A ranger educating young visitors in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Image Heather Goodman Hawai‘i Tourism Authority
A ranger educating young visitors in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Image: Heather Goodman, Hawai‘i Tourism Authority

Island of Hawai‘i family travel

Island of Hawai‘i

Island of Hawai‘i family travel

If your family likes adventure, the island of Hawai‘i is for you! Snorkel with manta rays, hike through the otherworldly landscapes of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and go horse-riding with paniolo (cowboys)

Best things to do on island of Hawai‘i

A manta ray off Kona Image Island of Hawai‘i Visitors Bureau Kawika Singson
A manta ray off Kona Image Island of Hawai‘i Visitors Bureau Kawika Singson

Swim with manta rays

Island of Hawai‘i is considered one of the best places in the world to swim with manta rays, which have wingspans up to six metres long. Several operators offer evening manta ray snorkel tours from Honokōhau Harbor, just north of Kailua-Kona on the Kona Coast. It’s an experience the family will never forget!

Guided ATV tour

Adventurous families should also book a guided ATV tour to explore the old railroad path from the sugar plantation days, as well as oceanside cliffs and waterfalls. 

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park

The island is also known for its five volcanoes, including two of the world’s most active. Make sure you include a visit to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, where you can see magnificent steam vents, craters, deserts and rainforests. The family fun activity booklet, A Guide to Discovery and Exploration, is distributed upon request at Kīlauea Visitor Center. Children can participate in a ranger-guided program and complete two park explorations with their family, such as hiking through Nāhuku lava tube and through the rainforest. 


Hāpuna State Beach Park

The island’s geology has also led to varied beach landscapes, ranging from white to black sand. Family favourites include Hāpuna State Beach Park, the largest white sand beach on the island, and Punalu‘u Black Sand Beach. Keep an eye out for honu (green sea turtles) basking along the shoreline, but be sure to keep your distance.


A family enjoying an eco friendly sailboat charter with Kohala Blue on island of Hawai‘i
A family enjoying an eco friendly sailboat charter with Kohala Blue on island of Hawai‘i

Kealakekua Bay

Island of Hawai‘i is also the final resting place of Captain James Cook, and you can book a tour to Kealakekua Bay to see the monument to the British explorer and snorkel among tropical fish and colourful coral. Ocean Rider seahorse farm at Kona offers tours led by naturalists with certified biology degrees and training in ocean conservation, while Ho‘opūlama Science & Discovery Center at the Hawai‘i Wildlife Center is an interactive space that highlights wildlife rehabilitation and conservation.

Mokupāpapa Discovery Center

Since most people will never get to visit the remote north-western Hawaiian Islands, the Hilo-based Mokupāpapa Discovery Center ‘brings the place to the people’. Check out the large saltwater aquarium, interactive educational exhibits, artwork and life-sized models of wildlife found on the islands.

Pu‘uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park

You can also learn about Hawaiian history and culture at Pu‘uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park, an important ceremonial site, which was a ‘place of refuge’ for those who broke kapu (sacred law).


Best hotels and resorts on island of Hawai‘i

Most of the island’s resorts can be found in the Kona district on the west coast and the Kohala Coast, further to the north. On the east coast, Hilo is well-placed for visiting Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, while rural Waimea has rustic inns, lodges and B&Bs.

The pool and waterslide at OUTRIGGER Kona Resort and Spa
The pool and waterslide at OUTRIGGER Kona Resort and Spa

OUTRIGGER Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay

OUTRIGGER Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay (previously known as Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa) is in a prime oceanfront location. Perched beside dramatic lava-rock cliffs, it has an oceanfront pool and waterslide, spa, wedding chapel, cultural centre, a gym, and a kids’ club. The turquoise waters surrounding the resort are one of the only places in the world where people can consistently swim with manta rays. Signature experiences include a 90-minute cultural tour that takes guests to the birthplace of King Kamehameha III, and the ‘Feast and Fire’ lū‘au.


Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

The first resort on the island when it was built in 1965, the five-star Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is set on a crescent-shaped beach at Kauna‘oa Bay on the Kohala Coast. Guests here can also join manta ray researchers for a private tour in the evening. It also offers a twice-weekly lū‘au, cultural activities and an award-winning 18-hole championship golf course that was created in 1964 on what was once a barren black lava field.


Best restaurants and cafes on island of Hawai‘i

Hawaiian Style Café in Hilo

Known for its huge pancakes and Kalua pork hash, Hawaiian Style Café in Hilo has an all-day breakfast menu as well as affordable seafood, pasta and steak. In a prime waterfront location nearby, Hilo Bay Café serves contemporary American, French and Japanese food, with a dedicated kids’ menu.


Bamboo Restaurant & Gallery

Located in a restored plantation building at Kohala, Bamboo Restaurant & Gallery has an affordable menu offering fresh island fish, free-range chicken and grass-fed steaks and ribs served with locally-grown organic produce, as well as dedicated kids’ meals and award-winning desserts.


Kona Brewing Co.

Kona Brewing Co. has a large, inviting balcony overlooking the bay at Kona, with great beer and a variety of dishes, including pizzas, hearty sandwiches and salads.



You can also try old-school Japanese comfort food, including tempura and sashimi, at the family-run Teshima’s Restaurant that continues the legacy of Grandma Teshima, whose parents opened the shop in Kona in 1899. It evolved into a restaurant under her management in 1957.


Merriman's Waimea on Island of Hawai‘i. Image: Merriman's Hawai‘i
Merriman's Waimea on Island of Hawai‘i. Image: Merriman's Hawai‘i

Merriman’s Waimea

Head inland to Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine co-founder Peter Merriman’s flagship restaurant, Merriman’s Waimea, where he pioneered the farm-to-table concept more than 20 years ago.


The Fish & the Hog

Also at Waimea, The Fish & The Hog is a rustic café and bar, with a focus on seafood and slow-cooked barbecue.


Kilaueu Lodge

Just outside Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park in Volcano Village, the character-filled restaurant at Kilauea Lodge also has an enticing farm-to-table menu which includes everything from pancakes and French toast for breakfast to lodge specialties such as Volcano Loco, as well as burgers, salads and soups. Sunday brunch is a local favourite.


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