Best Things to do in Hawaii with Teens
Whether it’s your first visit to the Hawaiian Islands or your 100th, you can never have too many ideas for what to do in Hawaii with teens. There’s always a new adventure to be had, whether it’s exploring all of the beautiful beaches, climbing a mountain at sunrise, or swimming with manta rays!
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Don’t be fooled into thinking your entire vacation will be spent on sunny beaches! Hawaii’s islands are home to many types of ecosystems, from fern-filled rainforests and lava fields to winding canyons and cold alpine deserts.
You will find animal and plant life on the Hawaiian Islands that you won’t find anywhere else. Not to mention some of the most amazing shopping and some of the best food in the world. This means there are countless adventures to be had!
When you come to the islands, you have a choice to stay on the Big Island (Hawaii), Maui, Oahu, or Kauai. Or perhaps you plan on splitting your time between a few of them together!
Each of Hawaii’s islands offers a different experience and each one is worth visiting. Below I’ve divided up some of my favorite things to do on a Hawaii family vacation by island.
So, keep reading to see our favorite fun activities to do with teens in Hawaii!
Best Places to Visit in Hawaii for Teens
Big Island of Hawaii
The island of Hawaii is called “The Big Island” by locals because it’s the largest of the Hawaiian Islands. It’s known for its numerous active volcanoes, famous Kona coffee farms, and stunning white sand beaches. Scroll down to learn about just a few of the many amazing activities you can find on the Big Island.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii’s big island is also home to one of the most interesting and unique US national parks, the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. There are two active volcanoes within the park. At different times, parts of the park will be closed due to volcanic activity or fires. That’s kind of expected when you’re visiting a volcano park!
If the Kilauea visitors center isn’t closed due to a volcanic eruption, you can visit to find out about ranger-led tours and talks, safety information, and more.
The visitor’s center is also a great place to start a scenic drive along several fascinating craters caused by eruptions. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Take the Chain of Craters Road Tour and learn about the history of the island, and you can even see some of the largest groups of sacred petroglyphs in Hawaii.
For more history, you and your teens can take a private guided tour in the evening. Guests are picked up from a designated location in Hilo and then driven to the park, where they hike through lava tubes while learning about the park’s history. There’s even a stop to see Kalapana, a town destroyed by the volcano and its stunning volcanic black sand beaches.
Or if you prefer to hike, you can find all levels of hiking trails in the park, including the easy-access Haakulamanu Trail. This easy 1.2-mile loop trail has boarded paths that take you past misty (and smelly!) sulfur banks that often deposit pure crystals. You might see hematite or oval mineral deposits in waves of color coming from the ground!
Spend Time at the Beach
I think the Big Island of Hawaii is the best Hawaiian island for finding different types of beaches. On the North Shore, there’s the popular Hapuna Beach, with vast white sand beaches and calm waters from the protected bay. It’s the perfect spot to settle in for a beach day and do some snorkeling or swimming. The park has BBQ pits and picnic tables, as well as water sports equipment rentals.
You can take a morning reef snorkel with a knowledgeable guide in Kealakekua Bay off Napoopoo Beach. It’s a rocky beach that’s not great for lounging, but the clear water off the shore offers the perfect opportunity to see dolphins, sea turtles, colorful reefs, and all kinds of tropical fish! There are also cool rock formations and sea caves to explore.
Or take a short drive to the isolated Mahana Beach on the southernmost tip of the island. It’s just one of only 4 green sand beaches found in the entire world! You can’t swim here but seeing the sand is a unique experience.
Waialea Bay Beach
For a picturesque, secluded beach day, head to Waialea Bay Beach on North Shore. You have to hike a bit, but this popular white sand beach is the perfect spot to enjoy a swim! There’s parking nearby, tons of knotty shade trees, and the waves are calm in the summer.
