20 Fun Things to Do in Hawaii with Kids in 2024

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View of the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu from Diamond Head
View of the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu from Diamond Head. Photo credit: Mimi Slawoff

With so many fun things to do in Hawaii with kids, the Aloha State is one of the best destinations for a family-friendly vacation. Each of the Hawaiian islands is unique and offers an abundance of kid-friendly activities and accommodations for the best family vacation. Not sure which Hawaiian island to visit? Check out our list of things to do in Hawaii on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Hawaii Island (Big Island).

Oahu

Oahu is typically the easiest Hawaiian island to reach and the most affordable for family travel. It also has some of Hawaii’s best beaches for families. Rent a car to drive around the island and experience the many fun things to see and do on Oahu.

Group of kids having a hula lesson on Waikiki beach - one of many things to do in Hawaii with kids
Hula lesson in Waikiki. Photo credit: Mimi Slawoff

1. Visit Honolulu’s Many Kid-Friendly Attractions

Honolulu is a bustling city with many family-friendly oceanfront resorts and attractions like the Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki Aquarium, Bishop Museum and Pearl Harbor. Plus, famous Waikiki Beach is one of the best places to learn to surf and paddle board.

2. Learn About Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor is the site of WWII’s 1941 bombing attack and home to the USS Arizona Memorial. Tickets for the 75-minute USS Arizona Memorial program are free. However, there’s a limited number available each day.

The program includes a short video (with actual attack footage) and a round-trip boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial, located above the remains of the sunken ship. The ship is the final resting place for more than 1,000 men.

Since Pearl Harbor is one of Oahu’s top attractions, it’s strongly recommended that visitors make advanced reservations online at www.recreation.gov.

3. Hike on Diamond Head

There aren’t many places in the world where you can walk along a trail to the edge of a 300,000-year-old crater, but Diamond Head is one of them. A hiking trail leads to the summit for panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu.

SheBuysTravel Tip: To beat the heat and crowds, you should get an early start for this popular hike.

4. Snorkel at Hanauma Bay National Preserve

Located on the side of Koko Head, Hanauma Bay is about a 30-minute drive from Honolulu. With beautiful blue waters, Hanauma Bay is a great place to snorkel and see its 400 species of tropical fish and abundance of green sea turtles.

5. Polynesian Cultural Center

The Polynesian Cultural Center features six island villages representing Hawai‘i, Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga, Fiji and Aotearoa (New Zealand). At this Polynesian-themed park and living museum, you can learn about various traditions through interactive and hands-on activities. For example, learn to throw a wooden spear, paddle a canoe and cook like a Polynesian.

The center also has family-friendly luaus with a variety of traditional food like lomilomi salmon, chicken long rice and kalua pork. Note that no alcohol is served at this luau.

6. Book Exciting Adventures at Kualoa Ranch

The family-owned Kualoa Ranch offers many different types of tours sure to thrill adults and kids of all ages. Adventures include horseback riding, jungle expeditions, beach outings and visits to Hawaiian fish ponds.

7. Watch Surfers on the North Shore

The North Shore is the rustic and laid-back side of the island with legendary surf beaches and food trucks serving fresh fish tacos, shrimp and more. Take a surf lesson at Hans Hedemann Surf School or just watch the pros. Laniakea Beach is one of the best spots to see sea turtles sunbathing.

8. Eat Shave Ice in Haleiwa

This little surf town is home to boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. It’s also where you’ll find Matsumoto Shave Ice – one of the best places to enjoy the snow cone-style treat.

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Hawaii father and son surf together
Father and son surfing together along the Kaanapali beaches in Maui. Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen

Maui

Maui is a popular island for many reasons. It’s a developed island with stunning natural attractions. Kaanapali Beach is a resort area on the western shore of Maui and is home to a variety of beachfront hotels, great family-friendly restaurants, lots of free things to do with kids and beautiful sunsets.

9. Take a snorkel cruise to Molokini Crater

Enjoy a catamaran cruise to one of the best snorkel and scuba spots in Hawaii – Molokini Crater. The crescent-shaped crater is home to thousands of tropical fish, Hawaiian green sea turtles and other marine life. You can also take a whale watching boat tour to the area.

10. Visit the Maui Ocean Center

Kids of all ages will be impressed with the Maui Ocean Center’s many exhibits. It features a 750,000-gallon Open Ocean exhibit with a 240-degree view acrylic tunnel, outdoor tide pools, turtle lagoon, living reef and daily presentations.

