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Planning a Hawaii family vacation and looking for the best things to do in Hawaii with kids?
We spent three weeks on a family vacation in Hawaii and down below are our tips on what to do in Hawaii with kids (that adults love doing too!)
Plus, if you’re looking for suggestions on kid friendly hotels in Hawaii and some cool places to eat, we’ve got you covered.
We explored three of the Hawaiian Islands – Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island, and had the best family vacation in Hawaii that we still talk about three years later!
So if you want to escape the cold for a week or two, to have a beach vacation, go snorkeling, chase waterfalls, see amazing sunsets, or witness live volcanoes, we can’t help but suggest a Hawaii vacation with kids.
And it’s a great all-year-round destination.
Things to Do in Hawaii With Kids
Snorkel at Hanauma Bay, Oahu
One of the best places to go snorkeling in Hawaii with kids, and one of the most popular places to visit in Hawaii, is Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve.
This gorgeous cove was once a volcanic crater and is now home to lively reefs of colorful fish and clear blue water.
Located just 30-minutes east of Waikiki, you can drive there in your rental car, or you can take one of many guided tours on a shuttle bus.
Bring your own snorkeling gear if you have it, otherwise you can rent masks, snorkels, and fins for $20.
Get here early, around breakfast time if possible, as this place is one of the most popular things to do in Oahu with kids and gets CRAZY busy and there are only 300 parking spots!
Also, if you wait too late in the day the water gets churned up by the hundreds of snorkelers which affects visibility.
If you are not confident with snorkeling, or just want to be lead around, you can join a guided snorkeling tour.
Either way, it’s a must do in Oahu with kids.
- Open from 6am – 7pm (summer), 6am – 6pm (winter).
- Closed on Tuesdays, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
- Entrance fee is $7.50 per person (kids 12 & under are FREE).
- Masks, snorkels, and fins can be rented for $20.
Volcanoes National Park, Big Island
One of our favorite places to visit in Hawaii with kids was the Big Island of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
We had never witnessed an active volcano before – Kīlauea – and it was a highlight of our visit to the Big Island with kids.
Start your visit at the Visitors Center, then check out the Jaggar Museum and overlook to learn more about volcanoes and to see the bubbling lava in the crater of the Kīlauea Volcano.
There is a lava lake in the crater and when it fills up it bubbles over (amazing at night).
Don’t miss the 18-mile Chain of Craters Road, it’s one of the best things to do in Hawaii and a drive that takes you from the visitors’ center to the coast where you can see lava still pouring into the ocean – amazing!
You can pull off the road to view craters, see giant fields of lava rock and marvel at their texture and shape.
If your family is up for more Hawaii adventures to volcanoes, you can get closer with an 8-mile return hike, or on a boat tour, depending on the visibility and safety situation.
$25 per car, or $12 per person without a car to enter the park.
Check out more in this Hawaii Volcanoes National Park video:
Diamond Head Summit Trail, Oahu
One of the most popular things to do in Waikiki, and probably the most popular hike in Oahu, is the Diamond Head Trail.
Whilst fairly steep, it’s a relatively easy hike for kids with lots of switchbacks making the climb to the summit fun.
Rated as moderate, the 1.8 mile out and back hike starts from the middle of the Diamond Head volcanic crater and climbs about 500 feet up the side to the top of the rim which offers fantastic views over Waikiki Beach from the summit.
I suggest going early in the morning. It’s a popular sunrise walk, but if you can’t get your kids up there for sunrise, arrive at the park around 8am and you will beat most of the crowds.
If you get there mid-morning, be ready to share it with hundreds of other visitors.
Allow at least 90-minutes to complete the circuit.
Park entrance fee is $1.
Diamond Head Hike Video:
Eat Ginormous Pancakes at Bogart’s Cafe
Reward your kids for completing the Diamond Head walk with ginormous pancakes at Bogarts Café & Espresso Bar, which is on the way back to Waikiki Beach.
They were big enough for our kids to share, and they gave them and their hot chocolates (also huge) the thumbs up.
Mom and dad, you’ll enjoy one of the best acai bowls here, and the coffee and green smoothies are GOOD too!
Hang Out on Waikiki Beach
Looking for free things to do in Honolulu with kids?
A relaxing day at the beach is one of the main reasons you booked your Hawaii family vacation package.
With Diamond Head and the Honolulu skyline as a backdrop, Waikiki Beach is famous and needs little introduction. It’s one of the most recognizable and gorgeous beaches in the world.
