It’s official: Holidays with Kids readers love Hawaii. When we asked for your experiences of travel to these beautiful islands we were overwhelmed by the response, with so many readers who couldn’t speak highly enough of the natural beauty, family-friendly attractions, great shopping and laid-back vibe! Here’s what you had to say.
Cassandra Denning and her partner cruised from Sydney to Hawaii (via Tahiti) on Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas with their three-year-old. “It took 16 nights to get there and the cruise was awesome. The kids’ club was wonderful!” They then spent 10 days in Honolulu after the cruise before flying home, staying at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, Rainbow Tower. “This was a great hotel for kids because everything is at your doorstep – Waikiki Beach, a lagoon, various swimming pools and hot tubs, plus a super pool with water slides free for hotel guests only! Several restaurants and takeaway places, an ice-creamery, souvenir shopping, and many other stores are all located within the hotel grounds. There are beautiful flower gardens and paths that my daughter loved and lots of animals located in the resort complex that are free to see: flamingos, swans, penguins, turtles, fish, etc, no need to pay for a zoo visit, just take a stroll! My daughter’s favourite part was the flame lighting at dusk every evening, and the Friday night fireworks.”
The Dennings loved eating out and recommend: “Bubba Gump Shrimp Company: Forrest Gump-themed restaurant, awesome prawns done every way you can imagine! Shorebird Broiler: cook your own meat on the barbecue and buffet salad bar, sunset views over ocean, gorgeous bar overlooking the beach. IHOP: kids’ meals, great for families on a budget. Red Lobster: kids’ meals, colouring book and pencils for kids.”
Cassandra says the best things to do with the kids are to “swim, swim, swim. It’s all about pools and beaches really!” She also recommends the shopping, “especially the Disney store & Lego store at Ala Moana Shopping Center and the International Market Place, Waikiki’s markets near Duke’s Lane off Kalakaua Ave. Kids love this treasure trove!”
And for the adults: “Pina Coladas in every flavour you can imagine. My favourites are Lava Flow, with strawberry puree, and Kona Colada, which has Kahlua in it – absolutely divine and available almost everywhere! Hawaii makes the best Pina Coladas because they grow their own super-sweet pineapples on the island.”
Nicole Marjoribanks and her husband took their kids, then aged 20 months and three years, to Hawaii last year. “We did the Pride of America cruise that departed Honolulu and took us to Maui, Kauai, Hilo and Kona. We absolutely loved the convenience of cruising. The family suite on board allowed us room to chill out if needed, have naps and sit on the balcony and let the world float by. There were kids’ pools and meals from a variety of restaurants. We stayed on in Honolulu for a week after our cruise. Finding apartment-style accommodation was difficult with most accommodation being hotel/resort rooms allowing for only three people. We ended up staying in the Courtyard by Marriott in Waikiki. If you can, get a room on the back wing of the hotel to avoid traffic noise. The hotel was a couple of blocks back from the beach but everything was in walking distance.
And she recommends a visit to the Cheesecake Factory: “Heaven sent! The meals are quite big, so be very careful to leave room for dessert – more than 50 flavours of cheesecake! The Waikiki Aquarium is also a great place to visit with the kids. My son got a kick out of feeding the seals and my daughter loved the hands-on touch pools!”
Belinda Alca and her family also recently cruised around Hawaii, “Cruising was a fantastic way to get a taste of Hawaii. We saw Oahu, the big island of Hawaii, Maui and Kauai. Cruising past the lava flowing into the sea at night (Hawaii) and the Na’pali coastline (Kauai) during the day were a highlight for the whole family. The ship sails so both sides have equal opportunity to see.”
In Waikiki, she also recommends the International Market Place, “A souvenir destination for anyone with a big family.” She also suggests taking a walk along Waikiki at dusk, “With the torches lit and the balmy air it was just like a scene from a movie. We discovered the Kamehameha statue and continued along Kuhio Beach Park ‘interacting’ with the bronze statues.”
