The Big Island & Oahu: Visiting Two Family Friendly Resorts in Hawai'i

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Advisor - Laura Allen
Curated By

Laura Allen

  • Big Island

  • Oahu

  • Hawai'i

  • Arts & Culture

  • Food & Wine

  • Family Travel

  • Relaxation

  • History

  • Island

The Big Island & Oahu: Visiting Two Family Friendly Resorts in Hawai'i
Curator’s statement

Hawai'i is such a magical destination that’s hard to describe until you’ve visited. The islands have a rich cultural history, amazing local food and stunning topography -- it definitely does not feel like the US. If you’ve got the time, I’d recommend checking out two islands as flights between islands are inexpensive and quick. I visited the stunning Turtle Bay on the north shore of Oahu and the enchanting Mauni Lani on the Big Island (Hawai’i) and fell in love with both properties.

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Where to stay

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Turtle Bay

Turtle Bay is an iconic hotel that opened in 1979 and was completely renovated in 2021. Located on the north shore of Oahu, the property is about an hour from Honolulu and the airport. It is in a unique position on a peninsula, so almost all of the 400 rooms have ocean views either to the wild waves of the bay or the sandy cove of the beach club. The contemporary open air lobby features a beautiful infinity edge fountain with lots of nooks for lounging, enjoying live music, or indulging in a drink from the lobby far. Beyond the lobby are three tiers of oceanfront pools: at the top is the adults only infinity pool and hot tub lined with cabanas, then the kids lagoon with two small slides and then the large family pool at the bottom. The rooms are located in three towers and range from peek-a-boo ocean rooms (resort rooms) to stunning ocean view rooms with lanais and open concept suites. For guests who want to be a bit removed from the hustle and bustle of the towers, the bungalows are located adjacent to the hotel along a short path and have a quiet adults only pool. These rooms have beautiful terraces that are as close to the ocean as you can get in Hawai'i - you might recognize the terraces from the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The property has one signature restaurant, a cafe, and poolside dining as well as a Roy’s at the beach club. There’s also an exclusive ocean club lounge that can be added for a more all inclusive experience - the lounge serves breakfast, lunch, and a light dinner with unlimited drinks after 5:30 p.m. The hotel has a lovely spa with an oceanfront relaxation area, gym and fitness classes, and a kids club that will be unveiled in summer 2024.

A sunset over the water next to the beach

Image 1: A Turtle Bay Sunset ; Image 2: A king bungalow room at Turtle Bay

A round seating area next to a beach during the daytime

Image 1: View from the Turtle Bay lobby bar ; Image 2: One of the five big island volcanoes

Mauna Lani

Mauna Lani is an Auberge property that was renovated and reimagined in 2020. The property is located 30 minutes outside of Kona on a quiet stretch of the big island’s west coast. The resort features a large family pool set in a grassy oceanfront lawn that invites families to frolic. There’s also a serene adults only pool overlooking one of the many fish ponds. The food really stands out at Manua Lani with the open air, oceanfront Canoe House being the star. There’s also a Surf Shack serving lunch and poolside drinks and the adorable Ha Lani that serves a lovely breakfast (included as a perk!), lunch, and dinner. For families, there’s a complementary kids club, a sandy-bottom ‘beach’ pool for toddlers, and snorkeling gear. A spa, indoor-outdoor gym, market, retail shops, two golf courses, and an excursions desk round out the property. The rooms are cozy and stylish with boho coastal decor and lovely views even from partial ocean view rooms. For guests wanting a bit more space, there are five two bedroom villas with an array of perks and private pools. The staff from the general manager to the excursions guides to the wait staff will make you feel like family by the end of your trip!

Aerial view of a group of green lawns with a building in the middle during the daytime

Image 1: The signature Canoe House Restaurant at Mauna Lani ; Image 2: The family pool at Mauna Lani

An outside seating area under a large tree

Image 1: The Surf Shack at Mauna Lani ; Image 2: Farm-to-table food at Canoe House, Mauna Lani

Both Oahi and the big island offer endless outdoor activities making them a wonderful choice for families and multi-generational vacations. Both properties lie in a humpback sanctuary, so you’ll likely see whales if visiting between January and March - I’ve never seen so many whales in my life and was completely in awe! There’s also snorkeling with sea turtles, surfing lessons, fishing excursions, hiking, and biking. Turtle Bay is the larger of the two properties with over 1300 acres, seven beaches and activities such as horseback riding, an organic farm visit, and hula dancing. If you must do one thing, absolutely do not miss the sunrise canoe experience at Mauna Lani!

Need to Know

Mauna Lani offers a slightly more elevated and quiet experience for anyone wanting to take a deep breath. Turtle Bay will keep you busy and makes a good base for anyone wanting to see the sights of Oahu such as Pearl Harbor, Waikiki and the local food trucks. These two hotels make a wonderful combination together!

This trip report is part of our ongoing series on travel to Hawai'i. In need of further inspiration? Check out Anne Bisgaard’s guide, The Big Island of Hawai’i.

Advisor - Laura Allen

Travel Advisor

Laura Allen

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