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Everytime I see a flight sale for Hawaii, I find it hard to resist. This island was actually the first place I ever visited when my parents won a trip there when I was a baby! Now, I am going to find it even harder thanks to these top kids activities in Hawaii that Karen from Big Adventures For Little Feet recommends. Check them out below, but I warn you, you will be adding Hawaii to your bucket list!
Hawaii is the perfect place to mix relaxation and adventure, to immerse yourself in some truly spectacular scenery, mingle with intriguing animals and to indulge in the cosmopolitan vibe and incredible shopping in Waikiki.
With its blend of Polynesian culture and immense natural beauty, we had visited Hawaii prior to having a family, however returning with kids added a whole new dimension to exploring this island paradise. In all honesty, our recent trip to Oahu and Kauai, two of Hawaii’s most popular islands proved to be one of our absolute favourite trips with kids.
Importantly for families, it doesn’t matter how old your kids are there is something for every age group from the very little people up to the teenagers. There are many fun things to do in Hawaii with kids.
Below you will find my guide to what to do in Hawaii with kids, with sections focused on the top things to do in Oahu with kids and what to do in Kauai with kids.
As the gateway to the islands, Waikiki in Oahu is a great spot to recuperate from a long flight and to dip your toes into Hawaiian waters for the first time.
A vibrant city with a myriad of hotels, restaurants and shopping fringed along the edges of Waikiki Beach, it is easy for a family to fill in some long sunny days with many things to do in Oahu for kids nearby.
If you aren’t planning on venturing far on the island it is best to forget about having your own car in Waikiki. Parking is an absolute premium so is difficult to find and very costly.
A better option is public transport which is excellent in Waikiki with frequent services to anywhere you need to go and loads of taxis to get you from the airport to your hotel. For the novelty factor taking a few rides on the Waikiki Trolley is fun for the kids and is a great way to see the major sites of the city. If you are looking for a budget friendly option, the city buses can get you everywhere you need to go for less than a couple of dollars per ride.
Accommodation is expensive in Waikiki for decent quality hotels and if you are looking for a resort with a nice pool, in a good location you will find it even harder. You will also find it tricky to find a room that can accommodate four people with most sites pushing you into paying for two rooms.
I recommend checking out the private apartment rentals at www.waikikibeachrentals.com for a much better rate and the convenience and space of a fully self-catered apartment.
Our suite was located in the building directly adjacent to the Hilton Hawaiian Village and had fantastic views over the Hilton Lagoon. The added bonus of this was that you could sit on the balcony for our own view of the Hilton fireworks as well as the nightly Luau held on the neighbouring rooftop. These apartments are an easy walk to Ala Moana shopping centre, one block from a wholefoods supermarket, around the corner from lots of restaurants and five minutes to the Hilton Lagoon and Waikiki Beach.
Waikiki is a mecca for tourists with so many kids activities in Oahu depending on your budget and interests. Check out the possibilities below for more fun things to do with kids in Oahu to keep your family busy and entertained…
Diamond Head Crater, an extinct volcano, looms prominently at the end of Waikiki Beach and can be hiked from the internal crater to the summit rewarding you with impressive 360 degree views over Oahu.
We loved taking this walk with our kids and found it a good choice of the Oahu kids activities. There are a couple of sections close to the top with some steep stair climbs, but our girls aged three and five (at the time) found it to be a fun adventure and were able to complete the walk quite comfortably with a few rest breaks along the way.
The hike itself from the Monument Visitors Center is 2.6km/1.6 miles return. However, if you catch the public bus it will drop you off on the outside of the crater which will extend your hike by a couple of kilometres as you walk through a tunnel and down into the crater to the start of the official walk. If you find that the kids are too worn out once returning to the base of the climb, there are plenty of local taxis waiting to return you to town for a reasonable price.
Allow at least two hours for the climb which will give you plenty of time at the top and stops along the way for photos. Many sites will recommend taking this hike early in the morning or late in the afternoon due to the extreme heat. We did actually visit through the mid-afternoon and it was quite hot however once we reached the lookout at the top, there was a lovely cool breeze so all in all it wasn’t too bad.
If taking this hike with young kids make sure to pack plenty of sunscreen, hats, snacks and enough water to last a few hours. Bathrooms are available at the visitor center at the base of the walk but there are none along the way.
