Best Hikes With Kids on the Big Island of Hawaii: Discover Pu’u Wa’awa’a

Exploring the Big Island of Hawaii with your little adventurers can be the highlight of your family vacation. With its diverse landscapes, the island’s trails offer an exciting playground for kids of all ages.

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From lush rainforests to volcanic craters, the Big Island’s hikes are as educational as they are breathtaking. You’ll find trails that cater to young hikers, ensuring everyone has a memorable and safe experience.

Best Hikes with Kids on the Big Island of Hawaii

As you’re planning your family adventure, you’ll find that Big Island’s trails are as diverse as the island’s ecosystems. I’ve explored them all, and here’s the scoop on a few that are sure to captivate your little ones.

Akaka Falls Loop Trail

Imagine tropical rainforests with an easily accessible, paved pathway suitable for all ages. The Akaka Falls Loop Trail offers just that, with a short 0.4-mile hike that’s perfect for families. You’ll be greeted by the incredible 442-foot Akaka Falls, which is sure to leave your kids in awe.

  • Trail length: 0.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Embark on a journey through the legendary Kilauea Iki Trail. This moderate hike is 4 miles round trip, descending into a crater and crossing a solidified lava lake. It’s like walking on a different planet – something your kids will remember forever.

  • Trail length: 4 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve

For a short yet fascinating hike, explore the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve. This easy trail is less than 1 mile and leads to ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs carved into lava rock, making for an educational and cultural experience.

  • Trail length: Less than 1 mile
  • Difficulty: Easy

Manuka Nature Trail

If your family is up for a challenge, the Manuka Nature Trail is a hidden gem. It’s a 2-mile loop taking you through a lush forest and an ancient pit crater. Keep your eyes peeled for local flora and fauna.

  • Trail length: 2 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Remember to pack plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen. And one more thing – take your time and soak in those breathtaking views. After all, memories made here, surrounded by the beauty of Hawaii, are treasures that last a lifetime.

1. Manoa Falls Trail

Your Hawaiian adventure would be incomplete without a trek to Manoa Falls. Picture this: a 150-foot waterfall cascading into a rocky pool below, all within a lush, green rainforest that seems like something out of a fairytale. That’s the Manoa Falls Trail for you. One of Oahu’s most popular hikes, it’s just a short drive from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu, yet it feels worlds apart.

The trail is approximately 1.6 miles round-trip and can usually be completed in about an hour or two. It’s a gentle hike, perfect for families with kids. You’ll navigate through a bamboo forest, which might remind you of scenes from Jurassic Park. Actually, parts of the movie were filmed in this very valley, lending a touch of Hollywood magic to your hike.

While the trail is well-maintained, there can be some muddy spots, especially after a rain. So pack some sturdy footwear. You’ll appreciate the extra grip when the path gets slick.

  • Remember to pack:
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Bug spray
  • A camera for those breathtaking moments

Along the way, you’ll notice the diverse plant life, including towering banyan trees and fragrant ginger blooms. Keep an ear out for the soundtrack of this hike: the chirping of various birds endemic to Hawaii.

As you approach the falls, the roar of the water gets louder, inciting excitement, especially within the little ones. Although swimming isn’t permitted at the waterfall—it’s for your safety—you’ll feel the mist on your face as a refreshing finish to your trek.

With every step you take on the Manoa Falls Trail, you’re not just walking, you’re making memories in a place where nature’s beauty is abundant, and the echoes of ancient Hawaii resonate through the lush forest surrounding you. After all, these trails are not merely paths but gateways to understanding Hawaii’s delicate ecosystem and rich cultural heritage.

2. Thurston Lava Tube

Imagine stepping straight into the bowels of the earth, where molten lava once flowed. That’s exactly the kind of spine-tingling adventure you’ll experience at the Thurston Lava Tube (Nāhuku) in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. Surrounded by a lush tropical forest, this hike not only is fascinating for young explorers but also incredibly accessible.

