Oahu's north shore offers a stunning view and a playground for families.

Family Vacations in Hawaii Overview

Whether your interests are history, native cultures, hiking, water sports, or simply relaxing in the sun, Hawaii has abundant options to keep you and your family entertained. This article will introduce you to a selection of family-friendly destinations in Hawaii. You'll also find photos and contact information included to make your planning that much easier. Here are the highlights:

The USS Arizona Memorial

Located at Oahu, Hawaii's historic Pearl Harbor, this memorial pays tribute to those who died when the Japanese bombed the harbor in 1941.

Waikiki Beach

These two miles of gorgeous golden sand offer not just an opportunity to relax, but plenty of things for kids to do -- from taking a dip in the water to visiting the zoo to learning to surf.

Oahu's North Shore

Known for its spectacular wintertime surf, Oahu's North Shore is a world-class surfing destination, as well as home to several surfing competitions.

Polynesian Cultural Center

Explore Hawaii's history -- as well as other Pacific cultures -- in an interactive environment that includes a luau each evening.

Waimea Canyon

Located on the island of Kauai, this lush, green canyon is Hawaii's answer to the Grand Canyon. Take a tour by helicopter or hiking trail.

Kapalua Beach

With soft sand, calm water, and excellent snorkeling, Maui's Kapalua Beach is not only a great spot for kids, but hailed by many as one of Hawaii's finest beaches.

Mauna Loa

Hanakapi'ai Falls

Hanakapi'ai Falls on the northwestern side of the island of Kauai is the picture of tropical paradise. The beautiful, 300-foot ribbon of water delicately cascades down a rugged volcanic wall, tumbling into an idyllic pool. The falls are set amidst a thick rain forest that's teeming with life, and swimming conditions are nothing short of perfect.

Check out the next page to add some American history to your family's tropical vacation with a visit to The USS Arizona Memorial.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.
  • Hawaii State Guide: Learn more about Hawaii's history, cities, and popular attractions with this travel guide.

The USS Arizona Memorial spans the sunken battleship in Oahu, Hawaii's Pearl Harbor.

Family Vacations in Hawaii: The USS Arizona Memorial

Include a little learning in your family vacation when you visit Pearl Harbor. The USS Arizona Memorial on Oahu in Hawaii stretches across the water above the sunken midsection of the battleship -- on which 1,177 crew members died during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

It's a poignant and moving reminder of the tragic event that led to America's involvement in World War II. Children will learn about the attack in a 23-minute film that precedes a short boat ride on a Navy launch to the memorial.

The memorial is divided into three main sections: the entry and assembly rooms; a central area designed for ceremonies and general observation; and the shrine room, where the names of those killed on the Arizona are engraved on a marble wall. Be sure to ask for the informative booklet specifically designed to help children understand what the monument represents. It guides young visitors through the events of the attack and explains the importance of remembering those who died.

The USS Arizona Memorial Information

The USS Arizona Memorial Information

Address: 1 Arizona Memorial Pl, Honolulu, HI

Phone: 808/422-0561

Hours of Operation: 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily

Admission: Free

Continue to the next page for details on some relaxing family fun in the sun at Waikiki Beach.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Scenic Drives:For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.
  • Hawaii Highlights: Learn more about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Hawaii and read about its history, cities, and popular attractions.

Waikiki Beach on Oahu, Hawaii, offers two miles of soft sand and family-friendly attractions, including Diamond Head Crater.

Family Vacations in Hawaii: Waikiki Beach

This famous two-mile stretch of sand in Oahu, Hawaii, is home to scores of family-friendly beach hotels and all kinds of action-packed excitement. Waikiki Beach is the perfect place to go if you're looking for warm ocean water and golden beaches. Kids will enjoy strolling along the beach-front promenade, stopping for shaved ice or an ice cream cone, taking a dip in the ocean, and checking out the parade of people passing by.

Be sure to take an exhilarating ride in an outrigger canoe, where you paddle out beyond the breakers and are carried back to shore by the ocean's cresting waves. Waikiki is also an excellent place to learn to surf, and lessons are available at just about every hotel or water sports center on the beach.

If you can tear yourself away from the water, hike the landmark volcanic crater, Diamond Head, visit the indigenous animals of Honolulu Zoo, or tour the Bishops Museum to view an interesting collection of Polynesian artifacts.

Waikiki Beach Information

Address: Kalakaua Ave. and Royal Hawaiian Ave., Honolulu, HI

Phone: 800-GoHawaii

On the next page, you'll travel to the North Shore of Oahu where the waves are bigger and the surfers are pros.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Scenic Drives:For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.
  • Hawaii State Guide: Learn more about Hawaii's history, cities, and popular attractions with this travel guide.

