Most travelers who are visiting Hawaii, especially first-timers, opt for vacations on O’ahu or Maui. However, there are plenty of Big Island Hawaii family activities and resorts. The Big Island also offers a less crowded island vacation experience that can serve up the perfect amount of rest and relaxation that many families so desperately need without making you feel like you are at a vacation factory.
Let our guide help you plan things to do in Kona with kids! Whether you are hoping to see as much of the island as you can or you are more focused on playing on a Kona beach, we have ideas to keep the whole family busy. Experiencing the Big Island of Hawaii with kids can be an absolute blast if you know the best family activities and things to see while you are visiting. Read on to find out our favorite family-friendly activities throughout the Big Island as a whole and specifically in our closest city, Kailua-Kona.
1. Akaka Falls
The Big Island has no shortage of breathtaking waterfalls, but most of them are on the remote north coast only really visible in a helicopter. Akaka Falls is one of the few that is easily accessible for hikers. Just 10 miles from Hilo, Akaka Falls State Park is home to two separate falls: 100-foot Kahuna Falls and 442-foot Akaka Falls. The hike is easy and paved, so it’s an excursion that works well for families of kids of every age.
2. Go Flumin’
We recently had some friends come visit and we decided to go check out Flumin’ Kohala. It was such a fun time! It is an eco-adventure company that has exclusive rights to access the Kohala Ditch, a 22-mile network of historic irrigation flumes and tunnels around the town of Hawi on the north of the island. You and your kids can book a tour with them to float through portions of this system on a kayak-style raft for a totally unique adventure. Kids as young as 5 can participate, and it’s even an activity that active grandparents could do too. Just be prepared for long and dark tunnels during some of the tour, which is not for the claustrophobic.
3. Snorkel with Manta Rays
There are a couple of coves near the village of Kailua-Kona that serve as feeding spots for giant manta rays at night. Families with kids old enough to be comfortable snorkeling in the ocean at night should book an excursion to swim with them. SCUBA divers dive to the bottom and shine lights up at the snorkelers to attract the plankton that mantas feed on. It’s truly one of the most memorable adventures the Big Island has to offer.
4. Snorkel at Kahalu’u Beach Park
Want an easy spot for your kids to snorkel? Check out Kahalu’u beach park. Located right on Ali’i drive in Kona. Kahalu’u is a wide protected bay on the Kona coast just a few miles south of Kailua-Kona town center and offers some of the island’s best and easily accessible snorkeling. Beneath the surface of Kahalu’u Bay’s crystal clear, brilliant blue waters, you will come face to face with sea turtles, coral heads, and a variety of brightly colored tropical fish.
5. Visit the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm
While vacationing in Hawaii, why not take a moment to learn a little bit about the ocean environment you’re enjoying? Check out the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm just north of Kailua Kona. They organize tours of their seahorse farm that last an hour and include holding a seahorse. The tour takes between 1 and 1.5 hours and lets you see baby seahorses, pregnant males, and leafy and weedy sea dragons. They also have an aquarium where more than half the world’s 36 species of seahorses are on display, an interactive tide pool, and a fish feeding station for the children. All tours are led by a professional and certified Biologist that has been trained in public speaking.
6. Big Island ATV Tour at Aloha Adventure Farms
Just 15 minutes outside of Kona nestled in the beautiful jungle of Holualoa you will find Aloha Adventure Farms. Just the property alone is breathtakingly gorgeous and gets you out of the hot blazing sun down by the ocean. Step inside the Soda shop and try a fun Polynesian twist on your favorite soda, lemonade, sparkling water, or a local favorite Orange Bang. They also serve up fresh baked sugar and chocolate chip cookies.
There are two tours here to choose from. The ATV / UTV tour is for anyone 5 years and up. This is one of the only places on the island where a 16 year old can ride their own ATV. Anyone under the age of 16 can ride in the UTV. Also, any guest who doesn’t feel up to maneuvering their own ATV can opt for the ride in the UTV.
Explore the rich heritage of Polynesia while driving your way through the Pacific Islands on your Hawaii ATV Tour. Travel through time as you experience thousands of years worth of culture in an untouched Hawaiian jungle where ancient Hawaiians once lived, worked, and played. On your adventure, you will drive through the villages of Hawaii, Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa where you will enjoy the adventure of traditional hands-on activities with your Polynesian guides. Come on a Big Island ATV Tour with us.
7. Polynesian Wood Carving Tour at Aloha Adventure Farms
Spend some time with a highly sought after 4th generation Master Carver direct from Tonga. Step back into time and experience the beauty and aloha of the islands by carving your own authentic wood carving in Hawaii. We use only top quality wood grown locally on the Big Island. Take a piece of Hawaii with you as you carve your own tiki taught from a master carver. This Polynesian cultural tour is a wonderful family memory! Leave the tour with a token of our Aloha that will live on for generations to come from our ‘ohana to yours.
Additional Tips for Visiting Hawaii’s Big Island with Kids
Here are a few final tips for a family-friendly Kona vacation!
Rent a car: While I have visited O’ahu without a car before, I really wouldn’t recommend it on the Big Island. The distances are too great and the other transportation options are too slim. Cars will give you the freedom to adjust your schedule on the fly and leave your resort for new activities, restaurants, and shopping.
Consider a condo or VRBO: Hotels don’t always work for family travelers, especially those with babies who need a separate place to sleep or those with teens who need their privacy. Just check the condo locations closely (many are not located within walking distance of the beach) and make sure you rent from a company that gives you full hotel privileges (some VRBO rentals, for example, can come with restricted access).
Hire a sitter: If you aren’t staying at a resort with a kids club, I highly recommend hiring a sitter so parents can get a night out. So many of the dining experiences on the Big Island are expensive, and adults can enjoy them and get more value without little ones.
Give yourself a week: So many families want to come to the state of Hawaii on a week’s vacation and island-hop to multiple places to see it all. You can’t. I’d recommend at least 4 days on just the Big Island to do it justice, but a full week is even more preferable.