Or if you prefer the resort life, head to Kaunaʻoa Beach in front of the Mauna Kea Resort! It’s the perfect beach for renting snorkeling equipment, relaxing on beach chairs, or going for a swim. And the waves are just right for bodyboarding. To access the beach you will need to get a beach access pass at the gate.
Check Out a Luau
A must during your Hawaii vacation is attending a traditional luau. It’s a great way to experience Polynesian and Hawaiian culture and history. Luaus are basically fun dinner parties with entertainment, music, drinks, and really good Hawaiian food! The Big Island features some of the best luaus in all of Hawaii.
While you can find dozens of different luaus in Hawaii, most of them feature a lot of the same things, like a ceremonial blessing with drums to open the event. You can expect certain things like a lei greeting or a buffet with kalua pork and other traditional foods. If you need transportation to your luau, a lot of companies allow you to add on roundtrip shuttles from your hotel or resort.
One of the most popular luaus on the Big Island is the Voyagers of the Pacific Luau at the Royal Kona Resort. Come here to start your luau dinner with the ceremonial unearthing of a roast pig!
If you’re staying near the Hilton Waikoloa Village on North Shore, check out the Legends of Hawaii Luau. The evening begins with a lei greeting and complimentary drinks. After dinner, there’s a show with both hula and fire dancers!
Want more recommendations on where to stay? Don’t miss our favorite family resorts in Hawaii.
Maui is one of the most popular islands to visit with its mix of family-friendly resorts and hotels, as well as all kinds of outdoor things to do. Below you can read about some of the best things to do in Maui with teens.
If you plan on being in the Hawaiian Islands in the winter, consider heading to Maui. It’s the best island to spot Northern Pacific Humpback Whales, which come to breed in the Maui Nui Basin.
The basin is the waters off the southern coast of Maui and the neighbor island of Lanai. It’s almost directly in front of the towns of Lahaina and Kaanapali, one of the main resort areas on Maui. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can even spot whales by just standing on the beach!
December through April is whale season in Hawaii, and you can find all kinds of cruises and tours to go whale spotting. You can take a whale-watching boat tour from Lahaina Harbor and enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Take pictures of whales as they pass by and listen as professional whale experts tell you all about humpback whales and their place in Hawaiian culture. The tour also includes underwater cameras for a better view of whales and other marine life. There’s even an onboard gift shop for souvenirs to remember the trip.
Road to Hana
The Hana Highway or the Road to Hana is 60-plus miles of highway that stretches along the northern coast of Maui, from Paia to the village of Hana. It’s a beautiful place for a scenic drive with dozens of stops along the way like waterfalls, historic sites, and even fun attractions like zip lines.
Driving the Road to Hana isn’t about getting to Hana but instead enjoying the stops along the way! Be sure to read these Road to Hana tips before heading out on your journey!
Take a day trip on the Road to Hana in your rental car with a self-guided audio tour. The Shaka Guide has a Road to Hana tour with a variety of optional stops along the way. Choose from several different hikes into North Shore rainforests.
If you want to stop at a dozen different waterfalls or scenic overlooks, you can. Or just keep driving! It’s a great option if you want a private tour in your own rental car.
You can also find a wide range of tours, from scenic bus tours that take large groups to private Jeep excursions. Private tours allow you the opportunity to stop when you want to, for however long you want. Large bus tours are comfortable with air conditioning and great views of the most popular attractions.
Snorkeling in Maui
While you can snorkel on any of the amazing beaches found on Hawaii’s islands, Maui is a great island for beginners. As one of Hawaii’s most kid-friendly islands, there are some great opportunities for the whole family to go snorkeling. Napali Bay is perfect for first-time snorkelers, and there are a handful of watersports gear rental shops just off the beach.
Head to Kapalua Bay or Honolua Bay where you can snorkel with tons of green sea turtles. Honolua Bay is actually a marine life conservation area with A LOT of tropical fish. Just beware that it’s super rocky, so it’s better for older kids.
