Hawaii Family Vacations: Fun for the Whole Family

Whether it is a trip on a submarine or in a helicopter, to the beach or the museum, there are many things for parents and children to enjoy together throughout the islands of Hawaii. A sampling, arranged by island, follows.

Bishop Museum, located in Honolulu, was founded in 1889 and houses an extensive collection of artifacts of natural and cultural history. Hands-on exhibits at the Hall of Discovery relate to Pacific culture, science and nature. There are daily planetarium shows and crafts demonstrations. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except Christmas. Call (808) 847-3511.

Mission Houses Museum, in Honolulu, features exhibits, videos and guided tours of three historic houses, the headquarters of the first Christian missionaries to Hawaii. Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Call (808) 531-0481.

Polynesian Cultural Center features authentically costumed South Pacific islanders demonstrating the arts, crafts, music and dance of seven Polynesian islands. Evening luau (buffet) with Polynesian show. Imax movie and shopping. Open daily, except Sunday, 12:30 to 9 p.m. Call (808) 923-1861 or (808) 293-3333.

Sea Life Park, in Waimanalo, is a 62-acre oceanside park featuring the world's only known living wholphin, a hybrid false killer whale and Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, and performances by resident dolphins and penguins. Marine exhibits include a 300,000-gallon reef tank and a giant glass-sided ocean science theater. Open daily, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (808) 259-7933 or (800) 767-8046.

The 14-acre Honolulu Zoo specializes in tropical species and features exhibits built around tropical ecosystems. Attractions include the "Elephant Encounter" show, Education Pavilion and Petting Zoo. Open daily, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except New Year's and Christmas days. Zoo education/information (808) 971-7186. For a recording of current programs call (808) 971-7171.

Waikiki Aquarium, located a short walk from the Honolulu Zoo, features more than 2,000 marine animals from the reef, shores and waters of the South Pacific. Exhibits include the Hawaiian Monk Seal Habitat, Edge of the Reef tank, Coastal Gardens, the Mahimahi Hatchery and Nursery and the Hunters of the Reef tank. Open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (808) 923-9741.

Waimea Falls Park in Waimea Valley (Haleiwa) is an 1,800-acre nature park featuring 6,000 varieties of plants, trees and flowers, a restored Hawaiian village and several adventure tours. Call (800) 767-8046.

Senator Fong's Plantation and Gardens in Kaneohe offers 725 acres of tropical flowers and fruit trees. Activities include tram rides through the rain forest, horse back riding and lei making. Open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call (808) 239-6775.

The USS Arizona Memorial was built over the ship that was bombed and sunk, entombing the more than 1,000 sailors aboard her, on Dec. 7, 1941. A ferry takes visitors from the visitor center to the memorial. Open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (808) 422-0561.

USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park is located next to the Arizona Memorial. This WWII submarine, known as the "Pearl Harbor Avenger," is open for tours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (808) 423-1341.

Atlantis Submarines, operating from Honolulu, offers submarine rides to depths of 150 feet below sea level, for spectacular views of ocean life. Operates daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (808) 973-9811 or (800) 548-6262.

Hui O Laka/Kokee Natural History Museum in Kokee State Park features exhibits, trail information, guided hikes, youth programs, festivals and a book store. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call (808) 335-9975.

Kauai Zoological Garden offers hourly boat tours (from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) on 45 acres of winding waterways, islands and foliage on the grounds of the Westin Kauai Lagoons. Observe 140 birds and mammals from around the world in naturalistic habitats. Call (808) 241-6067.

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge offers guided two-hour hikes starting at the Kilauea Lighthouse at 10:15 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and proceeds east for a little more than a mile. Hikes are free and limited to 15 people. Reservations are required; call (808) 828-1413. The park is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., daily except for federal holidays.

Menehune Ditch is a narrow irrigation ditch, edged with a row of rectangular stones, which slides into a tunnel cut into the base of a bluff. Some say it was built by elves or menehune because the engineering style was not used by Hawaiians. The ditch is still used to divert water into taro patches.

