Hawaii for families: 6 of the best activities to do

a young family walking along a beach in Hawaii

Zoe Macfarlane

Posted July 25, 2022

If you’re looking for a family holiday to keep everyone entertained – from the little ones to the grandparents – Hawaii is it! Alongside Hawaii’s incredible scenery and a vast array of attractions, there is the cultural importance of ohana  - family. So, invite your ohana, organise your flights, and book a family vacation to Hawaii!

Hawaii is filled with abundant natural wonders - like gorgeous beaches and dramatic landscapes - and complemented by a range of unique activities and historic and cultural gems. Base yourself in Waikiki, or for a rich and varied trip, consider island hopping from Oahu to Maui to Kauai.

To help you plan your ultimate family Aloha State getaway, we’ve got six of our favourite Hawaiian family friendly attractions to share.

If you’re planning to drive while you’re overseas, you may need an International Driving Permit. You can apply online but check the country you’re visiting requires one before you travel and allow time for processing. 

bus at Hawaiian beach

Hop on the Waikiki Trolley for effortless sightseeing.

Waikiki, Oahu

The most popular Hawaiian beach spot for Australian travellers is Waikiki. Basing your family in Waikiki offers the fastest way to get from Melbourne to a Hawaiian beach (10 hours flight time, plus a 30-minute cab ride). Waikiki also offers a gorgeous three-kilometre beach where all the action happens. 

Across Waikiki Beach, you can find a range of family friendly hotels and activities that ensure everyone is entertained. For little ones, consider staying at a hotel with an awesome kids’ clubs. There’s also the kiddy-friendly Atlantis Submarine tour and Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center. 

A Waikiki Trolley hop-on-hop-off multi-day pass allows effortless sightseeing with children in tow. Reach all Waikiki’s key attractions without needing to rent a car. This includes the famed Ala Moana Shopping Center, and Diamond Head hiking trail. 

For water lovers, Waikiki offers stand-up paddleboarding, parasailing, snorkelling, boogie board rentals, and even surf lessons. 

If you’re travelling with tweens and teens, the Waikiki Instagram Photo Shoot tour across Oahu is a must-do, as is the Waikele Premium Outlets. For the ultimate adventure, kids 12+ can experience a thrilling 50-minute ‘doors off’ Magnum PI helicopter ride over stunning Oahu.


Hawaiian man firetwirling at a luau

Fire-twirling is an exciting part of a lū'au.

Get cultural at a lū’au

One of the easiest ways to connect with Hawaiian culture is by attending a lū'au. A sumptuous feast accompanies a lively evening of exciting cultural performances from Hawaii and greater Polynesia. Good food, hypnotic music, traditional dancing, fire-twirling and hula make for a fun-filled evening for all. 

While all Hawaiian islands host lū'au's, if you want to dig further into Polynesian culture and enjoy a royal lū'au, head to Oahu’s Polynesian Cultural Center.


flowing lava in Hawaii

Seeing flowing lava is always an incredible sight.

See lava flow in Hawaii

While your science-curious family members may geek out at visiting an active volcano, the whole clan will also be in awe at this natural wonder. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii (the Big Island) is home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa, with the former very active.

Due to the volatile activity within the park, it’s best to book a tour to experience active lava flow safely. The Halema’uma’u crater is a hot spot currently with guided hikes getting you close to the action. Plan for a pre-dawn or post-dusk visit to witness the lava in all its fiery glory. For a splurge, a chopper ride over the flow is outstanding.

Prefer a risk-free excursion? There are self-guided trails that showcase other parts of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park during daylight hours. The Thurston lava tubes is a popular stop for families with younger children.


Waimea Canyon in Hawaii

Waimea Canyon is the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.

Explore Waimea Canyon at Kauai

For some of Hawaii’s most breathtaking scenery, take the family to the Waimea Canyon on Hawai’i’s laidback island of Kauai. Nicknamed the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’, Waimea Canyon is a 22-kilometre-long, 1,000-metre-deep gorge that looks like a scar across the Kauai landscape. 

There are several ways to soak in Waimea Canyon’s beauty, including driving one of the two highways that cut through the park and stopping at lookouts en route. Hiking is the most immersive experience here, with varied trails to suit the overall fitness of the family. The Awa’awapuhi Trail is a favourite for the range of scenery covered along its 5-kilometre path, including sheer cliffs, lush rainforest, and craggy canyons. The Kūkui Trail is a steep hike for the fit that takes you to the bottom of the canyon.


a whale tail in Maui

Spotting humpbacks in the ocean is a guaranteed whale of a time.

Go whale-watching at Maui

If you’re visiting Hawaii from December to May, book a whale-watching tour to get close to some of the 10,000-15,000 majestic humpbacks that ply Hawaii’s coast. Whether young or old, it’s thrilling to witness a breaching whale or tail slap. And if you’re lucky, the whale will ‘mug’ the boat – meaning it comes into the 90-metre safety zone designated by the government – super close!

While you can see migrating whales from many places in Hawaii, Maui has one of the largest concentrations and longest seasons. In Maui, three whale tours operate daily during the season, with Sail Maui offering comfort aboard their luxury catamaran.


surf hut at Oahu in Hawaii

Go surfing (or wave sliding) at Oahu.

Learn to surf at Oahu

Want to go wave sliding? That was the original name for surfing, and it originated in Hawaii. For a slice of history and to connect with surfing’s spiritual home, head to Oahu’s iconic North Shore. Twelfth-century Polynesian cave paintings depict males and females surfing for recreation and warrior training for battle. Whether you’re looking to get your little warriors learning on a longboard, or your surf-crazy fam in 10+-metre waves, make your way to Oahu’s North Shore. It’s only 45 minutes from Waikiki Beach. 

Turtle Bay Resort is a top spot for small-group or private surf lessons for all levels. North Shore Surf Girls are popular, especially their girls' surf camps. They also have stand-up paddleboarding for anyone keen on a more mellow water sport activity, while the rest of the family hit the surf.


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