We’re back with Part 2 of our Family-Friendly Hikes Series and this time we are focusing on Hawaii! If you missed it, you can read Part 1 here: The Best Family Hikes in the Continental United States.
When we traveled to Kauai, we did a lot of research on family-friendly hikes and activities. We were stoked to find out that Kauai, in particular, is FULL of incredible hikes. However, some of them are not appropriate for young kids. Some hikes have killer views, but the trail may have steep embankments on either side. Some trails are perfect when the weather is dry, but can become particularly difficult if it rains, and the mud becomes slick.
So, we put together this list of family-friendly hikes as a place for you to start your planning. A couple of these hikes may have special notes about when they would be considered family-friendly and when they would not. However, please remember that conditions may change. Use your best judgment and get out there and have fun!
Pipiwai Trail, Haleakalā National Park
Guest Contributor: Vanessa from I Heart Italy
One of our very favorite family-friendly trails in the US is on the beautiful island of Maui! At the end of the extremely windy road to Hana, with over 620 curves, lies one of the most beautiful hikes in the country, the Pipiwai Trail. This trail is located in the Haleakala National Park and can only be accessed from the road to Hana on the back entrance to the park. The trail passes through incredible and diverse scenery and ends at the base of the most stunning waterfall! Along the way, you’ll pass through a lush rain forest, cliffs, many more waterfalls, and a bamboo forest. The Pipiwai Trail is safe and well maintained by the National Park Service, making it one of the best hikes in Hawaii for families. The trail is 1.8 miles uphill, and 1.8 miles back down. There are many steps, and it can get muddy, but even beginning hikers should be able to tackle the trail. And the views are worth it!
Diamond Head Crater Hike
Guest Contributor: Melissa from The Family Voyage
Our family loved the Diamond Head hike on Oahu! We were initially worried about the steep steps with our 4-year-old, but even she was able to manage them without an issue. The total distance is 1.5 miles each way with 500 feet of elevation gain, so parts of the trail are somewhat steep. But unlike Oahu’s waterfall hikes the trail is nearly always dry, and it’s popular enough to be properly maintained. The view from the top of Diamond Head is a true treat! You’ll see all of Honolulu, Waikīkī Beach and the stunning blue ocean below. There’s also a lovely view of the lighthouse from the top. Our kids loved exploring the bunker just below the top, but make sure to give kids a flashlight if they’re going in as parts are very dark. Of all the hikes we did during our month on Oahu, Diamond Head was our kids’ favorite! They loved it so much that they asked to do it again, which is a major accomplishment for our family! Find more great options for the best easy hikes on Oahu.
Guest Contributor: Clara Todd from Petite Capsule
Manoa Falls in Hawaii is one of the best family hikes in the USA. The trail is beautiful and scenic as you walk through the rainforest; from eucalyptus trees to a bamboo forest, leading to a 150-foot tall waterfall. It is suitable for babies in carriers, toddlers, kids, and grandparents. This is because Manoa Falls is a short hike at 0.8 miles one way to the waterfall, or 1.6 miles return. It will take 1 to 2 hours to complete. It is a fairly easy dirt track, though muddy in parts, especially after rain. Also, from the staircase to the waterfall, it does get a little steep, rocky, and slippery; just take your time. As Manoa Falls is a popular hike, you can step aside and let others pass. Due to the lush vegetation, the trail is mostly shady. This is ideal for little ones, in particular, if you are babywearing. Manoa Falls is a fantastic family hike for when you are next in Hawaii.
Guest Contributor: Sierra Schmidt from Free to Travel Mama
The Lanikai Pillbox hike is one of many amazing hikes on the islands of Hawaii and was a highlight of our Oahu itinerary. This hike is short, but challenging, and rewards you with incredible views around every turn. Lanikai Beach is known for being one of the best places to watch the sunrise, and this hike allows you the perfect vantage point to watch that happen. Some prefer to leave in the dark with flashlights and watch the sunrise from the top. We chose to watch the sun come up on the beach and then head up the trail to see the beautiful blue views as the island comes to life. Either way, start out early and don’t forget water, because it gets hot! You will depart from the trailhead on Ka’elepupu Drive directly across from the Mid-Pacific Country Club in the residential area near the beach. The hike is 1.6 miles roundtrip to the first pillbox. The first section is the steepest, but there are ropes and roots to keep you from losing your footing on the loose dirt-especially on the way down! The first pillbox is where most people stop as its views are just as great as from the second one. Climb up on top of the pillbox and enjoy the gorgeous blue water and bird’s eye view of Lanikai Beach and the Mokulua Islands. It is pure perfection from up there!