Photo courtesy Shutterstock. Waves along the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, reach their greatest heightsduring winter months, when surfing contests abound.

Family Vacations in Hawaii: Oahu's North Shore

Want to show your children the sheer power of water? Some of the tallest ocean waves in the world are found at Oahu, Hawaii's acclaimed North Shore coastline during the winter months. These crashing walls of water are perfect for surfing and offer one of the best free shows on the islands. The North Shore is home to world-renowned surf contests such as the Vans Triple Crown, which is held here from early November to late December and attracts the world's top surfers. Another contest, the impromptu Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational, is never scheduled in advance. This event is put together at the last minute anytime the waves reach heights of 30 feet or more.

In addition to the North Shore beaches, there are a number of locations around the island to watch intrepid surfers catch the big waves. Some of the preferred locations are Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay, Ali'i Beach Park, and Ehukai Beach Park, home of the famed Banzai Pipeline. The waves may be larger at Sunset and Waimea, but at Ehukai, when the waves surge from deep water onto a shallow coral reef, a perfect, treacherous tube, or pipeline, is formed. Families can settle in with a picnic lunch and watch the action from the beach.

Oahu's North Shore Big Surf Competition Information

Address: North Shore Hale'iwa Beaches at Highway 99 and Haleiwa Rd., Haleiwa, HI

Phone: 808/637-4558

Surfing is not Hawaii's only local tradition. Travel to the next page to learn about the Polynesian Cultural Center -- a great family destination packed with Hawaiian history.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Scenic Drives:For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.
  • Hawaii State Guide: Learn more about Hawaii's history, cities, and popular attractions with this travel guide.

Oahu, Hawaii's Polynesian Cultural Center, showcases cultures of the Pacific region via interactive re-created native villages.

Family Vacations in Hawaii: Polynesian Cultural Center

Nothing engages the whole family like history coming alive. The colorful costumes, lively songs, and intricate dances of a number of Pacific-region cultures are presented at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Oahu, Hawaii. You'll see Fiji, New Zealand, Marquesas, Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga, and Hawaii all represented in the Polynesian Cultural Center's authentically re-created island villages scattered about the 42-acre property, which is decorated with palm trees and tropical gardens. You can travel to each village on foot over a series of bridges or by canoe along the freshwater lagoon that links each village.

Every stop has something for children to enjoy. They can fish, bowl, play shuffleboard, take hula lessons, and try their hand at many more activities. "Natives" in each village demonstrate crafts and skills such as creating clothing from bark, sparking a fire by rubbing sticks together, and climbing a coconut tree. Each day ends with a lavish luau and Polynesian revue that features more than 100 native performers from all corners of the Pacific.

Polynesian Cultural Center Information

Address: 55-370 Kamehameha Highway (83), Laie, HI

Phone: 808/293-3333 or 800/367-7060

Hours of Operation: 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Mon. - Sat.

Admission: Varies by package

On the next page, learn how to get in touch with Hawaii's natural beauty and native landscape on a family-friendly hike through Waimea Canyon.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Scenic Drives:For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.
  • Hawaii State Guide: Learn more about Hawaii's history, cities, and popular attractions with this travel guide.

Hawaii's lush Waimea Canyon is ideal for hiking and exploration.

Family Vacations in Hawaii: Waimea Canyon

At ten miles long, one mile wide, and more than 3,500 feet deep, this landmark on Hawaii's island of Kauai is the largest canyon in the Pacific. Dubbed "The Grand Canyon of thePacific" by Mark Twain, Waimea Canyon's sharply eroded cliffs reveal layers of vivid colors that seem to change in the sun. Unlike the Grand Canyon, plentiful rainfall keeps this canyon and its surrounding area thick with vegetation, and visitors are frequently treated to the sight of vivid rainbows.

 

 

Hiking is one way to see this breathtaking natural wonder, and numerous lookouts are provided along the trails. In Waimea Canyon State Park, try the Kukui/Iliau Loop Trail, an easy 15-minute quarter-mile nature walk with markers that identify the forest plants. It offers a great canyon view and a covered picnic area. A more rigorous hike that older children may enjoy is the Canyon Trail to Waipo'o Falls.

Another popular way to see Waimea is from the air. Helicopter excursions give passengers an excellent perspective as they circle the canyon and soar along the Na Pali Coast, where high mountain cliffs rise from the ocean floor.

Get out and enjoy Hawaii's pleasant weather and natural beauty when you visit Waimea Canyon for a hike.

Waimea Canyon Information

Address: North of Kekaha on Highway 550, Kauai, HI

Phone: 800/262-1400

Hours of Operation: dawn to dusk daily

Don't miss Maui on your visit to Hawaii. Check out the next page for details on what many say is Hawaii's finest beach.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.
  • Hawaii State Guide: Learn more about Hawaii's history, cities, and popular attractions with this travel guide.

