This post is sponsored by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. All thoughts and opinions conveyed are my own.
I’ve enjoyed some of the world’s most incredible islands, including Mauritius, Bora Bora in Tahiti, and Bali. All are fantastic in one way or another, but Hawaii remains at the top of my list for the ultimate tropical escape with kids.
The Hawaiian Islands have the exotic elements of a foreign locale and none of the hassle; you don’t need a passport, everyone speaks English, and you can eat and drink worry-free.
Hawaii is one of those destinations families revisit year after year. It’s astoundingly diverse. Visitors can have radically different experiences within a single trip. Each island has unique ecosystems and related activities. I’ve been to all the main islands — Maui, Kauai, Hawaii, Oahu, Lanai — and appreciate each of them for different reasons.
Moreover, the huge advantage of Hawaii from a family perspective is the sheer array of accommodation options available, from beachfront villas to amenity-rich condo resorts to lavish luxury hotels.
Deciding where to go in Hawaii is the planning challenge. I’ve highlighted my take on the differences between each island below. I’ve also mentioned a few accommodation favorites from Ciao Bambino’s Hawaii family hotel portfolio.
The last time I was in Maui, I experienced a sunset so spectacular that I can still picture it vividly today. The daily ritual of watching the sun go down on Maui’s West Shore is the ultimate cure for stressed parents.
Although Maui is very developed, the tradeoff is that it offers extensive tourist infrastructure for every taste and budget. Wailea is upscale with stunning beaches and excellent shopping, and hosts a few of Hawaii’s best luxury hotels. For families, the Fairmont Kea Lani is a steady Ciao Bambino reader favorite with exceptional kids’ programming and activities.
The other popular coastal stretch for families is around Kaanapali Beach, as it hosts a huge number of accommodation options including a plethora of condo-hotels like Kaanapali Alii where units have full kitchens and laundry. Hip Travel Mama has raved about Honua Kai Resort and Spa and its aquatic playground for kids of all ages.
I adore the old-school vibe and lush landscape of Kauai. There are pockets of the island that are as exotic as any place I’ve visited in the South Pacific and Asia. Read more about things to do with kids in Kauai — the photos tell all. The landscape of Kauai is nothing short of astounding.
Poipu is a spectacular beach area with sunny weather. For value, we love Kiahuna Plantation; condos are spread across endless flat grass — toddler heaven! Plus, you are walking distance to the adjacent mall where you can get a Puka Dog, my favorite Hawaiian treat.
If you don’t mind a bit of rain, the North Shore of Kauai is stunning, rugged and an adventure paradise. One of our readers sent us a review on the luxurious Koloa Landing condos with exceptional furnishings and services for this category of accommodation.
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Many people associate Oahu with busy Waikiki. In truth, there is so much more to this island than this urban stretch of sand. It’s absolutely possible to escape the crowds on Oahu. Moreover, given the number of flights that go in and out of the island, it can be the best bet for finding affordable airfare.
The star of the show these days for families is Disney’s Aulani Resort, which offers something for everyone. Disney did an excellent job integrating branded themes and quality standards with local culture and traditions. Read our complete Aulani review for details.
I also must mention Turtle Bay on the North Shore of Oahu. I haven’t stayed here in a few years but would go back in a heartbeat. Ocean view truly means ocean view here — the waves crash right below guest rooms, versus other properties where ocean view is code for bringing binoculars.
Big Island of Hawaii
The Big Island of Hawaii is a striking place with a black lava landscape and vivid blue water. If you want to get close and personal with a volcano, this is the island for you, as Kilauea is still spewing lava and ash.
The island’s western coast is optimal for families, with a long list of exceptional accommodations. For luxury seekers, Four Seasons Resort Hualalai is idyllic and has the usual laundry list of top-notch Four Seasons amenities and services. Special features include an amazing saltwater lagoon with more than 4,000 fish.
I grew up going to the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, and many families return to this property religiously year after year. The bay here is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen on any island. The Big Island of Hawaii’s standout hotel options also include the Fairmont Orchid, which offers a wonderful protected swimming area with minimal waves for families. You can also get to the Hilton Waikoloa Village for their famous dolphin experience program from any of these West Coast hotels.
If you have plans to visit Hawaii this year, aloha! I’m jealous.
That's what we do! Our Family Vacation Consultants will work with you to choose the right island, book accommodations, recommend activities and more. Click to send us a request >
Editor’s Note: Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy except where noted.
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