How does Hawaii work?
July 23, 2014 2:09 PM   Subscribe

My family and I are planning a trip to Hawaii, but we don't know where to even start. Family of four; two adults, two kids who will be 4 and 1.5. We're total Hawaii newbies. We don't even know which island to visit.

We know we probably want a condo or similar, because staying in a hotel with small kids and having to get dressed for breakfast sucks. We are not resort people. When we travel, we enjoy: eating food, walking/hiking, lazing around reading, swimming/wading/snorkeling if possible. My spouse and I have tended to be backpacking/hosteling type travelers, but that's more challenging with kids. I'm leaning towards Kauai, just for the hiking, but I'm open. Which island do you suggest? What part of that island? Where can we get super delicious food? Any specific recommendations for Hawaii with kids? Is VRBO the best place to look for a condo/apartment?

I've looked at the similar question asked on AskMe in the past, but I still feel a bit at sea.
posted by linettasky to Travel & Transportation around Hawaii (21 answers total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
North Shore of Kauai is the least developed, and is nice and mellow and has lots of swimming/wading/snorkeling/walking/lazing/food. We found a great little cottage near Hanalei on VRBO which was secluded but within walking distance of a beach (though you will have to rent a car, because the North Shore is far enough from the airport in Lihue, and also you'll want to go to places like the fish market and stuff).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:14 PM on July 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've gone with my kids to Maui probably 6 times and was totally overwhelmed with choices at first. We always rent a condo on the beach in either Kihei or Lahaina.

I've always booked through Aloha Condos. I've had problems with vrbo that wasn't as promised by a long shot, one that cancelled on me the week before I was supposed to go. I've never had problems with Aloha Condos.

There are easily accessible beaches, tons of hiking and biking, and basically excellent food everywhere.
posted by kinetic at 2:26 PM on July 23, 2014

I would strongly recommend the Big Island if you're only going to do one island. There's volcanoes and lava, snow capped mountains with amazing star gazing, the best horse back riding, plus hiking, waterfalls and the best snorkeling in the area. There is a good mix of safe for kids structured tour stuff, and figure it out yourself exploring. I would highly recommend renting kayaks and going to Captain Cook monument for picnic and snorkeling. There is a cove with lots of rocks and picnic like areas where kids can kayak with parents and look at the neat fish near the water - and also watch the mongooses run amok. They are rampant on the big island.

We are outdoorsy people and didn't really care for Kauai when we went. While there is a lot of great hiking, you are fairly likely to run the middle of the hike. (or at least, with our experience, we ran into a lot of hippies "living off the woods" who wanted to eat our food and drink our booze and buy some jeans for a poem they wrote last night)
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 2:28 PM on July 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

I like VRBO a lot but there are also condo complexes you can look at. When we went with our toddler we enjoyed Kahana Sunset on Maui's west coast -- there was a private beach with a very good snorkeling reef right there, so it was easy for one of us to play with her on the beach while the other was in the water with turtles etc.

Another option with a toddler is Kahuluu Beach Park on the Big Island, where there is world class snorkeling and cute little tide pools that your toddler can play in. There are several condo buildings right across the street.

There isn't really any hiking right around those places though (edit - there is superb hiking on the other side of the Big Island at Volcano National Park of course.)

There's tasty food all around but it's very expensive.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:28 PM on July 23, 2014

Oh, another thing: if you'd like to go the condo/hotel route, and if you're a Costco member, check out their Hawaii packages; they have some super-great deals. We liked our Hawaii trip, but it was not cheap, and in retrospect I kind of wish we'd gone with a Costco package.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:32 PM on July 23, 2014

Best answer: Hawaii can be very expensive when you take into account:

- Roundtrip airfare
- Hotel / condo PLUS accommodations tax (13.416%, but 13.96% on Oahu) PLUS any parking or resort or cleaning fees (ouch).
- Rental car (including all of the taxes and fees) and gas (also much more expensive on the islands than the Mainland)
- Any entertainment & activities (luaus, snorkeling trips, whale watches in the winter, helicopter tours, surfing lessons, snorkel equipment rentals, etc. - all optional but nice if you can afford it)
- Food and drink
- Any shopping/souvenirs
- Etc.

Packages are going to be simpler, of course, but you might be able to get better deals going "a la carte." (The exception being through Costco.)

Initial thoughts:

- Take a Which Island is Best For You? quiz. You may not agree with the results but it'll get you thinking about what you want from your vacation.

- If coming in the winter, you will want to stay on the "drier" side of each island for the best chance of sunny weather. Ex: Poipu in Kauai, Honolulu in Oahu, Lahaina/Kaanapali and Kihei/Wailea on Maui, Kohala Coast on the Big Island. If coming in the summer, you'll especially want to look at Kauai's gorgeous north shore. Hawaii does have seasons, including winter, and you cannot reasonably expect it to be 100% sunny all of the time, though many people do.

