4-Day Incredible Big Island Family Vacation

We went on a family vacation to Hawaii and included the Island of Hawaii, also known as the Big Island, in our itinerary. It has an abundance of outdoor activities, such as hiking and horseback riding. We flew into Kona and stayed on the West side of the island, which is drier. But, we also visited the Northern and Eastern side of the island, which is more lush with vegetation. Here is what we did on our Big Island family vacation and I hope it inspires you to visit this beautiful island.

Related: How to Plan a Vacation with Kids, Tips for a Multigenerational Family Vacation, Tips for Flying with Kids, and Tips for Traveling with Kids.

Where to stay on your Big Island Family Vacation

On the Big Island we stayed at Kings’ Land Hilton Grand Vacations Club in the Waikoloa Village on the West side of the island. The rooms were spacious and had a kitchen. The pool in Kings’ Land was large with 3 slides that the kids enjoyed. There is a shuttle that takes you around the village, including a market, shops, restaurants, and the large Hilton Waikoloa with a lagoon and large pool. We balanced our outings with pool days that allowed for us to relax and also enjoy the resort.

Hawaii Volcano National Park

The only active volcanoes in Hawaii are in Hawaii Volcano National Park on the Big Island. There are two eruption sites, Mauna Loa and Kilauea. When we went Kilauea had just stopped flowing, so we didn’t get to experience the lava flow, however, it was still impressive to see the crater.

Tips for Hawaii Volcano National Park

1. If you are staying on the West side of the Island in Kona, then you’ll need to start early, it’s about a 2-hour drive to get there.
2. Take plenty of water.
3. Pack a lunch.
3. Take a rain jacket, it gets windy and rainy in certain parts.

Kilauea Visitor Center

Our first stop was at the Kilauea Visitor Center for a bathroom break and to talk to a ranger for recommendations.

Ha’akulamanu Sulphur Banks and Steam Vents

Our next stop was the Steam Vents and Sulphur Banks. We drove here, rather than walking from the visitor center. It’s about 0.5 miles down the road from the visitor center and the parking lot is on the left.

Steam Vents are created when ground water seeps down to rocks heated by magma deep underground. The rocks are so hot that it vaporizes the water, returning it to the surface as steam.

Across the street from the steam vents is the Ha’akulamanu, or Sulphur Banks, trail that originates at the visitor center. We walked part of the trail to experience these Sulphur Banks, which have a strong smell, like rotten eggs. The park advises visitors with heart or respiratory conditions (such as asthma), pregnant women, infants, or young children to avoid this walk.

Kilauea Overlook and Uekahuna (Crater)

Continue down the road another mile and there will be two more Kīlauea lookout parking lots on the left. The first one is Kīlauea Overlook with restrooms and picnic tables and at the end of the road is the newly reopened viewing area Uēkahuna. Both provided different views of the crater. When we went, the Kilauea Overlook provided the better view of the crater and where the recent lava flow had been.

Devil’s Throat

From the overlook head back towards the visitor center and turn onto Chain of Craters Road. About 2 miles in, as soon as you pass Hilina Pali Road, look to the left and you’ll see a faint path leading into the brush. Park when you get to the safe shoulder spot on the right and walk over to the short, unmarked trail called Devil’s Throat. There is no railing so be careful as you peer into this vast pit.

Mauna Ulu Fissure Hike

This stop is not really highlighted by the national park map, but this 0.5-mile hike through the woods leads you to a lava field. Follow the ahu (stone piles) veering right, which will take you on a short loop. The lava rocks here are so iridescent and colorful like carnival glass, especially on a sunny day. Your supposed to see fissures or large holes in the ground. However, we never did, likely because we didn’t take our written guide with us on the trail and didn’t go looking for them. So, remember to stay on the path that leads you up and over a small mound and to the Mauna Ulu fissures. Return the way you came through the woods.

Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs Trail

We drove all the way down to the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs Trail (mile marker 16.5). For me, this was one of the more impressive sites. Park at the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs parking area. It’s bout a 2-mile round trip hike, but there isn’t a carved path and you walk over lava mounds, so it takes long. The path is clearly marked with lava stone piles. The trail leads to a looped boardwalk that allows you to view a few of the 23,000 petroglyphs dating to between 1200–1450 AD. Pu’u Loa, which mean long hill or hill of long life, is a sacred place to the Hawaiian people.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

Big Island family vacation

On our way back to Kona from Hawaii Volcano National Park we stopped at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. We didn’t stay long, but there were lots of people swimming in the water, laying on the sand, and taking pictures.

Kona Brewing Co.

After the Punalu’u Black Sand Beach we headed to Kona. Our intention was to eat at Umekes Fish Market & Grill, but the wait was about an hour long, so we headed to Kona Brewing Co. The beers and food were good and had a nice, laid back vibe.

Horseback Riding

Looking for another activity in the Big Island, we considered a few options and decided on horseback riding that included a swim at a waterfall with Wailea Horseback Adventure. The staff and horses were friendly and informative. They taught us about each of the horses and how to ride them. The ride to and from the waterfall had amazing views. At the waterfall we were able to, not only swim, but also kayak and paddle board.

Tex Drive-In

After horseback riding, one of the guides recommended Tex Drive-In for lunch. It didn’t disappoint. Unlike the name of the restaurant, you can also eat in. Their Loco Mocos are very good, but they’re known for their malasadas, which are like donuts but without holes.

Car Rental

Discount Hawaii Car Rental has deals on all the major car rental companies but at a very reduced rate than what you’ll find going directly through those companies.

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