Which Hawaiian Island is Best for a Family Vacation?

Hawaii is a beautiful set of islands that makes for an excellent place for a family vacation. There are resorts and restaurants that will make your mouth water and your head spin. Each of the islands has a particular set of attractions that makes them attractive for  families and kids of different ages. Which Hawaiian island is best for a family vacation?

Oahu is the best island to take kids of all ages on vacation, for the classic Hawaiian experience. It is easy to get to, as most mainland flights land here. With many kid-friendly restaurants, attractions and shopping. There are also some of the most famous beaches on the planet, a pineapple plantation and miles of hiking trails to enjoy.

Going on a Hawaii holiday with kids is the kind of trip that lasts forever in a parents’ and children’s memories.

Like the food, the views are breathtaking, and with activities to suit all age levels, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a little R’nR and adventure. We’ve also highlighted why you may also choose Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island of Hawaii for your next family vacation.

Read on and learn what it takes to have the best family vacation in Hawaii.

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Which is the Best Hawaiian Island for Family Vacation?

We’ve chosen Oahu as the best Hawaiian Island for kids as it has so many family friendly activities, it makes for a one island stop. As well, the flights are less expensive, and you can find more budget friendly lodgings here. It is the most popular, so can be busy year round.

However, each island has a distinct feel that gives you that aloha experience. Each island also offers family friendly activities for all ages.

Our overview will help you choose which one is best for your family. So depending on your travel preferences you’ll find a spot that works well for your kids and you.

  • Of the six Hawaiian islands, Oahu, Maui, Hawaii (the Big Island) and Kaua’i, are the most visited.
  • Each island has it’s own culture, feel and local food to experience. One of the best ways to connect with the land and people.

I spent time on both Oahu and Maui as a child and teen, and loved both of those experiences. Hiking Diamond Head, visiting a pineapple plantation, tropical hikes and beaches. A favorite childhood trip I remember to this day.

Choosing the Hawaiian Island that suits your family

You and your family really can’t go wrong when choosing a Hawaiian Island for a family vacation. All of the islands offer beautiful scenery, beaches and fun kid friendly activities and resorts that cater to families. It depends on what you are looking for on your holiday.

If Oahu doesn’t seem like your vibe, check out our brief highlights of what each island offers. Hawaii is home to some of the best island getaways in the USA.

  • Oahu – Best for families who wants a more “classic” Hawaiian experience; snorkeling, surfing, Waikiki Beach, luaus, pineapple plantations and more. Great for all ages, from toddlers to teens, and the sheer amount of activities you can do.
  • Maui – Best for families who are looking to combine tourist fun, and beaches with a more rural and relaxed stay at a 4-5 star beach resort, or town. Also has the best whale-watching opportunities. Great for toddlers, and kids under 5 years as well as older kids and teens. Was my favorite as a teen.
  • KauaiBest for families who love the outdoors and are  interested in venturing beyond the beach to explore Hawaii’s lush tropical rainforest landscapes. Driving the stunning coastal roadway the Kalalau Trail to the breathtaking Wailua Falls, or hiking one of the many rainforest trails, are just some of the many natural highlights of Kauai. Great for school aged children 5+ and older.
  • Island of Hawaii (Big Island) Best for nature, learning about Hawaiian culture and volcanos! This island is best for school aged children and up. From white sand beaches, to snow tipped mountains, and from spectacular waterfalls, to active volcanoes at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the 11 climatic zones offer a wide variety of experiences.
  • Lanai Best for families looking to get away from the crowds, or a day trip from Maui. Beaches, shopping, golfing and a 4 wheel drive up the Munro Trail for an awesome view are some of the activities this quieter island offer. Great for school age kids and older.

Oahu

Oahu, known as the “Heart of Hawaii.” This Hawaii Island is the most populated and visited of all the islands. With all the activities catering to kids of all ages, plus delicious restaurants, and kid friendly accomodations, it’s often known as the best Hawaiian Island for families.

Home to Honolulu and Waikiki it’s also one of the busiest islands to visit.

People come from around the globe for its famous surfing spots (North Shore) especially in winter. Waters are calmer in summer for swimming.

Pros of visiting Oahu with kids:

  • World class kid friendly beautiful beaches
  • Vast amount of family oriented activities
  • International airport, with generally cheapest flights into the islands
  • The largest amount of hotels and accommodations, making it easier to find something to fit your budget.
  • Exceptional food, and easily recognizable chains (for the pickier eaters)

Cons of visiting Oahu with kids

  • Busy, heavily populated island with lots of traffic
  • The beaches around Waikiki and Honolulu are particularly busy, and crowded
Snorkelling is a favourite family activity on Oahu
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Things To Do On Oahu With Kids

Oahu is home to some of the most kid-friendly activities in the whole state. This is one of the reasons why it makes it the best Hawaiian Island for a family vacation.

