17 Family-Friendly Activities on Big Island
A trip to Hawaii isn't just for adults! There are loads of activities on the Big Island that the whole family will enjoy. The best part, some of these activities are even free! Your kids will love being active and outdoors. Check out our list of five family activities on Big Island.
1. Spend the Day on the Beach
Mahaiula Bay Beach, Kailua Kona | Photo by Robert Linsdell via Flickr, CC BY 2.0
This might seem like a given in Hawaii, but it's still worth a mention. Plus, some beaches are better suited for families than others. One of the best options for families is Mauna Kea Beach. Relax on white sand or rent snorkel gear and count the different types of fish you can spot. The water is warm and peaceful, and you may even see some turtles! You can pair this stop with a trip up the mountain - the highest point in Hawaii.
2. Picnic at ‘Akaka Falls
Located in the center of ‘Akaka Falls State Park is a 422-foot waterfall. The paved walk to the falls is only a half mile round trip, making it great for families. It costs $10 to park and $5 per person. Before you go, head to one of Big Island’s farmers markets to get picnic supplies and enjoy a fresh, local meal with a view of the falls. We visit Akaka Falls on our North Island Jungle Tour and it’s always a crowd favorite.
3. Hike and Stargaze at Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea is the world’s tallest mountain! Mount Everest holds the greatest altitude, but Mauna Kea is measured from the base underwater to the summit. Stop at the Onizuka Center, also known as the Visitor Information Center, at 9,200 ft to stargaze and take in views of the Big Island. It's recommended that pregnant women and children 13 and under stop at the Visitor Information Center and do not proceed to higher altitudes at the summit. Check out our North Island Adventure Loop that guides you to the dormant volcano's visitor center.
4. Shaka Guide Driving Tours
Shaka Guide's Big Island tour bundle costs just $29.99 and has FIVE different tours. These road trips visit each corner of the island. Make stops at famous sites like Volcanoes National Park, Waikoloa, Waimea Town, Hilo, and the Kohala coast. All the tours give you the freedom to explore on your own terms.
5. Snorkeling at Kahalu’u Beach
Kahalu'u Bay | Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson
As you snorkel in Hawaiian waters, you might spot sea turtles, monk seals, spinner dolphins or even the Humuhumunukunukuapua`a - Hawaii's state fish. While many Big Island beaches are great for snorkeling, they're not all great for snorkeling with families. Kahalu'u Beach near Kona is protected by a cove making the waters calm and suitable for snorkelers of all skill levels. If you're taking our South Island Epic Coastal Journey or Kona "Big Kahuna" Tour, make a stop at this beach to see a variety of tropical fish. Just remember to keep a safe and respectful distance from any marine animals you come in contact with!
6. Peruse the Hilo Farmers Market
Want a taste of Hilo’s local flavors? Drop by the Hilo Farmers Market, which is open 7 am to 3 pm every day of the week - with big market days on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The market doesn’t only offer farm goods! You can buy flowers, handmade items, art pieces, coffee, clothing and more, all from different local vendors. Wander through the isles of uniquely Hawaiian products, and discover your new favorites!
RELATED: Best Big Island Farmers Markets
7. Hike in Thurston Lava Lava Tube
Janice Wei, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Nāhuku, also known as the Thurston Lava Tube, is a beautiful lava tube located in Volcanoes National Park. Hike through the leftovers of a lava flow over a century old. Check out an easily accessible lava cave, with ceilings up to 20 ft high! There is a large portion of the 600-foot long tube that is lighted, so it’s easy to walk in and explore. Visit this spot on our Volcanoes National Park Tour!
8. Try Artisanal Donkey Balls
Hear us out - Donkey Balls aren’t what they sound like. A local staple in Kona, these artisanal chocolates are macadamia nuts coated in a thick shell of high-quality chocolate. Needless to say, these are a must-try! The Donkey Ball Store is a stop on our Kona Big Kahuna Tour.