Taking this walk with a stroller? Definitely doable and we certainly passed other families with kids younger than ours puffing their way up with strollers. The steep stair sections near the summit will be tricky. However, there is an alternate path that is a little longer but circuits around the outside and with less stairs to make it easier to reach the top.
Find more information about this one of the kid friendly activities on Oahu here.
For the perfect things to do in Waikiki with kids, head to the Hilton Lagoon. The Hilton Hawaiian Village is an iconic hotel complex in Waikiki and has a man-made swimming lagoon that the kids will love to splash and swim around in.
The lagoon is tucked in close to the buildings which protects it from winds and has no waves which makes it perfect for infants and toddlers. There are also paddle boats and other water sports able to be hired from the Hilton Beach Club if you feel up to it.
Our kids loved looking for the fish in the lagoon – it was a great spot for our five year-old to teach herself how to snorkel!
The lagoon is free and accessible to the public however you need to bring your own towels. You can always set yourself up on the sand between the lagoon and the beach so you can have the best of both worlds.
If you are confident enough to tackle driving then I recommend hiring a car for the day and heading out on your own self-guided circle island tour of Oahu. Many circle island tours operate for groups, however having your own car means you can pace the day to suit your kids and you can spend as much time as desired in your favourite things to do with kids on Oahu.
There are lots of interesting places worthy of a stop as you take this leisurely drive around the island. Our first stop was Haleiwa, a cool retro village which was a great spot for some morning tea and a coffee.
Not far from Haleiwa, Laniakea Beach is famed for its resident green sea turtles but unfortunately we lucked out the morning we stopped with no turtles to be found. Note that finding this beach can be tricky with very little signage so save yourself some time by asking a local for some directions.
Other kids activities on Oahu to squeeze into your road trip itinerary would definitely include stopping for the view at Pali Lookout. The drive up through the ranges alone gives spectacular views but the Pali Lookout was really beautiful.
If you are looking for some scenic beaches, check out Kailua and any of the small beaches along the east coast as you head south back towards Waikiki. The drive down the east coast follows narrow windy roads that hug the shoreline of some spectacular beaches and are backdropped by pretty mountain ranges making the drive alone worth the effort.
I don’t often feature shopping in my travel stories however Ala Moana shopping mall in Waikiki is worth mentioning. Packed full of mega brands and stores it is a fun outing for the whole family especially when you are looking for fun things to do in Honolulu with kids on a rainy afternoon.
The kids loved their visit to the Disney store and there was plenty to keep mum and dad happy. It was great fun browsing through all the different brands and fashions and, if you are after a naughty treat, some yummy home-made cookies served to you warm out of the oven can be found in a small store in the base food court – near where the public buses drop off and collect from.
Hawaii is a mecca for those who love ticketed attractions or things to do with kids in Hawaii requiring minimal fuss or planning. The list of things to do with kids in Waikiki is endless with the Honolulu Zoo, submarine rides, the Aquarium, Dole Plantation and the Polynesian Cultural Centre just to name a few of the bigger ones.
Of all the attractions, I would recommend a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial (Pearl Harbour) if your kids are a little older and are capable of respectfully visiting the site. It’s a great history lesson which many older kids or teenagers will really enjoy.
If you don’t mind crowds, and have some time up your sleeve then Hanauma Bay is also an interesting day trip. Best visited with one of the tour operators so that your travel and tickets can be taken care of without too much effort.
You do have to sit through a ‘briefing’ on protecting the area before heading down into the Bay but it is a good spot for a family picnic and some snorkelling. It can be extremely busy though so if the idea of snorkelling next to hundreds of other people puts you off I highly recommend taking a trip to one of the neighbouring islands instead.
Kauai, known as the “Garden Isle” of Hawaii is an intensely beautiful island and the best bit is that there are SO MANY things to do with kids in Kauai. Not only that but Kauai is very safe, clean and can easily be explored with short travel distances between points.
With just the single lane Kuhio Highway skirting right the way round Kauai it is a very simple and easy place to drive, albeit on the other side of the road for Australians. A car rental is pretty much a necessity as public transport is limited and won’t allow you to see all the wonderful things to do in Hawaii for kids that you should while on your visit.
Food wise, there are plenty of cafés and restaurants to keep you happy or if you prefer to self-cater there is a huge Safeway supermarket just five minutes south of the airport in Lihue. There are also plenty of local supermarkets on the island depending on where you are staying, making top ups for fresh food easy.
