Hawaii: Big Island, snorkeling, Kona coast
Hawaii: Big Island, snorkeling, Kona coast

“Travel to Hawaii With Teenagers” may provide helpful tips leading to a successful family travel experience in Hawaii.

By Lee Foster

If you plan to take your teenager on a vacation trip, Hawaii offers many enticing attractions.

Teenagers savor the spectrum of active sports and the ocean environment that Hawaii promises.

Based on a look at three islands with my own children, Karin and Paul, here is a list of ten favorite activities for teens in The Islands:

1. Learn to surf, a favorite for Hawaii with teenagers.

Waikiki is a good place to start because the waves are dependable and manageable. There’s plenty of company among the other aspiring surfers and all the necessary gear can be rented right on the beach. Started on mattress to get familiar with the surf. Graduate to a boogie board. Then rent a surf board. The rental people will give you some tips on how to ride the waves. Air mattresses and boogie boards can be rented in front of the Outrigger Hotel. Surf boards can be rented across from the Hyatt Regency Waikiki at the Wizard Stones. Tips: If this is your teen’s first encounter with the Hawaiian sun, start with an hour of exposure and slather on the sunblock.

2. Sail on a catamaran.

The large twin-hulled boats make regular excursion trips, with about 50 passengers aboard, from Waikiki, the Kona Kohala coast of the Big Island, and Maui’s west coast. When the engines are cut in deep water, the craft soars along under sail. The teen will probably be out on the trampoline webbing in the front of the boat to get the full blast of the splashing waves.

Teens may especially enjoy the story of the Hawaiian voyaging canoe, the Hokulea. It may be back in Hawaii during your visit. The Hokulea re-creates the grand voyaging canoes that brought South Pacific people to the Hawaiian islands. See my detailed article on the Hokulea.

3. Check out those feathered capes.

The best place to expose your teen to the culture of Hawaii is at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. This may be the best cultural experience to suggest for Hawaii with teenagers. They’ll marvel at the other-than-European culture of Hawaii, such as the prominence of huge feathered capes as the adornment of choice. Teens will enjoy seeing the shark-tooth war clubs of the Polynesians. Try to take in the planetarium show at the Bishop to get a sense of how the early explorers to Hawaii navigated by the stars. Cost:


4. Snorkel to see tropical fish.

We snorkeled at Waikoloa on The Big Island and again off Maui, combining a catamaran sail with snorkeling. Our best snorkeling was off Waikoloa because the water was clear, the coral opulent, and the fish life abundant. Part of the catamaran/snorkel appeal is they provide everything you need–snorkel, flippers, food, and drink. Each resort will also rent you snorkel gear.


5. Take a submarine to see the fish.

The Atlantis submarine company offers deep-sea trips off Oahu, Maui, and The Big Island to see underwater coral and fish. We took the trip off Kona on The Big Island. The trip amounted to a one-hour submersion at depths up to 110 feet. The submarine trip was spectacular, partly because Atlantis sent divers down to chum the fish, which appeared in huge numbers. Divers drew the fish right across our individual portholes.

6. Trek into a volcano.

Haleakala National Park on Maui and Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island would be the two choices. We drove up to Haleakala, a dramatic ride in itself, up 22 miles of twisting road. At the top you peer into the multi-colored caldera. Trails from the top lead out onto the cinder far reaches, with camping and cabins in the distance. However, be careful not to overestimate your hiking ability because you’re at 10,000 feet at the summit.

7. Eat at a luau.

Polynesian entertainment, from hula girls to male fire dancers, will interest teens at a luau. To see the whole pig brought out of the pit can also be high drama. We enjoyed the drums at a Luau on Maui. Hawaii also offers some other culinary adventures a teen will find intriguing, such as a Japanese-style dinner.

8. Swim with the dolphins, another favorite of Hawaii with teenagers.

This is a special experience, available at the Hilton Waikoloa on the Big Island. You don’t have to be registered at the hotel to partake of the experience. There are separate programs for young children, teens, and adults. Reservations can be made in advance. In this educational and environmental setting, you are in the water with the dolphins for about 30 minutes, first getting acquainted with them, touching them, and then swimming around with them, all the while learning how saving the dolphins can be a metaphor for saving the planet. The organizers can also make a video of the teen doing the encounter.


9. Meditate on a heiau.

Teens with a spiritual and cultural interest may enjoy the sacred religious sites of the Hawaiians, called heiau. A good book on this is Van James’ Ancient Sites of Oahu. With the book, a family can make a trip around Oahu, looking at the sites, starting right in Waikiki with the Wizard Stones in the main beach area. Other accessible heiau are at the City of Refuge site on the Big Island, which is the best overall introduction to a heiau, or the small King Kamehameha heiau in Kona.

10. Meet other teens.

Teens can accomplish this on their own on the beach at Waikiki. However, at the major destination resorts on outlying islands, inquire if the property has a teen program.

Hawaii is an excellent teen destination, partly because it has the ocean environment and such a large range of active sports of interest to teenagers. Add to this the ancient culture of Hawaii, which is also absorbing.

For parents, the relative safety of Hawaii is also appealing. You know your children won’t encounter any toxic plants, bugs, or reptiles in this unusually-benign tropical paradise. You also can be relatively certain that they won’t get sick from drinking the water, as can happen in Mexico and other tropical settings.


Hawaii: Big Island, snorkeling, Kona coast, model released
Hawaii: Big Island, snorkeling, Kona coast, model released. Photo: hikids103 .Photo copyright Lee Foster, www.fostertravel.com, 510/549-2202, [email protected]

Hawaii With Teenagers: If You Go

For further information on your best choices for Hawaii with teenagers, contact the Hawaii Visitors Bureau at https://www.gohawaii.com/.



  1. my kids just love to jump around on trampolines and they are sort of addicted to it.~”:

  2. Hawaii travel destinations is one of my favorite holidays, i have visited. The Hawaii islands should be renamed PARADISE. Paradise does not sum up Hawaii you have to go there experience the people, food culture. I would recommend the whale watching take your camera yes but do stop and watch the most beautiful creatures as they jump and play around you.Don’t be too concerned with booking everything ahead of time.

  3. Hello. Great article. Thank you…I have two 14 year olds One has a rather unadventuresome palette…any ideas on where we could eat? We’re in Waikiki Central right now. Thank you. (I’m thinking a nice JApanese resto…the one you mentionned and if worse comes to worse they could have teriyakik chicken and white rice.!) Where’s the Japanese restaurant you mentionned?

  4. Rusty,
    Happy to hear that my Hawaii write-up is helpful to you.
    I have about 200 write-ups on my website, including a cluster on Hawaii.
    Have a good trip,
    Lee Foster

  5. I want to give my 19, 14, & 11 year old a trip to HI for Christmas. Is there a particular place you would stay at and which island? Are there any discounts if I book it ahead of time was looking to go during their summer break 2015.

  6. We are planning a vacation for our graduating 18 year old triplets in July 2015 and thinking about Hawaii. Maui and Kauai have been mentioned as good locations for our crew’s interests in outdoors, archaeology, anthropology, plus natural beauty like waterfalls, snorkeling, etc.
    Our problem is where to stay that will house the five of us on the ocean without paying for two rooms at a resort. We can’t find a suite that’s reasonably priced. Is a condo our best bet and if so, how do we know if it’s good or not? Thanks for any help you can provide.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

I accept the Privacy Policy

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.