Ultimate guide to things to do in Hawaii with kids
Breathtaking volcanic islands, colourful coral reefs and unforgettable sunsets over the ocean – welcome to Hawaii! Hawaii’s distinctly island lifestyle and idyllic natural attractions make for an ideal family holiday. Relaxed and diverse, the Hawaiian Islands have so much to offer for family-friendly activities. An abundance of water-sports and sea exploration, tours of unique natural phenomenon (volcanic lava flowing into the open ocean among them!), a beach culture the whole family can participate in and traditional cultural attractions – Hawaii offers a unique experience for every family.
The kids will love
Hawai‘i (Big Island)
Visit Hawai‘i’s Volcanoes National Park for an unforgettable experience! Hike through ancient rainforests and across solid volcanic fields where molten lava boils underground. With older kids, take a twilight hike across the lava deserts to the ocean where you will witness the breathtaking phenomenon of molten lava pouring into the sea. Other adventure experiences include forest zip lining and horse-back riding.
Snorkel at Hanauma Bay, take a surfing lesson at Waikiki Beach, experience the popular open shopping strips, hike around Diamond Head, spend a night at House Without a Key – a welcoming beachfront live music venue and watch the beauty of a Waikiki sunset over the open ocean.
Visit Haleakala National Park and witness an unforgettable sunrise from upon the impressive Haleakala volcano (with width the size of Manhattan) and experience traditional Hawaiian culture at The Old Lahaina Luau Maui.
Perfect for young children, Kaua‘i’s ‘baby beaches’ are the perfect environment for toddlers to explore and enjoy the water safely; experience the majestic Na Pali Coast in any way you’d like – hike, kayak, take a boat tour or exhilarating helicopter ride – the rugged coastline, pristine beaches and cascading waterfalls are unparalleled.
Best time to travel
Colourful and cultural Aloha Festivals fill the streets throughout September. With mild temperatures and cloudless skies, September and May are the two most ideal seasons to visit Hawaii – perfect for all hiking, adventure and beach activities, you can’t go wrong at these times of the year.
The low season is October to November, when airfares and accommodation rates are lowest, often down by 50% and tourist crowds are minimal. The weather is hot and dry so not ideal for hiking, but perfect weather for all beach activities.
High seasons are December thorough April and June to August. Flights and accommodation hike in this period from 50% – 100%, peaking during the Christmas and New Year period. Winter temperatures remain mild, though experiences some more rain – ideal for hiking and adventuring. Summer is reasonably hotter with high humidity levels – perfect beach weather.
Things to do in Hawaii with…
Toddlers will enjoy playing on the beautiful, safe beaches of O‘ahu and Kaua‘i. Young children will love the Luau and Hula shows – the atmosphere is warm and fun and the kids are encouraged to join in dancing.
There are countless fun activities for kids – surfing lessons, snorkelling and boat tours are available for children generally from around five to eight years. Hawai‘i’s Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island is an unforgettable experience, take a guided twilight tour for an educational experience as well as take the adventurous road – zip line through ancient forests or go trail riding (minimum ages range from seven to twelve).
Teenagers will love the cool atmosphere of Waikiki on main island O‘ahu. The lively streets are just as busy at 12am as midday, and very safe to be explored at all times. Visit Kaua‘i’s impressive Na Pali Coast with a day hike or a daring helicopter ride.
Surrounded by mountains, northern Thailand holds an almost mystical appeal. In Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city, you’ll find heaps to see and do. The city is home to more than 300 fascinating temples and eye opening traditional practices, plus the fascinating Walking Street Markets, where teens can stock up on trinkets and cheap clothes. And while the pretty moated city offers rich history, culture and tradition, it is also home to some of Thailand’s most teen friendly resorts. It is also an excellent base for visiting the mountains and for exploring neighbouring forests, rice fields and national parks for bamboo rafting, white-water rafting and trekking.
Not too far from Chiang Mai is Chiang Rai, a culturally diverse region that is home to Thailand’s minority Hill Tribes. Here you’ll find a more traditional Thailand, and visiting families can even enjoy a homestay with a hill tribe family for the ultimate in cultural immersion.
Getting around Hawaii
Air: Flights are the best way to travel between the islands. Hawaiian Airlines, reliable and frequent, have nearly 200 daily flights between the main islands (O‘ahu, Maui, Hawai‘i and Kaua‘i) as well as to more regional airports on the smaller islands. Prices vary from $50 to $250.
Car: Rentals are the recommended option if you want to explore, especially on the smaller islands. 4WDs are a good option, available from most resorts and hotels for around $10 – $40.
Bus: travel on the main islands is reliable, cheap and rather easy. The main company is TheBus has routes to many tourist sites and areas, however not everywhere is accessible via bus routes. Travelling via bus on smaller islands is aimed toward residents and commuters – it is not recommended as routes often bypass most tourist destinations.
More about Hawaii for families
- Most hotels and resorts are family-friendly and often offer ‘kids stay for free’ promotions if they can use existing bedding – rollaway and fold-out beds are available in most hotel rooms. Always ask before booking.
- Always mention you are travelling with children upon booking accommodation – kids are welcomed at most hotels, resorts and even B&Bs, but some do have adult-only policies.
- Vacation rental homes are a convenient option for families with the added advantage of a fully furnished kitchen and laundry. They are often reasonably priced and can be rather cheaper than hotel and resort accommodations during the peak tourist seasons.
What to pack
- The atmosphere on all islands is very casual; beach wear and casual clothing are standard. Sun hats and sunscreen are essential items as the sun in Hawaii is particularly strong, especially at the significant heights reached on some islands.
- Rain gear and warm layers are recommended. There is usually always rain on at least one island in Hawaii at a time, on the windward sides and warm clothing will be needed when visiting higher elevations and when hiking – layers are recommended as the temperature difference between sea level and mountains varies greatly.
- Mainland stores sell and rent most tourist, beach and kid’s items for reasonable prices, so these are not necessarily essential items to bring from home.
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Janeece Keller is the founder and editor of Family Travel. She mostly travels with her husband and two young kids. She has a large blended family that lives in Australia and Europe. She has visited 52 countries and lived on 3 continents. From camping to luxury resorts Janeece tries to make sure her family has diverse holiday experiences each year. She is an avid hiker and ocean swimmer who loves good food, margaritas and heading off the beaten path.