Breathtaking view of Mauna Loa volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii.

A family vacation in Hawaii often makes its way onto bucket lists.

And with good reason!

The islands are beautiful, filled with lush landscapes, stunning beaches, and plenty of things to do. Sometimes they all look so wonderful that’s it’s a challenge to decide where to start.

We’ve put together this list of Hawaiian family vacation ideas with the help of some of our travel friends, so you can make the best decision for your next trip.

peaks along the coast of Kauai

This post may include affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I (The Stoke Fam) earn from qualifying purchases. Read more. We encourage you to follow all state and federal guidelines during your adventures. As status continues to change, we suggest you double-check to ensure destinations are open and have the amenities you need prior to heading out.

Oahu

Submitted by Melissa of The Family Voyage

What is your favorite family vacation spot in Hawaii? 

Oahu

What did you love about Oahu?

Oahu is very different than the other Hawaiian islands in that it’s much more developed. But after five weeks there, we fell completely in love!

It offers so many diverse activities. Of course, you can relax at the beach, snorkel, hike, kayak, and surf…but you can also visit wonderful museums, honor the fallen at Pearl Harbor, or explore America’s only royal palace.

It also has plenty of dining and shopping catering to the island’s 500,000 residents rather than exclusively to tourists.

view of oahu beach and water from under trees
Image courtesy of The Family Voyage

Where did you stay in Oahu? How was your experience?

People who complain that Oahu isn’t special and that it’s too commercialized usually mean those things about Honolulu (and its popular Waikiki neighborhood). They don’t realize that there’s so much more to the island!

 We stayed in a HomeExchange house on the Windward Coast, and it was a wonderful location to stay – quiet, close to the island’s best beaches, and easy to access Honolulu.

Do you have any other recommendations for the best places to stay in Oahu?

I recommend staying on the Windward Coast or North Shore for the best experience.

What are your favorite things to do in Oahu?

Of course, you can’t visit Hawaii without spending at least a little time at the beach! Don’t miss Kailua Beach (or boogie boarding) and Lanikai Beach (for snorkeling).

Bellows Field is a great choice if you want a quiet place away from most tourists but only open on weekends.

There are also lots of great family-friendly hikes on Oahu; though it’s a little cliche, our kids absolutely love Diamond Head!

For a rainy afternoon, visit the Bishop Museum to learn about Polynesian wayfinding and Hawaiian geology.

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Where are some of your favorite places to eat in Oahu?

On the Windward Coast, there’s nothing more local than The Hibachi. It offers takeaway poke and pupus, which you can even cook at home.

For a special dining experience, try Beach House Haleiwa – be sure to arrive on the early side to snag a perfect sunset view table.

What surprised you about Oahu?

I was surprised by how many peaceful areas there are on Oahu, far away from the big city’s din.

Is there anything special families should know before visiting Oahu?

Choose your location and activities wisely! Oahu may be the most populous and developed Hawaiian island, but it offers a lot of magic if you know where to find it.

Maui

Submitted by: Amanda of Patsey Family Travels

What is your favorite family vacation spot in Hawaii?

Maui

What did you love about Maui?

I love the lushness of the rainforest along the Road to Hana!

view of maui coastline with palm trees and blue water
Image courtesy of Amanda from Patsey Family Travels

Where did you stay in Maui? How was your experience?

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency in Kaanapali Beach. The hotel was pretty awesome – we had a great view from our room, the pool was super fun, and the hotel was located directly on the beach.

We also felt that Kaanapali Beach was a perfect location to stay at when visiting Maui because it was fairly centralized.

Do you have any other recommendations for the best places to stay?

Renting an Airbnb would be a pretty fun way to experience Maui. In addition, we think that spending a night or two in Hana at Travaasa would be epic.

What are your favorite things to do in Maui?

There are so many amazing things to do and see in Hawaii, but here is a list of our favorites.

Driving the Road to Hana

Hands down this is a must-do if you are visiting the island of Maui. All you really need is a rental car, and a wide-open day to take an awesome adventure!

And the levels of adventure along this drive varies, so it is perfect for any type of traveler. The Road to Hana offers plenty of waterfalls, hiking, and jaw-dropping views.

Beaches

Pretty sure it is hard to find a bad beach in Hawaii, but we had two favorites when we visited.

One of our favorites was Kaanapali Beach for its size and also proximity to our hotel. The waves were also nice and calm, and the beach was super clean.

Another beach we loved was Black Sand Beach at Waianapanapa State Park.

Snorkeling

Maui is a great place to snorkel, and even if you have not tried it before, it is the perfect place to try it out. There are places to rent gear at the beaches so you can snorkel right at the beach.

