Planning a family vacation to Hawai‘i? There are eight major Hawaiian islands to choose from, making the selection process a challenge. So, which island is the best Hawaiian island for families with kids?
Read on for our guide. Or, if you're ready to get your Hawaiian family vacation started, connect with a Fora Advisor. Advisors are true travel experts who can give you the inside scoop on the best places to stay in Hawai‘i and all the best things to do.
Read on for the best Hawaiian islands to visit for families and kids.
First of all: yes, Hawai‘i is a great place to visit with kids
That said, some Hawaiian islands are better than others when it comes to family-friendly adventures. So, which island is the best Hawaiian island for families to visit?
Easy! 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
Four islands that can make a claim for the best-Hawaiian-island-for-families crown: Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Hawai‘i (aka the Big Island). This guide will explain why, but again, if you want to know more, we recommend chatting with a Fora Advisor to get all the insider intel.
1. Oahu: the best Hawaiian island for families on a budget
Oahu is one of the best places to visit in Hawai‘i for two reasons. One, it boasts a huge variety of things to do. And two, Oahu is the most affordable island to visit, mostly because it’s better connected to the outside world than the other islands.
Our beginner’s guide to exploring Oahu covers a lot of the basics, but here’s what makes Oahu one of the best Hawaiian islands for kids and adults alike.
Oahu offers the most things to do for families (that don’t strictly involve nature)
There’s a reason Oahu is the bucket list-worthy island. From pristine, blue-water beaches to a thriving nightlife and cultural sector, Oahu is home to a lot. But the big draw is its variety. There’s something on Oahu for everyone.
In Waikiki alone, you’ll find Hawai‘i’s top zoo and aquarium, plus exciting stops like Iolani Palace, which provides a glimpse of Hawaiian royal life before the monarchy’s decline. Nearby, you'll also find the family-friendly Diamond Head trails, which mix Hawai‘i’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.
Sidenote: Waikiki also happens to be one of the best areas to stay in Oahu. And remember, booking with a Fora Advisor 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 host 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 get super crowded all year long. If you want a less-busy experience for your family, North Shore’s beaches are less populated, but much rougher (i.e. they’re fantastic for surfing). Still, this calmness does make Oahu one of the best Hawaiian islands for kids, at least as far as beaches are concerned.
Oahu is the easiest island to travel to and from with kids
From a more logistical standpoint, Oahu is the best Hawaiian for families because it’s so much more accessible.
Hawai‘i’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 Hawai‘i is pretty tough on most kids already, so adding the hassle of another flight to one of the other islands can put a damper on the start of your vacation.
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 Hawai‘i.
Remember, you can outsource all the planning to a Fora Advisor to make it that much easier.
2. Maui: the best Hawaiian island for families that love the beach
Maui beaches like Kaanapali are among the best in the world, and they’re also less crowded than the beaches of Oahu.
The only downside, if you can actually call it that, is that 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 (check out our 7 days of family-friendly outdoor adventure in Maui and the island's must-see destinations).
If you’re looking for a picturesque beach vacation, an adventurous getaway to Maui is the right move. Oh, and don’t forget, a Fora Advisor can help you book your travel with awesome tips (like where to stay in Maui) and free hotel perks.
3. The Big Island: the best Hawaiian island for kids who want to see volcanoes
Like Maui, the Big Island (aka Hawai‘i Island) isn’t nearly as developed as Oahu, but it still offers a great mix of things to do. It’s fair to say that this island will appeal especially to nature lovers. Why?
For one, the Big Island is home to Volcanoes National Park. The active volcanic landscape is incredible, if not slightly terrifying to witness in person.
Of course, the Big Island is probably the best Hawaiian island for kids to see Hawai‘i’s wildlife, too. A Big Island adventure can also include swimming with manta rays and sea turtles, and other fascinating wildlife encounters that a Hawai‘i travel planner can arrange.
4. Kauai: the best Hawaiian island for kids and families that love the outdoors
Finally, we have Kauai: the least developed and populated of Hawai‘i’s four largest islands. This also happens to make Kauai the best Hawaiian island for families that love camping and the outdoors. Also check out our guide on exploring Kauai's natural beauty.
Kauai does have amazing resorts (check out this guide to the best areas to stay on Kauai for more info), but its allure mostly stems from its stunning hiking opportunities through places like Waimea Canyon State Park and the world-famous Wailua Falls.
What’s the best Hawaiian island for families? Let a Fora Advisor help you decide
Eager to get your trip started? Chat with a Fora Advisor to start planning with expert recommendations for places to stay and things to do on the best Hawaiian island for families.