Whether your family prefers to spend their holiday lazing on a sun-kissed beach, zip-lining through a tropical forest, looking for the best waves to surf, or shopping up a storm, Hawaii has something to offer for everyone who visits the Aloha State. As the gateway to the Hawaiian Islands and home to its capital city, Honolulu, Oahu is the most visited of the four islands, but each of the other three main islands (Maui, Kauai and Hawaii – also known as the Big Island) has its own highlights to tempt visitors a little further afield. Here’s a selection of our favourite family activities on all four islands.
Oahu’s North Shore is famous for the massive swells that roll in during the Hawaiian winter months of November to April, but on the south side in Honolulu, the waves are usually less than a foot high, making them ideal for beginners. You don’t have to walk far on Waikiki Beach to find someone offering surfing lessons, and you might be surprised at how quickly you and the kids pick up this most Hawaiian of sports.
Sea Life Park Hawaii is located just a half hour’s drive from downtown Waikiki, and it’s home to dolphins, sea lions, sharks, penguins, rays and turtles, as well as many other species of marine life. It’s possible to interact with many of the animals, but if you prefer a little more spontaneity, be sure to try a little snorkelling at picturesque Hanauma Bay on your way back to Honolulu. You may find yourself sharing its stunning, horseshoe-shaped stretch of white sand with a lot of other visitors but be aware that it closes every Tuesday to give its fishy residents a break from the tourists.
The bombing of Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 was one of the most significant events of World War II, and a visit to this site is widely considered a must. There’s a selection of tour options available to ensure that your time here is tailored to the interests and the stamina of the entire group, with a visit to the Arizona Memorial and the Missouri Battleship the most popular highlights. For those who are interested in the Polynesian history of the Hawaiian Islands, the Polynesian Cultural Center is a living museum and theme park that covers 42 acres and showcases the art, culture and heritage of the Hawaiian people.
Hawaii, the Big Island, is one of the few places in the world where you can safely get close to a live lava flow. A visit to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a chance for kids to learn about volcanoes, become a Junior Ranger for a day, walk through an ancient lava tube or at night, see the glow of hot lava from Mt Kilauea’s lava lake. If they’re looking for a bit more of a thrill, the Big Island also offers zip-lining, ATV tours and horse-riding.
The most ancient of Hawaii’s main islands, Kauai is also probably the most laid-back, but don’t be fooled by its relaxed reputation: you’ll find some of Hawaii’s most spectacular scenery here. Give the kids the thrill of their lives with a helicopter ride that takes them over the dramatic Na Pali coastline, the colourful gorges of Waimea Canyon or the breath-taking Manawaiopuna Falls. For downtime, head for the Na Aina Kai Botanical Garden: its special children’s garden, complete with fun mazes, shallow wading pool and tree house, make it a magical must on any family holiday.
The many twists and turns of the fabled Road to Hana (55 miles, 617 bends and 56 tiny bridges) make for one spectacular road trip, and your efforts will be rewarded with spectacular coastal views and, ultimately, the charming, laid-back town of Hana itself. But if the kids aren’t up for a road trip, the beaches of Ka’anapali are sure to be a hit. If you need a break from sunbathing, take them to the nearby town Lahaina, which was once the capital of Hawaii and a bustling whaling town, for a smoothie or a burger. Then show them the jaw-dropping Banyan Tree, which was planted in 1873 and takes up an entire acre of land. Finish your Hawaiian holiday with a trip to the 10,000+ foot summit of Haleakala to watch the sunrise: it’s an experience the entire family will never forget.
If you’re having trouble deciding how best to divide your time between these four very different islands, why not visit all four the easy way? A cruise holiday is a fantastic way for families to explore Hawaii: you only unpack once; you’ll awake every morning in a new destination; your meals, accommodation and transport are included in the cost; and there are plenty of shore excursions on offer that will ensure that it’s easy to experience the highlights of each island.
If you’re thinking of Hawaii for your next family holiday, talk to your personal travel manager today.