Which Is The Best Hawaiian Island For Families?

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, and 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.

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

map of Hawaii
Map of Hawaii | Photo credit: @ pavalena by depositphotos.com

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, 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?

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Oahu is one of the best Hawaiian islands for kids because there is so much to do there! Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head, Oahu | photo credit: Okimo from Getty Images via Canva

Oahu

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 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 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

Best Kid-Friendly Resorts On Oahu



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Na Pali Coast on Kauai | photo credit: istock by Getty

Kaua'i

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. 

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 was absolutely one of the highlights of that 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, it is definitely a great Hawaiian island for kids who are school age and above.

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



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Maui has great beaches for families and is a great Hawaiian island for kids.  Sugar Beach, Kihei, Maui | Photo credit: SMJoness from Getty via Canva

 

Maui

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

 

Best Kid-Friendly Resorts On Maui



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The Big Island is a great Hawaiian island for school aged kids.  Waipio valley lookout on Hawaii Big Island. Photo credit: @ Vacclav | depositphotos.com

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

 

 

Best Kid-Friendly Resorts On The Big Island



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For older kids and teens, Molokai is a great Hawaiian island to visit.  Molokai Point Break | Photo credit: Jon Spalding by Getty via Canva

Molokai

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

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Many peopel visit Lanai on a day trip, but you can stay overnight. Manele Bay, Lanai – photo credit: iShootPhotos LLC by Getty via Canva

Lanai

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

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Maui Sunset in Kaanapali | Photo credit: James Q Eddy Jr. by Getty via Canva

 

Best Hawaii Island For Kids FAQ's

Is Maui or Oahu Better For Kids?  Is Maui or Kauai Better For Kids?

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, 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.

 

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.    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, 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.   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 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. 

 

What Is The Best Beach In Hawaii For Families? Which Hawaiian Island Has The Best Beaches?

Each Hawaii island has great beaches for families. In our experience, we love:

Oahu

Waikiki Beach, Hanauma Bay,  Kailua Beach, Lanikai Beach, Ko Olina (if you are staying at Aulani or one of the hotels in this area

Maui

Kapalua Bay Beach, Kaanapli (but be careful with the current though North of Black Rock is calmer), Baby Beach in Lahaina, Napili Bay, Sugar Beach

Kauai

Hanalei Bay, Anini Beach, and Anahola Beach

The Big Island

Hapuna Beach State Park,  Spencer Beach Park, and Kekaha Kai State Park

 

Where should I go in Hawaii with kids?

In my opinion, EVERYWHERE!  You should go to Hawaii with kids to all of the islands as each one is unique and special in its own way. But if you can only choose one 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.

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. 

It 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 introduction 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 of the islands.

Since then, we have expanded our visits to include the Big Island and Kauai. 

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.  

 

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!  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.

 

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7 thoughts on “Which Is The Best Hawaiian Island For Families?”

  1. I’ve been to all of these islands but my favorite is the Big Island! I love the different landscapes and vibes in Hilo and Kona. And Volcanoes National Park is amazing!

    Reply
    • I do love the Big Island too, Colleen. I love Ken’s House of Pancakes as a great place to stop. But the Big Island is really very special!

      Reply
  2. This is such a great guide. Before I began researching our trip, I assumed you could easily switch islands by ferry. Not so much. This helps people narrow down the options.

    Reply
  3. This is a great article on the breakdown of the Hawaiian islands! For someone who doesn’t know a lot about Hawaii, but would love to visit there, I appreciate the start to determining which will be best for our family!

    Reply
  4. Is there ever a bad island to visit? I have not been to Kauai (or Lanai/molokai) my kids loved Maui(yes not just for HM) and the Big Island has so much for kids. I can’t wait to take them to Oahu – i love Waikiki, pearl harbor is a must do and I want to check out Aulani!

    I pretty much want to do them all!

    Reply

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