6 islands, 6 picks for summer

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

When spring break comes to a close you can feel the anticipation mount...

Summer is coming! Long, languid days in the sun, carefree adventures — no homework. We know the kids are bugging you about a trip to Hawaii because there's nothing better than splashing in the warm, tropical Pacific and resort pools while enjoying 80-degree days and balmy tradewinds. (And no homework.) But there's more to Hawaii than beach time. And then there's the question of where to take the family — we've got 6 islands with vacation amenities, so which one and why?

Here's our Top 6 for 6 Islands list: The best family-friendly destinations in the Aloha State. Who knows? It may inspire you to make it a multiple-island trip. Keep in mind: "Family friendly" doesn't mean "childproof" — many of these locations are outdoors and the keiki will still need adult supervision.

Oahu: The Gathering Place

  • Diamond Head Hike: a brisk, one-mile hike to the top of Diamond Head crater will take you over ascending switchbacks that lead to WWII-era turret structures, including 100 concrete steps, a spiral staircase in the dark and amazing views of Waikiki and Oahu's southern coastline. A good fitness challenge for the kids that isn't overwhelming. And just get a load of that view.
    Cost for a family of 4: $5 to drive, $4 to walk. Fly to site »
  • Sea Life Park: The marine wonders of the Pacific brought into one wildlife park, including dophins, sea lions, penguins, turtles, manta rays and far more fish than even your most precocious child can count — with shows highlighting the many talents of these oceanic stars. And it's an excellent place to enjoy Junior's First Coconut Ice Cream Cone.
    Cost for a family of 4: $105. Fly to site »
  • Hanauma Bay: A vibrant reef born of a sunken volcano cone is a marine preserve that has been meticulously restored. The number of entrants are limited to ensure the reef continues to thrive; you will be shown a video about how to help in that effort. Once in, enjoy snorkeling in crystal waters with turtles, eels and fish of every stripe and color.
    Cost for a family of 4: $16 (with kids younger than 13). Fly to site »
  • Manoa Falls: Let the kids get muddy hiking into the backmost part of Manoa Valley, a short drive from Waikiki. The falls won't be robust during the summer dry season, but the cliffs and pools are gorgeous, as is the hike through bamboo and lush terrain.
    Cost for a family of 4: FREE. Fly to site »
  • Shark's Cove: Reef and lava rock create multiple tidal pools and underwater caverns — a treat for snorkelers. During the winter, the area is rough with surf, but during the summer it's tranquil, a magnet for families. Don't forget shave ice at Matsumoto's or Aoki's in Haleiwa afterward.
    Cost for a family of 4: FREE. Fly to site »
  • Makapuu Lighthouse Trail: Paved, gentle slopes take you up to the easternmost point on Oahu, with stunning views of the Windward coast. Alas, our visiting humpback whales will be gone during the summer, but you still can't beat watching the waves crash against this rocky, dynamic shore.
    Cost for a family of 4: FREE. Fly to site »

Maui: The Valley Isle

  • Haleakala Crater: Maui's 10,000-foot behemoth mountain offers a moonscape terrain that wil have the kids squealing, "Cool!" Plus, the drive up there is a lot shorter than the Road to Hana.
    Cost for a family of 4: $10 (if you go in a car, good for three days). Fly to site »
  • Makena Beach: Maui's biggest beach offers plenty of running room for the wee ones, and a protective reef keeps the waters calm.
    Cost for a family of 4: FREE. Fly to site »
  • Black Rock: Between the excellent snorkeling and the ample leaping spots for epic cannonballs, the kids will want to come back the next day. And maybe the day after that.
    Cost for a family of 4: FREE. Fly to site »
  • Iao Valley State Park: A verdant splendor, with a burbling stream and a funky-looking needle of mountain, this park is a visual feast.
    Cost for a family of 4: $5 to park. Fly to site »
  • Guri Guri: This plantation era snack — a cross between sherbet and ice cream — is a Maui original. Tasaka's Guri Guri at the Maui Mall is the place to get it.
    Cost for a family of 4: $2.55 for five scoops. Fly to site »
  • Maui Ocean Center: Holy underwater aquarium! Good luck dragging the kids out of there. Maybe the Hammerhead Harbor will do the trick, or the Turtle Lagoon.
    Cost for a family of 4: $90. Fly to site »

