Things to Do with Kids in the The Big Island of Hawai’i
Dry and sunny on the west Kailua-Kona side of the island, and misty and green on the east Hilo side, means no matter the activity, the weather will cooperate somewhere. Because of its size, getting around the island can take hours and go through different weather. Be sure to take layers in case of a surprise rain shower and a change of shoes depending on the terrain you’ll be covering.
Explore one of the world’s wonders at the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park (www. nps.gov/havo), where you can see an active volcano up close. You’ll marvel at the changing landscape before your very eyes, witness gas releases from the ground, walk through a lava tube and learn about the local gods and goddesses, including Pele, the goddess of fire, whose spirit is believed to live in the Kilauea Volcano. Admission for four adults is free if you have an annual National Parks Pass (children under 16 are always free). Pregnant women, young children and babies, and people with breathing difficulties may be at higher risk due to the volcanic fumes.
Four-wheel down the scraggly trail of Waip’io Valley, which is required to get through rocky terrain and shallow water crossings. The jungle-like surroundings will make you experience your own Raiders of the Lost Ark adventure, as you explore the black sand beaches at the bottom of the valley by foot. The scenic Pololu Valley, located in the northern part of the island, has a mind-blowing scenic lookout. For older kids and hike-happy families with baby carriers, a trail winds half an hour down to another outstanding fine black sand beach rimmed with smooth lava rocks.
Endangered Hawaiian green sea turtle sightings are becoming more frequent among the islands as a result of dedicated environmental efforts. If you’re traveling there for Fourth of July, witness the annual release of sea turtles, dubbed “Turtle Independence Day,” from the captive breeding program at the Mauna Lani Resort (www.maunalani.com). By partnering with the Sea Life Park in Oahu, the resort is able to raise turtles in onsite ponds, which are open to the public, until they are old enough to join the wild.
Kona is to coffee as Napa and Sonoma are to wine. Meander through winding lush roads with hilltop views of the ocean below, while enjoying world renown coffee tastings at Kona’s numerous coffee plantations. Learn how coffee beans are grown, harvested and roasted at kid-friendly Hula Daddy Kona Coffee Plantation (www.huladaddy.com) or download a free Kona coffee plantation tour map at www.konacoffeefest.com.
Tip: If you’re staying at a resort, typically complimentary activities such as lei-making or nightly conch shell and fire torch rituals that signify the end of the day are available to guests. We like the Fairmont Orchid (www.fairmont.com/orchid-hawaii) in Kailua-Kona where complimentary cultural exploration hikes to ancient lava shelter caves and lava petroglyph drawings are offered daily. Also check marketplaces like The Queens Marketplace (www.queensmarketplace.net) for free ukulele lessons and hula dancing performances.