Do you want to vacation in Hawaii but don’t know where exactly to go? Are you seeking some direction and inspiration as you begin your trip planning? You’ve come to the right place.
Whether you are visiting the islands on a budget or planning a luxurious trip (see our guide on the best family resorts in Hawaii for a bucket load of inspiration), there is something for you and your family in Hawaii.
For many people, the Hawaiian Islands are a fantasy vacation location. They are a mash of scenic features and a lot of cultures.
Hawaii is a group of over 130 islands and islets that make up an archipelago. The eight largest are inhabited, while the remainder of the islands remain desolate. The best Hawaiian island for a family vacation is one with attractions and beautiful beaches.
Which Is the Best Hawaiian Island for a Family Vacation
What does your family want to do in Hawaii? This question may appear to be foolish, but don’t reject it just yet; there is a reason we are starting here.
Planning a family vacation can be challenging. Many families place restrictions on themselves, assuming that certain areas are off-bounds with children. Some places are difficult to navigate with children, but we advise investigating every island before dismissing it.
Taking your family to Hawaii is a unique experience. Making a choice is dependent on an individual. You’ll enjoy the aloha spirit, shave ice, and a luau on any island you choose (touristy but fun).
Each island has its unique appeal for families. When the time comes for you to choose which island to vacation in, consider these:
- Oahu is the ideal island for a low-cost Hawaiian vacation with family-friendly resorts.
- Maui is the finest island for a beach-loving family who enjoys ocean activities.
- The Hawaii Island is the finest island to visit if you’re interested in volcanoes.
- For nature enthusiasts, Kauai is the ideal island.
- Molokai is perfect for families that want to immerse themselves in authentic Hawaiian culture.
All of these islands are great places to visit. This comprehensive guide will teach you everything you need to know about the best Hawaiian island for a family vacation.
Hawaii Island (The Big Island)
The Hawaii Island (AKA the Big Island) is the southernmost of the five biggest Hawaiian Islands. It is, as its name says, the largest of the islands. The island is still expanding as there are volcanoes on it.
Great Places and Activities
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park– home to Kilauea Crater, a very active volcano. During the day, go through a lava tube to see ancient petroglyphs carved into the lava rock.
- Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park refers to a place where individuals who breached a kapu (law) went to avoid punishment. Various archaeological sites and a restored temple make this place stunning and rich in historical culture.
The sacred land utilized to farm and fish is the focus of Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park.
- The Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site is where the remnants of a massive temple where King Kamehameha 1 rose to power are stored.
You can follow in the footsteps of Hawaii’s great king and learn everything there is to know about the Hawaiian monarchy.
- Families who love visiting the beach will enjoy this location. There are a variety of beautiful beaches in this area. Choose from black, white , or green sand beaches and begin your adventure on the first day.
Children aged five to twelve can earn a Junior Ranger badge while learning about these intriguing locations’ history, culture, and natural history. If you are world schooling and seeking educational opportunities, this is the most fabulous Hawaiian island to visit with kids.
The most convenient areas to stay with family are Hilo, the capital, and Kona, one of the two largest cities. There are some excellent natural spots close to Hilo that you may visit while visiting there.
Additionally, Akaka Falls State Park, Rainbow Falls, Boiling Pots, and Wailuku River State Park are also worth visiting.
Given that this island is almost twice as big as all the others combined, it will have its own unique set of challenges. Your family will need to rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle to travel around various sites.
If you are on a budget and want to visit The Big Island, staying in a family-friendly Airbnb is among your best options. In every section, there are lots to select from, and the rates are affordable. The best family-friendly resorts on big island are;
- Fairmont Orchid
- Four Seasons Hualalai
- Hilton Waikoloa Village
- Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
Oahu means “the Gathering Place.”Most people associate Hawaii with Waikiki Beach, the North Shore, and Honolulu. On the island of Oahu, there are all three.
Oahu is the most inhabited of the Hawaiian Islands, although it isn’t the largest. Honolulu has the most regular direct flights from continental America, making it the most accessible island (and often, the cheapest).
With 6.1 million tourists in 2019, it is the most visited Hawaiian island.
