Hawaii Family Vacation: Top 9 Things to Do with Kids

4min read

Published 23 June 2021


There is no shortage of things to do in Hawaii with kids. History, culture and nature are everywhere, as well as a plethora of educational experiences and adventures, no matter what island you and your family are on. (Presuming, of course, you wish to share the same island as the kids!)

1. Explore Hawaii’s culture

A Hawaii vacation can be as educational as it is fun. The Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu is a good dose of both.

The recreated traditional Polynesian village examines life in Hawaii before it was encountered by Captain Cook, giving guests of all ages the opportunity to participate in traditional Hawaiian sports, music and dance, and food.

Enjoy a traditional luau, throw a spear, get a (fake) tattoo and watch a dazzling fire demonstration before unearthing a classic dinner from an imu (underground oven). End your experience by singing and dancing into the night, as Indigenous Hawaiians have done more than a thousand years earlier.

2. Learn Hawaii’s history

Some 1,500 years ago, Polynesians used only the stars to guide their way to present-day Big Island from the Marquesas Islands, 2,000 miles away. Remnants of their fascinating history can be found throughout the islands, from Oahu’s Iolani Palace to statues of Hawaii’s unifier, King Kamehameha, and surfing legend, Duke Kahanamoku.

And then there’s Hawaii’s history after becoming a US state. It’s hard to imagine beautiful Hawaii engulfed in a World War, but Oahu was, and Pearl Harbor is its stark reminder.

Tour WWII battleships, like the USS Arizona, USS Missouri and the USS Bowfin Submarine, or visit the Pacific Aviation Museum and Punchbowl National Cemetery. Relive one of the most important dates in American history with this solemn memorial, one of Hawaii’s most visited family attractions.

3. Hike Hawaii

There’s no better way to feel Hawaii, than by hiking it.

If staying in the Waikiki area of Oahu, take the kids for an invigorating hike to the top of the island. Diamond Head is an extinct volcanic crater and a quick trek to the top offers spectacular 360-degree views of Honolulu and surrounding area.

On Kauai, the monstrous Waimea Canyon is a must-hike. Its sheer size covers nearly half of the Garden Isle and just begs to be explored. Scurry down the deep gorge to kayak the Wailua River, past waterfalls and their refreshing pools — perfect for a dip.

Iao Valley State Park in Maui is a sacred Polynesian site, said to house ancient Hawaiian demigods. The park’s quiet trails are pristine, lined with orchids and lush greenery, songbirds, and more. Take a breather with a picnic lunch in scenic Kepaniwai Park Gardens.

4. Enjoy kid-friendly beaches

Beaches are what you’ve come for and beaches you shall have. Every island has their share but these are best for visiting with children.

Oahu’s Waikiki Beach is the most famous stretch of sand in Hawaii and needs no introduction. Fun for kids of all ages, swimming, sand castles and surf lessons are just the beginning here.

For younger kids, you can’t beat The Hilton Lagoon at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. The iconic hotel complex features a perfect, man-made lagoon for safe swimming — plus paddle boats, snorkel gear and other water-sport activities can be rented. General access is free, just remember to bring your own towels.

On Kauai, beautiful Poipu Beach offers shallow tide pools perfect for the little ones and gives guests the chance to swim with nature. Playful Monk Seals and giant Green Sea Turtles are curious and everywhere. Keep your distance and enjoy the show! If the kids are comfortable in the water, nothing beats snorkelling and sea kayaking on Kauai’s wild Na Pali Coast.

Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) and scuba diving is also widely available throughout the islands.

5. Visit Hawaii’s zoos and aquariums

Oahu’s Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium are both walking distance from Waikiki, while Sea Life Park is a quick drive. Apart from the countless animals, fish, birds and reptiles, you’ll encounter, all offer plenty of interactive experiences and educational lectures, too.  

Dedicated to showcasing and preserving Hawaii’s unique marine life, the Maui Ocean Center is the largest tropical aquarium in America. Exhibits on ocean ecology, whale life and Hawaiian culture are also featured, along with a sea-tunnel, a shark pool and a sea turtle sanctuary.

6. Check out the volcanoes

On the Big Island, kids will love the planetarium at Hilo’s Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii, and the dramatic lava fields at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

The park is home to two volcanoes, including Kilauea, the world’s longest active volcano, and more than 150 miles of hiking trails that take visitors through everything from moon-like volcanic craters to walk-through lava tubes and even lush rainforests. For a completely exhilarating experience, we suggest you hop on a private helicopter tour, which your Flight Centre travel consultant can arrange.

7. Tour the Dole Plantation

Only 40-minutes out of Honolulu, take the Pineapple Express Train Tour, Plantation Garden Tour or try your hand at escaping from the Pineapple Garden Maze. A fish feeding pond is also on site, and the Plantation Grille, where you can feed the family fresh pineapple, among other treats.

8. Become a mermaid!

Is your little one fascinated by mermaids? If so, Maui’s Hawaii Mermaid Adventures will blow their mind. Lifeguard certified instructors teach kids how to swim with a mermaid mono-fin while diving into mermaid mythology and Hawaiian marine life.

9. Parasail Maui

Fly solo, tandem or in groups of three, or watch from the boat. The sky’s the limit when it comes to this adventure, as you soar above the ocean, taking in scenery as far as your bird’s eye view can see. With 25 years of experience, UFO Parasailing and Hawaiian Adventures is Maui’s most trusted parasailing operation.

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