Hawaii is no longer just for honeymooners. The islands are fast becoming a paradise for keiki, the Hawaiian word for children. On Maui, O’ahu, Kaua’i, and the Big Island, family resorts are going beyond high chairs and children’s menus to attract families. Now, amenities like spacious rooms (often with kitchens and lanais), water park pools, children’s clubs, and activities designed for families are making the islands a family destination. Here are a few of our picks for great family resorts. Tip: Always ask about specials before booking, especially if you are interested in kid’s programs.
Maui is for adventurers — surfing, zip-lining, snorkeling with sea turtles, or watching the sun rise atop Haleakala are a few of the major draws.
Grand Wailea Resort Hotel and Spa
The Vibe: Part theme park, part art museum, this sprawling, over-the-top resort is set on 40 acres of lushly landscaped property, dotted with pools, splashy fountains, and an extensive collection of modern art by masters like Fernand Leger and Fernando Botero, and Hawaiian and regional art as well.
The Draw: The six-level Wailea Canyon Activity Pool is heaven for kids, and kids-at-heart: caves, waterfalls, a Tarzan-style rope swing, and several speedy slides. A water elevator drenches you as it lifts you to the top of the three-story Lava Slide. For tots, there’s a shallow wading pool. Want to chill out? Head to the Spa Grande. Teens and kids (ages 6 to 12) can get pampered too, with treatments like the Chocolate-Coconut Massage.
The Cost: From $400.
Napili Kai Beach Club
The Vibe: At this small, low-key resort with old Hawaiian style, suites come with equipped kitchenettes and daily complimentary activities including lei-making and hula dancing.
The Draw: It’s on one of the West Side’s best beaches for snorkeling and swimming. A low-rise condominium resort, the Napili Kai has large suites that are just right for big families. The resort is a 15-minute drive from Whaler’s Village open-air mall and Front Street in historic Lahaina, with its kid-pleasing restaurants and eclectic shops.
The Cost: From $375
Honolulu, Pearl Harbor, Waikiki Beach — this is Hawaii’s most cosmopolitan island. The energetic pace makes it an exciting choice for active children, eager to bodysurf or hike up Diamond Head State Monument. On the way to the island’s North Shore you can stop and ride a train through pineapple fields at Dole Plantation, trek through Waimea Valley, or watch master surfers ride monster waves.
Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort
The Vibe: This sprawling 22-acre resort is a crowd-pleaser thanks to the many choices it presents its guests. Planning a reunion with multiple generations of your family? Twenty restaurants, five pools, and a long list of activities means there’s something for everyone
The Draw: The green lawns of neighboring Fort DeRossy make for a nice buffer between the resort and Waikiki’s central string of high-rise hotels. Camp Pengiun keeps the resort’s youngest guests entertained with its full and half-day programs.
The Cost: From $219
Aulani Disney Resort and Spa
The Vibe: On the west side of Oahu, this 21-acre resort — scheduled to open in September 2011 at this writing — is far from Waikiki but promises tons of fun.
The Draw: Disney + Hawaii = a magical take on the islands. With kid’s programs and amenities for all ages, there’s everything from waterslides and a lazy river to the relaxing Lanawai spa.
The Cost: From $342.
The scene is red-hot on the Big Island, especially in Volcanoes National Park, where you can watch the active Kilauea shoot lava sky-high. Check out the “After Dark in the Park” events, when Hawaiian performers teach kids about Hawaii’s heritage. This super-sized island has five volcanoes in all, plus miles of beaches, with sand that ranges in color from white to green to black.
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
The Vibe: Four Seasons service means the whole family will be well taken care of at this upscale retreat with stand-out restaurants, but don’t expect an overly Hawaiian feel.
The Draw: Who can resist a beautiful half mile of white sand beach? Seven stunning places to swim include a natural ocean pool, a white-sand-bottomed Keiki pool dedicated to kids, and a giant brackish pond filled with fish and manta rays — the perfect introduction to snorkeling.
The Cost: From $725.
Hilton Waikoloa Village
The Vibe: Disneyland meets Polynesia at this spotless 62-acre resort. Dolphins chirp in the lagoon; a pint-size daredevil zooms down the 175-foot waterslide, a bride poses on the grand staircase — these are the scenes that will make your stay at this theme park retreat feel nothing short of surreal.
The Draw: It may be a manufactured paradise, but it’s convincing. Employees access the various areas of the resort via underground tunnels and trams, and Disney-engineered boats shuttle guests from one attraction to the next.
The Cost: From $179.
With its verdant cliffs and cascading waterfalls, Kaua’i looks like something out of a movie. In fact, you may recognize it from a film like Pirates of the Caribbean IV — which was shot here. Take a tour of the movie locations, or commune with nature at Kilauea Point Wildlife Refuge, where dolphins, rare birds, monk seals, and sea turtles frolic.
Grand Hyatt Kaua’i Resort and Spa
The Vibe: This elegant 50-acre resort is set against the backdrop of soaring green mountains, and fronts a white-sand beach. Lush and luxurious, there are gardens everywhere. Kids will love looking at the parrots and the koi ponds along the resort’s meandering paths.
The Draw: The pool is cool. Float along the lazy river, kayak through its twists and turns, and zoom down the 150-foot waterslide. For something more low-key, hit the Anara spa. As you mellow out in the new open-air meditative lounge, teens can learn about skin care, and younger kids can get hair braids and temporary tattoos. If you need some alone time, enroll kids in Camp Hyatt, where cultural crafts and supervised water activities are the main focus.
The Cost: From $374.
The Vibe: Fronting Kalapaki Bay, this expansive resort on the Garden Isle appeals to families with all the expected amenity choices from activities to restaurants. Many rooms are now time-shares filled with returning guests.
The Draw: An enormous 26,000-square-foot swimming pool is the main attraction, though the bayfront beach is beautiful too. Note that while it has a convenient location — especially appreciated after a long flight — there may be some noise from Lihue Airport.
The Cost: From $259