Family Fun: Your Guide to Vacationing in Hawaii with Kids

Family Fun: Your Guide to Vacationing in Hawaii with Kids

Traveling with KidsHawaii

Family Guide to The Hawaiian Islands

Many visitors want to mix a luxury stay in Hawaii with all the creature comforts adults crave, while also planning a vacation experience that kids will enjoy.  Selecting the island(s) for your vacation is key, as they have unique attributes and personalities.   

Here is a basic profile of the Hawaiian Islands, which will help you pick the right island for your vacation. 

The Hawaiian Islands

There are eight main islands in Hawaii: 

  • Hawaii - "The Big Island" - home to incredible coastal resort communities and Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.
  • Kauai - the "Garden Isle" - home to beautiful resort areas and the most dramatic coastline on earth - the Na Pali Coast.
  • Maui - the "Valley Isle" - home to famous high-end resort areas like Wailea, Ka'anapali, and Kapalua.
  • Oahu - the "Gathering Place" - home to bustling Honolulu, Waikiki and the famed North Shore.
  • Molokai - the "Friendly Isle" - famous for its tall sea cliffs and being one of the less-developed islands. 
  • Lanai - the "Pineapple Isle" - located just off West Maui and home to a Four Seasons Resort and the Lanai Cat Sanctuary. 
  • Niihau - the "Forbidden Isle" - so-called as the Robinson family privately owns it, and access is restricted. 
  • Kahoolawe - an uninhabited reserve off South Maui that is only accessible via volunteer activities held a few times per year.

Oahu, Maui, The Big Island, and Kauai are the most visited islands. They each have incredible resort areas with a variety of lodging available, including luxury vacation rentals.

The Big Island

The Big Island deserves its name- it's the largest island in the United States and the largest island in the Hawaii chain. 

It's also the most dynamic of the eight islands, housing 12 of the world's 14 climate zones. Within a short drive, you could go from a balmy rainforest dripping with orchids to dry pastureland to the snow-capped 13,803 ft. peak of Mauna Kea. 

Big Island of Hawaii - John Di Rienzo

Home to Hawai'i Volanoes National Park, the Big Island is a chance for the family to safely experience the a natural wonder. While everyone will learn about the geology of the area, Kilauea Volcano is believed by native Hawaiians to be the home of Madame Pele, the creator. Children will love to hear and read the lore and see her fiery depictions. If you're lucky, there may even be a flow, and you will be able to watch new land being created when the hot lava meets the Pacific Ocean. 

Kilauea Big Island of Hawaii

Botanical Gardens

An easy place to gain an appreciation for Hawaii's incredible flora is by visiting botanical gardens on the island. Besides being beautiful places, you won't have to worry about kids managing hiking paths. 

There's Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, which displays more than 2,000 rare and exotic plants including orchids, heliconias, bromeliads and more. It's based in a 40-acre valley that acts as a natural greenhouse, between the climate and the rich volcanic soil. 

There's also the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, which supports Hawaiian cultural traditions of cultivation and land use. It's a rich display, with over 200 species of plants on display. 

Akaka Falls

If you want to take the kids on a bit of a hike with a beautiful view, take them to Akaka Falls. 

The hike is just under half a mile, filled with orchids and draping ferns. You'll see the 100-foot Kahuna Falls first. If that seems huge, wait until you round the bend. Akaka Falls is 442-feet of water pouring into a gorge. 

Akaka Falls Big Island of Hawaii

The Island of Maui

When you book a villa on Maui, you're signing up for a vacation in one of the most popular islands in the chain. It's home to well-planned resort areas like Ka'anapali, Wailea, and Kapalua, each with exceptional luxury vacation rental options, and gorgeous beaches (more than any other island!). 

Also a note about Maui. The town of Lahaina suffered a devastating wildfire in August 2023, displacing hundreds of families. Progress is being made on the rebuilding and some restaurants have even re-opened, as a welcome sign of rebirth. Your visit is most welcome, as it will help support their recovery. However please be mindful and respectful of locals who have all been impacted in sone way. 

Haleakala Maui Exotic EstatesMaui has a natural wonder in towering Haleakala National Park. A dormant crater that can fit Manhattan within its walls, watching sunrises and sunsets has become so popular on its 10,023 peak, that you must reserve your Haleakala visit well ahead of your planned visit. A little planning is worth it. 

Maui Snorkeling Tours

There are plenty of places to snorkel on Maui right off the beach, making it easy activity for the entire family.

Kaanaplai Beach View

A popular spot is at the end of Ka'anapali Beach, in front of the Sheraton, around a point called Black Rock. You'll see lots of fish and maybe even some Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles. 

