Are you thinking about planning a trip to Hawaii in 2024 and don’t know where to start? Find out the best Hawaiian island for kids in this breakdown of Maui, Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island of Hawaii!
This post about the best Hawaiian island for kids was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and may contain affiliate links, which means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Are you planning a family vacation to Hawaii and are having a hard time deciding which Hawaiian island is best for your kids?
I’ve visited Hawaii more than 40 times and have been to every single one of the major islands.
I know what it’s like to be in the early stages of planning a family trip and not sure which Hawaiian island will work best for your kids.
Keep scrolling for my breakdown of Maui, Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island so you can choose the best Hawaiian island for your next trip to Hawaii.
You’ll get all sorts of great information about each island including things that are fun or unique on each one as well as some fun places to stay with kids!
If you want an easy-to-read guide that will help make choosing between these four amazing islands easier then keep reading because this post is just what you need!
Keep scrolling to find out the best Hawaiian island for kids!
Want a Hawaii travel guide? I’ve got detailed guides and 7-day itineraries!
Things to do in Hawaii for Kids FAQs
Absolutely! There are lots of things to do in Hawaii with toddlers like playing at the beach, going shopping, eating shave ice, checking out the zoo, riding trains, visiting farmers markets, and so much more! Plus, you’ll probably want to spend time relaxing at a resort pool.
There are tons of kid-friendly Hawaii activities like going on a submarine ride, swimming with dolphins, learning to surf, going snorkeling, ziplining, hiking, and just relaxing at the resort pool or the beach.
Yes! Hawaii is a very family-friendly state and they really promote the idea of Ohana (which means family in the Hawaiian language). It’s easy to find kid-friendly food at restaurants and there are tons of activities geared specifically for families with kids of all ages.
How to Find the Best Island for Kids in Hawaii
Before I break down the different islands, I want to point out the things that you can find on ALL the islands.
Each of the four main Hawaiian islands has kid-friendly beaches, easy hiking trails, resorts with amazing pools, and places to get shave ice.
Below, I’ll tell you the things that set each island apart from the rest.
Oahu with Kids
Top Oahu Attractions for Families
If you’ve learned anything about WWII history, you’ll immediately recognize Pearl Harbor as a major attraction on Oahu. The USS Arizona Memorial is the most popular place to visit, but there’s also the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum (it’s incredible), the USS Battleship Missouri, and the USS Bowfin Submarine.
Another fun place on Oahu for families is Dole Plantation. It’s free to stop and look around, but you’ll probably want to pay to ride the train, do the pineapple maze, and get some amazing Dole Whip.
While you’re on the North Shore, you’ll definitely want to stop at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Here, they have Polynesian villages where guests can see presentations, participate in hands-on activities, and even taste local food as they learn about the cultures of the main Polynesian islands.
Things to do on Oahu with Kids
One of the most popular things to do in Oahu with kids is swimming with dolphins. You can do this through Dolphin Quest at the Kahala Resort & Hotel near Honolulu or at Sea Life Park.
There are also TONS of adventures at Kualoa Ranch, a popular TV/movie filming site. I highly recommend the ATV tour that takes you to Jurassic Park sites and has the most epic views of Oahu. You can also do horseback riding, ziplining, biking, and even a trolley tour.
If you’re going to do a luau in Hawaii, Oahu is the place to do it. The most authentic luaus on Oahu are Toa Luau in North Shore and Experience Nutridge Luau in Honolulu. Both of these are small, intimate events you can’t find anywhere else in Hawaii.
Get my full list of the top 25 things to do on Oahu with kids!
Kid-Friendly Oahu Resorts and Hotels
Our favorite place to stay on Oahu with kids is Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa. It’s the only place in Hawaii where you can meet Disney characters dressed up in their Aloha shirts and dresses. It’s fun to even just spend a few nights here.
Our second favorite Oahu resort for families is the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki. They have a bunch of amazing pools and a saltwater lagoon where you can rent water trikes. There’s also a full shopping center with restaurants right on the property.
