Hawaii: Attractions

Throughout the islands is a tremendous list of attractions and activities that are particularly suitable for families. Following is a sampling, arranged by island.

The Big Island of Hawaii

Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitors Center. Here, families will drive through macadamia nut orchards and learn how they are planted, harvested and made ready for sale. Candy making also is demonstrated, and guests can enjoy samples of the finished product. There is no admission fee and the factory tour is self-guided. The center is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (808) 966-8612.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This is definitely something the kids won't see every day. The park, which spans over 375 square miles in size, is the location of both Mauna Kea, which towers almost 32,000 feet from the ocean floor, and its sister volcano, Mauna Loa, which is known as the world's highest active volcano. At Kilauea, the world's most active volcano, visitors may see molten lava oozing from the earth, forming new land. And at Thurston Lava Tube Trail, kids can walk through a giant lava tube.

The park is a study in contrasts, with parts of it barren, covered in molten lava, and the rest a huge, lush rain forest. Some places are very, very hot; others bitter cold as elevations rise. In fact, Mauna Kea is the site of skiing in the winter. The visitors center is open daily from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is by vehicle: $10 per car. Call (808) 985-6001.


The Bishop Museum, which offers displays relating to the history, culture and geology of Hawaii and the Pacific, also has hands-on exhibits in its Hall of Discovery. Planetarium shows as well as demonstrations of Hawaiian crafts take place daily. Call (808) 847-3511.

Hawaii Children's Discovery Center. Housed in Honolulu's old city incinerator, this 37,000 square foot museum opened in December at Kakaako Waterfront Park. Here children can learn about living in Hawaii through hands-on exhibits and interactive videos.

The center is open from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays through Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Expanded hours are being planned as volunteers are trained to staff the nonprofit museum. Admission is $8 for adults, $6.75 for children under 17. Call (808) 592-5437.

Pearl Harbor and the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. One of the most awesome sights on the island is the vision of the sunken Arizona, final resting place for those who went down with the World War II battleship on Dec. 7, 1941. The memorial is built over the ship, and a quick shuttle ride takes visitors out to the site. Visitors also see a movie about the event prior to going to the memorial.

The visitors center is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors can see the film and shuttle to the memorial from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (duration for both: One hour, 15 minutes). Admission is free on a first come, first served basis. Call (808) 422-0561.

Polynesian Cultural Center. An hour's drive from Honolulu, the Polynesian Cultural Center presents detailed recreations and exhibits relating to distinct cultures of the Pacific. In the Pacific Theater, guests can enjoy an action-packed show featuring volcanoes, fountains and numerous special effects.

The center is open daily 12:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission to the center is $27 for adults and children over 11, $16 for children ages 5 to 11. Children under 5 are free. The center also has luau packages available. Call (800) 367-7060.

Planet Hollywood Honolulu in Waikiki (and Planet Hollywood Maui in Lahaina) provide the fun and excitement for which the chain has become known. Its collection of authentic movie-star memorabilia is sure to be a treat for the kids. Call (808) 924-7877 for the restaurant in Waikiki, (808) 667-7877 for the Maui location).

On Oahu's North Shore, Waimea Valley and Adventure Park features 36 tropical gardens filled with rare plant life; daily cliff-diving shows; Hawaiian crafts demonstrations, and its own resident hula troupe. Kids will view the routines of ancient Hawaiian lifestyles in recreated home sites, and can take Hawaiian language lessons at the Orientation Center.

The center also offers guided walking tours, and has a pavilion open for lunch and a restaurant serving dinner.

The park is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission is $24 for adults, $12 for children 4 to 12. There is round-trip shuttle transportation available from select Waikiki hotels for an additional $5. A variety of optional adventure tours, with themes such as all-terrain challenges, mountain biking and kayaking, are available for an additional fee depending on the tour and its duration. Call (808) 973-9835.

Sea Life Park, a marine park on Oahu's beautiful Makapu'u Point, will thrill youngsters with a huge reef tank, dolphin shows, an open-air theater and a replica of an historic whaling ship. A special treat is the new Pirate's Lagoon, where kids can operate miniature boats they can steer themselves and board a giant pirate ship maze with climbing, crawling and swinging activities.

Marine life shows and lectures take place continually throughout the day. Those who want to get up close and personal with the park's dolphins (and are over 42 inches in height) can do so at Splash University. For an extra $50 charge, kids and adults can touch, feed and interact with the dolphins for one hour in knee-deep water (wear shorts).

Other optional tours are available for an extra charge.

The park is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and has an on-site cafe. Admission to the park only is $24 for adults, $12 for children 4 to 12. Shuttle service from select Waikiki hotels is available for $5. Call (808) 973-9835.


The $20 million, five-acre Maui Ocean Center, which opened in March 1998, boasts a 750,000-gallon, walk-through acrylic ocean tank, the largest aquarium in Hawaii, complete with sharks and other sea life unique to Hawaii. At the Whale Discovery Center, huge models of humpback whales are on display, and kids can try out the computerized interactive learning stations. There are also four outdoor pools, including a turtle pool, a wave surge pool, a touch pool and sting ray cove.

Have lunch at the center's open-air restaurant overlooking the Pacific, or a quick sandwich or salad at the self-service outdoor Reef Cafe. The center's gift shop has a great selection of books, toys and much more. Admission is $17.50 for adults, $12 for kids 3 to 12 and children under 3 are free. The center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (808) 270-7000.

The Hawaii Nature Center in Maui's Iao Valley has been a staple for school kids for years, and now the natural science center has more than 30 hands-on exhibits and experiences at its interactive arcade, as well as a solarium. Kids can try the various touch pools and see the island's unique marine life in its aquariums, as well as experience a simulated ride on a dragonfly, en route through a stream. The arcade is open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for children. Call (808) 244-6500.

The 60-acre Maui Tropical Plantation highlights the history of Hawaii's sugar-growing industry by taking visitors on a trolley ride tour of this working plantation. The 40-minute narrated tour gives visitors a firsthand look at how the island's major commercial crops are planted and harvested. Bananas, sugar cane, macadamia nuts, coffee, even coconut groves are part of the tour. Throughout the tour, staff involves visitors in such local activities as lei-making and coconut husking.

The Plantation Cafe offers both buffet and a la carte lunch menus, offering a bevy of local favorite dishes. The plantation is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $8.50 for the tour for adults, $3.50 for children 5 to 12, under 5 free. Admission simply to the grounds remains free. Call (800) 451-6805.


Kauai's National Tropical Botanical Garden is a great place for kids to learn about native Hawaiian flora. A visitor center offers exhibits as well as a gift shop, and is located adjacent to two of the gardens, the 186-acre Lawai Garden and the 100-acre Allerton Garden.

Tours of the gardens are $25 for adults, $15 for ages 13 to 18, $10 for ages 6 to 12 and kids 5 and under free. Tours take place Tuesdays through Saturday at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Admission to the visitor center for the exhibits is free.

The other garden operated by the National Tropical Botanical Garden is the 17-acre Limahuli Garden on the north shore of Kauai. It displays the more endangered and rare species of plants and flowers.

Tours of this garden are offered from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and on Sundays. Guided tours are $15; self-guided are $10. Call (808) 742-1354.

Spouting Horn, located near Poipu Beach, is another bit of nature the kids will enjoy. At high tide, water shooting through this cluster of lava rock forms a spectacular geyser, which sometimes reaches a height of 60 feet.

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