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10 Secrets No Travel Agency Will Tell You About Hawaii Family Vacations

Are you thinking about planning your first trip to Hawaii? Keep scrolling to find out the Hawaii secrets that your travel agent won’t tell you!

Hello, fellow parent adventurers!

Planning a trip to Hawaii with your family can feel like you’re trying to unlock a secret treasure chest of the best vacation ever.

And guess what? After zipping to Hawaii more than 40 times with my two boys, I’ve discovered some pretty cool secrets along the way—secrets that can turn your family vacation from great to absolutely magical.

And I’m here to spill the beans because, let’s face it, travel agencies might not tell you everything.

Hawaii Secrets You NEED to Know

Everyone’s heard of Waikiki, but did you know Hawaii is home to countless breathtaking beaches that aren’t packed with tourists?

Image of a Wave on Lanikai Beach  Oahu Hawaii
Lanikai Beach is worth the drive!

One of our family favorites is Lanikai Beach on Oahu. It’s a bit off the beaten path but offers some of the softest sand and clearest water you can imagine. Perfect for building sandcastles with the kids without worrying about the crowds.

Secret #2: You Can Eat Like a King on a Budget

Yes, Hawaii can be expensive, but you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy delicious meals.

Image of a shrimp truck in Waikiki
We get a lot of shrimp from food trucks in Hawaii! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Skip the fancy tourist traps and eat where the locals eat. Places like the shrimp trucks on Oahu’s North Shore offer mouth-watering dishes at a fraction of the cost.

And don’t forget about farmers’ markets for fresh fruit and local snacks!

Secret #3: There’s a Hidden World Under The Sea

Snorkeling in Hawaii can be an otherworldly experience, and you don’t need to pay for expensive tours to enjoy it.

Scenic landscape of Sharks Cove, Hawaii, a small rocky bay side of Pupukea Beach Park. Sharks Cove is the second best snorkeling site on Oahu, North Shore, and boasts an impressive amount of sea life.
Sharks Cove on Oahu.

Spots like Hanauma Bay are popular, but did you know about places like Lydgate Beach on Kauai or Shark’s Cove on Oahu? They offer vibrant marine life just a few steps from shore.

Always check current conditions and respect protected areas, as Hawaii’s natural beauty is precious.

Here are our favorite snorkeling spots on Oahu, Maui, and Kauai.

Secret #4: Adventures Beyond The Beach

Sure, Hawaii’s beaches are legendary, but there’s so much more to explore.

Image of a boy wearing a yellow rain jacket at the Kahuku Lava Tube
We LOVE exploring lava tubes! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Did you know you can walk through a lava tube at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island? Or explore the lush landscapes of the Iao Valley on Maui?

These adventures offer breathtaking views and a break from the sand, immersing your family in the islands’ diverse ecosystems.

Secret #5: Save Big on Souvenirs

Everyone wants a keepsake from Hawaii, but you don’t have to spend a fortune at tourist shops.

I always stop by the Maui Swap Meet. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Local markets and craft fairs often have the same items for much less. We really like the Maui Swap Meet because it has a great variety of items.

Plus, you get to meet the artisans who make them, adding a personal touch to every purchase.

Secret #6: The Best Views Don’t Always Require a Hike

Hawaii is known for its stunning vistas, and guess what? Not all of them require you to hike for miles.

You can hike ot see Waipoo Falls in Waimea Canyon or you can see it from the lookout.
Waipoo Falls in Waimea Canyon.

The Waimea Canyon Lookout on Kauai offers panoramic views of the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” that are easily accessible for families.

And on Maui, the Road to Hana offers several pull-offs with breathtaking ocean views, perfect for those family photos.

Want to visit the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor or the Polynesian Cultural Center without the massive crowds?

We always visit Pearl Harbor EARLY in the morning. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Plan to visit either first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon. Most tourists tend to go mid-day, so adjusting your schedule can give you a more intimate experience.

Secret #8: Free Cultural Experiences Abound

Hawaii is rich in culture and history, and many of these experiences are free.

For instance, the Royal Hawaiian Center in Waikiki offers free cultural classes, from ukulele lessons to hula dancing. It’s a fantastic way for your family to dive deeper into the Hawaiian culture without spending a dime.

Whaler’s Village and the Shops at Wailea on Maui offer similar programs, too.

Secret #9: There’s a Hidden Rainforest in The Heart of Oahu

Most tourists miss this, but the Manoa Falls trail leads you through a breathtaking rainforest to a stunning waterfall, all within a short drive from downtown Honolulu.

Manoa Falls is a kid friendly hike on Oahu. Image of water runs down Manoa Falls waterfall surrounded by trees on Oahu, Hawaii.
Manoa Falls on Oahu.

It’s like stepping into another world—a lush, green escape that feels miles away from the city.

Secret #10: Nighttime is Magical Too

While most people think of Hawaii as a daytime paradise, the islands offer incredible experiences after the sun goes down.

On certain beaches, you can witness the magical glow of bioluminescent organisms in the water, a sight your kids won’t soon forget.

And stargazing? Some of the best in the world can be found on Mauna Kea’s summit on the Big Island and Haleakala Crater on Maui.

Wrapping It Up

So there you have it—10 secrets that can transform your Hawaii family vacation from ordinary to extraordinary. Each trip we’ve taken has revealed something new, a hidden beach, a delicious eatery, or a breathtaking view, making every visit unforgettable.

Remember, Hawaii is more than just a destination; it’s an experience waiting to be discovered. And now, armed with these insider tips, you’re all set to unlock the magic of the islands in a way most visitors never do.

Here’s to your adventure in paradise! Aloha and happy travels!

Looking for more Hawaii tips and tricks? Check out Is Hawaii Overrated? What Families Wish They Knew Before Going, 10 Hawaiian Experiences That Are Better Than Disneyland, and The #1 Mistake Every Parent Makes When Booking a Hawaiian Vacation (And How to Avoid It)!