Honolulu is congested, so everyone rubs elbows on the bus and the city walkways. Despite this, the bustling city’s museums and historical landmarks are only a short drive away from kilometers of beaches and woodland paths.
Great Places and Activities
- Honolulu: Sandy Hawaiian beaches and blue oceans surround the city. Honolulu is the state capital and the biggest city in Hawaii. It’s a dynamic tropical city with everything from historical buildings to great eating and designer shopping.
- Waikiki is the location of the majority of Oahu’s resorts. It is also a bustling tourist hotspot. The Strip is to Las Vegas what Waikiki is to Hawaii. It’s raucous, crowded, and tourist-y. Waikiki offers it all: big luxury resorts, a plethora of restaurants, shopping, and nightlife.
- The North Shore, often known as “The Seven Mile Miracle,” is famed in the world of surfing and holds some of the most spectacular surf competitions.
With its 7-mile stretch of world-class surf breakers and laid-back Hawaiian country vibes, the laid-back North Shore attracts surfers from all over the globe.
- The four lagoons on Ko Olina are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and other water sports. Many residents claim that Ko Olina has the most excellent beaches for families. It’s no surprise that Ko Olina has several world-famous coastal resorts.
- Beautiful green scenery, quiet beaches, and Kailua, Hawaii’s most famous beach town, may all be found on the Windward Coast on the island’s east side.
The gorgeous 30-mile Windward Coast, with its various beaches and bays, offers some of Hawaii’s most magnificent natural splendor.
- The diversity of things to do on Oahu is the best part of visiting with family. The Polynesian Cultural Center, numerous outstanding museums, and Pearl Harbor are many beautiful places to visit and explore.
It is the ideal island in Hawaii for families that want a combination of urban and outdoor trips, since you could stay for months without running out of things to do.
The biggest challenges of visiting Oahu are traffic and the potential that you might not feel like you are in a far-flung place in the middle of the ocean. The terrain in Oahu makes it extremely difficult to build new roads.
Fortunately, a train system is currently under construction to connect Kapolei with Ala Moana – and, depending on funding, even down to Waikiki Unfortunately, the first phase (which won’t be of great significance to tourists) won’t open until 2020, and the second phase won’t open until 2025.
Honolulu and Waikiki traffic is notorious, but it’s possible to escape it if you stay in walkable places, such as Hilton Hawaiian Village, and then arrange for van transportation with your activities.
The North Shore can also have heavy traffic from Haleiwa to Sunset Beach, but if you’re bent on seeing that section of the island, you can avoid it by staying at Turtle Bay in Kahuku.
Staying in a remote place, preferably on the north shore or windward coast, will make you feel like you are on holiday in a remote location. In Oahu, there is an attraction for everyone, notwithstanding their age.
The best family-friendly resorts on Oahu island are;
- Outrigger Waikiki
- Turtle Bay Resort
- Hilton Hawaiian village
- Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa
The West Maui Mountain Range, post-pineapple/sugar cane flat areas, and mountaintops rising to the east in the shape of a dormant shield volcano, Haleakala, have earned Maui the nickname “The Valley Isle.”
Maui holds the title for the second-largest Hawaiian island, although Maui County encompasses Moloka’i, Lana’i, and Kaho’olawe. Whether it’s your first or seventh trip to Hawaii, Maui is a fantastic choice for families. It’s a grand island to visit, especially if you like to drive.
Flights to Maui land in Kahului. In an hour, guests can be in the numerous Wailea resorts or along the seaside Honoapiilani Highway near the numerous Kaanapali resorts.
Maui is among the most fabulous islands to bring your family because it’s the perfect Hawaiian islands’ mix. It features fantastic beaches, tasty food, cultural activities, scenic views, shopping spaces, and great roads.
Great Places and Activities
- On Maui, the climb to Hana is a must-see. Wake everyone up before the sun rises so you can get a head start on the day.
It’s only a fifty-two-mile journey. However, with 620 curves and fifty-nine narrow bridges, it may take several hours to complete. You’ll see waterfalls and the picturesque town of Hana along the journey.
- Haleakala, a dormant volcano, is also worth the trip. Positioned 10,000 feet above sea level, the peak is a great site to watch the dawn or sunset.