Kauai: The Garden Isle

  • Smith's Luau: A favorite among locals, the kids will love the feast and performances from Tahiti, Hawaii, China, Japan, the Philippines, New Zealand and Samoa. Bonus: So will mom and dad.
    Cost for a family of 4: $216. Fly to site »
  • Kee Beach: This north shore beach just outside of Hanalei would be a bit dicier during the high-surf winter months, but during the summer is a snorkeler's paradise. How many different types of fish will your kids count?
    Cost for a family of 4: FREE. Fly to site »
  • Spouting Horn: Pictured. Who doesn't like a water geyser?
    Cost for a family of 4: FREE. Fly to site »
  • Waimea Canyon: A feat more powerful than Superman? Time. See how it's carved this multicolored canyon into a geological wonder.
    Cost for a family of 4: FREE. Fly to site »
  • Wailua River/Fern Grotto: You'll be imagining Huck Finn's tales come to life on this broad river journey. Best way to see it with the kids is on a motorcoach excursion.
    Cost for a family of 4: $194. Fly to site »
  • Wailua Falls: This 80-foot double tiered beaut is exactly what you imagined a tropical waterfall would look like. And you can drive right up to the lookout.
    Cost for a family of 4: FREE. Fly to site »

Hawaii: The Big Island

  • Kilauea Volcano: The world's most active volcano — erupting continuously since 1983 — has been a showstopper this year, with a new fissure opening along the East Rift Zone in March. Check with the Visitors Center in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for the latest on where it's safe to sightsee.
    Cost for a family of 4: $10 (for one passenger vehicle and all inhabitants, food for 7 days). Fly to site »
  • Imiloa Astronomy Center: The Onizuki Center for Astronomy on Mauna Kea is the place to go for stars, but if you'd rather not make the difficult trip up with the kids, this center in Hilo will easily slake the kids' thirst for universal knowledge.
    Cost for a family of 4: $54. Fly to site »
    Or, take a tour to Mauna Kea — but the kids must be 16 years or older. Cost for a family of 4: $413. Fly to site »
  • Kealakekua Bay: The largest sheltered bay on the island features some of the best snorkeling in the world. Lots of rocky coast: reef shoes are advisable.
    Cost for a family of 4: FREE. Fly to site »
  • Ahalanui Warm Springs: Volcanically heated pool in the Puna district will have your kids wondering where the "hot" spigot is.
    Cost for a family of 4: FREE. Fly to site »
  • Lava Tree State Monument: Walk through the burned-out remnants of a forest laid to waste by volcanic lava.
    Cost for a family of 4: FREE. Fly to site »
  • Hapuna Beach: Calm waters, excellent swimming conditions, great for kids. And so pretty you won't want to leave.
    Cost for a family of 4: FREE. Fly to site »

Lanai: The Private Island

  • Hulopoe Bay: Expect to see spinner dolphins — plus turtles and colorful fish — in the pristine waters of this marine preserve.
    Cost for a family of 4: FREE. Fly to site »
  • Lanai City: This town of 3,000 isn't a city at all, but the kids will enjoy the cool pines of Dole Park and a treat from The Sweetest Days.
    Cost for a family of 4: FREE, plus the cost of treats. Fly to site »
  • Resort kids programs: The gracious Four Seasons resorts at Koele and Manele can keep the kids occupied while you go off on a Lanai adventure — or just relax at the resorts.
    Cost for a family of 4: Varies. See resorts for details.
  • Jeep to Shipwreck Beach: A real shipwreck, just like in "Pirates of the Caribbean"? Well, no, this is a metal tanker moored on Lanai's northern reef. But still, pretty cool.
    Cost for a family of 4: Jeep rental. Fly to site »
  • Cavendish Golf Course: Low-key, casual, 9-hole public course. Perfect for kids.
    Cost for a family of 4: Honor system payment. Fly to site »
  • Pineapple Festival: Lanai, like many Hawaiian Islands, was once a mass producer of the golden fruit. This party in early July celebrates this heritage.
    Cost for a family of 4: FREE. Fly to site »

Molokai: The Friendly Isle

Molokai is an island unplugged from the world, good for outdoors adventurers and those looking for remote paradise. Though friendly, it may not be right for children. However, if extracting them from the Wii is the goal, then here are a few suggestions for the family:

  • Post a nut: You can decorate and mail your own coconut from the post office in Hoolehua. (Photo: David Croxford/Hawaii Magazine)
    Cost for a family of 4: Postage fee. Fly to site »
  • Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove: This ancient grove of royal palms was planted 150 years ago. Hundreds remain.
    Cost for a family of 4: FREE. Fly to site »
  • Purdy's Macadamia Nut Farm: Hawaii is the global capital of macadamia nuts. Learn all about this buttery nut, crack open a few and enjoy samples.
    Cost for a family of 4: FREE, or the cost of nuts. Fly to site »
  • Palaau State Park: Best place to see the island's spiritual Kalaupapa Peninsula from the top of the world's largest sea cliffs.
    Cost for a family of 4: FREE. Fly to site »
  • Papohaku Beach Park: If you're on Molokai, you have to go to the state's largest beach. It weighs in at 3 miles long and 300 yards wide.
    Cost for a family of 4: FREE. Fly to site »
  • Big Wind Kite Factory: After Papohaku, stop by Maunaloa's home for creative, festive kites.
    Cost for a family of 4: Free to browse. Fly to site »


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