9. Go on a Night-time Manta Dive
dronepicr, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Big Island’s Kona coast is prime real estate for diving and snorkeling. Swim among the ‘gentle giants of the sea,’ and discover what’s under the surface of Kona’s beaches. In fact, some of these tour companies not only take you out diving, but they also teach you about what you’re seeing! On tours, learn more about ocean life, appreciate the world around you, and most importantly… have fun!
10. Learn all about Bees
At Big Island Bees - located south of Kailua-Kona - you can learn all about bees, honey, and beekeeping. If you take the hour-long tour of their beehives, you can try some samples of their pure honey products. Aside from the tour, there’s a free beekeeping museum in which you can see a demonstration hive, several exhibits, and talk to a real beekeeper! Check it out on our Kona Big Kahuna tour.
11. Visit the Southernmost Bakery in the US
In the quiet, rural town of Naalehu, sits the Punalu’u Bake Shop - with their famous sweet bread, malasadas, and much more! In fact, Naalehu directly translates to “volcanic ashes” in Hawaiian. Explore the charming southernmost town in Hawaii, while munching on some tasty local baked goods.
Visit Punalu’u Bakery on our South Island Epic Coastal Journey Tour!
12. Taste Some Mochi in Hilo Town
Hilo is already a fun place - but everything is better with mochi! Two Ladies Kitchen, located in Hilo, sells manju & mochi in around 20 flavors. Mochi, chewy Japanese rice cakes, has a very unique texture. Manju is similar to mochi - but flour-based, and just as tasty. All in all, definitely worth a try! Make your trip to Hilo a little more flavorful.
Our North Island Jungle Adventure Loop Tour takes you to Hilo!
13. Learn About Pele, the Goddess of Fire
Pele is the Hawaiian goddess of fire & volcanoes, and is credited with creating the Hawaiian Islands - she embodies both creation and destruction. In her human form, she’s described as beautiful. According to legend, Pele resides in Halemaʻumaʻu - a pit crater within Kilauea’s Caldera. On our Volcanoes National Park Tour, we dive deep into some of Pele’s famous exploits!
14. Check out a Black Sand Beach
Brocken Inaglory, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Punalu’u Beach is located on the Kau coast of the Big Island. Rimmed by palm trees and housing sea turtles, this is one of the most famous black sand beaches in all of Hawaii. The aforementioned turtles are Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, known as ‘Honu’ in Hawaiian. Although they may be beautiful, they are protected by federal and state laws - so admire from a distance!
15. Learn about King Kamehameha
Anthony Quintano from Honolulu, HI, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Puʻukoholā Heiau, built in 1791, is the last major Hawaiian heiau ever constructed. King Kamehameha, arguably the greatest warrior in Hawaiian history, led the construction of this great temple. He was told by a Kahuna (priest) that if he built this temple, he would be successful in uniting Hawaii. Apparently it worked - Kamehameha went on to become the first king of united Hawaii. Learn all about this site and hear Kamehameha’s story on our Kohala Coast Backcountry Tour!
16. Jump off of Coconut Island
Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Also known as Moku Ola - “Island of Life” in Hawaiian - Coconut Island is a charming little island off of Big Island’s coast, accessed by a small bridge. Long ago, it was believed that swimming around the island three times would cure any ailment. Today, it’s an inviting beach park with white-sand beaches, picnic tables, and restrooms. Visit for beach fun, a peaceful picnic, or just for the views of Hilo. Stop by on our North Island Jungle Adventure Loop Tour!
17. Visit the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo in Hilo
Robert Linsdell from St. Andrews, Canada, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
When you’re in the Hilo area, this is a fun and educational afternoon activity. Although this charming little zoo is free, donations are encouraged! The zoo is filled with rescue animals - tigers, parrots, turtles - even nene geese - among dozens of other species. This is actually the only tropical zoo in the entire United States, so it’s definitely worth stopping by!
Headed to the Big Island? Shaka Guide has five driving tours on the island.
When you’re in Hawaii, we ask that you act respectfully towards the locals, land and wildlife. Please pick up your trash; never touch any marine life, plants, or other animals; and avoid spots that are unsafe. Hawaii’s natural resources are precious, it’s up to all of us to help preserve these resources.