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A family getaway to Hawaii is about as good as it gets. Days are filled with white sand beaches lined by turquoise water and palm trees that sway with ocean breezes. Mountains and hills are covered with generous green landscapes. For active family travelers, these elements make for an excellent family vacation. For restful families, it’s also one of the best places to relax.
Oahu is the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands after the Big Island of Hawaii and Maui. On Oahu, the U.S. mainland and the influence of the Pacific Rim countries meld perfectly to showcase Hawaiian culture. Oahu, known as ‘The Gathering Place,’ is the perfect place to bring a family together for a family vacation. Home to world-famous Honolulu, Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, and Pearl Harbor, Oahu’s diversity and energy instantly sets it apart from the neighboring islands.
This lush and welcoming tropical paradise will delight kids of all ages. And yes, their parents, too. We’ve spent many exhilarating family vacations on Oahu swimming, surfing, snorkeling, kayaking, and taking wild rides down many water slides.
Here are our five favorite family-friendly resorts in Oahu in our three favorite regions.
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Waikiki Beach, the Heart of Hawaii
For the majority of families, a Hawaiian vacation is a one-time getaway that has taken several years of saving to afford. Luckily, Waikiki can be affordable for nearly everyone, as there are dozens of hotels in all price ranges. While the family budget may not allow a stay at a hotel that is on the beach, many reasonably priced properties are within a block or two of beautiful stretches of sand.
Waikiki Resort Hotel
The Waikiki Resort Hotel has a convenient location that may be a great option for families on a tighter budget. Featuring 275 rooms and 11 suites in its 19-story tower, guest rooms are comfortable and decorated with a Hawaiian motif. Amenities include blackout curtains, a 48-inch flat-screen TV, a mini-fridge, coffee maker, and an in-room safe. The lanai (balcony) opens to mountain, city, or ocean views.
Kuhio Beach is steps away (less than 5 minutes), making the hotel’s central location perfect for a stroll on the white sand or a swim any time of day. While the Waikiki Resort Hotel does have an on-site restaurant and lounge, dozens of restaurants and shops are within easy walking distance. A swimming pool, paid parking garage beneath the hotel, and free Wi-Fi round out the hotel’s amenities.
If a Waikiki Beach family vacation is in the cards, the Waikiki Resort Hotel is a great option to consider.
Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort
The beachfront 22-acre Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort lives up to its name. Located on Duke Kahanamoku Beach, the resort has an open-air lobby, ponds, waterfalls, and tropical gardens spread throughout five towers. Any of the 2,860 guest rooms would be a treat for family travelers. Splurge for the two oceanfront towers, Ali’i and Rainbow, or save the money to enjoy Balinese or Hawaiian spa treatments at the Mandara Spa, the largest in Waikiki. There are daily yoga and exercise classes, and the fitness center is complimentary for guests. Learn how to hula or make a lei!
Hilton Hawaiian Village has five pools, the biggest of which borders the ocean with 10,000 sq feet of cool water. This hotel has the best water slides in Waikiki. Its five-acre saltwater lagoon offers a myriad of water activities. Kayak or catamaran sail off its private port. Families can choose to surf, snorkel, swim, or stretch out and take a snooze, savoring the comfortable ocean breeze. The village resort has 18 restaurants, lounges, and cafes. Hilton Hawaiian Village is about 3 miles from downtown Honolulu and 8 miles from the airport.
And, when the tropical spirit moves you, make reservations for the whole family to attend the Waikiki Starlight Luau, held under the night sky on the rooftop of the conference center. A family vacation to Hawaii isn’t complete without seeing amazing hula performers and acrobatic fire dancers while savoring authentic Hawaiian cuisine.
Choose from the high-rise Rainbow Tower, many with Pacific Ocean and Waikiki coastline views, the Tapa Collection of renovated rooms set in the heart of ‘the Village,’ or for guests desiring a more private and upscale experience, the Ali’i offers exclusive check-in, business services if you really have to get some work done when vacationing, an elevated pool area, robes, slippers and an in-room Keurig machine.
The Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort is, without a doubt, one of the best family luxury hotels on Oahu.
The Royal Hawaiian Resort Waikiki
Built in 1927, the historic “Pink Palace” Royal Hawaiian Resort Waikiki combines luxury and family-friendly amenities, making it perhaps the best oceanfront hotel in this category. With just 528 rooms and 34 suites, the immaculate grounds and prime beach location in the heart of Waikiki quickly bring guests back to a more relaxed period in time.
While the original Historic Wing doesn’t feature lanais (balconies), the rooms are decorated with traditional Hawaiian elegance and offer stunning garden or ocean views. Spectacular Waikiki Beach, Pacific Ocean, and Diamond Head vistas abound from the lanais at the adjacent 17-story Mailani Tower.
