Anini Beach, Kalihiwai
Protected even in strong surf by what is, in fact, Hawaii’s largest coral reef, the crystal-clear waters of Anini (which was called Wanini until a hurricane knocked the W off the sign, and the locals decided to leave it) are shallow and calm enough for little ones. Better yet, there’s ample public parking, and grassy picnic spots abound.
Biking down Haleakala
810 Haiku Rd., Haiku-Pauwela
For older kids and adults who are adventure-minded, this bike ride is a popular choice. There are several companies that provide all the necessary equipment to bike down Haleakala, and offer guided tours, as well as a few that run more self-guided trips, including Haleakala Bike Co., which has been in business since 1995. Here’s the idea behind this bike adventure: You’re dropped off to explore the impressive summit of Haleakala (10,000-plus feet)—if you do an early morning ride, you get to watch the sunrise from the edge of the enormous crater (about 7 miles long and 2 wide)—and then, for safety reasons, you’re taken to a starting point outside of Haleakala National Park at 6,500 feet. From there, you zoom down 23 miles of Maui switchbacks to sea level.
64-1550 Kamehameha Hwy, Wahiawa
To state the obvious: The Dole Plantation is a totally kitschy, touristy experience. But if you can get past (or even get excited about) the hoards of pineapple memorabilia and the tourists that look straight out of central casting, it’s actually a very fun stopover on the way to the North Shore. For starters, there’s fresh, juicy, just-picked pineapple around every corner. Visitors can also check out the pineapple-shaped garden maze, which is the largest maze in the world, or the “Pineapple Express,” a just-for-kids train that circles the property. The real reason to go, though, is because the Dole whip here tastes even better than the Disneyland version.
Hanapepe Friday Art Night
Every Friday night from 5pm-9pm, you’ll find a community festival and art walk in the cute little town of Hanapepe, stocked with local vendors and food stalls. There are more than a dozen art galleries, too, where local artists mingle, along with live music (and gorgeous sunsets). Kids love it, too.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
1 Crater Rim Dr., Hawaii National Park
Two of the world’s most active volcanoes sit on the Big Island: Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. And they are both encompassed in the national park in the southern half of the island, which you can visit by car. Check before you go to see what the latest is, but recently, Kīlauea has been erupting in two places. One of the vents (within Halema'uma'u Crater) can be seen from an overlook at Jaggar Museum—best view is in the evening, on a clear night, when the fire from the crater lights up the sky. If you want to spend more time in the park, there are a number of trails that you can explore on foot; the park has a pretty cool landscape in part because it spans from the summit of Mauna Loa at 13,677 feet down to sea level, and therefore a diverse range of ecosystems.
Kayak Wailua River & Hike to Waterfall
Wailua River State Park, Wailua
This stunning natural adventure takes you up the Wailua River by kayak, followed by a short hike to a secret enclosure with a gorgeous waterfall; it’s pretty easy to do on your own, though there are tours as well. The trip takes about four hours roundtrip—don’t forget to pack a lunch.
Haena State Park, North Shore
This peaceful ocean lagoon at Ke'e Beach is the last car-accessible stop on the north shore, and as this part of the coastline is shielded by coral reef, it’s perfect for snorkeling—particularly during the summer months, when the water is calmest. It also offers views of the Nāpali coast.
This tiny, incredibly lush private island (it’s easily accessible by ferry or charter plane) is close enough to Maui to justify a daytrip, though we think it’s worthy of a weekend stay. As of right now, it’s home to two Four Seasons properties—the Manele Bay beach resort is fresh off a top-to-bottom refresh and the forest lodge is in the midst of one right now. There's a great Asian-inspired restaurant called Lana’I City Grille, and little else—though the island’s new owner, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, has big plans to reimagine it as a sustainable, 100% eco-friendly tourist destination, meaning now is a good time to go if you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet.
Haokea Dr., Kailua
A coral reef off the shore of Lanikai Beach protects the water from big tides and waves, so this is a local favorite for a calm, relaxing swimming. The safe, warm water also makes it good for snorkeling—there are plenty of reef fish to be seen, and there are turtles once in a while, as well. And though it does get a bit crowded on the weekends, the stunning view of the Mokulua Islands and the powdery, white sand make for excellent sunbathing (though you’ll want to come early in the day, before the afternoon sun slips behind the mountains to the West, and also before all of the parking spots are taken). Note: It’s a great place to watch the sunrise.
Hwy. 19, North of Mile Marker #88, Kailua-Kona
There are a lot of awesome beaches on the Big Island; those on the Kona side can be tougher, as they tend to be rocky. That said, if you're willing to walk a bit of rocky stretch to get down to Manini'owali Beach—locally known as Kua Bay—the beach itself is spectacular. The sand here is soft and white, and the water is the clear, aquamarine color that you want to find in Hawaii. The tide is generally calmest at Kua Bay in the summer, when it's perfect for swimming and snorkeling. The waves are stronger in the winter—better suited for surfing. Kua Bay is no longer a secret, but it’s still somewhat remote—on that note, remember to pack a picnic lunch.
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