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Hawaii, Naturally

Let the elements be your guide on your next Hawaiian family vacation.

Aerial view of Honopu Valley, image
Photo caption
Kauai's Honopu Valley is located within the Na Pali Coast State Park.


Hawaii is the perfect place to plan a multigenerational trip on one of its four family-friendly islands. Of course, you'll want to spend as much time as possible enjoying their acclaimed beauty. Here are some favorite activities that will get you in touch with the elements—earth, air, fire or water. Just let nature lead the way.


Kilauea Volcano Take the ultimate scenic route through Hawaii Island's Volcanoes National Park on a 21-speed mountain bike.

Golfing in Maui Golf the two courses at Maui's Kapalua Resort, rated #1 in the Hawaiian Islands. From the Plantation Course, the PGA tour's season-opening venue, you'll admire stunning views of the West Maui Mountains as you enjoy the thrill of dramatic elevation changes. The bay course offers rolling fairways where sweeping vistas of the Pacific and ocean breezes give your game momentum.

More Earthly Pleasures

  • See the USS Arizona underwater beneath your feet at the Pearl Harbor memorial commemorating the Japanese bombing raid that plunged the country into World War II.
  • Drive the rim of Kauai's ochre-hued Waimea Canyon.
  • Hunt for ancient petroglyphs on Hawaii Island's 233-acre Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve.
  • Visit Maui's north shore—Kaumahina State Park, picturesque Hana, and the Keanae and Wailua Falls lookouts.


Na Pali coast By far the best way to see the mist-shrouded mountains and steep cliffs of Kauai's famed Na pali Coast is by boat. On the elegant catamaran Lucky Lady, you'll visit sea caves, lounge while eating a gourmet lunch and enjoy the antics of dolphins—they love to leap and play in the boat's wake.

Hawaii's whales Whales' annual migrations bring them close to shore several times a year. You can spot them from all the islands, but Maui hosts 60 percent of the world's humpback whales during their winter migration.

More Water Play

  • Learn to surf or paddleboard with the Maui Waveriders in Lahaina.
  • Swim with dolphins at Oahu's Dolphin Royal Swim.
  • Sail and snorkel among kaleidoscopic tropical fish in coral-studded Kealakekua Bay on Hawaii Island.
  • Watch the ancient art of canoe paddling on Oahu's Ala Wai Canal.


Helicopter ride The only way to see much of Kauai's mystical interior, where sheer peaks and thick jungles are inaccessible by road, is from above. Highlights of the helicopter flight include a visit to the dramatic waterfall known as Mana Waiapuna (unofficially called Jurassic Park Falls), then diving deep into the crater of mount Waialeale, where more waterfalls cascade down the 5,000-foot-high walls towering above you.

Canopy adventure On Hawaii Island, your feet will never touch the ground on Kohala Canopy Adventures' dizzying aerial trekking network of elevated suspension bridges, tree platforms and zip lines.

Additional Airy Delights

  • On Hawaii Island, stargaze from Mauna Kea, where 11 nations have set up telescopes pointed skyward.
  • The world's top-ranked windsurfers take on the winds and waves of Hookipa Beach on Maui.
  • Parasail over Oahu's Waikiki Bay, followed by a two-hour jet ski tour.


Luau and fire dance At the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu's North Shore, you'll learn fire-making, then watch as cooks stoke the flames of the imu, the traditional underground oven, where they roast a full-size pig. Hula dancers sway, the sun sets, and the evening draws to a close with the dramatic dance of the fire spinners.

Watch lava light up the night sky Take off at dusk in one of Big Island Air's small planes to catch the sunset from the slopes of Mauna Kea and spot the fabled green flash over Kona. Above Kilauea, molten lava glows against the night sky.

More Volcanic Venues

  • Watch the sun rise from the rim of Maui's Haleakala volcano, then hike or bike down.
  • Hike to the edge of a lava flow at Kilauea on Hawaii Island, where molten rock bubbles up.
  • Venture underground to experience Hana Lava Tube Cave on Maui.

Photography courtesy of Wikipedia

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This article was first published in September 2012 in Traveler. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.