Review: First Class Island Hopping With Kids On Hawaiian Airlines

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We hope you enjoy this full review of flying Hawaiian Airlines First Class!

I’ve learned over the years, that some of the best vacations are the ones that come together last minute, without too much planning. Sometimes it is fun to just go with the flow. This trip was finalized days before leaving. We had started working on it months before and all the little details fell into place at the end, like they always do!

We really focused on a few keys points. We wanted to experience Hawaiian Airlines newish first-class cabin and we wanted to take this vacation up to a whole new level with island hopping. Going to one island and staying a week is great, but you know what is better? That would be vacationing on three Hawaiian Islands over 2 weeks! This vacation was everything we imagined it would be… and much more!

Our goal was luxury+adventure+relaxation… and we nailed it!

Taking off over the California Coast.

This is the start of our Hawaiian vacation series and all about flying first class on Hawaiian Airlines as a family with our kids! Special thanks to Hawaiian Airlines for providing our tickets.

The video above is a compilation of our whole 13-day adventure… but we will also have posts dedicated to each island and also to our accommodations. 

If you are planning your own family vacation right now, Hawaii needs to be on your shortlist. We loved it so much, we went back less than two weeks after we got back. It really is that perfect for families!

Now, let’s talk Hawaiian Airlines and those lay-flat first-class seats!

Our adventure started at LAX with an on-time departure at 4:55 pm. We had a few bags to check and since we were flying first class, two bags per person were included with the cost of the ticket. We went up to the first-class check-in counter and were on our way to the terminal in just a few minutes.

Hawaiian Airlines boards on the early side, starting 45 minutes before take-off time. I love that they do this. In first-class, that means plenty of time to enjoy a drink and to get the whole family settled in. Even at 8, I still have to get Emmy all situated with her iPad, headphones, blanket and all that funs stuff. 

Hawaiian Airlines first class is really beautiful and the colors in the cabin are very natural looking. With blues and grey tones you immediately start to feel that vacation relaxation vibe right when you board. They also play Hawaiian music that makes it feel like you are already on the island.

Once we boarded, we had blankets and little pillows waiting for us.

Seconds later we were greeted with their signature Mai Tai or a tropical non-alcoholic drink. Both are delicious!

Here is how the seats look unoccupied so you can see just how roomy they are…

In the picture below, you can see the stars on the middle panel that we all thought was so cool. They appear even brighter when it is dark and make you feel so relaxed.

About 30 minutes after takeoff we were provided these large iPads that had all the entertainment preloaded. Em watched kids movies nonstop and Pete and I got caught up on some TV shows and movies.

We were also provided headphones, but we used our own.

I am always watching the map when we are flying and there are screens right up front.

We also had our first service right after we took off.

When we first boarded, we were provided the menu above and asked about our dinner choice and drink preference so that they could get food and drinks right out. I opted for water with my macadamia nuts. And really, nothing is as delicious as macadamia nuts on your way to Hawaii! 

Next was a fruit and cheese plate that was also served with butter and a roll.

Here is the vegetarian option as noted in the menu above. Emmy isn’t the most adventurous eater, but she loved the meal…

Especially the cheesecake!

Later on, snacks and another drink were provided.

Actually, multiple drinks were provided. The flight attendants were so attentive. They constantly were checking in on everyone. 

Here is a look at the lay-flat seats with Em all stretched out. Everyone from her size up to Pete were very comfortable.

A few reasons we chose to fly first class were:

  1. It really elevates your vacation for a reasonable price. Getting on and off the plane first takes away a lot of stress from the travel experience.
  2. We were able to get some really good rest both before we arrived in Hawaii and on our way home.
  3. Rested kids adjust to new times zones so much better than ones that are exhausted. 
  4.  The extra space to stretch out is worth every penny.
  5. A dedicated restroom for the first-class cabin meant we never waited for the restroom.
  6. The whole experience was fantastic.
  7. Dedicated check-in line and two free checked bags meant that we breezed through the airport part quickly.
  8. Our bags were the first off the plane so we were able to get our vacation on the island started quicker.

The highlight of this flight for Em was meeting the pilots and sitting in the cockpit. Every crew member we met was the sweetest, kindest person and really wanted to make the flight enjoyable.

Once on Oahu, we spent our time enjoying this view!

