You’ve dreamed of visiting Hawaii with your family for a long time, and now you can finally begin to plan the ultimate vacation. But before you can book flights, hotels, and activities, there’s one big task: deciding which Hawaiian island to visit.
With so many awesome options, it can be hard to choose the best Hawaiian island for kids and families — but that’s where we come in. If you’re deciding which Hawaiian island is best for families…we’ve got you covered.
Ready to explore Hawaii? Here’s everything you need to know to choose the best Hawaiian island for families with kids.
WHICH ISLAND IS BEST FOR YOUR FAMILY?
We’ve put together a handy guide based on what your family might look for in a Hawaiian vacation. Whether you want a classic Honolulu adventure or a serene Hilo escape, there’s a special place here for you when you’re visiting Hawaii.
Ready to decide which island you’ll visit? Ahead we’ll outline each of the main Hawaiian Islands, highlight some of their great features, and share the best things to do while you’re there. Before you know it, you’ll be planning the perfect Hawaiian family vacation!
MAUI – THE BEST ISLAND FOR FIRST TIME VISITORS
While Oahu offers the classic Waikiki sunsets and postcard-worthy scenery, it’s Maui that tops the list for first-time visitors. There’s a little bit of everything on the Valley Isle: a volcano that reaches above the clouds, stretches of beautiful beaches, lots of ono food to try, and a range of hotel options.
The draw is in that balance. There’s plenty to do, but it still feels somewhat rural. The roads are busy but easier to drive than Oahu’s. You can stay in a comfortable, dedicated resort area and then venture off for scenic adventures.
And it’s kid-friendly on Maui. Resorts have water slides and kids’ clubs, and it has the best beaches – shallow water for babies and boogie-boarding for the older ones. There’s a good reason why Maui is such a popular place to visit.
Read on to learn more about Maui, and why it’s the nicest island for first-time Hawaii travelers.
Read More: 32 BEST THINGS TO DO IN MAUI: FROM THE MOUNTAINS TO THE SEA
WHERE FAMILIES SHOULD STAY ON MAUI
Wailea is probably the best place to stay in Maui, especially if you’re traveling with kids. The hotels’ grounds are spacious and have multiple pools, and the beaches have calm waters and soft sand. Plus, it’s close enough to activities that restless kids don’t have to stay in the car all day.
The Grand Wailea is the top name for family vacations in Wailea, though the Wailea Beach Resort and the Fairmont Kea Lani are also great for kids.
Wailea is a pricier area to stay in, but it could be worth it for the experience you’ll have as a family. If you’re looking for lower-cost options, look at family-friendly resorts near Kaanapali Beach, where kids will enjoy access to Black Rock and many hotel amenities.
Read More: WONDERING WHERE TO STAY IN MAUI? 25 GREAT SPOTS YOU’LL LOVE
Stay Here: Wailea Beach Resort
MUST VISIT MAUI ATTRACTIONS FOR FAMILIES
What do you actually do once you’re on Maui? It definitely depends on the ages and interests of your family. Luckily there is something for everyone on the beautiful island. Check out some of our favorite places for families to explore on Maui!
- Haleakala National Park: It will take a couple of hours of driving to reach the summit of Haleakala, but kids will love the chance to walk above the clouds. The scenery feels like you’re on another planet, no matter what time of day you visit.
- The Road to Hana: If your kids get restless on road trips, you don’t have to go all the way to Hana. Instead, choose the short drive option and go only to Twin Falls to swim under the waterfalls. Stop in Paia to grab food and at Hookipa Beach to view the sea turtles.
- Maui Ocean Center: You’ve probably been to more impressive aquariums, but there’s something special about the Maui Ocean Center. Its oceanside setting is relaxed and scenic. Plus, you can learn more about the fish and marine life you’ll see out in the wild during your vacation.
- Molokini Crater: Each morning, teems of catamarans and boats set sail toward Molokini Crater, one of Hawaii’s best snorkeling spots. If your family loves snorkeling and exploring, booking a trip out to the crater will be an unforgettable experience.
- Zipline: Maui has many ziplining options. Younger kids might like the small course at the Maui Tropical Plantation. Thrillseekers can head to Kapalua Zipline, where there are scenic duel ziplines plus a suspension bridge.
- Whale Watch: If you’re lucky enough to visit Maui between December and March, you’ll be able to see humpback whales breaching not far from shore. You can see lots of whales from land, but booking a whale-watching boat tour will help you get the best views of these massive mammals.
