Planning a trip to Hawaii with kids? In this step-by-step Hawaii vacation planning guide, I’m sharing tips on how to plan your dream family trip to Hawaii.
Down below you’ll discover what Hawaiian islands are best for families, how to search flights and accommodation, the best things to do in Hawaii with kids, and much more!
When you’re planning a family vacation, you deserve to go away and create priceless memories without stress in the trip planning process.
Hopefully, this guide will save you some time, money, and your sanity!
With a tropical climate and stunning beaches, breathtaking waterfalls, gorgeous scenery, and adventure activities, Hawaii is what many people consider paradise.
Ohana (family) is deeply important in the Hawaiian culture making it a perfect family travel destination.
The Hawaiian Islands are a natural playground with endless snorkeling, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, zip lining, and volcano exploration. Plus wildlife encounters with sea turtles, manta rays, whales and dolphins.
And then there are the cultural activities like learning to hula dance, attending a luau, and visiting important museums like at Pearl Harbor.
If you don’t know how to plan a trip to Hawaii, read on.
Planning a Trip to Hawaii with Kids
What is the Best Hawaiian Island for kids?
Step one in planning a Hawaii vacation with kids is deciding which Hawaiian islands or island you will visit?
There are six major islands in Hawaii you can visit: Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, and the Big Island.
Like any destination, it’s important to choose a location that meets your specific interests and budget!
The whole idea of taking a family vacation to Hawaii with kids is to have a memorable time, to have fun and relax, and not to spend your whole vacation time worrying about money.
The third largest of the Hawaiian Islands, Oahu offers a little bit of everything from bustling city life to laid back surf towns.
Think relaxation, adventure, beaches, natural wonders, world-class dining (plenty of food options for fussy eaters) and shopping.
- Learn to surf at Waikiki Beach
- Snorkel at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
- Explore a submarine at Pearl Harbor
- Have a wild encounter at Sea Life Park, Waikiki Aquarium, or Honolulu Zoo
- Play authentic Hawaiian games at The Polynesian Cultural Center
- Navigate a massive garden maze at the Dole Plantation
Possibly the best island in Hawaii for families who are visiting Hawaii for the first time.
Maui has been voted “Best Island in the U.S.” on numerous occasions and offers plenty for all members of your family.
It’s the second largest Hawaiian island and famous for beautiful white sand beaches, relaxation, incredible sunrises and sunsets, great food, sea turtles, humpback whales (November through April), and the Haleakala Volcano.
- Snorkel with sea turtles at Black Rock Beach (Kaanapali)
- Stand Up Paddle Boarding at Kaanapali Beach
- Watch spectacular sunsets
- Drive the road to Hana
The fourth largest island and noted for laid-back atmosphere and rich culture found in its small towns, Kauai the place to get away from it all.
Draped in emerald valleys, sharp mountain spires and jagged cliffs with tropical rainforests, forking rivers and cascading waterfalls.
- Play in the tide pools at Poipu Beach Park
- Kayak the Wailua River
- Snorkel on Poipu Beach
- Zipline above Kauai’s lush valleys
- Explore Waimea Canyon
- Learn to hula dance at one of the many Luaua
- Ride on the Kauai Plantation Railway at Kilohana Estate
The largest island and probably the best Hawaiian island for families that love adventure.
Hawaii Island has got volcanic wonders, black sand beaches, sea turtles, manta rays, waterfalls, rainforests and lush valleys of the Hilo and Hamakua Coasts.
- See Green Turtles on Punalu’u (Black Sand Beach)
- Swim with Manta Rays at Keauhou, Kona
- Snorkeling at Kealakekua Bay
- Volcanoes National Park
- See Akaka Falls
Molokai is the fifth largest island and is home to the highest sea cliffs in the world and the longest continuous fringing reef.
A high percentage of its population is of Native Hawaiian ancestry, and Molokai is truly an island of outdoor adventure where Hawaii’s past comes alive!
- Tour a macadamia nut farm
- Play on Papohaku Beach (one of Hawaii’s largest white-sand beaches)
- Visit Big Wind Kite Factory
- Send a real coconut from Hoolehua Post Office
The smallest inhabited island in Hawaii, Lanai is only nine miles from Maui yet a world away.