However, the views are equally breathtaking during the day. Bring sweaters for everyone because it can become chilly at the summit.
- Two unusual farms worth visiting sit here on Haleakala’s lower slopes in Kula. You may wander through lavender fields at Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm. The lavender farm is a tranquil setting that provides tours and lavender products.
- One of the best reasons to visit Maui is to explore the ocean. The best snorkeling in Hawaii is here, making it excellent for beachgoers.
Maui is the place to go if you wish to snorkel, relax on white-sand beaches that aren’t too crowded, and view some of the best sea life, such as whales and dolphins.
- The sea life around Maui’s reefs is fantastic, and you’ll see turtles, magnificent fish, and more not far from shore.
- Maui is also known as the mother of modern surfing. There are so many opportunities for your family to try waves out. If you lack experience, you can try alternatives like kite and windsurfing.
- Visit Maui Ocean Centre with your kids if you want them to learn while having fun. It’s a place with an Open Ocean, underwater passages, a turtle lagoon, and many natural creatures to witness.
- Mermaid swimming lessons by the Hawaii Mermaid Adventures is another fun activity for kids.
Your older children can go on a controlled snorkeling tour while your younger children are charmed by these fascinating experiences. You can also enroll in a two-hour class on the ecosystem of the surrounding Ocean.
- A submarine adventure is rare, so doing it in Hawaii where aquatic life is so diverse would be amazing. Atlantis Adventures offers this experience, and this sub-aquatic tour takes place one hundred feet under the sea level and is a thrilling experience for children.
The best spot to stay in Maui depends on your family’s requirements. If you’re planning on a resort kind of experience, a resort in Ka’anapali would be ideal. However, if you plan to visit Maui every day, Ka’anapali may feel a little secluded.
If you want a bit more room and don’t want to commit to eating at pricey restaurants every day, there are lots of budget vacation rentals and family-friendly vacations on Maui. The best family-friendly resorts on Maui island are:
- Grand Wailea
- Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa
- Maui Coast Hotel.
Kauai, also known as the garden isle, is one of the most ideal Hawaiian islands to visit with children aged five and up. It’s one of the more tranquil and isolated islands.
For families seeking the lushest scenery, then Kauai is your destination. Kauai offers beauty that is unique to it.
Kauai is the oldest of all the major islands and was created about five million years ago by an active volcano.
The island has a certain allure that draws visitors from all over the world. Even if you’ve never visited the island in person, chances are you’ve seen it through the eyes of a filmmaker; the island is famous for its appeal to filmmakers.
As with all of the Hawaiian islands, the scenery of Kauai constantly changes as you travel along the island’s coastline roadways. From sugarcane fields to rainforests, gorgeous beaches to ranch areas, your surroundings are never dull.
Despite the island’s modest size compared to the mainland, the Na Pali is home to arid plateaus, tropical rain forests, verdant valleys, beautiful agriculture, and sea cliffs that will leave you speechless.
Great Places and Activities
- Kauai offers eight state parks to choose from, as well as a slew of trails that traverse the island. Roads barely cover around 10% of Kauai, and the great bulk of the island can only be seen by foot or by air.
- The island offers an incredible range of outdoor activities, from wilderness hiking through Waimea Canyon to kayaking up the Wailua River.
Kauai is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking adventure. Kauai is stunning from the ground, water, air, or, better yet, all three.
- The island’s distinctive Fern Grotto, a lava rock grotto with hanging ferns and tropical greenery near a waterfall, is worth visiting.
The cave was once solely accessible to Hawaiian nobility since it was a sacred site. Visitors can now reach the cave by taking a boat ride up the Wailua River. (There are a lot of tour groups.)
- Allerton (Lawai-kai), McBryde, and Limahuli, all on the south shore, and Allerton (Lawai-kai), both on the north shore, are home to three of the world’s National Tropical Botanical Gardens. Each garden is exceptional in its own right.
While you may imagine Hawaii as the ideal location for a swim, most of the beaches in Kauai are not swimmable. Unlike other large islands, such as Maui, Kauai’s beaches are rife with hazards such as pounding surf, currents, and rip tides.