- Attend a Luau: Most first-time visitors want to attend a luau while in Hawaii. Maui has excellent options, from the classic Old Lahaina Luau to the glitzy sunset celebration at the Grand Wailea. Read More: 8 BEST LUAUS IN MAUI FOR EVERY TYPE OF TRAVELER
Looking for more fun in Maui? Try some of these great activities!
- Road to Hana Adventure with Breakfast & Lunch: Explore The Road to Hana and visit charming villages, scenic swimming locations, and stunning coastal viewpoints on a guided day trip.
- Molokini Crater Snorkeling Trip (2 hours): Explore the world beneath the waves at one of the best snorkel spots on Maui on a trip from Kihei. Swim with an array of tropical fish in the partially submerged volcanic crater of Molokini.
- Sunrise & Breakfast Tour to Haleakala National Park: Enjoy a scenic, early morning drive that winds through Kula District en route to the breathtaking sunrise atop Haleakala.
WHAT YOU’LL LOVE ABOUT MAUI
Maui has direct flights from many west coast cities, its roads are easy to navigate, and there are many activities. You can choose an upscale resort or opt for a lower-cost condo, depending on your budget and style.
WHAT TO KEEP IN MIND
Maui has some of the priciest hotels in Hawaii and can feel pretty commercialized. Many boutique hotels on the island don’t allow children, so be sure to check policies before reserving your stay.
Maui Is Also Great For: Honeymooners, families with teens, family reunions, and weddings.
OAHU: THE BEST ISLAND FOR KIDS OF ALL AGES
Many people will say that Oahu is the best Hawaiian island for kids and families…and for good reason. If you want your kids to simply be kids on vacation, then Oahu is likely the island for you. Sure, the other islands offer lots of activities and beaches, but Oahu will help you hit every note for your family: engaging education, outrageously fun beaches, and memorable sights.
If your kids are old enough to understand the significance of a Hawaii vacation, they’ll be able to look forward to seeing some of its iconic places, like Diamond Head and Pearl Harbor.
Toddlers and small children will appreciate the sandy beaches, hotel pools, and kid-friendly restaurants.
Ready to learn more about what makes Oahu the best Hawaiian island for kids? Ahead we’ll highlight how to have a fantastic vacation on this popular island.
Fun Fact: The Island of Oahu is so welcoming and fun that it’s called “The Gathering Place.”
Read More: 25 ABSOLUTE BEST THINGS TO DO IN OAHU YOU’LL LOVE
WHERE FAMILIES SHOULD STAY ON OAHU
Waikiki is where you’ll find a number of low-cost hotels. These are great places if you spend more time out and about and don’t need a resort experience. You can be within walking distance of Waikiki Beach and endless food options.
If you want the most magical vacation possible, then head out to the resort area of Ko Olina, where you’ll find Disney’s Aulani Resort. There are multiple pools and waterslides, a calm beach, character meet-and-greets, and a kids club. You’ll be in a sprawling resort bubble at the Disney resort, and you should definitely venture around the island to give your kids a full Hawaii experience.
THE BEST OAHU ATTRACTIONS FOR FAMILIES
So what should families do while on Oahu? The great thing about this island is that there are so many things to discover: breathtaking scenery, engaging cultural education, and classic touristy attractions. Ahead we’ll highlight some of the best things to do if you’re traveling to Oahu with kids.
- Pearl Harbor: Many people travel to Hawaii just to see Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. Kids who have studied World War II at school will gain incredible insight into the attack. There are also hands-on attractions near the memorial, like the Aviation Museum and the USS Bowfin submarine.
- Oahu Luaus: Whether you go to the enriching luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center, or a beachside party at Paradise Cove, your kids will love the endless food and entertainment at this classic Hawaii activity. Read More: 12 ABSOLUTE BEST LUAU IN OAHU YOU’VE GOT TO SEE
- Kualoa Ranch: If you have adventurous kids in your family, Kualoa Ranch is the perfect place to go. They offer UTV rides, e-bike tours, horseback riding, catamaran trips, and ziplining. Or you can go at a slower pace and enjoy a Movie Sites tour through the “Hawaii Backlot,” where over 300 movies and TV shows were filmed.
- Iolani Palace and Bishop Museum: These two Honolulu museums have their roots in Hawaii’s monarchy and allow kids to better appreciate Hawaiian culture and history. Plus, Iolani Palace is the only official royal residence in the US, so visiting the site is a rare opportunity for enlightened kids.
- Sea Life Park Hawaii: This theme park features interactions with marine life, like dolphins, sea lions, and reef fish. It’s fun to spend a sunny day learning about the many animals that call Hawaii’s waters home.
