When planning family trips, it's best to keep kids busy with activities from crafting and music lessons to hiking and swimming. (No one wants to hear, "Mom, I'm bored" while lounging beach side with a cocktail in hand.)
Travel is one of the most fun ways for a parent to share the cultures and natural wonders of the world. These destinations are safe for kiddos, catering to the picky eaters, adrenaline junkies, nature lovers, and beach bums too. Not only will kids be welcome, they'll find programs and excursions designed just for them on each of these global adventures.
While it may sound like a lazy beach vacay, this beautiful resort is on one of Hawaii's most exciting islands – and one of the world's top resorts for families. The resort offers tons of kid-friendly activities (think ukulele lessons and lei making) in-house. But families can also find breathtaking hikes, ziplines for the token daredevil, horseback riding and kayaking to name a few. For something more low key, splash in a two-tiered pool or the saltwater lagoon that meanders through the hotel's property. By nightfall, kids will definitely be ready to crash.
For the boy (and girl) scouts who are looking for a back-to-nature experience, this Thai getaway won't disappoint. Thailand is one of Asia's best destinations for kids. With a drive and boat ride to this hotel, they may start to feel a bit like Mowgli in The Jungle Book. Bamboo guest rooms float on top of the River Kwai and offer visitors a taste of Mon culture. It's a bit rustic (as in there are wick lamps instead of electricity. But don't worry, in-room bathrooms are a part of the deal). Kids love exploring the nearby jungles atop of a gentle elephant, or visiting natural wonders such as the Lawa Cave or the Sai Yok Waterfall. Get a few thrills without leaving River Kwai by river jumping or bamboo rafting — something to excite even the most adrenaline-seeking tweens.
Nicaragua makes for an affordable, and adventure-filled, Central American trip (and many parents are choosing it over the equally kid-friendly Costa Rica). Visitors won't see nearly as many expats and will get a great taste of the local culture, plus tons of hiking and swimming! In a bungalow at Morgan's Rock, guests are nestled in the treetops and have easy beach access. One of the more exciting excursions to make is to Ometepe Island, formed by two volcanoes, which can be reached by ferry. Explore ancient rock art and petroglyphs and brave the hike up the dormant Maderas Volcano. Parents will appreciate the beaches known for waves that are safe for first-time surfers, zip-line excursions, and an insider look at the lodge's sustainable farm where kids get to collect farm eggs and milk the cows for an awesome family breakfast!
A trip to the Great Barrier Reef is an incomparable adventure. While a flight to the Aussie coast may not be ideal for many faraway travelers with tiny tots, the experiences offered through resorts like One&Only can change a nervous parent's mind. If your bucket list includes snorkelling, sailing, kayaking, water skiing or a helicopter adventure above the reef (which is the largest living thing on Earth, mind you), then book a few tickets to Hayman Island. Of course One&Only also offers an entirely kid-centric program called KidsOnly full of excursions and meals from 9am to 6pm if parents need a break.
Camping and cruising may appeal to families that seek adventure on-the-go. Many of these trips welcome first-time campers and those who are especially interested in learning the lay of the land, whether that's in sunny California or rugged Maine. Nature lovers, budding botanists and eager explorers will get animal interactions, sparkling night skies and a new set of skills when signing up for one of these trips.
For North Easterners, this trip will make an exciting escape from the bustling city, but any visitors will be in awe of the natural beauty of the Appalachian Trail. Eager hikers can find programs like the Appalachian Mountain Club's Family Camps, which take families with kids as young as five years old around New Hampshire and Maine, near beautiful mountains and full of sleepaway camp-style fun. Expect canoeing, fishing, stream exploration and a classic campfire sing-a-long.
While this isn't exactly a family vacation, road trip style, there is so much kids can learn by a trip to this incredible archipelago. National Geographic is one of the few to organize a cruise to these islands near South America that is geared specifically at budding scientific minds. In the day, kids can snorkel in crystal blue waters and hike the shores among animals like giant tortoises and sea lions, all of which are completely unphased by the presence of humans. Parents will leave with zoologists and nature photographers on their hands.
This is a fabulous spot to dive into the world of camping as a family for the first time. Whether you're interested in nesting up in an unassuming lodge or setting up a tent under the stars, a trip to this natural Cali beauty guarantees great views and swimming. Several programs like Orange Torpedo and Oars set up multi-day whitewater rafting ventures, but there are hikes to take and plenty of beach lounging to be done as well. On Orange Torpedo's Klamath River Wild and Scenic trip, kids will get to swim in warm water and calm side creeks (the rapid on this trip is exciting, but never dangerous) and the guides will introduce anyone from five years old to the basics of both rafting and camping. These trips can also be as short as two or three days, ideal for any locals or those not wanting to commit to any extensive travel with kids.
This post was originally published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on July 19th.