Black Rock Kaanapali Beach

If you have older children who are comfortable in more open water, you can arrange a snorkel trip to Molokini Crater, a volcanic atoll just off the coast of South Maui. It offers visibility up to 150 feet and is home to hundreds of species of marine life.

Molokini Crater Exotic Estates Maui

The Road to Hana

If your family enjoys long, lazy drives, consider taking the Road to Hana, the ultimate "stop the car!" experience. 

How long it takes depends on how often you stop. You'll want to stop to check out waterfalls, including the famed Seven Sacred Pools, or Pools of ʻOheʻo, enjoy ocean views, and breathe in the heady forest air.

The best way to do this is to rent a car, research the stops beforehand, pack a picnic lunch, and take your time through the scenic route. 

Note that the road can be very narrow, so make sure you are comfortable with tight corners and passing! Also visiting the Seven Sacred Pools requires paying for passes. Read all about it and plan your visit here.

Lanai Cat Sanctuary

Daily ferry crossings to Lanai are operated out Maalaea, which is between Wailea and Kaanapali. There is a beach that is accessible on Lanai, however, if you have kids who love cats, we highly recommend a visit to the Lanai Cat Sanctuary. 

The Lanai Cat Sanctuary is home to more than 600 cute kitties. The staff let you wander through their domain and interact with them. They come in all colors and sizes and are very friendly, as they're used to visitors. The staff may even let you shake the treat can and have them all come running!

Lanai Cat Sanctuary - John Di Rienzo

Island of Oahu

Oahu is often the first port of call for Hawaii visitors, with a surprisingly urban appearance at first look. But once you venture out of Waikiki Beach, you'll discover beautiful mountain ranges and dreamy beaches.  

Waikiki Beach Oahu Exotic Estates

Take the time to explore Oahu, as many sites of interest are easily accessible. Here are some family-friendly ideas below.

Hanauma Bay State Park

I Hanauma Bay State Park is a pristine marine habitat that allows you to view fascinating and colorful marine life up close.

You should make a reservation as Hanauma Bay is a popular spot. The state has created a Hanauma Bay reservation system, and a visit includes an introduction to the Bay, its wildlife, and how to snorkel respectfully without damaging the delicate reefs.

Hanauma Bay Oahu - Exotic Estates

Bishop Museum

The Bishop Museum is a must-see for your budding history buff. 

It was established to showcase the heirlooms of the royal Kamehameha family and includes a collection of over a million Hawaiian objects, photographs, and documents. 

Today, the museum is the premier cultural history institution in the Pacific, documenting a range of Pacific cultures while still preserving and promoting the interests of native Hawaiians. 

Check the schedule for free hula performances, planetarium shows, and other family-friendly events. 

Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace is the only royal palace in the United States. Located in downtown Honolulu, the palace was the last home of the Hawaiian monarchy.

A visit to the palace is a great way for adults and children alike to learn about Hawaii's more recent history, how it came to be a US territory and, ultimately, the 50th state. The palace docents do a wonderful job bringing the story of the monarchy and its overthrow to life with compelling stories told in the spaces where the events occurred. You can reserve a guided tour on their website.  

Note that Iolani Palace might not be a good fit for very young children, as it involves a walking tour and climbing stairs; there are also strict rules about touching items. 


Kauai is the furthest north and is called the Garden Isle because of its incredibly lush and spectacular landscapes.

Mount Waialeale, in the center of the island, is one of the wettest spots on earth. The relentless flow of water has allowed erosion to carve stunning ridges in the mountain ranges, making them look dramatic and exotic. It also created Waimea Canyon State Park, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. There are viewing spots that are easily accessible by car.

Kauai has several family-friendly beaches, including Poipu in the south of the island and Hanalei in the north. These beaches are great for swimming and boogie boarding. Exotic Estates has Kauai vacation rentals in both areas. 

Also, a boat trip to the Na Pali Coast is a must. It's the best way for the entire family to see the dramatic coastline that has starred in many films. There are several outfits that run day trips and our Concierge can assist with planning. 

Note that the boast trips to the Na Pali Coast can be very rocky, so if anyone is prone to seasickness, it's best to stay ashore!

Hawaii Delivers Vacations with Education. 

Hawaii is such a great destination because it combines relaxing and playing in gorgeous tropical settings with opportunities for the entire family to learn about the Islands' fascinating history, culture, and ecosystems.

To make your visit even more memorable, consider renting a luxury vacation rental with Exotic Estates. Our local team members know the Islands and the rental inventory well. Aloha starts with Exotic Estates!

Hawaii Family Vacation - Exotic Estates

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