Kid Friendly Things To Do On The Big Island

12/26/2017 | by Conrad O'Connell | Big Island Vacation Planning

The Big Island is one of the most exciting and fascinating places for a family vacation. With 12 distinct climate zones, the landscape features everything from snowcapped mountains and volcanoes, to beaches and rainforests. Hawaii Island is a delight to explore no matter how young or old you are. Checking out kid friendly things to do Big Island when you’re planning your Hawaiian vacation, will make it memorable for your family.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

“Hawaii - Volcanoes National Park” by  Mark McElroy  is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“Hawaii – Volcanoes National Park” by Mark McElroy is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Since Kilauea Volcano has been erupting, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the top family attractions. The active volcano is viewed from the Jagger Museum’s Overlook, and kids love the glow show at Lava Lake after dark. Kids can learn all about volcanoes at the museum and be Junior Rangers. Explore the 66 miles of roads and rain forest by car or hike the trails. Take an exciting drive to the Visitor Information Center, 9,200 feet for spectacular views.

Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens

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One of the island’s most well-known residents is Namaste, the beautiful, white Bengal Tiger who lives in a one-acre habitat. Each year the zoo hosts a birthday party for Namaste, and everyone is invited. Attractions include the petting zoo and the Primadome. More than 150 animals, including exotic peacocks, make the zoo their habitat. The gardens are the perfect spot for a picnic lunch. Liliuokalani Gardens is another nearby spot for picnics, biking, and roller skating. Cross the bridge to Coconut Island that has a safe place for kids to swim.

Imiloa Astronomy Center

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Kids and adults can learn about Hawaiian history, culture, the planets, and stars at Imiloa Astronomy Center. The center has interactive displays and a planetarium with shows and special events. Admission for the day includes the main hall with 100 exhibits and a show at the planetarium. The Sky Garden Cafe features an affordable, family-style buffet.

Horseback Riding

Learn all about Hawaiian cowboys, the paniolos, and the history of a working ranch that’s been part of the island since 1847. Parker Ranch offers ATV rides and horseback riding. Some visitors opt to tour the historic homes on the ranch or go on a Cattle Country Tour. Dahana Ranch near Waimea is owned by the Hawaiian Horse Whisperer and features horseback rides through Waipi’o Valley.

Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm

“Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm - Swimming Seahorse 4” by  Makuahine  is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm – Swimming Seahorse 4” by Makuahine is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Kids love the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm in Kailua-Kona, where they can hold and feed seahorses. More than 20,000 seahorses make the aquatic farm their habitat. Private tours of the facility may be scheduled by calling in advance. Glass bottom boat rides are also available in Kailua-Kona.

Mokupapapa Discovery Center

Photo credit: Mokupapapa Discovery Center
Photo credit: Mokupapapa Discovery Center

Mokupapapa Discovery Center is the place to learn about country’s only mixed UNESCO World Heritage Site on Hawaii’s uninhabited islands. The center features interactive exhibits about the island’s marine and wildlife, and a 3,500-gallon aquarium. The center is an excellent place for kids to learn about the history and culture of the islands.

Hapuna State Beach Recreation Area

During the summer months, Hapuna Beach is one of the best, family-friendly beaches on the Big Island. The beautiful, clean beach has white sand that expands far out into the surf, so the shallows extend quite a way and are safe for wading. The beach features a pavilion, a snack bar, a camping area, and showers. Swimming isn’t advisable in the winter when lifeguards aren’t on duty.

Mauna Kea Summit and Visitor’s Center

“Mauna Kea Summit” by  apasciuto  is licensed under  CC BY 2.0
“Mauna Kea Summit” by apasciuto is licensed under CC BY 2.0

From the depths of the ocean at 14,000 feet, Mauna Kea is the highest mountain peak in the world. The isolated location and the mountain’s elevation, make it one of the best places in the world for stargazing parties. The Onizuka Center features programs for stargazing and astronomy lectures. The temperatures at an elevation of 9,500 feet drop much faster than they do at the base after sunset, so warm clothes are advisable. Children are allowed at the visitor center but only to the mountain’s summit if they’re over 16.

Botanical Gardens and Waterfalls

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The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is reached via the Pepe’ekeo Scenic Drive. The Botanical Garden is on the shore of the Pacific Ocean with more than 2,000 species. The Garden is in a natural greenhouse at the base of a valley protected from the winds. The volcanic soil is conducive to growing a variety of plants and flowers. The paths are more comfortable than some of the hiking trails for young children. Akaka Falls and Rainbow Falls are two of the beautiful attractions. Tours of the garden are self-guiding.

Swim With Dolphins and Meet Sea Turtles

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A Dolphin Swim on the Big Island is an experience that thrills kids and adults. Dolphin swims are available for kids as young as two years of age. There’s a dolphin encounter for everyone, from meeting baby dolphins and swimming with small groups to having the experience of being a trainer for a day or a week.

Another opportunity to meet Hawaiian marine life is to go to Black Sand Beach at Punalu‘u to meet Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles. The beach is a favorite spot for sunbathing for the turtles. You may observe and photograph them but not touch them or take them from the beach.

Family vacations in Hawaii are fun, educational, and exciting when you take advantage of kid friendly things to do Big Island. Make a vacation rental your home base and explore everything the Big Island has to offer. Whether you spend time exploring the beaches and wildlife, stargazing on an isolated mountain peak, or swimming with dolphins, activities and attractions are as diverse as the beautiful island.

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