Last updated: 12:39 PM ET, Tue May 12 2015

Ohana Aloha

Hawaii offers lots of family-fun experiences

Vacation Agent | Destination & Tourism | Ryan Rudnansky

Ohana Aloha

PHOTO: The Maui Ocean Center acquarium has a tunnel that provides up-close views of marine life.

Hawaii has always extended an Ohana Aloha warm welcome to families, offering experiences that appeal to adults and keiki (Hawaiian for “kids”) alike.

Family vacationers can check out some of the world’s most active volcanoes, explore spectacular aquariums, visit a zoo, learn about history and different cultures, and discover magical gardens, mazes and working plantations, among other wonders. Here’s a look at what the Hawaiian Islands offer for family fun:


Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: It’s hard to mention Hawaii Island without saying something about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The park, which encompasses more than 323,000 acres, is known for featuring two of the world’s most active volcanoes, among other natural attractions. The Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes are monuments to volcanism on Hawaii Island.

In fact, “massive” is probably the most appropriate word to describe them, and Mauna Loa is the most massive mountain in the world, occupying an estimated 19,999 cubic miles. It stands 56,000 feet above sea level, more than 27,000 feet higher than Mount Everest.

And then there are the rivers of lava that flow through the island. Kilauea’s eruption rate is 200,000-500,000 cubic meters per day, according to the National Park Service. That means it could resurface a new 20-mile-long, two-lane road each day.

Naturally, the wonder of volcanoes can make for a fascinating family adventure, that is especially if your clients’ kids like science class. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park offers a Juinor Rangers program for kids 7 to 12 years old. Visit


Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens: Founded in 1982 by Joyce and Ed Doty, the Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens began as a landscape project in their front yard and over the years grew into a 240-acre spread of diverse gardens, complete with one of the largest collections of bronze sculptures in the United States (more than 70 in all).

The botanical gardens and sculpture park feature 13 different gardens (including a special children’s garden), the 200-foot-wide Navajo Compound sculpture, a plantation, a canyon covered in moss and fern, unique and captivating trees, plentiful flora and even a garden that looks like a labyrinth. Interesting plants such as snake gourds and the rare flower called Colville’s Glory can be found in the Gardens’ greenhouse.

Visitors will come across birds such as albatross, waterfalls, lagoons, a Japanese teahouse, an orchid house and gallery, bamboo-bordered ponds, exotic foliage, arched bridges, winding paths, calm beaches and more through Na ‘Aina Kai’s tours. A special family tour features the Children’s Gardens with kid-friendly plantings, a rubber-tree treehouse, a “gecko maze,” a kid-sized railroad train, log cabins and a covered wagon, and a tropical jungle with bridges, tunnels and slides.

Na Aina Botanical Gardens offers a monthly “Keiki Day” program for kids as well as special Family Tours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.



Maui Ocean Center: The Maui Ocean Center aquarium is a must-visit for family vacationers. It’s not only the largest aquarium in the Hawaiian Islands, but it’s also the largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere at 12,000 square meters.

Established in 1998, the aquarium and science center include one of the largest collections of live corals in the United States, more than 60 exhibits (including interpretive displays and outdoor touch pools) and a 750,000-gallon Open Ocean exhibit with a 240-degree acrylic tunnel that provides visitors with up-close views of the marine life.

Visitors can see tropical reef fish, octopus, moray eels, green sea turtles, sharks, stingrays, jellyfish, sea jellies and more, and about 25 percent of the animals are native to the Hawaiian Islands.

The indoor-outdoor aquarium also offers daily interactive presentations, behind-the-scenes tours, turtle encounters, presentations by special guest speakers and more.



Dole Plantation: One of Oahu’s most popular attractions, Dole Plantation attracts more than 1 million visitors a year.

The Pineapple Express, a 20-minute train tour through the working plantation and Oahu’s North Shore, is perhaps the most famous component of the plantation for visitors, will learn about the pineapple’s history in the Hawaiian Islands, how James Drummond Dole created his pineapple empire, and more about Oahu’s agricultural history and production.

