Last updated on March 26, 2023 by Wandering our World
Dreaming of sandy beaches, stunning landscapes, and tons of adventure? Island destinations are perfect because they have so much to offer. And when you’re travelling with teenagers, you are likely seeking a thrilling and fun-filled holiday.
Luckily, from watersports and beach activities to island tours and cultural experiences, there’s plenty of fun to be had in Hawaii!
Now, if you’re planning a vacation in Hawaii, you might be wondering which island is right for you. And with each island having its own unique culture, activities, and attractions, the decision can be a tough one.
Luckily we’re here to share our knowledge and experience about the four best Hawaiian islands for teen travellers.
Adrenaline lovers can get their fix with exciting water sports such as snorkelling, scuba diving, and jet skiing. While those who prefer a more laid-back vibe can enjoy classic beach activities such as swimming, sunbathing, and beach picnics.
And let’s not forget about theme parks, shopping, and evening activities – all perfect for some entertainment and to socialise with new friends. We show you it all right here.
So here’s our four top Hawaiian islands for teens, why each may be worth visiting on a family vacation, and how much we rank them out of 10…
The “heart of Hawaii”, Oahu is the most populous island and home to Hawaii’s bustling capital city of Honolulu.
For a teenager going on a trip to Hawaii, this island has it all – famous beaches, water sports, island tours, and theme parks. Oahu also has tons of urban attractions that teens will enjoy, such as shopping centres, and entertainment venues.
When you travel to an island destination, the first thing you need to do is to hit the beach. Luckily Oahu is home to some of the best beaches in Hawaii. So whether you’re looking for a relaxed day soaking up the sun or an adventurous day of water sports, you’ll find it here.
On the southern shore of Oahu, Waikiki Beach is the most famous, with its golden sand and crystal-clear waters. Diamond Head Beach is another popular spot.
Both these beaches are great for water sports, while teens can also go snorkelling, and scuba diving. Or if they’re feeling more adventurous, try parasailing above the ocean, or even take a jet-ski with friends.
Surfing is one of the most popular activities on the island too, and Oahu is not short on some great spots. Your kids can try surfing, or stand-up paddle boarding, or even go on a catamaran ride to explore the coastline.
In the summer, the waves are gentler, so it’s the ideal time to book surf lessons near Waikiki Beach and learn the exciting sport.
Apart from the southern shore, Oahu’s North Shore is also a favourite spot for surfers. Teens will get to watch experienced surfers ride up to 100-foot waves! Waimea Bay is another spot that also hosts an annual surfing competition in winter, when the surf’s higher and stronger.
To explore the island, Oahu has plenty of island tours available, such as helicopter tripd, where you can see the island from above. A circle island tour takes you to explore hidden beaches and beautiful lookout points.
Oahu also has some great theme parks. Teens will love Wet’n’Wild Hawaii, with its water slides and wave pools.
Leaving the beaches behind and going inland, there are plenty of other activities and attractions that will make teens enjoy their time. The Polynesian Cultural Center is an interesting place to visit. It is a Polynesian-themed park that offers cultural demonstrations, games, and performances.
Then there is the famous Pearl Harbor Historic Sites, where you learn about World War II. The Pearl Harbor Memorial, a national park that holds a variety of exhibits and galleries, and the USS Arizona Memorial, are must-visits.
Shopping is also a must-do in Oahu. Teens that like malls will likely love the Ala Moana Center, the largest open-air shopping mall in the world!
And as every shopping spree also involves food breaks, don’t forget to try some shaved ice, which is a local dessert consisting of finely shaved ice topped with a variety of flavoured syrups, sweetened condensed milk or mocha (sweet rice cake) to add extra sweetness and texture.
Lastly, Oahu’s nightlife scene is vibrant and diverse. From bars and clubs in Waikiki to beach parties in North Shore, there’s something for everyone. Many venues host live music events, and there are even some all-ages shows where children can join in the fun.
Oahu is a fantastic Hawaiian island for teens looking for an exciting and diverse holiday experience with lots of city and beach fun.
Overall: 9/10 (there’s just so much to do!)
Maui has been made famous in recent years by the many celebrities that have vacationed there. There are world-famous beaches and the epic road trip along the stunning ‘Road to Hana’.
Another great activity is to travel to the top of Haleakala Volcano and bike down.
