Many facets make the Hawaiian Islands popular as vacation destinations, from breathtaking beaches and ocean fun to gorgeous tropical flora and lush rainforests.Along with the islands' natural beauty is a rich cultural history of music, dance, and arts. As it that weren't enough of a reason to book a trip, many of Hawaii's hotels world-class destinations themselves. Whether you're looking for a romantic getaway or a family adventure, these are our favorite hotels of the year.
By Leslie Lang
Best for Families: Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu
A stay at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, on Oahu, goes way beyond Mickey Mouse and friends. The familiar characters are there, but so is five-star luxury and almost unparalleled aquatic fun. Aulani’s extensive pools include a river, rapids, tubing, caverns, and an extreme water slide. Even teens give the resort high marks for its teen-only pool parties and the all-teen spa. Adults have their own quiet pool with poolside bar. At this resort the whole family can enjoy.
Best for Getting Away: Travaasa Hana, Maui
Secluded Travaasa Hana, in quiet Hana town, is a plact to go for a taste of historic, laidback Hawaii. The resort is located at the end of an extraordinarily scenic 2.5-hour, 59-bridge drive from the rest of Maui (or an extra flight into Hana’s tiny airport). The luxury resort offers adventure, culinary delights, culture, fitness opportunities, a spa, and wellness activities.
Best for Luxury: Four Seasons Resort Maui
The luxurious Four Seasons Resort Maui boasts Maui's largest hotel rooms (with the island's largest bathrooms as well), and all rooms also have private lanais. The resort’s quiet, subdued approach includes a two-to-one staff-to-guest ratio for maximum pampering (poolside Evian spritz or frozen cherries, anyone?). The Serenity Pool, with its underwater music system and panoramic views of Lana'i at its infinity edge, has swim-up bars and is adult-only; kids prefer the Waterfall Pool and its waterslide, anyway.
Best for Comfort: Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa
The lush Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa has a style that can be called casual elegance. The very comfortable, Hawaiian-style accommodations are classic – think 1920s and 30s – and offer every modern luxury (including pillow-top beds and premium linens). It's a low-rise hotel, carefully designed to sit at the beach but not tower over it. Located on Kauai (nicknamed “The Garden Island”), the resort boasts grounds that are lush and immaculately landscaped with truly beautiful Hawaiian gardens, multi-tiered water features, waterfalls and 24-hour pools.
Best Water Features: Grand Wailea, Maui
The 25,000+ square foot pool complex at the beachfront Grand Wailea on Maui has a theme-park vibe. For instance, there’s a water elevator that rises from a volcano in the water – because how else would you move between nine pools that are on six different levels? A river, which meanders lazily in some places and has whitewater rapids in others, connects the pools, and there are waterslides, waterfalls, caves, and a rope swing. There’s even a baby pool.
Best for On-Site Activities: Hilton Waikoloa Village, Big Island
The Big Island's Hilton Waikoloa Village is where local folks take their kids for a “stay-cation.” Children love the resort’s pools, with their waterfalls and water slides (one pool extends into a cave). There’s a lazy river and also a private, saltwater snorkeling and swimming lagoon where you can kayak. Guests can even swim with dolphins and sea turtles. Travel between the huge hotel’s three wings by Monorail-style tram or a kid-popular boat ride.
Best for Foodies: Halekulani Hotel, Waikiki
Waikiki’s Halekulani Hotel (its name means “House Befitting Heaven”) is home to La Mer, an award-winning restaurant with French influences, fresh Hawaiian ingredients and a stellar wine list. Orchids, its more casual yet still elegant oceanfront restaurant, offers what has been dubbed “Oahu’s Best Brunch” and an afternoon tea. And the legendary indoor/outdoor “House Without A Key” serves informal meals and cocktails under a century-old kiawe tree alongside sunsets, Hawaiian music, and hula by three former Miss Hawaiis.
Best for Romance: Four Seasons Resorts Lanai
At the Four Seasons Resorts Lanai at Manele Bay, the complimentary “Put a Ring On It” program is run by the “Manager of Romance” who will help anyone, from commitment-phobe to hopeless romantic, plan their perfect wedding proposal. A hike overlooking the Pacific? A private cooking class? A snorkeling adventure with the engagement ring pre-hidden? For the ultimate romantic meal, have a five-course gourmet dinner under the stars, with a Hawaiian guitar soloist playing nearby.
Best History: The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Waikiki
History abounds at The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Waikiki Beach’s “Pink Palace of the Pacific” with its Spanish-Moorish architecture, opened in 1927 as a luxury destination for ship passengers who arrived with steamer trunks and sometimes their Rolls Royce. Now a charming, private oasis in the middle of busy Waikiki, its character, luxury and grandeur is still paramount.
Best Boutique Hotel: Koa Kea Resort Hotel, Kauai
At Koa Kea Resort Hotel & Spa, a cleanly designed boutique hotel on Kauai’s Poipu Beach, guest rooms have bathrooms of Italian marble and also sport Egyptian cotton sheets, iPod dock stations and espresso machines. The clean, modern, and well-kept upscale hotel is small enough (121 rooms) that its friendly staff offers attentive and personalized service, but it’s large enough to provide luxury amenities, and commands breathtaking ocean views.