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Hawaii: For Families That Play Together

March 2, 2016 By: Joe Pike

maui family boat trip
Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson

It's never too early to start planning your family clients' summer vacations to Hawaii or, for that matter, their Christmas vacations and 2017 winter and spring break travel. Here is a sampling of options for the family that plays together along with some new hotel offerings throughout the Aloha State.


Maui abounds with options for memorable family moments, with fun activities and attractions such as helicopter tours, zip-lining, snorkeling, learning to surf, the Sugar Cane Train and Maui Ocean Center

For the family that dives together, Maui’s western coast is lined with great sites for scuba enthusiasts and, for those traveling with younger children, excellent snorkeling options as well. As a State Marine Life & Bird Conservation District, Molokini Crater, a volcanic atoll just off the south coast of Maui, offers some of the state’s best snorkeling and diving. Other top snorkeling sites include Turtle Town and Coral Gardens, the names of which provide a clue as to what’s in store for snorkelers. 

Those who want to stay dry while observing the island’s underwater world can opt for an Atlantis Submarine excursion. Packages offered by the operator, whose tours are also available in Waikiki and Hawaii Island’s Kona Coast, include one that adds on a Royal Lahaina Luau and another that includes snorkeling among the fish off the island of Lanai. Whale watching is a must-do treat for those visiting during the winter (between December and March).

You won’t have trouble finding a family-friendly resort for your Maui-bound clients. Here are a few updates on that front.

New Villa Is Luxury Family Option: Tropical Villa Vacations has added an exclusive new villa at Andaz Residences Maui at Wailea to its collection of luxury homes, estates and villa vacation rentals on Maui. One of only 12 privately owned Andaz Residences Maui, the SeaGlass villa is a three-bedroom, four-bath residence offering 3,234 square feet of indoor and outdoor living space. 

This villa provides a hip, casual atmosphere with a sleek, contemporary design and a sprawling outdoor lanai with garden and private hot tub. SeaGlass can accommodate up to eight guests (six adults maximum and two children).

Andaz Residences Maui is located at the 15-acre beachfront Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort. Tropical Villa Vacations’ guests at SeaGlass villa enjoy full access and charging privileges to all of the resort’s facilities and services, such as multiple pools (including four cascading infinity pools), the 14,000-square-foot Awili Spa and dining options including the locally sourced Ka'ana Kitchen and the celebrated Morimoto Maui.

Kaanapali Offers Special Programs for Children: In addition to oceanfront views of Maui’s beaches, Kaanapali Beach Hotel in Maui offers their guests an enriched cultural experience and complimentary Hawaiian activities for the whole family, offering families the opportunity to immerse into Hawaiian culture. Upon check-in, children receive a "passport" as part of the hotel's "Aloha Passports for Kids" program. The passport guides them around the hotel to learn about Hawaiian culture and rewards them with special treats.

More Family Fun on Maui: Mom, Dad and the kids can enjoy coconut husking, hula lessons, lei making, a Polynesian luau and more at The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, which also offers five pools, a Jacuzzi, two water slides, a swim-through grotto and whirlpool. Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa offers a Wildlife Tour of its extensive grounds (including daily penguin feedings), nightly Polynesian entertainment and Tour of the Stars, a rooftop astronomy program with a NASA expert. 

hawaii family surfing
Photo by EpicStockMedia


Following a multimillion-dollar transformation, Four Seasons Resort Lanai officially re-opened on February 1. Lori Holland, director of public relations for the hotel, tells us that  families can choose from guided hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and adrenaline-filled UTV adventures in the green upcountry lands, or go off-roading across red dirt roads, colored from volcanic rock, or golf at the Jack Nicklaus Signature Manele Golf Course, which has ocean views from every hole. 

In addition, clients can snorkel in a marine sanctuary with colorful fish, enjoy whale watching tours (seasonal) or dive into The Cathedrals, featuring lattices of lava rock which resemble stained glass when light hits. Lastly, they can immerse themselves in Hawaiian culture through activities with kupuna (elders) or simply relax on a deserted beach accessible only by a 4x4 vehicle.

Guests can spend time with Bruno Amby, who has one of the more interesting jobs as resort aviarist at Four Seasons Resort Lanai. Feathered Resort residents KeO KeO, Ola, Uliuli and Hauoli are part of the Rescue Bird Program, a partnership with the Peninsula Humane Society. Guests can "talk" with the resident birds or learn how to make a bird from a coconut leaf from Bruno – a true Lanai kapuna, or elder, who loves sharing his knowledge of island culture.

Aloha Festival
Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authoriy/Tor Johnson


Oahu’s family attractions range from sun and fun on Waikiki Beach to historic sites such as Iolani Palace and the USS Arizona Memorial, to the sure-fire kid appeal of the Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki Aquarium and the Bishop Museum’s planetarium. 

If there is one “must” experience for Mom, Dad and the kids, it might be the Polynesian Cultural Center, where they can stroll through 42 acres of tropical splendor, enjoy the adventure of traditional hands-on activities, browse the year-old Hukilau Marketplace and dine like Hawaiian royalty at an authentic Polynesian luau. The latter is accompanied by a spectacular evening show complete with Pacific island music, hula and fire dancing. 

Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa: The name Disney has long been associated with family vacations and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa is well suited for them and well equipped to accommodate the ultimate multigenerational outings — reunions. These can be enhanced (for a fee) with appearances from some Disney characters who will mingle with guests and pose for photographs. You can also book videographers, photographers, florists or entertainers for your client’s gathering. Aulani has a list of preferred vendors to assist you; should you wish to use a vendor that’s not on the list, a fee will apply.

