Are you planning a family trip to Hawaii? The Big Island (Hawaii Island) is a popular vacation destination for families.
With its gorgeous beaches and calm bays, the Big Island is perfect for a relaxing beachside family holiday or for an adventure driven vacation with kids.
There are plenty of things to do on the Big Island, Hawaii with kids. Water lovers can snorkel with turtles and manta rays, land lovers can take one of the many family-friendly hikes on an active volcano.
We loved our trip to the Big Island in Hawaii during Spring Break. With our 1 week itinerary, we only had time to see a selection of things to do on the Big Island so I asked some fellow family travel bloggers about their favourite things to do on the Big Island with kids. Here is what they said.
Quick tip if you are flying between islands in Hawaii book your flight with Hawaiian Airlines and sign up for their free miles program to get special offers discounts on checked bags.
The best things to do on the Big Island Hawaii with kids
Take kids hiking in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park is one of the top attractions on Hawaii’s Big Island. This US National Park is great to visit with kids.
You may have heard there was a new lava flow which dramatically changed the landscape of the park in 2018. While the layout of some parts of the park has changed the park has reopened and it is safe to visit.
Volcanoes National Park is best visited by car. Start at the visitor’s centre and pick up a junior ranger pack for the kids. Take some time to look around the visitor centre and watch the video which shows the 2018 lava flow, very dramatic viewing. From here you can plan your route.
There are a number of family-friendly hikes. Kids will love seeing the steaming volcanic vents, sulfur pits, historic lava flows, and giant craters.
Visit Kalahuipua’a Park & Fish Ponds at Mauna Lani Resort
By Nancy from Luxe Travel Family
If you are vacationing on the Big Island with kids, be sure to visit the incredible Kalahuipua’a Park & Fish Ponds at Mauna Lani Resort. Here you can wander through a lava flow, step inside a lava tube, and follow palm-lined pathways alongside the Kalahuipua’a Fish Ponds.
The ancient Kalahuipua’a Fishponds have existed for hundreds of years and were used by Hawaiians to raise fish to supplement their fishing efforts. Today, ama’ama (mullet) and awa (milkfish) are reared in the ponds. One of the best areas for viewing a variety of fish including puffer, jack, and barracuda is where the ocean water enters the ponds through fence-like structures.
The Kalahuipua’a Fishponds are accessible via a shoreline path from the hotel and condominiums located within the Mauna Lani Resort. Guests at the Fairmont Orchid can take a shuttle bus to the Mauna Lani Beach Club and walk a few steps to the Kalahuipua’a Fishponds.
If you are coming from outside of the Mauna Lani Resort, park in the free public parking lot across the road from the Mauna Lani Spa. From the parking lot, walk through the Kalahuipua’a Historic Park lava flow and past the lava tube to reach the fishponds. It is 1 km (.6 miles) from the public parking lot to the beach-side fishponds. You can order lunch and purchase take away drinks at Napua Restuarant at the Mauna Lani Beach Club. Access to the Kalahuipua’a Historic Park and Fishponds is complimentary. Arrive early to secure parking in the small lot.
Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park
By Jana from Whisky + Sunshine
Along the rugged western coastline of the Big Island of Hawaii, you’ll find Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park, part of the National Park Service and a United States National Historical Park. Located in the Kona District on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi, Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park includes the Honokōhau Settlement, a National Historic Landmarked archaeological site.
Guests can visit the park and learn about the preservation, protection, and interpretation of traditional native Hawaiian activities and culture. Walk through the park and experience the four different ahupua’a (traditional sea to mountain land divisions) and their accompanying resources, including fishponds, kahua (house site platforms), ki’i pohaku (petroglyphs), holua (stone slide), and heiau (religious site). You may even see wetlands restoration in progress during your visit.
Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park is the perfect half-day activity for your family with kids, allowing you to see lava fields and a variety of natural sea life and other animals. We suggest a morning visit to avoid the heat, but pack a water bottle for your walk. Bring lunch and have a picnic in the parking lot area.
Take the kids snorkeling at Spencer Beach Park or Kahalu’u Beach Park on the Big Island
By Julie from Road Trips for Families
An easy and relatively affordable activity for tourists of all ages, the Big Island is a perfect place to get your “feet wet” learning to snorkel.
In search of the humu humu nuku nuku apua’a, one of two species names for the native reef or lagoon triggerfish, we snagged no-frills masks and snorkels from the CVS in Kona and headed up to Spencer Beach Park just south of Kawaihae.
A county park open from 6am to 11pm, enjoy a beautiful white sand beach with a shallow and warm swimming area.
To my daughter’s delight, several sea turtles lumbered within feet of our group.
