Hawaii: Familiar but Different

Producers in Hollywood have a way of driving screenwriters crazy with a perplexing request that is usually linked to a current hit: “Give me something like Juno—but different.”

While solving this conundrum isn’t a cinch for screenwriters, travel agents have an easier time coming up with an answer when family clients ask the vacation version of the same question: “Give me something familiar, but different.” Agents can’t go wrong suggesting Hawaii for their clients’ next family vacation. Hawaii’s great beaches and dramatic scenery are huge draws, while activities ideal for families are numerous, including submarine excursions, whale watching, kayaking, hiking and horseback riding.

Ritz Carlton Kapalua

A model room at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua shows what accommodations will look like after renovations.

While each of the Hawaiian islands has its own unique appeal, all share in common the “aloha spirit” and reverence for children, or keiki as they are called throughout the Islands.

Earlier this year, Kapalua Resort on Maui opened the Kapalua Adventures Mountain Outpost. The complex, located in the mountains 1,500 feet above the resort, has eight ziplines traversing deep gorges, a ropes-challenge course, a climbing wall and a 3,000-square-foot lookout deck. Two suspension bridges will be added at a later date. Guests can visit the Kapalua Adventure Center on the resort grounds and consult with an adventure-activity concierge to schedule activities or craft their own custom adventure, with options for helicopter tours, private zipline tours or dinners at the Kapalua Adventures Mountain Outpost lookout.

Kapalua Adventures Mountain Outpost

A zipline station at Kapalua Adventures Mountain Outpost, part of Kapalua Resort.

The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua is part of the Kapalua Resort, making it an ideal choice for families who are intent on experiencing the physical challenges at the Kapalua Adventures Mountain Outpost. Last January, The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua completed an extensive $130 million renovation that included an expanded fitness center and movement studio with panoramic ocean views; specially created late-departure facilities with lockers and showers; a new pool bar and grill; and major enhancements and additions to the resort’s pools. Updated amenities include miles of new hiking and biking trails as well as horseback riding.

Another major change at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua is the addition of 107 one- and two-bedroom, full-ownership Residential Suites. These come with fully equipped kitchens and spacious living rooms, making them a good recommendation for families. Residence Suites owners will have privileged access to all of the resort’s services.

Heidi Denecke, senior sales manager, travel industry, is the travel agent liaison and can be reached at 808-665-7200 or [email protected].


Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa’s children’s club, Camp Grande, is open daily year-round. Activities at the Maui resort include sand sculpting, nature walks, reef exploration and arts and crafts that allow kids to paint coconuts and make puka-shell necklaces and leis. Night-camp programs include “Walkie-Talkie Tag” and sand-crab hunting. The Maui resort’s Wailea Canyon Activity Pool features nine separate pools, including a “baby beach,” seven waterslides, waterfalls, caves, white-water rapids, grottos, a whirlpool and a sauna. The Pineapple Patch at the resort’s Grand Wailea Shops has a selection of toys, games and clothing.

The resort’s recently renovated Napua Tower is a private club area. Napua Tower Grand Suites are the most luxurious accommodations at the resort, measuring 5,500 square feet with large lanais that feature panoramic views of the Pacific and neighboring islands of Molokini, Kahoolawe and Lanai.

Hilton Waikoloa Village's Camp Menehune

Hilton Waikoloa Village's Camp Menehune is open daily and offers an array of activities to keep the kids busy and happy.

The resort has 120 connecting and adjoining rooms. Parents with children who spend most of their time in the pools may prefer a ground-floor room in the resort’s Lagoon Wing, steps away from the pool area. Aside from the Grand Suites, the Deluxe Ocean View Rooms are considered to have the best views, which sweep across the Pacific.

The resort’s Spa Grande has a Family Spa Suite and a special menu for teens, as well as children. The most popular children’s spa treatment is the Chocolate Coconut Massage.

The travel-agent liaison at the resort is Patrick Ornellas ([email protected], 866-702-9182).

