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 can be argued as the best Hawaiian island 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, with that true spirit of Aloha. Each has offered something different to do with kids. Now all of the Hawaiian islands are family-friendly, so you don't need to worry about that.
But, Deciding which Hawaii island is best to take kids and which is best for your family will depend on your preferences and what you like to do. Sometimes you can find family holiday packages to Hawaii. So you may be able to visit more than one island on your family vacation to Hawaii.
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 take a Hawaii vacation and visit the islands by a movie, song, or inspiring beach quotes. But there is something very special and unique about family vacations to Hawaii.
One of the cool facts about Hawaii is that each of the Hawaiian islands has a unique personality and feel to them, with their own state flower, nickname and signature color. Plus each island offers a wide variety of experiences that differ from each other.
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, which Hawaiian Island is best with kids really depends on your kids, their interests, and activity level.
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, with a wide variety of experiences that differ from each other. 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.
Each Hawaiian Island Has Epic Beaches
I am often asked which Hawaiian island has the best beach for families. Each island has great beaches, but some are better for toddlers to splash in, some are better for snorkeling, and some are better for surfing. Though, Lanikai Beach on Oahu is often listed as the best beach in Hawaii for families because of its calm, blue waters, and gorgeous scenery.
The best beaches in Hawaii can be found on each of the islands. So rest assured, no matter which Hawaiian island for kids you choose, you will have plenty of sand and surf to enjoy.
How To Choose The Best Hawaiian Island With Kids
While everyone has their favorites, including us, which Hawaii island to visit with kids depends on what adventure you would like to experience on your family vacation. All of the islands have kid-friendly resorts as well as timeshare rentals, where you can find epic travel deals and save money.
It's just a matter of finding the best Hawaiian Island for kids and your family that fits your needs.
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 North Shore surf towns and surf locations, just some of which Hawaii is known and famous for!
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. Many people from all over the world visit Oahu each year, and in fact, it is the most visited Hawaiian island. And traffic can be a very big challenge (think Boston, Los Angeles, New York type traffic) when traveling for activities.
And, it is home to one of the most famous and important monuments, Pearl Harbor. It also hosts one of my favorite activities, the Polynesian Cultural Center.
But the variety of activities and adventures on Oahu, as well as exceptional restaurants and accommodations, makes it one of the best Hawaiian islands for kids.
One of the things that makes Ohau special is its famous surfing spots, especially on the North Shore. For this reason, be sure to visit this island if you are interested in watching surfers or seeing where many of the greats hang out.
Winter is often when the biggest waves come to Oahu, and it is one of the best times to catch a glimpse of some of the biggest and best surfers in the world on the North Shore. In summer, many of these beaches are calm enough for swimming.
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 (one of the best beaches in Hawaii for families)
- Discover island cultures at Polynesian Cultural Center
- Visit The Dole Plantation
- Kualoa Ranch Movie Tour
- Horseback Riding At Kualoa Ranch
- Enjoy Famed North Shore Surf Town Haleiwa
- Spend Beach Day in Kailua or Lanikai (one of the best beaches in Hawaii for families)
- Enjoy Waikiki Beach (and watch the fireworks in front of the Hilton on Friday nights)
- Eat an Acai bowl on the North Shore (one of the surfers' favorite treats)
- Paradise Cove Luau
Best Kid-Friendly Resorts On Oahu
Here are some of the most family friendly resorts on Oahu.
- Hilton Hawaiian Village
- Outrigger Waikiki
- Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa
- Marriott Ko Olina
- Turtle Bay Resort (on the North Shore)
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, laid back, and remote islands. For families looking for which Hawaiian island is least crowded, of the four major islands, Kaua'i is the least crowded island.
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. In fact, seeing it from above on a helicopter tour is one of the best ways to visit this beautiful island!