If you want some more advice on what part of the island to stay please check out https://www.bigadventuresforlittlefeet.com.au/single-post/2017/01/15/Experiencing-true-aloha-on-Kauai
As for places to stay, my advice again would be to find yourself a private vacation rental. There are literally thousands to choose from depending on your budget and preferences but kauaivacationrentals.com is a good starting point as well as VRBO and other similar sites.
Just be sure you double check what currency your quote is given in as each site varies.
The private rentals are great value for money and allow you spread out and really enjoy being on holidays.
So what are the things to do in Kauai with kids to keep the family enthralled?
Hands down the best thing to do with kids on Kauai is to take them to Poipu Beach for a morning swim with the Hawaiian Monk Seals and the Green Sea Turtles. Every morning at varying times, the friendly seals and turtles beach themselves on the sandy shores to lay in the sun and pose for photographs with the travellers. Being a protected species, you need to stay far enough away from them but you are plenty close enough to get lots of squeals and oohs and aahs from the kids.
What is even more exciting is when they swim straight past you in the water. It was fascinating to be building sandcastles and splashing in the beach with the kids whilst giant turtles would casually cruise past us on their way back out to sea.
When they weren’t amazing us with close up visits, it was also fun to walk along the waters’ edge in the evenings to watch the turtles feeding off the rocks. You can spot hundreds of turtles bobbing about as the waves crash against the rocks where they feed.
As you take the turn off to Poipu make sure you point out the ‘Tree Tunnel’ that you will drive through and is very pretty.
Stunning is the only word to describe Hanalei, a picturesque bay backdropped by jaw dropping mountains that fill with waterfalls when it has rained. A great beach for kids to play with soft waves and a long sand bank, and you can stroll out onto the long jetty to catch the view back onto the mainland.
Hanalei Bay is a serene spot to watch the sunset late in the afternoon whilst the kids run and play.
A must-see which can only be viewed from the air or by boat, the NaPali coast features sheer cliffs towering above the ocean in what can only be described as majestic. It is an expensive trip to take so the kids got the chance for more beach and play time while I took one of the speed boats which meant faster travel times and the opportunity to snorkel off the boat.
If you want to take the kids you will have to opt for one of the tours on the bigger sailboats and catamarans that allow children. A word of warning that the larger boats travel much more slowly and the waves of the Na Pali coast can be quite rough so you may be up for some sea sickness which may not be so fun.
Highlights of the day include the beautiful scenery, amazing wildlife including close up sea encounters with giant turtles and spinner dolphins, and the adventure of zooming along through the waves (if you opt for the kid-free speed boat!).
Alternately if you want to take a glimpse of the NaPali coast from the luxury of a helicopter these are the views you can expect….
Located literally at the end of the road, Waimea Canyon is commonly referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. A fantastic place to do some hiking and sightseeing and you can easily fill a whole day checking out this part of Kauai for kids.
There aren’t any shops or services in the park so you will need to pack your food and drink for the day. Kids will love the many lookouts and if you manage to visit just after some rainfall there are some cool waterfalls that can be spotted plunging off the mountain tops into the canyon.
Depending on your budget and your bravery levels, Kauai has the complete list of adventure activities covered and definitely more than enough options to keep the most adrenaline pumped kids (and parents) happy. Many of these Kauai kids activities (and some just for adults) are done on private lands so you will need to book through a tour operator, with many to choose from.
You can take your pick of any of these activities and I am sure there may be a couple that I might have missed:
The last entry on my list of kid friendly things to do in Kauai is Lydgate Beach Park. It is found on the East Coast of Kauai and has a kid friendly beach and playground area which is popular for picnics. The beach is great for kids to swim as it has a man-made jetty enclosing the waters to keep the conditions safe.
The playground is a haven for young kids who will have fun climbing, balancing and playing pretend games on all the structures and tunnels.
Additionally, Lydgate Beach is found along the Kapa’a Bike path which stretches close to eight miles along the East coast. There are plenty of bike rentals along the way and it is a great place for the kids to burn off some energy.
I hope that this article has helped to inspire you to consider Hawaii for your next family holiday. For any more exciting travel ideas please visit me at www.bigadventuresforlittlefeet.com.au. You can also find me on Facebook.
Thanks for reading!
Disclaimer: Any opinions or recommendations provided in this article are personal and have not been sponsored by any commercial arrangements.