Ghanaian dancers and drummers welcomed Mr. Obama and his family to Accra's international airport where they were met by President John Atta Mills.
After a brief meeting Friday evening, the two presidents are to be joined for breakfast Saturday by former Ghanaian leaders John Kufuor and Jerry Rawlings. President Mills was elected earlier this year following a closely-contested vote in which President Kufuor's party peacefully gave up power.
It was Ghana's fifth successive civilian election since 1992 - a democratic track record that President Obama says is one of the reasons he is making Ghana his first stop in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Mr. Obama says he wants to highlight the achievements of stable countries that are governed well, where leadership is accountable to the people and institutions are stronger than any one person.
Ghana's capital is strung with American and Ghanaian flags. Billboards of the two leaders and of President and Mrs. Obama line the road from the airport. More than 10,000 police are on duty to maintain security during the one-day trip.
There had been high expectations for President Obama addressing thousands of Ghanaians at the nation's Independence Square. But the start of the rainy season has moved that speech indoors to a conference center.
The president is expected to use those remarks to outline his administration's policy for Africa, including continued calls for good governance and rule of law.
Weather permitting, Mr. Obama and his family will also visit Cape Coast Castle, from where slaves were shipped across the Atlantic to the Americas for nearly 300 years.