They have a more city-style feel, and the places and restaurants will look or feel familiar to kids.

Some of the most visited beaches globally are on Oahu, (think Waikiki and the North Shore), so be prepared to deal with crowds. This won’t feel like a problem after a few days of laying around in the sun. 

A discount pass for activities can save your family money on multiple attractions.

Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum

Learn history at Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum – A stop that everyone should take. The various monuments to the tragedies of December 7, 1941, are an important reminder of the cost of our freedom. Take a kid friendly Pearl Harbor Tour and view the USS Arizona sunk into the depths from a platform.

Kids can join the Junior Ranger program and do a scavenger hunt to learn the history of the attack and all about Hawaiian culture, history and traditions while having fun.

Attend a Luau

In a Luau, the mix of Hawaiian food and flowers, the fire and Polynesian dancing will get the kids’ and adults up and moving.

If looking for the best Luau in Oahu for families and kids, Toa Luau is a gem.

Toa Lua also offers more interactive activities such as lei making and coconut husking, as well as free entrance to the Waimea Valley.

If you are already planning to head to the Waimea Falls and Gardens, complete your day at the luau. 

Most resorts and hotels will also offer guests (and non-guests) a luau experience. Add a luau to your list of favourite things to do with kids in Oahu.

Take a Tour of Kualoa Nature Preserve, immortalized in Hollywood films like Jurassic Park.
Photo By: ” Spondylotheis via canva.com”

Visit Kualoa Nature Preserve

One of the most filmed (think Jurassic Park) and recognizable jungles in the world is Kualoa Nature Preserve on the east coast of Oahu. Spend the day at Kualoa Preserve hiking their nature trails, or taking one of their many tours.

Kualoa Nature Preserve offers movie site tours, horseback riding at the Kualoa Ranch and e-bike tours. Or try exciting jungle expeditions, a self-drive UTV guided tour of Ka’a’awa Valley, ziplining, and more. A great place for kids (and their adults) to be entertained on a Hawaii vacation.

Hit the Beaches of Oahu

With more than 125 beaches to choose from in Oahu, it can be hard to know which ones to visit on your family vacation.

Oahu’s beaches are separated into 4 different areas. Check out our list of the top kid friendly beaches on the island of Oahu.

  • North Shore – The North Shore is known for it’s surf (think Waimea Bay). Try Waimea Bay in winter for epic surf, and in summer for calm waters, swimming and diving. Pupukea Beach Park is a quieter alternative. A protected marine area with coral reefs and tidal pools to explore.
  • South Shore (near Honolulu) – Waikiki Beach – The most famous & visited beach on Oahu. Perfect for sandcastles, swimming, surf lessons and kayaking. Ala Moana Beach Park for it’s toddler friendly calm waters, views of Diamond Head and closeness to Waikiki. Hanauma Bay for calm, protected waters (perfect for toddlers), snorkeling and checking out marine life. Waimanalo Bay Recreation Area quieter beach, great for snorkeling in its crystal clear water.
  • West Side – Called the Leeward Coast due to the fact they’re protected from the wind. Try Kualoa Beach Park (free parking, kayaking, a beachfront grassy area, and views of the  Ko’olau Mountains). Kailua Beach, a small, white sand beach with calm waters, and tidepools to explore. Lanikai Beach, the best beach in Oahu.
  • The East Side (Windward Coast) – The four Ko Olina Lagoons offer protected, warm waters year round. There are many picnic areas, nestled amongst grassy areas. Snorkeling, paddle boarding, and kayaking are popular activities here. It’s also home to the Aulani Disney Resort.
Hanuama Bay is a popular, kid friendly beach on Oahu.
Photo by: ” hodor via canva.com”

Be sure to take in all the lying around and hitting the waves that the kids can handle. Use the city when you are bored with the beach, or need a break from sand and the lobster tan (don’t forget the sunscreen, and all your beach essentials)

Other fun Oahu things to do with kids:

  • Learn at the Honolulu Zoo – The Honolulu Zoo is one of the most visited spots in Hawaii and has been voted one of the best trips for kids in Hawaii. Many educational activities and exhibits for kids to explore.
  • Visit the Polynesian Cultural Center – an immersive experience of Hawaiian culture not to miss. A living museum, luaus, performances, cultural activities in a replica 42 acre village complex.
  • Tour the island and see waterfalls, Waimea Valley, visit a pineapple plantation & more.
  • Hike Diamondhead – Add hiking to the summit of Diamondhead to your family’s Hawaii bucket list. Diamondhead is a rather strenous hike up hill, 0.8 miles taking about 1.5 – 2 hours total. The last bit is all stairs. This was the highlight of my last trip to Oahu., and well worth the effort.
  • Swim with dolphins – Swim with dolphins at the Kahala Hotel in Honolulu. Dolphin Quest treats the animals with a high level of respect, to ensure they are well taken care of.
  • Snorkel with turtles , tropical brightly colored fish in warm waters. See dolphins and other marine life by boat.

