23 Hawaiian Adventures for the Whole Family
Looking for inspiration of what to do on your next trip to Hawaii, but don’t want to spend hours thumbing through a guide book? You’ve come to the right place
I’ve been to Hawaii, maybe a dozen times. I’ve stayed at some of the best resorts, and I’ve also stayed with my best friend who’s lived there for the last 15 years. So even if I haven’t done everything on this list, I’ve spoken to enough locals and tourists alike to know what’s worthwhile.
Because It’s Hawaii
There are some things so essential to Hawaii, that you’ll find them on every island. These are my top three.
Live large at a Luau
Few parties claim to be fun for the whole family and actually deliver. But Luau is definitely one of them. You’ll love the juicy, slow-roasted kalua pig. Kids will love being part of the torch-lighting ceremony, and everyone will get a kick out of hula and fire dancing. Ask your concierge if they can recommend any Luau’s nearby. Or check out this list of resorts that do their own.
Snorkel amazing reefs
One of the cool thing about Hawaii is that you can find quality snorkeling on almost every coast. But for the best of the best, I’d recommend Hanauma Bay on Oahu (calm, clear waters in a protected bay), Molokini Crater off Maui (a reef growing around a half sunken volcano), and Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island (marine sanctuary teaming with fish, sea turtles, and dolphins).
Quench your thirst with shave ice
I never leave a place until I’ve had their signature sweet. And shave ice is the perfect treat for a hot Hawaiian day. It’s not a snow cone, which is made from ground ice. Shave ice is literally made by shaving thin slices off a block of ice to form super fine powdered snow.
It often comes in tropical flavors such as passionfruit and guava. For the ultimate shave ice experience, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or azuki beans (Japanese sweet red beans) to the bottom. Top it off with a layer of sweetened condensed milk and you’ve got a tasty, local experience.
Considered by many as the most-diverse all-around Hawaiian Island, Maui has a lot for you and your travel buddies. Experience fine dining, great beaches and pristine nature without the crowds of Oahu.
Eat the world’s best fish burger
I remember my first fish burger at Paia Fish Market. I’d just finished a three-hour windsurfing lesson and my friend took me into town for what he said was the “best fish burger” in Hawaii. That’s quite a claim to make in a state surrounded by ocean. It’s like saying a place has “the best BBQ in Texas.”
But without sampling every fish burger in Hawaii, I’m still left dreaming of that tender Ono melting in my mouth. If you’re fine sitting at communal picnic tables, then you’ll be handsomely rewarded with one of the best fish-eating experiences in Hawaii. As a tip, these burgers are big, so working up an appetite is key.
Climb to the top of Mt. Haleakala
There are few places where you can watch the sun and moon rise at the same time. This 10,023-foot dormant Volcano is like a moonscape itself. Atop Mt. Haleakala you can see both sides of Maui, and The Big Island in the distance. The hour-long drive from sea level to the top, is the highest ascent in the least amount of distance in the world.
Experience the road to Hana
A large swath of Maui resembles the rainforests of Kauai. But to get there you have to take a three-hour drive along some very windy roads. Just keep telling yourself that it’s about the journey. And at the end of the road you’ll arrive in paradise. Take a hike through bamboo forests, waterfalls, and warm, fresh water pools. I’d suggest staying overnight, but if you’re bold enough, it can be done in a day.
The channel between west Maui, Molokai, and Lanai is a breeding ground for the humpback whale. Every year, they travel 3,500 miles from Alaska to the warm waters off Lahaina. They arrive from December to April, with February being the peak. If you’re there, be sure to book a tour and check out the famed humpback festival on February 14 and 21 of 2015.
Sit beneath an acre wide tree
Maui’s famous Banyan tree is a sight that will impress adults as much as kids. Imported from India in 1873, this 8-foot tall tree grew to a height of 60-feet and spread out to cover two-thirds of an acre. You can walk in the shadow of its 12 trunks and hundreds of vines, all connected together. Set in the park in front of the Lahaina Courthouse, the tree is host to a regular art event on the second and fourth weekend of every month.
The Big Island
The Big Island is like the outback, it’s expansive, untouched, and with all the lava rocks, it has a prehistoric feel to it.
Golf among the lava rocks
The Big Island has some of the world’s most dramatic courses. If you’re a serious golfer, you should consider these two legendary greens.
The Hapuna Course begins at the shore and climbs 700 feet above sea level, offering views of lava fields, the ocean, and the surrounding volcanoes. Mauna Lani Resort’s South course is home to one of the most photographed golf holes in the world, No. 15. For 11 years this course has hosted the Senior Skins Golf Game. The backdrop of emerald Bermuda grass, smooth pahoehoe lava rock, and the endless sea is truly remarkable.
See the world’s most active Volcano
Mt. Kilauea is the most active volcano on earth. It erupts so often that every now and again neighboring Maui receives a slight haze known as the “Vog” (Volcanic Fog). Head over to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and hike between glowing lava lakes, rainforests, and hidden beaches.
