip. There are tons of cute little shops, eateries and beach areas. Everything there is super Instagrammable.

Best things to do in haleiwa oahu, featured by top Hawaii blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Road sign for the town of Haleiwa famed as a surfing mecca on the North Shore of the Hawaiian island of Oahu, USA
Haleiwa sign in North Shore Oahu.

Shave Ice (don’t add the D) at Matsumoto’s

This is a must while visiting Haleiwa. Stop in and have some shave ice. You won’t regret it. Matsumoto’s has been a favorite in Hawaii since the 1950’s.

Cafe Haleiwa

Cafe Haleiwa is the best place to stop and eat if you get hungry on your trip. It is family-owned. All of the food is made to order, fresh, and organic. Check it out if you get the chance.

And….Don’t forget to take your pic by the famous Haleiwa sign!!

9. Halona Blow Hole

The Halona Blow hole is a site to see and an amazing place to visit. It is a nice drive and day trip with the family. And….it’s one of the best free things to do on Oahu!! 

Halona Blowhole on Oahu
Halona Blowhole. Photo credit: Jenna Ouano

This blowhole was created thousands of years ago after volcanic eruptions created lava tubes.

The water from the ocean gushes through the lava tubes and shoots the water into the ai. It’s an awesome natural wonder!

Plus, on clear days you can see Molokai and Lanai islands off in the distance.

10. Turtle Beach

Turtle beach, (aka Laniakea beach) is located on the North Shore of Oahu. It is sometimes difficult to find parking. But, if you are persistent it is possible. 

Laniakea Beach is a great place to see turtles on Oahu. Image of two Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles sunbathing on the beach with the ocean in the background.
Laniakea Beach on North Shore Oahu.

It is a small Oahu beach with lots of beautiful trees. Most days, there are “turtle guardians” present to protect the turtles and educate the public. The large Sea Turtles bask on this beach regularly and have for many decades. 

The guardians from Malama Na Honu (honu means turtle in the Hawaiian language) have named each turtle and can recognize them from their different markings. They are also taught to tell the gender, approximate age, and more. 

When visiting Laniakea Beach, you are able to walk up, take pictures with, and learn about the basking turtles. There is a book that you can take a look at with all of the turtles that call the beach home.

It is an absolutely wonderful place. Just please be respectful and don’t cross the ropes that the guardians place and do not try to touch the turtles. 

You are also allowed to swim in the water. There may be turtles swimming in the water. You are also not allowed to bother them when they are swimming. They like to eat the growth on the rocks nearby.

It is great to watch the turtles but it is against the law to touch them.

Where and What to Eat on Oahu

1. Malasadas

Malasadas are like fluffy, tasty, fried treats that melt in your mouth. These wonderful delicacies are fried donuts coated in sugar. Some have a custard filling. They are decadent and just wonderful.

Leonard's Malasadas is one of the most popular bakeries on Oahu. Image of the Leonard's Bakery sign.
This sign signals where to get the freshest malasadas on Oahu! Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

The best place to get malasadas on Oahu from is Leonards. There is usually a truck selling malasadas in the NEX mall in Pearl Harbor. Or you can hit up their brick-and-mortar bakery.

2. Poke

Poke is an island delicacy. With the freshest fish possible, who wouldn’t love it!! If you have had it elsewhere, you really haven’t had it. You need to indulge in this treat when visiting Hawaii.

Oahu poke places are all the rage because they are usually portable like this one
Hawaiian Poke. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)

The best place to eat poke on Oahu is Tamura’s in Kaneohe. 

3. Teddy’s Bigger Burger

Teddy’s Bigger Burger is awesome. You may think that you have had a burger before. Teddy’s will change your outlook.

Fresh burgers, fantastic fries, and don’t forget the shakes!! Did I mention that they have a military discount

4. Tanaka of Tokyo

If you are looking for a fancy night out, Tanakas has a military discount, a nice setting, and they cook right at your table. Did I say fresh fish? Have some saki and live it up. 

5. Base Eateries

The best options available for a military family are the on-base eateries. 