The island of Maui is a true paradise in the Pacific Ocean. With world-famous beaches and plenty of outdoor activities, such as hiking and zip lining, and water sports such as snorkelling, Maui offers a fun and exciting vacation for teenagers who love the outdoors and nature.
It’s no secret that Maui has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world too.
Beaches like Makena Beach and Napili Bay offer calm waters and a peaceful atmosphere. While more popular beaches, such as Kaanapali Beach, offer plenty of water sports and activities.
Teens that are into water sports, can try surfing, windsurfing, kiteboarding, paddle boarding, and scuba diving at these beaches and others on Maui. There’s no need to have your own equipment either, as many rental shops and tour operators on the island provide everything you need.
As one of Hawaii’s most kid-friendly islands, Maui has some great opportunities for the whole family to go snorkelling as well.
Napili Bay is perfect for first-time snorkelers while other places like Honolua Bay (which is actually a marine life conservation area) and Kapalua Bay, offer snorkelling opportunities with marine life like green sea turtles. (Related: Maui vs Oahu – Which Is Better?)
And if you’re going in winter, you can take a whale-watching boat tour and see humpback whales swim up close!
While Maui is a small island, there’s still a lot to see and do that would interest teenagers. Island tours are great to experience the natural beauty of the island.
One of the top tours is the drive on the Road to Hana that takes you past waterfalls, bamboo forests, and beaches. The fun part of the road trip is not the drive, but enjoying the scenic stops along the way.
Other tours include hiking through the lush rainforest of Haleakala National Park, and visiting historic sites like Lahaina and the Iao Valley State Park.
However the most memorable will perhaps be visiting Haleakala National Park early in the morning to see the sunrise over the volcano. And the most thrilling – taking a helicopter tour to see the island from above!
Although Maui doesn’t have any traditional theme parks, thrill-seeking teens will still find other unique attractions, such as the Maui Ocean Center.
This state-of-the-art aquarium showcases the incredible marine life of Hawaii where you can see sharks, sea turtles, and rays up close, and even go on a behind-the-scenes tour.
The Maui Tropical Plantation is another must-see, where you can take a tram tour through lush gardens and learn about the island’s agricultural heritage.
If your teen loves shopping, Maui will not disappoint either. Plenty of shops dot the island, offering everything from high end brands to local crafts and souvenirs.
The Whalers Village in Kaanapali and the Shops at Wailea are some of the best spots. You can also check out the Maui Swap Meet, which is a popular flea market where you can buy everything from souvenirs to fresh produce.
Lastly, Maui’s evening scene is diverse and lively. You can also attend a traditional Hawaiian Luau, which is a cultural experience with dancing, music, and a delicious feast.
All in all, Maui is a fantastic Hawaiian island for teens who would love a mix of adventure, relaxation, and fun.
Overall: 7/10 (A good mix of everything)
Aloha! Kauai, also known as the Garden Island, is a paradise for nature lovers, but it’s also a fantastic destination for teenagers looking for an action-packed vacation.
Full of lush greenery and natural beauty, Kauai has plenty going on – from beach activities to adventure sports like zip lining and challenging hiking trails.
Kauai has some of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii too, where your kids will love spending their days swimming, surfing, and paddle boarding in the crystal-clear waters.
Some of the best beaches include Hanalei Bay, Ke’e Beach, and the popular Poipu Beach. These beaches offer opportunities for snorkelling, kayaking, and boogie boarding. There are plenty of beach equipment rental shops available too, so you don’t have to worry about bringing your own gear.
And if you’re looking for real adventure on the water, Kauai is the perfect place to try out water sports like scuba diving, snorkelling, and even surfing lessons.
There are several surf schools on the island, such as Hanalei Surf School and Kauai Surf School. Experienced surfers can also try their skills at some of the island’s more challenging surf spots like Tunnels Beach.
To explore and see the island in a truly unique and thrilling way, go for a helicopter tour of the island. You see and experience the red and green Waimea Canyon, which is also called Hawaii’s Grand Canyon, and the misty Mt. Waialeale, Kauai’s tallest point.
Through a helicopter tour, you can even see some sites that are not accessible otherwise. From above, take in breathtaking views of the stunning cliffs of the Napali Coast, and also see the 400-foot Manawaiopuna Falls. (Related: Which Is Better – Kauai or Maui?)