Or what we loved doing was taking a snorkel tour to Molokini Island, where we got to snorkel out in the ocean at a crater! We also got to see dolphins and whales on our boat trip out to the crater.

Get the FREE Guide

Ever wished you had a cheat sheet for outdoor adventures? Well, now you do! 🙌

Our Outdoor Adventure Resource Guide is 15 pages chock-full of quick & actionable tips, gear recommendations, food ideas, checklists to keep you organized, and more!

Where are some of your favorite places to eat in Maui?

Maui has some incredible dining options, but we definitely had a few favorites.

Mama’s Fish House is a total Maui staple and not to be missed if you are visiting. We had the best meal here, and the atmosphere can not be beaten!

Another restaurant we enjoyed for the best Mai Tai we had in Hawaii and some great apps during happy hour was Merriman’s Maui. We prefer sitting outside because you are sitting directly on the ocean, and the view is out of this world!

And the last place not to miss in Maui is Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice. There are a few locations around the island, and this was hands down our favorite shave ice in all of Hawaii!

What surprised you about Maui?

It is even more beautiful than I ever imagined, and I am still in shock that Maui is part of the United States!!

Is there anything special families should know before visiting Maui?

Our best tip for visiting Maui is when you plan your trip, be sure to give yourself a few extra days to just relax.

Maui is incredible, and can offer some amazing adventures, but also a place where just doing a beach day, or driving to a blowhole is enough. When we go back, I will totally work in 2-3 extra days to just sit back and enjoy the slow pace.

The Big Island

Submitted by: Keri of Bon Voyage with Kids

What is your favorite family vacation spot in Hawaii? 

One of our favorite islands we have visited was the Big Island because it really is an example of the power and beauty of nature. We travel to Hawaii every summer because there is something so special, almost spiritual, about the islands of Hawaii. You really feel the spirit of Aloha from the moment you step off the plane.

What did you love about The Big Island?

The landscape of the Big Island of Hawaii stands out almost immediately. One of the youngest of the four major islands in the chain, it is awesome and humbling to see how nature has created this special place.

The Hawaiians refer to the goddess of Pele, or goddess of fire (the volcano) who can destroy but who also creates. It is that story that really is clear on the Big Island, especially when visiting Volcanoes National Park. To see a live, active volcano spewing smoke or even boiling lava (if you see it from above) that is both destroying but also creating land is a really awe-inspiring experience.

Of course, Hawaii is also known for its tropical landscape, extraordinary waterfalls, gorgeous flowers, and incredible beaches. It is also well known for its spirit of Aloha, which is very alive and well on the Big Island. It is a wonderful place to slow down, appreciate family, and be grounded by connecting with nature.

Breathtaking view of Mauna Loa volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Breathtaking view of Mauna Loa volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. The largest subaerial volcano in both mass and volume, Mauna Loa has been considered the largest volcano on Earth.

Where did you stay on the Big Island? How was your experience?

We stayed at the Marriott Waikoloa Beach Resort and Spa. It is a quieter hotel, but right on the Anaeho’omalu Bay. It has gorgeous pools, with a water slide, and the protected cove nearby was ideal for ocean swimming and participating in a paddleboard yoga class!

There is also a lovely winding path with fish ponds, surrounded by lava rock, with a few spots that are ancient sites, which was ideal for quiet meditation.

The resort also hosts a sunset luau, has golf courses on-site, and offers a variety of water activities like snorkeling and paddleboarding.

Booking.com

Do you have any other recommendations for the best places to stay on the Big Island?

Another highly popular resort on the Big Island is the Hilton Waikoloa Village. It is a massive property with an incredible selection of activities for families, including a black sand beach, lazy river, on-property tram, and dolphins on site, which would make this a very adventurous resort for families.

If you prefer a more quiet resort, I recommend the Marriott Waikoloa over the Hilton property, but if you like a lot of activities to keep busy, the Hilton Waikoloa would be one to check out.

What are your favorite things to do on the Big Island?

In addition to visiting Volcanoes National Park, which is a must-do when you visit the Big Island, our family loved the Blue Hawaiian Circle Of Fire Helicopter Tour over the volcano and a family snorkel trip with Ali’i Ocean Tours.

Seeing the active volcano from above was extraordinary, and its reach was very humbling. It was one of the most magical and memorable experiences I can remember of any family vacation.

The family snorkel tour was also incredible, as the area where we visited became populated with dolphins while on our snorkel experience. To see these gorgeous animals in the water (Hawaii law requires you to stay 10 feet away from turtles and 50 yards from dolphins, which we did) was awe-inspiring.

These activities will leave your family with a very special memory of appreciating what the Big Island has to offer.