- You can do eating delicious food, walking/hiking, lazing around reading, and some swimming on basically any island, but you should know that Oahu and Maui have the best restaurant options. And snorkeling is best on the Big Island (where they have the famed night time manta ray snorkel) and Maui, and Kauai is generally considered the poorest regarding snorkeling.

- Regarding condos, not all of them have washers and dryers in the unit (sometimes it is communal). Not all of them have air conditioning in the units, either. Not all of them have swimming pools. Sometimes they will have small, not-so-great pools due to proximity to the ocean. Some have great views; others not so much. Will you be comfortable with a 1 BR unit, with the kids sleeping on a fold out sofa bed?

- Many condos in great locations may have dated decor; others will have owners who have taken a lot of care in creating open kitchens, adding washer/dryers, marble counters, stainless steel appliances, etc. (and higher prices).. it's kind of like looking for an apartment! Location vs amenities.

- Also not all condos are on a swimmable beach (with a lifeguard) or within close proximity to a swimmable beach (with a lifeguard). Depends if you want to be able to walk to the beach with your kids. Or if you think you'll have enough stuff that you will end up driving anyway. If they'll just want to splash around a pool instead.

- Maui has a huge supply of beachfront condos. Kauai and the Big Island do not. Kauai is less developed and is an older island so the geography is different. On the Big Island, a lot of the resorts took that prime property on the beach, not condos. On Oahu, most of the lodging is in and around Waikiki and there aren't many beachfront condos there either. Elsewhere on Oahu, it is hard to find legal vacation rentals due to licensing issues (illegal rentals is a big issue in residential neighborhoods).

- You will need a rental car anywhere but the city of Honolulu on Oahu. Even then, you might WANT a rental car anyway, given your family of four.

- You should plan to spend at least 5 nights on Hawaii during your trip. More if you are coming from the East Coast and need to get used to the time change. I recommend at least a week if coming from the East Coast. Note also that some parents don't want their kids to adjust to local time and try to keep them on "home" time. At least 5 nights should give you enough time to really get on "Hawaii" time and relax. Obviously more is better, but that depends on the budget. We prefer more modest digs and to spend more time.

- You could easily spend a few weeks on each of the major islands and not see it all. Don't try to do it all.

- Study a good map of Hawaii. Note that the Big Island is big enough to fit all the islands combined.

- If the BI is on your radar, plan for a much longer trip: 9-10 days. With a flight into KOA, some time spent on the Western side, a long drive East, and some time spent on the Eastern side for the sights there, flying out of ITO. This minimizes backtracking. Given that you have young ones I would NOT recommend Volcanoes National Park given the air quality issues.

- Also note that there is NO publicly accessible surface lava at this time! Anybody advertising a hike or boat tour to see flowing lava is misrepresenting themselves and possibly breaking the law. You can see some flowing lava from helicopters right now but Madame Pele is fickle and you cannot predict what will happen next.

- Similarly, if you plan to, say, visit Maui and go up Haleakala Crater, be aware of potential altitude sickness issues. Same for Mauna Kea on the Big Island. This can take parents by surprise sometimes.

- When do you plan to travel? It makes a big difference. Hawaii has high season, mid season, and low season. This greatly affects prices for flights, rental cars, and lodging. Winter is popular due to holidays and snowbirds escaping cold winters. Summer is popular due to kids being out of school. Certain times on Oahu are popular due to Japanese holidays. Prices shoot up and good accommodations book well in advance during these periods of heavy demand.

Thoughts on making Hawaii affordable:

* Demand is usually lower in the shoulder seasons on Hawaii (May, Sept, Oct, Nov before Thanksgiving, Dec before Xmas). Also attractions, etc. will tend to be less crowded. Just make sure you avoid Thanksgiving week as some people make that entire week their Hawaiian vacation. Christmas break, mid-winter break, spring break, the summer can all be very very busy.

* Use Google Flights to figure out the best dates to go using their calendar feature, and be flexible about traveling mid-week. Wednesday to Wednesday or something similar might end up being your best option.

* Sign up for the Alaska Airlines Visa card and get a $99 companion fare (before taxes and fees) with any coach round-trip fare. Great option if you live somewhere serviced by Alaskan Airlines / on the West Coast. Depends if you are short on funds but willing to take longer & possibly more connections to actually GET to Hawaii.

* If you or someone you know has an American Express card with some Membership Rewards points available, they can easily be turned into airline miles with major carriers.

