Hawaii with toddlers is an ideal family vacation! Captivated by the beaches and hiking, our family planned a trip to Hawaii with a toddler to cross off another national park and visit a close friend.
For our Hawaii itinerary with a toddler, we planned a one-week trip to the different islands. Our plan was to maximize time on the beach for our 16-month-old son. With only 7 days in Hawaii with a toddler, we decided to visit two islands: the Island of Hawai’i to visit Volcanoes National Park, and Oahu to beach hop across the coast.
The Island of Hawai’i – also known as the Big Island – has a lot to offer from two renowned volcanoes: Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, Volcanoes National Park, snorkeling beaches, and inland waterfalls – no shortage of activities for a family and very toddler friendly.
Oahu is a busier and more urbanized island. However, it has unmatched beaches, gorgeous hikes, and plenty of amenities to make family travel easy. While it was a quick trip, we had a balanced Hawaii itinerary for seeing the most of both islands while also taking time to soak up each place.
Hawaii might be one of the best places to travel with a toddler. Read on to get all the details on traveling to Hawaii with a toddler.
Hawaii with a Toddler – Table of Contents
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Flying to Hawaii with a Toddler
All the islands are accessible by plane with short and inexpensive flights between the different islands, making Hawaii with a toddler or baby a very doable trip.
Flying to Hawaii with a toddler is the starting point for planning a Hawaii vacation with a toddler due to the expense and flight time. Honolulu is a major airport on Oahu which can serve as a great home base to jump to other islands.
We started our trip flying from Phoenix with a short layover in San Francisco and landing in Kona on the Big Island. Our connecting flight from California was still around five hours which, when flying with toddlers, can still be a challenge.
We are lucky to still have our little one under two to avoid paying for a third seat, but are starting to feel the pain points of sharing two seats with a not so small, rambunctious toddler. We flew United Airlines, which did not offer a complimentary meal on the flight, so we advise coming prepared with snacks or ready to purchase a meal.
As with most flights, there was a kids entertainment section on the flight but with a short attention span we came prepared with plenty of toddler airplane travel toys and books.
Another factor to consider is the time difference. Coming from Phoenix, Hawaii is a three-hour time difference, so we tried to get our toddler to sleep on the flight, hoping that by using the flight to line up naps, we could start adjusting to the later bed time. We landed in Kona with no issues and a toddler ready to go!
After our time on the Island of Hawai’i, we took a flew to Oahu. There are multiple, inexpensive flights between the islands throughout the day offered by multiple airlines including Southwest Airlines. Our concern with booking this flight was luggage space as packing for travel with a toddler doesn’t always allow for light packing.
We opted to fly Southwest for the two free checked bags. The flight to Oahu was roughly 30 minutes, easy for babies or toddlers flying. We landed in Honolulu, which is a much bigger airport than Kona and had no issues navigating through. Flying into and between the different Hawaiian Islands is not much different than any other domestic travel.
Best Time to Visit Hawaii with Toddlers
We chose to visit Hawaii in March, which happened to be a great time to visit! Peak season for the Hawaiian islands is Christmas through early March, with most visitors coming over the holidays.
During February and March there are also surf competitions drawing in many visitors. We found that in mid-March we were on the tail end of peak tourism season and had a nice balance of things going on but not needing to manage crowds, which is difficult with a toddler on the run. Being the end of peak season also kept costs down for flights to Hawaii from mainland United States.
The weather in Hawaii is great pretty much year-round. We experienced 70s and 80s while we were there. March through September is considered the dry season where the islands experience the least amount of rain. Winter months are also the windiest and produce massive waves on the North Shore. These waves are great for surfing competitions but less so for beach days with a toddler. These winds tend to wane by March.
We had one cloudy afternoon but were fortunate to have clear skies for the entire week we were there. We came prepared with raincoats just in case but were lucky to just have to use a lot of sunscreen!
Hawaii is not widely considered a cheap destination so cost may be a factor in planning the best time to visit. We found cheap flights for our family vacation to the island by flying out mid-week. Being able to avoid the peak times, like Christmas, may help bring down costs and guarantee other bookings like lodging and rental cars.
The nice thing is there’s no wrong time to visit Hawaii with a toddler – the weather and beaches will be sure to please.
