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Can Hawaii be an Autism Friendly Vacation Destination? Let Me Show You Why the Answer is YES!

Updated: Mar 9

There are surfers in the water is deep blue and there is a sunset photo with pinks, eyllows and blues.  The title says Can Hawaii be an Autism Friendly Vacation Destination? Let me show you why the answer is YES!

With its phenomenal natural beauty, Hawaii appeals to families with autism. All you need to do is look from the majestic Ko'olau Mountains to the awe-inspiring Volcanoes National Park to see that it is a destination you would love to visit. The good news is that Hawaii is low-sensory, safe, and comfortable.

You won’t be spending time on the islands hanging out in shopping malls as your kids get overstimulated. Instead, your days will be spent on the sandy beaches. At those beaches, you will go snorkeling with tropical fish and even watch the lava flow from a nearby volcano.

During those times you need to be out of the sun, you can visit the local museums, aquariums, and historical attractions. Many of those places offer hands-on activities that will keep your family engaged and happy.

Hawaii offers so many things for families with autism that you will wonder why this gorgeous destination hasn’t been on your list of places to visit sooner!

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Can Hawaii be an Autism Friendly Vacation Destination? Let Me Show You Why the Answer is YES!

A sunset photo in the clouds of the wing of an airplane.  There is the sunflare in the window.

Getting to Hawaii

Hawaiian Airlines can be helpful to guests flying with a person with autism. But it would be best if you were prepared to ask for it and even solve issues independently. I will give you recommendations before your trip. I will also ensure that you have a private transfer set up so you can get to your accommodations from the airport quickly after your arrival. Learn more about how Hawaii can be an Autism Friendly Vacation Destination.

The Best Islands for Kids

The owner of Spectrum Getaways Son at the Arizona Memorial.  He is standing looking at the crowd as they make their way to the names of the fallen.


On the island of O’ahu, you will find multiple family-friendly accommodations near Waikiki Beach. My personal favorite is the Ko’Olina Resort. This resort has one of the most family-friendly lagoons on all the islands combined. My son loved visiting the Ko’Olina Lagoons. The waves were gentle, so he could enter the water without being restricted by a life jacket. If we let him, he would have spent every day snorkeling and enjoying the beach.

The lagoons are also an excellent place for kayaking and paddle boarding if you love to do those adventures. We often went back to the lagoons for lunch and dinner some days. It was such a calm location that we could relax and enjoy the ambiance while eating amazing local foods. Plus, at night, the sunsets were incredible!

All the things you will want to see and do on the island of O’ahu are less than a half day’s drive away, too. So, you can easily spend one day hiking Diamond Head and another snorkeling at Hanauma Bay or visiting the Iolani Palace. You must not forget to have a little shaved ice over at Matsumoto’s on the North Shore. It is a perfect place to stop after you have visited the Polynesian Cultural Center.

One of the best places to visit in O’ahu is the Honolulu Zoo. Over one thousand animals can be seen in their natural habitats. The Waikiki Aquarium is the country's third oldest aquarium, making it a must-visit destination during your vacation.

One of the most unique museums we found on the island of O’ahu was the Bishop Museum. The exhibits change often, which is perfect for the locals. My son and I loved the fact that all the exhibits were interactive. This museum was created to allow people to truly experience the exhibits instead of looking at them. If you have the time and plan your trip accordingly, you can even participate in the available children’s programming.

If time allows, you must check out the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial when on vacation in O’ahu. You can see the memorial from the shoreline of the island. So, if you don’t have enough time to squeeze this attraction into your schedule, you can at least see it from a distance. But if you can, I recommend adding this Pearl Harbor attraction to your itinerary. I will work with you to make it possible if this is a must-see on your list.


A sunset photo with deep clouds in the sky of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii.

When vacationing in Maui, I recommend renting a family-sized condo on the leeward shoreline. This location will mean gorgeous sunrises and sunsets and plenty of time near the water. The sunrise is also a must-see at the top of the Haleakala volcano.

A favorite road trip in Maui is the Road to Hana. This sixty-four-plus-mile journey is beyond breathtaking. There are so many attractions to see when you make this drive. Most are little parks, lookouts, waterfalls, and areas where you can take short hikes. This road trip can bring you an entire day, and you will want to ensure you have your camera and either a charger or extra batteries. One thing to note is motion sickness is possible during the Road to Hana journey. Therefore, if you have a family member prone to motion sickness, you may want to skip this adventure! I know firsthand about this since my oldest son got very ill on our drive back to Kahului to catch our flight back to O’ahu.

Other items on your must-do list for Maui include taking a whale-watching cruise, learning about the ocean at the Maui Pacific Ocean Center, and smelling the lavender over at Ali’i Kula Lavender.


A bright sunny day that shows the ocean spary over the green plans and trees of Kauai.

