The 4 Best Hawaiian Islands for Families & Kids: Inside Scoop

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Fora Author Fora

The Modern Travel Agency


    There are eight major islands to choose from, but you’ll likely only be able to explore one, maybe two, of them while on a family vacation. So, which one's the best for families to visit? Which one's the best for kids? We've got you.

    When you plan your vacation with Fora, you’ll be treated like a VIP — and unlock complimentary hotel perks and upgrades. Your Fora Advisor will take all the hassle out of travel planning so you get to focus on enjoying your family vacation to Hawaii.

    In the meantime, read on for the best Hawaiian island for families to visit, including things to do, places to stay and extra tips.

    First of all: yes, Hawaii is a great place to visit with kids

    Whether you’re embarking on a relaxing vacation to Maui or spending an exciting week in Oahu, you can be sure your kiddos will have a great time, too.

    That said, some islands are better than others when it comes to family-friendly adventures. So, which island is the best for families to visit?

    It depends on what you and your family like to do, as each island offers something unique.

    The best Hawaiian Islands for families: our 4 top picks

    Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island are all ideal for families. Read on to learn about the benefits of each destination, and for some travel inspiration, of course.

    1. Oahu: ideal for families wanting an energetic blend of nature & urban adventure

    Oahu is one of the best places to visit in Hawaii for two reasons. One, it boasts a huge variety of things to do. And two, Oahu is generally the most affordable island to visit, mostly because it’s better connected to the outside world than the other islands. That said, Oahu certainly doesn’t lack luxe accommodations and experiences, either.

    (Also see our beginner’s guide to exploring Oahu.)

    Oahu offers the most things to do for families

    There’s a reason Oahu is the “bucket list-worthy” island. From blue-water beaches to a thriving nightlife and cultural sector, Oahu is home to a lot — and the big draw is its variety. There’s something on Oahu for everyone.

    In Waikiki alone, you’ll find Hawaii’s top zoo and aquarium, plus exciting stops like Iolani Palace — which provides a glimpse of Hawaiian royal life before the monarchy’s decline — as well as the nearby (and family-friendly) Diamond Head trails, which mix Hawaii’s natural splendor with a bit of cultural immersion.

    The Pearl Harbor National Memorial is another iconic location to visit. Although, it may be a tad less exciting for younger children.

    Waikiki also happens to be one of the best areas to stay in Oahu. And remember, booking with Fora means free upgrades and perks galore, so you can splurge elsewhere, like on zoo tickets, submarine adventures and more.

    The beaches are calmer and amazing, but crowded

    Oahu’s most famous beaches, like Waikiki Beach, are found along the southern shores and remain relatively calm in summer, making them great for young ones who aren’t used to rough surf.

    Most of the beaches have tidal pools and small critters to discover, too (you can find more in our Honolulu travel guide).

    The only downside is that these beaches tend to stay crowded all year long. If you want a quieter experience for your family, North Shore’s beaches are less populated, but also much rougher (which is actually a benefit if your family loves surfing). 

    Oahu is also the easiest Hawaiian island to travel to and from with kids

    From a logistical standpoint, Oahu is the best Hawaiian for families because it’s much more accessible than the other islands.

    Hawaii’s only major airport is near Honolulu, meaning there’s a very good chance you’ll have to fly to Oahu regardless of which island you actually visit (our guide on how to travel between Hawaiian islands explains this further).

    Flying to Hawaii is pretty tough on most kids already. The average direct flight from California, for example, takes five to six hours (plus time for baggage, security, delays, etc.) — and the average direct flight from New York easily doubles that. Adding the hassle of another flight can put a damper on the start of your vacation (i.e., tired kids, grumpy parents, etc.). 

    Oahu also has the most developed transportation network (public and private), so it’s much easier to rent a car, call an Uber and so on. Consequently, this is also what makes Oahu one of the best islands for your first visit to Hawaii.

    Don’t let us scare you, though. Hawaii is super easy to navigate. Even better: outsource all the planning when you book with Fora.

    Where to stay on Oahu with your family: the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Alina & Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa

    The Four Seasons Resort at Ko Alina sits along one of Oahu’s most scenic shores and offers plenty of fun for the whole family. A small water park with a lazy river and water slide will enthrall younger kids while the resort’s many luxe amenities will enchant adults and older children.

    Fora Perks at Four Seasons Resort Pahu at Ko Alina:

    • When you book Four Seasons through Fora, you will enjoy exclusive Four Seasons Preferred Partner benefits. Your advisor will be pleased to give you more details.

    And we'd be remiss if we didn't mention Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, an excellent option for families. There are numerous activities for both kids and adults to enjoy. Another plus: the resort is located right next to one of the island's best golf courses, the Ko Olina Golf Club, with stellar views of the Pacific Ocean.

    2. Maui: the best Hawaiian island for families that want a relaxing retreat (& love the beach)

    While Oahu offers an enticing blend of urban adventure and gorgeous nature to discover, Maui heavily favors the latter. There isn’t as much to do on Maui that doesn’t involve nature and beaches. But we think many travelers would call that a positive.

