Your dream holiday to Hawaii will be all the more perfect if you know which islands are best suited to your family, writes Joanna Tovia.
Making the grand announcement that you’re going on a family holiday to Hawaii is sure to earn you points in the popularity stakes, but be sure to plan your trip ahead of time to make the most of what this amazing destination has to offer. There are six Hawaiian Islands, all with their own unique character and set of iconic attractions. Follow this guide to find the islands sure to be a hit with your family.
Home to Honolulu and the iconic Waikiki Beach, this vibrant island is a bonanza of shopping, dining and entertainment options. The legendary ‘father of modern surfing’, Duke Kahanamoku, grew up surfing the waves of Waikiki, so what better place for the kids to take a surfing lesson? The waves are gentle and the waters calm, so stand-up paddle boarding is also on offer. Sign up at one of the seaside booths along the beach. Thrill seekers can head to Waimea Bay for some big wave surfing.
Oahu is home to the historic Pearl Harbor, where kids of all ages will love exploring a battleship and US submarine. Embassy Suites, Waikiki’s all-suite resort, offers Pearl Harbor packages, while those looking for a dose of island culture will be spoilt for choice. Outrigger on the Beach, for example, offers free family cultural activities daily, ranging from lei making to hula and ukulele lessons. Worth considering too, is an apartment at Aston Hotels & Resorts – you’ll get free admission to top Hawaiian attractions and free meals at a great range of family-friendly restaurants.
If you go to only one island other than Oahu during your holiday, go to Maui. This scenic island offers visitors the chance to experience Hawaii’s true culture and natural wonders, far from the crowds of Waikiki. Ka’anapali Beach hosts a nightly sunset cliff diving ceremony and the nearby historic town of Lahaina is a hotspot of galleries, shops and fun places to eat out. Be sure to make time for a traditional luau while you’re here. Old Lahaina Luau is a fabulous venue to experience kalua pig, coconut pudding and taro cooked in an imu (earth oven), followed by hilarious hula dancing under the stars.
Maui is one of the world’s best places to spot humpback whales. Lahaina is actually an old whaling village and as many as 1500 sailors would take leave here in the 1880s, including Herman Melville who wrote the classic novel Moby Dick. The Westin Maui Resort & Spa on the famed Ka’anapali Beach has plenty of aloha spirit and although it’s close to all the action the island has to offer, it has all the amenities and activities you could wish for if all you want to do is stay put.
Relaxation is the order of the day on tranquil Lanai, and there is a range of resorts to cater to your every whim. If you think your kids will get bored with lazing about, fear not – there are kids’ clubs available to keep them busy. The Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay offers a full range of organised activities for children aged three to 12 years. They’ll learn about Hawaiian culture, build their own erupting volcano, and take tennis lessons with a pro.
Be sure to take a family day trip to picturesque Hulopoe Bay and Sweetheart Rock, where legend has it that two lovers lost their lives – one in the waves of a storm, the other from a broken heart. Lanai City started out as a pineapple plantation town in the early 1900s and is a great place for shopping and inexpensive dining.
With its absence of traffic and no building taller than a coconut tree, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you arrive on Molokai. This island may be serene, but looks can be deceiving because Molokai is Hawaii’s adventure capital. Whether you want to try sport fishing, hiking to Mo’oula Falls, or taking a mule ride to Kalaupapa Peninsula, there’s something here for everyone.
Be sure to visit Kapuaiwa Coconut Beach Park, a royal coconut grove planted in the 1860s – just watch out for falling coconuts! The safest (and most memorable) view is just off the highway at sunset. Fishponds the locals built about 800 years ago from lava boulders and coral are also worth a look.
The Big Island is still growing, thanks to one of the world’s most active volcanoes – it has been erupting since 1983! Known as the world’s only drive-in volcano, Kilauea produces enough lava to resurface a 32km, two-lane road daily. Watching Kilauea’s blistering lava flows meet the sea and walking through a 500-year-old lava tube into the rainforest is a treat for everyone.
Kailua Village is a lively seaside town with affordable accommodation and great shopping and dining. The nearby Keauhou resort area is perfect for snorkelling, diving and kayaking. You might even spot green sea turtles and manta rays.
This island has Hawaii’s only navigable river – explore it by kayak or outrigger canoe, and keep an eye out for the iconic Sleeping Giant, a mountainous formation that looks like a human figure lying on its back. Water skiing, wake boarding and boat tours are available. There are 80km of perfect beaches for sunbaking, snorkelling and surfing, and be sure to visit Waimea Canyon, the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific.’ For a dose of adventure, Princeville Ranch offers ziplines, horse riding, hiking and kayaking on a working cattle ranch.
Kauai is home to Old Koloa Town, settled when the first sugar mill opened here in 1835. Have a wander by the old-fashioned storefronts and devour a locally made ice-cream under the shade of the monkey pod trees.