Discovering hidden beaches, eerie lava tubes and insanely good restaurants is all well and fine, but as most people come to realize, they’re even better experiences when they’re shared with our loved ones. Whether you’re planning a family reunion, milestone birthday, bachelorette party or work off-site, we’ve done the homework for you with this list of our favorite hotels on the island of Hawai‘i for group getaways.
Feature Photo: Westin Hapuna Facebook
TIP: Most hotels have 4pm check-in. Ask for an early check-in.
If they can’t accommodate, they will let you store your bags so you can head to the beach!
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
Now marketed as part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel has lost none of its distinctive character that has won it generations of repeat guests, including many family reunions, girlfriend getaways and other group gatherings over the years. A treasury of Asian and Pacific art adorns the airy, mid-century modern main building above a vast green lawn and what is undeniably the Big Island’s best beach. Kauna‘oa Beach, widely called Mauna Kea Beach, has soft white sand, clear waters and, around the rocky points at either end, spectacular marine life. The famous golf course offers similarly gorgeous vistas, as does the resort’s Seaside Tennis Club. Dining options are excellent, and you can also charge meals at the nearby Westin Hapuna (which has the same owners.)
- Spacious rooms with large baths and closets sport a Japanese-inspired aesthetic, with natural wood and lots of the hotel’s signature orange. Take advantage of the free beach services, from lounge chairs to stand-up paddle boards. Don’t miss sunset hula and cocktails at the Copper Bar, or dinner at Manta restaurant, named for the graceful manta rays that can be observed below it at night.
Westin Hapuna Beach Resort
The only hotel along half-mile-long, broad and sandy Hapuna Beach takes its name from the beach and its design inspiration from the water, sand, natural wood and greenery of the Kohala Coast. It has commanding views of the blue Pacific and deep-orange sunsets from its open-air lobby and two guest wings with 294 recently renovated, spacious rooms with Hawaiian-accented contemporary decor.
Terraced gardens with koi and water lily ponds lead to the adults-only infinity pool with roomy hot tub and in-pool lounges; below is the 6,800-square-foot family pool, large enough for a lap swim. Four terrific ocean-view restaurants and cafes, an Arnold Palmer-designed 18-hole golf course, a spa and an enormous fitness studio and CrossFit deli mean you can easily cocoon onsite; a complimentary evening shuttle will bring you to Mauna Kea Beach Hotel for more dining options.
- In calm conditions, look for sea turtles while snorkeling around the rocky point at the northern end of the beach. The resort sets up first-come, first-serve lounges and umbrellas on the northern end of the beach, which is part of a state recreation area that has a concession stand, restrooms and picnic pavilions on the southern end. In calm conditions, look for sea turtles while snorkeling around the rocky point closest to the hotel; you can also pick up a coastal trail there for a scenic, 1-mile hike to Kauna‘oa Beach (a/k/a Mauna Kea Beach.)
One of two hotels on the Mauna Lani Resort, Fairmont Orchid lies on the northern edge, next to one of Hawaii’s largest collection of petroglyphs and 500 acres of kiawe (mesquite) trees, which help produce the hotel’s signature honey. Also sweet to experience are the Spa Without Walls, a series of open-air hales (huts) tucked into terraced gardens with waterfalls; a large oceanfront pool and, nearly hidden by tropical foliage, a roomy hot tub; and some of Kohala Coast’s best dining and drinking.
Numerous water activities, a top-tier tennis complex and onsite luau will keep you busy, but the Shops at Mauna Lani are a short hop away for more distractions. Book a room with Fairmont Gold lounge access for special pampering, including gourmet nibbles and drinks at breakfast and happy hour and dedicated concierge service.
- The upscale, open-air Brown’s Beach House overlooks the Fairmont’s sandy swimming cove, while the casual, thatched-roof Hale Kai sits on the shoreline next to the pool; both make full use of the Big Island’s bountiful seafood, beef and produce. The lively Luana Lounge is perfect for sunset cocktails and the equally vibrant Binchotan, a Japanese-themed bar and grill named for its specially sourced charcoal, is a must-visit oceanfront dining experience.
Lava Lava Beach Club
- Complimentary bikes and stand-up paddle boards are at the ready for you to explore the resort or the bay, while lunch and dinner at the restaurant with your toes in the sand make restoring your energy easy and delicious. Sunsets are gorgeous here, especially accompanied by a cocktail on your private lanai.
Hilton Waikoloa Village
This sprawling fantasy playground with more than 1,000 hotel rooms is not for the weak of heart — even with canal boats and a futuristic tram to shuttle you across the grounds, you can expect to do a fair amount of walking across its 62 acres to experience all its attractions. Top of the list is the 4-acre, protected saltwater lagoon with a private beach, waterfall, tropical fish and sea turtles; since it’s separated from the ocean, it’s a safe place for beginning snorkelers, kayakers and water tricycle riders.
Two of the three large pools are open to families, including one with a 175-foot waterslide and another with a “lazy river” design, with a separate tranquil pool for adults. The humane-certified Dolphin Quest dolphin encounter programs are a big draw too, although you can also just enjoy watching the marine mammals swimming on their own.
- Three towers of rooms (two currently open) offer a variety of views and accommodations for groups of varying sizes, with frequent special packages that help offset the steep resort fees. When you tire of the artificial beach, beautiful ‘Anaeho‘omalu Beach is a very short drive away, with plenty of parking. Restaurant prices are also steep at the Hilton, but luckily many affordable options can be found at the nearby Kings’ Shops and Queen’s Marketplace open-air malls.