Hawaii’s Big Island is an unforgettable tropical getaway destination. Whether you stay close to Kilauea or not, you can drive there in less than three hours from anywhere on the island. Enjoy a day trip where you and your family can chase lava flows toward the ocean, or admire the sunset. Friends and family may expect to see Hawaiian leis as souvenirs, but what if you showed them pictures of your kids snorkeling with manta rays instead? Choose from a variety of incredible Big Island vacation rentals where properties range from being situated close to a volcano, or near a vibrant beach with white, black, or green-colored sand. Without further ado, here’s a list of the top 12 family-friendly things to do on the Big Island.

1. Search for a Cannonball Tree

Engage the kids in a botanical scavenger hunt when you ask them to help you find a cannonball tree or a double buttercup blossom at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens on the east side of the Big Island. The comfortable walking paths help your kids explore the gardens’ tropical plants and trees. The 40-acre valley features nature trails that penetrate tropical rainforests, cross streams, and provide beautiful ocean vistas along the coastline.

2. Look for a Moon Goddess’ Home Behind Rainbow Falls

To reach Rainbow Falls on the Wailuku River, take a short drive west of Hilo to Wailuku River State Park, where the waterfall cascades more than 80 feet into the gorge. A stone walkway leads down to an overlook where you can see the best views of the falls. Early morning is the time when you’re most likely to see the elusive rainbows shimmering in the mists surrounding the falls. The kids might enjoy hearing the legend that says the cave behind the waterfall is the home of Hina, the ancient Hawaiian goddess of the moon.

3. Attend a Luau

Round out your Hawaiian vacation by taking the kids to an authentic luau to try traditional Hawaiian cuisine, hear Hawaiian music, and see hula dancers. This great learning experience immerses the kids in the culture as they learn about how the dances tell stories and carry on the traditions of the native Hawaiian people. Usually, the dancers spend some time teaching dance moves to interested members of the audience, giving you and your kids an opportunity to participate.

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4. Zoom Along on a Zip Line

For a real adrenaline rush, check out the Umauma Falls & Zipline Experience for ages 4 and older, or the Kohala Zipline for ages 8 and older. After some safety instructions, staff members fit your harnesses and sending you zooming past waterfalls, treetops, and tropical landscapes. Traverse a suspension bridge over a river gorge or brave the 50-foot-high giant swing that swings out 150 feet high over the river. Look for the delight and anticipation on your kids’ faces when they ask to do it all over again.

5. Ride a Horse Through Waipio Valley

The Dahana Ranch features Waipio Valley horseback trail rides. As you ride, your horse wades through rivers at the base of a gorgeous waterfall. Your trip along the floor of the valley explores a lush, green haven amid wild fruit trees and thousands of shades of green plants. Immerse yourself in the beauty that you cannot experience in any other manner.

6. Visit a Live Volcano

When you visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you may get to see an eruption of Kilauea. You can see the vent in the Halemaumau crater from the overlook at the Jaggar Museum, 2 miles from the Kilauea Visitor Center. After dark, take the kids up to the overlook to treat them to the glow from the caldera. The museum includes a gift shop where you can browse keepsakes, collectibles, and multimedia information about volcanoes.

7. Swim With Dolphins

If you have kids 2 or older, Dolphin Quest in Hilton Waikoloa Village offers opportunities for them to interact or swim with the dolphins in their blue ocean lagoon. The youngest kids can meet baby dolphins in shallow water for a 10-minute photo session. A kids-only adventure for the older kids gives them 20 minutes to play in the shallow water with some friendly dolphins in a safe and fun environment. Family dolphin swims feature 30 minutes of play, feeding, and swimming. No matter which experiences you choose, your photos make great memories later on.

8. See the Sea in a Submarine

Go under the ocean on an Atlantis Submarine excursion. The subs dive 100 feet below the surface to show you the beautiful and spectacular landscapes and underwater treasures you can’t see from above. Your 45-minute voyage takes you to explore a 25-acre natural coral reef and the colorful marine species that live in this otherworldly habitat.

9. Snorkel at Sunset

If your bucket list includes an epic snorkeling trip, sail into a beautiful Hawaiian sunset with your kids’ ages 5 and older with Sea Paradise. The vessel leaves Keauhou Bay to head for Manta Ray Village. The lights from the manta flotation device attract the rays, so you watch them feed on the plankton that rises from the ocean floor at night. At the end of your 45-minute snorkel time, the crew guides you back onto the vessel for some light refreshments. Night swimming with manta rays is peaceful and safe as they do not have barbs, stingers, or teeth.

10. Hold a Seahorse

It isn’t every day that you get an opportunity to show your kids a one-of-a-kind attraction such as Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm in Kona. It is the world’s only living and breeding Aquafarm that sells hand-raised, domesticated seahorse pairs to be kept as pets. The mission of the farm is to protect the wild population and to educate the public about saving endangered seahorses. When you visit the Aquafarm, you get to feed seahorses and let one wrap its tail around your finger.

11. Greet a White Tiger

Near the Hilo Airport, the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens features birds, primates, big cats, and a petting zoo. This small, free zoo and tropical rainforest botanical garden also include a playground and fun area for older kids. Local families frequently stroll along the lovely pathways with their babies and toddlers. A favorite among local and visiting children is Namaste, a white Bengal tiger who lives in a 1-acre habitat.

12. Go Parasailing

To enjoy a breathtaking view of the Big Island with the wind blowing through your hair, UFO Parasail has an adventure for you. Harnessed to fly single, tandem, or triple, the hydraulic system gently lifts you off the boat, rising to 1,000 feet to float along on the warm, tropical breeze. When your flight ends, the crew carefully reels you back onto the boat for a smooth and gentle landing.

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