Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
45-680 Luluku Rd., Kāne'ohe
It’s usually around day three or four that you’ll want to get out of the sun—or at least take a break from the beach. That’s where the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden comes in. It sits right up against the Koolau Mountain Range, which is as beautiful as it sounds—lush and natural and packed with every shade of green imaginable and unimaginable. There’s also a loop for an easyish walk around the reservoir that was built by the US Army as flood control.
5670 Hana Hwy., Hana
A 3,600-acre working ranch that hugs most of the eastern side of the island, Hana Ranch is worth a trip for the epic views alone. The sustainable ranch is home to 1,500 cattle, and it supplies much of the grass-fed meat on so many menus on the island. But even vegetarians would love Hana Ranch: It also offers world-class picnics, horseback riding, mountain biking, and personalized off-roading tours.
Mahaulepu Heritage Coastal Beach Trail
The great thing about this coastline hike is that there are several trails that run parallel to the island’s southern shore (with varying degrees of difficulty). The one closest to the ocean is more technical, and if you’re on the way back, the inland trails are friendlier and easier on the feet. Bring plenty of water and start early at Shipwreck Beach. From there, you’ll hike through different ecosystems and across sand and lava rock along the ocean (and curiously enough, along the edge of a golf course for part of it). The trail will lead you to either a semisecluded beach or Makauwahi Cave, a limestone formation that requires a good army crawl to enter.
Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
If you’re not into birdwatching this wildlife reserve is worth visiting for the insanely beautiful ocean view and the historic lighthouse alone. But if you are a birder, you’ve come to the perfect place. It’s that easy to spot many different species up close and personal here—the seabirds often fly really low, which makes for a pretty magical experience. Images courtesy of USFWS.
78-7138 Kaleiopapa St., Kailua-Kona
Some of the best water adventures on the Kona coast are with Analakai Adventures. And the most amazing of the adventures that the company offers is what they call the Manta Ray Night Snorkel, and what we call insanely cool. Once it’s dark out, a guide paddles you out in a double-hull canoe and uses a light to draw in the manta rays. The creatures are extraordinary—like graceful aliens (aliens that can grow to have a fifteen-foot wingspan.) Then it’s up to you: Slip into the water and snorkel among the rays or enjoy them from the canoe. Either way, it’s probably the most serene experience you can have before going back to your hotel and going to sleep for the night. Impressively, the company uses no motors and is completely harmless to the environment.
73-341 Uu St., Kailua-Kona
There is no way to describe the feeling of looking inside a volcano except to say, “!!!” It’s like looking back in time, and it’s as overwhelming as it is…overwhelming. The only way to do it is by helicopter, and the best helicopter operation on the island is Paradise Helicopters. The pilots are friendly and skilled. The helicopter is comfortable and roomier than you’d think a helicopter would be. The headphones are crazy fun for the kids. And the views of the island are impossible to believe. If the idea of a few hours in a helicopter terrifies you, get over it. You will remember this trip for the rest of your life.
The Mauna Kea Luau
62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Dr, Waimea, HI 96743
If it’s Tuesday, it’s luau night at the Mauna Kea. Will you feel like a tourist with a capital T? Of course you will. But it’s entirely worth it: The kids will lose their minds this event is so exciting. Starting at 5:30, walk down to the cliffs of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel (whether or not you’re staying there), grab dinner from the endless buffet tables, and settle in for the show. The evening’s program includes a dynamic history of the kings of Hawaii, theatrical reenactments of the islands’ legends, and plenty of hula dancing. The highlight for the kids is a toss-up between getting up on stage to learn how to hula dance and watching the fire dancers at the end of the night.
41-43 Kalanianaole Hwy., Waimanalo
Powdery white sand, crystal-clear water, and distant green peaks describes…most of Oahu. But Bellows Beach, nestled into the southeast edge of the island, has an added advantage: Most people don’t know it’s there—and those who do are mostly locals. The ironwood trees that frame the sand provide welcome shade, and the wind that whips this slice of coast churns up waves made for boogie-boarding. Disclaimer: Bellows is open only on weekends, so plan accordingly.
Mauna Lani Beach Club canoe tour
68-1400 Mauna Lani Dr., Waimea
The Mauna Lani Beach Club is an Auberge Resort property, which is to say it’s incredibly luxurious and beautiful. And if you come with kids, you’ll want to head straight to the beach. This is where you’ll meet a young Hawaiian man named Bullet. You’ll jump into a canoe, paddle out to the ocean, and take in a view of Hawaii you can get only from the water. But Bullet is a lot more than a knowledgeable guide—he’ll free dive to the bottom to pick up baby sea urchins for the kids to hold (and then release). He’ll tell the kids about the history of the island. And perhaps most important of all, he’ll teach his guests about all the ways visitors can help the island’s sustainable initiatives.
Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm
1100 Waipoli Rd., Kula
Miles from the ocean and high in the hills of Maui’s pastoral Upcountry, this lavender farm is a very worthy day trip—even if it means tearing yourself away from the waves for a few hours. It’s an incredibly relaxing experience to stroll among the lavender fields. There are 55,000 lavender plants here, including forty-five different varieties of lavender (and in case you didn’t know that there even were forty-five types of lavender, well, you’re not alone), spread across thirteen well-tended acres. There are also chicken coops, a shop that sells farm-made bath products, and spectacular views everywhere you look.