Another great snorkeling spot is Hulopoe Bay, a marine preserve with cool tide pools carved out of volcanic rock that you can explore!
Yet another option is to take a snorkeling trip to Molokini Crater on a catamaran with an experienced guide! Breakfast and lunch are provided. Enjoy the view from the glass bottom boat before you jump in and spend the day among all kinds of sea life around the submerged crater.
Try Shave Ice
For a unique experience that your teens are sure to love, be sure to get some shave ice while you’re in Hawaii! The history of shave ice has its roots in the sugar plantation days of the islands.
Japanese immigrants working the fields would cool off by shaving blocks of ice and adding condensed milk and different syrups to the shavings. Oahu was actually the birthplace of the commercially popularized treat. But today, Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice in Maui is one of the most famous places to get it.
These days you can find countless shave ice huts across the islands. They’re a unique cultural experience, specifically because of their difference from snow cones!
Shave ice is much creamier because of the way it’s shaved, plus the inclusion of sugar cane and condensed milk. You can also add fun toppings like marshmallow cream, lilikoi (passion fruit) jam, azuki beans, or mochi balls. Just don’t call it “shaved ice,” and avoid tourist traps that do!
Haleakala National Park
For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, we highly recommend waking up early to see the sunrise at Haleakalā. To see the sun rising above the clouds and landscape is one of those unforgettable moments.
Be sure to book your tickets in advance as this is a popular destination and bring layers (including hats and coats). Even if it’s warm on the ground, it’s much colder in the clouds.
Chances are you will fly into Honolulu Airport when you arrive at the islands. Like Maui, Oahu is one of the most popular destinations for families with classic tourist destinations and resort communities like the iconic Waikiki.
Soak up some history at Pearl Harbor or hike the Diamond Head Crater. And on the North Shore, come surf or watch the pros hit the waves! Below you can find out about all this and more.
Polynesian Cultural Center
On Oahu’s North Shore, you can visit the Polynesian Cultural Center. It’s a major attraction on the island, and it’s a great way to learn about Hawaii and its place in Polynesian culture.
Polynesia includes many groups in the Pacific Ocean besides Hawaii, including Tahiti, Samoa, New Zealand, Fiji, and Tonga. These specific groups create the main attraction of the center, with 6 Island Villages across the entire 43-acre grounds.
Inside each village, you can attend presentations and shows and participate in culturally relevant activities specific to that island. Among the islands, there’s a lagoon that winds through the grounds.
There are a few ways you can choose to spend your day at the center. You can book a basic package where you are free to walk to the different villages or check out the Hukilau Marketplace which houses all kinds of shops and food vendors.
Make it a point to stop by the Hawaiian Village to learn about the indigenous peoples of Hawaii and how the island was settled. There are also different kinds of kayak rides that you can take in the lagoon! Some packages include things like reserved seats at presentations and canoe tours.
Another option is to purchase a luau package where you stay for the buffet dinner and luau. A lot of people take the opportunity to take a leisurely drive to the North Shore before the center opens at noon. The luau ends at 9 PM. You can also add shuttles to your package if you need transportation.
Learn to Surf
Surfing is one of the most popular activities on the Hawaiian Islands, but Oahu’s North Shore is possibly the most popular! It’s a favorite spot for more experienced surfers during the winter months when the surf is the strongest. Around this time of year, you can stop at Sunset Beach and watch the big-wave surfers looking for their 100-foot-wave!
Waimea Bay on the North Shore is also popular with the pros, hosting an annual surfing competition in the winter. During the summer, the waves at these North Shore beaches are gentler, and families can book surf lessons here.
On Oahu’s southern shore, Waikiki Beach & Diamond Head Beach are both great spots for surfers of all skill levels all year round! There are shops that offer rentals and surf lessons along Kalakaua Avenue, just off Waikiki Beach.