11. Spend a day on Haleakala

A dormant volcano, Haleakala sits at 10,023 feet above sea level. Catch a sunrise or sunset from the summit. Daytime views are also stunning. Note that it can be chilly at the top, so bring sweaters for everyone.

Don’t rush off the mountain without visiting two unique farms. At the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm, you can walk through lavender fields. Nearby, the Surfing Goat Dairy Farm produces award-winning cheeses. On the kid-friendly tours, you’ll feed goats and sample cheese.

12. Drive on the Road to Hana

Pack the car with snacks and drinks for an incredible road trip. Get an early start to beat the crowds on this popular drive. The drive is just 52 miles long. But with 620 curves and 59 narrow bridges, it can take a few hours. Along the way, you’ll see waterfalls, black sand beaches and the charming town of Hana.

packing list for hawaii
Pack essentials for land and ocean activities when visiting Hawaii. Photo credit: Mimi Slawoff

Kauai

Kauai’s mountains and valleys are lush and green, flowing with waterfalls and rivers that are ideal for paddle boarding and kayaking. Other places to visit include Waimea Canyon, Poipu Beach and Hanalei Bay.

13. Horseback Riding at Princeville Ranch

Located on Kauai’s North Shore, Princeville Ranch is one of Hawaii’s oldest cattle ranches. Horseback riding lessons are available for ages 4 and older.

14. Book Ziplining and Mountain Tubing Tours

Kauai Backcountry Adventures offers the best family activities for an adrenaline rush. On the mountain tubing tours you’ll float down an old sugar plantation irrigation system, through open canals and through several tunnels hand-dug circa 1870.

In addition, the company offers a seven-line Zipline course through a lush forest.

15. Sail Along Napali Coast

The Napali coast spans 17 miles along Kauai’s North Shore. Guided snorkel cruises are an excellent way to see the stunning Napali Coast’s cliffs, sea caves and waterfalls.

Snorkeling is a fun way to explore Hawaii, along with Big Island helicopter tours.
My son practiced his snorkel skills in the pool prior to our snorkel adventure on the Big Island. Photo credit: Keri Baugh

Hawaii Island (Big Island)

Hawaii Island, also called the Big Island of Hawaii, has an array of diverse outdoor adventures suitable for the whole family. In fact, because the island has 10 of the world’s 14 climate zones, you’ll also experience a variety of terrain and weather. Explore beaches, waterfalls, cultural sites and coffee farms on the Big Island, which is home to two active volcanoes – Kīlauea and Mauna Loa.

Many of the large Hawaii Island resorts, such as the Fairmont Orchid on the Kohala Coast, offer hula lessons, canoeing and other Hawaiian cultural experiences for their guests.

16. Explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hilo

Stop by the visitor center for park news and activities before exploring this unique park that has hiking trails, steam vents, lava tubes and a rainforest. Older kids will especially enjoy trekking through the rainforest to the crater floor pocked with steam vents.

Akaka falls on the Big Island is one of many things to do in hawaii with kids
Akaka Falls, Big Island. Photo credit: Mimi Slawoff

17. Visit Akaka Falls State Park

Located along the northeastern Hilo Coast, Akaka Falls State Park is the site of two waterfalls on one short hike. Follow a footpath through a rainforest to see the 100-foot Kahuna Falls and the towering Akaka Falls. This is a lovely outing for kids of all ages.

SheBuysTravel Tip: There are a few picnic tables by the parking lot.

Dragon fruit at the Hilo farmers market - one of many things to do in hawaii with kids.
Hilo Farmers Market. Photo credit: Mimi Slawoff

18. Shop at the Hilo Farmers Market

The Hilo Farmers Market features over 200 vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, Big Island food products, tropical flowers and handmade craft items. It’s a great place to shop for picnic items to bring to the beach or back to your hotel.

19. Snorkel in Sunny Kona

The sunny Kona district is great for beach activities like snorkeling, paddle boarding and spotting dolphins and honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles). One of Kona’s most unique adventures is the nighttime manta ray boat tour. It’s a magical experience to float on top of the water in a calm bay, with bright lights attracting the rays who swirl inches below.

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Native Angeleno and seasoned travel journalist Mimi Slawoff writes for numerous print and digital publications. She is also the author of Oldest Los Angeles (Reedy Press, 2022). A lifelong world traveler, Mimi is an award-winning journalist who writes about outdoor adventures, cruises, Europe and cultural activities. Mimi has three grown kids and lives with her husband and their dog, Maya, in Los Angeles.
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