How Long to Stay in Hawaii
Hawaii is so amazing, we recommend just moving to Hawaii but if that’s sadly not an option, two weeks in Hawaii would be ideal. We unfortunately only had a week across two islands which allowed us to see a lot but also forced us to make some sacrifices within our Hawaii itinerary with a toddler.
If you want to visit more than two islands on your Hawaii trip with toddler or baby, you will most likely want to stay longer than a week to allow for time traveling between the islands. We had originally wanted to also stop in Maui but this would have short changed each location to add in another island. Additionally, when traveling so far with a little one, the more days the better to get acclimated and really soak in the vacation.
The Big Island
The Island of Hawai’i could be seen well in 4-7 days. We spent 3 days on the Big Island and felt rushed moving from spot to spot. You can drive the entire island and there’s noteworthy locations at each end.
We had the opportunity to see Kona, drive to a few beaches, and visit Volcanoes National Park. However, we skipped the north part of the island, the waterfalls in Hilo, and some cool snorkeling spots.
We felt a week would allow you to see it all. If you are planning on visiting Volcanoes National Park with a toddler, the park can be seen easily in 1-2 days.
We spent one full day at the park. We hiked 5 miles, drove a 19-mile scenic road, and did some smaller toddler friendly activities all within a day while still making it back to our lodging in time for dinner. While the park is absolutely worth a visit, we did not find more than a day or two was needed to take it all in.
Oahu is also worth a weeklong stay, if not more. We found Oahu to be incredibly toddler friendly with all the beaches and parks to visit. We spent a four day weekend on Oahu which allowed us to see the different coasts, do a few hikes and beach hop. It did not feel rushed, but we would definitely come back to do more.
Oahu can really be done in two ways: staying primarily at one of the many kid friendly resorts (may be easier for families) or exploring the island by car. We opted to bounce around since we had a our friend as a guide. You can’t go wrong with either way and will likely want a week or more in Oahu with your toddler or baby.
Where to Stay in Hawaii with Toddlers
One of the best lodging options in Hawaii are resorts. There are many resorts and hotels in Hawaii. Staying at one of the toddler friendly resorts in Hawaii is a great option given how convenient it is to have not only a homebase, but the activities and amenities.
We opted to forgo staying at a resort due to the cost. We were very fortunate to have a friend to stay with in Oahu since lodging is mostly restricted to hotels. We learned that Airbnbs in Oahu required 30-day stays forcing tourists to look to hotels. Oahu resorts are centralized near Waikiki, which is a nice area but is the most touristy. Plus you need to figure out transportation if you want to explore other coasts like the North Shore.
On the Big Island, we had more lodging options and opted to stay at Airbnbs. There are resorts and hotels on the island as well.
Within Volcanoes National Park, you can stay at the Kilauea Military Camp or Volcano House among other lodging options right outside the park. We briefly looked into renting a campervan or RV to save costs but had trouble finding a toddler friendly option.
We struggled to find a vehicle with a third seat for a car seat or a campervan with enough room for three of us to sleep comfortably. This could be an option if you are willing to be flexible, adding a tent for sleeping in or paying a bit more for a nicer option.
Our Airbnbs on the Big Island were budget-friendly but did the job. We were fortunate to find places that were toddler-friendly, some of which had a few toys for Chase to play with.
We planned to pack our travel crib and therefore did not need to find lodging with a crib. Our Airbnbs did not have air conditioning which was a slight issue for us. We had access to fans to ensure we did not overheat but two of the nights we all struggled to sleep. Additionally, one Airbnb had a screened in porch which let in a few mosquitoes. We had packed a mosquito net for the travel crib and used it that night to be safe.
Airbnbs offered us the ability to save money and have a kitchen for meals but we did have to sacrifice some comfort.
Save yourself some time!
These Hawaii travel guides are filled with everything from where to stay and the best activities for each island!
Getting Around the Hawaiian Islands
Public transportation is not common on the islands and they are best traveled by car. There are rental car companies and taxi services like Uber and Lyft available. If you plan to spend most of your time at a resort, you can opt to use taxi services or a tour company to get around instead of renting a car.
Both Oahu and the Big Island have enough spots across the islands that are worth a visit, so we recommend having a car to explore with your toddler in Hawaii
The Big Island
The Big Island is very drivable and small enough to be explored over a few days, without any stops the entire island can be driven in six hours.