In Waikiki the water is a perfect temperature and generally safe for kids to swim with those calm rolling waves (no dumpers like most other beaches).
They can play on the sand, swim, surf, or ride in one of those famous outrigger boats.
The main section of Waikiki Beach is in front of The Royal Hawaiian Hotel (the Flamingo Pink), but it does get crowded as it’s here where most of the outrigger boats operate from and learn to surf schools.
But, if an overcrowded beach makes you weary, you can get away from most of the congestion, as Waikiki Beach is kind of split into three sections.
The other two sections being:
- Kahanamoku Beach – a curved section of beach at the western end of Waikiki, right in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort (another reason to stay here). The sand is golden and water crystal clear. It’s protected by the breakwater and pier, and if you fancy a snorkel there’s coral running between them.
- Kuhio Beach – Further east toward Diamond Head, this family-friendly section of beach is protected from the ocean waves by a sea wall and is away from the hustle and bustle. It’s pretty here with the palm trees and uninterrupted views of Diamond Head.
If you are visiting Hawaii with toddlers, you’ll appreciate these two quieter options.
Visit Pearl Harbor, Oahu
Our kids learn so much from travel and the world around them, and we like to expose them to as much as possible.
One of the most important and historical places to go in Oahu is Pearl Harbor, and if you are visiting Hawaii with kids it’s a beneficial educational experience.
Though a tragic event, it’s a beautiful memorial and very moving and if you are foreigners like us it offers new insights into US culture.
Visit the grounds and museum before catching a boat over to the Arizona Memorial, the ship that sunk and is now the resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed.
Seven decades later, oil still leaks from the fuel tanks of the sunken hull of the USS Arizona. Little drops of oil bubble up from the surface and dance across it – known as the black tears of the USS Arizona.
This is a must do in Hawaii, but if you are short on time, and without a car, you can join a half day or full day tour.
Pearl Harbor with Kids Video
Drive the North Shore Road, Oahu
You can’t spend every day laying on beaches in Hawaii, well you can but driving around the Island of Oahu is a great way to spend a day on your family trip to Hawaii.
We rented a car in Waikiki and spent a full day driving around both sides of the island – we got to Haleiwa on North Shore Oahu then cut back through the middle of the island to Honolulu.
It was such a pretty drive, especially the South East Coast.
And this road trip is how we visited Hanauma Bay, Lanikai Beach (see down below) the North Shore beaches and the historic town of Haleiwa.
The North Shore’s claim to fame is big wave surfing with swells reaching up to 30 feet high.
But big wave season is during the winter months (November – February) and the famous North Shore beaches of Waimea Bay, Pipeline, and Sunset are worth visiting in any season.
And the coastal scenery is stunning!
See more of the North Coast drive in our video:
Swim at Lanikai Beach, Oahu
Consistently rated the best beach in Oahu, you’ll quickly see why Lanikai Beach is a family favorite.
Much quieter than Waikiki, or Hanauma Bay, this strip of sand was our favorite spot on our road trip around Oahu and makes for a perfect place to have a swim with your kids or go stand up paddle boarding or kayaking to nearby islands!
When you do a drive around Oahu to the North Shore, don’t miss Lanikai, we think it’s one of the best things to do in Oahu with kids.
Eat Shaved Ice
If your kids are in need of a unique treat, shaved ice is a popular dessert in Hawaii made by shaving a block of ice with flavored syrups added and absorbed by the ice.
The most famous shaved ice in Oahu is at Matsumoto in Haleiwa (we went here on our North Shore drive), but we took one look at the LONG line and kept driving.
We ended up buying our kids shaved ice from a food truck a bit further down the road in Haleiwa called Snow Factory – there was no line and our kids had nothing to compare it to and loved their treat!
Stay at Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort
We loved staying at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, which you could say is a destination in itself.
Before we even booked our Hawaii vacation with kids we had several friends (who also have kids) say “you must stay at this hotel.”
The Hilton Hawaiian property is huge with five towers and a five-acre saltwater lagoon complete with all the water activities and toys to make for a great family-friendly place to play!
Not only did our friends rave about this resort, but thousands of other travelers on their reviews. And now after visiting, we agree it’s one of the best family resorts in Hawaii for these reasons:
- 5 pools and water slides
- Amazing location on Kahanamoku Beach, but an easy walk into the hub of Waikiki
- 5-acre salt water lagoon
- Best kid-friendly hotel in Waikiki
- Spectacular Friday night fireworks display
The minute we walked into our room and saw the stunning view of Waikiki Beach from our balcony, we were wowed – one of the best hotel views we’ve ever seen, period – we stayed in the Rainbow Tower.
