As the weather cools down, many families will be looking to make warm-weathered travel plans around their kids’ winter breaks. Hawaii is a popular tourist destination for families in need of sun and relaxation. The island of Oahu has a number of hotel options, and while some hotels may advertise kid friendly amenities, those offers can be misleading. Oyster Hotel Reviews (www.oyster.com) sent a team of undercover reporters to join the kids clubs, separate fact from fiction, and compile a list of the top family friendly resorts on Oahu.
“On Oahu, a family-friendly resort is usually one of two things: A large, amenity-packed mega-resort with kids’ activities and dining options galore or a do-it-yourself, kitchen-equipped condo for longer (albeit no-frills) stays,” says Will Begeny, Senior Editor of Oyster Hotel Reviews. “Our undercover reporters found standouts for both types.”
The largest resort in Hawaii , the amenities-packed Hilton Hawaiian Village has more to offer families than any other property on Oahu . The crowds are big. But if you're willing to make a pre-breakfast detour to stake out chairs by one the resort's four impressive pools -- one is Waikiki 's largest; another has four waterslides -- your kids will be thoroughly entertained. Among the premier attractions are the dozens of species of animals on the grounds, including parrots, penguins, and turtles; the calm, coral reef-protected waters at the beach; and the Friday night fireworks. And what'll you love? A chance for some kid-free relaxation, thanks to the Rainbow Express Keiki Club, which plans field trips to the aquarium or zoo and activities like Hawaiian crafts and sandcastle building, for kids ages five to 12. (And the $90 per day cost is half of the price of Sheraton's kids' club.)
Many families could happily spend their entire vacation on the grounds of this activity-packed resort. The three sprawling, winding pools have waterfalls, a slide, and a basketball hoop. The lagoon beach ocean is calm enough for family snorkeling. Parents can grab some guilt-free time off by enrolling the kids in the hotel's twice-weekly, four-hour "Passport to Fun" sessions. And the hotel runs activities like fish feeding and yarn lei-making every day of the week.
The Sheraton's Helumoa Playground pool, just opened in 2009, is arguably the best -- and kid-friendliest -- pool in Waikiki . A waterslide, sprinkler-like fountains, and tropical landscaping put it on par with some of more elaborate pools at Caribbean resorts. Budget-conscious families will appreciate that kids under 17 stay for free, while parents who want to work some kid-free relaxation into their trip can make use of the Sheraton's superb kids' camp, where certified teachers lead kids on trips to the zoo or aquarium and in activities like lei-making and bodyboarding for $180 a day. One warning: Expect crowds; the 1,636-room Sheraton is the second-largest resort in the area.
The condo-style units in this hotel, which opened in December 2008, are a great choice for families who want to spread out and make themselves at home. The luxurious condo suites have full kitchens with high-end appliances, Bosch washers and dryers, and flat-screen TVs with over 500 digital channels. And guests have access to the oodles of kid-friendly amenities at the adjoining [ Hilton Hawaiian Village ]].
The Marriott is both less expensive and less chaotic than comparable family-friendly mega-resorts like the Hyatt Regency and Hilton Hawaiian Village . It may not have the Hilton's laundry list of kid-friendly amenities, but families won't be sacrificing too much: The two ocean-view pools should keep the kids plenty entertained, and the family-friendly Kuhio section of Waikiki Beach is right across the street. Free rollaway beds for kids under 18.
It's pretty hard to find a kid-friendly activitiy to top the Kahala's Dolphin Quest program, which (for a substantial fee) let's your family interact with the resort's resident dolphins. Even the free sideshow, the hotel's marine life pond, will capture young imaginations with its sea turles, stingrays, and colorful tropical fish. The kids' club is a reasonable $65 a day.
This mega-resort's signature is Aloha Fridays, where performers showcase skills like fire-eating and hula dancing. The kids' camp, for five- to 12-year-olds, is $85 a day and offers activities like crab hunting and boogie boarding.
The Aston Waikiki Beach isn't big on amenities, but the room rates are low, the beach is across the street, and the Honolulu Zoo is a block away. The free poolside breakfast buffet, a step above continental, solidifies its position as one of the island's top budget choices for families.
Families flock to the Ilima Hotel, a standout budget option for do-it-your-selfers with a full kitchen, 24-hour landry room, free parking, and enormous, clean condo-style units. Pretty bare bones in terms of features -- the pool is tiny -- but with the money you'll save, you might just be able to afford a longer trip.