Summer months bring calmer conditions, but don’t expect to swim at most of the beaches. Ke’e beach on the north shore and Poipu beach on the south coast are the best places to float.
Kauai is as relaxed as the other islands in Hawaii, but it appears to go out of its way to accommodate families. At the area attractions, there are several playgrounds and children’s activities.
Everyone will be enthusiastic on this vacation, from lei creation at the Kauai Cultural Center to scavenger hunts at many hotels. The best family-friendly resorts on Kauai island are:
- Grand Hyatt Kaua’i Resort and Spa
- Marriott’s Kaua’i Beach Club Resort
- Marriott’s Kaua’i Lagoons
- Koloa Landing Resort
Molokai, formed by volcanic eruptions 1.5 million years ago, is still a time capsule at the turn of the century. There are no premium resorts, no stoplights, and structures taller than a coconut tree on the island.
Molokai is the least infrastructurally advanced of the islands in Hawaii, which appeals to adventurers and peace seekers alike.
Molokai is a small green wedge in the blue Pacific, measuring only 38 miles long and 10 miles wide. Like two sides of a coin, this long, thin island has two sides. There’s a flat, parched desert; on the other, there’s a lush, green, tropical Eden.
Three volcanic eruptions created Molokai. The latest generated the island’s “thumb,” a peninsula protruding out of the north shore’s cliffs like a punctuation mark on Molokai’s geological record.
Molokai is yet to be overrun by tourism. Because natives primarily populate the island, you’ll receive an authentic Hawaiian experience with plenty of culture on “The Friendly Isle.”
Molokai has no traffic lights, simply single- and dual-lane roads, with 10 to 45 mph speed limits. Prepare to experience a slower pace of life when you arrive in Molokai! There will be animals on the road that will excite your family.
Great Places and Activities
- Helicopter tours are among the most remarkable ways to tour the island. This excursion will provide you with breathtaking sights of rock outcrops, lush valleys, rivers, and enormous coral reefs.
Throughout the tour, expect the presence of a narrator. The knowledgeable guide will tell you everything you need to know about the island’s history and natural wonders.
- Get a lesson on selecting flowers and build your lei at the Molokai plumeria. The proprietor will give you a tour that will be scholastic and fun for your family.
Have a detour at the postal service office on your way back to mail a coconut home. This modest ritual is an excellent task for your children to participate in.
- Papohaku sunsets: Papohaku Beach is a three-mile-long white sand beach facing west, so you are sure to get a great view as the sun sets. These sunsets are a must-see on every vacation to Molokai.
Watch the stars come out and engulf the sky, and it’s not uncommon to glimpse the glimmer of Honolulu’s lights in the distance, making for an awe-inspiring evening.
- Many of the beaches are deserted or nearly empty, making them ideal for snorkeling or swimming. Some are only suitable for shelling or walking.
- North Shore cliffs: The most pleasing way to observe Molokai’s vertical sea cliffs, which climb 3,800 feet above the sea, is from the deck of a boat.
Enjoy the excitement of traveling beneath the world’s tallest sea cliffs, and there’s even a chance you’ll see Humpback whales if you go in the winter.
- Enjoy scuba diving near the reef’s edge.
- Ocean kayaking: On a guided kayak, explore inside the south shore reef, where easterly trade winds blow at your back and propel you down a coast fringed with fishponds and mangroves.
- Mule rides to Kalaupapa – For over a century, this remote peninsula was a leper community, and excursions that depict life in the gloomy but beautiful location are available.
Hop on the back of a mule or hike to reach Kalaupapa for the commencement of the tour and enjoy panoramic views from the trail, which lowers 1,700 vertical feet over 26 switchbacks.
Molokai is a location where aloha is a way of life, not just a show for visitors. Whether it’s in Kaunakakai, the island’s largest town, or in the other villages around the island, you see it every day with smiling faces.
Take a moment to soak in the island’s natural sounds and atmosphere. You will be stunned by the authentic Hawaiian culture if you come to Molokai to become a part of what is here.
Molokai is not as popular with tourists as other Hawaiian islands, and you can only stay in one of five condominium buildings or the island’s only hotel. Molokai is a spectacular stretch of land with the world’s tallest cliffs and the world’s longest continuous fringing reef.