If you don’t care for the crowds, head to Diamond Head Beach. The narrow beach means fewer people are hanging out there than on Waikiki Beach. But the waves and views of Diamond Head are out of this world!
And for new to intermediate surfers, Sandy Beach Park is a great choice. It’s a short drive out past Diamond Head on the south shore but it’s worth checking out. The surf offers a decent challenge, but the soft sand makes for an easier landing than other rockier beaches!
When you’re ready to get out of the water you have the entire park to explore. There are food trucks and you’re right below the massive Koko Crater.
Another popular thing to do with teens in Oahu is to visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. This national park includes a visitors center, the grounds with a variety of open exhibits, galleries, a bookstore, and the USS Arizona Memorial.
While the park is free to enter, you should plan on booking a timed reservation for the USS Arizona Memorial. They’re first-come-first-served and become available each morning.
In addition to the memorial that’s run by the National Parks Service, Pearl Harbor also includes independent sites, like the Battleship Missouri Memorial. There’s also an impressive aviation museum and a submarine museum.
These sites cost to buy tickets, but there’s the option to book a Passport to Pearl Harbor. The passport gives you a discounted price for all 3 sites, as well as access to audio tours.
Waikiki has always been an important part of Oahu history. It’s the 1.5-mile coastal region of Oahu’s capital city, Honolulu. It became a popular tourist destination over a century ago.
The first hotel went up on Waikiki Beach as early as 1901. By the end of the 1950s, you could even find names like Hilton, Hyatt, Sheraton, and Marriot in Waikiki. If you like the tourist experience, come here!
Enjoy stunning pristine beaches just off Kalakaua Avenue. There are luxury shopping malls, 5-star restaurants, classic gift shops, and more along the avenue.
Ride the Waikiki Trolley or take advantage of the extremely walkable streets. Everything is set up for guests in this resort area. Rent watersports equipment on the beach or attend a sunrise yoga class on the sand!
There are also vast, lush parks with playgrounds, picnic tables, and shade trees. There’s always something going on at Kapiolani Park Amphitheater. Or visit the Waikiki Zoo and Aquarium inside the park. Just east of the park is Diamond Head. Go for a scenic drive or hike up to the rim.
Back in town, you can find all kinds of resorts, hotels, villas, vacation rentals, condos, bed-and-breakfasts, and more. Head to a luau or enjoy the nightlife in Waikiki.
The island of Kauai is especially unique among the islands of Hawaii! The oldest island, Kauai has stunning geological features that leave entire portions of the island inaccessible. It’s a great place for families who love the outdoors. Here are some of the fun activities in Kauai for families.
Kauai was formed from volcanic rock over 5 million years ago, and today it shows off some of the most dramatic ecosystems in the world. One of the best ways to take it all in is with a helicopter tour of the island.
This is a great way to get to experience the red and green Waimea Canyon on the west side, also referred to as Hawaii’s Grand Canyon! After that, head to the geological center Kauai to experience the misty Mt. Waialeale, Kauai’s tallest point.
The tour provides unbelievable views of the emerald-colored rippling cliffs of North Shore’s Napali Coast. Here you will get to see the 400-foot Manawaiopuna Falls that was featured in Jurassic Park! Many of these sites are only viewable via helicopter.
For adventurous teens, try a doors off helicopter tour, which is exactly what it sounds like, flying high above the island in a helicopter with no doors!
Food Truck Tour
A great activity for the entire family is enjoying Hawaii’s amazing food trucks! Hawaii has a thing with food trucks, and they can be found on all of the islands. Some of the best ones are on Kauai.
There are 3 different food truck tours across the island on different days. Also, they’ve become so popular that you have to purchase tickets to attend them!
The North Shore food truck is in the famous Hanalei area on Sunday at 11 AM. If you’re staying on the sunny beaches on the South Shore, it’s held on Wednesdays at 11 AM. Or for visitors of the Royal Coconut Coast, you can book the 2-hour food truck tour that starts at 4:30 PM on Thursdays. Between the three tours, there are over 50 regular food trucks to choose from with a variety of food options.