No visit to Kauai would be complete without exploring Waimea Canyon. And, if you plan on doing any hikes while you are on the island, we firmly believe that this should be the one. The sweeping views of Waimea Canyon, the forest, and the beach are simply amazing. The Pihea Trail begins at the Pu’u O Kila Lookout. Park in the parking lot and head up the sidewalk toward the lookout to start your hike. It is a relatively short hike at approximately 2 miles round-trip that we consider to be moderate. If your kids can persist through a few steep sections (our youngest wasn’t happy about those the day we did it), jaw-dropping vistas that stretch over canyons and to the coast will be your reward. This trail does have some very muddy sections – even when the weather has been dry. If it has been rainy, the trail may be quite a bit more muddy and slippery. You can read all the details, including weather considerations, at our full write up of the Pihea Trail Hike.
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Pools of Mokolea, Kahili Beach
One of the most unique “hikes” we did while in Kauai was the hike to the Pools of Mokolea. We first mentioned this in our post on 8 Amazing Activities for your Kauai Vacation, and we recommend this hike with a healthy dose of caution. Changing tides, storms, and crashing surf can make this hike dangerous. Keep close tabs on your surroundings and watch children closely. (AKA Be smart and don’t blame us if you aren’t. 😉) Just use common sense and pay attention to your surroundings. If you do, this may become one of the highlights of your visit. This hike starts at Kahili Beach and is only about a mile round trip. After you park, head down to the beach and take a left. As you come to the Kilauea Stream, cross it and make your way toward the lava rock (now on your right). You may need to carry little ones across and keep in mind the tides for your return crossing. After you cross, you will head out to your right towards the lava rock. When the tide is right, you’ll find tidepools in and among the lava rock. Our boys loved scrambling all over the lava rock and peeking in the tidepools to see what they could find. The sounds of the ocean crashing over the rocks, the sea life in the tidepools, and the spectacular scenery made this one of our favorite hikes while we were in Kauai.
Ho’opi Falls Hike
We discovered on our 10-day Kauai Vacation last Spring that the island is dotted in many spectacular waterfalls. We were able to see TONS of them on our helicopter ride with Jack Harter. However, only a portion of them are easily accessible, for one reason or another. Most people think of places like Wailua Falls, which is beautiful, but we enjoyed the hike to Ho’opi Falls even more. Ho’opi Falls is not just one waterfall, but two! The trail starts in the middle of a neighborhood, so be kind and considerate when you park. 😉 As you make your way down the first portion of the trail, you will walk alongside the river for most of the path. About 20 minutes or so into your hike, you will come to the first fall. This spot is popular with locals for cliff jumping, but be smart! We wouldn’t suggest it unless you have a local with you and/or thoroughly check the depth and for rocks under the surface. We also found a bunch of tiny frogs here which the boys LOVED!
After the first waterfall, you proceed along the trail to reach the second falls. This portion of the trail winds you away from the river and you through the lush forest for a bit. The surrounding trees are draped in vines, you can hear birds calling to each other, and it is simply gorgeous! The last little bit to get down to the second falls was a bit steep, but our boys had no difficulty climbing down. There are a couple of routes, so pick the one that seems to be in the best condition. If you brought a picnic lunch, this is the perfect spot to enjoy it before you head back to your car. *Note: At times in the past, access to the second falls was not allowed; however, we had no issues.
Final Thoughts on The Best Hikes in Hawaii for Families
Hawaii is filled with some of the best hikes! Whether you prefer climbing a mountain for sweeping views or scrambling over lava rock to find tidepools, you can find something to suit your family.
Do you have a Hawaii hike you would add to this list?