Here’s a sampling of kid-friendly things to do on a family vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii that can’t be missed: Dolphin Quest!

When in Hawaii, do as the Hawaiians do — swim with the fishes. One of the highlights of our trip was the Dolphin Quest at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. They offer a variety of dolphin encounter packages for all ages. Put this at the top of your “must-do” list.

Go on a snorkeling cruise: Snorkeling off a boat is really the best way to see the largest variety and colors of fish — and turtles! — since the captains of the Hula Kai expeditions know exactly where to anchor. And while you’re in the water finding Nemo, they’re onboard cooking up a tasty lunch.

Attend a luau. Want a real taste of Hawaiian tradition? Celebrate the foods, dances and songs indigenous to island natives at a luau. Try poi for the first time or maybe some Kalua pig. My daughters were tickled pink at the purple taro-root rolls, beautiful hula dancers and fearless fire-eaters.


Manta ray night dive: The lighted waters along the Kona coast attract scores of manta rays at night, looking for food. Take part in a diving and snorkeling expedition, or watch this amazing ritual from a number of hotel and restaurant balconies.

Eat dinner at sunset: Many restaurants have outdoor seating. Insist on a table as close to the sunset as possible. You won’t even need to take pictures because, trust me, the kaleidoscopic memory stays with you.

Explore the waterfalls and rainforests on the Hilo side: A great way to see the Big Island up close is to take a nice drive from the beaches and resorts on the Kona side (west) to the lush, tropical rainforest of the Hilo side (east). Break up the trip into two days so your family can fully enjoy the beautiful waterfalls and volcanos along the way.
Spend a day at the beach: If you like state-side beaches, then you will LOVE the white-sand beaches and turquoise-blue waters on the Kona Coast.

Helicopter over a volcano: Although we didn’t do this because I’m such a chicken about helicopters, I really wish we had. I talked to several tourists who said that seeing the lava flow from above the volcano was an unforgettable experience.