Sample authentic Kona Coffee
Leave your Italian espresso or French press at home. You haven’t tasted coffee until you’ve visited a coffee plantation in Kona. The combination of high elevation, rich volcanic soil, and ample cloud cover makes for a rare bean. I’d recommend a tour of Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation, the largest organic coffee farm in the US. If you’re there in November, be sure to check out the Kona Coffee Festival in Kailua Village.
Forget the lava rocks, head to the beach
The Big Island isn’t all lava rocks and coffee. For a beach day, you can rent an umbrella and head to Hapuna Beach, a half-mile stretch of soft sand around a calm, crescent shaped bay.
Find that perfect Hawaiian rainbow
Want easy access to a scenic hike fit for Hollywood? At Akaka Falls State Park you’re only a half mile from a 420-foot waterfall surrounded by rainforest on all sides and beaming with rainbows. The unmistakable scent of wild guavas, flowers, and ginger, will stay with you for many years.
Oahu is the most action packed of the Hawaiian Islands. The city of Honolulu is a bustling metropolis, but that doesn’t mean you can’t escape to the tranquil North Shore.
Get swanky on Waikiki Beach
When you see a postcard of Oahu or even Hawaii, there’s a good chance it’s of Waikiki beach. What was once the vacation spot of Hawaiian royalty is still Oahu’s most popular beach. These white sands are lined with one mile of chic condo towers and amazing shopping, dining, and nightlife. Many of Hawaii’s best resorts are just steps away from Waikiki Beach. With its small, but nicely formed waves, this is also one of the best places to learn how to surf.
See the view from Diamond Head Crater
For the perfect view of Honolulu spread along Waikiki Beach, you can take a fairly easy hike to the top of Diamond Head Crater. This 1.5-mile round trip walk is great for all ages and gives you the satisfaction of a full panorama.
Honor our history at Pearl Harbor
No trip to Oahu is complete without a visit to the memorial at Pearl Harbor. The underwater view of the sunken USS Arizona is unforgettable. There’s only a limited number of tickets each day and tours end at 3 pm so be sure to get there early – like 8 or 9 am. Also, I’d note that you should leave your purse or backpack at home because they don’t allow bags, and you’ll have to pay to store it in a locker. Water, cameras, and snacks are all allowed.
Hang loose on the North Shore
Sometimes it’s nice to escape the action of Honolulu. Oahu’s North Shore is the place to do it! The seven miles of amazing beaches along the North Shore is host to the super bowl of surfing. In the winter, the world’s best surfers come together to compete on some of biggest waves. For a local experience, spend a day in Haleiwa and enjoy fresh fish and rainbow flavored shave ice.
Shop, shop, shop
Go treasure hunting for a Hawaiian souvenir, local crafts or top-of-the-line designer fashion and jewelry. Waikiki Beach Walk has things for the whole family and gifts for friends back home. Check out Mana Hawaii and Aloha Army if you’re looking for something truly unique to Hawaii.
Kauai is more or less a giant rainforest in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Explore the ‘Grand Canyon’ of the Pacific
As usual, Mark Twain was spot on. In this instance, he dubbed Wiamea Canyon the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” This truly majestic canyon stretches ten miles and is 3,000 feet deep at some points. The rainforest along these slopes is one of the wettest places on earth, receiving 432 inches every year. Take the trip along route 550 for 18 miles of scenic vistas that culminate at the trails of Koke’e State Park.
Take a river tour
Enjoy a relaxing boat ride up the Wailua River to Fern Grotto, a natural cave draped in ferns. With the backdrop of Wailua Falls, it’s no wonder it’s such a popular wedding venue. If you’re craving something off-the-beaten path, take a kayak ride through the jungle and explore places only accessible by boat.
Hike the Napali Trail
The 11-mile Napali Trail offers hundreds of hikes with views of the ocean. But it’s only a two-mile hike to Hawaii’s top rated beach, located along the Napali Coast. Tucked between the rainforest and mountains, this small sandy inlet is a secret beach lover’s dream come true – waterfalls, caves, and soft sand. Just be prepared to wear sturdy shoes.
Spend a day in an Artist Town
Hanapepe, known as “Kauai’s biggest little town” was the inspiration for many films such a “The Thornbirds,” “Flight of the Intruder,” and Disney’s “Lilo and Stitch.” This old-fashioned town is home to craft stores, gourmet restaurants, and over 15 art galleries. Head over on Fridays, from 6-9 pm for a weekly festival with local painters, sculptors, and craft-makers.
Lounge on the beach at Hanalei Bay
Hanalei Bay is one of the few beaches in northern Kauai that’s safe for swimming. It’s so calm that you can actually do laps. In winter it gets waves big enough for boogie and surf. And to make things easy, the beach has changing rooms, showers, and a picnic area with tables and grills.