With so many activities to do together such as visiting Pearl Harbor, snorkeling a marine sanctuary or learning to surf, a family trip to Oahu will result in not only instagram moments to share, but lifelong memories to cherish. To help you decide which hotel rooms to choose (there are over 30,000!), we have narrowed the list down to eight of the best.
Feature image: Disney Aulani Facebook
TIP: Hotel check-in is usually 4pm. Ask for early check-in. Most hotels will oblige.
Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa
Disney’s first resort without an attached theme park, Aulani celebrates Hawaiian culture as well as animated characters in sunny Ko Olina, west of Honolulu. After romping with kids at the ocean lagoon or one of many pools and “splash zones,” adults will appreciate massages at Laniwai Spa or cocktails at the Hawaiian-language-themed ‘Olelo Room. Lodgings range from studios with kitchenette, queen bed and sleeper sofa all the way up to three-bedroom villas that sleep 12.
- Even kids experienced at snorkeling will delight in Rainbow Reef, a 3,800-square-foot private saltwater snorkeling lagoon, although the Waikolohe Pool’s tunnel body slide and Waikolohe Stream’s lazy river or whitewater tubing are tempting as well.
- The complimentary kids club, Aunty’s Beach House, offers culturally themed fun for ages 3 to 12, including a separate zone for tweens.
Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort
This award-winning beachfront property has a prime location in Waikiki near shops and restaurants. Rising above the sands, the 16-story resort has 524 rooms with private lanais and views of Diamond Head and the ocean. The Outrigger is also known for its family-friendly amenities, such as an outdoor pool, in-room child-care and infant sleeping accommodations.
At the ground-floor restaurant, Duke’s Waikiki, live entertainment, including jazz and traditional Hawaiian music, takes place every evening. Fun fact: the name Outrigger was given because this is the original site of the legendary Outrigger Canoe Club, home to famous watermen like Duke Kahanamoku.
- Location, location, location.
- Not only is the oceanfront (with a pool) locale convenient for quick access to the sand and water, but the property is as central as it gets in Waikiki, within walking distance to shops, the Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium.
- The daily resort fee includes fun cultural activities such as lei-making and discounted admission to the Waikiki Aquarium.
Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort
A city unto itself at the western edge of Waikiki, the high-rise compound of Hilton Hawaiian Village includes the iconic Rainbow Tower, named for its 268-foot-high mosaic. The 3,386-room resort’s Friday night fireworks also add color to the sky, but there’s plenty for families to enjoy below, from six pools to Waikiki’s widest stretch of sand; Camp Penguin will also entertain kids ages 5 to 12 for a half or full day, starting at $80.
- The adjacent Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon, named for the surfing legend and Waikiki’s longtime unofficial ambassador, is a great place for kids to try paddleboarding or just splash around without worrying about waves.
- On rainy days or evenings, kids will enjoy access to a PlayStation 3 with unlimited movies and games, included as part of the daily resort fee.
The Kahala Hotel & Resort
A short drive east of Waikiki, the Kahala Hotel & Resort is a mid century-modern beachfront hotel known for its celebrity guests, who enjoy privacy as well as the award-winning spa, dining and live entertainment. Children and adults alike gawk at the dolphins and sea turtles in the lagoon on the secluded 6-acre resort.
- Ages 5 to 12 can participate in the daily Keiki Club ($100 half-day, $125 full), which mixes ocean-themed activities such as reef walks, pole fishing, crab hunting and surfing with Hawaii-inspired arts and crafts.
- The onsite Dolphin Quest programs—from dockside encounters for little ones to “Trainer for a Day” experiences for tween—are unforgettable.
The Royal Hawaiian
A.k.a. “The Pink Palace,” this iconic beachfront property has been welcoming family travelers for generations. Sandwiched between Waikiki Beach (with a private section of chairs and umbrellas) and the Royal Hawaiian Center outdoor mall, which offers free hula and other cultural activities, this property is a win-win for everyone in the family.
- Similar to the neighboring Sheraton Waikiki, the Royal Hawaiian offers two delightful options.
- The tranquil Malulani Pool is steps from the sand, flanked by pink umbrellas and chaise lounges with white tented cabanas to rent.
- Families will love the Helumoa Playground, a sprawling, heated fantasy pool shared with the Sheraton Waikiki that includes a 70-foot water slide, an interactive fountain area for tykes and lounging chairs right in the water.
Courtyard Oahu North Shore
Across the road from the beach, and just a short walk to all the attractions of the Polynesian Cultural Center, this modern, three-story hotel in La‘ie is a great, low-key alternative to driving all the way to the North Shore from Waikiki. Many of its 137 rooms and seven suites have sofa beds as well as a king or pair of queen beds, with connecting rooms available for larger families. There’s a large pool with hot tub and onsite, modestly priced restaurant, but no bar (like the Polynesian Cultural Center, it’s Mormon-owned.)
- Walk across the hotel’s parking lot to enjoy the diverse food trucks—everything from malasadas (doughnut holes), fish tacos, Thai noodles, fish and chips, and mocktails—or hearty island-style restaurant/bakery and shops of the Polynesian Cultural Center’s free-to-enter Hukilau Marketplace.
- During the annual Moanikeala Hula Festival (late August), the hotel lobby becomes a gathering place and performance venue for musicians, hula dancers and craft makers.
Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina
This oceanfront resort, dramatically rebuilt since its former days as a JW Marriott and now neighbor to Disney’s Aulani complex, offers five restaurants, four pools, the expansive six-level Naupaka Spa and Wellness Center, tennis courts and a custom-built wedding chapel. In other words, there’s room for everyone to spread their wings.
- The complimentary Camp Kohola program, open daily for ages 5 to 12 (or younger with parental supervision), includes access to a media room, games room and “Creativity Zone.”
- The Family Pool overlooks an oceanfront lagoon, shallow and calm ideal for young kids or unsteady grandparents and one of four such coves at Ko Olina connected by a public walkway.
Splurge on a poolside daybed or oceanfront cabana to make a family base camp; parents who’d like to take a break can book nanny services.
Turtle Bay Resort
Set on five miles of beach, the 850-acre Turtle Bay Resort is a natural playground on Oahu’s North Shore, just 45 minutes away from Honolulu. The resort offers a variety of water sports plus horseback riding, helicopter tours and even off-road Segway excursions, while awaiting nearby are fruit and shave ice stands, world-class surf breaks, the family-friendly Polynesian Cultural Center and lush Waimea Valley. While there is no structured kids club, there are a number of seasonal and holiday programs for kids as well as year-round family activities.
- Look for sea turtles while snorkeling or kayaking in Kuilima Cove, then enjoy the 80-foot slide and waterfall in the saltwater keiki (children’s) pool.