Hawaii specialists pick their favorite family resorts

Stand-up paddleboarding at the Westin Kaanapali.
Stand-up paddleboarding at the Westin Kaanapali.

For longtime Valley Isle resident Becky Sparling, the owner of Lahaina-based Maui Vacation Getaways, Maui's Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas have become a home away from home; she and her family of four stay there about four times a year.

"It's always our go-to spot," she said.  

The high-end condo property is just one of many across Hawaii that offer families many residential conveniences you won't find at a standard hotel. And while you might imagine a travel agent would avoid the Westin Kaanapali Villas during high occupancy periods, Sparling said she and her husband and two daughters, ages 6 and 8, have frequently enjoyed stays during the Valley Isle's most popular travel periods.

"We've been there during spring break, and we usually are there every Thanksgiving weekend," she explained. "But it always has such a relaxed feeling. You never feel like the pools are overcrowded, and you don't have to get up at 6 in the morning to stake out chairs or get towels like I've experienced at other resorts."

Perhaps not surprisingly, Sparling also really appreciates that the villas feature full kitchens along with washers and dryers.

"The kitchen is just super convenient with a family," she said. "And if you are used to staying in normal hotels, the villa bathrooms are very large."

A refurbishment totaling more than $8 million wrapped up last year, upgrading kitchen appliances, furniture and bathrooms in roughly half of the Westin Kaanapali Villas' 1,021 units. Upgrades to the remaining rooms are set to begin this fall.  

Sparling described the 2014 improvements as "just beautiful," and when selling the resort to clients, she is quick to point out that guests can take advantage of the villas' range of residential comforts while still enjoying all the benefits of a full-service hotel.

"If you want room service, you can still get it," she said. "If you want to go to one of their many restaurants, that's all right there." 

Pool at the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas.
Pool at the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas.

Another option for families is to trade in a day or two of housekeeping service for a breakfast buffet or other options. But as Sparling noted, with kids, "it is nice to get the room cleaned every day."

And families looking for a wonderful beach to enjoy during a Maui visit will appreciate the Westin Kaanapali Villas' location.

"The majority of the time the beach out front is super family-friendly," she said. "It's really shallow [water], and you can snorkel right out in front."

Kea Lani love

For Debra Stern, a longtime Hawaii seller and travel consultant with San Jose, Calif.-based Peak Travel Group, the all-suite, beachfront Fairmont Kea Lani resort in Wailea, on Maui's southern coast, is another standout for clients traveling with kids.

"I love the Kea Lani because they have the separate bedroom and the large bathroom," she said of the property's all-suite guestroom product. "And if you have one, possibly two children, you can put them on the sofa bed."

Stern noted that the Kea Lani also features 37 multiroom villas, housing full gourmet kitchens; washers and dryers; and expansive outdoor lanai spaces with private plunge pools. And like the Kaanapali Villas, guests staying at the Kea Lani's two-story residential units can take advantage of both full-service hotel and condo perks.

"You can still be in a multiple-bedroom unit, but if you want room service for breakfast or you want to go to the spa, you can," she said. "And the villas all come with daily maid service."  

Work on a three-year, $70 million renovation at the Fairmont Kea Lani finished up this year, including improvements to all 413 suite guestrooms and the villas along with a $5 million overhaul to the property's Ko restaurant and the addition of the 9,000-square-foot Willow Stream Spa.

The overhauled suites bode well for Stern's 2015 family bookings at the property.

"The size of their regular room, and the fact that they are all suites, is a big selling point," she said.

A Kea Lani Villa living room. The all-suite, beachfront resort is in Wailea, on Maui’s southern coast,
A Kea Lani Villa living room. The all-suite, beachfront resort is in Wailea, on Maui’s southern coast,

Aston Kona an affordable option

While the Kea Lani and the Westin Kaanapali Villas offer up an impressive collection of high-end accommodations and amenities for families traveling to Hawaii, the price tag may be out of reach for many. Kea Lani suites start at $559 a night, while a one-bedroom unit at the Kaanapali Villas starts at $622.

For those traveling to the Aloha State with kids and on a budget, Sheryl Graddon, a longtime Hawaii seller who works for Stellar Travel in Bellevue, Wash., often recommends the oceanfront Aston Kona by the Sea, located only minutes from the center of Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii.  

"My favorite selling point about this property is even in a one-bedroom unit there are two bathrooms," she said. "You can put the kids on the sofa sleeper, [and] when you're getting up in the morning, if somebody has the shower on and it's like a sauna, you can go into the other bathroom."

Graddon noted that condo properties like the Kona by the Sea, which offers kitchens and also outdoor barbecue facilities with room rates starting around $265 a night, certainly provide residential convenience to families but can also help travelers save money by allowing them to shop for groceries and make their own meals rather than eating out at restaurants all the time. Plus, condos just offer families more space.

"You'll have a place to come in and sit down that's not on the end of a bed, because there's a dining room table," she said. "You'll just feel like it's a small apartment."  

For families considering a trip to the Garden Isle, another attractive condo property with reasonable room rates, starting around $280 a night, is the Waipouli Beach Resort & Spa Kauai by Outrigger.

"It's a great property for families," said Levi Sanchez, Blue Sky Tours' travel agency engagement manager. "They have spacious one- and two-bedroom units, [and] kids 17 and under stay free."

Located on Kauai's east coast, just south of Kapaa, Outrigger's oceanfront Waipouli Beach Resort is a short walk from the Safeway grocery store and features a terrific pool for kids, covering more than 2 acres and housing all sorts of waterfalls and water slides.

"They also have a lazy river," Sanchez noted. "And the kitchens are state of the art."

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