We wanted to hop around to different spots on the island and looked for a rental car. Like many other goods and services on the island, rental cars are not cheap. We chose to use Turo, a car sharing company prevalent across the United States. We were fortunate to find a relatively inexpensive Kia Rio to get around.
There are a handful of remote beaches and drives to the volcano that are best suited for a larger, 4-wheel-drive vehicle. We would recommend a jeep or truck if you are looking for off-road adventures; however, we had no issue with our car and simply had to adjust some of our trips.
Kona, being a small airport, does not allow for Turo vehicles to be staged at the airport. Therefore, we took an Uber with our toddler to Walmart to pick up our vehicle, another expense to factor in. There were plenty of options at the airport: taxi, Uber, and Lyft to get to your destination if you choose not to rent a car.
We chose to travel with our own car seat but some rental companies and Turo hosts will offer to rent a car seat for an additional cost. Having a rental car also helped us overpack the car on our day trips and have the flexibility to stop when needed for a toddler to eat or run around.
On Oahu we were fortunate to have a friend tour us around and use his truck on the island. If we had been visiting on our own we would have likely rented a car to allow us to get around the different coastlines. We spent long days out of the house exploring beaches and hiking. Again, having a car for the day helped us to pack all our toddler travel essentials and more. Having enough sunscreen, water, snacks, and diaper bag allowed us to be successful traveling with a toddler.
Hawaii Itinerary with a Toddler
We primarily visited beaches on our trip to Hawaii with a toddler but also had an opportunity for a few hikes and sight-seeing. Our time on the Big Island was focused on Volcanoes National Park, Mauna Kea Information Station, and playing in the ocean at Green Sands Beach, Black Sand Beach, Makalawena Beach, and Magic Sands Beach.
Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park is an incredibly family friendly park located midway up the slopes of Mauna Loa. Many of the popular spots can be driven to and there are paved sidewalks throughout for strollers or walking with toddlers. We wanted to do one larger hike and then sight-see a few other volcanic spots.
If hiking in Volcanoes National Park with a toddler, we recommend the Kilauea Iki trail, which is approximately a 3.5-mile loop. We started at the top walking around the crater rim with spectacular views below. While the trail was relatively flat and there were barriers at the lookout spots, we chose not to let Chase walk about himself and set him up in our Deuter Kid Comfort Active carrier.
The trail takes you down into the crater where you walk across the middle. We stopped halfway through to enjoy lunch in the shade on the lava rocks, giving Chase a chance to run around a bit, before heading back up to the parking lot.
A shorter trail is the Thurston Lava Tube trail – 10 minutes, flat walking. We let Chase walk portions of this to let him explore the tropical forest but picked him up in the lava tube as it is dark and a little harder to navigate for a toddler.
After our hikes, we drove the Crater Rim Drive which is a gorgeous drive that descends 4,000 feet to the ocean through numerous lava fields. The road is a 19-mile road (one-way) so be prepared for a bit of a drive when strapping your toddler back in the car, though there are multiple stops along the way. We stopped at the end of the road to see the Hōlei Sea Arch and let Chase stretch out his legs before driving back to the center of the park.
We spent a full day at the park, also stopping by Kilauea Overlook and the steam vents. Chase loved all the views and we were appreciative of the different areas that allowed him to run around. We love visiting National Parks and were not disappointed visiting Volcanoes National Park with a toddler.
Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world start to finish (if you include the 19,700 feet below sea level). It is one of the two major volcanoes on the island, the other being Mauna Loa. Mauna Kea is located outside of Volcanoes National Park but can be accessed by road all the way to the top. The drive to the top requires an all-terrain vehicle, but the drive to the information station is accessible by any car.
We would recommend this activity for on a Hawaii family vacation. From the information station, you can check out the visitor center to learn more about Mauna Kea and the area. Additionally, you can access a few short and long hikes (all the way to the top) from the observatory. We enjoyed a short hike up a ridgeline where you can see the city below and Mauna Loa from a distance.
Black Sands Beach
Visiting beaches was a must for us on both islands. We particularly enjoyed Black Sands Beach on the Big Island. Black Sands Beach can be accessed by car with the parking lot only a short distance from the ocean. We made a pitstop there before Volcanoes National Park but could have easily spent a full afternoon there.
