What makes the best pool for an adult getaway or a family vacation? The swimming-tinged analogy “different strokes for different folks” holds one clue. Some grownups may never dip their toe in the water, but appreciate a dazzling view from a chaise lounge, solicitous service to their poolside cabana, or the adults-only indulgence of a swim-up bar. Kids, meanwhile, may be just as delighted with an old-fashioned kidney-bean pool as with a resort complex boasting slides, waterfalls, fountains and more.
Here are some of our favorites in popular Hawaii destinations that appeal to a variety of ages in a range of price points. C’mon in, the water’s fine.
Feature Photo: Hotel Hanalei Bay
With the warm Pacific Ocean lapping at the Hawaiian Islands, some may wonder if a pool needs to be part of their vacation plans. Our advice: Absolutely. Storms may bring rough waves, muddy waters and beach debris, while sightings of critters from jellyfish to tiger sharks may occasionally prompt beach closures. Plus, you’re more likely to have access to a cooling cocktail or shave ice while lounging by a pool — not to mention soaking in a hot tub after an ocean swim or surf session can be wonderfully restorative. Among the best, by island:
Not surprisingly, Disney’s Aulani resort pulls out all the stops, with nine different pool and whirlpool experiences, including a lazy stream and fully enclosed saltwater lagoon with reef fish. Its West Side neighbor, however, Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina, has the best adults-only pool, including heavenly cabanas, a view of fiery sunsets over the ocean and the Dr. Mai Tai swim-up bar.
On the North Shore, the sprawling Turtle Bay Resort beckons with three terraced pools — including a keiki (children’s) pool with two water slides and an adult pool with in-water loungers — plus an infinity-edge pool exclusive to the resort’s Ocean Bungalows.
In Waikiki, Prince Waikiki boasts an adults-only, crescent-shaped infinity pool and compact, all-ages saltwater pool perched high above sailboats in the marina. The best (and busiest) family pool in Waikiki: Helumoa Playground shared by the Royal Hawaiian and Sheraton Waikiki.
The multilevel pools of Poipu’s Grand Hyatt Kauai are grand indeed, with a 150-foot waterslide, a lazy river passing by waterfalls and caves, and a sand-entry saltwater lagoon; adults can avail themselves of a quiet pool, too. Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, also features a large, tiered fantasy pool plus two other well-landscaped smaller pools (one just for adults). On the North Shore, the new eco-luxury oasis of 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay makes the most of its spectacular ocean and mountain views with an idyllic adult infinity pool, shallow keiki pool and main pool just off the beach. The more moderately priced Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort sports a gorgeous “zero edge” pool with in-water loungers, children’s zone and hot tub.
The Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, set the bar for fantasy pools when its massive complex opened in 1991, including numerous waterfalls, streams, saltwater lagoons and the world’s first water elevator. For something family-friendly but less frenetic, the Wailea Beach Marriott offers the Nalu Adventure Pool with large cabanas and four slides, among them a 425-foot exhilarator that’s Maui’s largest, plus an adults-only infinity-edge pool with overwater cabanas and two more all-ages pools with whirlpool spas. The intimate, adults-only Hotel Wailea also provides a chic retreat with the island’s best poolside cocktails.
In Kaanapali, the Sheraton Maui and Westin Maui resorts both vie for attention with elaborate oceanfront pool options. Those on a budget, though, will appreciate the retro whale-shaped pool at neighboring Kaanapali Beach Hotel. For a more luxurious vibe and tranquil setting, the newly renovated Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua, and Montage Kapalua Bay to the north fit the bill. The Ritz-Carlton’s sprawling, triple-tiered pool is open 24 hours, for those who like a midnight dip.
All eyes will be on Kona Village, a Rosewood Resort, when the newly remodeled and rebranded ultraluxe compound (closed since 2011) debuts in July, with four pools among its amenities. Four Seasons Resort Hualalai remains the exemplar for a pool for every purpose: Among its eight swimming holes are a four-lane lap pool and the King’s Pond saltwater lagoon with more than 1,000 tropical fish, a new elevated pool and lounge deck.
On the Kohala Coast, the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort offers in-water loungers and a large whirlpool at its adult infinity-edge pool, set above the larger family pool with a shallow kids’ area and lots of green lawn for spreading out. With more affordable room rates, Hilton Waikoloa Village provides the most bells and whistles in its two family pools — one the largest on the island — such as a rope bridge and multiple slides; there’s also a small, secluded adult pond.