There are several thousand hotel rooms, condos and vacation rental homes on the island of Hawai‘i ideal for a family vacation, but these resorts in particular offer great beachfront or oceanfront locations, and in some cases truly spectacular pools, as well as opportunities for cultural and educational activities for kids. Here are our favorites, from Kailua-Kona heading north to the Kohala Coast:
Feature Photo: Marriot Waikoloa Facebook
TIP: Most hotels have 4 pm 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!
Outrigger Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay
This multi-wing hotel with open-air corridors spreads across 22 acres like one of the graceful manta rays that visit neighboring Keauhou Bay and can be spotted from the hotel grounds. Snorkeling and seasonal whale-watching cruises as well as a new water taxi to Kona that includes a cultural tour also depart from Keauhou Harbor, where King Kamehameha III was born. You’ll have a hard time getting kids to depart from the oceanfront fantasy pool with a spiraling lava tube waterslide and a large, shallow portion with a sandy bottom and fountain play area.
Keauhou Bay Adventures will set you up with ocean gear to take advantage of the small beach by the pier just north of the hotel or other spots like nearby Kahalu‘u Beach, a premier destination for snorkelers and surfers. Kids will enjoy the fire dancing that caps the energetic luau held under the stars as well as lunch from the poolside restaurant.
- Kids will enjoy the fire dancing that caps the energetic Haleo Luau, held under the stars. Currently closed, the vibrant dining outlet Rays on the Bay is expected to reopen post-pandemic; some of Kona’s best sushi, pizza, and other dining choices lie a short drive uphill at the Keauhou Shopping Center.
Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel
King Kamehameha the Great claimed the best sand beach on Kailua Bay for his royal compound; in protected Kamakahonu Cove, warm salt water mixes with cooling freshwater springs before entering broad Kailua Bay. A small heiau (temple) and reconstructed thatched huts mark where he gathered with advisors; his legacy is also present throughout the freshly renovated, 452-room hotel. This is also Ironman World Championship headquarters every October, with the race starting at adjacent Kailua Pier and ending just in front of the hotel. Kids will enjoy splashing in the ocean-view infinity-edge pool.
The ground floor has a wealth of conveniences, including the best shave ice on the island, a coffee shop (with Kona coffee, of course), day spa, fitness center, yoga studio, convenience/gift store and Honu’s on the Beach, a resort-quality restaurant with more affordable prices. Dozens more shops and restaurants line nearby Ali‘i Drive, also home to a historic church and summer palace open to visitors
- The friendly staff at the Kona Beach Boys concession will help the family get in the ocean with all kinds of gear. Afterwards, enjoy lunch or dinner with a view from Billfish Poolside Bar & Grille. Sunset, snorkeling and seasonal whale-watch cruises depart regularly from Kailua Pier. The oceanfront luau is entertaining and reflects the area’s history, starting with a royal procession that arrives by outrigger canoe.
Four Seasons Hualalai
Everything is exceptional here, from the newly renovated, subtly island-inspired guest rooms and the exquisite sushi and steaks at ‘Ulu Ocean Grill to guests-only amenities such as the enormous, indoor-outdoor spa with apothecary treatments and the championship golf course. Families will love the multiple pools, including a sandy-bottomed one with miniature lounges just for kids, as well as the complimentary Kids for All Seasons program and seasonal Camp Manitou offerings. Occupancy for most rooms is just three, though, so larger families may want to consider renting a townhome or house on the Hualalai Resort, which typically come with hotel privileges (confirm before booking).
- In addition to the Keiki (Children’) Pool, the infinity-edge Sea Shell Pool is designed for families with oversized daybeds and shade from thatched-roof palapa. Snorkeling amid rays and tropical fish in the saltwater-fed, carefully monitored King’s Pond is a magical experience. Next to the pond, enjoy a new infinity-edge pool and Kumu Kai Marine Center, offering educational all-ages sessions about the island’s sea creatures.
Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
Two historic and picturesque fish ponds are all that lie between you and the golden crescent of ‘Anaeho‘omalu Beach at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. Snorkeling, swimming and paddle-boarding are typically good here year-round, with catamaran and glass-bottom boat cruises leaving right from the beach. Three island-style pools, including one with a water slide, offer ocean views and recreation on rare occasions when the surf is too rough.
Rooms are not overly large, but comfortable with cooling white, ocean-blue and gray tones. (if you want more space, plus a kitchenette and dining area, just book a suite in Marriott’s Waikoloa Ocean Club, which occupies another wing of the hotel.) Dining options are serviceable, but you also have a wealth of restaurants as well as shops, groceries and movie theaters within walking distance at the Queens’ Marketplace and Kings’ Shops open-air shopping centers.
- The oceanfront Sunset Luau is one of the best on the island, with an inviting atmosphere, delicious cuisine and spirited dancers. The beachfront concessionaire offers kayaks, hydrobikes, standup paddleboards, boogie boards and snorkel gear to rent, plus Hawaiian Ocean Sports concessionaire, plus all sunset, whale-watching and snorkeling cruises.
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 for kids 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. 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 families of varying sizes, with frequent special packages that help offset the steep resort fees. If kids 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.
Mauna Lani, an Auberge Resort
Until this year, few people have had a chance to experience Auberge Resorts’ stunning transformation of the former Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows, which debuted just before the pandemic hit. Two beautiful new pools — one just for adults — plus a sandy-entry one for kids beckon next to a beach renowned for sea turtle sightings; friendly, knowledgeable staff will give snorkeling lessons, take older kids on outrigger canoe rides or lead e-bike tours of the wider Mauna Lani resort.
Rooms have an understated but chic decor, while the soaring lobby spaces have become inviting, open-air living rooms infused with tropical greenery. The poolside HaLani, Ha Bar & Grill and Surf Shack food truck provide delicious kid-friendly dining options, as does the nearby Market deli/cafe/gift shop.
- The Holoholo Kids Crew offers indoor and outdoor cultural and recreation programs for ages 5 to 12; in summer, specially themed camps are also available on designated weeks for ages 5 to 13. Don’t miss one of the frequent cultural experiences offered by the resort’s revered expert, Danny Akaka Jr., who also supervises the long-running monthly concert and storytelling series (virtual during the pandemic era) amid the resort’s historic, oceanfront fish ponds.