Planning a vacation to Hawaii and deciding which is the best Hawaiian island for families? We visit Hawaii every year and have been to all four of the main Hawaiian islands.
While each of the Hawaiian islands can be argued as the best for kids – depending on the activities you want to do – it can be hard to decide which island or two to visit. Because they are really quite distinct.
We have loved all of the islands. They are all special in their own way and each has offered something different to do with kids. Deciding which Hawaiian island is best for your family and vacation will depend on your preferences and what you like to do.
No matter which Hawaii island you visit, this overview will give you some ideas for what each island is like and what to do with kids on the island. And, hopefully, will help you decide which is the best Hawaiian island for your family.
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Which Is The Best Hawaiian Island For A Family Vacation
Perhaps you have been motivated to visit the islands from a movie, song, or inspiring beach quotes. But there is something very special and unique about Hawaii.
Hawaii has six major islands that can be visited, though most people are familiar with four of them. Oahu, Maui, Kaua'i, and the island of Hawaii (the Big Island) are most commonly visited.
All four can claim to be the best Hawaiian island for families, but some are better at certain ages. And, did you know that you can also visit Molokai and Lanai?
Each Hawaiian Island Is Unique
Each of the Hawaiian islands has a unique personality and feel to them. And each one has its' own special Aloha, with unique activities and sights.
You will also find a lot of culture on each island. As I love learning about cultures through food, rest assured that each island has great restaurants featuring amazing Hawaiian foods that are often of the highest quality and locally sourced. It is a significant part of any Hawaiian Ohana (Hawaiian for family) and a great way to experience any of the islands.
While everyone has their favorites, including us, which Hawaii island to visit depends on what adventure you would like to experience on your family vacation.
So, if you are wondering what are the best things to do in Hawaii with kids – and where to find kid-friendly resorts in Hawaii – this list is for you! Let's look at each to help you find which Hawaiian island is best to visit for your family!
The Best Hawaiian Island For Families: Which is Best for YOUR family?
Often referred to as The Heart of Hawaii and “The Gathering Place,” Oahu is home to the majority of Hawaii's population. It is also where Honolulu is located, as well as famed surf towns and surf locations.
There are lots of things to do in Oahu with kids, which is why it is often billed as the best Hawaiian island for families. And, we have visited Oahu several times with our kids, even when they were toddlers!
It is one of the more crowded islands, being home to Honolulu and Waikiki. And traffic can be a very big challenge (think Boston, Los Angeles, New York type traffic) when traveling for activities.
But the variety of activities and adventures on Oahu, as well as exceptional restaurants and accommodations, makes it one of the best islands Hawaiian islands for kids. Here are some of our favorite things to do and places to stay on Oahu.
Note, some of these activities are available with a discount pass.
Things To Do In Oahu With Kids
- Visit Pearl Harbor
- Hike to Diamond Head
- Tour the island and see waterfalls
- Snorkel in Hanauma Bay
- Discover The Polynesian Cultural Center
- Visit The Dole Plantation
- Kualoa Ranch Movie Tour
- Horseback Riding At Kualoa Ranch
- Enjoy Famed Surf Town Haleiwa
- Spend Beach Day in Kailua
- Enjoy Waikiki Beach (and watch the fireworks in front of the Hilton on Friday nights)
- Paradise Cove Luau
Best Kid-Friendly Resorts On Oahu
- Hilton Hawaiian Village
- Outrigger Waikiki
- Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa
- Marriott Ko Olina
- Turtle Bay Resort
Kaua'i is called “The Garden Isle” and is one of the best Hawaiian islands to visit with kids ages five and up. It is one of the more quieter and remote islands.
And, its' range of incredible and dramatic scenery, from green valleys to jagged cliffs to cascading waterfalls makes it a sight to behold. There are many places on this island only accessible by air or sea.
Our family loved this island which is one of the best Hawaiian island for families who love outdoor adventures and activities. Here are some of the best things to do in Kauai with kids and the best kid-friendly resorts .
Things To Do With Kids In Kaua'i
- Visit Waimea Canyon State Park
- Snorkel at Poipu Beach
- Take a kid-friendly Hike at:
- Iliau Nature Loop Trail
- Kuilau Ridge Trail
- Mahaulepu Heritage Coastal Trail
- Ke'e Beach-Kalalau Overlook
- Beach Day in Hanalei
- Na Pali Coast By Boat
- See Wailua Falls
Best Kid-Friendly Resorts On Kaua'i
- Marriott's Kaua'i Beach Club Resort
- Marriott's Kaua'i Lagoons
- Grand Hyatt Kaua'i Resort and Spa
- Koloa Landing Resort
Maui, called “The Valley Isle”, is our family's favorite island. While many think of Maui as better for honeymooners, I couldn't disagree more. It is in my opinion the best Hawaiian island for families and the one we continue to return to year after year.
There is a reason Hawaiians say, “Maui nō ka ‘oi.” It means, “Maui is the best.”
A perfect blend of the solitude of Kauai and the vibrancy of Oahu, without so much traffic, it is one of the best Hawaiian islands to visit with kids.
When deciding which Hawaiian island to visit, consider that Maui is easy to get around, offers a range of land and sea activities, a large variety of kid-friendly restaurants, and several family-friendly accommodations.
Here are some of the best things to do with kids on Maui and places to stay.