You can find food trucks serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert! Try some Hawaiian BBQ or shave ice. There are vegan options, coffee and tea, amazing Mexican food, Filipino food, and more. Kauai’s food trucks use seasonal ingredients, so you know you’re getting the freshest and most creative food out there. And if you’re in Kauai on September 11, attend the Battle of the Food Trucks event!
Movie Site Tour ATV Rides
For a great time with your young people, book an ATV tour of famous movie filming locations! Visit a variety of popular movie filming sites that you might recognize from movies like Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean, Avatar, and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.
Travel across the island via ATV and enjoy a guided tour with a variety of activities. Learn about the historic Koloa Sugar Plantation and go fishing at the Waita Reservoir.
Explore Hawaii’s largest caves (which are also an active geological site) and drive your ATV through the stunning Wilcox Tunnel, built during World War 2. Your tour will take about 3-4 hours and you should expect to get pretty dirty! At the end, you can rinse off when your tour takes you to a waterfall where you can take a swim!
ATV Drivers have to be 18 years or older with a valid driver’s license, and there needs to be at least 1 person in each party that’s 18 years or older.
If you’re looking for classic things to do with your young adults, consider ziplining! This popular activity gets a fun twist in Kauai with breathtaking views and super-long courses.
Go with Kauai Backcountry Adventures for Zipline Tours that cover 7 different lines through a mountainous rainforest. They also offer mountain tubing adventures that take you through dark mountain river tunnels.
For gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean from above, go with Koloa Zipline on Kauai’s southern coast. Plus, they have a special harness that allows you to get daring with your position: you can zipline backward, upside down, or Superman-style!
Or for a thrill, head to Outfitters Kauai. They’re popular for their new 400-foot-long zipline, but I love that they offer a variety of zipline tours. Zipline through a rainforest, then kayak and enjoy a hike. Or zipline across 4 lines, racing at up to 60-miles-per-hour. This tour ends with a dip in a private lagoon.
If you’re looking for eco-friendly things to do in Hawaii with teens, ziplining is a great option. You can get up an up-close and personal tourist experience with little impact on the environment around you!
Hawaii is one of the best destinations to visit with teens, whether you’re looking for local history and food or all of the adventure! We are sure this is one epic vacation they will always remember!
Book Your Flights – You can find discounted fares using sites like Momondo or Skyscanner. If you want to keep an eye on discount fares, we suggest signing up for Going, a daily newsletter with flight sales around the world.
If you travel frequently, consider investing in a Priority Pass for airport lounge access. It’s nice to have a space where you can relax before your flight.
Book Your Accommodation
We regularly use Expedia.com and Hotels.com to find lodging when we travel. It’s a great way to compare vacation rentals, hotels, and resorts.
If your family knows they want to stay in a vacation rental, we recommend looking at VRBO and Plum Guide.
Book Your Transportation
For rental car agencies, try Rentalcars.com. We tend to use Hertz simply for the quality of service.
Book Your Tours and Travel Photos
We regularly used companies like Viator and GetYourGuide to book tours when we travel. Both have great communication and a large variety of activities that work for all ages.
If you’re visiting a city with multiple attractions, be sure to check out a discount pass, such as CityPASS or Go City. Both are worthwhile investments.
Context Travel is another option and they offer more educational-based activities. The former teacher in me loves their tours.
One of our favorite things to do annually is taking photos with Flytographer. They have photographers around the world and we’ve used them on four separate occasions. This is our favorite travel souvenir.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
With the state of travel these days, it’s important to have some type of travel insurance to cover any unforeseen accidents, illnesses, threats, or cancellations. We always travel with insurance and would recommend SquareMouth, Travelex, or Medjet as good options. And if you want to compare different insurance options, use Travel Insurance Master to find the best policy for your group.