    Maui’s beaches are majestic, particularly Kaanapali, among the world’s most coveted beaches. It’s a great place to unwind with your family — even younger kids — amidst beautiful scenery, clean air and wildlife.

    Connect with Fora to plan and book your family trip to Maui.

    Exploring beaches like Kaanapali and finding sea turtles top the list of exciting things to do with kids on Maui

    Relaxation is a focus at many of the luxe resorts here, but there’s plenty of adventure, too. Maui beaches are, again, some of the best in the world. They’re also less crowded than the beaches of Oahu. 

    Snorkeling tours allow you and your kids to discover sea critters near the shore while more advanced scuba diving tours will bring you to sea turtles, rays and even small (and generally harmless) sharks. Kid-friendly surf lessons also make Maui super exciting for families. 

    If you’re looking for a picturesque beach vacation, an adventurous getaway to Maui is the right move. And for even more travel inspiration, check out our guide on where to stay in Maui.

    Where to stay on Maui with your family: the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, the Fairmont Kea Lani Maui, The Ritz-Carlton Maui & more

    There’s no shortage of stunning four- and five-star resorts on Maui, particularly along Maui’s famous Wailea Beach. Connect with Fora to learn about which resorts make the most sense for your family.

    Fora Perks at Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort:

    • $100 hotel / resort credit.

    • Welcome amenity.

    • Breakfast daily.

    • Upgrade & early check-in whenever possible.

    Fora Perks at Fairmont Kea Lani Maui:

    • $100 food / beverage credit.

    • Breakfast daily.

    • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

    Fora Perks at The Ritz-Carlton Maui:

    • $100 hotel / resort credit.

    • Breakfast daily.

    • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

    3. The Big Island: ideal for kids who want to see volcanoes & wildlife

    Like Maui, the Big Island isn’t nearly as populated as Oahu, but it still offers a great mix of things to do. This island will appeal especially to nature lovers.

    For one, the Big Island is home to Volcanoes National Park. The active volcanic landscape is incredible to witness in person.

    The coolest thing to do with kids on the Big Island: enjoy nature

    The Big Island is great for kids who want to see Hawaii’s wildlife, both in the sea and throughout its untamed wilderness. (And don't miss the island's famous black-sand beaches, such as Punaluʻu.)

    A Big Island adventure might include swimming with manta rays, sea turtles and other wildlife, all excursions a Hawaii travel planner can arrange. But as mentioned, seeing volcanoes up close will be an unrivaled experience for kiddos.

    Kid-friendly resorts on the Big Island: the Fairmont Orchid, Four Seasons Resort Hualala, Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection & more

    Though the Big Island isn’t as modern as some of the other islands, there are still world-class hotels and resorts here, particularly in the Waimea area. Fora can help you figure out where to stay on the Big Island, while also scoring you VIP perks.

    Fora Perks at Fairmont Orchid:

    • $100 food / beverage credit.

    • Breakfast daily.

    • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

    Fora Perks at Four Seasons Resort Hualala:

    • When you book Four Seasons through Fora, you will enjoy exclusive Four Seasons Preferred Partner benefits. Your advisor will be pleased to give you more details.

    Fora Perks at Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection:

    • $100 food / beverage credit.

    • Breakfast daily.

    • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

    4. Kauai: the best island for kids and families that love the outdoors & hiking

    Kauai’s allure mostly stems from its stunning hiking opportunities in places like Waimea Canyon State Park and the world-famous Wailua Falls. It’s the least populated of Hawaii’s four largest islands, which makes for great hiking treks through untapped nature. 

    Plus, there’s an abundance of wildlife you won’t see on the more populated islands.

    Of the four major islands, Kauai is probably the least welcoming to small children. On the other hand, adventurous teens and adults will probably love the raw nature of Kauai once they leave the confines of the island’s luxury resorts.

    Family vacation resorts on Kauai: Timbers Kauai, The Lodge At Kukui’Ula & the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa

    Kauai has amazing resorts (check out this guide to the best areas to stay on Kauai for more info). Whether you're looking for all-inclusive packages, somewhere with a jaw-dropping spa, a gorgeous room facing the Pacific Ocean or something else entirely, Fora has your back.

    Fora Perks at The Lodge At Kukui’Ula:

    • $300-$600 hotel / resort credit.

    • Welcome amenity.

    Fora Perks at Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa:

    • $100 hotel / resort credit.

    • Welcome amenity.

    • Breakfast daily.

    • Upgrade & early check-in whenever possible.

    What’s the best Hawaiian island for your family? Let Fora help you decide

    Check in with Fora for help planning and booking your trip, and also to unlock VIP hotel perks.

    Not sure an island vacation is what’s best for your family? Perhaps a ski vacation at one of Utah’s family resorts is more your style. Or maybe you’re more curious about the best all-inclusive resorts in Costa Rica for families. Fora has your back no matter your destination.

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