It is one of the best Hawaiian islands for families with kids over age five who love nature and outdoor activities, and it is great for family travel. Our family loved this island which is one of the best Hawaiian island for any family who loves outdoor adventures and activities. And the Waimea Canyon State Park was absolutely one of the highlights of that visit, and it was one of the best Kauai attractions to visit.
If you are like our family who loves ocean activities, Kauai has plenty water activities as well. Places like Poipu Beach State Park, Kee Beach, and Haena Beach State Park offer abundant reefs and are fantastic for snorkeling. They are also some of the best Kauai dive sites for those who love scuba diving.
With so many wonderful and active things to do on this island, including catching one of the epic Kauai sunsets. It is definitely a great Hawaiian island for kids who are school age and above and is full of fun outdoor activities for an adventure.
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
- Have a family beach day at Lydgate 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 (one of the best beaches in Hawaii for families)
- Mountain Tubing
- Visit Lydgate Farms
- Visit Hanapepe and see the Swing Bridge
- Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge
- Enjoy a Beach Day at Lydgate Beach Park
- Smith Family Garden Luau
- Fern Grotto and Kayaking
- Discover the Na Pali Coast By Boat
- See Wailua Falls
- Koloa Ziplines
- Captain Andy's Boat Tour
Best Kid-Friendly Resorts On Kaua'i
Here are some of the most family 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.” It certainly is one of the best Hawaiian islands for kids under age five, as there are lots of things to do with toddlers on Maui.
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 for 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. Whether you are thinking of a longer Maui itinerary for 5-7 days or just a couple of days add on to a multi-island visit, there are so many reasons Maui is one of the best Hawaiian islands for kids.
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 (one of the best Hawaiian beaches for families and a great spot to see occasional sea turtles)
- 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
- Take a hike and swim under water falls on a guided adventure with Hike Maui
Best Kid-Friendly Resorts On Maui
Here are some of the most family 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 Hawaii island for kids, especially 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. Visiting The Big Island should certainly be on your Hawaii bucket list.
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 Flumin' Kohala
- Visit Waipi'o Valley
- Enjoy a Beach Day at Mauna Kea
- Visit Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area for a Beach Day (one of the best beaches in Hawaii for families)
- Splash in teal water at Kua Bay
- Visit Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
Best Kid-Friendly Resorts On The Big Island
Here are some of the most family 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
Here are some of the most family friendly resorts on Molokai.
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 for kids who want 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
Here are some of the most family friendly resorts on Lanai.
Best Hawaii Island For Kids FAQ's
Is Maui or Oahu Better For Kids? Is Maui or Kauai Better For Kids?
I am often asked if it is better to go to Maui or Honolulu with kids. First, Maui is the island, and Honolulu is the main city on the island of Oahu. We have taken our toddlers to both Maui and Oahu, and honestly, both are two of the best Hawaiian islands for kids. When asking is Maui or Oahu better for families (or if it is better to go to Maui or Honolulu with kids,) I always remind folks that Oahu, the best Hawaiian island for Disney fans, hosts Disney's Aulani in Ko Olina.
And, if you were only going to go to Hawaii once and only choose one island, I would say Oahu is the best Hawaiian island for kids.
But, even if you don't head to Ko Olina, there are plenty of family-friendly and toddler friendly activities, and great beaches on Oahu. It is also home to Pearl Harbor and the famous North Shore (for surfing fans,) so it is certainly worth visiting. It is just the busiest of the islands.
That said, if you have the chance to visit more than one island, Maui is great for toddlers and kids of all ages because it has plenty of activities, great beaches, and family-friendly hotels and restuarants. It is less busy than Oahu. But it is more expensive that Oahu.
If you wonder if Maui or Kauai is better for kids, I would suggest that Kauai is great for kids ages five and older. Most Napili Coast boat tours require kids be at least this age, and this is one of the very special family friendly activities to do on this island. There are a lot of things to do on Maui with kids under age five.
But it largely depends on your family, interests, and the vacation you want to have as you determine if Maui or Oahu is better for families or if Maui or Kauai is better for kids. Kauai family vacations are very unique and special, making this one of the best Hawaiian islands for kids.
