Make a date with the 50th state this winter. Conde Nast Traveler contributor Ondine Cohane shares her take on five very different Oahu hotels, from a sceney boutique sleep that will score you cool points with your teens, to an all out megaresort romp on the beach.
- Go for a room in the newer tower for the best views and decor; the ones ending in 00 secure a terrace.
- All room types come with some connecting rooms. For example, a King option next to an option with two beds.
- The Royal Hawaiian Suite is one of our favorites; the pink and blue bedrooms exemplify the property's old school but pleasing vibe.
- A pink palace of a building that calls to mind the Beverly Hills of Waikiki.
- Whirring fans, open-air public spaces, and a low-key vibe provide a welcome alternative to the crowds of Waikiki.
- The new Mailani Tower provides a hotel-within-a-hotel vibe, with its own check-in, concierge and private lounge.
- Pool is adults-only, but kids can use the adjacent Sheraton pool with its slides and whirlpools.
- Since the hotel has one of the best addresses on the beach, there’s a lot of foot traffic in addition to guests staying on property.
- Prices are higher than at most of the neighboring hotels, and expect extras costs for things like a cabana or parking.
- The sunset cocktails at the Mai Tai bar come with virgin options for the kiddies, and luau show.
- Kids Eat Free program at designated Starwood restaurants and kids menus.
- Hypo-allergenic soaps and amenities designed just for children.
THE MODERN HONOLULU
- Oceanfront suites are perfect for parents traveling with a baby as they are spacious enough for a crib and play area (plus the separate bedroom allows more privacy for parents).
- Most rooms have showers only, so if you need a tub for bath time, request one in advance on booking.
- For bigger families or when traveling with teenagers, the two-bedroom suites have offer extra space, with two double beds and a second bathroom.
- One of the only stylish boutique options on the islands, in the heart of Waikiki but with more of a South Beach vibe.
- Airy, mostly white interiors are a welcome change from Hawaii kitsch.
- Chic facilities include a day spa, two beautiful pools, an outpost of Morimoto and a lobby bar that’s perfect for grown-ups when the young set are with a sitter.
- The hotel can become a little “nightclub in the lobby” after dark, so if that atmosphere is off-putting, look elsewhere.
- There is no designated kids club, so this might be a better option for older children.
- Pools and bars are separated into adults-only and family spaces, which can feel a little like being left out of the cool crowd.
- Location, location, location: In the heart of Waikiki close to shopping, beaches and the surf line, but with a much more intimate vibe than the bigger resorts.
- Video games, iPads and iPods on request, and delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies are available daily.
- The fresh design without the plethora of leis and aloha.
- Good for families, one-bedroom parlor suites sleep up to five guests and have full or partial ocean views, plus 764 square feet of space, kitchenettes (mini fridges, coffee makers, bar sinks), private porches or balconies, and one-and-a-half baths.
- All double rooms have connecting options.
- Standard rooms start at 382 square feet and can sleep up to four guests in two double beds, but secure your ocean view in advance as many overlook the conference center or car park.
- Disney’s $80-million resort that’s devoted to Hawaiian culture.
- Set around the calm and beautiful lagoons of Ko Olina, about 40 minutes from Waikiki.
- Amenities include a huge outdoor pool complex with interlocking areas that include water slides and a lazy river for inner tubing.
- If you want to explore Oahu, the resort is quite far from other sights, and the traffic into Honolulu can be tantrum inducing at any age.
- The food at the four restaurants is uninspiring for the price.
- Views of the parking lot from standard rooms aren’t really island-idyllic.
- The resort’s promise to educate kids on the islands’ culture is genuine: We loved the native storytelling around the fire pit and the accessible history laid out in the lobby with drawings and text.
- Apart from a meet and greet with Mickey and Minnie, the resort feels more five-star than theme park.
- Activities appeal to both young and old. The fabulous spa will distract grown-ups and teens, and water sports and amenities abound for the younger set.
- A recent $25.5 million renovation of Alii tower has given even standard rooms more luxury touches and a designated concierge.
- Rooms in the Rainbow Tower have epic views over Diamond Head and the ocean, as well as various bedroom configurations to suit families of different sizes.
- From roll away beds to special requests for younger babies, it’s best to get it all ironed out in advance, as such a large property needs a paper trail.
- Sprawling resort right in the heart of Waikiki, with 22 acres of beachfront grounds.
- Amenities garlore: 20 restaurants, five pools, a five-acre lagoon, and a ton of activities both on site and in neighboring Waikiki.
- Well-priced option for families on a budget or with a big group.
- Half- and full-day programs at Camp Penguin (for five to 12 year olds) gives you serious downtime for yoga or spa treatments.
- Five pools, including the 10,000-square-foot super pool, a five-mile long lagoon, and long beachfront provide hours of entertainment.
- A full menu of activities like the luau and beachside dinners means you aren’t on constant call to plan distractions.
- If you aren’t a fan of cookie cutter hotels, the size and crowds might be a turn off.
- The constant activity can sometimes make the resort feel like a Carnival cruise come ashore.
- Added costs, from a $20 firework show to internet access, can make one feel nickel and dimed.
- Ocean villas sleep up to ten, have a washer and dryer, and working kitchens that are perfect for larger or multi-generational families.
- Standard rooms offer enough room for smaller families and there are plenty of suites with connecting double options.
- Family packages allow for more days at the resort, and included activities in the price.
- A large resort that’s the gateway to Oahu’s North Shore, one of the most beautiful areas in all of Hawaii.
- A recent $45 million renovation and new beach cottages have given the whole resort new sparkle.
- The hotel has five miles of its own beachfront for water sports and family activities.
- It’s a drive to the rest of the Oahu.
- If the weather is bad, the resort’s outdoor focus means there isn’t a lot to do.
- You will eat most of your meals on property, which might feel limiting after stays of more than a few days.
- An outpost of the excellent Hans Hedemann surf school which gets kids up on a board in no time.
- Access to the North Shore’s pristine coastline and charming low-key towns like Haleiwa.
- The menu of family-friendly activities is encyclopedic: horseback riding, snorkeling, hiking, stand up paddle boarding, humpback whale watching are only some of the things on offer.