It is all about the outdoors during a vacation on the island of Kaua’i. The baby beaches will let your little children get wet while your older kids will love learning how to surf. One of the first places you must see on Kaua’i is the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Your kids will love tubing along the Wailua River. Before your vacation, you can enjoy a sunset catamaran cruise I booked for you. It is from that catamaran where your kids will be in awe of what is surrounding them, and you will fall in love with the stunning views of the Na Pali Coast.


A shot of the caldera of Kileua.  You can see a little bit of lava and smoke rising out of the caldera.

There is so much to do in Hawai’i, also known as The Big Island. Watching the red-hot lava flow from the Kīlauea volcano can be a life-changing experience for everyone in your family. I do recommend that you take the time to explore a little more of the Volcanoes National Park. It is one of the best ways to see the stunning landscape of the park, as well as the other volcano, Mauna Loa.

Another unforgettable experience on this island is ziplining through the forests. I guarantee the magnificent views along the way will sweep you away. Your kids will want to go horseback riding like a paniolo, which is a Hawaiian cowboy.

The Forgotten Hawaiian Islands

Everyone seems to forget the Lana’i and Moloka’i islands when planning vacations to Hawaii. I want to remind you of them because they offer authentic Hawaiian experiences to families like yours. Plus, since fewer people visit these two islands, you are guaranteed to have a quieter vacation.

There are plenty of accommodations on both these islands. Many of them are close to the uncrowded beaches, which is perfect if your family wants to chill and relax in paradise.

On the island of Lana’i, you can visit the Garden of the Gods or the Lana’i Culture and Heritage Center. There are also plenty of beaches. You may want to check out Shipwreck Beach, Polihua Beach, and Hulopoe Bay.

Moloka'i offers a few things that the other Hawaiian Islands do not. On this island, you can explore the Moloka’i Forest Reserve and Halawa Valley. I also recommend taking a boat to see the North Shore Sea Cliffs and watching the sunset from Papohaku Beach.

One of the more unique things to do in Moloka’i is send your friends back home a coconut. There is a small post office right outside Ho’Olehua. A visit there will involve decorating your own coconut and then shipping it to whoever you want the receiver to be.

You must also visit Hot Bread Lane when you are on Moloka’i. Within that alley, you will find the Kanemitsu Bakery and the delicious bread they bake.

Hawaii for Kids

The solid lava frields of Volcanos National Park.  You can see a foggy sky with green hills around the lava field that is cooled and black in color.  There is a hiking trail that goes off in the distance.

When you are vacationing in Hawaii with kids, there is never too much to worry about. The sun is always shining, so sunblock is a must. The temperature hardly ever goes below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, so you won’t need to bundle anyone up regularly.

As you go from one destination to another on a Hawaiian island, you will realize that driving distances are always short. However, this is not a sign that you can cram as much into each day. Your autistic child won’t be able to handle it, so slow down and enjoy!

I recommend only visiting one or two islands during your vacation in Hawaii. The interisland flights may be short, but it is still a long day when you take one. So, keep things simple and stick to one or two islands. You can always go back again to see those things you didn’t see the first time around.

Eating Out in Hawaii

All the Hawaiian Islands are family-oriented, so you will find that most restaurants welcome children with open arms. The only exceptions are the high-end dining restaurants. Almost all the restaurants offer a children’s menu, booster seats, and high chairs. If you know your child will need a special seat for every meal, I recommend taking a collapsible seat with you on vacation.

If you know that you can't dine in a restaurant, don’t worry! You can still find plenty of options to eat on the islands! Eating at one of the beach parks is one of the best ways to enjoy a meal in Hawaii! Pack finger foods for your picnic. It is easy to purchase fruit from farmers’ markets, grab smoothies from the roadside stands, and grab an order at the drive-in counters.

Of course, you can also purchase your favorites at the local grocery and convenience stores. If your child eats a particular cereal or will only eat chicken tenders for dinner, they won’t go hungry. However, don’t be surprised if the local cuisine entices them to try something new. After all, the bright-colored fruits and sweet treats can be quite tempting.

Leonard’s Bakery is one of my favorite places to grab treats on the island of O’ahu. I will often take my children there and Matsumoto Shave Ice, which I mentioned above. My go-to place on The Big Island of Hawai’i is always Gysea Gelato.

Are you ready to see how excellent Hawai’i is for families with autism? Contact me today and learn how hiring me as your travel advisor will make your next vacation unforgettable! Having been to Hawai’i multiple times, I have the expertise to plan a perfect Hawaiian vacation for you and your family. So, let me make your next family vacation beyond fantastic!

A ocean photos with sufers in an aeril shot.  There is text on top that says Alooooooooohaa Autism friendly Hawai'i.  Spectrum is on the photo

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