We weren’t in Waikiki on a Friday night, but if you find yourself here, then we’ve been told to don’t miss their fireworks show!
Search all Honolulu hotels:
Check out this awesome Hawaii hotel in our video review of Hilton Waikiki
Play at Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon
Even if you don’t stay at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort, one of the best things to do in Waikiki with kids is play at the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon (otherwise known as the Hilton Hawaiian Village lagoon).
Here you can play on paddle boats, stand up paddle boards, swim in a safe lagoon and kick back on the sand.
It’s one of the best place in Hawaii for families to hang out and a nice spot to take in the sunset.
Watch a Polynesian Luau Show
I know, going to a Luau show probably sounds like one of those over the top Hawaii tourist attractions.
Yes and no. Like everything, there are good and bad Luau shows.
Not only is the Hilton Hawaiian Village one of the awesome places to stay in Waikiki with kids, it’s also home to the Starlight Luau.
Initially we also thought a Luau would be a bit kitsch and over-touristy, but we thoroughly enjoyed the dancing and music from this show which highlights the stories and culture from the different Polynesian islands.
The spirit of the Hawaiian people really shines through, and a buffet dinner and a couple of free drinks never go astray.
Whilst I can’t vouch for other Luau shows, consider putting this on your list of things to do in Hawaii with kids.
Visit the Polynesian Cultural Center
The Polynesian Cultural Center continues to be one of the top Oahu attractions.
Many folks come just for the evening luau and show.
But, it’s recommend coming in the day time and it’s one of the interesting things to do in Honolulu with kids since you can visit villages set up to reflect the culture and traditions of various Polynesian nations: Tahiti, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Aotearoa, Marquesas, and of course Hawaii.
We’d never heard of, let alone had a wonut before, and the minute we arrived at the Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach the friendly bellboy enthusiastically suggested we must try the wonuts downstairs at the TR Fire Grill.
So what’s a wonut you ask? A hybrid between a waffle and a donut.
After our kids begged us for long enough, we gave in and they got to try them for dessert one evening.
HULA Dancing Lessons
Hula is the Hawaiian heartbeat. And rarely does anything happen or get launched in the Hawaiian Islands without the chanting and singing of a traditional blessing and hula.
Our kids had a fun time learning the graceful steps of the hula under the kukui nut tree at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel in Maui.
Our teacher was patient and humble and made it seem so easy to learn. Our kids practiced every day after and can still remember it – isn’t that what family vacations are all about, memorable moments!
Free Hula Show
On Kuhio Beach in Waikiki, you’ll find a beautiful free hula show. A lovely setting with sounds of the ocean mixing in with the Hawaiian music.
The show includes authentic Hawaiian music and hula performances as well as a torch lighting ceremony. It’s offered every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday nights (weather permitting).
You’ll find the show at the Kuhio Beach Hula Mound near the intersection of Uluniu and Kalakaua Avenues – add it to your free things to do in Hawaii with kids list!
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center in Waikiki offers free hula lessons.
Atlantis Submarine Dive
We’ll admit, when choosing family activities in Hawaii we were a little nervous about the thought of getting into a submarine as we’d never been in one before.
The Atlantis Submarine submerged to 120 feet underwater off the coast of Waikiki Beach so it was a little nervy. But, it was awesome!
We’re not scuba divers so thoroughly enjoyed getting an insight into the underwater world.
The Atlantis submarine cruises by several intentionally sunken ships and airplanes to help create new artificial reefs. We saw coral growing, sharks, lots of fish, and turtles.
Put this on your list of Honolulu family activities.
See Green Turtles on Black Sand Beach
One of the best things to do in Hawaii with kids is see Green Turtles, and Punalu’u (Black Sand Beach) on the Hawaii main island is one of the best places to see them.
Not only is this beach interesting due to its black sand, but Hawaiian Green Turtles also like to visit here and we were lucky enough to see one on the sand at the water’s edge.
Here you can also continue your lessons on how volcanoes shape the land.
The jet-black sand formed when molten lava from two nearby active volcanoes flowed into the water, cooled, and then broke into fragments that washed ashore.
Check out the turtles on the black sand beach in our video
Surfing Lesson in Waikiki
Our eldest daughter, Kalyra, learned how to surf back in Australia, so she just wanted to hire her own surf board and play in the gentle waves with me.