Where are some of your favorite places to eat on the Big Island?

Our absolutely favorite stop to eat was Ken’s House Of Pancakes in Hilo. This famous mom and pop family restaurant in Hilo is not a frilly restaurant, but they have a delicious family-friendly menu of a variety of foods.

As the name suggests, they have legendary pancakes, delicious Kona coffee, and a moderate price. It is a great local spot to enjoy a meal if you make it to Hilo.

What surprised you about the Big Island?

I was blown away by the landscape. I did not expect to see as much lava rock everywhere. The Big Island is huge and still growing.

I was also surprised at how spiritual the Big Island felt, and how much I appreciated a more quiet Hawaiian experience. It really was a soulful, bucket filling experience to experience the awe of nature the way that we did, from visiting the volcanoes, seeing the land from above, and experiencing the gems of the sea on our snorkel trip.

It felt like the spirit of Aloha touched us in every way, and we got to experience what the local Hawaiians appreciate so much about their islands.

And, of course, to experience this as a family – and for our kids to be entertained by what nature has to offer made it extra special.

Is there anything special families should know before visiting this destination?

The Big Island is more of a place to experience nature. If you are not so much of a nature person, this may not be the right island for you.

Each of the four major Hawaiian Islands are very different, and each has its own feel. It is more remote, and so if you prefer a busier experience, you may want to look to one of the other islands.

For the helicopter and snorkel tours, kids and adults could experience motion sickness, so you may want to take precautions.

The sun is also very powerful in the summer in Hawaii, so be sure to hydrate and use sunscreen.

Kauai

What is your favorite family vacation spot in Hawaii? 

We’d have to say Kauai, but, truth be told, we haven’t visited all the islands – yet.

View of teal blue ocean water in Kauai
Everywhere was so beautiful.

What did you love about Kauai?

The atmosphere, the stunning beauty, the culture, the people, the sunshine, the beach…EVERYTHING!

Where did you stay in Kauai? How was your experience?

We spent our first weekend in Kauai at the Kauai Shores Hotel in Kapa’a. We loved the quiet, family feel of this resort. The rooms were very spacious, the staff was wonderful, and the Lava Lava Beach Club restaurant right on the beach was an excellent addition.

After the weekend, we moved to the Kauai Marriott Resort where we stayed for the remainder of our time. The grounds were impeccable, the pool area was massive, and the beach cove offered an excellent space for the kids to practice boogie boarding.

Do you have any other recommendations for the best places to stay on Kauai?

There are several Airbnb’s in the area that would be great to stay.

We have also heard incredible things about the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa.

What are your favorite things to do on Kauai?

Everything! 😉

Seriously, though. Every single activity we did was fantastic. We had a great time hiking in several locations, exploring the beaches, biking the Kauai Multipurpose Trail, and eating our way across the island.

One of the highlights of our trip was our helicopter flight with Jack Harter Helicopters. We toured the island and flew over the stunning Na Pali coastline. It was a spectacular way to see the island and get the lay of the land.

View of canyon from helicopter
We lost count of the waterfalls we saw.

Where are some of your favorite places to eat in Kauai?

I don’t think we had a single meal we didn’t enjoy on the island, but some of our favorites were: 

What surprised you about Kauai?

Honestly, it was exactly what I had expected and dreamed about. Beautiful flowers and gardens, fabulous hikes, spectacular beaches, and an incredible vibe.

Is there anything special families should know before visiting this destination?

There are a couple of things we would think you should know before heading to Kauai. 

First, when it comes to snorkeling and surfing, it may be hard in most areas for children as the current can be pretty intense, and some areas also have a lot of lava rock. Bring water shoes to protect your feet!

Next, we would recommend doing your research and planning a budget for this trip. Even though I’m self-admittedly terrible at budgeting, it would be incredibly helpful. Depending on where you live, prices may seem quite high, especially for food and lodging. However, we cut down our food costs significantly by making a trip to Costco and choosing a hotel room with a kitchenette.

Last but not least, we highly recommend The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook. It was huge in helping us decide which hikes to do with our kids, which might be too dangerous, and what areas we should avoid. They actually have a series for all the islands, and we will totally be using them for our future trips.

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2 Comments

  1. Hawaii isstill closed and would appreciate you staying at home until it is safe to come here. Be prepared for a 14-day quarantine or to provide a negative test result when you arrive.

    1. Aloha Ted,

      You’re totally right. We had to cancel (hopefully just postpone) a trip ourselves and are only hiking and camping in our local area for the time being.

      We hope people are using these posts to help them plan for the future. I know we’re dreaming about some trips we will take when it’s safe to travel again. It’s good to have something to look forward to!

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