Hawaii is often thought of (quite rightly, we might add) as the archetypal lovebirds’ getaway for couples of all ages in search of some high romance. Those theatrical sunsets, the sparkling ocean, the long evenings sampling a veritable cornucopia of world-leading cuisine…it’s as if the whole setup was committee-designed to stoke the passions. And believe us, it does.
But hey – y’know who else is into all that stuff? Pretty much everyone! Which is why it’s an equally great idea to consider a Hawaiian holiday next time you’re planning to lock down a bunch of wonderful new family memories as well. Moreover, seeking out the best Hawaiian resorts for families isn’t remotely as tricky as the whole ‘romantic paradise’ stereotype might lead you to assume.
In fact, there are dozens of fabulously family-friendly options dotted all over the various islands; the only real challenge is picking out which one best suits your brood. That will depend very much on what sort of vibe you most enjoy as a group (and how hands-on you want to be about keeping the young ones entertained – because let’s face it, we doting parents need our well-earned R&R too!).
For fans of ultimate convenience, the first thing to note about organizing a household trip to Hawaii is that you find too many family-oriented options offering a fully all-inclusive arrangement. There’s one very good reason for this: Hawaii is seen as a safe haven and a diverse wonderland to be explored at leisure, and so there’s no widespread assumption that larger guest groups will be spending all their time on hotel grounds.
With that caveat in mind, here are just a handful of resort nominations that do an excellent job of creating fun-packed adventure getaways for kids of all ages, while leaving plenty of room for the grown-ups to kick back too. So grab the sunscreen, the flip flops and the phrasebook – after all, the Ōlelo language is often as beautiful and fun to dip into as those turquoise Hawaiian waters! – and assemble your squad for a truly memorable family vacation.
Aulani Disney Resort and Spa (Oahu)
Let’s start with an obvious choice, and arguably the most determinedly kid-friendly resort in the state. From (gently!) competitive team sand sculpting on the beach, to pool parties with Disney Characters, supervised play-learning at Aunty’s Beach House, and the teen-focused Sunset Mele cultural gatherings, the Aulani Disney Resort offers a dazzling array of stuff for younger guests to get involved in. While the kids are off having a ball with splash zones and tidal pools, adventure puzzle trails and traditional fireside storytelling evenings, the adult spa facilities – boasting O‘ahu’s only outdoor hydrotherapy garden – are highly luxuriating, and there’s even a full range of family treatments on offer if you’re looking to pamper yourselves as a group. However, given that it’s all a stone’s throw from crowded Waikiki Beach on Oahu, a.k.a. ‘The Gathering Place’, you’ll find it’s not located in the most secluded or ecologically fascinating spot you could pick.
Aqua Kauai Beach Resort (Kauai)
The island of Kauai is known as Hawaii’s ‘Garden Isle’ for reasons that will be immediately obvious once you get there, and fittingly enough the Aqua Kauai Beach Resort features its own rainforest spa. However, this resort is – unsurprisingly, given its name – also very much built around the idea of relaxing and having fun in, on, and beside the water. Sited a couple of kilometres up the coast from the island’s busiest town, Kapaa, the lushly landscaped grounds nevertheless succeed in making guests feel pleasantly cast away. Kids can join in with activities including hula lessons, koi feeding and lei making, while the rooms feature Playstations with WiFi. Also of interest to family groups will be the fact that the central location makes access to other interesting areas of the island a breeze, with handy access to Poipu Beach Park heading south, and the Nā Pali Coast State Park on Kauai’s stunning north-western shores.
Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel (Big Island)
Nestled in the bluffs above pristine white sands, the key features of this cliffside Big Island resort are Hapuna Beach, with its jewel-like reefs and fabulous snorkelling, and the incredibly picturesque golfing facilities that sprawl out over the rugged ancient lava fields behind the hotel. Both are available for children to enjoy too, with the nearby snorkelling area of Turtle Point within easy access and free golf sessions aimed specifically at beginners and young people. Again, being on the Big Island also has the advantage of letting you get out and experience the ‘real’ Hawaii more easily – close at hand, the Hapuna Beach Park itself is a vibrant and fun gathering place for all manner of buskers, fishermen and body-boarders alike, and a nice walking trail along that gorgeous coastline. The ocean view from the trail arguably isn’t the greatest, but all rooms at the Prince resort feature ocean views of their own anyway, best viewed at sunset from the comfort of your private family lanai (covered patio).
Honua Kai Resort and Spa (Maui)
If you’ve got slightly older offspring traveling with you, then the Honua Kai resort might be the ideal shout. It’s a condo resort with suites boasting up to three bedrooms, so you’ll all feel inherently less overlooked than you might do in most standard hotels, and while there’s no dedicated kids’ club on site, there’s plenty to do for children who are old enough to enjoy a little more freedom. Maui is a fantastic choice for those that like to explore and be active, with many popular island pursuits on offer including rainforest hikes, helicopter tours, boogie boarding, waterfall rappels and ziplines, snorkel dives and downhill biking. The spectacular Kaanapali North Beach is just metres away, and cavorting humpback whales off the coast are not an uncommon sight here. For younger kids, the resort pool complex is a real treasure, featuring a network of linked lagoons and hot tub corners with a waterslide, fountain play area and several waterfalls.
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai (Big Island)
For ‘showpiece oceanfront luxury’ on the lovely Kona-Kohala Coast, this resort offers an indulgent blend of the historical and the modern, and boasts some seriously impressive features that the whole family will love. Not least among them is the 1.8m gallon ‘aquarium’ ocean pool carved out of the natural lava rock, offering guests a wonderful way to experience wild ocean life with all the safety and comfort of a manmade bathing facility. There are seven swimming pools in total, a Kids for All Seasons club for 5-12 year olds, the Camp Manitou bonding and excursions programs for 9-17 year olds, various organized cultural and sporting events, supervised areas for teens to hang out together, and a host of activities like ukulele lessons, lei making and family dining specials aimed at bringing the whole group together again at the end of a memorable day.