The short walk to the lava tube entrance is akin to entering a fairy tale—towering tree ferns and the symphony of native birds set a magical scene. The trail itself is well-defined and less than half a mile long, making it perfect for smaller legs. Inside the tube, you’ll marvel at the natural tunnel, its walls smoothed by ancient rivers of lava. It’s well-lit inside, ensuring safe passage, but don’t forget to pack a flashlight—it adds to the thrill and can help spot interesting geological features.

History comes alive here, as you explain to your kids how the islands were formed, and the role these lava tubes played. It’s not just a hike; it’s a practical lesson in geology and culture without the confines of a classroom.

To wrap up your trip at the Thurston Lava Tube, take a moment to appreciate the stark contrast once you emerge—bright greenery against the dark, once-fiery realm you just explored. And while you’re in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, the adventure doesn’t have to stop. There are numerous other trails and sites to sate your family’s appetite for discovery.

Before heading out, check the National Park Service website for any closures or safety information. Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is a dynamic and evolving landscape, and conditions can change rapidly.

When visiting, remember to respect this delicate ecosystem. Stay on designated paths and take all your trash with you. Preserving the natural beauty and integrity of sites like the Thurston Lava Tube ensures that generations to come will continue to enjoy and learn from these marvels.

3. Kilauea Iki Trail

The excitement unfolds as your feet hit the path of the Kilauea Iki Trail, an absolute gem for families craving a moderate hike with an unforgettable landscape. Nestled within Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, this trail is a 4-mile loop that delivers both rainforest vibes and moon-like craters. The contrast is striking and guarantees wide-eyed wonder in both kids and adults alike.

Imagine walking through native forest while catching glimpses of the Kilauea Iki crater – it’s like peering into the earth’s own cauldron. In 1959, this crater was a seething lava lake, and today it’s a serene pit with steam vents reminding you of its fiery past. You’ll descend 400 feet from the forested rim to the crater floor, crossing the still-steaming vent fields in the process. There, you’ll traverse the solid lava lake, giving you a hands-on geology lesson and a story to tell for years.

Don’t forget to pack water and snacks; the journey, while exhilarating, will have you working up an appetite. The trail is well-marked and even though it may get rugged at times, What makes Kilauea Iki Trail particularly delightful is the chance to walk through a lava tube. The echoes of your steps in the cave will be a thrilling experience for the kiddos.

Before you venture out, it’s a smart move to swing by the visitor center. There, you’ll find the latest trail conditions and any volcanic activity updates that could affect your hike. The park rangers are your go-to experts, overflowing with insights and safety tips to keep your trek enjoyable.

Hiking the Kilauea Iki Trail isn’t just a walk; it’s an adventure that stitches together the grand tapestry of the Big Island’s volcanic wonders. Embrace the thrill of tracing the footsteps of ancient eruptions and prepare to be dwarfed by the sheer scale of the Hawaiian geological spectacle.

4. Akaka Falls Loop Trail

Picture this: a short, easy walk leading you and your kids to one of the most spectacular waterfalls on the Big Island. That’s the Akaka Falls Loop Trail for you. Nestled in the lush Akaka Falls State Park, this 0.4-mile loop is an ideal excursion for families with little adventurers in tow.

As you set foot on the trail, the sounds of the city fade into a symphony of nature’s best—birds chirping, streams babbling, and the distant roar of waterfalls. Don’t be surprised if you feel like you’ve wandered into a scene from Jurassic Park; the area’s rich greenery and towering trees are nothing short of prehistoric.

On this family-friendly hike, the path is well-maintained and features several informative plaques that tell you about the local flora and fauna. Your kids will be excited to spot the wild orchids and bamboo groves that line the trail. But the real centerpiece is the 442-foot Akaka Falls. Once you reach the lookout, prepare for the oohs and aahs as everyone takes in the breathtaking view of the water plunging into the gorge below.

