Spend the day at the Polynesian Cultural Center on the North Shore, where everyone will have a good time while trying something new. The 42-acre park and living museum has replicas of traditional villages found throughout Polynesia—from Hawai‘i all the way to New Zealand and Tahiti—with lots of interactive activities and games. Challenge one another to a canoe race, learn how to crack open a coconut, or get a temporary face tattoo. Stay into the evening for the acclaimed show HÄ: Breath of Life, which has more than 100 performers and ends with fire-knife dancers.
Hanauma Bay is the remnant of a volcanic crater that collapsed into the ocean.
Under the sea
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is one of the best places to snorkel in the islands. Green sea turtles and 400 different species of colorful tropical fish abound in this cove, protected by lava rock cliffs. With shallow waters and lots of coral reefs, it’s a great spot to learn how to snorkel. Walk down the road or take the tram from the education center for a panoramic view of the horseshoe-shaped bay.
Keep an eye out for the silversword plant while on the road up to HaleakalÄ. This is the only place in the world where it grows.
Say ‘aloha’ to the sun
It’s worth getting up extra early to watch the sunrise from atop a mountain that towers more than 10,000 feet over the sea. And you don’t have to do any climbing or hiking: You can drive right to the summit of HaleakalÄ in East Maui. Bundle everyone up (it will be below freezing at that altitude) and pack some snacks for the two-hour drive. Even if you’re not an early riser, once you see the sun peek above the clouds, and the Martian landscape of HaleakalÄ flood with light, you’ll be glad you didn’t sleep in!
Pet a starfish
The award-winning Maui Ocean Center is a must if you’re visiting the Valley Isle with your keiki, since the three-acre aquarium gives them the opportunity to interact with tropical sea life. Watch a diver swim with sharks and feed giant manta rays, meet with naturalists to learn about baby sea turtles, or even pet a starfish in one of the outdoor touch pools.
Lush and always green, Kaua‘i is home to one of the rainiest spots on earth—no wonder it’s nicknamed the Garden Isle. The island has three National Tropical Botanical Gardens, where you can easily get lost in the scent and colors of Hawaiian flowers and plants. See huge banyan trees and ornate fountains with a view of the ocean at McBryde Garden and Allerton Garden in the south shore. Up north, step back in time at Limahuli Garden and Preserve, where ancient stone terraces are surrounded by commanding mountain peaks.
Visit the former estate of a sugar baron at Kilohana Plantation, a 105-acre site with gardens, a historic mansion, shopping, and restaurants. Kids will love riding on the plantation train, a railway car that takes you through orchards and animal pastures. Adults can sample the rum at KÅloa Rum Company’s store and tasting room on the plantation grounds.
Drive right up to an active volcano
Hawai‘i Island is nicknamed "The Big Island" because it is really big: It’s twice the size of all the other Hawaiian Islands combined and has 11 different climate zones (even snow). The three-hour trek from Kailua-Kona to see an active volcano is a road trip that can’t be done anywhere else.
You can drive right into Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park to get a clear view of KÄ«lauea, an active volcano that’s been erupting for more than 30 years. If you have the time, you can hike around the park, through tropical rain forests and even a 500-year-old lava tube
On the way back from seeing the volcano, be sure to pass through the HÄmÄkua Coast to stop at some picturesque waterfalls and take a family photo. Rainbow Falls in Hilo flows over a lava cave and can easily be seen from the road. About 10 miles north is ‘Akaka Falls State Park, where a short hike leads you to a spot across from a waterfall that drops more than 400 feet straight down into a gorge.