Family Fun in Hawaii

Over many years of taking vacations in Hawaii we have tried all types 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 things to do that he found interesting and were fun for us as well. Here is a list of some of the fun activities we have done in Hawaii with our son.

Making Sand castles : Making sand castles was an favorite activity when our son was a toddler. As he got older, the castles became more ornate, involved, and took hours to create. We collected pails, shovels and right-sized cups for castle walls, spires and gates. We brought our castle making "tools" on our vacations to Hawaii. We have many happy memories of the fun we had making sand castles together on our vacations to Hawaii.

Beach for mkaing sand castles

Snorkeling: When our son was in his tweens he loved snorkeling and delighted in seeing the colorful fish and swimming turtles. We picked very protected areas. Waves can be too much for kids to negotiate on top of having to deal with fins, mask and snorkel. We rented a mask and fins for him since we never had the right size for him from one visit to next. 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 in Kona at Kahalu'u Bay Beach Park and at the pier in front of the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel. We brought a plastic identification card of the fish to see how many we could identify. Many snorkel tours are very kid-friendly and supply equipment and food.

Snorkleing with Kids

Hotel Pools and Beaches: Playing at the beach and 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. The Waikoloa Hilton has fantastic swimming pools and a huge protected lagoon. The resorts on Kohala Beach have areas of protected beach, hot tubs, and pools.

Hilton Hawaii

Waterfalls: Hiking through a tropical forest or garden to a waterfall is really fun. The waterfalls in Hilo and along the Hamakua coast are some of the most beautiful in the world.

Hawaii Waterfall

Hiking in Volcanoes National Park: We spent many family vacations hiking trails in Volcanoes National Park. We love the cooler air at the higher altitude of Volcanoes National Park. Now grown, our son has never tired of hiking through Lava tubes and on the high altitude trails in the park.

Hiking in Volcano


Hilton Waikoloa Activities: The Hilton hotel in Waikoloa is like a mini amusement park. We love to take families there for a day or half day to ride the train, ride the hotel boat, watch the dolphins, look at their display of birds and animals, and stroll through the grounds of the resort. The hotel has an indoor art walk, stores,restaurants, ocean views, gardens, and sculpted water falls.

Hilton in Hawaii

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 higher 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.

GameStop in Hawaii

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.

Jet ski in Hawaii

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, Kona airport, and Waikoloa.

Hilo helicopter tour


The Big Island's roads are mostly two lanes, often under construction, and have slow delivery trucks that are difficult to pass. What looks like a short distance on a map can take hours to drive. Night driving is a challenge because street lights are rare and those that do exist are designed to keep the sky dark for the telescopes. The drive from Hilo to the Kona airport turnoff via the Hamakua Coast and Waimea is only 88 miles, but our best time was over 2 hours with no stops or traffic slowdowns.

Plan activities so that your vacation time is not spent sitting in the car driving to activities. The drive from Waikoloa to Kona for dinner can take 45 minutes or more each way. On our vacations we often spent 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 age appropriate for your children. For example, night swimming with the manta rays is a thrill for teenagers but younger kids were terrified. We have met families that underestimated the physical condition they needed to be in to hike miles in the 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 be safe from the dangerous and 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 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 very burned after long periods of snorkeling. The vog and clouds can conceal the power of the sun.

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