How to Plan a Family Vacation in Hawaii
With its luxurious resorts and breathtaking shorelines, Hawaii has been a go-to honeymoon destination for years—but that doesn’t mean you should take it off of your family’s travel bucket list. In fact, Hawaii provides plenty of cultural, educational, and fun experiences for both parents and children. Some more advantages: you don’t need a passport to get there, the Zika virus isn't a threat, and the weather is beautiful year-round. Here’s your guide to traveling to Hawaii with kids, including a family-friendly hotel recommendation.
Pick Your Island
Located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii comprises of eight major islands. Most visitors, however, choose Oahu, Maui, Hawaii (the Big Island), or Kauai. Each one offers different activities and scenery.
Oahu: Many parts of Oahu resemble a bustling metropolis, since its home to the capital city of Honolulu, which boasts shopping, dining, and nightlife. However, you’ll also find hiking, surfing, and history on Oahu. Make sure to check out the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor and surfing at the North Shore.
Maui: With a mix of glitzy hotels and beautiful scenery, Maui has some of the world’s best beaches. Try visiting during whale-watching season (October through April) to catch a glimpse of the giant sea creatures. Other highlights include the scenic Road to Hana and the historic town of Lahaina.
The Big Island: If you’re keen on sightseeing, the Big Island might be the way to go. You'll discover everything from snow-covered volcanoes to rainforests to white-sand beaches. Although it's the largest of the Hawaiian islands, it has a population of less than 200,000 people.
Kauai: The northernmost Hawaiian island might be the most beautiful. Its stunning green landscape lent it the nickname “the Garden Isle.” Spend your time exploring Kauai's trails, waterfalls, beaches, and canyons.
Some families also choose to visit Molokai or Lanai. These islands are less frequented than the major four, which might be perfect for those seeking quiet relaxation. You’ll find accommodations on each of them.
- RELATED: The 31 Best Babymoon Destinations
Choose Your Activities
No matter your family’s travel style, Hawaii has activities for everyone. Here are the island’s best cultural, historic, thrill-seeking, relaxing, and nature-centered things to do.
Cultural: To experience Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures, take your children to a traditional Luau. These feasts are widely available on the islands. Some resorts, such as Montage Kapalua Bay, also offer classes in ukelele, hula, and lei making.
Historic: Consider taking your family to the impactful USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor (on the Big Island), where they’ll learn about World War II. They might also enjoy the Bishop Museum, which contains Hawaiian artifacts, or the Imiloa Astronomy Center.
Thrill-Seeking: Perhaps the best way to see the islands is with a helicopter tour; Hawaii has a few different options. If flying isn’t your thing, you can try zip-lining, snorkeling, paddle boarding, or surfboarding on the wavy waters.
Relaxing: As an island nation, Hawaii has plenty of gorgeous beaches. You’ll find white, black, red, and green sand on the shores! Lounge on the beach while your kids ride the waves or build sand castles. You might even glimpse sea turtles, whales (from October-April), and other ocean wildlife!
Nature-Centered: Each island has countless beautiful paths, ranging from beginner level to advanced. The effort is worth the reward on these adventurous treks, since you’ll see volcanoes, mountains, beaches, canyons, waterfalls, and plenty of greenery. Maui also offers the stunning “Road to Hana”—a day’s drive where you can see the island’s best natural sites.
Book Your Hotel
The Hawaiian islands have plenty of lodging for families, including budget-friendly bungalows, Disney properties like Aulani Resort, and luxury hotels. Families with a higher budget might consider Montage Kapalua Bay in Maui. Located on the northwest corner of the island, about 10 miles from Lahaina, Montage Kapalua Bay “celebrates the aloha spirit of Maui, the richness of Hawaiian culture, and regional art and artisanship.”
Families will stay in one-to four-bedroom accommodations—all of which have stunning ocean views. The amenities include a fully-stocked kitchen, spacious living room, private balcony, and bathroom with soaking tub and shower. Your kids will definitely want to stay full time, especially once they glimpse the resort’s multiple pools and pristine Kapalua Bay Beach. Offered ocean activities include snorkeling, exploring tide pools, paddle boarding, kayaking, and more.
Parents can spend “me-time” golfing, swimming in an adults-only pool, or getting a treatment at Spa Montage. Kids will have a blast at the resort's children’s club, Paintbox, which offers half-day and full-day segments. The thematically-planned days focus on arts and crafts, nature, games, and creativity—and Paintbox tries to incorporate education into everything it does. Your kids might explore tide pools, make friendship bracelets, examine local creatures, and more. Additionally, a fun “Montage Merits” program encourages them to earn badges by completing Hawaii-themed activities. The grand prize: a Humuhumunukunukuapua’a pin!
Families can dine at one of the resort’s delicious restaurants, including Cane & Canoe and The Hideaway. They can also sign up for cultural activities led by Montage Kapalua Bay’s Cultural Ambassador. These include lei making, ukulele lessons, hula lessons, and “Talk Story” sessions. Learn more about Montage Kapalua Bay here.