Swimming, walking along the beach, enjoying delicious treats, exploring tide pools, going to a luau, driving the island, splashing in the waves, watching the waves break on the North Shore and so much more. One of our favorite things to do on Oahu is to just spend time in Waikiki with no plans at all. There is so much great energy there and it is so family-friendly. 

Three days later, it was time to hop over to Maui.

We checked in at the First Class counter and then made our way to the Premier Club Lounge. This is a great place to charge your phone, have a drink (get the POG) and you can even have more of the snack packs they serve on the plane. The wifi is great here too.

They don’t call out flights here so you still need to pay attention to the time. We left 15 minutes before boarding and were still the first on the plane.

They also have Hawaiian coffee in the lounge too.

She is so excited every time we get on a plane!

The inner island first-class seats are comparable to domestic first class. Super comfy with a good amount of leg room. First-class inner island has some of the same great benefits too as the longer flights, especially being able to board and exit first and getting your luggage right away.

Everyone takes inner island flights to island-hop. I mean that is the reason, right? Well, I would totally recommend taking them even if you planned on turning around and coming right back.

This is the reason why… the views.

Oh, my! The flights we took between the islands ranged from 30-45 minutes. They were pretty much up and then down again and I’ve never felt like a flight was too short until I took these flights. The view from above is simply breathtaking. I even saw a whale on one of the takeoffs!

Then we were in Maui! 

This was the first time on this island for all of us. I love this welcome sign!

We spent four nights on Maui and we would go back tomorrow.

We didn’t intentionally plan our visit during the months that the whales are also visiting, but when we go back, we totally will. As we were driving to our hotel from the airport we saw 13 whales. 13! That wasn’t us even looking for them. We were just on the road and they were just right off the beach frolicking and splashing around. By the end of our stay on Maui, we had lost count of the whales and had even seen quite a few mamas and babies! 

For the planned activities, we hired a private tour guide to show us around the island, including a drive on the Road To Hana.

Wow was this an amazing choice! We jumped next to waterfalls and swam in freshwater ponds. We hiked through bamboo forests and stopped for lunch along the way. We had the best banana bread and saw surfers riding huge waves. It was the best overview of the island I can imagine. 

We also took long walks along the beach and sat for hours watching the whales swim by.

It was a very peaceful couple of days.

Then it was time to fly over to the Big Island!

We enjoyed the Premier Club lounge again before our flight.

We were offered drinks and snacks on this flight too, and we accepted this time. Even with such a short flight, the service in first class was exemplary. 

The views on the way to the Big Island were just so pretty. 

There is just something about flying amongst the clouds…

Our time on the Big Island went by so quickly.

We had some pretty stormy weather for a couple of days, and everyone on the island apologized to us for it, like it was their fault, which is totally the aloha spirit. So welcoming and caring. The thing is, when you come from a dry place like Southern California, we celebrate the rain. For us, it just added to the adventure. The only bummer was that it rained the whole day that we scheduled another private tour, so we couldn’t see the one thing we really wanted to…the lava. We went up to Volcano National Park and could see the steam through the fog, vog, and rain, but no actual lava. No big deal though, we have already decided to go back!

We stayed on the Kona side of the island and on our tour we went over to Hilo and across the island and back around the side. Hilo was great for shopping and eating and we loved wandering around the town area. Kona to us had more of a laid-back vibe and was perfect for relaxing.

It is also a great island for learning. The girls had hands-on lessons (as did Pete and I) about volcanos, lava, tide pools, how the islands were built, how they are moving and so much more. Plus the wildlife. We saw whales, bright-colored fish, birds and of course the dreamy sea turtles!

We went stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, swimming, snorkeling and we were lucky enough to have turtles swim by us multiple times. 

Em and I even went shopping and twinned one night at dinner.

My favorite moments were at sunset with the pink, blue and purple sky. We made sure to be outside to watch it together as a family each night.

We love Oahu so much that I knew we would want to spend one last night there before flying home so we took another flight from the Big Island to Oahu. 

The Premier Club was closed for updating when we were there so we enjoyed the outside airport. It is actually pretty fun to be out there and see all the planes land and take off. We also had fun boarding with the ramps. 

The first-class seats are so spacious. We all had our own unofficial assigned seats at this point too. They felt like they were our home away from home at this point and that was pretty cool!

We even had a rainbow on our window for the ride. 

