Home to Honolulu, Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor and the world’s most famous surfing culture, the island of O’ahu is rich with natural beauty and history. Families will find it safe and convenient to navigate downtown and the beach area’s malls, restaurants and nightlife by shuttle or ride-share. There’s a huge variety of traditional family-welcoming resorts, rental condos, airbnb’s and best yet, fresh new boutique hotels to use as your family’s base for exploration. O’ahu doesn’t let anyone down.
Aqua Palms Waikiki
1850 Ala Moana Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96815
On a recent trip, we stayed at this refreshed hotel, one of 17 Aqua Aston Hotels in Hawaii and Guam, and got a comfortable room with a limited cityview, for a great price. Rooms are very small but well designed and well stocked with microwave, minifridge and coffeemaker, plus a sliding glass door that opens to the breezes off Waikiki Beach, about 2 blocks away. (The amazing Henry’s Ice Cream is nearby.) Instead of style, there’s a fun lobby mural and welcoming spirit that includes a weekly manager’s reception, free shuttle that runs up and down town including to grocery stories, and 10 % discount coupons at the WaiTai coffeeshop, a 1960s classic with amazing, all-you-can-eat pancake breakfasts. The Aqua Palms has an on-site laundry room, two-person fitness room and a small pool to cool off anyone who can’t make it across to the beach. We loved our shuttle ride with Earl, a driver who chatted with everyone during the back and forth ride, offering suggestions on shopping and nightlife. “Trying to go to Walmart?” he would ask, “get off here and you can walk to Don Quixote, it’s locally run and supports Hawaiian farmers, so that’s why we buy our groceries there.” That why most hotel guests are repeats, many times over! We also met happy guests from the sister hotel Aqua Pearl, which is a bit more modern and seemed like a good value choice.
Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Resort
2005 Kala Road
Honolulu, Oahu, HI 96815
Resting on the white sand Duke Kahanamoku Beach and 22 oceanfront acres, this classic Hilton brings the paradise experience to life. The hotel offers luxurious accommodations, a five acre salt-water lagoon, five swimming pools (including a kiddie pool, a 10,000-square-foot meandering “Super Pool,” and the multi-layered paradise pool with its dramatic waterfalls and the longest waterslide in Waikiki). You can drop by the Heritage Wall, even if you’re not guests, and learn about the past 55 years of Waikiki growth since the hotel’s founding on the land that surfing great “The Duke” grew up on. Guests are also provided with a range of recreational activities and adventures from whale watching to surfing and sailing. The hotel offers a kid’s program specifically designed for ages 5-12. For either a half or a full day, your kids can learn the history and culture of Hawaii through interactive and educational activities and games. And with over 20 restaurants to choose from, your palate is sure to stay satisfied.
Luana Waikiki Hotel & Suites
2045 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, Oahu, HI 96815
This stylish yet budget hotel overlooks the Fort DeRussy Park and is only a short walk away from downtown Waikiki, the Waikiki Beach, Hawaii Convention Center and a variety of world-class shopping and international dining. Choose from a variety of exceptionally comfortable accommodations, from studios with kitchenettes to 1 or 2 bedroom suites with full kitchens. There’s free WiFi, a fitness center, daily wine & cheese reception with live music, yoga classes and an outdoor swimming pool and sundeck. This part of Waikiki is a good option for shorter vacations, as a rental car is not necessary since plenty of restaurants and activities are within walking distance.
Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club
92-161 Waipahe Place
Kapolei-Oahu, HI 96707
With three pools and seven whirlpool spas, not to mention the beautiful ocean, this Marriott will please any guest looking for rest and relaxation. With 1, 2, and 3 bedroom villas equipped with all of the comforts of home — including full kitchens — this is a great option for larger families who need more space. Most units have sofabeds and since it’s a Marriott Vacation Club resort, all are well stocked and well maintained. You’re not going to get so much nightlife if you stay at this hotel, because Waikiki is a 40-minute drive away and traffic can be heavy. However, you’re saving a lot of money over the nearby Disney Aulani resort and there’s plenty to do right here. The hotel’s fitness center offers complimentary classes and there are several walking and jogging paths on site for those who like exercise in the fresh air.
Sheraton Waikiki Hotel
2255 Kalakaua Avenue
If you’re looking for a true Hawaiian experience, the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel is the place for you. This hotel organizes activities that teach you about Hawaiian culture and history, so you can have fun playing the ukelele or making leis. Kids will enjoy the Helumoa Playground, which has two swimming pools and a 15-foot waterslide. While the kids splash around, adults can swim in the quieter infinity pool. This child friendly hotel also allows parents some free time by providing the Keiki Hawaii daycare, available for children 2.5-12 years of age, daily from 8am-6pm, with extended hours available on advance notice. It’s on on the 4th floor, Suite 435; call 808/931-8086 for more information.
Surfjack Hotel and Swim Club
412 Lewers Street
Honolulu, HI 96815
The Surfjack is a delightful blend of high style, warmth and kitsch wrapped into an old motel away from the beach — and it works. The eclectic style is about ribbed bamboo ceilings, rattan chandeliers, and faded denim upholstery whose pillows can be thrown onto bleached wood floors and neutral rugs. The attention to detail is exceptional; the small pool is elevated into a place to be seen by a mosaic bottom that reads “Wish You Were Here” when viewed from guest room balconies. The staff is friendly and helpful, offering fresh baked cookies at check-in, loaner fat tire bikes, and in-room guides to the local scene. The on-site and laid back Makina and Sons restaurant is known for its locally sourced food and imaginative American preparation of typical pork, fish and chicken dishes, and our meals were delicious. The full one-bedroom suites have room to spare, with apartment style closets, a large queen sofabed and a small daybed that can accommodate a few small children. Fun scene, our pick for young families and those traveling with teens and older.
Turtle Bay Resort
57-091 Kamehameha Hwy
Kahuku, Oahu, HI 96731
The Turtle Bay Resort has an unbeatable setting on a peninsula that is bounded by roaring surf and sunset views on one side, and a calm bay protected by a reef shelf that breaks the huge waves the North Shore is famous for, before they reached the shore. That makes this sand beach not only the safest place to swim on the North Shore, it’s also where Hawaii’s last monarch learned to swim as a little girl in the mid 1800s. Unlike the gold sand of Waikiki and white concrete of insane over-development, the shoreline is sharp black coral framed by salt pines and sea oats. The many small towns and strip malls along the North Shore are pretty charming: lined with food trucks and little shops that evoke yesteryear. Recently remodeled, Turtle Bay is expensive and anti-luxurious, with a deliberately casual vibe designed to appeal to families with money who don’t want to be pampered. They do it pretty well, with prices that make you expect better design, better food and better service, than they deliver. The setting justifies it all; it’s priceless. Note that their “Family Suites” are suited only to young children, as there’s no privacy from the small sofabed tucked in an alcove, and only one bathroom whose shutters and porous sliding doors fail to provide privacy if others are in the room. The concierge team offers a large number of pricey activities on and off property, including segway tours, horseback riding, surfing, ukulele lessons, kayaking, hula lessons or helicopter tours are right at your finger tips. Note that there is a Courtyard Oahu in Kahuku, near to the Polynesian cultural Center (about 25% less), and several state parks across the Kamehameha Highway that allow camping.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.