Is Maui or Kona Better For Kids?
This depends on your kids' ages. Kona is one of the towns on the Big Island, whereas Maui is the island.
I think Kona is better for kids who are school-aged and above. This is because visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the best things to do on the Big Island, as well as hikes, seeing waterfalls from above in a helicopter, snorkeling, and it's a more active vacation. To truly see and understand and appreciate the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, as well as take some of the hikes, you need to be a bit older.
There are great beaches for kids on the Big Island and it is a quieter island. Its landscape is spectacular, with so much volcanic rock adorning the roadside. But for active toddlers and younger kids, Maui is better for kids these ages.
Maui is also great for school-aged kids and teens, with activities like the Road to Hana, hiking, visiting (and jumping into) waterfalls, amazing beaches, surfing, and more. But there are fantastic things to do with toddlers in Maui, and less so for this age group in Kona on the Big Island.
Which Hawaiian Island Is Most Kid-Friendly?
Well, all of the Hawaii islands are kid-friendly, but once again it depends on the ages of your kids and the activities you like to do on your family vacation. Deciding which Hawaiian Island is best for kids is somewhat a personal decision.
When it comes to activities for all ages, Oahu or Maui would be my picks for which of the Hawaiian Islands are best for kids. Both have lots of great activities for a family vacation, suitable from toddlers to teens.
And, Oahu has Aulani, where you can visit for a day, have breakfast with Mickey and the gang, as well as wonderful activities like Pearl Harbor, the Polynesian Cultural Center, and more. Both have great beaches for families.
But Kauai may be the best Hawaiian island for families who love outdoor adventures and a bit more laid back atmosphere, so if you have kids ages five and up, this is a great island to try for a family vacation. Visiting unique places like Waimea Canyon (considered “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific”), boat rides and snorekling on the Napili Coast, watching the unique phenomenon of “Sprouting Horn” on the way to Poipu Beach make Kauai a great Hawaiian Island for kids older than five.
And for school-aged kids and older, we love the Big Island. It is so unique and different and full of educational opportunities with Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, snorkeling, and hiking, so it would be the best Hawaii island with kids if you are looking for a really unique island experience.
We took our kids on a helicopter ride over the volcano and it was truly a spectacular site (and has helped my son in his earth science class!) It is a very special Hawaiian Island for kids when they are old enough to appreciate its uniqueness. And it makes for a great and memorable family vacation.
What Is The Best Beach In Hawaii For Kids and Families? Which Hawaiian Island Has The Best Beaches?
Hawaii is known for its beautiful beaches. Wondering what is the best beach in Hawaii for families or which Hawaiian island has the best beaches for kids?
You are in luck! Each Hawaii island has great beaches for kids and families. In our experience, we love:
Waikiki Beach, Hanauma Bay, Kailua Beach, Lanikai Beach, Ko Olina (if you are staying at Aulani, the Disney resort) or one of the hotels in this area
Kapalua Bay Beach, Kaanapali (but be careful with the current though North of Black Rock is calmer), Baby Beach in Lahaina, Napili Bay, Sugar Beach
Hanalei Bay, Anini Beach, and Anahola Beach
The Big Island
Hapuna Beach State Park, Spencer Beach Park, and Kekaha Kai State Park
Is Hawaii a good destination? Which Hawaii island is most kid-friendly? Where should I go in Hawaii with kids?
In my opinion, EVERYWHERE! The simple answer to which Hawaiian island is best for families or which Hawaii island is most kid-friendly is – all of them!
As I said above, many people people think of Hawaii as a honeymoon spot or a place for older kids or couples. But it couldn't be further from the truth. If you are wondering if Hawaii is a good vacation spot for kids, remember that Hawaii is full of families who live there full time! There are lots for the “keiki” to do!
My friend recently asked, “what part of Hawaii should I visit with kids?” My answer was that she should go to Hawaii with kids to all of the islands as each one is unique and special in its own way. In other words, visit it more than once if you can!