Things To Do With Kids On Maui
- Drive the Road To Hana
- Take a Hike in Iao Valley
- Snorkel Day in Kapalua
- Take a Snorkel Trip to Molokini Crater with Pacific Whale Foundation
- Learn to Surf
- Visit Haleakalā National Park
- Enjoy Zip Lining at Camp Maui
- Spend a Beach Day in Kaanapali
- Take a lei-making, hula dancing, or ukelele lessson
- Watch the whales (in the winter)
- Visit the Banyan Tree and Shop in Lahaina
- Attend the Old Lahaina Luau
Best Kid-Friendly Resorts On Maui
- Marriott's Maui Ocean Club in Ka'anapali
- Hyatt Residence Club in Ka'anapali Beach
- The Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villas
- Four Seasons Resort at Wailea
- Grand Wailea
- Mariott Wailea Beach Resort
- Fairmont Kea Lani
- Ritz Carlton Kapalua
Island of Hawaii (The Big Island)
When thinking about which Hawaiian island is best to visit for your family, don't overlook The Big Island. The Island of Hawaii gets its nickname as “The Big Island” because it is bigger than all of the other islands combined.
This island is our second favorite as the best island in Hawaii for kids, especially for school-aged kids.
It is very unique and beautiful. And, it is really quite educational and a great place to learn about the history and culture of Hawaii.
The Big Island is a true testament to the incredible power of mother nature. Its varied terrain, volcanic rock landscapes, and of course its' very active volcano really showcases what nature can do!
From visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to mesmerizing water activities to enjoying some time on its relatively young beaches, The Big Island is one of the best Hawaiian islands for families. It is a great place for kids to learn about and experience nature – up close and personal.
Things To Do With Kids On The Big Island
- Spend a Full Day Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Enjoy a hike in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Hike Kilauea lki Trail
- Take a Helicopter Tour To See Volcanoes From Above
- Snorkel Boat Tour with Ali'i Tours (and maybe see dolphins!)
- Visit Akaka Falls
- Experience Waipi'o Valley
- Enjoy a Beach Day at Mauna Kea
- Visit Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area for a Beach Day
- Splash in teal water at Kua Bay
- Visit Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
Best Kid-Friendly Resorts On The Big Island
Not far from Maui, Molokai is another one of the best islands in Hawaii to visit with kids, particularly older elementary and teens. It's called “the friendly island,” and for good reason. It's where the spirit of Aloha is a way of life.
While you can stay on Molokai and there are many activities, often tourists visit it as a day trip from Maui. It is the best island in Hawaii to visit with kids if they prefer – and can enjoy – a quieter island.
A very natural Hawaiian island, with towering cliffs, rainforests, and quiet simplicity, Molokai also has beautiful beaches (though some can be dangerous when the surf is up). You can also enjoy hiking, traditional, and some unique activities found just on this island.
It is also a place where you will find “old Hawaii,” small family businesses, and a quieter way of life.
You can fly to Molokai on a 25-minute flight from Oahu and Maui, or you can take the Molokai Ferry from Lahaina. The Molokai Ferry company offers some packages that include tours and lunch.
Here are some fun things to do on Molokai with kids.
Things To Do With Kids On Molokai
- Learn about Molokai on The Halawa Valley Falls Cultural Hike
- Visit And Shop in the town of Kaunakakai
- Picnic on a quiet beach like Dixie Maru beach
- Explore Purdy's Natural Macadamia Nut Farm
- Visit Kalaupapa Overlook
- The Kalaupapa Guided Mule Tour (for ages 16 and up)
Where To Stay On Molokai With Kids
Lanai is the smallest of the inhabited Hawaiian islands, and it is only nine miles from Maui. The island can be enjoyed as a day trip or as a place to spend a longer vacation.
A former pineapple plantation, Lanai is known as the “pineapple island” because it once produced two-third's of the world's pineapples!
It ranges from pure luxury to rugged nature and is another one of the best Hawaiian islands for families who love a more secluded, adventurous vacation (or a bit of luxury.) There are no stoplights on the island, so it is quite a remote experience.
It is also home to two incredible golf courses, including Manele golf course that has three holes built on the seaside cliffs.
And, while some of the adventures on the island might be a bit rough for preschoolers, Lanai is still one of the best Hawaiian islands to experience a quiet, natural family experience. Renting a four-wheel drive vehicle is helpful for getting around the island.
Getting to Lanai can be done by a short flight from Oahu or Maui airports or on the Expeditions passenger ferry, which runs several times a day.
Things To Do With Kids On Lanai
- Lanai Horseback Riding
- Visit the Garden of the Gods
- Discover Shipwreck Beach
- Enjoy Hulopoe Beach
- Jeep Exploration of the island
- Visit The Lanai Cat Sanctuary
- Boat tour of Lanai with Trilogy
- Snorkel at Kaunolo Bay
Where To Stay With Kids On Lanai
Final Thoughts On The Best Hawaiian Island For Families
There are plenty of amazing things to do with kids and fantastic kid-friendly resorts in Hawaii! It is hard to say which is the best Hawaiian island for families because each one is a unique experience.
Each island of Hawaii offers something for every family. And, each island is sure to have its own special version of aloha for which Hawaii is famous!
Some of the islands are best for school-age kids or teens. But, Oahu and Maui can definitely be enjoyed by families with toddlers. We have done both with tots and both islands have plenty of activities for kids – even the youngest keiki!
No matter which Hawaiian island you choose for your family, you will be sure to experience the culture and spirit unique to that island. And, Hawaii is sure to become a special place for your ohana.