In Hilo, they arranged a hire car, “we went straight to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. A stop at the visitors’ centre gave us all the information we needed and the kids signed up to be part of the Junior Ranger program. We had fun exploring steam vents, Kilauea’s immense Caldera craters with new vents, walking over old lava flows and through the Thurston Lava Tube and rainforest. We drove all the way to the end of the Chain of Craters Road, or as far as the road closure, and stood on the growing land of lava looking out to the Holei Sea Arch. A big highlight for the kids were the myths and legends associated with the park.”
On Kona, she recommends a visit to Pu’uhonua o Honaunau or the Place of Refuge. “It was not a large site but filled with Hawaiian culture, history and legend, which again we all found fascinating.”
They loved Kauai, “If you’re planning on staying, this is the island for the family who want the laid-back, tropical getaway. We kayaked along the Hule’ia River and were treated with local stories, legends and sites that were used for TV shows and movies. The pace was gentle and we all had a fabulous time. We disembarked and hiked through a private jungle to swim in a secluded waterfall pool. There is a minimum age, but our youngest was seven and able to do this.”
Lynn Atkin says, “My daughter and I have been visiting Hawaii every second year for the last seven years and totally enjoy every minute of it. We have found it to be fantastic and there are so many things to do. We usually stay at the Waikiki Gateway Hotel. It’s not five-star and doesn’t have room service but we are there to enjoy the island not stay inside all day. It is comfortable, a good price, clean, friendly and safe.
One of our favourite things to do is visit the Sea Life Park. It’s a fantastic way to spend a day. You can walk around looking at penguins, seals, stingrays or watch shows and listen to talks or, like we did, swim with the dolphins or sea lions. This is an unbelievable experience. On one visit my daughter, then six years old, held, danced and swam with the dolphins. Other places that are good for children are the Honolulu Zoo and the Children’s Discovery Centre.”
Lara Wylie says that Hawaii is one of her family’s favourite holiday spots, “We’ve been to the North Shore and Oahu several times but last New Year’s added the inter-island cruise for a taste-test of the islands, which was a great way to check them out without the hassle of flying and unpacking.
“On the North Shore we stay at the Turtle Bay Resort, it’s a fantastic spot for a family holiday with surf on one side and a lovely little swimming bay on the other, as well as horse riding, an amazing pool with kiddy area/slide, ukelele and lei-making lessons. Not far from the resort are all of the famous surfing beaches (some with turtles right up on the sand) and a fabulous old-fashioned town called Haleiwa, with galleries, surf shops, restaurants and bars, boutiques. You definitely need to have a car for a north shore holiday as there is about 15 minutes’ drive or so between each attraction.
“Last time we stayed at the Sheraton Waikiki: beachfront, great spot, huge kids’ pool and amazing infinity adult-only cocktail-sipping pool. The kids’ club was fantastic though expensive. It is absolutely spotless with wonderful staff, amazing view, great activities and excursions and caters right from babies. There is late-afternoon entertainment overlooking the beach for sunset, which is great for a cocktail and pupu (snack) while the kids have a dance, then you can just wander out streetside to find great shopping, markets, restaurants and entertainment.”
Lisa Sartori’s family recently returned from Hawaii. “The highlight as a family was climbing Diamond Head on Oahu. What a feeling when you reach the top and see the beautiful view! I would say you need 10 days to do everything. We did everything from shopping, sightseeing, swimming, learning to surf and driving ourselves around the Island. It was the best!”
Lisa Gilchrist went on a family holiday to Hawaii last July, “We had a fantastic time. We spent six nights in Oahu and four nights in Maui. We stayed at the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach. I was totally impressed with this hotel, it had three great restaurants inside, it’s right on the beach and it’s reasonably priced. It’s close to all the main shops and restaurants on the main street of Waikiki.
“A visit to the Dole Plantation was a real highlight. It has a train tour of the pineapple plantation, the largest maze in the world and the best pineapple whip I have ever tasted.
“We also went to Hanuama Bay, a great place for young kids to experience their first snorkel. We hired a surfboard on the main beach of Waikiki, this also was a first experience for our girls to surf on small waves on the main part of Waikiki Beach. We took a tour around the island, hired a mustang convertible and stopped off at different beaches, such as the famous Banzai Pipeline. Shopping at Ala Moana Shopping Center and the Waikele Factory Outlet Mall is a must.