But if you can only choose one for your family vacation and it is your first time, I recommend Maui or Oahu as a great place to start. These are two of the best Hawaiian islands for kids. There are plenty of kid-friendly things to do on both of these Hawaii islands, and you will get a great introduction and feel the Aloha spirit.
Most people will say Oahu is the most kid-friendly Hawaiian island for kids and families. And there is so much to do there (see my post on 101+ things to do on Oahu with kids.) It is also the cheapest (see below). But I also think Maui is also one of the best Hawaiian islands to visit with kids, with its blend of activities and a bit quieter, and it is easier to get around. It is less crowded than Oahu.
Which Hawaii Island Should I Visit First?
If you are wondering if you should go to Oahu or Maui first, I always recommend starting with Oahu. It is a great overview of Hawaii, with a lot of activities and a bit of everything for everyone, making it one of the best Hawaiian islands for kids.
And, you can visit Pearl Harbor, hike, visit the North Shore, take a movie tour at Kualoa Ranch, snorkel at Hanauma Bay to observe sea life, and more. It is a great island for toddlers to teens. It is often billed as the best Hawaiian island for kids, just due to the many things to do and therefore its affordability.
Oahu is busier than Maui, especially with traffic, so by the time you visit Maui, you will be ready for a bit more of a laid-back experience. Though there is still much to explore on Maui, including the Road To Hana. But we always end our island hopping trips with Maui, as it is our favorite.
I would then add Kauai or The Big Island to another trip or if you visit all four islands in one vacation, save Maui for last. There is a reason Hawaiians say “Maui No Ka Oi,” which means Maui is the best. I, for one, agree!
Which Hawaiian island is best for first time visitors?
In my opinion, Maui or Oahu is the best Hawaiian island for first time visitors. The first time we visited Hawaii, we went straight to Maui. It was a fantastic Hawaiian to the beauty of the islands, the spirit of Aloha, and a bit of Hawaiian culture.
The following year, we visited Oahu and Maui, and enjoyed even more activities, culture, and learned about the differences between the islands.
Since then, we have expanded our visits to include the Big Island and Kauai. Hawaii is an amazing family vacation, full of things to do, beautiful sea life, wonderful places to eat, historical sites like Pearl Harbour, and a lot of culture. And, of course, epic surfing culture on the North Shore on Oahu and incredible hiking on the Garden Isle island of Maui. It makes for an incredible family vacation.
But, I do think either Maui or Oahu is the best Hawaiian island for kids. Both offer the best first introduction, as there are so many activities on both islands for kids of all ages (even toddlers). Whereas the other two islands have a lot of activities that are more active and appreciated as kids get older.
How Can I Find Cheap Vacations To Hawaii For Family?
If you are looking for cheap vacations to Hawaii for family, I recommend looking first for multiple Hawaiian island vacation packages. Often a travel agent can help you find these.
You may also want to look at Hawaiian Airlines, as they often partner with hotels and the Hawaii tourism authority to help find multiple island vacation packages. There are also so many ways to save money for family travel on a budget and I have many tips for this on my blog to make family travel to Hawaii more affordable.
One note though is that because Oahu has the only international airport on the island, and so many hotels (including the Hilton Hawaiian village), it is the cheapest Hawaiian island to visit. All of the Hawaiian islands can be visited on a budget as there are plenty of outdoor activities (like hiking and gorgeous beaches that can be done for free.) But to get the most for your money, I recommend Oahu island over the other Hawaiian islands to anyone looking for the cheapest Hawaiian island to visit.
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, whichever island you choose! 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! Which is the best Hawaiian island for kids depends on your family and interests, their ages, and the type of vacation you want to have!
Some of the islands are best for school-age kids or teens. But, Oahu and Maui can definitely be enjoyed by families with toddlers and both rank up there as the best Hawaiian islands with kids. 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. Are you ready for your Hawaiian vacation?