There’s more in Hawaii for families than Honolulu and Waikiki Beach. Pick any one of these Hawaii Road Trips for a trip off the beaten track and you’ll encounter natural and cultural marvels that can’t be found in the tourist traps.
From Oahu to Maui and from coast to jungle, these top Hawaii road trips are guaranteed to shake up your stay:
Windward Coast, Oahu
Escape the Waikiki Beach crowds and get your dose of secluded beaches and Polynesian culture. On this Hawaii Road trip, you will head north to the Kamehameha Highway.
Start at Lanikai or another of the Kailua beaches, then meander through small villages en route to La’ie Point for surf beaches and sea arches. For more of a surfing safari, continue to Pipeline and Waimea Bay in the far north.
Chain of Craters Road, Big Island
Feel the heat on this exciting and earthy trail packed with volcanoes galore. Under 40 kilometres, the route is manageable as an easy day trip and will take you past the rocky landscapes, lava flows, steam vents and crater views in Volcanoes National Park. Start by exploring the Kilauea craters including Halemaumau, then head to the coast via Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs, sacred rock art dating back hundreds of years, accessible by walking tracks. End up at the Holei Sea Arch, where parking is tricky but stopping is worth it.
You’ll witness the Pacific Ocean in its thunderous glory as waves crash against the cliffs, and might even catch a rare glimpse of a humpback whale!
An alternative to Chain of Craters, Saddle Road is another volcanic venture worth making, following a 1940s military route between world-famous monoliths Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. Read about stargazing on Mauna Kea here.
Highway 360, Maui
The Hana Highway or Highway 360 covers the northern and eastern coast of Maui. The narrow bridges, countless curves and plentiful pitstops are perfect for families who like going slow and getting out of the car to walk to major sites.
Our Hawaii expert Michele Bigely recommends the route for patient kids older than six. She also suggests booking a weekend in Travaasa Hana and taking in bite-sized chunks instead of rushing the two to four-hour road. Our top picks along the way include the giant bamboo forest on the Pipiwai Trail, the Waianapanapa black sand beach, the views from Nahiku village, the Three Bears Falls and encounters with Pa’ia ‘hippies.’
Kapaa to Ke’e Beach, Kauai
Want to take it easy? This is the Hawaii road trip for you. The drive will take you along Route 560 on the north shore of Kauai Island, stopping off at rainforests and famous beaches.
Kapaa to Ke’e Beach will take about 1 hour by car, so you have plenty of time to explore Hanalei town and the taro fields and enjoy either a quick dip at Hanalei Bay or a snorkel further west at Tunnels Beach.
Finish your day hiking a segment of the Kalalau Trail at Ke’e Beach, the furthest point you can drive to on the north shore. With toilets, showers and areas that are patrolled by lifeguards, this is a great spot for snorkelling with young kids or kicking back for a sunset picnic.
Here are our top tips for visiting Hawaii with kids
Want to know what kids really want to do in Hawaii? Check out this review, written by kids, for kids.
Need help choosing accommodation? Check out this guide for where to stay
Read about Stargazing on Mauna Kea right here.
Sophie is a die-hard pasta lover, beach-goer and theatre fanatic hit hard with the travel bug. When exploring new places, Sophie loves straying from the beaten path and chatting with locals about the best places to grab a bite to eat.