Check available activities of Oahu Go City Pass

Memories on the beaches of Oahu will last a lifetime and make all your other vacations pale in comparison. The water is a bright blue, and some spots have black sand beaches from crushed volcanic rock.

Where To Stay On Oahu With Kids

View of beach and ocean at Waikiki Beach, Honolulu. Hotels and Diamond Head in the distance.
Waikiki Beach View. There are many family friendly hotels on Oahu
Photo by: “delamophoto via canva.com”

Luxury Ocean View Villa on Ko Olina Beach

A gorgeous Ocean front villa, for when you want to be close to the ocean and the Aulani Resort, but want the comforts of home, and a bigger place. Just steps from the beach, so amazing. They provide boogie boards and other beach gear for you to borrow, which is a bonus.

It sleeps up to six, offers amazing views and gives you access to all of the Ko Olina Beach Villas Resort’s amenities, including sandy lagoons, lap pools, championship golf, a full service spa, fine restaurants and a private marina.

Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club

Mariott’s Ko Olina Beach Club is the perfect Ko Olina spot, and more affordable than the popular Aulani. Spacious rooms with ocean or mountain views, 3 outdoor pools, traditional Polynisian entertainment, and plenty of kid activities to keep them happy. Calm lagoon, safe for the young ones. Set up as apartments, you’ll love the in suite laundry, and extra space.

Sheraton Waikiki Beach Resort

Sheraton Waikiki is a highly rated, fun place to stay, with great pools, close to all the action. This oceanfront resort offers beach access, ocean and mountain views, a tour desk and child care services, for when you want a little adult time alone. 

Sheraton Waikiki also has four onsite restaurants to choose from, including two that offer fresh Hawaiian inspired, local products,  and the Waikiki Shopping Centre is only a 2 minute walk away.

Other family favorite Oahu resorts include:

  • Turtle Bay Resort – Pristine North Shore property, surrounded by amazing ocean views, biking and hiking trails, and five miles of secluded shoreline. Enjoy their 6 restaurants with local & fav foods, luaus, nightly entertainment, 4 swimming pools, daily resort activities, and so much more.
  • Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort – Plenty of onsite activities (lei making, hula lessons, multiple pools, traditional luau, fireworks, Camp Penguin for 5 to 12 years). Plus their own private lagoon, calm, no waves, perfect for young kids to try snorkelling, or kayaking, or just to hang out on the beach.
Booking.com

Be prepared for your vacation with our complete Pre-Travel Checklist.

Maui

Maui is often referred to as the “Valley Isle” is a popular honeymoon destination. But don’t let that fool you. It’s also one of the best Hawaiian Islands for families, for both toddlers and older kids. As a teen I visited Maui, and loved it.

Maui is great for both touristy attractions and nature adventures away from the crowds.

This Hawaiian island has cultural activities, snorkeling adventures, epic scenic drives, and of course beaches, for the perfect family vacation.

Pros of visiting Maui with kids:

  • Less crowded, breath taking beaches
  • Slower paced vacation. Combine city sites and attractions with more rural exploration, such as the famous Road to Hana.
  • Still many land and sea activities to try, plus a variety of kid friendly restaurants and accommodations.

Cons of visiting Maui with kids:

  • Quieter, with fewer attractions than Oahu. If your family is big on paid attractions, and need that energy, Maui may not be for you.
  • Will need to rent a car, especially if planning on driving the Road to Hana. So factor that into your budget.

Whether you are planning a week long Maui itinerary, or adding a few days here on a longer trip, these are just some of reasons Maui is one of the best Hawaiian islands for kids.

As a teen I visited Maui, and loved snorkelling in Molokini Crater, seeing the sun rise at

Here are some of the best things to do on Maui with kids of all ages.

Wailea Beach boardwalk on sunny day
Wailea Beach Boardwalk, Maui

Things to do on Maui with Kids

  • Drive the Road to Hana or take a small group tour and relax with someone else driving, and taking care of the details.
  • Visit the Maui Ocean Center right on Ma’alea Bay
  • Learn to surf
  • Take a snorkelling trip to Molokini – Snorkel inside a sunken volcano in the middle of the ocean. Super cool experience I highly recommend for older kids (8+), teens and adults.
  • Go ziplining – Skyline Eco-Adventures offers 2 zipline routes, one through Mount Haleakala’s slopes and the other, through Kaanapali’s resorts. Expect epic Maui coastline views and thrills.
  • Hang out on the beach – Kaanapali, Kapalua (one of the best family beaches) or Wailea
  • Wander or bike in Makawao Forest Reserve – 7 kid friendly trails to hike, or rent bikes and ride the separate bike trails.
  • Watch the sun rise at Haleakala Crater – from the “House of the Sun,” the world’s largest dormant volcano and the highest peak in Maui. Haleakala National Park is a not to miss experience, I also highly recommend.
There are many family friendly resorts & hotels on Maui

Best Maui Resorts for Families

Here are a few of the best kid friendly resorts on Maui to stay at:

🏖 Family beach vacation tips, for a relaxing holiday.

