Hilo Hawaii | Things to do on a Family Vacation


Hilo Hawaii family vacation, the Big Island of Hawaii. Things to do and family activities in and around Hilo Hawaii.

After three years of being stationed on Oahu, this family finally had the opportunity to check out the Big Island! But we weren’t looking for white sand beaches and Mai Tai’s. We were looking for active volcanos, lava tubes, impressive waterfalls, gorgeous hidden valleys and farmers markets with handmade jewelry and juicy local fruit. 

A fun family adventure all while being toddler and grandparent friendly. Although, these are not your average grandparents (or toddlers) and I needed a nap way before anyone.

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Hilo Hawaii Family Activities

This vacation was taken before the pandemic and not when it was published. I blame the kids for distracting me.

After flying into Hilo International Airport, we packed one baby, one toddler, two parents and two grandparents into a rental Chrysler Town and County mini van, with 6+ medium to large suit cases, plus a pack and play and we fit! 

After dropping off our luggage at the Air B&B, we were ready to start our 5 days of Hilo Hawaii family activities. 

driveway on the big island surround by palm trees


Lava Tree State Monument

Lava tree state monument is 22 miles south of Hilo. It is a short paved path that takes you though the forest where you can see molds of tree trunks formed from the lava that swept through the area in 1790. The trail is only 0.7 miles long but it’s a great opportunity to stretch your legs before continuing your island adventure. 

Little girl looking up though a lava tree mold as her grandfather shower his hand out of the top.
paved path lined with trees in lava tree state monument

New Black Sand Beach | Uncle Roberts Awa Bar & Farmers Market

Just a quick 12 miles southwest of Lava Tree State Monument you can find New Black Sand Beach and Uncle Roberts Awa Bar and Farmers Market. Being as we went during the day, it wasn’t very crowded. However, this place can become quite lively on Wednesday nights. 

After a delicious BBQ lunch, and smoothies to go with it, we took the path down to new black sand beach. Walking this path with the black lava can get incredibly hot, but once we made it to the ocean we were met with beautiful ocean views. 

dad with little girl on shoulders walking the path to new black sand beach
6 rocks piled on one another from largest to smallest with palm tress in the distance

Isaac Hale Beach Park | Pohoiki

Isaac Hale Beach Park is located 32 miles south of Hilo. It’s a popular spot for many surfers but swimming here is not advised as the current is very strong. 

With little ones in tow, we walked the shoreline and took in the impressive views of both the ocean and lava flow that had passed through. 

large palm trees leaning towards the ocean coast at isaac hale beach park


After breakfast out on the lanai, and a visit from our friend Rudy the rooster, it was day two of our Hilo Hawaii family activities. 

dinning table and chairs out on the lanai

Akaka Falls State Park

Akaka Falls State Park is located 12 miles north of Hilo. This 0.4 loop trail takes you through a lush tropical forest and leads you to a 422 foot waterfall. Although it is a paved path, portions of it include stairs. Making this non wheelchair accessible. You do have to pay for parking, $5 per vehicle or $1 per person for those who prefer to walk in and skip the parking lot. 

This may be a short trail but taking your time it can be about 30 minutes. Perfect for a morning stroll with a picture perfect waterfall. 

Akaka Falls State Park Hilo Hawaii waterfall
paved path with lush tropical greenery

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii volcanoes National Park is located 30 miles south of Hilo. This national park is jammed packed with 150 miles of hiking trails and two camping areas. This park is an all day (if not several more!) trip. It hosts two active volcanos, Mauna Loa and Kilauea.

There is an entrance fee of $30 per private, non commercial, vehicle. However, they may offer some free days. For military and dependents, they offer a free annual pass. Be sure to check their website for updated information. 

Once you enter the park, stop by the visitor center for maps and to plan your trip.

father and daughter looking out over Kileaua Iki crater
glow from Halemaumau crater. Seen from Jagger Museum

Thurston Lava Tube | Nākuku | Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

walking bridge and greenery surrounding the opening to the lava tube
family walking through Thurston lava tube while. Lit up by lights

Hōlei Sea Arch | Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hōlei sea arch
Nene in Hawaii Volcanoes national park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is beautiful and easily an all day trip. It can be a bit chilly so make sure to pack appropriate clothing and footwear.  


Hilo Farmers Market

This farmers market is located in downtown Hilo. They are open year round on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 6am-4pm. Although you can find some vendors daily from 7am-4pm. 

This is a great place to find handmade jewelry and delicious local treats. Coffee, jams, jellies, macadamia nuts, Koawood crafts and much much more. Since it’s located downtown this gives a wonderful opportunity to check out other local stores and galleries. 

Beaches in Hilo

Located on the south east side of Hilo you can find several beach parks in a row. Most of them offering swimming/wading, restrooms, picnic areas and outdoor showers. 

Beach in Hilo Hawaii

What’s Shaking

Located north of Hilo, in the town of Pepeekeo, you’ll find this great little restaurant and country store. With a lot of their ingredients grown right on the What’s Shaking farm, you can enjoy their fresh smoothies and delicious plate lunches.  

This restaurant is vegetarian and vegan friendly. Enjoy your meal on the patio or take it to one of the picnic tables on the property. 

What's Shaking farm in Hawaii


Waipi’o Valley Lookout

Waipi’o Valley lookout was a must on my husband’s to do list and I’m so glad it was! Although it is a bit of a drive from Hilo, this stunning valley is a must see. Along the way you drive though several small towns where we able to do a little souvenir shopping for friends and family back home. 

Waipi’o Valley lookout does have a parking lot, but it’s very small. Be patient and respectful of other people’s homes and driveways. 

Waimea Valley Big Island Hawaii

Waimea (Kamuela) Cowboy Country

Waimea on the Big Island is like nothing I ever could have imagined. Instead of beaches or volcanoes you are met with cooler temperatures, rolling hills and Hawaiian cowboys. 

Rolling green pastures and big open skies

Here you can horseback ride and take a tour of the local ranch, do some shopping at Parker Ranch shopping mall, and grab a bite to eat at one of their great restaurants. 

On our trip we dined at award winning Big Island Brewhaus with handcrafted beer and the menu ranging from Mexican, tacos and burgers. A little bit for everyone and everything done to perfection. 

Little green church in the town of Waimea

If you get the chance to spend the night, be sure to look up! This is one of the best places to do some star gazing. Better yet, check out the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station (if weather permits). There, four nights a week, local volunteer astronomers set up telescopes for visitors to star gaze. 

view of Mauna Kea in the distance.


This was our last day of Hilo Hawaii family actives before catching our flight later that afternoon. After waking up to whales outside of our Air B&B, the family had breakfast out on the lanai where we chatted about or favorite adventures. 

View from rental house

We roamed around the yard and said goodbye to every sheep and ram on the property, along with Rudy the rooster. It was a family vacation none of us will soon forget. 

infinity pool on the big island of Hawaii

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