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Most Family-Friendly Things to Do on the Big Island of Hawaii

Updated: Mar 9

A photo of a beach with trees and palm trees around it.  There is a title that reads Autism Friendly Travel Most Family-Friendly Things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Are you ready to book your family-friendly vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii?

Adventures are everywhere on the Big Island of Hawaii. All you need to do is open your eyes and look around at the unexpected wonders. When you are not driving along a scenic byway, you may find yourself staring at a volcano, relaxing on a sandy beach, or walking along the path many others did hundreds of years ago. The cultures and traditions on this island are incredible. You will want to spend your days immersing yourself in it all, while you dream of the day you can return to this magical destination.

During this trip, you will want to spend your time on the Big Island of Hawaii doing as many family-friendly things as you can. Thankfully, you have quite a few options available to you. However, that means you must choose the ones that will fit into your itinerary and that can be difficult. To help you out, here are my favorite family-friendly things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii.

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Most Family-Friendly Things to Do on the Big Island of Hawaii

A photo of a man walking on the Black Sands Beach on the Big Island with a single palm tree in the background.

Punalu’u Black Sands Beach

The beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii are amazing because they aren’t just filled with soft white sand. Over at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, the sand is actually black. The reason the sand is black is all the volcanic activity in the area. The kids will love the feel of the black sand squishing between their toes, while you will love the relaxing feel as you sit underneath a row of coconut palms.

There are strong currents at this beach on the Big Island of Hawaii, so you must be careful if your family goes in for a swim. There are lifeguards present, so you can always ask them about the conditions of the water when you arrive. I recommend staying out of the water if the surf is high on the day of your visit. On those days, you can spend your time gazing at the Hawaiian green sea turtles, known as Honu. These turtles are often basking on the sun in the sand, so they are easy to spot. Just don’t touch them or get too close.

A shot of Mauna Kea's visitor center view.  You can see clouds over the top of the mountians.  There is an amazing sunset with nothing but mountain peaks and clouds.

Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea is one of the many volcanoes located on the Big Island of Hawaii. Most families only visit the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station when they arrive at this volcano. This station is an excellent place to learn more about the volcano, as well as the research site up at the summit. Your family will also learn about Poli’ahu, the snow goddess of this volcano. Centuries ago, the summit was a forbidden place for anyone except the highest priests and chiefs.

Your family is welcome to visit the Mauna Kea Research Center at the summit of Mauna Kea. However, you must understand this station is located 14,000 feet above sea level. Therefore, it is recommended that children under the age of sixteen and pregnant women do not make the drive to the summit. If you are interested in visiting the summit, I have a tour company I work with often and can arrange a guided tour for you. This will ensure you get the most out of your time at this volcano.

If you can’t make it to the summit, don’t worry! While the visitor station is quite informative, it also offers a lot of fun at night. I recommend heading there just before sunset, so you can gaze up at the stars in the nighttime sky.

A shot of Kileau volcoano with a small bit of lava in the caledrea.  There is smoke risinig out of the caldera.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is located approximately 45 minutes to the south of Hilo. This park is massive at more than 300,000 acres. There are 150 miles of hiking trails for you to choose from and they will take you through rainforests, deserts, and volcanic craters. You must make sure your family takes the time to check out both Mauna Loa and Kilauea. The latter is the volcano which erupted most recently.

I recommend doing the Crater Rim Drive when you are in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This drive is a little more than 10 miles long. It takes you all around the Kilauea Caldera and allows you to stop at the Puu Puai Overlook, as well as the Kilauea Iki Crater Overlook. Other stops you may want to include in your visit are the Halemaumau Crater, Puu Oo Vent, Chain of Craters Road, and the Volcano House.

Swimming with Manta Rays

There are four locations on the Big Island of Hawaii that are best for swimming and snorkeling with the manta rays. While you can swim with manta rays all over the world, it is best to do it when you are vacationing on this island with your family. One of the reasons why you must swim with manta rays in this part of Hawaii is these manta rays are part of the Mobula alfredi species. They are the second-largest manta rays in the world and are considered reef manta rays.

These manta rays never migrate, so you can see them at any time of the year. Plus, they live up to 50 years and can be anywhere from 12 to 18 feet wide. When you do a tour to swim with these manta rays, you will have the opportunity to learn the names of the manta rays you see.

Papakolea Green Sands Beach

Papakolea, or Green Sands Beach, is one of the four beaches in the world covered with green sand. The green sand comes from olivine, which is a semi-precious stone that is green. It washes up onto the beach from the ocean floor.

While this is a family-friendly beach, it is one of the most secluded beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii. You must drive out to Ka Lae and park your car before making the 2 plus mile hike down to the beach. The first 2 miles are along a path filled with ruts. The last portion will have you climbing down to the beach. This may not seem to be a big deal until you reach that spot. Since the sides are shaped like a bowl, you may feel like you should slide down to the beach instead.

It is important to note while this beach is amazing, you should not go swimming while you are there.

Waterfalls within Akaka Falls State Park

The Big Island of Hawaii was blessed with numerous rushing waterfalls. However, most of them require extensive hiking, which isn’t always an option for families. Thankfully, there are two waterfalls within Akaka Falls State Park that are easy for families to reach. Both Akaka Falls and Kahuna Falls require a half-mile hike down a paved path. Akaka Falls is more impressive at more than 400 feet, but since the hikes are so short, you can easily do both in one day.

Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park

This historical site is where the locals would retreat centuries ago when they broke an ancient law against any of the gods. They would flee to this 182-acre park to avoid death. When you visit today, you won’t find anyone there in hiding. However, you will have the chance to see multiple archaeological sites, of which a few have been reconstructed. Those sites include the great wall, a coastal village, and temple platforms.

These are my favorite family-friendly things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii, but there are many others you can add to your itinerary if you have the time. I would love to plan your next family vacation to the Big Island of Hawaii. As a travel advisor, I stay up to date with all the travel guidelines, as well as the best things to do on the island at any time of the year. Plus, I have an amazing tour company I work with often, so I know you will receive only the best when I book your tours with them. I have personally used this tour company for my vacations in Hawaii, so I know firsthand how incredible their tours are!

Are you ready to book your family-friendly vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii??

If you are, I would love to invite you to click here to schedule a planning session with me. This link will take you directly to my digital calendar, where you can find a time that is most convenient for you. I look forward to speaking with you, so I can plan the perfect Hawaiian vacation for your family!

A volcano erupting with lava spewing out at night time.  The title reads Autism Travel Tips Family Friendly Big Island of Hawai'i

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