The To-Do List, Redefined

Forget responsibilities and chores—this list of the 12 best activities for families in Hawai‘i is all about fun and relaxation.

Family life is awash with lists. Grocery lists. Class lists. Lists of repairs that need to be made and thank-you notes that must be written. But this spring, toss those task-oriented papers aside in favor of something more enjoyable—a “Want to Do List.” We’ve come up with a dozen of Hawai‘i’s top family activities. So get out your pen, because with a checklist this fun, you’ll want to start crossing things off immediately.


1. Spot a humuhumunukunukuapua‘a. Also called the rectangular triggerfish, these colorful reef dwellers are often seen by snorkelers. The species is the official state fish, and while the Hawaiian name refers to the fish’s pig-like snout, we like to think of it as more of a pucker-up-for-a-smooch face. Great snorkeling spots include Hanauma Bay on the Leeward Side and Waimea Bay on the North Shore. By the way, all those crackling sounds you hear when you’re snorkeling around a reef are caused by snapping shrimp. Who knew?

2. Get misted by a waterfall. O‘ahu has a plethora of verdant, lush trails, and many offer relatively short hikes, making them good bets for families with children. Mānoa Falls Trail, Kapena Falls, and Maunawili Falls all offer scenic, accessible waterfalls.

3. Eat your way through the morning. There’s a thriving farmers’ market scene on the island, so check out the local way to
buy fresh-off-the-tree fruit, baked goods,
and Hawai‘i-made crafts. When you’re done admiring the tropical flowers, get a big plate of fried rice for breakfast. Kapi‘olani Community College’s Saturday market is legendary (go early!). For a listing of other options, check out



4. Wish upon a star. Also known as the Big Island, Hawai‘i is filled with opportunities to peer into outer space. On Mauna Kea, you’ll find observatories, visitor centers,
and a chance to tour a telescope. Down
the mountain, Hilo has a planetarium and astronomy center perfect for families. Fun fact: Many streetlights on the island have
a special filter to avoid interfering with the observatories’ activities.

5. Play cowboy … Districts like Kohala and ranching towns like Waimea let you kick
up your heels and pretend to be a paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy). Horseback riding tours are available for all levels of riders, from tranquil pasture rides to advanced options for experienced equestrians.

6. … or fireman. Kīlauea Volcano has been putting on quite a show lately, so don’t miss the chance to visit Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. You can often view lava from land, but for the best vantage point, you might want
to splurge on a helicopter ride so you can get close to where the lava is flowing (it shifts depending on Pele’s mood).



7. Be on the lookout. The Garden Isle is home to a surprising natural treasure—a colorful 10-mile-long, mile-wide canyon that rivals the Grand Canyon in its splendor. Have a picnic and admire the views from Waimea Canyon State Park, then take the family on a short nature hike.

8. Learn a secret code. Hula, and its accompanying mele (songs and chants), have been practiced in the islands for generations. There are two types of hula, hula kahiko (ancient style) and hula ‘auana (modern style). Both use symbolic gestures. So when you watch this sacred dance form, keep a close eye on the dancers’ movements. There are many free performances by (a hula celebrations, held each year in March.

9. Make like Indiana Jones. For an excursion into the jungle, tour the Wailua River via kayak. You’ll enjoy the lush scenery and can hike up to scenic Sacred Falls for a refreshing dip in the cool waters.



10. Renovate the sand castle. Bring your pail, because there’s a beach on Maui for every type of family. Launiupoko Beach is great for small keiki (children). D.T. Fleming Beach Park has lifeguards and a playground. And teens will enjoy watching the world-class windsurfers at Ho‘okipa Beach Park.thetodolist-hawaii-03

11. Sail away. From historic Lahaina Harbor, it’s easy to charter a sailboat, catamaran, whale-watching boat (December through April), dinner cruise, or submarine adventure.

12. Get down on the farm. It’s cool and farm tours abound. Kids can feed and milk
a goat, for example, while parents may perk up at the idea of wine tasting. Upcountry panoramic views.