You’ll also find picnic areas, showers, fire pits, and lifeguards at this location. Admission is free.
Alternately, the protected waters of Kahalu’u Beach Park south of Kona feature a rockier reef swimming area. The beach is a bit smaller here and there are fewer amenities, but we found a wider variety of marine life in this location. You may want to wear protective water shoes at this location and keep a closer eye on your kids as there aren’t lifeguards here.
Take kids to watch the sunset on snow-capped Mauna Kea
By Bret Love & Mary Gabbett of Green Global Travel
Known in Hawaiian mythology as the sacred home of the goddess Poli’ahu, Mauna Kea (white mountain) is a dormant volcano and the only place on Hawaii’s Big Island that is commonly covered in snow. Local tour operator Mauna Kea Summit Adventures offers an awesome 8-hour excursion to the summit, timing it perfectly so that you can watch the incredible sunset from high above the clouds.
The small bus tour slowly makes its way up the mountain that is arguably the world’s tallest: Mauna Kea rises 33,476 feet from its base in the darkest depths of the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, our guides related fascinating stories of Poli’ahu and her jealous younger sister, Pelé (the famed goddess of fire and volcanoes).
At around 9,200 feet of elevation, we stopped at the Mauna Kea Visitor Center, spending about 30 minutes there to eat dinner and get acclimated to the altitude. It is not recommended for kids ages 12 and under to continue on to the summit due to the dangers of altitude sickness, but older teens should be fine. The gravel on Saddle Road makes for a bumpy rise to the snow-crested summit at 13,796 feet, but the extraordinary sunset makes it well worth the trip.
The summit is home to 13 scientific observatories, but the best naked-eye stargazing is back down at the Visitor Center. All Mauna Kea sunset tours include impeccable views of one of the world’s clearest night skies, complete with stories of ancient Polynesia and fascinating astronomical information. For our money, it’s the best thing to do on the Big Island.
Sunset Dinner Cruise – Big Island of Hawaii
By Diana Rowe of Traveling in Heels
We recently spent spring break with the multigenerational family (including two teen grandkids) near the lively center of Kailua-Kona, the west coast of The Big Island of Hawaii. This historic seaside town offers many things to do with kids, including a sunset cruise. We chose Body Glove and its Captain Cook Dinner Cruise to Kealakekua Bay, a marine sanctuary. We liked the convenient departure from the Kailua-Kona pier.
The 12-mile cruise down Kona Coast included an onboard historian who narrated points of interest along the shoreline. When we arrived in Kealakekua Bay, we enjoyed live music and an Hawaiian-style buffet (which was actually better than the expensive luau we booked two days earlier. While in the bay, we spotted the Captain Cook Monument and the historian shared the history of Captain James Cook, a British explorer and navigator, the first European to discover the Hawaiian Islands back in 1778.
The marine life sightings are what made the grandkids day. Dolphins frolicked beside the boat, and we even lucked out and spotted several kohola, or humpback whales, on the horizon.
We booked our cruise online at Hawaii Discounts saving about $10 per adult ticket and $5 for kids
Night Snorkel with Manta Rays
By Amber Hill of Hill Tribe Travels
Wow, is the best way to describe this incredible activity we undertook on The Big Island with our kids.
A night snorkel with the Manta Rays was high on my list of things to do on The Big Island with our kids. I know this is not normally an activity that many would undertake with a 6 and 3 year old! But I was determined that we would give this a go, together as a family.
I reached out to a few different operators but most did have minimum ages. Once I touched base with Jack’s Diving Locker they were most accommodating and were very excited to have the kids on board.
I was surprisingly relaxed for this activity but I think it hit the kids during the boat trip out to the site. There was some pretty nervous looks about what we were about to do! Get into the water, at night time with huge Manta Rays underneath us!!!
This is a huge achievement for anybody, let alone kids. I am so proud of the kids for giving this activity a go. Once we arrived and were all kitted up, over the end of the boat we went – into the water! There were a few people on our trip and it was recommended that we have our own board and guide so we could take our time.
The boards have handles around the edge so you can hold onto them and float on your tummy with your legs up so you don’t kick or scare the Manta Rays. Fitness is not required as your guide will be pulling the board along. Each board has strong lights underneath. The lights attract the plankton, which then attracts the Manta Rays.
I think the kids only put their faces in a couple of times but they both said they saw the Manta Rays. They then sat on top of the board and the lights were strong enough that they actually had a really great view from up there without even needing to be in the water.
I am so proud of the kids. This was a highlight for our family, definitely not a traditional activity for kids, but we loved it.
Have you visited the Big Island? What was your favorite activity? Let me know in the comments.