For decades, travel agents have touted Hawaii as one of the most romantic destinations in the world; with incredible sunsets, wide beaches, wild surf, and a whole lot of amazing natural wonders.
But why should newlyweds have all the fun? Hawaii is also an ideal family holiday locale, and exploring the beautiful Hawaiian Islands with your children can result in amazing adventure and memories that last a lifetime.
While Hawaii remains a rather costly destination, it’s also kid-friendly. With a host of historical and natural attractions, fantastic watersports, volcanoes, stunning beaches, and much more, America’s 50th state offers something for every age and plenty to keep children occupied.
What you accomplish on your trip to Hawaii will largely depend on what islands you choose to visit. That said – what islands you choose to visit will largely depend on what you’d like to do and see with your kids. A few of the islands are very tourist-oriented while some are perfect for the adventure traveler. Take a look at the opportunities available for you and your family before you book your tickets.
Oahu is the most visited of the Hawaiian Islands and the one many people choose for their first family-oriented Hawaiian holiday. Home to the capital city of Honolulu and the famous Waikiki Beach, Oahu offers a wealth of activities for all ages and is certainly more “touristy” than some of the other islands – though still quite beautiful.
- Beaches – While Waikiki Beach can get rather crowded and is dominated by young adults, there are other family-friendly beaches more appropriate for those traveling with children. Try Kaimana Beach, where the shallow waters are perfect for those with small children, or Ko Olina Lagoons, with wide beaches, calm water, and convenient shower and restroom facilities.
- Natural Attractions – Exploring nature is half the fun of visiting Oahu. Make your way to famous Diamond Head volcano, a National Landmark, where you can hike to the top and enjoy an amazing view of the island. Or check out the Tantalus Rainforest in Makiki, home to lush native wildflowers and trees. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve and Marine Conservatory is also a favorite with kids and is an ideal location for world-class snorkeling.
- Man-Made Attractions – The most visited family-oriented attraction in Oahu is the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, dedicated to the almost 1,200 men who lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Kids will also love exploring the Battleship Missouri and the submarine Bowfin. The other Oahu must-see attraction is the Polynesian Cultural Center. About an hour’s drive from Waikiki, the center is divided into 7 villages that represent the islands of Polynesia. Visitors have the opportunity to participate in daily cultural activities pertaining to each island. Be sure to stay for the amazing luau and nighttime show. The kids will have a blast! Beautiful Waimea Valley Park is also an ideal family destination, with hula demonstrations, diving shows, and plenty of breathtaking scenery.
Hawaii – The Big Island
The island of Hawaii, more commonly known as The Big Island, is also popular with families and a bit less crowded than Oahu. Check out these possible family-related activities and attractions.
- Beaches – Many families flock to Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area, which provides not only wide beaches with good surf for swimming and boogie boarding, but also picnic tables, showers, bathrooms, snacks and lots of parking. Anaeho` omalu Bay Beach Park is the place for families who love to play in the water. Rent hydro-bikes, glass bottom boats, windsurfing equipment, sailboats, and kayaks, or go scuba diving or snorkeling at this great beach with changing facilities, rest rooms, and picnic groves.
- Natural Attractions – Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the state’s #1 non-paying visitor attraction. It was created to “preserve the region’s unique volcanic features, its early human history and the plant and animal life that is part of this special bioregion.” Elementary-aged children, tweens, and teens think this place is awesome! View lava flows, visit a lava tube, peer into a crater, and much more. Explore via car or on foot.
- Man-Made Attractions – If you arrive on The Big Island via Kona Airport, stop at the Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center, located at the airport, built in tribute to Hawaii’s first astronaut, who died on the space shuttle Challenger. Though small, kids who enjoy space-related stuff will like the interactive exhibits here. If the underwater world is more intriguing to your kids, visit Dolphin Quest, where you can frolic with friendly dolphins in this creation of a model habitat for marine mammals.
Dubbed “the Garden Isle” and sometimes “The Island of Discovery”, Kauai is best known as a haven for adventure vacationers. That’s not to say that families with older kids won’t enjoy it. If your family is into exploring the great outdoors, this is the place for you, though some activities are not suitable for kids. However, others are perfect!
- Beaches – More than 50 miles of beaches ring this gorgeous island and all of them are open to the public! Poipu Beach Park, in the south, is lifeguarded and has a protected area for swimming and snorkeling. In the northern part of the island, Anini Beach doesn’t have a lifeguard but is protect by Hawaii’s largest coral reef and has shower and changing facilities. Lydgate, on the east coast, is a favorite with snorkelers and also has a large playground and a huge grassy field for Frisbee, kite flying, and picnics.
- Natural Attractions – One of the most stunning natural attractions in the state, Waimea Canyon is known as The Grand Canyon of the Pacific and is equally as amazing as the one in Arizona. Viewed via the 40-mile Waimea Canyon Road, this 10-mile-long, 1-mile-wide canyon is not to be missed. More adventurous families can choose a hike in or around the canyon. For another true Hawaiian adventure, take a helicopter to the amazing Napali Coast, inaccessible by automobile, and go kayaking or enjoy a zodiac raft tour.
- Man-Made Attractions – There aren’t a lot of museums and monuments on Kauai, but a good stop to make to learn more about the island is the small and simply-named Kauai Museum, where exhibits pay homage to the island’s heritage.
Maui, the Valley Island, is not unlike Kauai in that it is more geared towards adult vacationers and honeymooners than some of the other islands.
- Beaches – The beaches here are all lovely but some aren’t all that kid-friendly. However, Homoa Beach – once referred to by James Michener as the most beautiful beach in the world – is great for kids and swimming. H. A. Baldwin Beach Park in Paia features a “baby beach” with lagoon, lifeguards, and necessary facilities. Maluaka Beach is the ideal nature beach and is a haven for the green turtle.
- Natural Attractions – Families can drive to the summit of Haleakala Crater, an active (but not in 200 years!) volcano stretching 10,000 feet into the sky. Guided tours and hikes are available. All ages will also enjoy touring the caves at Ka’Eleku Caverns. There are no bats of mosquitoes in here and the cinder trail is easy to traverse, though little children may be frightened by the darkness.
- Man-Made Attractions – Maui’s best man-made attraction is its wonderful aquarium. Ocean Center, with both indoor and outdoor exhibits, is consistently voted the best family attraction in the islands. Allow at least 2-3 hours to enjoy all there is to see.
Other Family Pursuits
Remember, regardless of which island you visit, there’s always a wealth of activities to enjoy, depending on your family’s preferences. From visiting pineapple and coffee plantations to enjoying watersports to hiking, biking, climbing, and much more, your family will never be bored in beautiful Hawaii!