But, if you are interested in learning to surf, this is one of the most fun things to do in Hawaii with kids and Waikiki Beach is one of the easiest places to learn.
With its clear waist deep water and gentle rolling waves, your kids could be standing up in no time.
There are several surfing lesson operators spanning Waikiki Beach offering group or private lessons.
A typical 90-minute surfing lesson runs about $95, or, you can do what we did and hire a board – $25 for two hours.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Maui
We love Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP), it’s one of our favorite family activities and we seek out opportunities wherever we go.
One awesome place to do it in Hawaii is at Kaanapali Beach, three miles of white sand and clear water and was once rated America’s best beach.
Supping here quickly became one of our favorite things to do in Maui with kids.
With the islands of Molokai and Lanai providing the backdrop for your stand up paddle boarding fun (or the views from your beach chair whilst the kids swim or play on the sand) it will have you longing to return.
You can rent SUP (stand up paddle boards) from the Kaanapali Beach Hotel for $25 an hour.
Our five nights at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel in Lahaina on the island of Maui, which is known to be the most Hawaiian Hotel in Hawaii, was memorable.
Out of all the places to go in Hawaii with kids, Ka’anapali is the one place that calls us to return to and soak up that Hawaiian sunshine.
From this hotel it’s an easy walk to all the restaurant and cafes lining the beach, including the open-air Whalers Village – a world-class shopping complex.
Check out our family vacation on Kaanapali Beach:
Swim with Manta Rays at Keauhou, Kona
One of the most amazing things to do in Hawaii with kids, and one of the best experiences we have had anywhere, is swim with the manta rays near Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii.
At first we were a little apprehensive about this activity – swim in the ocean, in the dark, with manta rays and our five-year-old child.
You set out on a traditional Hawaiian 40-foot double-hulled Hawaiian sailing canoe with the crew from Eka Canoes as the sun goes down.
Once out in the bay, we slipped into the water and held onto the side of a floating surfboard, lowered our heads under the water with snorkeling masks on and torch lights.
What happens next is incredible. Manta ray after manta ray swim around you, somersaulting and literally brushing up against you – that’s how close we were to them!
Don’t miss Keauhou – it’s one of the best places to go in Hawaii with kids for a wildlife encounter!
Take on the Pancake Challenge at the M.A.C. 24/7 Bar + Restaurant
Speaking of pancakes, located inside the Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel, the M.A.C. 24/7 Bar + Restaurant serves killer pancakes!
M.A.C. 24/7’s claim to fame is its Pancake Challenge.
Featured on the Travel Channel show, Man vs. Food, the Pancake Challenge consists of eating three 14-inch pancakes topped with either blueberries, walnuts and chocolate chunks; pineapple, coconut and macadamia nuts; or cinnamon streusel with vanilla glaze.
Is your family up for the challenge?
Snorkel at Kealakekua Bay
One of the other best places to visit in Hawaii with kids to go snorkeling is Kealakekua Bay – 17 miles south of Kona on the Big Island.
This bay is an underwater marine sanctuary and famous for its excellent snorkeling and kayaking.
It’s also the place where Captain Cook lost his life – being Australian, it was one of the more interesting places to visit in Hawaii.
We took a tour with Fair Wind Cruises and had a blast zipping down water slides off the side of the boat (and jumped off the top deck) into a pristine marine bay filled with colorful fish and coral.
This ticks the box of fun things to do in Hawaii with kids.
See more of our snorkeling trip on the Big Island:
Stay at Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort
If the idea of a relaxing all-inclusive Family resort vacation is more your style, then the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort on the Big Island is one of the best Hawaii family resorts.
With 62 oceanfront acres, 3 swimming pools (including a 200 feet water slide) a saltwater lagoon, dolphin encounters, a full-service spa, and world-famous golf courses – this place is huge!
Located just north of Kona Town on the Big Island of Hawaii, head here and you’ll have everything you need.
Our kids loved the pools and water slides and it was one of the most relaxing things to do in Hawaii during our Hawaii family vacation.
Don’t miss sunset drinks at the nearby Lava Lava Beach Club – get there early to grab a beach chair and enjoy the vibe and views as it’s one of the most popular things to do in Waikoloa. And you kids can play on the sand.
See our video review of Waikoloa
See Akaka Falls
The Big Island of Hawaii is about adventure, volcanic wonders, black sand beaches and wow moments.
It’s one of the best places to visit in Hawaii for waterfalls and full of awesome Hawaii activities for kids.
