Since we had little ones, we kept on the conservative side during COVID regarding travel. Finally we felt numbers were low enough for a family vacation and our youngest kid’s first time flying (before he turns two!). It was also an easy choice since there are so many direct flights from any of the Bay Area airports for good prices. We decided to fly to the Big Island of Hawaii since hawaii is always a great destination with young kids since it has warm weather and warm waters at the beach. We also wanted to do some more adventurous things like the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park so the Big Island was the perfect destination!
The Big Island has two main tourist attraction areas: the West Side and the East Side. We spent time on both sides of the island so here is what we did in each area!
There are many farms scattered throughout the Big Island where a variety of crops are grown in the lush volcanic soil and warm weather year round. We had the pleasure of touring O.K. Farms which is located next to the famous Rainbow Falls. They sell a lot of exotic tropical plants like Lychee, Longan, Nutmeg, Cacao, and Coffee. We also got to try some of their in season fruit straight from the trees!
Do: Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens
This beautiful place is a must visit if you have kids with you. The admission is free (donations welcomed) and is a great place to spend an hour or two enjoying their beautiful tropical gardens and viewing their animals and exhibits. Pro tip: they also sell ice cream at the gift store which is the perfect treat after being outside in the heat!
Do: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Ever see a live volcano or walk through a lava tube? You can experience both these things at this National Park. You’ll also see miles of black lava fields and old volcano craters. We drove to the edge of the park to see where the lava meets the sea and also did a short hike to see some petroglyphs. Around dusk we had dinner at the Volcano House to see the sun set and the glow of the volcano get brighter through the fog. We also decided to do the night hike to see the lava spewing from the live crater! To bring: waterproof jacket, good shoes, headlamp, and binoculars.
Black sand is created when lava meets water and cools so rapidly it shatters into sand. This black sand beach was a great place to enjoy the afternoon watching the waves and digging our toes in the. It’s pretty big and there’s lots of parking. The beach is right next to the parking lot so it is not difficult to get to.
Eat: Fried Chicken at Minit Stop
A Hawaiian local favorite is the Minit Stop which has locations on most of the Hawaiian islands and a couple locations scattered around the Big Island. They are firstly a gas station but also has a convenient store that sells fresh made fried chicken, adobo, Musubis, and other items. Great for simple on the go food!
Do: Big Island Buggy
What better way to explore the island than in an open air buggy? We had so much fun cruising around town and visiting the beach in one of the buggy’s from Big Island Buggy. They also include complimentary beach umbrella, towel, and cooler so all you have to do is hop in and you’re on your way!
Do: Atlantis Adventures: Submarine Tour
Hawaii has such beautiful clear water but our kids were too young to snorkel so we decided to take a submarine tour that the whole family could enjoy without getting wet. You first take a short boat ride out to the submarine launch position and climb aboard. The submarine takes you around the ocean floor seeing all types of fish, coral, and some ship wrecks! The guide is very informative about any questions you have ab out marine life and Hawaii’s unique underwater world.
This tour was a boat ride, dinner cruise, live Hawaiian music, and informative tour all in one! We had a great time aboard the boat enjoying the gorgeous coastline where we learned about the geography and history of the Big Island in between live Hawaiian music sets. We were served a 3 course meal that was delicious and at sunset a pod of dolphins played around the boat! It was a great experience and highly recommended.
Did you even go to Hawaii without having some shaved ice? We had some delicious shaved ice from Gecko Girlz that both adults and kids enjoyed. They only use cane sugar in their shaved ice creations and also has a menu with 100% natural flavors options. Build your own or try one of their pre made creations. Whatever you choose I’m sure it’ll hit the spot for your shaved ice cravings!
Eat: HiCO Hawaiian Coffee
We really enjoyed our visit to this hip coffee shop. They serve a variety of coffees, breakfast items and snacks as well as some cocktails. We loved their Ube Latte and Ube Sweet Cream drink which were so unique and delicious. We also highly recommend trying their toasts. The perfect combination of coffee and toast to start out our day.
Eat: Ola Brew
We had the pleasure of visiting Ola Brew while in Kona. Their tap room has a great vibe to chill either indoors or outside. They have a large selection of beer that they brew on site. Their mission is to encourage growth in Hawaii’s Agricultural economy by purchasing local ingredients and incorporating them into their beers and ciders. Make sure not to miss out on their food offerings as well! One of the best cheeseburgers we’ve had!