Kaua’i

Kaua’i is the best Hawaiian family vacation spot for outdoor loving families, looking for a quieter island, and escape from throngs of tourists.

Kaua’i is a tropical paradise, and the place to experience everything from beach to lush jungle, waterfalls, and of course snorkeling.

Due to the focus on outdoor activities, this island is best for ages 5 and up.

As the fourth largest Hawaiian Island, it’s known as the “Garden Isle,” due to it’s lush green valleys, natural beauty, dramatic cliffs, and windswept ocean views.

Pros of visiting Kaua’i with kids

  • Kaua’i has the fewest crowds of all the Hawaiian Islands.
  • Best hiking & outdoor activities of all the islands. Suitable for school aged children & up who can hike on their own.
  • Has some of the best snorkeling around.

Cons of visiting Kaua’i with kids

  • Not as many ticketed attractions as other islands.
  • Focused more on outdoor activities, helicopter tours and dramatic scenery. If that’s not your scene, than Oahu or Maui would be better for your family.
Water spouting out of lava tube. Spouting Horn on Kaua'i, Hawaii
Spouting Horn near Poipu Beach, Kaua’i Hawaii

Things to do on Kaua’i with Kids

Here are just some of the best things to do on Kaua’i with kids:

  • Snorkelling – Many of the best snorkelling beaches have an abundance of sea life, easy ocean access and white sandy shores. Try Haena Beach State Park, Poipu Beach State Park, and Kee Beach for reefs teeming with sea life.
  • Visit Waimea Canyon State Park – “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific. ” Stop at the Waimea Canyon Lookout for panoramic views, and Kokee State Park for many fmaily friendly hiking trails.
  • Beach day at Lydgate Beach – Two protected ponds watched by lifeguards, interactive play structures, reef to snorkel, and picnic areas.
  • Take a train ride through Kauai Plantation Railway
  • Enjoy a family friendly hike – Try Mahaulepu Heritage Coastal Trail (moderate), Kuilau Ridge Trail (moderate) or Iliau Nature Loop Trail (easy)
  • Captain Andy’s Boat Tour
  • Explore the kids garden & treehouse at Na Aina Kai Botanical Garden
  • See the Spouting Horn (near Poipu Beach) – Water spouts up to 60 feet in the air, from a natural blowhole carved out of an old lava flow tube. As ocean waves crash into it, water blows through the hole spectacularly.
Poipu Beach and resorts, with people playing in ocean.
Poipu Beach is a popular resort area in Koala, and perfect for a beach day.

Best Family Resorts on Kaua’i

Here are some fabulous kid friendly resorts on Kaua’i:

Don’t forget a thing: Beach Vacation Packing list essentials.

Best Hawaiian Island to Visit for Families

Vacationing with the family on the Hawaiian island of Oahu is for sure a place to enjoy life, and leave your mainland worries behind. We also believe it’s the best Hawaiian Island to visit with kids overall.

The island feels welcoming and inviting with a strong hint of tradition and beauty.

The other quieter islands of Maui and Kaua’i also offer many family friendly accommodations, history, beaches and activities.

There are all types of activities in Hawaii, from laying around black or white sand beaches, to hiking above the island’s rooftop and basking in a gorgeous sunrise from a volcano.

What Hawaiian Island is best for your family vacation depends on your travel style, activity level, and preferences.

You really can’t go wrong on your visit to Hawaii. Wherever you choose, you’ll get that beautiful Aloha experience.

Related family friendly island beach destinations & Travel tips:

Featured Photo by: “sphraner via canva.com”

4 thoughts on “Which Hawaiian Island is Best for a Family Vacation?”

  1. This post has me day dreaming. So much great info for me to come back to. This is definitely on the list of places we want to go on vacation to. I never knew there were so many beaches, 125! I checked out some of resorts and some are not as bad as I thought they’d be from a cost perspective.

  2. These bring back so many great memories! My husband and I bought a vacation to Maui a few years back to celebrate a safe return from his Afghan deployment and it was the most beautiful state I’ve ever been to!

    1. What a wonderful way to celebrate your husbands safe return. I love Hawaii, it is so beautiful. I hope to be able to travel there again one day soon.

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