Restaurant 604

Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam has a weekend Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays starting at 9:30 am.

Sunset Lanai

Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Base has a Friday night Teppanyaki night starting at 1530.

More Ways To Save Money on a Military Vacation to Oahu

1. Hawaii Rental Car Discounts

Budget, Alamo, Avis, and Hertz offer military discounts up to 25% off to military. Check THIS link to check out the Hawaii car rental discounts.

One of my top Oahu tips is to rent a car. Image of SUV parked at beach with surfboard in Hawaii.
You’ll want to rent a car on Oahu.

But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shop around for the best deal for your Hawaii military vacation. You can usually save a lot of money by booking through Discount Hawaii Car Rentals. Check out the latest prices and more details.

Basically, they get screaming deals on rental cars from top companies like Alamo, Dollar Car Rental, Avis, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget, and Payless.

And then they pass the savings onto you.

Plus, they can often get free extra drivers or reduce the young driver rate. It’s definitely worth checking out.

2. Commissary

There are several commissaries on the island of Oahu.

If you have a hotel room or cottage with a partial kitchen area, a great way to save money is to purchase some of your food. Eat breakfast in the morning before you leave, pack a lunch to take with you, and bring something to drink for the day.

Purchase your sunscreen at the commissary instead of the ABC store in a popular tourist area.

Think smart, plan ahead, and you will be sure to save more of your hard-earned money on your Hawaii trip. 

3. Gas

If you rented a car for your vacation, make sure to purchase your gas from a military location or from Costco if you have a membership.

This will surely save you lots of money. 

4. ITT

When you are making your plans for the events listed above, be sure to check ITT to see if you can purchase discounted tickets.

There are ITT locations on every base and at the Pearl Harbor NEX Mall.

Things To Know When Visiting Hawaii

1. Weather

In general, the summers in Oahu are fairly hot and dry and the winters are humid and a bit lower but still warm. There may be a slight breeze in the evening. You would be smart to bring a light sweatshirt.

Frequent rain is the norm and should be expected. It is how the island stays so green and tropical.

2. Reef-Safe Sunscreen

It may not feel as if the sun is burning your skin. Don’t be fooled. You will see tourists walking around who thought this very thing and they will look just like that lobster you had for dinner last night.

Please remember to keep applying sunscreen regularly. It is your skin and it is important. 

And you’ll want to make sure you are using reef-safe sunscreen. It’s the only type of sunscreen allowed in Hawaii. Click here to see more reviews.

3. Hawaii Etiquette

People in Hawaii are very friendly. Be respectful and kind to all. Take your shoes off if you find yourself entering someone’s home. Call the locals “locals.” Not all people who live in Hawaii are Hawaiian. Use the terms Aloha and Mahalo.

Be careful how you use the terms “the States” and “American.’ Remember Hawaii is a state and the locals of Hawaii are Americans. This may seem dumb, but, several people have messed up those statements and it is very offensive.

Just respect the land and the culture, take pictures, and have fun!!

4. Swimming in Hawaii

The undertow is strong on certain beaches on Oahu. The waves may not look huge, be very careful.

Listen to the locals. Don’t jump in with your boogie board on Sunset Beach when a local tells you otherwise!! It is probably not safe!! 


Hawaii is a wonderful place to visit with the family. There are a ton of beautiful places to see, a lot of great things to do, and many things to eat and savor.

As a military family, you will have the opportunity to do it at great savings. Use these tips and get out there and see the beauty that Hawaii has to offer. 

I hope you have the best military vacation in Hawaii!

Looking for more Oahu Travel Resources? Find out 101 things to do on Oahu with kids, best snorkeling on Oahu, best kayaking on Oahu, and how to plan a trip to Hawaii!

About Cortney

Hello! My name is Cortney and I am 44 years old. I live full time in a 33 foot airstream trailer with my husband of 21 years. We love living small and I even run my own business out of my tin can. I have two grown kids and three pets. I have worn many hats including mental health counselor and truck driver. My husband is prepping for retiring from the Navy in the next five years. He has been serving for over 22 years faithfully.