Akaka Falls is Hawaii Island’s most famous waterfall and one of the most popular things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii.
It plunges 442 feet into a stream-eroded gorge situated within the Akaka Falls State Park.
There’s a loop walk here you can do and see the 100-foot Kahuna Falls – but it was closed for us during our visit, I believe due to storm damage.
Don’t visit in the afternoon as the sun is in the worst position behind the falls making it difficult to see with your eyes, and terrible for taking photos – go in the early morning!
Entry to the state park costs $5 per car or $1 per pedestrian.
Snorkel at Black Rock Beach, Maui
At the northern end of Ka’anapali Beach is popular Black Rock Beach.
Black Rock is popular for two reasons; green sea turtles and cliff diving.
This was another one of the most amazing experiences we had in Hawaii with kids. Giant sea turtle after giant sea turtle gracefully swam beside us unperturbed by our presence and others around us.
And the great thing is, it’s easy access into the water direct from the beach with your kids – no boat tours needed here!
Also, every evening a cliff diver lights the torches along the cliffs and dives off in a re-enactment of a feat by Maui’s much-loved King Kahikili.
Don’t miss Maui’s spectacular sunsets. We enjoyed watching it from the Cliff Dive Bar located in the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, or from anywhere along Ka’anapali Beach.
Watch the Nakalele Blowhole, Maui
Nakalele Blowhole is one of the cool places to see in Hawaii with kids and can squirt water up to 100 feet high.
We had an impromptu science lesson here with our kids talking about how blow holes work, and then watching it in action.
The location is pretty and you can walk around the rocks, but keep a safe distance from the blowhole.
And the scenery on this short drive around the Ka’anapali coast is gorgeous, and the beaches along this part of the coast are pretty as well.
Planning a Hawaii Family Vacation
Flights to Hawaii
Airlines typically release tickets 11 months in advance so once you know you’re taking a family trip to Hawaii start searching. And continue to check at least once per week!
Bonus: Earn rewards on top of your airline miles with Orbitz Rewards.
Hotels in Hawaii
The further in advance you search for accommodation in Hawaii the more likely you are to get a deal.
When you book with Orbitz, you Earn Orbucks instantly: $1 Orbuck = $1 USD, good toward hotels!
Scroll down this page to see the top rated Hawaii hotels and top destinations in Hawaii.
Keep in mind when comparing places to stay that the dreaded resort fee is not included in advertised room rates. 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?
Rental Cars for Hawaii
When staying in Waikiki you don’t need a car, so consider renting a car only for the days you want to explore, like driving the North Shore road, or driving to Hanauma Bay.
You’ll save big dollars in overnight hotel parking expenses (on average $25 per day).
Most of Waikiki is walkable. Or you can get a cheap bus or trolley. And when jumping on all-day tours they come with hotel pickup/drop offs.
You don’t have to rent a car from the airport, as the major companies like Avis, Hertz, Thrifty, Alamo, have locations in Waikiki.
But on The Big Island and Maui we had a rental car for the duration of our stay!
Package Deals (Flight + Hotel + Car)
The best vacation deals can come when you bundle e.g. when you combine flights + hotel. Or flights + hotel + rental car, etc.
Booking a deal that includes some combination is usually cost-effective for a Hawaii vacation with kids.
If you’re not loyal to one particular airline, Orbitz can help you comparison shop!
If you have a large family, consider a vacation rental that is a suite or apartment or even a home that has at least two or three-bedrooms.
Sometimes you can rent these larger properties for half the price of getting several hotel rooms.
Plus consider the savings of not always eating out at restaurants!
Earn Travel Rewards Benefits
Orbitz rewards travelers for traveling!
Users who have an account earn Orbucks on every purchase, and 1 Orbuck = $1.
They can also earn rewards by signing up with the Orbitz Rewards Dining program (does not require the Orbitz CC), by signing up for/using the Orbitz Credit Card, and by taking advantage of rotating Special Promotions.
As an Orbitz Rewards member, travelers are also eligible for additional ‘benefits’ including complimentary hotel upgrades, reimbursement for pet fees, and TSA PreCheck Membership at no cost.
Earn Orbucks on flights, hotels & more with the Orbitz mobile App.
You can book flights to Hawaii on the new cutting-edge mobile tool for Android or iPhone users. Hotel packages, flight updates and changes can all be accessed using this tool.
I hope this post helped to inspire and inform you for planning a Hawaii family vacation? If you have any question, leave a comment down below!