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Where To Take Your Little Ones Adventuring On Big Island, Hawaii!

Often when we travel with O, it’s difficult to leave the hotel. Road trips and any other type of exploration are limited by child friendly food options, and the ability to travel from point A to point B while avoiding a meltdown. Last year, we went to Kauai and spent the whole time at the resort. This year, we decided to try and explore a lit bit more of Big Island, and had an amazing time! This is a step by step playbook for our day.

Preparation/Journey There

To prepare for the trip, we packed lots of snacks for O as well as ample fluids (juice, water, etc.) so he wouldn’t be hangry (hungry + angry) along the road trip. My husband looked at the maps ahead of time. We were staying on the Fairmont Orchid, and we wanted to visit Hilo and the volcanoes, which is roughly 2 hours away. How can we get our toddler to the volcanoes without a melt down and still maintain his interest? We planned several stops along the way.

Tip: Remember to pack a long sleeve sweater as it is cold when you go above 5000 feet along Mauna Kea, and at the top of the volcano at Mauna Loa. Also, remember to get gas prior to leaving since there’s a 50 mile stretch where there’s no gas or services at all.

6:15AM – O woke us up. We got dressed, changed, fed him, hydrated him, parents also had some breakfast, and we headed off to the rental car.

8AM – Got into our car and started driving East. The plan would be to pass along the foothills of Mauna Kea, but not go up.

9AM – Driving along the grasslands along the way to Mauna Kea. There’s basically just vast swathes of grassland before the elevation changes and all you see is volcanic earth.

9:30AM – We arrived at the foothills of Mauna Kea where there’s a small area to pull over and you can see acres and acres of volcanic earth. There’s even a swirl in the earth that makes it look like a wave or a spiral.

Rainbow Falls and Target

10AM – O and I are feeling carsick, but we finally made it to the Hilo side. On the Western side of Hilo is Rainbow falls, which is a waterfall that cascades over an open cave. It is quite beautiful and we make a pit stop and do a short hike. The banyan trees are huge and create a canopy above you. There is a bathroom with running water for your little ones, and it’s quite close to the highway and is along the way to target, where they can get a nice Pizza Hut Pizza.

11AM – After we left rainbow falls, we made a pit stop and target. O ate some pizza and we got some hot milk from the starbucks within target ($2.76 for a small hot milk!). O drank the milk and fell asleep for the drive from target to Volcanoes National Park. The drive is roughly 40 minutes from target, and O slept the whole way there.

Volcanoes National Park

12:30PM – We arrive at Volcanoes National Park and pay the $25 entrance fee. As O was still asleep hubby and I took turns watching him. One of us would get out of the car and see the sites, and come back and then we would switch off. There were a lot of people there, and I was surprised how these large parking lots would be filled with cars on a Tuesday. We visited the steam vents, and then the top of Mauna Loa to see the crater of the active volcano.

1:30PM – O woke up and we walked around and took pictures by the volcano. We also saw a lava field, and tried to go to the Thurston Lava Tubes, but there was no parking, so we drove back to Hilo. 


Mauna Loa Factory

3:00PM – We arrive in Hilo and were debating whether or not to go to the Hilo Zoo (which we heard was amazing for toddlers). On the way to the zoo we passed by the Mauna Loa Factory and decided to go there instead. What a good choice! We were able to see 2500 acres of macademia nut trees and the actual factory that produces the Mauna Loa Macademian Nut Chocolates. We had a quick stop and had some ice cream and bought some souvenirs. Afterwards, we drove back to the Fairmont and had dinner there narrowly avoiding a meltdown as O was very hungry and tired by the end of the day. Mauna Loa Macademian Nut Corp is located at 16-701 Macadamia Road, Keaau, Hawaii 96749 

Overall it was a huge success! I’ve included links for more info on the places we visited throughout this post. Adventuring with your little one is a lot of fun, but it often requires a little planning. Hope this post was able to give you a few ideas!

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