- Explore Waikiki: Teens will love shopping in this seaside neighborhood. Sunbathe on the soft sand or hop in and play in the water. There’s something for everyone in this bustling area. Read More: 24 BEST THINGS TO DO IN WAIKIKI YOU’RE GONNA LOVE
- Watch Big Wave Surfers: You’ll love exploring the North Shore, where big wave surfers are a sight to behold in the winter months. Kids of all ages will love watching these adventurous souls take on 30+ foot waves at or near Sunset Beach. Read More: 17 BEST BEACHES IN OAHU YOU DEFINITELY CAN’T MISS
- Hanauma Bay: This nature preserve and snorkel area is a must-do activity for anyone who loves being in the clear blue water. Explore the unique coral reefs and the many creatures that live there.
Try one of these great activities in Oahu!
- Ka Moana Luau Dinner & Show at Aloha Tower: Experience Oahu’s award-winning entertainment and a one-of-a-kind Luau and show that starts and finishes with fire. Enjoy learning about Polynesian culture and feasting on an island-inspired buffet.
- Pearl Harbor, USS Arizona, and City Tour: Visit Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona Memorial, and other noteworthy historical sites on this tour of Honolulu.
- Afternoon Glass Bottom Boat Tour in Waikiki: oin the Haleiwa Queen cruise from Oahu, enjoy the clear view of the Pacific Ocean floor as you cruise over live tropical reefs and one of Hawaii’s shipwrecks on a glass-bottom boat.
WHAT YOU’LL LOVE ABOUT OAHU
Oahu presents the classic Hawaii vacation you’ve seen on TV and in movies. It also offers lower hotel rates along with lots of direct flights from the mainland United States and international cities. There are endless activities for young and old alike to enjoy.
This is the best option for a lot of fun-loving families.
WHAT TO KEEP IN MIND
Oahu is a very populated island and feels very commercialized in most places, thanks to its many shopping centers and hotels. The big city can be hard to navigate, especially with many confusing roads and traffic lights.
Oahu Is Also Great For: Adventurous families, foodies, budget-minded groups, and first-time visitors.
Pro Tip: When traveling to Oahu with kids, it’s tempting to pack your vacation full of experiences and activities. Don’t forget to set aside lots of time to enjoy the beach, your hotel pool, or even rest times in your room. This will help you recharge for activities and make memories without the hustle and bustle of a perfectly-timed itinerary.
KAUAI: BEST ISLAND FOR FAMILIES WHO WANT AN ESCAPE
Do you spend most of your time at home rushing from one activity to the next? Does your dream vacation involve simple beach days with no pressure and no itineraries? If so, then Kauai could be the best island for you to visit with your family.
Don’t worry, there’s still lots to do in Kauai, from country road trips to epic adventures. But Kauai also invites you to slow down and appreciate the small moments. There’s no pressure to see and do everything, so you can focus on your family and the memories you’ll create as you’re free from distractions.
The Garden Isle is also a great place to plan a family reunion. Book adjacent rooms in a condo or rent a larger house to share. Spend your days spread out on a sunny beach, then spend the evening dining under Kauai’s beautiful starlight.
Do you want your next family vacation to actually feel like a vacation? If so, Kauai will be just the place to unwind with your nearest and dearest.
Read More: 22 BREATHTAKING THINGS TO DO IN KAUAI YOU’LL LOVE
WHERE TO STAY ON KAUAI WITH FAMILIES
Most families who visit Kauai stay in Poipu, a resort area with great weather and calm beaches. Here you’ll find the Grand Hyatt Resort, a pricey hotel with great amenities.
If you’re drawn to the super scenic North Shore, then staying in Hanalei could be a good choice for you. After all, you’re traveling to Kauai to enjoy family time – it’s ok if rain pushes you inside, where you can play board games, practice the ukulele, or dine on your favorite Hawaii takeout.
Read More: WHERE TO STAY IN KAUAI: 19 AWE-INSPIRING SPOTS
Stay Here: Grand Hyatt Resort
OUR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES ON KAUAI FOR FAMILIES
Just because Kauai offers a laid-back vacation doesn’t mean you’ll be bored. In fact, even active families can stay busy on the Garden Island. Want to see the best of Hawaii’s natural beauty? Read on to discover some of our favorite family activities on Kauai!
- See The Na Pali Coast: The best way to see this lush, wild stretch of land is from the sea. Boat tours will take your family around the Kauai coast so you can snorkel, see marine life, and explore tropical sea caves.
- Mountain Tubing: Kauai Backcountry Mountain Tubing Adventures will take you and your ohana through the tranquil and unique sugarcane fields. It’s adventurous enough to keep restless kids engaged, but also slow-paced for anyone seeking to unwind during the getaway.
