Travel planner for family holidays on The Big Island in Hawaii for kids. The Big Island with kids is a good mixture of outdoorsy activities as well as huge family oriented beach resorts. This is a good middle ground if you’d like to see some magnificent natural scenery but still get a large resort experience. Here the adventure stuff is easily accessible for little ones – you can drive straight up to a live volcano and see volcanic rock from right outside the airport. But all the amenities and luxuries of resort life are still available to entertain and keep you relaxed too.
Activities on The Big Island For Kids
The Volcano on The Big Island For Kids
One of the highlights of a visit to The Big Island with kids is not visiting the beaches or lying by the pool (although of course you can do both of those and very nicely). What makes The Big Island stand out as a family holiday destination is visiting the live volcano and checking out the brilliant surrounding landscape. The best way to do this is to hire a car and self drive around the island.
Unlike some of the other Hawaiian islands which require trekking or climbing to get to the good natural scenery, The Big Island makes it ridiculously easy to take your kids right up to an active volcano. You simply drive there.
The brilliant outlook from the Jaggar Museum over Kilauea Calderahas is accessed via paved roads and a car park so there is minimal walking involved. Just check out the museum, shoot your happy snaps and take in the sights.
It is worthwhile setting aside a whole day at least to do this as you will want to stop and take pictures along the way – the volcanic landscape all over The Big Island is truly spectacular.
You will get to fly above the top of the volcano and chase lava rivers. These helicopter tours are a fun and unique way to see the island’s surrounds – even waiting to board at Hilo Airport and watching all the big birds flying in and out will thrill the kids.
It is essential to prebook your helicopter tours of Hawaii as they are popular and book out well ahead of time. Do note that there is usually no discount for kids either, so this can become an expensive exercise for a large family.
Depending on where you are coming from, you might drive past Maunakea which is a dormant volcano that is said to be the highest point in the Hawaiian islands and is often highly recommended by tourism operators. Whilst it sounds tempting to drive the two hours up to the 14,000 foot summit, you actually cannot do this with kids under 16 due to the high risk of altitude sickness. You can make it to the Visitor Information Station where they also offer free star gazing in the evenings but the rangers will prevent you from traveling any further if there are children in the car.
Beaches on The Big Island For Kids
Hapuna Beach is probably The Big Island’s most famous beach and it is an ideal beach for families.
It’s short stroll downhill from the car park to the sand, it’s patrolled by lifeguards and there is enough surf for bigger kids to body board but yet still be safe for tiny tots. There are restrooms and showers on site too so you can really make a day of it.
Food on The Big Island For Kids
For an unforgettable experience, have dinner with the manta rays at Rays on the Bay;in the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa. Set on the lava cliffs, this is a perfect spot to watch the Keauhou manta rays swimming in their home. The menu and atmosphere are casual and relaxed but ray spottings are much more common after 8pm so this is likely to be a late night out for the little ones.
If you’re after an old school American diner, Hawaiian Style Café is a fun and affordable place to visit. This no frills set up serves local comfort food such as Loco Moco (hamburger patties served with eggs, onions and gravy on rice) and fluffy pancakes bigger than the size of your head. While there is nothing that makes it particularly family friendly, the kids will enjoy a visit here just to see the sheer size of the portions. They have two locations – one in Hilo and one closer to Kona in Waimea.
For somewhere reliable but with a fantastic position right on the
crashing ocean, head to Bubba Gump in Kona. Here
they offer a kids’ menu, colouring in and plenty of movie paraphernalia on the
walls to entertain the children. For parents, the best bit is the location –
opt for an outdoor table on the deck where you can see the waves breaking all
Family Friendly Accommodation on The Big Island For Kids
The best place to stay if you are looking for a family beach holiday in Hawaii on The Big Island is on the Kona side. Because of the large mountains, the weather on this side of the island tends to be more consistently sunny.
The Hilton hotel group has set up a huge complex in Waikoloa that offers multiple options for family friendly accommodation on The Big Island.
The resort proper is called the Hilton Waikoloa Village and is a huge property. Here they have built their own sheltered beach cove, there are multiple swimming pools, a huge waterslide, restaurants and activities a plenty. You can swim with dolphins, paddleboat or experience their live stage show.
The resort is so large there is a tram and a canal boat system (which the kids will love) to get you from one side of the property to the other. Make sure you book in for a pizza one meal at Dona & Toni’s Pizza which has gorgeous views overlooking the resort and some of the best pizza you’ll have anywhere in Hawaii.
If you prefer a larger apartment-style arrangement, Kohala Suites by Hilton Grand Vacations is a short drive up the road from the larger resort. Here you can rent large serviced apartments with full kitchen facilities that are just a bit more private than being right inside the resort. This property has its own swimming pool (with small waterslide) and amenities but (for a fee) you will still be able to access all the facilities of Waikoala Village and then head home to your quieter digs when you’ve had enough.
For something a bit unique consider a night at the Volcano House. This hotel is situated right on the rim of Kilauea Caldera which means you can get views of the live volcanic activity from many parts of the hotel proper.
Because it is right inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, this really is a stay for those who are willing to forego the beach and other much closer tourist attractions of the Kona side of the island just to immerse yourself in a volcano experience.
The Practicalities of The Big Island With Kids
When visiting Hawaii with kids, it makes sense to base yourself on the Kona side of the island as this is where the bulk of the beaches and large tourist activities (that are not volcano related) are. That way you have easy access to multiple restaurants, activities and beaches.
Another reason to stay closer to Kona is that travellers do report that sometimes the haze (also known as “vog”) from the active Hawaii Volcanoes National Park can make the air difficult to breathe. It is impossible to predict when this is likely to occur so, to be on the safe side, booking your accommodation closer to Kona means you can choose when to enter Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (or not) based on the volcanic activity when you are actually on the Big Island.
You can easily and comfortably visit the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park provided you have a car. Car hire companies will want to upgrade you to a large 4x4 all terrain vehicle – remember that if you are traveling with small kids you cannot drive up to the top of Maunakea so if this is the sole reason you are hiring a 4WD, it is unlikely you will need to pay for the upgrade.
When going across towards the Hilo side of the island to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park bring jumpers and/or a light rain coats with you. The weather over this side is variable and completely different from Kona. Even when it is sunny and warm in Kona, it can be raining, windy and surprisingly cool over the other side of the island.
Images: suitcases&strollers, Kirk Lee Aeder, Big Island Visitors Bureau (BIVB), Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), Tor Johnson, Hilton Waikoloa Village, Kohala Suites by Hilton Grand Vacations, Mahesh Thapa, Volcano House, Paul Zizka