Attractions, resort activities take families beyond the beach

The renovated Wailea Beach Resort features a game room with foosball, pool tables and arcade games.
The renovated Wailea Beach Resort features a game room with foosball, pool tables and arcade games.

Families are flocking to Hawaii in record numbers, and with the majority being repeat visitors, the timing is great to explore some new and off-the-beaten-path offerings on the Islands.

From 2011 to 2015, the number of family arrivals from the U.S. mainland had increased by 50%, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

In terms of total visitors, Hawaii has set a lot of records recently. Yet as a percentage of total visitors, families continue to grow. In 2015 families accounted for 26% of all air visitors, up from 20% in 2011.

More than two-thirds, 71%, had visited Hawaii before, and their travel was centered on Oahu, with 62% staying on Hawaii's most populated island.

This adds up to families seeking something new to do on their next trip to the Islands.

One way to mix it up is for families who are used to sticking to Oahu to stay on a different island.

"Each island offers different activities and appeals to different age groups," said Robyn Basso, senior director of travel industry partnerships at the Hawaii Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It's a fairly easy destination for families. They can experience a different culture but still have all the conveniences of U.S. travel. There's no language barrier and no currency exchange."

More than ever, families are looking to experience only-in-Hawaii activities and events and break away from the typical "sun, surf and sand," Basso said.

"People are coming who want to connect with the beauty of Hawaii and its unique sense of place and culture," she said.

For families looking to shake things up and break out of their Hawaii routine, there are new and recently renovated properties to consider and new adventures and activities to experience. Here are some of the highlights.

The Four Seasons Maui offers Unforgettable Experiences, including a helicopter ride to the Island of Hawaii for a Kona coffee tour.
The Four Seasons Maui offers Unforgettable Experiences, including a helicopter ride to the Island of Hawaii for a Kona coffee tour.


The Wailea Beach Resort Marriott: This resort recently finished a $100 million renovation built around the centerpiece of its Nalu Adventure Pool. It includes four slides, the tallest of which measures 325 feet, or more than five stories high. There is an interactive "splash zone" with water guns, spraying sea-mammal sculptures and other water features as well as a serenity pool for the parents. There is also a gaming area with billiards, foosball, shuffleboard, vintage video games and a 60-seat movie theater.

Hilton Waikoloa Village: This family-friendly resort on the Island of Hawaii, which features three pools and an ocean-fed snorkeling lagoon, is offering special spring break activities this year. The promotion runs from March 18 to April 15 and includes outdoor laser tag, remote-control car racing and an advanced hunting and marksmanship arcade simulation called Laser Shot. These spring break activities are available in addition to the resorts' other programming, which includes the Legends of Hawaii Luau.

Four Seasons Maui: For the luxury traveler, the recently revamped resort offers exceptional service, including dedicated assistants for each suite. That means a family looking for adventure can craft its own experience and then let the assistants go to work figuring out how to make it happen. Use one of the resorts' preplanned Unforgettable Experiences, including a helicopter trip to tour a Kona coffee farm on the Island of Hawaii, nature and underwater photography excursions and a private evening at the resort's secluded serenity pool. You can also tailor your own adventure.

Koloa Landing Resort: This new addition to Marriott's Autograph Collection is scheduled to open on Kauai this month. The 21-acre resort is offering a variety of accommodations, from cozy, 475-square-foot studios to expansive, 3,600-square-foot, four-bedroom penthouses that are great for large families. The resort will include three lagoon pools, swim-through waterfalls and a waterslide.

Royal Lahaina Resort: This oceanfront resort on Maui sits on Kaanapali Beach. Its Myths of Maui luau is celebrating its 45th year; in honor of the occasion, the performance has been redone with new choreography. The celebration includes music, dances and stories from Hawaiian, Tahitian, Samoan and Maori traditions. The nightly performance also includes an all-you-care-to-eat buffet dinner and cocktails.

Aulani: The Hawaii home to Mickey and Minnie has been open for more than five years now, but it recently underwent some modifications, including the introduction of its own luau experience. The Disney resort, which features a snorkeling lagoon and a children's program, recently refreshed both the children's water play area and the adult pool.

Ritz-Carlton Kapalua: This resort on the western side of Maui finished a renovation of its one- and two-bedroom residences last year. The oversize suites with kitchens ranging from 900 to 1,300 square feet are great for families. It offers the comforts and convenience of home with all of the amenities and services of a luxury resort. Also, the family-friendly property offers the Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ambassadors of the Environment program, educational tours and guided trips that introduce guests to the island's natural wonders.

The Pegge Hopper Gallery is in the revitalized Chinatown section of Honolulu.
The Pegge Hopper Gallery is in the revitalized Chinatown section of Honolulu. Photo Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority/Tor Johnson


Coral Crater Adventure Park: This park on Oahu opened in December and offers a plethora of activities for thrill-seeking families. There are ziplines, an all-terrain vehicle course, electric trail bikes, a climbing wall, a giant swing and other activities. The park also hosts regular special events, such as Zombie Apocalypse laser tag.

Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm: This aquafarm on the Kona coast of the Island of Hawaii is a unique experience all around. It is the country's only sea horse farm, and visitors get a tour of the operation along with the chance to see, touch and feed the marine creatures.

Chinatown: This area of Honolulu has not always been popular with tourists, but an infusion of trendy restaurants and a regular First Friday event have brought more attention to the neighborhood recently. It's a great place to try some of the most creative food in Honolulu, such as the acclaimed Pig and the Lady restaurant, and also do some shopping.

Star Gaze Hawaii: Why trek to a mountaintop when you can get the telescopes and astronomers to come to you? Star Gaze Hawaii brings powerful telescopes to you and your family to enjoy an evening of astronomy from the beaches adjacent to popular Hawaii resorts. They also offer astrophotography lessons for those who want pointers on capturing the next eclipse.

Maui Tropical Plantation: The farm-to-table movement is robust in Hawaii, and there are places on every island to take farm tours and experience the fresh cuisine inspired by the local ingredients. This former sugar plantation has diversified, and its tram tour showcases a variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers. There are also two ziplines, and guests can tour the grounds on their own for free. In addition to offering farm-to-table meals and running an affiliated restaurant, the Mill House, the plantation also features an ice cream maker and coffee roaster.

Niihau and Napali Super Tour: Take a custom-built, 65-foot catamaran from Kauai to two distinct and unspoiled destinations and take in waterfalls, verdant valleys and sea caves along the way. The tour includes a trip to Niihau, the "Forbidden Island," where guests can snorkel and relax along the coast. Niihau is one of the oldest Hawaiian islands and has been shaped for a longer period of time by geological forces. The tour also visits the Lehua crater and sea caves.

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