Kapalua Beach on the Hawaiian Island of Maui is considered by many to be one of Hawaii's finest. It offers family-friendly features including soft sand, calm waters, and easy snorkeling.

Family Vacations in Hawaii: Kapalua Beach

Hawaii is home to hundreds of gorgeous sandy beaches -- and your family is bound to visit quite a few of them. The sunny Hawaiian island of Maui certainly has its fair share, but many consider the golden sand of Maui's Kapalua Beach to be the best of all the Hawaiian Islands.

Kapalua Beach is especially well suited for families with small children. It is situated on a sheltered stretch of a crescent-shaped bay that protects it from any rough surf. Coral reefs and rocky peninsulas further protect the shore. The calm water and an easily accessible reef make it an excellent place for children to learn to snorkel. They'll love the colorful tropical fish and vivid coral formations.

In early spring, humpback whales are a common sight just offshore. The whales give birth to their calves in the warm island waters and remain there until both mother and calf are strong enough to swim back to their feeding grounds in the Arctic.

Kapalua Beach Information

Address: Kapalua Bay Dr., Lahaina, Maui, HI

Phone: 808/244-3530

With these options -- and many more -- at your disposal, you're bound to have a wonderful island experience with your family in Hawaii.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Scenic Drives:For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.
  • Hawaii State Guide: Learn more about Hawaii's history, cities, and popular attractions with this travel guide.

©U.S. Geological Survey. Predictable eruptions of Mauna Loa draw crowds to view the impressive fireworks display

Family Vacations in Hawaii: Mauna Loa

Part of Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park, Mauna Loa (meaning "Long Mountain") rises 13,677 feet above the blue surface of the Pacific Ocean. It is second in height (in Hawaii) only to Mauna Kea, a quieter volcano. While many mountain peaks rise higher than Mauna Loa, its actual size is nothing short of astonishing. Measured from its base, which is 18,000 feet underwater, Mauna Loa exceeds even Mount Everest in height -- by a full 2,000 feet. And the sea floor, compressed by the sheer bulk of the mountain, has sunk nearly another 30,000 feet. This makes Mauna Loa the world's most massive single mountain, with a bulk more than 100 times that of Washington's Mount Rainier.

Atop the summit of Mauna Loa, a caldera called Mokuaweoweo features a number of craters that have previously erupted. The caldera floor is covered with lava contorted into otherworldly formations, daunting pits, and towering cinder cones. Current-day eruptions within the crater of the volcano are relatively harmless. Volcanologists have been able to reliably predict activity. Because of this, an impending eruption typically draws thousands of people to the crater's rim.

Mauna Loa Information

Address: HI-11

Hawai`i National Park, HI

Telephone: 808/985-6000

Hours of Operation: Dawn - Dusk

Admission: $10 per vehicle or $5 per person

Continue to the next page for details on family vacations in Hanakapi'ai Falls -- a tropical paradise.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Hawaii State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Hawaii, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

©Cornell Schreiber. A perfect tropical paradise, Hanakapi'ai Falls is a popular day destination for swimmers and hikers.

Family Vacations in Hawaii: Hanakapi'ai Falls

Named for a Hawaiian princess, Hanakapi'ai Falls on the northwestern side of the island of Kauai is the picture of tropical paradise. The beautiful, 300-foot ribbon of water delicately cascades down a rugged volcanic wall, tumbling into an idyllic pool. There are many waterfalls and pools on Kauai, but this is perhaps the most sublime; perfect for swimming, and set amidst a thick rain forest that's teeming with life.

The falls are a popular destination for experienced hikers. The Kalalua Trail, which leads to the falls, begins at Ke'e Beach. This strenuous hike is about four miles long. Be prepared to spend a full day hiking to the falls and back, and be sure to wear sturdy hiking boots and to bring water, food, insect repellent, and sunscreen. From Ke'e Beach, follow the trail upslope to the Hanakapi'ai Valley, a lush cradle of greenery dotted with a vibrant array of wildflowers. From there the trail continues down to the secluded Hanakapi'ai Beach and the start of the final two-mile leg to Hanakapi'ai Falls.

The first leg of the trail from Ke'e Beach is a necessity -- the only other ways to get to Hanakapi'ai Falls involve parachutes or boats. But once you reach the falls, you'll be rewarded with breathtaking views and a relaxing swim in its tranquil pools.

Hanakapi'ai Falls Information

Address: Crater Rd. and HI-378

Makawao, HI

Telephone: 808/572-4400

Hours of Operation: Dawn - Dusk

Admission: $10 per vehicle or $5 per person

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Hawaii State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Hawaii, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.