From Hawaiian bowling to lava-rock water slides, these resorts bump up the wow factor
With beaches galore, majestic mountains, and consistently balmy temps, a family vacation to Hawaii is certainly a no-brainer. But how exactly do you keep everyone in the family happy? Look for resorts with a variety of activities. This list has spots that offer kid-friendly surf lessons, ice cream delivered poolside, a lava rock slide, and ukulele lessons. The rooms are family-sized and the chill vacation vides are guaranteed.
At Hana-Maui Resort, a boutique hotel on Maui’s remote east side, kids have 70 acres to run amok. The location, between Waianapanapa State Park and Haleakala National Park, is hard to beat for family-friendly hikes. The Pipiwai Trail, for example, has a 4.5-mile hike that includes a bamboo forest, a 400-foot waterfall, and black-sand beaches. Afterward, take the complimentary hotel bikes for a spin or try your hand at spear-throwing and coconut-leaf weaving. Other classes include lei making, feather-flower making, Hawaiian bowling, and makahiki hour (spear throwing). For vitamin D, build sandcastles at Hamoa Beach, a 5-minute drive from the hotel.
Kids will love: Powdered sugar-dusted Mochiko pancakes at the restaurant, putt-putt golf around the property, and three pools to choose from. Not to mention, the drive there alone is well worth it: The scenic Road to Hana is packed with caves, beaches, waterfalls, and lots of places to chow down on homemade banana bread. If your kids are prone to motion sickness, consider skipping the drive. Fly in instead.
Halepuna Waikiki, Oahu
Halepuna will win you over from the get-go. Settle into your enormous room and enjoy the view. Or head toward the turquoise water to carve up some waves. The Art of Surfing package allows you and your kiddos to learn from the pros. Added bonus: Tack on the photo package for drone shots by an accomplished underwater photographer. Gotta have proof (and bragging rights) that you caught those waves, right? For something more chill, take the gang to Waikiki Beach (free floaties available for the little ones), an easy walk from the hotel.
Kids will love: The family Tree Planting Experience at Gunstock Ranch on Oahu’s North Shore and the Diamond Head Crater Park hiking trail where you can keep an eye out for humpback whales from November to May.
Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina
You want to be outdoors as much as possible in Hawaii, and the Four Seasons Ko Olina makes that easy. It’s right on the beach and offers a slew of activities like boat rides in search of dolphins and outrigger canoeing, so you can travel as the ancient Hawaiians did. Camp Kohola at the Hideaway is a complimentary, supervised program for kids ages 5-12, complete with a media room, a creativity zone, and a game room. Make time for horseback riding, resin painting, astronomy, and stargazing, too.
Kids will love: Skate park on-site that offers skateboarding camps for kids (the first resort-style skateboarding facility in Hawaii).
Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach, Oahu
There’s so much to love about the Ritz. The spacious rooms make it easy for several generations to travel together. There’s also a poolside tradition each day at 2 p.m. where your family can choose from rotating flavors of locally made ice cream like ube (purple yam) or sweet guava sorbet. Ready to venture beyond the hotel? Have the concierge arrange a visit to Kualoa Ranch for a hands-on experience in the wetland taro field to learn traditional Hawaiian farming.
Kids will love: The lava-rock slide at Diamond Head Tower and the resort’s two hot tubs. Parents will appreciate deep-tissue massages at the spa. And, let’s be honest, the kids will also be fascinated with the Toto toilet (complete with seat warmer and bide).
SCP Hilo Hotel, Hawaii Island
SCP Hotel Hilo makes a great home base for day trips to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where the family can geek out on millions of years of geological history, see sea arches and traipse through lava fields. Back at the hotel, take advantage of complimentary stand-up paddleboards and explore Hilo Bay. Don’t forget to stroll Hilo’s Banyan Drive to Liliʻuokalani Gardens, an impressive Japanese garden filled with fishponds and pagodas. Come evening, have the front desk deliver a foam roller and yoga mat to your room, and fall asleep listening to the coqui frogs.
Kids will love: Lei making, yoga classes, and complimentary hybrid bikes
Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel
One thing’s for certain, with the comforts of this hotel (which underwent an $80 million dollar renovation during the pandemic) and the number of activities available, the family will be downright happy without venturing very far. The right-on-the-beach location means stand-up paddle boarding, wa‘a (6-person canoe) outrigger tours, snorkeling to Pu‘u Keka‘a (Black Rock) are all very doable. On land, activities include mele (‘ukulele), hula (dance), ma‘awe (native fibers and weaving), mea ho‘okani (instruments), ‘ōlelo (Hawaiian language), and more. Come evening, the hotel’s oceanside restaurant, Huihui, is well worth it for hula-dancing and sunset views of the West Maui Mountains.
Kids will love: Paddling on a boki board (surfboard-shaped raft) in search of turtles and the sailing academy where curious minds can play the part of Moana for the day and learn ancient traditions of Polynesian voyaging and wayfinding.
Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort, Kapaa, Kauai
This resort deserves to be high on the family bucket list. With a splash pool and waterfall feature, kite-making classes, coconut husking, and daily shave ice by the pool, you could easily stay put for days on end. When you are ready to explore, Sleeping Giant trailhead, Opaekaa Falls, and Wailua River State Park are all close by. You can also snorkel and kayak from the resort and borrow beach cruisers to two-wheel you’re way down eight oceanfront bike paths.
Kids will love: Fire Hen Arcade & Wings, a 1,300-square-foot arcade, that features 400 games from foosball to darts to shuffleboard free of charge to hotel guests.
Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach, Oahu
Weekly tank talks at the 280,000-gallon oceanarium, which houses 350 protected marine creatures, and daily fish feedings with on-site aquarists, will keep parents and kids entertained. Ready to score ocean time? The beach is within walking distance from the hotel and you can use resort credits, included in the amenity fee, to rent surfboards, umbrellas, and snorkels. For downtime, consider lei-making classes and Hawaiian storytime.
Kids will love: Rooftop batting cages and tennis courts. Enough said!