Looking for fun family things to on Hawaii Big Island? This guide shows you top picks covering the island’s natural beauty, history, animal encounters, and beyond. The island has 5 shield volcanoes that create an ever-changing landscape, and both the beauty and impressive power of nature become its main draw – even for young travellers.

    Lush valleys, numerous black-sand beaches and the mighty Pacific Ocean make this a great choice for outdoorsy types of all ages. Hawaii’s rich cultural heritage and unique past make the island an irresistible destination for those looking to please everyone in the whole family. From adventurous pursuits to the engaging and educational ones, find fun places on Hawaii Island to take your kids, below.

    1

    Kohala Canopy Adventure

    Zip from one treetop to another

    Families will enjoy the thrill of ziplining at Kohala Canopy Adventure. Active and adventurous types of all ages should love the combination of 9 lines, 5 sky bridges, and a rappel within a forested nature reserve. The action kicks off with an offroad transfer to the summit station in a Pinzgauer truck, an open-air, all-terrain vehicle originally designed for the Swiss military.

    Tree-to-tree zipping takes the hard work out of moving between lines. After a couple of practice runs, even beginners should be able to appreciate the scenic views as they traverse the canopy at speeds of up to 45 mph.

    Location: 55-515 Hawi Rd, Hawi, HI 96719, USA

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 808-331-3620

    Map
    • Families
    • Adventure
    2

    Sulphur Banks

    Intrigue the little ones with the power of nature

    At Sulphur Banks, locally known as Ha'akulamanu, volcanic gases seep from the ground – a tangible reminder of the area’s tectonic activity. Those gases comprise carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide, and it’s thanks to the latter that the gas smells like rotten eggs. Sulphur gases deposit crystals and others form sulphuric acid, which acts on the lava to form an iron oxide (that's rust to you and me) riddled clay.

    Reaching Sulphur Banks takes an easy stroll along the mile-long trail from the parking lot. However, it’s not recommended for very young children as it can cause respiratory problems and aggravate conditions such as asthma. Instead, take them to nearby Steam Vents or Steaming Bluff, where the hot volcanic rocks underground superheat the groundwater and send it to the surface as billowing clouds of steam.

    Location: 1 Crater Rim Drive, Pāhoa, HI 96778, USA

    Map
    • Families
    • Photo
    • Adventure
    3

    Laupahoehoe Train Museum

    A glimpse into the railway history of Big Island

    A visit to Laupahoehoe Train Museum can ignite kids’ interest, even though railways won’t be the first thing that springs to mind when you think about Hawaii. The 1875 Reciprocity Treaty between the USA and the Hawaiian Islands led to a boom in sugar for export. Infrastructural improvements were required to facilitate that trade and the Hawaii Consolidated Railway was one of them.

    Though the Hilo Railroad was initially a success, extensions through the challenging island terrain were costly. Damage from a tsunami in 1946 was the final nail in the railroad’s coffin. Today, the museum tells the story of this fascinating line and the tragedy of the natural disaster that finished it off. You can find the museum in the old station agent’s house, while out back on what’s known as the wye, visitors can see a replica standard gauge caboose, which would have seen service bringing up the rear of a freight train.

    Location: 36-2377 Hawaii Belt Rd, Laupahoehoe, HI 96764, USA

    Open: Monday from 9 am to 1 pm, Tuesday–Friday from 10 am to 3 pm

    Phone: +1 808-962-6300

    Map
    • Families
    • History
    • Photo

    photo by Danny Howard (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    4

    Blue Hawaiian Helicopters ride

    For great Hawaiian landscapes from the air

    Views from the window during a Blue Hawaiian Helicopters ride are jaw-dropping as Hawaii’s majestic landscape is as impressive from the air as it is on the ground. The company runs a range of tours, ranging from a 15-minute taster ride to the Big Island Spectacular flight package.

    Black-sand beaches and dense, emerald-green rainforests form the phenomenal pre-show to the main act: Kilauea. This volcano is among the most active on the planet and erupted almost continually from 1983 to 2018. A landing at Laupahoehoe Nui on the Kohala Coast to see a breathtaking 1,200-ft-tall waterfall adds an extra dimension to this family-friendly bucket lister.

    Location: 68-690 Waikoloa Rd, Waikoloa Village, HI 96738, USA

    Open: Daily from 7 am to 7 pm

    Phone: +1 808-961-5600

    Map
    • Families
    • Photo
    • Luxury
    • Adventure
    5

    Kahua Ranch

    Enjoy ATV and horseriding excursions

    Kahua Ranch describes itself as a working ranch that welcomes visitors, offering many activities that are also family-friendly. Don helmets and safety goggles to enjoy the adrenaline rush of an ATV adventure across lush Hawaiian terrain. Full instruction is given; those not wishing to ride solo and children aged between 8 and 15 years can ride behind a guide.