Known for luxurious resorts and bouncing along the island’s rugged back roads in a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. A place to find serenity and adventure!
- Tide pools at Hulopoe Bay
- Horseback riding
- Family picnic at Dole Park
- Pool time at one of Lanai’s fine resorts
Still not sure what is the best Hawaiian island for family vacation? Consider island hopping.
Best Time to Visit Hawaii?
Step two in planning a family trip to Hawaii with kids is knowing when you can, or should, travel to Hawaii.
Basically, anytime is a good time to visit Hawaii.
The average temperature is between 75˚–85˚ F (24˚-29˚ C) with summer (between April and November) being a little warmer and drier, and winter (between December and March) a bit cooler – but nothing like over on mainland USA!
Of course crowds play an important role when you plan your trip.
If you are able to be flexible in when you can take your Hawaii vacation, good for you! Avoiding peak travel periods is one of our best travel tips.
For accommodation and flights, generally the most expensive times to visit Hawaii are:
- Peak Season (Dec 22 – January 3)
- High Season (January, February, March)
- Summer (June, July, August)
Keep in mind the major holiday periods in the US.
Your best chance of Hawaii travel deals can be:
- Spring (mid-April to mid-June)
- Fall (September to mid-December)
Flights to Hawaii
Once you have chosen your dates of travel, step three is to book your flights to Hawaii.
Depending upon where you depart from, if it’s a long haul flight, when traveling with kids I like to get to our destination as quickly as possible, with the most amount of comfort our budget allows.
If it’s your one-and-only dream trip for the year, and you only have 1-2 weeks vacation time, I recommend you pay the little bit extra for a premium airline and fly direct to Hawaii!
Tips for Searching Flights
I highly suggest you start searching for Hawaii flights as early as possible.
Airlines typically release tickets 11 months in advance, so once you know your dates for your trip to Hawaii start searching and continue to check at least once per week.
If you can, be flexible with your flight dates!
The best tactic for finding the best deal is to search a couple of days, or even weeks, either side of your preferred departure date.
But if you can’t play around with the date, play around with the time of day you fly which can change the prices significantly.
Typically, flying on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday can save you money.
Flights that depart the USA mainland late and arrive in Hawaii in the evening, and the overnight (red-eye) return flights, tend to be cheaper.
When searching for the best deal on flights to Hawaii, we always start with a comparison site like Orbitz.com that searches hundreds of flights from all the major airlines.
Plus, you can earn Orbucks the moment you book. $1 Orbuck = $1 off your next hotel. Earn Orbucks on top of your airline miles. The more you book, the more you get
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Step four is an important one.
As soon as you have booked and paid for your flights, get travel insurance as it is designed to cover events such as trip cancellation.
Not having travel insurance on an overseas trip (or domestic) is not worth the risk. Anything can, will, and sometimes does go wrong. If it does and you are not insured, you can be up for a lot of money AND inconvenience.
When you are planning a trip, don’t shrug off this step.
As I like to say, “if you can’t afford travel insurance, then you can’t afford to travel”. It’s that simple.
What happens if:
- You need to cancel your trip unexpectedly
- You get sick or injured on your trip
- Your luggage is lost or stolen
- You lose your passport
- A hurricane damages your destination
- There is a terrorist event
Which travel insurance is best for you? There are different levels of coverage depending on:
- The plan
- The insurance company you purchase with
- The size of your deductible (excess)
Accommodation in Hawaii
Again, book hotels in Hawaii as early as possible.
The further in advance you search for accommodation in Hawaii the more likely you are to get a deal.
When comparing prices and Hawaii family resorts to stay in, keep in mind that the dreaded resort fee is not typically included in advertised room rates.
Those Resort fees can add $15 to $30 plus tax to your daily bill.
Read the fine print to see what features the resort fee includes! Does it include free Wi-Fi, self-parking, bottled water, gym access etc?
Best Family Resorts in Hawaii
Researching the best kid friendly resorts in Hawaii can be time consuming and confusing.
I’ve hand picked a short list of the best Hawaii resorts for kids on the islands of Oahu, Maui, the Big Island and Kauai.
