Recently, friends with young children arrived for a week vacation. It was quickly evident that the hundreds of places and activities on Hawaii Island that thrill older children and teens were not of much interest or even safe for their active, young children. We took on the challenge of coming up with a list of some child-friendly places accessible by stroller with nearby parking and restrooms.
- Harold H Higashihara Park, located on Highway 11 south of Kailua-Kona, has Kamakana playground with a multi-story wooden castle, large playground, and fenced area. Children can explore, climb, swing, and run. The park has lots of shade, nearby parking, and restrooms.
- Kamakahonu Beach is in front of the King Kamehameha Hotel in Kailua-Kona within a protected bay. Young children can play in the soft white sand without nearby crashing waves. Parking is behind the hotel and strollers can be used to transport beach stuff to the sand. There is no shade, so an umbrella is a good idea. Restrooms and showers are on the pier next to the beach. The hotel charges for parking.
- The Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center is a small museum located at Kona’s airport. This museum is dedicated to an astronaut from Kona who died in the 1986 Challenger space shuttle explosion. The displays and videos are aimed at young children with exhibits about space flight and life in space. Activity tables are set up where young children can sit down and become absorbed with the materials provided. There is a charge for the museum and for parking at the airport.
- The Hilton Waikoloa Village is like a mini-amusement park with sidewalks and covered walkways through the 62 acre resort. Young children can be strolled past waterfalls and cages of exotic wildlife including flamingos, cockatoos, swans, cranes, parrots, and Hawaiian nene. There is a viewing area of the dolphins next to Dolphin Quest and a white sand beach next to a protected lagoon filled with fish and green turtles. Children can ride the air conditioned train that runs across the property (free from 6AM to 12AM) and canal boats that float through the resort’s waterways filled with tropical fish and a four-foot barracuda (free from 2PM to 10PM). The hotel charges for parking. (hiltonwaikoloavillage.com/resort-experiences)
- Kikaua Point at Kukio, south of the Four Seasons Hotel, is a man-made beach with white sand and shaded, grassy areas. A small cove surrounded by lava rock provides a protected swimming area for young children. There are no lifeguards and currents are dangerous beyond the protected cove. A paved path, perfect for a stroller, leads from the parking lot to the beach. The beach has restrooms and showers. Parking is free, but limited and requires a pass from the Kukio gate.
- Queen’s Marketplace at Waikoloa Beach Resort has a large koi pond, fountains, and ponds in a center courtyard area. There is a lot of sidewalk for strollers, shady areas, and a gazebo. Koi feeding is daily at 9:30AM and 3:30PM. Parking is free (queensmarketplace.net)
- Liliuokalani Gardens is next to Hilo Bay, but there are some very large grassy areas next to huge banyan trees for children to roam and run. Paved paths through flowers and statues are stroller-friendly. Nearby is the bridge to Coconut Island. Banyan Drive has a great sidewalk for strollers and at the end of the road is Reed’s Bay which has recently been upgraded with new restrooms. Reeds Bay is a beach in a protected cove with no waves. There are parking lots at Liliuokalani Garden and Reed’s Bay.
- Panaewa Rainforest Zoo in Hilo is the perfect place to take young children for a stroll or to let them roam It is small zoo with paved paths that lead past animal cages and through a tropical garden. There is a petting zoo open on Saturday at 1:30-2:30PM and an area with play equipment. Parking and entrance are free. (hilozoo.com)