Kailua-Kona is the jewel of West Hawaii. This breathtaking tropical paradise is on the leeward side of the island and as such receives much less wind and rain. As a result, it's a great place for scuba diving or practicing your surfing skills before tackling the tougher waves on the eastern shore. But where to stay in Kailua-Kona? That depends on what you plan on doing while you're there.
Want to be right in the center of Kailua-Kona and have everything you need mere footsteps away? Look no further than Uncle Billy's Kona Bay Hotel. Situated right in the center of the bay, Uncle Billy's offers both rooms with a view and ground-floor suites with direct access to Hale Halawai Park. The massive Kona Inn Shopping Village is located right across the street and can satisfy almost all your shopping needs. Beyond that, Uncle Billy's is surrounded by water-based sights and activities, ample restaurant and bar options, tons of shopping, and, of course, the best cultural events.
The cliffs of Kona Bay. Photo by Robert Linsdell via Flickr
Perched on the cliff edges 1 mile south of Kona Town lies Aston Royal Sea Cliff, one of the most beautiful properties in the area. With spacious suites that include a full kitchen with all the appliances and utensils, as well as a washer and dryer, this is the perfect choice for guests planning a longer stay, families, or other large groups. Two pools on site enable you to enjoy a salt-free swim while basking in the tropical sun and enjoying the magnificent view.
Bigger isn't always better, but in the case of Royal Kona Resort, nothing could be more accurate. This massive resort has been one of the area's premiere accommodation options since 1968 and now consists of three huge oceanfront buildings with nearly 450 rooms, sprawling grounds, multiple pools (including a kids' pool), tennis courts, and a fitness center. Located just a short 10-minute walk from the town center, Royal Kona Resort is close to the action but not too close.
Don't plan on spending much time in the hotel room? Then don't waste any more money than necessary when paying for lodging. Kona Seaside Hotel is one of the cheapest hotels in the Kailua-Kona area, and you won't have to sacrifice on service or cleanliness just to stay to budget. The hotel has a large pool and even owns the Splashers Grill next door, which means you can have delicious dishes and thirst-quenching drinks delivered poolside.
Featured photo by Robert Linsdell via Flickr.
Hawaii is rich in activities and attractions both cultural and geographic. It poses as one of the top tourist destinations in the US. You can also find great accommodations in many places such as the Bluegreen Resorts. Consider visiting the following locations if you are planning to tour the Hawaiian Islands.
Pearl Harbor is the biggest natural harbor within the State of Hawaii, initially referred to as “Pu’loa” by the ancient Hawaiians. Situated in Honolulu, the USS Memorial at Pearl Harbor is the top tourist destination in the Hawaiian Islands. You can visit here to see the nine historic sites where the WWII began for America. At the Pearl Harbor, you can get a movie ticket to watch a film that summarizes the history of this primeval site.
The name Waikiki means ‘sprouting waters’ and refers to the freshwater rivers that used to flow towards the ocean. It was at first a holiday destination for Hawaiian royalty but was later recognized by foreign visitors. The Beach town of Waikiki is decorated with a broad array of luxurious resorts and restaurants. In Waikiki Beach, you can see the Duke Kahanamoku Statue, the Waikiki Aquarium, and Honolulu Zoo.
The North Shore of Oahu is the geographic region between East Oahu’s Kahuku Point West Oahu’s Ka’ena Point. The North Shore of Oahu is widely acclaimed for its huge waves and impressive coastline that attracts surfers from all around the world during the Winter. Among the famous North Shore surf spots are Sunset Beach, Ehukai Beach, and Waimea Bay. Here you will also see the historic town Hale’iwa that is widely recognized for its art galleries, a surf museum, food trucks, and yoga studios.
The Na Pali Coastline is considered one of the most beautiful places on earth. It is rich in Hawaiian cultural history. The perfect way to explore this coastline is by use of an ocean vessel. You can also choose to study the coast through the Kalalau Trail by foot and experience the magnificent beaches, streams and natural waterfalls.
This is one of Hawaii’s most spectacular landscapes. As you are on the Road to Hana, you can get a glimpse of the Twin Falls, the Garden of Eden Arboretum, and Wai’anapanapa State Park. In Hana Town, you can check out the art galleries, farmers markets, and Hana Bay.
This is a secluded destination ideal for lovers of nature. It serves as a symbolic gesture of contemplation for those who have suffered from Hansen’s Disease. As you tour Kalaupapa, you can stop to experience the windward side of the peninsula.
The Haleakala National Park is perfect for camping and hiking trips. The summit area here offers a stunning view and landscape good for watching sunrise or sunset.
Sometimes referred to as the “Pineapple Isle”, it is a striking, privately owned island located in the Hawaiian archipelago. While in Lana’i, you can explore the beautiful garden of Keahikawelo, a landscape of rock towers, Sweetheart Rock, and the romantic Puu Pehe Beach. There are also some world-class golf resorts and scuba diving spots here.
To get the history of how the Hawaiian Islands were formed, visit the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Here, there are some volcanic lava fields, steam vents, old lava cave, the Kilauea’s Caldera and the Halema’uma’u Crater.
