There may be no more diverse destination on the planet than Hawaii. Not only is the terrain amazingly varied – deserts, beaches and lush rainforests, mountains and oceans, deep valleys, and soaring volcanoes – but the climates there range from sub-arctic to tropical. The available activities are almost without end. The culture is a mix of Polynesian, Asian, European, and American. But perhaps the most varied aspect of the Islands is the way that this tremendous confluence appeals to so many different types of people – young, old, active, and beach lovers, there is something for everyone in Hawaii. And all of this means one thing above all others – Hawaii is the world’s greatest family destination.
What type of activities might a family find in Hawaii? Let’s first give due respect to the Aloha culture. Deep in the roots of Hawaii’s own way of being, family is an important concept. Elders are respected and it is not at all unusual to find multi-generational families under the same roof. Respect for the land and for the Hawaiian culture is inherent to the native population. For these reasons and more, families find a warm welcome from the natives, and the Islands reflect back a family culture.
There is no shortage of possibilities in Hawaii. There is beach time and golf, pools and beaches, biking swimming fishing sailing, surfing hula, dude ranches, shopping, museums, whale watching, volcanoes, eco-tours, and kayaking. Did I mention shopping and some of the world’s finest restaurants?
Above all, Hawaii invites the visitor out-of-doors. Grandparents, parents, and children alike will all have their own ways of enjoying the natural beauty and outdoor life of the Islands. Unlike destinations that confine visitors to privileged enclaves, Hawaii encourages meaningful encounters with the very people who give the land its human character. Hawaii’s culture invites the family to engage it on a personal level: to attend a luau, dance the hula, experience the Polynesian way of life, and know Aloha from the moment the first lei is draped around necks on arrival.
Of course, islands are surrounded by water, and Hawaii’s beaches have no equal. Surfing lessons for the entire family are available from professional surf instructors. Or lay on the beach with kids, parents, and grandparents all taking in the surf and waters on sand of nearly every color from darkest black to fine white powder. The water culture encompasses not only surfing but scuba, snorkeling, and even gentle exploration of amazing tidal pools, a favorite activity of visitors of every age. Kayaks are available to explore on either professional or self–guided tours. For the truly adventuresome, windsurfing and zip lines are very popular.
Hiking is a more rigorous activity but there are routes for every level of ability from gentle walks to rugged mountain trails. Of course, where else can a visitor get up close and personal with a volcano? Hawaii is the only destination that will be larger when you leave than it was when you arrived. Each year the active volcano on the Big Island adds a few square miles of new land to Hawaii. Helicopters fly over still-active volcanoes and park rangers tour families to view one of nature’s most awesome forces from a safe vantage point.
You might not know that the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy is located on a snow-capped mountain on the Big Island. Families can star gaze at night and scientists and workers at the Onizuka Center lead discussions and answer questions for visiting families.
Most of the resorts on the Islands offer family programs. Some organized activities will involve the entire family while others will be offered to younger children. The resorts can offer most activities right from their concierge desks, but the smart traveler will arrange key activities with their travel agent prior to arrival to ensure availability.
Hawaii offers an experience so distinct from any other that many speak of the Islands as having changed their entire perspective on life. That is the stuff that memories are made of, and memories are the stuff that gives meaning to family travel. If there is a better place for families on the planet, I don’t know where it might be.