From volcanoes to beaches to water sports, the Big Island of Hawaii is full of sites to see and leisure experiences to enjoy as a family. A vacation to the Big Island with kids of all ages is sure to be a crowd pleaser and has been a proven winning destination among family travelers for decades. Be sure to include some time here when visiting Hawaii.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Photo Credit Macario
5 Family-Friendly Activities on Hawaii with Kids:
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park
Where else can you take a kid to see a real, erupting volcano? It’s safe – Kilauea Volcano is sometimes referred to as the “drive-in volcano” – and it’s interesting. Enter the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, located near Volcano Village, and take the 11-mile Crater Rim Drive, which circles Kilauea’s summit caldera and craters. You can see the eruption at Halema‘uma‘u Crater, learn about lava at the Jaggar Museum, peer into steam vents, smell sulphur banks, walk through Thurston Lava Tube, and hike Devastation Trail (about 1 mile). If the lava is flowing into the ocean (24-hour lava hotline: 808 985-6000), plan an excursion to view it in the dark.
Imiloa Astronomy Center. Photo Credit Macario
‘Imiloa Astronomy Center
Hilo’s ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center is a science and Hawaiian cultural center with hands-on exhibits for children. My daughter likes this place so much we bought a family membership, and we go a lot. The Origins exploration center has exhibits about the birth of the cosmos and the beginning of life on Earth, and Explorations exhibits are about Hawaiian voyaging canoes and human exploration. The admission fee includes a Planetarium show; there’s always a special, children’s Planetarium program on Saturdays at 10 a.m. Sky Garden is a good Chinese/American food restaurant on the premises, and is popular with local residents even when ‘Imiloa is closed.
At the beach on the Big Island
Onekahakaha Beach Park
Onekahakaha Beach Park, in the Keaukaha area of Hilo, is the “baby beach” where locals take their young kids. The sheltered, sand-bottomed swimming area has calm, shallow water perfect for little ones, and tide pools for exploring. Parents will enjoy this spot, too – there are gorgeous views of Hilo Bay, and during the winter months you might see whales. We sometimes stop at Keaukaha Market (on the right as you drive down Kalaniana‘ole Avenue toward Onekahakaha) and take sandwiches. The beach park has benches and restrooms.
Coastline near The Fairmont Orchid
Not far from Onekahakaha Beach Park is the Seaside Restaurant and Aqua Farm, a casual restaurant (dinner only; closed Mondays) in a converted house, which is known for its family-friendly atmosphere, fresh seafood and the fish ponds where they raise much of their own fish. Sit by a window at dusk and you’ll see the dramatic site of hundreds of white birds landing in the trees that stand in the middle of the fish ponds, completely surrounded by water; occasionally they swoop down for a fish. Try the steamed mullet cooked Chinese style; they also have a children’s menu.
Kahalu‘u Beach Park
Kahalu‘u Beach Park, “the snorkel beach,” is located about 5 miles south of Kailua-Kona next to the Outrigger Keauhou Beach Hotel. It’s a popular snorkeling beach where the number of brightly colored tropical fish just below the surface is mind-boggling, and you can swim with sea turtles year-round. Trucks rent snorkel equipment and shave ice, and the park offers restrooms and showers. It is adjacent to the tiny St. Peter’s Church and an ancient surf heiau (temple).
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This is a guest post from Leslie Lang, a Big Island resident, mom to a 5-year-old, and co-owner of Big Island On The Cheap and Honolulu On The Cheap where they post about free, cheap and discounted events and activities with a whole category dedicated to child-oriented stuff. She and her daughter like to explore, so they know where it’s happening on the Big Island.