The sand is, as the name suggests, black which was really unique for us to see. Chase enjoyed running it through his hands and walking around. While there, we spotted sea turtles swimming right by the shore and learned they were often visitors to the beach. We waded into the waters as they swam around us, sometimes less than five feet away.
This was the perfect Hawaii beach with a toddler as the waves were not too intense, we had sea life sightings, and the area was clean.
We also enjoyed Green Sands Beach and Makalawena Beach while on the Big Island but need to caveat that both require longer hikes to get to and can’t be easily accessed by car.
Our first full day on Oahu we visited Ko Olina beach and can’t say enough good things about it. Ko Olina is another perfect Hawaii beach with toddlers (or really any family with babies, toddlers or children). Ko Olina is a manmade lagoon with a surrounding resort community open to the public. It is sheltered from outside waves so the beach feels like a shallow pool.
The area has a shopping center including an ABC store for groceries and other supplies. Ko Olina also has many restaurants to frequent for lunch or dinner. The area is very well maintained with paved sidewalks for strollers, grassy turf areas for playing, and a wave-less beach perfect for swimming with toddlers. This is a must-do Hawaii toddler activity on our list!
North Shore is a great coast to explore if you are looking to do some shopping, check out cool restaurants, and enjoy surf-worthy beaches. We spent our day at the North Shore perusing a few boutique shops, eating lunch at Island Vintage Coffee, and then settled in at Sunset Beach Park. The North Shore had a good balance of beautiful beaches and activities with moderate crowds, great for a beach vacation with a toddler.
One of the hikes we did in Hawaii was the Lanikai Pillbox, located on the East coast of Oahu. Oahu has a few pillbox hikes around the island, often frequented for sunrise or sunset.
We decided to hike Lanikai for sunrise. We parked on the street close to the trailhead and met up with other hikers heading up for sunrise. We had Chase in our Deuter kid carrier still in his pajamas. It is a short hike, just shy of two miles roundtrip – an easy Oahu hike for carrying a toddler. There are amazing views up the entire way, especially of “The Mokes.” We spent the day after at Lanikai Beach which we would also recommend.
We were familiar with Waikiki Beach and really wanted to add it to our itinerary. Waikiki Beach is where most resorts and hotels on Oahu are located. Since we were not staying there, we went to a public beach and were frankly disappointed. The beach area near the Zoo felt dirty, crowded, and lackluster after our other beach days. We were told by our friend that the beach closer to the resorts is nicer so maybe don’t count out Waikiki, it just wasn’t our favorite.
We spent a day in Honolulu and took an afternoon tour of Pearl Harbor. There is a ferry to the USS Arizona. You are able to bring a baby or toddler but will need to hold your baby on both the ferry and at the memorial.
There is a park area that is very toddler friendly where Chase ran around for a bit and got to pose in front of a submarine. It was a cool experience and can definitely be done bringing a toddler to Pearl Harbor, but you may want to bring a carrier for the times they need to be in your arms.
Where to Eat in Hawaii with Toddlers
We have a very picky toddler but survived Hawaii keeping him fed. To cut the budget we opted to grocery shop for a few of our meals. On the Big Island, there was a Walmart in Kona which had the staples. On Oahu, there were plenty of grocery stores but we fell in love with ABC stores. These stores had prepared food, supplies like sunscreen, souvenirs, and knickknacks. They were really great and we were able to stock up on milk, pouches, and other toddler travel snacks.
We brought along our hiccapop OmniBoost travel booster seat which made giving our toddler meals and snacks anywhere a breeze! And made it easy keeping his food off the sand!
One restaurant we would recommend is Monkey Pod in Oahu. We found Monkey Pod to be a very toddler friendly restaurant. They offered a free meal for little ones and without asking brought it out right away – huge relief as we struggled to keep him entertained in a high chair. They were very accommodating.
Another restaurant in Oahu we would recommend is Kalapawai Café & Deli. They were incredibly kind to Chase, offering to make him a special breakfast and checking in on us to make sure he was doing OK. It is always a relief to find places that gladly welcome little ones.
We also ate out at Lulus near Waikiki Beach and at Turtle Bay Resort which both worked fine for a toddler.
On the Big Island, we visited Kona Brewery. Chase was not the only toddler there, which gave us some relief when he started to make a little bit of a fuss.