This is Hawaii’s most renowned signpost. While at Diamond Head State Monument, you should take the short hike through old military bunkers. Remember to carry a flashlight as part of the trails goes through long dark tunnels.
With all these breathtaking attractions, Hawaii is your destination of choice. It is fun to visit whether you are traveling alone or with your family.
Millions visit Hawaii every year for the beaches and volcanoes, however there is much more to the islands than that! Even in and around Honolulu tons of offbeat activities abound -- if you know where to look. So the next time you find yourself on a crowded Waikiki Beach and want to break free of the masses and do something uniquely Hawaiian, here's where to start:
Places like Manoa Falls and the Maunawili Trail are beautiful, however they are also overcrowded. To find somewhere less touristy but still beautiful, head on out to Likeke Falls just a few miles northeast of Honolulu. Although the falls are not as big as Manoa Falls, the view along the hike more than makes up for it! Just bring shoes because it is always muddy.
Located about thirty minutes outside of Honolulu on the original fields, the Dole Pineapple Plantation includes a museum housed in a replica of the old Dole plantation home, as well as The Pineapple Express, a train tour through the fields. However, their claim to fame is the world's largest maze, built entirely out of Hawaiian pineapple plants and certified by the Guinness Book of World Records.
Hidden within the 137,000-square-foot maze are six stations with uniquely shaped hole punches. Each maze-goer is given a card with which to collect these punch marks. However, if one should get frustrated or give up, the card can be ripped open to reveal a map. Those who complete the maze with all the punch marks on an unopened card win a prize if their time is one of the daily or weekly tops.
The plantation is located on the Kamehameha Highway and reachable by bus or as part of an Oahu Island Tour.
Lesser-known than the Dole Plantation is the re-creation of a 1900s sugar plantation, Hawaii Plantation Village. It is a detailed look at the history and development of Hawaiian plantations, crops, immigrant workers, and the modern economy. Several tours are offered, all under $10.00 per person, with the longest lasting over two hours. The museum is nonprofit and sorely in need of extra funding, so make sure to buy your bottled water there, instead of bringing it with you.
Since the 1960s, more than 50 Hollywood blockbusters have been filmed on the Kualoa Ranch, including "Godzilla" and "Jurassic Park," as well as TV shows like "Lost." Production gear and props still exist, providing ample selfie opportunities as you get a guided tour through the exciting and beautiful history of this corner of The Big Island. And because Hollywood's "Hawaii Backlot" is still used every year, there is always a chance of encountering a shoot in progress.
The food truck trend has caught on in Hawaii, and scattered throughout the city are a variety of shrimp trucks, all of which serve succulent, mouth-watering shrimp. However it's the shrimp trucks on the North Shore that are the most famous -- particularly Giovanni's -- which brings me to my next suggestion.
To truly break free of the Waikiki crowds, head up to the North Shore for a night or two. There are still plenty of hotels, resorts and beaches, but far fewer people. However, keep in mind that the North Shore is a surfers' paradise famous for its waves, which can be several feet even on a calm day. Not ideal for young children or a relaxing float.
Of course we all know that Hawaii can be an expensive destination, but it doesn't have to be if you plan ahead. Keep an eye on cheap flights to Honolulu with Hipmunk and get the best deal possible!See More Offbeat Travel Guides United States Travel Ideas
Located on the island of Oahu, Diamond Head is a young but extinct volcano that makes for a fantastic and inexpensive day trip. Entering into the crater through a large tunnel in one side of the volcano wall, immediately the place just opens up and the sky is revealed around you. One small corner of the interior is a former military base / current government broadcasting station and is therefore off-limits to the public, but all the rest is free reign.
Random Trivia Fact Several scenes from Lost were filmed both on Diamond Head and inside the military base. In fact the entire series was filmed on location all around Oahu. Although I never watched the show somehow still remember being told those factoids while I was there.
From the interior plains you can hike up the winding trail all the way up to a couple viewing stations located up top, giving you an impressive view of the coastline and ocean.
The path is quite deceptive looking. Although it starts off fairly straight and at a very gradual slope, before long the pavement turns to a stone path and the path then eventually turns to all dirt. Meanwhile the slope increases and the winding back-and-forth begins. Definitely bring some water with you.
Once you get closer to the top you have several staircases to climb and even pass through a dark tunnel before climbing a metal circular staircase (a la lighthouse style) which is -- you guess it -- also dark.
The entire hike takes only about an hour each way and is well worth the visit. From up top you can see Waikiki and a nice portion of the rest of the island. Makes for an awesome spot to take panoramic photos of the island.
However as Diamond Head is quite close to Waikiki beach and thus countless resorts, there is always a flood of tourists there. But it's not too bad... where in Hawaii is there not a flood of tourists?
Have you hiked Diamond Head or any of the other Hawaiian volcanoes? Would you do it?