Before you head out, here are a few tips:

  • Bring rain gear. The Hilo side of the island is known for its wet conditions.
  • Wear sturdy shoes. The path can be slippery, especially after rain.
  • Visit in the morning. You might catch a glimpse of a rainbow stretching across the waterfall’s mist.
  • Facilities available

  • Restrooms
  • Parking
  • Yes ($1 for walk-ins, $5 for parking)

Remember to bring a camera to capture the stunning scenery and the smiles on your kids’ faces. When it comes to creating cherished family memories on the Big Island, the Akaka Falls Loop Trail is a must-do that easily makes the list. Enjoy this slice of Hawaiian paradise where the air is fresh, and the views are awe-inspiring.

5. Pu’u Wa’awa’a Cinder Cone Trail

Tucked away in the heart of North Kona lies a true gem for family adventuring: the Pu’u Wa’awa’a Cinder Cone Trail. A moderate hike, it’s ideal for families with older kids looking to explore Hawaii’s unique volcanic terrain. The trail is roughly 6 miles round trip, but don’t let the distance deter you. The path’s gradual incline and open vistas make it an enjoyable journey rather than a strenuous trek.

As you navigate the switchbacks, you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views of the island. From Mauna Loa and Hualalai on one side to the azure expanse of the Pacific Ocean on the other, the panorama is nothing short of breathtaking. Along the way, the landscape showcases a diverse array of native plants and geological features, sites you’ve got to see to believe.

Here’s what you need to know before you lace up your hiking boots:

  • Elevation Gain: The trail ascends to an elevation of 3,967 feet, offering a slight challenge and cooler temperatures.
  • Wildlife Spotting: Keep an eye out for local birds. The area is a birdwatcher’s paradise, home to species you won’t find anywhere else on Earth.
  • Age requirement: It’s best for kiddos over the age of eight. They’ll love the sense of accomplishment that comes with reaching the top.
  • Preparation Tips:
  • Start early to beat the heat and enjoy the quiet of the morning.
  • Pack plenty of water, sunscreen, and snacks.
  • Don’t forget a camera or your phone. You’ll want to capture the views!

Remember, Pu’u Wa’awa’a is not just a hike – it’s an experience. Every step offers a new lesson about the Big Island’s volcanic heritage and the delicate ecosystems that thrive in this region. It’s more than just time spent together; it’s about immersing yourselves in the island’s natural history and rugged beauty.

Once you’re up there, among the clouds and overlooking the vastness of Hawaii, you’ll feel a connection to the land that’s hard to put into words. It’s a reminder of why adventures like these are invaluable, forging lifelong memories with every trail-blazed.


You’ve just uncovered the magic of the Pu’u Wa’awa’a Cinder Cone Trail, where adventure awaits and the views are unforgettable. Remember to lace up your hiking boots tight, pack plenty of water and snacks, and don’t forget that camera to capture the moments that’ll stick with you for years to come. There’s no better way to bond with your kids and instill in them a love for nature than by exploring the wonders of the Big Island together. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and make those memories!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Pu’u Wa’awa’a Cinder Cone Trail suitable for young children?

The Pu’u Wa’awa’a Cinder Cone Trail is best suited for children over the age of eight due to its moderate difficulty.

What is the elevation of the Pu’u Wa’awa’a Cinder Cone Trail?

The trail reaches an elevation of 3,967 feet, providing panoramic views of the island.

What kind of views can I expect on the Pu’u Wa’awa’a Cinder Cone Trail?

Hikers can enjoy panoramic views of the Big Island, along with sightings of native plants and geological formations.

Are there any specific preparation tips for the trail?

It’s recommended to start early, bring plenty of water and snacks, and carry a camera to capture the scenery.

Why is the Pu’u Wa’awa’a Cinder Cone Trail a memorable experience?

The trail offers an opportunity to immerse in the island’s natural history and rugged beauty, creating lifelong memories.

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