Up the east coast, past Wailua Beach, the Sleeping Giant lies. This mountain formation appears to be resting its feet in Kapaa and its head in Wailua.

Spouting Horn is located at the end of Poipu Road. This natural phenomenon is formed by waves forcing water through a hole in the lava formation, creating a geyser-like effect. Local legend has it that the strange groaning sound comes from a lizard trapped within the lava tube.

The Lahaina-Kaanapali & Pacific Railroad (a/k/a the Sugar Cane Train) takes passengers on a scenic train ride through historic Lahaina and the Kaanapali Resort. Steam-powered engines travel between the two 1900-style depots, and along the way is a lesson in sugar cane production. Operates daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Call (808) 667-6851.

Haleakala offers a number of sightseeing possibilities from watching the sun rise over the rim of the dormant volcano to taking a walk into the crater. Some attractions include the Bottomless Pit, a sixty-five-foot deep pit, which can be seen along the Halemauu Trail and Waimoku Falls on the east side of the park. At the Leleiwi Overlook in the late afternoon, one may see "The Specter of the Brocken." This natural phenomenon takes place as a person's shadow, projected onto the heavy clouds in the crater, appears to be encircled by a rainbow.

Haleakala Visitor Center is located at an elevation of 9,745 feet and offers a panoramic view of the crater's 21-mile expanse. Open daily, sunrise to 3 p.m. Call (808) 572-9306.


Molokai Ranch is Hawaii's second largest working ranch with 53,000 acres and 8,000 head of cattle. Activities include horseback riding, mountain biking and kayaking. Open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call (808) 552-2681 or (800) 254-8871.

Molokai Ranch Wildlife Conservation Park is a 400-acre wildlife preserve with more than 300 animals native to India and Africa. It was established in 1977 to stock and breed exotic and endangered species for the world's zoos and parks. A one-and-a-half hour safari van ride is conducted twice daily. Call (808) 552-2681 or (800) 254-8874.

Visitors can descend a 1,800-foot trail during a Molokai Mule Ride. Tours include lunch and a walking tour of Kalaupapa, the settlement for patients of Hansen's Disease (leprosy). Open daily. Check in at 8 a.m., ride begins at 9 a.m. and returns at 3:30 p.m. Call (808) 567-6088.

The Sandalwood Measuring Pit was dug to simulate the size of a ship's hold for the purpose of measuring a single load of sandalwood. The pit can be reached by a rough dirt road.

Lanai has several petroglyphs; the Bird Man of Lanai Petroglyphs, at the end of Paoiwa Road, is the easiest to find. Another site, the well-preserved Luahiwa Petroglyphs, is reached by a short, steep and unmarked trail which leads up to the petroglyph.

Kanepuu is located about six miles northwest of Lanai City, and encompasses 462 acres including Hawaii's last remaining dry-land forest which contains 48 native species.

The Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center, located at Kahole airport in Kailua Kona, honors the Kona-born astronaut who was killed in the Challenger accident in 1986. The museum features hands-on displays. Open daily, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Call (808) 329-3441.

The Kaumana Caves are really lava tubes formed by the Mauna Loa eruption of 1881. The cave leading toward Hilo ranges from two-and-a-half to four-and-a-half feet high and 10 to 50 feet wide, and can be explored. The other is dangerous and should remain off limits.

Thurston Lava Tube Trail in Volcano National Park, off Crater Rim Drive, 2 miles from the visitor center, offers an opportunity to walk through a giant lava tube. Open daily, 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (808) 967-7311.

Wailuku River State Park, in Hilo, features Rainbow Falls and Boiling Pots, the latter a succession of pools connected by underground water flows that give the appearance of boiling water.

Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor's Center offers tours of the macadamia nut factory and orchards. Free samples are available in the visitor center. Open daily 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (808) 966-9301.

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