Thanks to Vacatia for sponsoring this post.
For a traveling family like mine, being less than a 5 hour flight away from Hawaii is a major benefit of living on the West Coast. Although Hawaii can be a bit pricey, it’s an amazing family travel destination. So many of the activities are kid-friendly, and the beaches are some of the most gorgeous in the world. It also offers the rare chance for Americans to travel somewhere pretty exotic without a passport.
In my experience, the hardest part of planning a Hawaiian family vacation is deciding where to stay. Which island? Which resort? Hotel room or condo? After making quite a few trips to the islands of Hawaii (and also surveying a few well-traveled friends), here are 8 amazing resorts where family travelers pretty much can’t go wrong. They have family-friendly amenities like kids clubs and waterslides, plus many offer larger suite and condo accommodations for families while still having full service concierge desks with resort amenities. Here are my top picks for the best family-friendly Hawaii resorts.
1. Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa (O’ahu)
Ever since opening in 2011, Disney’s Aulani has taken the family travel world by storm and with good reason. Located on O’ahu less than 30 minutes from Honolulu International Airport, it’s as easily accessible as it gets. Aulani was made for families, with a lazy river, tube waterslides, a water play area for the little ones (Menehune Bridge), plus beach activities like stand-up paddleboarding. Of course, there are Disney character meet-and-greets and a character breakfast for the full Disney experience.
The highlight of my family’s visit to Aulani was the kids club, Aunty’s Beach House. Once your kids experience Aunty’s Beach House no kids club will ever compare. The club has multiple rooms with dress-up, movies, computers, arts and crafts, character visits, and much more. Best of all, Aunty’s Beach House is free – included in the room rate.
While most guests simply think of a booking hotel room, what makes Aulani awesome for families is the large inventory of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom suites that allow families to spread out. You can rent these rooms directly from the resort, from an owner by renting DVC points, or through Vacatia which often offers discounts you can’t find elsewhere. Don’t miss my full review of the Aulani if you are considering a stay with your family!
2. Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas (Maui)
Westin resorts have the drill down when it comes to family travel. In just the past year, my family stayed in two Westin vacation resorts – the Westin Lagunamar near Cancun and the Westin Mission Resort and Spa in Palm Springs. The Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas might be even more amazing, with a beachfront location right on Maui’s most famous beach. With suites as large as three bedrooms, there’s lots of room for families to spread out. The resort has three different pool areas, a mini-golf course, playground, arcade, and on-site luau. Plus, it features a kid’s club for children ages 5-12 and family movie nights in the summer.
3. Grand Hyatt Resort and Spa (Kauai)
One of Hawaii’s smaller islands delivers big for families at the Grand Hyatt, located on Poipu Beach. Consistently ranked as the top hotel on Kauai, it especially caters well to family travelers. The resort includes a saltwater lagoon, several freshwater river-style pools, and a giant waterslide. Daily resort activities like meet-and-greets with resort parrots are unique, plus the resort also is one of the rare few these days with a full tennis center. Camp Hyatt kids club is offered during the day for kids ages 3-12, with activities like feeding koi fish and making leis. The resort also offers a full evening luau twice a week.
4. Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows (Big Island)
My husband’s family has been vacationing at the Mauna Lani on Hawaii’s Big Island long before my husband and I started dating (and that was 16 years ago, so it has definitely been awhile!). As a result, it’s a place I’ve visited often, both with and without kids. The location on the Kohala Coast is about about 25 minutes from the Kona airport.
The Mauna Lani is old-school Hawaii, and that is what makes it special for families. There are no fancy waterslides or crazy activities – just beautiful pools and even more beautiful beaches in a classic Big Island black rock setting. Kids will love exploring the historic fishponds of King Kamehameha on site (look for the moray eels hiding in the rocks) or just spending a day in the hammocks on the beach. There’s a kids camp for kids ages 5-12 with games, crafts, and other activities so parents can get some time on their own too.
While the hotel rooms are large, the Mauna Lani has a number of condo-style vacation rentals with kitchens that my family often chooses for more space. The Mauna Lani Terraces which feature 1, 2, and 3 bedroom condos are just adjacent to the hotel (a 2-5 minute walk depending on which building you’re in). They have a full view of the ocean and are our family’s usual choice.
5. Hilton Waikoloa Village (Big Island)
Just down the road from to the Mauna Lani is another extremely family-friendly Big Island resort experience at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. The Hilton Waikoloa is everything the Mauna Lani is not – bustling, busy, and full of action for active families. And that’s exactly the kind of vacation many families like to have, so you can take your pick! The resort has three pools with waterfalls and a 175 foot waterslide, an on-site luau, a swim with the dolphins experience, and shopping galore. Kids will really get a kick out of some of the transportation on site: canal boats and trams serve the practical function of getting you around the large resort but are also an activity unto themselves. The Hilton Waikoloa Village also has a kids club called Camp Keiki for kids ages 5-12.
6. Honua Kai Resort & Spa (Maui)
The Honua Kai Resort & Spa on Ka’anapali Beach in Maui offers a family-friendly vacation rental resort experience with a higher end vibe. Condos feature Bosch appliances and upscale furnishings but with a fairly moderate price, by Hawaii standards, at least! All the units in the property have full kitchens and in-suite washer dryers (including the studio suites) giving families plenty of space to spread out and no need to overpack or make a trip to the laundromat. There’s no kids club on site, but there are plenty of family-friendly activities to keep kids busy, including pools, a lazy river, waterfalls, a waterslide, and a splash pad area with fountains for the little ones.
7. The Kahala Hotel & Resort (O’ahu)
Many families want to escape the scene that is Waikiki Beach when taking kids to Hawaii, but still be close enough to the shopping, dining and activities the area offers. The Kahala Hotel & Resort offers the best of both worlds – a short drive to Waikiki (the hotel even offers a free shuttle) with a location that is sheltered from the bustle. The Kahala has a Keiki Club for kids ages 5-12 plus Dolphin Quest O’ahu is also located right onsite.
8. Four Seasons Resort Hualalai (Big Island)
For the ultimate luxury vacation experience with the whole family, it doesn’t get any better than the Four Seasons Hualalai. It’s often ranked as one of the best hotels in the world, and it’s priced accordingly, but service is top-notch for families who really value luxury and want to splurge. And unlike some luxury hotels were you’ll be given dirty looks for daring to bring a child along for the vacation, the Four Seasons welcomes kids. The kids program, Kids for All Seasons, takes kids ages 5-12 and is included in the room rate. Activities include swimming, volcano building, ray feeding, and more. Plus, there are plenty of activities for parents to do with their children, including basketball and beach games. In addition to a family pool and adult pool, the resort has its own pool just for kids, the Keiki Pool, with a white sand bottom and gradual drop-off for little ones to wade.
Have you taken your kids to Hawaii? Share some of your favorite family-friendly resorts in the comments.
(Note: I’ve mentioned a few resorts that offer dolphin experiences, which are ethically controversial in some circles. My family has not participated in these activities in our travels, but I know that they are of interest to many, so please do your own research to make an informed decision right for your family.)