Being kid-friendly and luxurious can be a tough balance, but The Royal Hawaiian excels in this regard, making it one of the best resorts for families. Guests at the Royal Hawaiian, in addition to enjoying the quiet and intimate Malulani pool on-site, receive access to the Sheraton Waikiki’s popular “Helumoa Playground” family pool with multiple waterslides. Helumoa, which also has a children’s pool and hot tub, is located between the two hotels. (This does not include the use of the Sheraton’s adults-only infinity pool, but you have kids with you anyway.)
Fun and educational resort activities for the entire family include ukulele lessons, introductory hula lessons, ribbon lei making, shell/kukui lei bracelet making, haku bracelet making, flower lei making, and a daily Royal Hawaiian Historical Tour. For added fun, there’s an introduction to paddleboarding class, as well as morning yoga on the beach.
Twice weekly, The Royal Hawaiian presents its version of a luau named “Ahaaina, A Royal Celebration.” Having been built on sacred grounds, travelers staying at the hotel and throughout Waikiki come to feast on traditional Hawaiian dishes while performers sing and dance hula interpretations about local history and royalty. The entire family will enjoy this performance and meal.
Additional Royal Hawaiian amenities include three restaurants, a lounge, and the famous Royal Hawaiian Bakery cafe featuring their family-favorite banana bread, plus a variety of desserts.
The Abhasa Spa is the only full-service spa on Oahu that offers its treatments outdoors in a relaxing garden setting.
Centrally located in Waikiki, The Royal Hawaiian is in the heart of the action when it comes to shops and restaurants. Kalakaua Avenue runs the length of Waikiki and is right out the front door of the hotel. Browse for Hawaiian shirts and hats, pick up chocolate-covered macadamia nuts to take home, and grab a quick lunch in a local dining spot. Bonus: The Honolulu Zoo is about a mile away!
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‘Ko Olina’ on the Leeward Coast
Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa
A great place for Disney fans is a Hawaiian vacation to the all-encompassing Aulani Resort on Oahu’s Leeward Coast. A truly luxurious experience, a stay at the Aulani is all the extras to be immersed in a Disney-styled Hawaiian escape.
Situated on 21 oceanfront acres, it’s hard to imagine that you are on the same island as Honolulu and Waikiki. Lush, tropical plants and the Pacific Ocean are the primary points of reference and the two primary hotel towers.
This once-sacred area where Hawaiian monarchs came for relaxation has been transformed into a family vacation area that, in typical Disney fashion, doesn’t appear to be missing anything. “Ko Olina” translates to “Place of Joy,” and kids of all ages are bound to be all smiles when they come across famous Disney characters, including Mickey, of course, at various locations around the resort.
So what is it that makes the Aulani Disney Resort one of the best hotels in Oahu? Let’s start with 351 tropically decorated hotel rooms and 16 suites. Add 481 Disney Vacation Club one, two, and three bedrooms villas to the mix for even more lodging options. On top of all of this, there are 19 Grand Villas with room for the whole clan!
When the time comes for dining, and you will get ravenous after a day of fun activities like swimming or a round of golf, Aulani is home to two restaurants, three lounges, and an assortment of quick dining spots. If staying fit is important for you, the 24-hour fitness center has top-of-the-line equipment to maintain that beach physique. And when it comes time for pampering, Disney’s Laniwai Spa offers a full range of massages and makeovers with a serene outdoor lounge area to enjoy when the treatments conclude.
Disney pulls out all of the stops for the kids, as you might expect. Aunty’s Beach House is their FREE kids club for ages 4-12. And over at Painted Sky: HI Style Studio, boys and girls ages 3-12 can choose a new, fun, island-style look. Packages are available for purchase, including surfer and mermaid hairstyles.
Hey! You haven’t said anything about swimming. Saving the best for last, Disney’s Aulani Resort may be the best family-focused resort on Oahu. Within an easy stroll are five pools, some with water slides, plus a private beach. The Ka Maka Grotto infinity pool and Keiki Cove Splash Zone are both family favorites, and the Menehune Bridge is designed for the little ones, offering two slides and a kid’s play structure. Hop into the lazy river and let the gentle current wisk you around.
As if all of this isn’t enough, there are pool parties with Disney characters, guided nature walks and scavenger hunts that the whole family can enjoy together, ukulele and hula lessons, and at sunset each evening, traditional and modern Hawaiian live music is performed by local musicians.
There’s so much to see and do at Aulani that time spent in your room or villa will probably be fleeting. But rest assured that when you are ‘at home’, the comfortable Hawaiian-style furnishings complete with Disney touches, will make for a relaxing home base. Morning coffee or dessert on your private lanai allows for a quiet time enjoying the sights and sounds of the area.
