Spencer Beach on the Big Island. Photo © Bree Kessler.

Visiting Hawaii’s Big Island with Kids

When along came baby for author and Hawaii travel expert Bree Kessler, so too did a deeper understanding about what makes for a fun, stress-free outing for everyone. Here’s what she’s learned about beach-going, hiking, dining out, and where to stay on the Big Island with kids in tow.

cover Moon Guide Big Island of Hawaii

Moon Big Island of Hawai‘i

Expert traveler Bree Kessler covers the best sights and adventures that the Big Island has to offer, from soaking up the sun on Kona’s iconic white sand beaches to sampling local delicacies at Hilo’s popular farmer’s market. Kessler also offers one-of-a-kind trip ideas, including Eat Your Way Around the Island, Big Island on a Budget, […]

A rainbow is caught mimicking the bridge in Hilo's Wailoa River State Park.

Hilo’s Wailoa River State Recreation Area

The Wailoa River State Recreation Area, a huge area encompassing a spring-fed lagoon, is used by locals for picnics, pleasure walks, informal get-togethers, fishing, and launching boats. For visitors, the Wailoa Center is also an excellent cultural stop, with historical and local artist exhibitions.

Hilo Bay Hostel.

Hilo Hostels

Hilo can make a good base to explore the island: It’s only 45 minutes to Volcano and about an hour to Mauna Kea, and it’s at the beginning of the drive on the Hamakua Coast. Staying the night in a hostel is an incredibly inexpensive way to travel, especially solo or in very small groups.

A Swainson's Toucan poses for a picture at the Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo.

Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo in Greater Hilo

Not many travelers can visit a zoo in such a unique setting, where the animals virtually live in paradise. The Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo is small, delightful, and home to both endemic and introduced species. A visit will take a full day; here’s helpful trip planning information and tips.

Leleiwi Beach Park is one of the top spots for snorkeling and diving.

Hilo Water Sports on the Big Island

Although all water sports are possible in Hilo, it’s more difficult to rent equipment on this side of the island. Here are all the best locales for Hilo’s various sports, from kayaking to diving to surfing and more, along with the best outfitters to try for equipment if you don’t have your own.

View of the Pacific Tsunami Museum in Hilo, Big Island, Hawaii.

Museums in Hilo, Big Island

The three museums in Hilo are all worth a visit for furthering your understanding of not only the area and its history, but the people who lived that history. Notably, these museums are housed in wonderfully historic buildings themselves.

A brightly-lit stream seen through moss-covered trees.

Where to Eat from North Hilo to ‘Akaka Falls

Where to eat from North Hilo to ‘Akaka Falls is very limited, so definitely plan accordingly. Both options are small and simple—a smoothie stand and a farmer’s market—but never disappointing for freshness or flavor, and there’s even a bit of shopping to be had.