Hawaii Family Vacation
Few destinations rival Hawai’i for sheer natural beauty, drama and scale. This is the place to take your ‘ohana (family) for unforgettable adventures memories to last a lifetime. And it’s where fun in the sun and learning go hand in hand. Surfing? The sport was born in Hawai’i. Pearl Harbor? The moving stories of those who served and sacrificed during WWII resonate here. Kīlauea? Active lava flows provide a geology lesson. You’ll experience the warm welcome and aloha spirit from locals who are eager to share their islands with you and your keiki (children). From towering emerald sea cliffs and vibrantly hued underwater reefs, to world-class museums and poignant memorials, Hawai‘i’s natural beauty, cultural wonders and historical riches await.
Cycle down a canyon, sail along remote shores, and float through breathtaking scenery.
Explore Waimea Canyon. Fourteen miles long, one mile wide, and nearly 4,000 feet deep, with crested buttes, rugged crags, and deep gorges, Waimea has been dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” The Waimea Canyon Bicycle Downhill adventure with Outfitters Kaua’i (outfitterskauai.com) is an exhilarating half-day downhill ride available morning or afternoon. You’ll start at 3,600 feet, cycle down to sea level, stopping to take in canyon and ocean vistas while the guide shares information about the culture, history, and folkore of Kaua’i. The family friendly excursion is open to youth ages 12 and up.
Sail the Nāpali Coast. Kaua’i’s remote northwest Nāpali Coast — home to verdant sea cliffs, lava tubes and cascading waterfalls — is accessible only by hiking or boat. Summer is the right time to view this enchanted shoreline from the water. Families love the Na Pali Snorkel Adventure with Captain Andy’s Sailing (napali.com). The five-hour scenic sailing cruise aboard the 55-foot custom catamaran will include vistas of this incredible coastline, glimpses of Hawaiian spinner dolphins, anchoring at a tropical reef to snorkel, and learning about the history and legends of the ancient Hawaiians who once lived within these coastal valleys.
Go mountain tubing on historic waterways. Over a century ago, Līhu’e Sugar Plantation laborers built the Hanamā’ulu ditch system: a series of canals and tunnels to irrigate the sugar cane fields. While the plantation is closed, Kaua’i Backcountry Adventures (kauaibackcountry.com) has exclusive access to this historic irrigation system, which now provides a unique mountain tubing experience. Your guide will discuss island history during the drive to the launch point deep in Kaua’i’s pristine interior. Once there, you’ll receive a tube and headlamp and launch into the gently flowing waters. As you float through open canals, tunnels, and flumes built in the 19th century, you’ll marvel at these spectacular engineering feats and Kaua’i’s incredible natural surroundings.
Ride the waves, step back in time, and explore the quiet North Shore.
Take a surf lesson at Waikīkī. What could be more quintessentially Hawaiian than surfing at Waikīkī Beach, where the gentle rolling waves provide excellent year round conditions for surfers from beginning to advanced? This idyllic shoreline, with iconic Diamond Head on the eastern end, is where Hawaiian royals reigned and rode the waves for centuries. Hans Hedemann Surf School’s (hhsurf.com) two-hour, semi-private lesson (up to three participants) is recommended for families that want a single instructor. You’ll be able to catch more waves than in a group lesson and the instructor can adjust more easily to your family’s skill levels.
Witness history at Pearl harbor. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Naval Forces attacked Pearl Harbor and catapulted the U.S. into what ultimately became World War II. The USS Arizona battleship sunk that day, becoming the final resting place for 1,177 crewmen, a loss of life representing over half the Americans killed during the worst naval attack in U.S. history. Four extraordinary monuments bring that global struggle to life at Pearl Harbor Historic Sites (pearlharborhis- toricsites.org): the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, and Pacific Aviation Museum. The Pearl Harbor Visitors Center also features fascinating exhibits about the attack on Pearl Harbor and what ensued. You may also have the opportunity to meet military veterans who survived that day and are happy to share their stories.
Head to the North Shore. O’ahu’s fabled North Shore, with its massive waves, is the winter headquarters for international championship surfing. This gorgeous coast takes on a laid back vibe when the waves calm in spring and summer. Take Pali Highway from Honolulu and stop at the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout for impressive Windward Coast panoramas. Then, continue along the Windward Coast to the North Shore, admiring the sapphire Pacific and emerald cliffs. Once on the North Shore, stop for a plate lunch at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck in Kahuku, learn how ancient Hawaiians thrived in pristine Waimea Valley, stop for photos at celebrated surfing locations Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach, and cool off with a homemade Hawaiian shave ice at Matsumoto’s in Hale’iwa.