We were surprised with a huge suite on our last night and had the pleasure of enjoying this view…

It was the perfect way to end the day… and with some Banana nice-cream too! Banan is a frozen banana treat that is so good! We had breakfast on the beach and snacks for lunch followed up with a good dinner before heading back to the airport for our flight home.

Aren’t the Hawaiian Airlines planes so festive?

Every time we see them when we are flying to other places, I daydream about going to Hawaii. I always say the flight to Hawaii is so happy and cheerful and then the flight home is more of a subdued flight because nobody wants to leave. The only thing that made it better for us was knowing that we would get to experience the Aloha spirit on the plane… and those great first-class seats!

Pete has some video of our flight home, but I didn’t stay awake for even a few minutes to take pictures. That NEVER happens. I remember takeoff and watching all the lights below. Then I remember being checked on for the late-night snack food service, which I declined. Then I remember waking up mid-flight for some water and just staring outside. The stars have never looked so bright and I’ve never felt so close to them before. It was a magical moment that lasted just long enough for me to fall asleep again.

It was the perfect ending to an amazing vacation!

Heather Reese
the authorHeather Reese
Heather Delaney Reese is the storyteller and photographer behind the lifestyle and family travel blog, It's a Lovely Life®! For the past decade, she has vacationed over 150 days a year with her family. She is a vegan, and loves being by the water, spending time with her children, husband, 2 Shih Tzus and Cat.


  • Wow!! This looks like such a blast!! We were just talking about booking a trip to Hawaii for spring break next year – but I was worried about our daughters on the plane. Those seats are amazing, though!!

  • These are some seriously beautiful pictures you have here! The island is gorgeous and I love the color of the planes. I never realized how much difference there was between first class and regular. I would rather pay the extra for the time and convenience. I’m glad you all enjoyed yourselves!.

  • Now this looks like my kind of trip! What an amazing experience flying Hawaiin Airlines. I’ve been to Hawaii but have not island hopped like this and now I am thinking about how I can make this happen.

  • What a fun and great experience you had. What a fun and great experience you had. Will be saving this! Next trip to Hawaii,

  • Such stunning photographs. I am amazed that you actually saw 13 whales ! Lucky you. I have done island hopping (in Indonesia), it was exhalirating.

  • Thank you for sharing your experience. I love reading your blog because you sure have lots of travel fun with the entire family. I wish we could do that too! Your girls are adorable. Your youngest sure looked like she had the time of her life!

  • Wow that view from your suite is incredible. It looks like you had a brilliant time island hopping and having so much fun.

  • Hawaii is on my bucket list, I would love to take my kids there. All these tips and places are definitely getting noted for a future trip (fingers crossed)!

  • What a fun trip. I’ve flown First Class a few times in the last couple years and I could get used to it. The seats are so much more comfy and who wouldn’t want to go VIP around Hawaii.

  • Flying first class is always a good time especially with kids. We went to Hawaii a few years ago, and it was amazing. Can’t wait to go back and see the Big Island. We didn’t have time to visit that island the last two times we visited.

  • I love the food – that looked amazing – and that you can lay down in the plane is great for me since I can never sleep on planes

  • Hawaii is my dream vacation destination! If I were to ever get the chance to go there and go island hopping, I’d jump at the chance! So much excitement and fun in your pictures!

  • I am happy you all had such a fund time, but is it okay to also say I am a little bit jealous?
    This is a super thorough review and I have an excellent idea of this new vacation I need to add to my List!

  • Very cool vacation trip! You take very cute and beautiful pictures! Have a great day.

  • How awesomely cool is this!!! Hawaii is one of my favorite places in the world. You all took awesome pictures and looks like an unforgettable experience.

  • Talk about flying in luxury… I wouldn’t mind flying if it were like this! How fun that you got a photo opportunity in the cockpit – that’s every kid’s dream.

  • This sounds like an amazing vacation! When is whale season? We went to Hawaii for our honeymoon and did Oahu and Maui. We didn’t go in whale season though, that would have been so cool to see them. We would love to go back, I love all of your tips. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Laura,
      The peak of whale season is January to March and we will definitely be planning a visit again during that time period. We have been at other times and had a great time too… but there is something so magical about visiting when there are too many whales to count!

  • Wow, now that is how you travel! Looks so relaxing. I love having all that leg room and actually being able to lay back not just recline a tiny bit when I fly….it makes a world of difference! Glad you guys had a wonderful and amazing time in a such a beautiful dream spot!

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