Over many years of taking vacations in
Hawaii we have tried all kinds of activities with our son. The most fun times were when we all enjoyed the activity and it became a family memory. As our son got older, we had to come up with new activities that he found interesting and were fun for us too. Here is a list of some of the fun things we have done in Hawaii with our son.
Making Sand castles : One of our favorite activities with our son when he was a toddler was making sand castles. As he got older, the castles became more ornate, involved, and took hours to create. The sand castles required we collect appropriate pails, shovels and right-sized cups for castle walls, spires and gates. We brought our castle making "tools" on all our trips to Hawaii. Now he won't even sit on the sand, but we have many happy memories of the fun we had making sand castles together on our vacations to Hawaii.
Snorkeling: When our son was in his tweens he loved snorkeling and delighted in seeing the colorful fish and swimming turtles. We always selected very protected places with minimal waves. Waves can be too much for kids to negotiate on top of having to deal with fins, mask and snorkel. We always rented a mask and fins for him since we never had the right size from one visit to next visit since he was always growing. We put the mask and fins on him in shallow water and stayed close by until he felt comfortable. Our favorite places to snorkel are on the Big Island at Kahalu'u Bay Beach Park, the Kona pier near the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel, and Kealakekua Bay where Captain Cook's monument is located. We would take a plastic identification card of the fish to see how many we could identify.
Hotel Pool Slides: Taking turns down a great pool slide has given us many hours of fun at hotels in Hawaii. On the Big Island, the Sheraton Keauhou has the best pool slide.
Hiking to Waterfalls: Hiking through a tropical forest with the finale being a waterfall is really fun. The waterfalls in Hilo and along the Hamakua coast are some of the most beautiful in the world.
Hiking in Volcano: My son and I have hiked all over Volcanoes National park over the past six years. We love the cooler air and higher altitude. Before 2007 we were able to walk into areas that are now too dangerous due to the increase in the volcanic gases. But lava tubes and high altitude tropical paths in the park are still very fun hikes and it is one activity my son has never grown tired of.
4 Wheeling to Remote Beaches: The Big Island has lots of off the
beaten track dirt roads to beaches that are fun to investigate and we love the adventure. We found several very remote beaches in the Ka'u and Southpoint area of the Big Island and have driven and hiked to many of them.
Hilton Waikoloa Activities: The Hilton hotel in Waikoloa is considered the Disneyland of the Big Island. We love to go there for a day or half day to ride the train, ride the hotel boat, watch the dolphins, look at their display of fish, birds and animals, and stroll through the huge grounds. The hotel has a carpeted art walk, shopping, places to eat, a huge pool, incredible ocean views, gardens, sculpted water falls, and lots of fun.
Shopping for Video Games is a big favorite of our son. We found popular games in Hawaii that were completely sold out on the mainland. We brought his used video games to Hawaii to trade-in because the value was often better than the trade-in value on the mainland. Shopping can be a good way to get out of the sun during the hottest part of the day or just to have a change of pace during the vacation.
Riding a Jet Ski : We really enjoyed renting a jet ski for a couple of hours. Kona has rentals available in Kailua Bay. Kids must be 15 or older to drive, but younger kids can ride on the back as passengers.
Helicopter rides are a real treat for kids. They are pricey, but we had fun on our rides and still have great memories of our flight around the island. Some helicopters have on-board video cameras so you can buy a tape of your tour to take home and watch again. On the Big Island you can take helicopter tours of the island, waterfalls and volcano from Hilo airport and from Waikoloa.
The Big Island's roads are mostly two lanes, constantly under construction, and crowded with slow trucks traversing the island. What looks like a short distance on a map can take hours to drive. Night driving is a challenge because street lights are scare and those that do exist are designed to keep the sky dark for the telescopes. The drive from Hilo's singing bridge to the Kona airport turnoff via the Hamakua Coast and Waimea is only 88 miles, but our best time ever was over 2 hours with no stops or traffic problems.
Plan activities so that your precious vacation time is not spent sitting in the car going from one place to another. The drive from a Waikoloa hotel to Kona for dinner can take 45 minutes or more each way. On our vacations we often spend a few days in 3 or more hotels to be near the activities we wanted to enjoy and minimize the time in a car.
Pick activities that are not too scary or exerting for family members. Night swimming with the manta rays, for example, the teenagers loved but the younger kids were inconsolably terrified. We have met many families that underestimated the physical condition needed to hike miles in a hot humid climate and had a miserable time getting back to their car. Ocean activities are best enjoyed within a protected bay or on a tour to maximize safety from the dangerous and fast changing Pacific Ocean.
Remote places on the island are really remote with no stores, gas stations or cell service. Car rental companies often limit where their rental cars can be driven because of this concern. If you want to be adventurous and rent a 4 wheel drive vehicle to go up to the summit of Mauna Kea or down to a remote beach, prepare well with water, food, first aid kit and let someone know where you are going and when you should be back to check in.
Don't forget the sun screen. The back of the legs and back can get incredibly sun burned after long periods of snorkeling and the vog and clouds can conceal the power of the sun.
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