And if you truly want to get away from the crowds, head up to Turtle Bay Resort in North Shore Oahu. It was renovated in 2021 and it’s where they filmed Forgetting Sarah Marshall!
Want help planning your Oahu vacation? Get my Oahu with Kids guidebook HERE!
Maui with Kids
Top Maui Attractions for Families
The Maui Ocean Center is definitely the top tourist attraction in Maui for families. It’s a pretty cool aquarium that has touch tanks, indoor/outdoor exhibits, and an immersive tunnel where tropical fish swim all around you. Plus, they offer some cool cultural programs throughout the day.
When it comes to national parks in Hawaii, it’s tough to beat Haleakala National Park. There’s a cool visitor’s center and tons of hiking trails, but most kids will like walking around a place that looks and feels like they’ve landed on Mars. Plus, it’s the best place to see the sunrise on Maui.
One of the most unique places on Maui is the Surfing Goat Dairy. This is a little farm in Kula where you can play with goats or sign up for a tour to help take care of them. Plus, they have goat cheese tasting and they even sell goat cheese truffles!
Things to do on Maui with Kids
One of the most popular things to do on Maui is to drive the Road to Hana. It’s not really about getting to the small town of Hana but it’s more about all the cool stops along the way.
The top stops for families include hiking to Twin Falls, exploring the Garden of Eden, stopping for banana bread, and seeing a black sand beach.
Adventurous families will also want to go snorkeling at Molokini Crater. You’ll need to take a snorkeling boat tour to get here but it’s totally worth it. It’s a great opportunity to see Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles and all kinds of Hawaiian sea life.
There’s also an easy hiking trail at I’ao Valley State Park that’s perfect for kids. It’s less than a mile long and the whole thing is either paved or has stairs. My son was able to do the entire hike on his own as a toddler. It has some gorgeous views and it’s super close to the airport.
Get my full list of the top 25 things to do on Maui with kids!
Book a Family Photo Shoot
Whenever we travel, we almost always book a family photo shoot with Flytographer. They are super easy, affordable, AND they guarantee that I’ll be in some photos. You can get $25 off if you book through this link or use the code HAWAIITRAVEL.
Kid-Friendly Maui Resorts and Hotels
While Maui is home to plenty of family-friendly resorts, a few immediately jump to the top of my list. We always love staying at the Honua Kai Resort. They have both condos and hotel rooms, an incredible pool area with water slides, and Duke’s is located on the property.
The Hyatt Regency Maui is another great option for families. They probably have the best kid-friendly pool area on Maui (it’s EPIC), on-site restaurants, and even Ululani’s Shave Ice (the best shave ice on Maui).
Finally, one of the best Maui resorts for kids is the Grand Wailea Resort. Their pool area includes four waterslides, a lazy river, whitewater rapids, rope swings, and a kids pool with a man-made volcano with a water elevator. Plus, they have lots of kids programming.
Want help planning your Maui vacation? Get my Maui with Kids guidebook HERE!
Kauai with Kids
Top Kauai Attractions for Families
The most famous Kauai attraction is Waimea Canyon, nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” There are several scenic lookouts and adventurous families will want to do a bit of hiking. I also suggest heading up to Kokee State Park just up the road.
In Poipu, there’s a blowhole called Spouting Horn that is always a hit with kids. Basically, you wait until a big wave comes and you’ll see water shoot up high in the sky. There’s also a lot of souvenir booths lined up with fun items for kids.
One of the most underrated Kauai places to see is the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge. It’s a little bridge next to the “biggest little town” on Kauai and kids always have a blast running across it. It makes a great place to stop after checking out Waimea Canyon.
Things to do on Kauai with Kids
If you’re looking for a kid-friendly adventure on Kauai, it doesn’t get much better than mountain tubing down a sugar cane canal. It’s sort of like a lazy river float, but you’ll wear headlamps and go through old irrigation tunnels. It’s not scary, but it feels adventurous.
Families with toddlers and preschoolers will definitely want to do the Kilohana Plantation train ride. You’ll hop aboard a historic train and travel around the beautiful grounds with fruit trees and other tropical plants. There’s also a stop where you can get off and feed pigs and goats.