- Mahaulepu Coastal Trail: Take a scenic hike along an untouched stretch of coastline near Poipu. You’ll go through wetlands, sugarcane fields, and the remains of a sacred Hawaiian Heiau.
- Waimea Canyon State Park: If your family doesn’t mind a car ride, you can head out to the country and visit Waimea Canyon. This scenic gorge is a sight to behold – so vast that it’s been nicknamed “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”
- Wailua River: Kauai is home to Hawaii’s only navigable rivers, and the longest is the Wailua River. The best ways to explore this east coast waterway are by kayak, SUP, or boat. You may just discover waterfalls, quiet shorelines, and some of the lush greenery that makes Kauai so special.
- Limahuli Garden and Preserve: Explore the tranquil, verdant land of Kauai at Limahuli Garden and Preserve. Here you’ll find a peaceful stream, taro patches, native plantlife, and archeological remains.
Looking for more in Kauai? Try one of these awesome adventures!
- Sightseeing Flight over Napali Coast & Waimea Canyon: Sail high above the Garden Island of Kauai in this breathtaking hour-long scenic flight. Fly over crystal clear blue waters, soaring red cliffs, majestic green valleys, and cascading waterfalls.
- Full-Day Tour with Fern Grotto River Cruise: Experience an incredible single-day tour of Kauai’s north and east shores. Learn about the island from an expert as you take a river boat cruise to Fern Grotto and visit the Lighthouse.
- Island Highlights Helicopter Tour: Discover the unmatched beauty of Kauai from above on a helicopter tour. See the impressive Jurassic Falls, the expansive Waimea Canyon, the dramatic cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, and more.
WHAT YOU’LL LOVE ABOUT KAUAI
Kauai has a relaxed vibe, so you can maximize quality time as a family without stressing over traffic and packed itineraries. If you’re drawn to lush, green scenery, there is lots of that on Kauai that you’ll be able to explore up close.
Read More: 16 AWESOME KAUAI BEACHES YOU’LL ABSOLUTELY LOVE
WHAT TO NOTE
Busy bodies may look for more restaurants, activities, and shopping than you’ll find on Kauai.
Kauai Is Also Great For: Family reunions, young children, adventurous families, and honeymooners.
THE BIG ISLAND OF HAWAII: BEST ISLAND FOR FAMILIES WHO LOVE LEARNING
Any Hawaiian island offers the chance to discover a new culture, landscape, and environment. But if your family longs to learn, the Big Island of Hawaii will give you the experience you dream of.
Does your family love National Parks and Farm Tours? Are you taking off from school and need to make sure your trip is educational?
From natural wonders at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to the cultural enrichment awaiting in Hilo, the entire island will inspire awe in kids of all ages. Discover black sand beaches, sacred cultural and historic sites, and breathtaking scenery.
Your kids won’t feel like they’re in a classroom, and there will be lots of time to relax and play. But nothing is more rewarding than watching your kids discover the power and beauty of the world around them.
Read More: 16 SPECTACULAR THINGS TO DO IN HILO, HAWAII
WHERE FAMILIES SHOULD STAY WHILE VISITING THE BIG ISLAND
The Big Island is Hawaii’s largest island, and there are two best areas where families typically stay: Kona and Hilo.
Kona has clearer skies, sprawling hotels, and white-sand beaches. There’s a super glam Four Seasons and an approachable Outrigger Hotel with a Manta Ray viewing area. Kids might have the most fun at the beaches and pools on this side of the island, but it will put you farther away from the National Park.
Hilo’s hotels are a bit more quaint and quiet, and they come at a lower cost than Kona’s resorts. You’ll be near Volcanoes National Park and some incredible waterfalls, but the chances of rain are greater here.
Read More: 16 THINGS TO DO IN KONA HAWAII (AND THE KOHALA COAST)
Stay Here: Outrigger Kona Resort
FUN THINGS TO DO ON THE BIG ISLAND FOR FAMILIES
You’ll likely drive a good bit during your Big Island vacation. After all, each corner of the expansive island has something to see and do. They’re scenic drives, though – full of memories and photo ops. Check out some of Hawaii Island’s top outdoor activities below and see if this could be the type of vacation your family will treasure.
- Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park: This probably tops your Big Island Vacation List, and deservedly so. This natural wonder is home to Kilauea Volcano, unique landscapes, and abundant wildlife.
- Mauna Kea: The Big Island’s Second Volcano Peak is a stargazer’s paradise. Keep the kids up late for this unbelievable experience atop snow-capped mountains. Book a tour to get you a ride to the summit.