Aulani offers memorable spaces for reunions and other special events. Subject to availability and rental fees, options include: Aulani Beach, with its sweeping seascapes, soft sands and gentle trade winds; ‘AMA‘AMA Patio, featuring a backdrop of Ko Olina and the Pacific Ocean; Halawai Lawn, a tropical garden oasis bordered by foliage and tall palm trees; Kaiona Ballroom, a versatile event space that accommodates up to 300 guests; Ka‘ala Ballroom, designed for smaller gatherings of up to 120 guests; as well as Rainbow Reef Patio, Wailana Pool, Kipuka Lawn and Kipuka Courtyard.

New Hilton Garden Inn to Feature Family Suites: The 623-guestroom Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach is set to open this summer after undergoing extensive renovation of the former OHANA Waikiki West. Reservations are now being accepted for arrival August 3 and beyond. Guest rooms are being completely re-envisioned, adding poolside family suites and maximizing Hawaii’s scenic vistas. The hotel will also have an enhanced pool deck complete with a bar and grill and poolside cabanas. Design plans include a contemporary Hawaiian aesthetic, the addition of a full-service restaurant and lounge, a grab-and-go market, a welcoming modern lobby, and a fitness center. 


Visitors can learn about the history and culture of Kauai by visiting the Kauai Museum or Grove Farm Museum in Lihue, the Waioli Mission House in Hanalei Town and the Kokee Natural History Museum on the West Side. Small towns like Hanapepe, Koloa and Waimea provide a taste of local flavor and culture. For a literal taste of the many flavors of the island, Tasting Kauai offers food tours.

For ecology-minded families, the Organic Observation Dome rises up into the tree canopy at the McBryde Garden. Woven completely from plant materials gathered from the garden, the domed structure resides in a shady spot between a meandering stream and a panoramic view of the breathtaking gardens. Visitors on McBryde’s self-guided tour can venture inside the 25-foot-high structure, view the swaying branches of tropical trees through the “eye” in the dome, and take in the surrounding vistas through windows woven into the walls.

Kauai Shores Completes Renovations: Family-friendly Kauai Shores, an Aqua-Aston hotel, recently announced the culmination of an extensive renovation project with the opening of its newly built lobby and oceanfront eatery, the Lava Lava Beach Club. The 250-seat open-air restaurant and bar with comfy couches and fire pits, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., with daily live music and hula dancing.

The renovation project also upgraded the guest rooms, corridors, common areas, and exterior upgrades to the building and grounds. Guest rooms now feature a sleek, retro-modern design with vibrant island colors in lime green, aqua, and orange. Designers restored the original blue entry tile and balanced it with the addition of a brightly colored accent wall that visually infuses energy into the space. For the exterior, designers worked with the existing layout of the buildings to form a courtyard around the centerpiece pool. 

Lehua Waipa AhNee Islad
Photo by Big Island Visitors Bureau

Hawaii Island

Paradise Helicopters offers a “Family Helicopter Ride & Zipline” adventure, combining zip-lining through a rainforest and enjoying a lush botanical garden ground tour with Botanical World Adventures. The experience is recommended for multi-generational travelers, a growing segment of visitors to Hawaii Island, as guests can choose to take a leisurely stroll, wander through an herbaceous maze, or soar through the forest canopy.

Families who enjoy camping can head for historic Namakanipaio Campground, operated by Hawaii Volcanoes Lodge Company. The campground offers a rustic, one-of-a-kind camping experience within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The campground is home to 10 recently refurbished cabins, with upgraded community facilities. Campsites are also available for guests who prefer a more traditional camping experience. 

The increasingly popular thrill of zip-lining can be experienced on dual lines with KapohoKine Adventures at Honolii Outpost. (Note: The minimum weight for children is 30 pounds.) A walking path off to the side of the lines is great for family members who may not want to zip, but still want to be part of the experience. 

Kekei Clubs: Both Mauna Kea Beach and sister property Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel offer Kekei Clubs for children ages 5-12, available during Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break, the months of July/August, and upon request. Cultural experiences and activities include Hawaiian arts and crafts, sandcastle building, hula dancing, T-shirt painting, beach scavenger hunts and movies. 

Hilton Waikoloa Village Unveils Renovated Palace Tower: Hilton Waikoloa Village, a family-friendly, oceanfront resort on the Kona Coast of Hawaii, recently unveiled its newly transformed Hale Ike concept at Palace Tower. The focal point of the renovation project centered around the Hale Ike “House of Senses,” which features 369 renovated rooms and 26 suites, each with a subtle emphasis on sensual inspirations.

Special digital elements assist with reservations, including Hilton’s new digital concierge, pre-arranging stay details and directly communicating with the Hilton Waikoloa Village service team. The Hale Ike atrium lobby will greet guests with the sounds of nature, colors from nature’s palette of island flora and fauna, the fragrance of local flowers and torch-lit paths that lead clients from the atrium to their rooms. 

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About the Author

Joe Pike
Joe Pike is Travel Agent's senior editor covering the Caribbean, Bahamas & Bermuda; Hawaii; Central & South America. Previously, Pike was a newspaper reporter for The Asbury Park...

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By Joe Pike | March 2, 2016
It's never too early to start planning your family clients' summer vacations to Hawaii. Here's a sampling of the best travel options to keep in mind.