Climb a volcano, explore a magical, winding road, and take it easy on a gorgeous beach.
See sunrise on Haleakalā. Once you experience sunrise at the summit of 10,000-foot high Haleakalā volcano, you’ll understand why it means “House of the Sun.” Set your alarm very early, dress warmly, and bring extra blankets, as the early morning summit temperatures are frigid. Sunsets and starry nights on top are also dreamy. If you prefer daylight, Hike Maui’s (hikemaui.com) Haleakalā Crater Hike is a seven hour, family-friendly adventure (minimum age: eight) offering a two-mile hike at the 10,000-foot summit where enormous cinder cones dominate the desert-like, expansive scenery, and another two-mile hike at 8,000 feet on a lava trail lined with rare native plant species.
Take the road to Hāna. Maui’s remote eastern coast is home to Hāna, a peaceful, unspoiled paradise. Reaching Hāna entails one of the world’s most enchanting and awe-inspiring drives. Leave early because the Hāna Highway—a 52-mile drive from Kahului with 620 curves, 59 bridges, and amazing vistas can take a few hours. You’ll drive through rainforests and bamboo forests, and by cascading waterfalls, deep pools, taro patches, botanical gardens, and beaches. Stop along the way to hike, get wet, snap a few pictures, or picnic. Once in Hāna, visit Hasegawa General store and Hana Ranch Store for souvenirs or sunbathe at Hāna Beach Park.
Relax on Kā’anapali Beach. Who says every moment has to be planned? You’re in Hawai’i. Just relax together with your youngsters on one of America’s most stunning stretches of sand, once a retreat for Hawaiian ali’i (royalty). The beach, fronting many major resorts and condominiums, is ideal for snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, snuba, windsurfing, para- sailing and bodyboarding. You might even opt for a daytime or sunset sail or cruise. Don’t miss the daily sunset cliff diving ceremony at Pu’u Keka’a (Black Rock), the reenactment of a feat by Maui’s revered King Kahekili who lived in the 1700s.
Experience Pele (the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes), explore underwater marvels, and discover the connections between today’s astronomers and early Polynesian voyagers.
Witness Kīlauea. The Hawaiian Islands are the result of massive volcanic activity and today’s lava flows demonstrate how powerful these forces still are. Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park (nps.gov/havo), is home to two active volcanoes, Kīlauea and Mauna Loa, and seven ecological zones. This inspiring and culturally significant place is also a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Preserve. Begin at Kīlauea Visitor Center for current information on eruption activity, roads, interpretive programs, weather, and the park orientation film. Explore the summit of Kīlauea via the Crater Rim Drive which passes through lush tropical rainforest and provides views of the currently active summit caldera as well as access to well marked scenic stops and short walks. Jaggar Museum, perched on the edge of Kīlauea Caldera, has exhibits on the geology of Hawaiian volcanoes and provides great views of Halema’uma’u Crater vent. If you prefer to have someone else do the driving, Hawai’i Forest & Trail’s (hawaii-forest. com) Kīlauea Volcano Adventure is an 11-12 hour adventure that reveals the dramatic biodiversity and enormity of Hawai’i Island.
Snorkel a historic bay. Kealakekua Bay is a Marine Life Conservation District with pristine, clear waters filled with schools of tropical fish and coral reefs. It’s also the site where Captain James Cook landed on Hawai’i Island and died just one year later. Families can experience Kealakekua Bay on Fair Wind’s (fair-wind.com) Morning Snorkel Cruise & BBQ or the Afternoon Snorkel Cruise, both aboard the Fair Wind II catama- ran. You’ll enjoy a gorgeous cruise south from Keauhou Bay along the Kona coast to Kealakekua Bay where you will snorkel, play on the catamaran’s two 15-foot water slides and dive platform, learn about the area history, and view the Captain Cook Monument.
Explore the stars and the oceans in Hilo. Don’t miss the dazzling ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai’i (imiloahawaii.org) in Hilo which is dedicated to the connections between Hawaiian culture and natural history, the early Polynesians’ navigation history and knowledge of the night skies, and the astronomical research conducted at Mauna Kea. The amazing complex features three titanium-covered cones representing the volcanoes of Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and Hualālai. The award winning landscaping includes one of the state’s largest collections of endemic, indigenous, and “canoe” plants (brought by Polynesians). ‘Imiloa exhibits, planetarium shows and native gardens will keep your family engrossed for hours.