And did you know that Kauai was the filming location for Jurassic Park? Yep! Now that’s one way to impress any movie-loving teenagers!
The gorgeous Napali Coast can also be toured on a boat. This way you can see the stunning sea cliffs, waterfalls, and sea caves up close, and also get to indulge in snorkelling and swimming.
Now Kauai doesn’t have any theme parks as such, but it makes up for it with plenty of outdoor activities.
Thrill-seeking teens can try zip lining as there are a variety of zip line companies, the most popular one being 400-foot long. Just imagine the adrenaline rush as you soar through a rainforest and beautiful natural scenery! Another fun activity to try is mountain tubing through mountain river tunnels.
Hawaii’s food is amazing as well, and in Kauai you can try local delicacies on the many food trucks. You can find these food trucks all over the islands, but the best ones tend to be in Kauai. There is a big variety of options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert, with food from cuisines like Mexican and even Filipino.
The shopping and nightlife scene is similar to what other Hawaiian islands offer; Kauai has a few shopping centres and boutiques, such as the Kukui Grove Center and Poipu Shopping Village, where teens can shop for souvenirs, beachwear, and local crafts.
While Kauai isn’t known for its nightlife, there are still plenty of places to enjoy an evening out. Teens can catch a movie at the Kukui Grove Cinema, enjoy live music at one of the island’s many restaurants, or attend a Hawaiian cultural show to experience the island’s traditional music and dance.
Overall, Kauai is one of the best Hawaiian islands for teenagers looking for a mix of fun and exploration.
Overall: 6/10 (Stunning nature, but a little lacking elsewhere)
4. The Big Island
Hawaii Island, otherwise known as the “Big Island”, is the largest and most diverse in the Hawaiian archipelago.
It’s more than twice the size of all the other Hawaiian islands combined, hence the nickname “Big Island.” And it’s a paradise that offers the perfect combination of culture, relaxation, adventure (including volcanoes and active lava fields!) and a diverse terrain.
Hawaii is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and the Big Island is no exception. Teens can enjoy a variety of beach activities, such as sunbathing, swimming, snorkelling, and even surfing here.
Surfboard rentals are aplenty and along with some lessons from trained surfers, teens can have an amazing experience surfing the waves. In particular, Honokohau Beach is a black sand beach that’s popular with surfers and body boarders.
For a more laid-back holiday, you can head to Waialea Beach, a secluded and un-crowded beach with some excellent snorkelling thanks to its clear waters.
Other popular beaches are Mauna Kea, which has a beautiful coral reef brimming with marine life, Kua Bay, with white sand and turquoise waters, and the fun Hapuna Beach, where you can also picnic and even have a bbq. (Related: Which Is Better – Big Island or Oahu?)
If your teen enjoys water sports, there are plenty of options to choose from on this island too. Whether they want to go scuba diving, parasailing, or kayaking, the Big Island is fantastic. Another fun and popular activity is stand-up paddle boarding.
For snorkelling, Napoopoo Beach and Kahalu’u Bay are great spots. With a trained guide and proper gear, teens will get the opportunity to see dolphins, sea turtles, colourful reefs, and all kinds of tropical fish.
Since no trip to any Hawaiian island is complete without island tours, you must do some on the Big Island too.
Teens will likely enjoy exploring the active volcano of Kilauea, and visiting the historical sites of Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. And for a more thrilling experience, what would be better than a helicopter tour with bird’s eye view of the island’s beaches and waterfalls!
Adventure is not short on the Big Island, and trails like the Akaka Falls Loop, which takes you through a rainforest, and the Kilauea Iki Trail, which goes through a volcanic crater and offers stunning views of the Kilauea volcano, are quite easy to moderate.
But one of the most exciting place to visit is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Here you get to see active volcanoes up close, and walk hiking trails that take you through volcanic terrain.
Then there is the Umauma Falls and the Zip Line Experience. As the name says it, you get to zip-line over stunning waterfalls and through lush tropical forests. There is also a rope course, giant swings, and a giant water slide. Teenagers would be thrilled!
In conclusion, the Big Island goes big on making a vacation exciting with volcanoes the star of the show!
Overall: 7/10 (Very nature-focused, but all the volcano-action makes it a pretty special Hawaiian island for teens and the whole family!)