There’s also the Plantation Garden Tour, a self-guided educational audio tour through eight of the plantation’s gardens, which feature tropical fruit, coffee beans, cacao pods and more.

Of course, don’t forget Dole Plantation Pineapple Garden Maze, sure to delight the kids. The maze, which was created from 14,000 Hawaiian plants, just so happens to be the world’s largest permanent maze, encompassing three acres, including two and one-half miles of trails. Reach the center and find yourself in the middle of a giant pineapple design… and in the pages of the maze’s official history book for accomplishing the feat.


Pearl Harbor: The only Naval base in the U.S. to be designated a National Historic Landmark, Pearl Harbor remains one of the Hawaiian Islands’ top visited attractions. Its role in World War II will never be forgotten, and for the history buff this is a “must visit” during any Oahu vacation. While most visitors primarily come to experience the USS Arizona Memorial, there are three other attractions at World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument that shouldn’t be missed.

PHOTO: A family visits the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park in Pearl Harbor.

These include the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, Battleship Missouri Memorial and Pacific Aviation Museum. Through exhibits, tours, interactive simulators, videos and photos, these historic sites bring to life and preserve the important stories and key events leading up to the U.S. entering World War II through to the Peace Treaty in Tokyo Bay, which ended the war in the Pacific.

Programs for children include “Keiki Ranger Activity” for kids 3 to 6 and the Junior Ranger Scavenger Hunt for kids 7 through 12.

Polynesian Cultural Center: Not only is the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) a time-honored authentic landmark, but it’s also a great place to bring the family.

The PCC features seven different “islands,” each dedicated to a specific Polynesian culture. These include cultures from Hawaii, Fiji, Aotearoa, Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti and Marquesas.

Visitors can engage in a variety of activities, including cooking demonstrations, ancient and authentic games and canoe rides. Several entertaining shows and events are regularly held at the venue.

In addition to the abundance of longstanding attractions at the PCC, the Hukilau Marketplace — located adjacent to the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame — just opened in February, featuring plentiful food and beverage outlets, stores and commemorative statues.

Waikiki Aquarium: Founded in 1904, the Waikiki Aquarium is the second oldest public aquarium in the U.S.

It has more than 3,000 marine specimens and 500 marine species (including the rare Peppermint Angelfish) and a variety of exhibits and living displays (including a Hawaiian green turtle exhibit and living coral display). You’ll find invertebrates such as crustaceans, fish such as parrotfish and scorpionfish, reptiles such as the yellow-bellied sea snake, as well as Hawaiian Monk Seals, seaweeds and coastal plants.

There are kid-specific sessions throughout morning, noon and night, including “Keiki Time” in the morning and “Aquarium After Dark” at night. Other programs for kids include the “Behind the Scenes” tour and “Afternoons at the Acquarium” programs.


Honolulu Zoo: The Honolulu Zoo, located in Waikiki, dates back to 1876, when King David Kalakaua, the last reqigning monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii, transferred 300 acres of land to the Kapiolani Park Association.

The 42-acre zoo, located within 300 acres of royal land, is home to about 1,000 different animals, including Komodo Dragons, orangutans, elephants, primates, reptiles, amphibians, tigers, cheetahs, rhinos and more. Endangered species include the Palawan peacock pheasant, the Golden Lion Tamarin and the Giant South American River Turtle. There’s also a special “Keiki Zoo” and petting area.

The zoo also features endemic plants and gardens, educational programs, conservation programs, an Animal Health Center and breeding programs. Twilight tours are available as well.


For more information on Hawaii, O'ahu, Maui, Kauai

For more Destination & Tourism News


You may use your Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook information, including your name, photo & any other personal data you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on Click here to learn more.

Vacation Agent Magazine

A version of this article appears in print in the May 2015 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.