    For something a little more traditional but no less fun, horseriding excursions depart from Na’alapa stables on the ranch. In the company of paniolos – Hawaiian cowboys – riders cross verdant pastures grazed by sheep and cattle. Panoramic views of the mountainous scenery, cinder cones and Hawaii’s dramatic coastline distract the saddle-sore. Tours are pre-booked only.

    Location: 59-564 Kohala Mountain Rd, Waimea, HI 96743, USA

    Phone: +1 808-882-4646

    Map
    • Families
    • Photo
    • Adventure
    6

    Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii

    A stargazer’s mecca on Big Island

    At the Imiloa Astronomy Center, you can embark on an immersive journey that takes you to the stars via Hawaii’s unique culture. Imiloa translates as “to explore, driven by a sense of wonder and imagination”. There’s much to learn about the parallels between Hawaiian beliefs and the world of science.

    In the 120-seat planetarium, the film Mauna Kea: Between Earth & Sky both educates and entertains. Follow the legend of the battle between goddesses Pele and Poli'ahu that led to the creation of the Hawaiian Islands. Gaze at the night sky with its dazzling stars, galaxies and nebulae, before paying a virtual visit to the observatory on top of the dormant volcano Mauna Kea.

    Location: 600 Imiloa Pl, Hilo, HI 96720, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 808-932-8901

    Map
    • Families

    photo by Robert Linsdell (CC BY 2.0) modified

    7

    Pacific Tsunami Museum

    A reminder of the forces of nature

    At the Pacific Tsunami Museum, visitors learn that such natural events are a fact of life if you live in Hawaii. It took the horrifying events of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami for many to realise just how deadly such natural disasters could be. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center is well practised in warning islanders of impending threats. Visitors to the museum will learn just how important that knowledge is to Big Island.

    The town of Hilo has suffered more damage and loss of life from tsunamis than anywhere else in Hawaii, most notably in 1946 and 1960. Through a mixture of text-based exhibits, photographs, and videos, the museum explains what it’s like during an event of a tsunami and how to stay safe when it occurs.

    Location: 130 Kamehameha Ave, Hilo, HI 96720, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm

    Phone: +1 808-935-0926

    Map
    • Families
    • History
    • Photo

    photo by Yoshi Canopus (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    8

    Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm

    Get up close with a curious sea creature

    Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm at Keahole Point, Kona, is one place on Hawaii’s Big Island where you’ll find pregnant males. Seahorses are part of the syngnathid family, the only species where it’s the male who gets pregnant, fertilising the female’s eggs and carrying them in a pouch until they hatch.

    The team at Ocean Rider looks after over 30 species of seahorses and seadragons at their oceanfront farm. Children aged 5 years and over will have the opportunity to feed and hold a seahorse as well as learn interesting facts about these curious creatures. Tours also touch on the topics of marine conservation and sustainability.

    Location: 73-4388 Ilikai Place, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 2 pm

    Phone: +1 808-329-6840

    Map
    • Families

    photo by Laika ac (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    9

    Thurston Lava Tube

    Venture into a subterranean cave

    Thurston Lava Tube, also known as Nāhuku, is a remarkable landform that was created by a massive flow of red hot lava. When it was discovered in 1913, there would have been lava drippings hanging from the roof of this subterranean tunnel. They looked a little like stalactites, though souvenir hunters soon stripped them out. Family adventurers can reach the site half a mile from the parking lot, past tree ferns and o’hia trees.

    Today, the cave can become busy. Lit between 8 am and 8 pm, access is possible outside these hours. The intrepid can strap on a head torch and venture into the lava tube in the dark. The reward for the fearless is the chance to experience such a splendid place without the crowds.

    Location: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI 96718, USA

    Map
    • Families
    • Photo
    • Adventure
    10

    Kahaluʻu Bay

    One of Big Island’s snorkelling paradises

    Abundant marine life makes Kahaluʻu Bay a popular choice for snorkellers enjoying Big Island. Some describe getting into the water here as akin to swimming in an aquarium, thanks to the variety of species. Sea turtles and sea urchins swim alongside the exotically named Bullethead Parrotfish, Racoon Butterflyfish, Moorish Idol, Orangespine Unicornfish and Hawaiian Spotted Boxfish.

    Calm, shallow waters make this the ultimate family destination, but stick to the south side of the beach to avoid getting in the way of the surfers that also frequent this stretch of coastline. Bring a picnic for when you finally decide it’s time to head back to dry land.

    Location: Kahaluu-Keauhou, HI 96740, USA

    Map
    • Families
    • Photo
    • Adventure

    photo by W Nowicki (CC BY 3.0) modified

    Julia Hammond | Contributing Writer

    Start planning your trip

    Maps