The Grand Hyatt Kauai pools, river pools, waterfalls, saltwater lagoon and 150-foot waterslide are a big attraction for kids. Their Camp Hyatt, open daily year-round, has such activities as Hawaiian shell-bracelet making, palm-frond weaving, hula lessons and an endangered species lesson. They’ll also enjoy the morning feeding of hundreds of colorful koi fish near Tidepools restaurant, as well as Parrot Talk, held in the lobby atrium each day at 9 a.m., from which they’ll learn about the resort’s hyacinth macaw, green-winged parrot, scarlet macaw and Moluccan cockatoo and pose for pictures with the birds perched on their arms. Children under 16 years of age are not permitted to use the spa facilities and services, although salon services are available.

The most popular nearby shop for children is Sand People Kids, a half-mile away at Poipu Shopping Village.

All standard guestrooms are 600 square feet, and the resort has 168 connecting units. Rooms in the Shipwreck Wing are preferable for families, since they’re convenient to the resort’s pools. All Deluxe Ocean View Rooms have exceptional views of the grounds, beach and Pacific Ocean. Of the resort’s 37 suites, Deluxe Suites are the most requested premium accommodations, measuring 1,317 to 1,877 square feet.

The travel-agent contacts are the resort’s travel-industry sales managers, Ann Takechi ([email protected], 808-742-6422) and Chris Wingerberg ([email protected], 808-742-6428).

Hilton Waikoloa Village, on the Big Island, has Camp Menehune, open daily year-round. Camp activities include hula lessons, lei making and coconut painting. The Dolphin Quest Learning Center offers opportunities to see the resort’s resident bottlenose dolphins. The Dolphin Quest shop is also popular with kids. Kohala Tennis features customized children’s and adults’ clinics. A lending desk at the Kona Pool provides toys, games and books. The resort has seasonal activities and holiday events; there are also “Dive in Movies,” where guests can watch a film while floating in the pool.

Hilton Waikoloa Village room

Hilton Waikoloa Village Double Lagoon Cabana Ocean View room offers quite spacious accommodations.

The resort’s Lagoon Tower offers Cabana Rooms, which are on the first level with walk-out lanais that take guests directly to the Kona Pool. The resort has a total of 190 sets of connecting rooms. Ocean View Rooms in each of the three towers (Lagoon, Palace and Ocean) offer spectacular views of the Pacific. Large families traveling together have the option of the Two-Bedroom Bay Suite, Two-Bedroom Royal Suite or Presidential Suite.

Kohala Sports Club & Spa offers a spa program for children and teens. In addition to the Coco-Mango Tango Scrub, treatments include the Ti-Leaf Cooling Wrap, recommended for sunburn relief; Surfer Back, Neck and Shoulder Massage; and Island Aromatherapy.

The travel-agent liaison for the hotel is Teresa Cosgrove, leisure sales manager ([email protected], 808-886-2861).


Imiloa Astronomy Center

The Big Island has a worthy new attraction that needs your support. The Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii regularly features more than 100 exhibits intertwining astronomy and Hawaiian culture in fascinating ways. Its stunning architecture of titanium cones instantly put Imiloa on the map when the center opened last year.

Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii

The Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii.

Unfortunately, the Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii hasn’t lived up to expectations, and six staff positions will be cut. The science-based attraction has fallen short of projected attendance figures, posting only 53,000 visitors last year, half the figure that was forecast. The disappointing numbers means the center faces a $282,458 budget shortfall during the current fiscal year. Higher energy costs and less federal funds than expected have contributed to the problem.

To date, 84 percent of the center’s visitors have been Hawaii residents, while the remaining 16 percent are tourists. Travel agents can help shift this ratio so the center meets its attendance goals.

The Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii is presently mounting the traveling exhibit “Cosmic Questions.” The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory exhibit encourages interaction from visitors as they ponder the place of humans in the universal scheme and explore such mysteries as dark matter and black holes. The Smithsonian exhibition will be housed at the center through 2008.

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