“In Maui, we stayed at the Westin Maui Resort & Spa. Our girls (six and eight) were blown away by the beautiful waterfall and open pond with koi, swans, flamingos and parrots in the foyer. The hotel was relaxing with beautiful pools, waterslides and a grotto. Activities with the kids included an ‘Old Lahaina Luau’, which was amazing and the girls loved the show. We also explored Paia, which was an amazing little town. The shops at Wailea were great for everyone. We took a special tour up to Mt Haleakala, which was also something the girls loved. Ascending to 10,000 feet above sea level early in the morning was an amazing sightseeing opportunity for the whole family. We will definitely go back again and especially with the holidays being at such reasonable prices.”
Annette Hooites was in Hawaii this January. “We travelled as a family of four and stayed on Oahu for our 12-night holiday. We chose to stay in one place as we have hotel hopped previously and only wanted to unpack once this time. We stayed at the Aston Waikiki Beach Tower, which is an apartment hotel opposite Waikiki Beach. This hotel was brilliant; the staff very helpful. Some of the activities we did included swimming with the dolphins at Sea Life Park, a Hummer Movie and Lost Locations tour, having a ride on Segways (great fun!), going on the Atlantis Submarine (a bit disappointing), swimming at Waikiki Beach (a bit cold in January), one-day volcano tour to the Island of Hawaii, surfing, jetskiing and parasailing and shopping.”
Nicola Campbell and her family ventured to Hawaii in March for a holiday. “We stayed at the Aston Waikiki Sunset in a two-bedroom self-contained apartment, which was fabulous. It was only two blocks back from Waikiki Beach and right next door to the Honolulu Zoo – you could hear the lions roaring! It was a great place to stay with a family, with a kitchenette, lounge, two bedrooms, swimming pool and tennis courts. Everything in Waikiki was easily reachable on the frequent trams or buses. We went in the Hawaiian winter; still it was warm and we could swim most days at the beach. Our children Indianna (2) and Jaxon (4) loved building sandcastles and paddling in the ocean. There are man-made reef walls all along Waikiki beach so it was very safe for the kids. We enjoyed visiting the Aquarium and Honolulu Zoo with its great playground and touch farm for the kids. We hopped on the tram, which the kids loved, and got a day pass, which meant we could hop on and off all day. The tram ventured on to the Diamond Head lookout route with awesome views across the Pacific. You then drive into an inactive volcano and can hop off to go hiking up to the great lookouts over Waikiki Beach. The parks in the city and the beaches were outstanding with nice walking paths with ocean views.
“One of the highlights in Waikiki was the Bishop Museum. They had an interactive dinosaur display with life-size motion-sensor dinosaurs, which amazed us and the kids; it was well worth a visit. Head to Aloha Stadium for all your tourist souvenirs, it’s a massive, market-style set-up that goes all the way around the stadium and is very cheap.
“We then made our way to another Hawaiian island, Kauai, for a week. We were blown away. It was stunning, small, all low-level development and very laid-back. We decided to stay on the east shore in one of the many condo-style accommodations. Ours was called Lanikai and it was superb, with all the homely features including books, movies and games. Our balcony overlooked a heated swimming pool and the ocean where we watched dolphins spinning out of the water and whales breaching. We hired bikes and a kiddy trailer and took off on the five-mile-long bike path along the coast with mountains one side and ocean the other and spectacular views. It is a must to hire a car in Kauai as public transport is limited and it is very spread out. “Some of the highlights were heading up to Waimea Canyon (they call it the Grand Canyon of the Pacific), which was spectacular and it is well worth stopping for a look. Of course we made sure we stopped at the Waimea Brewery Company for a cleansing ale and a bite to eat on the way. You can sit out on the wide colonial-style porches while the kids can go wild running around the grassed area safely. We also drove north and spent the day exploring Hanalei Bay, a great snorkelling spot with nice sandy beaches and bat caves. We ate lunch in Kilauea, with nice home-style restaurants and markets. It’s a quaint little town and has nice arty shops to browse through. One of our favourite places to eat was Dukes Canoe Club on the east shore, with a scrumptious buffet upstairs or à la carte menu downstairs, an outstanding cocktail list and views to the beach. We were sad to depart Kauai, it is a really special place.”