This island is ideal for families who don’t need a robust tourism infrastructure.
How to Choose the Best Hawaiian Island for Your Family
Each island offers a unique experience, so ruling one out would be an injustice.
Traveling with your family requires consideration of factors such as safety, weather, attractions, and cost. The Hawaiian state government also demands you meet specific requirements before traveling there.
Hawaii is generally safe. Burglaries occasionally occur, if you leave your room or car unlocked, especially in Oahu. Avoid displaying expensive gadgets in public; you may attract the attention of petty thieves.
There is a dedicated tourist office that will guide you if you have any questions about safety.
Safety in the islands is on the same level except for Oahu. The popularity of Waikiki is perhaps what brings about the added insecurity.
Hawaiian islands enjoy a year-round balmy tropical climate that is almost perfect.
The average high temperature in Hawaii is in the low to high 80 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 27 to 31 degrees Celsius), with a humidity level of around 64 percent.
January and February are typically the coolest months, averaging 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius).
July, August, and September are the hottest months, with temperatures averaging 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius). The temperature drops by roughly 10°F at night.
These conditions apply to all islands, but here are some tips on what to expect on each island.
- Big Island – it is generally sunny. This island has eight distinct climatic zones, ranging from humid tropical to alpine. You can see the snow and the coral reef on the same day, yet get back to the hotel before dinner.
The Kohala coast receives about ten inches of rain all year, making it the perfect place to reside on the island if you would like to avoid the rain.
- Oahu – The weather here varies a bit, but most tourist areas have incredible microclimates. The Koolau mountain range ensures that the weather in the east and west is different.
If it rains on the east coast, you can travel to the west coast and enjoy fantastic weather.
- Maui – Maui experiences the best climate among all the islands. Kapalua gets a little rain during the winter.
- Kauai – It is the wettest of all the islands. Rain mainly falls during winter in short bursts. Checking weather forecasts will be part of your schedule if you visit in the winter months.
- Molokai – the weather here is contrasting like in Oahu. The north shore is a lot wetter than the south. Most visitor accommodations are in the south.
All islands offer activities at all ends of the cost spectrum. Oahu is the most cost-effective island for visitors. Those looking for a budget trip to Hawaii will find that Oahu is just what they’ve been looking for, thanks to its low pricing and abundance of things to do.
On the other end, Maui is often regarded as the most opulent Hawaiian island due to its vast number of four- and five-star beachfront resorts that offer a more leisurely stay-at-the-resort holiday than Oahu.
The high season in Hawaii (when costs are at their most significant and resorts are frequently fully booked) lasts from mid-December to mid-March or mid-April. During the holiday season. the last two weeks of December are very crowded (and pricey) in Hawaii.
Mid-June to late August is a busy period too because kids are in their summer holidays.
Make your plans early, expect more crowds, and be prepared to pay top dollar for airfare, car rentals, and lodging if you’re planning a trip during the holidays.
Attractions are dependent on your tastes and preferences. Each island has its personality, from the magnificent volcanoes of the Big Island to the lush interior of Kauai. Go through the highlights to decide which island suits you most.
If you cannot choose, you can get the chance to visit all islands by vacationing here multiple times.
Hawaii is a fantastic vacation place all year. All Hawaiian Islands have unique charms. Maui, Oahu, The Big Island, and Kauai have the most to offer for kids. It’s difficult to tell which is the best Hawaiian island for a family vacation because each one provides a different experience.
You will never want to leave Hawaii because there’s so much to see and do. While the best sights to visit are spectacular, these islands have a plethora of hidden gems.
Make sure you’re ready to explore because Hawaii has a little of everything you’d imagine a perfect vacation would have. You can switch between islands to experience a little bit of everything.
Whatever Hawaiian island or combination of islands you choose for your family, you will be sure to engage your family in the island’s culture and spirit. And your ohana (family) will undoubtedly find Hawaii to be a unique destination.
More about our TFVG Author
A seasoned traveller, Dad, and avid sports tourist, James foundered The Family Vacation Guide to share his expert vacation experiences- especially when it comes to being a travelling family man.
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