These hotels and resorts offer kid-friendly facilities and activities like water parks and water slides, lazy rivers, family rooms, hula lessons, snorkeling, and beachfront access.
Also, many of these best hotels in Hawaii for families offer day camps for kids that give parents some much-needed time out. And take advantage of keiki (children’s) programs that range from lei-making to scuba lessons.
Turtle Bay Resort is one of the best kid friendly resorts in Hawaii. Located on 5 miles of beachfront on Oahu’s North Shore, it’s one of Hawaii’s most unique destinations:
- Kids stay free! Children stay free when using existing bedding
- Family rooms
- 2 outdoor pools
- Water slide
- Snorkeling and stand up paddle boarding on site
- Babysitting or childcare available
- Horse riding/rental on site
- The Polynesian Cultural Center is 4 miles away
Another of the best family resorts in Hawaii is Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort.
Located on the shores of Waikiki Beach and on 22-acres, and features over 20 restaurants and lounges, 90 shops and boutiques, and a 5,000-square foot family activity pool.
- 5,000-square foot family activity pool
- 5 sparkling pools with waterfalls
- Longest water slide in Waikiki
- Kids club
- Family-friendly lagoon
- Friday night fireworks
- Quieter end of Waikiki Beach (protected by a sea wall and a natural reef so swimming in the ocean is totally doable)
Located just one minute walk to Waikiki Beach and 4 miles from the Diamond Head Crater is Sheraton Waikiki.
It has two oceanfront pools, an adult-only infinity pool and Helumoa Playground featuring two fresh water swimming pools, and a 70 foot long water slide.
- Children under 17 stay for free
- 2 outdoor pools (kids pool)
- Close to popular attractions, Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium
- Kids camp
- Waikiki Shopping Centre is just 2 minutes’ walk away.
Recognized by the Waiaha Foundation as “Hawaii’s Most Kaanapali Beach Hotel sits on beautiful Kaanapali Beach and offers cultural activities and comfortable guestrooms.Hotel,”
- Daily hula shows
- Lei making
- 3 minute walk to Whalers Village
- Easy access to whale watching, stand up paddle boarding and snorkeling.
Another of the best hotels for kids in Hawaii is the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa.
Located on Maui’s west coast with flamingos, cranes, parrots, and penguins on site.
It offers a water park that includes pools with a rope bridge and a lava tube waterslide, infinity-edge relaxation pool, family pool, and a children’s zero-entry pool.
- 6 outdoor pools
- 150 foot waterslide
- Kids stay free! Up to 2 children 17 years old and younger stay free when using existing bedding.
- Lei making classes
- Hula demonstrations
- Wildlife tours
- Stargazing through the rooftop telescope
Set in picturesque Kapalua Bay, Montage Kapalua Bay beach resort condo caters to everyone and everything. Spacious suites and full kitchens, an outdoor pool, restaurant and spa and wellness center.
A great choice for families interested in snorkeling, sandy beaches and scenery.
- Children’s pool
- Kids club
- Family rooms
- Soundproof rooms
- Each condo provides a kitchen with a refrigerator
- Entertainment staff
The The Westin Maui Resort & Spa is located on Ka’anapali and features an on-site luau and classes on hula dancing and lei making. Spend the day relaxing on the beach, by the pool, or pampering yourself at the full-service spa.
- Kids stay free! Up to 2 children stay free when using existing bedding.
- Adjacent to Whalers’ Village
- 5 pools
- Kids club
Located on 62 oceanfront acres on the Big Island of Hawaii, the Hilton Waikoloa Village boasts a private white sand beach and sprawling saltwater lagoon with dolphin encounters available, a full-service spa, and the World famous Kings Golf Course.
- 3 pools (children’s pool)
- 150 foot waterslide
- Family rooms
- Private beach
- 13 restaurants
Set amidst river pools and tropical gardens, the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa boasts 7 restaurants and the Luau Show on Wednesdays and Sundays offers a Hawaiian buffet and showcases traditional Polynesian dance and culture.