- Rainbow Falls: This Hilo waterfall is easy to access and is most beautiful early in the morning, when sunlight often creates a rainbow effect by the water. Read More: 11+ BEST HILO WATERFALLS YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS
- Hamakua Coast Scenic Drive: Spend a day exploring the coast of the Big Island from the comfort of your rental car. It’s a scenic 45-mile adventure from Hilo to the Waipio Valley Lookout.
- Snorkel Kealakekua Bay: This Kona snorkeling spot is also a nature preserve and historic sight. You can access part of it by driving, or a boat ride can take you to the farther end.
- Swim with Manta Rays: Kona is one of the best places to swim with Manta Rays. View them from the Outrigger Resort & Spa, or book a night tour to get up close with the incredible creatures.
- Tour a Coffee Farm: Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation offers daily tours of its coffee farm, production system, and nature grounds. Some tours are free, but even the fee-based ones are affordable for families.
- Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park: This oceanside park features a scenic trail, historical sites, and lots of wildlife. Cultural practitioners are often present to educate and enrich visitors of all ages.
There’s plenty of fun to be had on the Big Island! Here are some great activities!
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Waterfalls Flight: Soar over Volcano National Park on this helicopter tour from Hilo. Marvel at views of the Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanos.
- Sea Turtle Lagoon and Black Sand Beach Snorkel: Join a fully guided and narrated beach snorkel tour along our pristine Hilo coastline. In this pristine setting, you will be surrounded by Hawaiian sea creatures with the opportunity to encounter turtles and dolphins.
- Volcanoes, Waterfalls, & Coffee Farm Day-Trip: Discover Hawaii’s diverse landscapes and 8 climate zones as you explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Kona Coffee Farm, Waipio Valley Lookout, Akaka and Rainbow Waterfalls, and Punalu’u Black Sand Beach.
WHY YOUR FAMILY WILL LOVE ABOUT THE BIG ISLAND
Explore mystical waterfalls, active volcanoes, colorful marine life, and clear starlit skies. There is so much sightseeing and adventure awaiting families on the Big Island, and many hotels at various price points.
WHAT TO NOTE
As its name suggests, the Big Island of Hawaii is a big place, so your adventures will involve a lot of driving. If you prefer to stay in a resort bubble, other major islands may offer the type of place you’ll be able to enjoy.
The Big Island Is Also Great For: Families with grandparents, adventurous families, and first-time visitors.
FAQS ABOUT TRAVELING TO HAWAII FOR FAMILIES
Families large and small can have a great time in Hawaii. But for most, it’s a rare vacation that requires an investment and lots of planning.
The good news is that it’s hard to go wrong with your Hawaii family trip. However, proper planning and good advice will help you have the best time possible.
Should I rent a car while I’m in Hawaii with kids?
Some hotels charge a steep parking fee, and rental cars are expensive. Still, most families think it’s worth it to rent a car, especially on the biggest Hawaiian islands. This way, you can head out on adventures without figuring out taxi or Uber rides.
How many activities should I plan while in Hawaii?
While some sightseeing can be combined with other activities, it’s best to plan no more than one adventure per day. Then keep every third day free without any specific plans. This will give you the flexibility to relax or find unexpected activities.
Kids will probably have a better time if they’re given time to unwind.
Should I splurge on a pricey hotel while in Hawaii?
If you enjoy top-level service and plan to spend lots of time at your hotel, it could be worth the additional cost for one with lots of amenities, pools, and great beach access.
If you will be out and about a lot and just need a place to rest between adventures, then a lower-cost hotel could do just the trick.
Can I visit multiple islands during my vacation?
If you can’t decide which island to visit, you should consider island hopping during your vacation. For example, you can take a long day trip to the Big Island to see Volcanoes National Park. Or, you can spend half of your vacation in bustling Oahu and half in quiet Kauai.
You’ll need to fly between the main islands, and some flights can be expensive. However, it could be worth visiting multiple places during your big trip to Hawaii.
Many people will also visit a small island like Molokai or Lanai during their family vacation.
Which Hawaiian Island is best for families?
Any Hawaii island offers an excellent time for families! Most families feel drawn to Oahu or Maui, especially if it’s their first visit to the island. However, if you enjoy a slower-paced getaway and don’t need the most modern resorts, the Kauai or the Big Island could be great options.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO HAWAII
- YOUR HAWAII VACATION
- HONOLULU: 22 Absolutely Amazing Things To Do In Honolulu
- HAWAII BEACHES: 14 Best Beaches In Hawaii For Fun In The Sun
- OAHU HIKES: 13 Spectacular Waterfall Hikes Oahu Has To Offer
- HONOLULU BEACHES: 17 Absolute Best Beaches In Honolulu (And Beyond)
WHERE TO STAY IN HAWAII
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