We also took note that there were chain and fast-food restaurants on both islands. If your toddler is like ours and latches onto certain foods this may be helpful, we picked up a chicken nuggets happy meal one night.
Overall, we had no issues with finding food options, picking up child friendly snacks, and eating out across both islands in Hawaii.
What to Bring for Hawaii with Toddlers
We planned our packing mostly around beach time and some hiking. Hawaii had plenty of stores to buy some of these items on the island but we chose to pack a little heavier to be prepared. Below are our top items to pack for a Hawaii vacation with a toddler:
Toddler Beach Essentials
Toddler Beach Essentials are a must for visiting Hawaii with toddlers.
- Reef-Safe Sunscreen – We packed a spray and lotion for Chase. We heavily covered him each day so highly suggest packing or buying upon arrival.
- Sippy cup – Having a toddler sippy cup for travel was essential. We packed a cup for water and one for milk to keep in the cooler on beach days.
- Travel Booster Chair – While this is a bulkier item, we love the hiccapop OmniBoost booster seat! It doubles as a travel highchair and beach chair. It was great to have for snack time or just hanging out in the sand.
- Sunshirt – A swimshirt like this one is perfect for a beach vacation. We like how lightweight they are to keep Chase cool while also having SPF to protect from the sun. Great for beaches or trails!
- Sunhat – Sunday Afternoon makes great hats for sun coverage and fits snuggly to combat a toddler who hates wearing a hat.
- Swim Diapers – Do not forget these, though you can likely purchase in Hawaii. We would definitely have been in trouble one day if we had forgotten to put Chase in a swim diaper.
- Lifejacket – our toddler is a little too small for Puddle Jumpers so we packed this lifejacket for him to run around on the beach with. If you are planning to stay at a resort with a pool, we may have looked into a pool float.
- Sunshade – While we also purchased an umbrella for the beach in Hawaii, we wanted a little tent for nap time. We had a hard time finding a compact baby beach tent and ended up using a small pet shelter that worked great. A beach tent like this one would also work well. We only ended up using it once but it worked great to keep our little one out of the sun while he snoozed.
Toddler Hiking Gear
Here are some of the toddler hiking gear items we recommend for the Hawaii hikes with toddlers:
- Bug spray – we did not have to use this too frequently but were glad to have it, especially on hikes. OFF! makes child-friendly sprays.
- Camelback – we have always loved hiking with a camelback with water and Chase is finally at the age to drink from it himself making it great for longer trails.
- Carrier – we packed our Deuter kid carrier as well as the Ergobaby for longer hikes and walks around town. A toddler travel stroller would also work well for Hawaii if you aren’t doing a lot of hiking. We ran into a couple there that had been debating on bringing a stroller vs just a carrier but had chosen the stroller. We think there is no wrong answer here.
- Multipurpose shoes – we found these Merrells to work great for letting Chase walk around on trails or wear right into the water on the beach.
Other Toddler Travel Essentials
- Car seat – we opted to bring our own to avoid needing to rent across the two islands. We really like this lightweight and easy to set-up travel car seat.
- Travel crib – since we were moving locations frequently, we decided to pack our own Guava Lotus travel crib. These toddler travel beds would also work, if we had Chase in a bed at home.
- Bottle Sanitizer Bag – this is an underrated item, in our opinion, to help clean bottles/sippy cups. Only water and a microwave is needed to help sanitize items on the go.
- Beach toys – we did not have room to pack these but think it may be good item to bring or buy there for a toddler on the beach in Hawaii.
Final Travel Tips for Hawaii with Toddlers
Hawaii is a great place to travel with a toddler or a baby. Whether you are looking to explore an entire island, hike, go on tours, or just relax at a resort, Hawaii is a family friendly vacation spot.
While Hawaii has so many outdoor activities to take advantage of, safety is a key planning factor. For any beach vacation, we had to consider sun exposure, hydration, and water safety. We planned ahead packing and preparing to buy more baby sunscreen in addition to beach clothes with SPF and good coverage as well as invested in an umbrella there. We made sure to always have water on hand and traveled with a cooler for our drinks.
Toddlers are so fun because they love to explore but also terrifying since they can move fast. We made sure to always be close when playing in the water, use a life jacket when swimming, and play near calmer beach areas. This gave us peace of mind while letting him stomp around merrily on the shoreline. Hawaii felt like paradise and we hope you can enjoy it too with your little one!