If you’re looking for a unique Kauai luau, head to the Ahi Lele Fire Show on the North Shore. This is an incredible experience that highlights how different Polynesian cultures used fire for survival and entertainment. They usually let kids sit up front for a better view!
Get my full list of the top 25 things to do on Kauai with kids!
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Kid-Friendly Kauai Resorts and Hotels
Our absolute favorite place to stay on Kauai with kids is the Grand Hyatt Kauai. It’s located in Poipu and they have an incredible pool area (with a water slide) and it’s close to several kid-friendly beaches. They have on-site restaurants or it’s a quick drive to a few shopping centers with food options.
A close second favorite Kauai resort for families is the Royal Sonesta. It’s centrally located in Lihue, so it’s easy to drive north or south without getting stuck in traffic. And they have the largest one-level pool in Hawaii. Oh, and the beach out front is super kid-friendly.
Another laid-back Kauai kid friendly hotel is the Kauai Beach Resort. It’s located in Lihue, not too far from the airport. It was actually named the Best Value Hotel on Kauai so it’s perfect for families looking to do Hawaii on a budget!
Want help planning your Kauai vacation? Get my Kauai with Kids guidebook HERE!
Big Island with Kids
Top Big Island Attractions for Families
One of the main reasons people visit the Big Island is to spend time at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This is the best place to see lava in Hawaii, as long as one of the volcanoes is erupting. There are also easy hiking trails, a visitor’s center, and even a hotel where you can see the lava glow from your room!
Another cool place to visit with kids on the Big Island is Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, just south of Kona. There are tons of Ancient Hawaiian replicas of buildings and tiki statues. Kids will love exploring and parents will love all the awesome photo spots.
Our favorite kid-friendly hike on the Big Island is Akaka Falls State Park. It’s a loop trail that is completely paved. You’ll get an awesome view of Akaka Falls plus you’ll go over some bridges and see really beautiful Hawaiian plants and flowers.
Things to do on the Big Island with Kids
One of the best things to do with kids on the Big Island is going horseback riding in Waipio Valley. This valley feels like you’ve stepped back in time to Old Hawaii and it’s absolutely stunning. Plus, you’ll get a great view of Hi’ilawe Falls and learn a bit about Hawaiian culture.
My favorite Kona activity is the cultural ATV ride with Aloha Adventure Farm. Kids ages 5-15 can hop in a UTV and people ages 16 and older can ride their own ATV. You’ll stop at little villages where you’ll see cultural presentations and participate in hands-on activities. They even have Polynesian wood carving for kids ages 8 and older.
One of the most unique things to do in Kona is go night swimming with Manta Rays. There are a bunch of different snorkeling and diving tours. You really can’t do this on any other island.
Get my full list of the top 25 things to do on the Big Island with kids!
Kid-Friendly Big Island Resorts and Hotels
The most famous Big Island resort for families is the Hilton Waikoloa Village. It’s a massive resort that has a monorail and boats that will take you to different parts of the resort. They have an amazing pool area and you can even swim with dolphins with Dolphin Quest. Plus, there are tons of restaurants and shops nearby.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly Kona hotel, we like the Royal Kona Resort. It’s right on Ali’i Drive so you can walk to tons of restaurants, shops, and attractions. They have a great on-site luau and a private lagoon.
One of the most unique places to stay on the Big Island is the Volcano House. It’s located inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and it’s super convenient for families. They have an on-site restaurant, coffee bar, gift shops, and it’s across the street from the visitor’s center.
Want help planning your Big Island vacation? Get my Big Island with Kids guidebook HERE!
So, What’s the Best Hawaii Island for Families?
The best Hawaii island for kids really depends on your family and what you’d like to do in Hawaii.
Oahu is perfect for families who like sightseeing, shopping, going on tours, and doing a few activities. Maui is awesome for families looking for a resort vacation with day trips and snorkeling.
The Big Island and Kauai and great for families who love outdoor adventures and a slower pace of life.
Whichever island you choose, you’ll have a blast!