- 24-hour swimming pool complex with waterfalls, waterslides and volleyball net
- Adults-only swimming area
For an all inclusive Hawaii family vacation, sometimes the best hotel deals for your family trip to Hawaii can come when you bundle i.e. when you combine flights + hotel, or flights + hotel + rental car.
Booking one of the family packages to Hawaii that includes some combination is usually most cost-effective for a family trip to Hawaii.
Major travel booking sites like Orbitz make it easy to assemble Hawaii vacation packages from departure points all over the USA, and the world.
If you have a large family, consider a vacation rental that has at least two or three-bedrooms.
Sometimes you can rent an entire home for half the price of getting several hotel rooms. And think of the savings of not always eating out at restaurants when you can self-cater!
Eating out in Hawaii three meals a day gets expensive real fast, especially for a family of four like ours, so consider getting a room with kitchen facilities.
The room will be more expensive, but over a week or so you could recoup that money by at least making your own breakfast.
Step six when planning a trip to Hawaii with kids is to consider your transportation options.
Will you need to book a rental car or can you use public transport? Or, can you simply walk to most places?
If you need a rental car, booking online in advance will almost always get you a better deal than if you just show up at the counter. And it’s easier and quicker.
The last thing you want to do after a long flight to Hawaii is deal with rental car companies at the airport and negotiate a deal.
The quickest way to compare rental car prices is to use an aggregator site like Orbitz that searches all the major car brands at once and checks which supplier offers the best prices for your chosen dates and location.
It can save you time and money.
When staying in places like Waikiki you don’t need a car, so consider renting a car only for the day you want to explore, like we did on our North Shore road trip.
This way you’ll save big bucks in overnight parking expenses at hotels (on average $25 per day).
Most of Waikiki is walkable. Or you can get a cheap bus or trolley. Plus, when jumping on tours they almost always come with hotel pickup/drop offs.
And you don’t have to rent a car from the airport, as the major car companies like Avis, Hertz, Thrifty, Alamo, etc. have locations in Waikiki.
But on The Big Island and Maui we had a rental car for the duration of our stay!
Things to do in Hawaii with kids
When planning a family trip to Hawaii, you’ll want to know what are the must-visit Hawaii tourist attractions and the best things to do in Hawaii with kids.
As much as we like to just show up, some trip planning is a good idea especially if you are visiting a popular destination, like Hawaii, in the peak travel season.
Popular attractions like Pearl Harbor in Oahu can book out well in advance, so don’t just show up on the day expecting to get in.
Research and organize your tickets to any attractions, shows, or events.
Plan ahead and book any necessary experiences you would like to have so you don’t miss out on having your best family vacation in Hawaii!
Make Copies of Important Documents
When you are traveling, sometimes your important documents get misplaced.
Also, companies can lose your booking reservation, or there is a communication breakdown between the price you paid and the expected service. e.g. rental car insurances and type of vehicle.
For peace of mind, make copies of important documents such as:
- Flight tickets
- Hotel reservations
- Rental car reservations
- Tour bookings
- Drivers licence
- Credit Cards
- and anything else you booked for your trip
Print out hard copies and save your confirmation emails into a “folder” in your web-based email account.
Consider leaving copies at home with a trusted person, and give one to your spouse to carry.
Just thinking about packing for a family trip to Hawaii can be stressful. But the best thing to do is pack the bare minimum because you can always buy it there!
Encourage your kids to choose and pack their own clothes to minimize complaints and to teach travel planning skills.
Pack versatile, comfortable and loose fitting clothes and neutral colors that can be worn in multiple combinations so if something gets dirty you only have to change part of the outfit.
For toddlers, pack a change of clothes for dinner, pajamas, or what is needed during the day in case of accidents.
Top 5 Travel Packing Tips
- Know the expected weather, which helps reduce over-packing.
- When flying to Hawaii with kids take a change of clothes in your carry-on just in case your checked-in luggage doesn’t arrive with you.
- Know the activities you will be doing so you can pack appropriately.
- Know the types of accommodation you will be staying at. If you are staying in hotels you won’t need to take things like towels, hair dryers or linen.
- Charge your electronics and load up all your tablets and portable devices with things to read, play, watch.
Enjoy Your Trip!
That’s it. You are now on your way to an unforgettable Hawaii vacation with kids!