For a premium Disney vacation away from Los Angeles that includes the ocean, mountains, a luau, Hawaiian entertainment, and a probable visit by Mickey Mouse and friends, you can’t go wrong at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa.
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Oahu’s North Shore
Turtle Bay Resort
This sprawling resort on Oahu’s North Shore is a family adventurer’s paradise. Twelve miles of hiking and biking trails and a private beach are some of the easily accessible fun. Minutes from the Polynesian Culture Center and close to famed surf breaks Pipeline and Waimea Bay, families can choose to jump in and try to hang ten or watch others try.
Featuring 408 guest rooms and 42 villas, Turtle Bay Resort offers ocean view rooms, luxury suites, ocean club rooms, bungalows, and villas.
Splash and play at the resort’s four pools, including the Main Resort Pool, an adults-only pool, the Ocean Bungalows Pool, and a Kekei (kids) pool that includes fun slides and plenty of shallow water for the youngsters.
Less than an hour’s drive from the Honolulu International Airport (37 miles), we do recommend renting a car during your stay. Many guests plan to explore the nearby state parks in addition to ‘The Seven Mile Miracle,’ a renowned stretch of beach with 36 surf breaks along the route.
A family trip to Oahu is as good as it gets. Days are filled with white sand and turquoise water. See our 5 fav family resorts in Oahu.
The ‘Miracle’ starts at Haleiwa Beach Park to the south of Turtle Bay and continues all the way to Sunset Beach in the north. Vans Triple Crown of Surfing is held here annually. While peak surfing season runs from November through March with swells reaching an incredible 50 feet, surfing and lessons are available year-round in the smaller breaks.
One of the best vantage points to watch travelers during surfing lessons is on the resort’s pool deck, where spectators can sip their favorite beverage while taking in the local scenery. The mesmerizing daily sunsets are something you won’t soon forget.
The vast array of Turtle Bay Resort’s amenities includes a flower lei greeting upon arrival and seven quiet beaches within easy walking distance. Each guest receives daily use of the resort’s cruiser bikes for 45 minutes, free of charge. Be sure to make reservations when you arrive.
Like so many others, maybe you’ve dreamed about horseback riding while in Hawaii. At Turtle Bay Resort, it’s easy to turn this into reality, as “The Stables” are here, on the property, for lessons and group riding excursions. Strolling on the beach on horseback in Hawaii is something family travelers will never forget.
In addition to the four sparkling pools with mesmerizing ocean views, treat yourself to some relaxation at the Nalu Spa, or a daily workout at the 24/7 Fitness Center.
Golfers rejoice! The Turtle Bay Resort is home to two 18-hole championship golf courses, including the “Arnold Palmer Course,” the top-rated course on Oahu. “The Breaks Putting Course” is the place to practice your short game. (Guests of the resort receive preferred rates at all courses.)
And to top it off, the daily resort fee includes a bucket of range balls each day, daily admission to a fitness center exercise class, a very necessary umbrella, chairs, plus the use of beach toys and boogie boards at Kuilima Cove.
During your visit, don’t miss “Paniolo, A Hawaiian Cowboy Luau,” presented each Wednesday evening at Turtle Bay’s The Stables. With the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop, watch as local performers celebrate Hawaii’s cowboy and ranching heritage with music and dancing. Your keiki (kids) will have the opportunity for a pony meet-and-greet, as well as hula lessons. The dining options range from roasted pig to vegetarian dishes.
As the North Shore’s only full-service resort, Turtle Bay is clearly the best family destination in this area of Oahu. The beaches here are uncrowded, making them an attractive habitat for Oahu’s wildlife. Snorkelers might swim upon sea turtles. The Hawaiian Monk Seal, a critically endangered marine mammal, is seen here occasionally. The entire resort is located within the 1,600 square mile Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, so breeding, calving, and nursing of these massive animals is protected within its boundaries.
When You Go
Getting To Oahu from Los Angeles
Daily nonstop flights to Honolulu International Airport are available from two Los Angeles area airports. From Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), there is direct service via Hawaiian Air, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines. Airfares are very competitive, so do shop around.
Hawaiian Air also flies nonstop to Honolulu from Ontario International Airport (ONT) in San Bernardino County.
Flight time is approximately five and a half hours each way.
An excellent discount site for flights (and cars, hotels) is Expedia! This is where we start our research for the best deals!
If you’d like to be in the know for exclusive discounts to fly anywhere in the world, check out Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights). Their website shows current deals, and they send emails when they find crazy cheap discounts. Some can even be booked with points.
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