* You can book a rental car easily yourself via (click "Reserve Yourself"). They are a middleman with the major agencies (Alamo, Avis, etc.) Re-check rental car rates periodically as they sometimes randomly drop. Do not pre-pay for your rental car, or pre-pay for gas. If you check frequently, you can probably find a good deal, or at least see the price drop. You can always re-book and get the lower rate for free. Sign up for the rental agency's loyalty program, too, you may be able to skip the check-in line. Check the fine print if you want a 2nd driver (sometimes this is free only through the loyalty program). You will want a car unless only staying in Honolulu on Oahu. Most people pick up and drop off at the airport.

* Get the smallest rental car that can fit your party and your luggage. Parking spaces can be very small on Hawaiian islands.

* Are you a Costco member? If you are staying for a while and/or have a lot of people, consider shopping for groceries at Costco. Items are much cheaper at Costco than at the local shops on Hawaii because Costco caps its markups at 14 percent regardless of product or location, although freight is added to the prices in Hawaii.

* You can also rent your car via Costco Travel. And it can be much cheaper that way. They are also a middleman with the big name agencies.

* Fill up your car's gas tank at Costco when on the island. Gas can be up to 30-50 cents cheaper at Costco (NOTE: they only take payment via debit, Amex, or Costco gift card only) on Hawaii. You can check for recent gas prices on

* Do you have Safeway supermarkets where you are? Bring your Safeway loyalty card OR the phone number of someone who is signed up, the loyalty program will work in Hawaii as well. Or sign up for Foodland's loyalty program as well while you're here. Foodland is a local supermarket chain. Your condo keys might come with the loyalty program tag already.

* One way to bring down the price is to rent a condo via Many, many condo owners go through VBRO and rent out their units for much of the year when they're not living in them. Renting directly via an owner is usually cheaper than a management company and you can be assured of the exact unit you're getting. Never wire money, though, and scrutinize the reviews. Mind the minimum stay, 13.42% accommodations tax (higher on Oahu), and any cleaning fees. Make sure the owner has a tax ID listed and someone who can be there if something goes wrong. Some owners will also give a discount or waive the cleaning fee for longer stays so it is advantageous to stay longer. This is one of the way we like to keep costs down. HOWEVER, if there's something wrong with the unit, it's harder to switch or find somewhere else to stay.

* If you want to save money in Hawaii, overall, stay at a place that is not right on a beach or right near a beach. Beachfront and oceanfront, with a view, will be more expensive than across the beach with no view or a partial view.

* Renting a condo can be cheaper much than a hotel room because you can buy groceries, make your own breakfasts and picnic lunches, use the grill to make dinner, make drinks whenever you want, have easy access to cold soda, and you can do laundry while you're there. If you pack right, you can make do with only carry on luggage, saving on checked bag fees as well, since you'll plan to do laundry while you're there. Most condos have a fridge, blender, toaster, microwave, stove, oven, utensils, plates and flatware, pots and pans, etc. as well as a few communal grills for the complex.

* Go out and have cheap drinks and appetizers during various "aloha" or happy hours.

* Sign up for the Chase Hyatt Credit card and get 2 free nights after you spend $1000 in the first 3 months. The 2 free nights can be redeemed at various Hyatt hotels on Hawaii. If each of you signs up, you can earn 4 free nights (for a standard room)!

* Eat cheap and local. Take out and eat on your lanai (balcony/patio). Simple breakfasts of local fruit, bagels with lilikoi cream cheese, cereal, coffee, or cooking your own eggs/bacon/toast at your condo. I like to make French toast with Hawaiian sweet bread, coconut syrup, and lilikoi butter. Lunch can be a takeout Hawaiian plate lunch or an ahi poke bowl. Bring your own bag when you go to a farmers market.

* And don't forget that watching the sunrise and sunset are also free!
posted by kathryn at 3:05 PM on July 23, 2014 [212 favorites]

I've only been to Oahu, but the only thing that I wish I'd known was that gas stations were far and few between. Well, that and DT Honolulu turns into a unholy mess of one way streets at rush hour, which is a super-sucky place to be caught when you are running on fumes and can't find a gas station.

So, know where the gas stations are.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:33 PM on July 23, 2014

And book your rental car early! I waited too long, used to being able to catch last-minute deals on the mainland, but there are a finite number of rental cars on an island, and when they're gone, they're gone. They're not bringing in more from the next state over.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:48 PM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

rabbitrabbit is totally right on the money with the car rental. As soon you know your dates--even if not confirmed-- book your rental car. I use this company a lot and they are great. There is no penalty to cancel, but cars at certain times of the year get ridiculously expensive and sell out.

There is tons of great hiking on all the islands. Some hikes more strenuous than others and some definitely not suitable for kids, but if there is one hike you really are interested in, make sure to check what the conditions will be like during the time of year you plan to visit.
posted by OlivesAndTurkishCoffee at 4:18 PM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I visited Hawaii a few summers ago -- I stayed with a friend and her family who live on the outskirts of Oahu. I have traveled around the US and all over Europe (as I mention too much on AskMeFi ;-) but that my trip to Hawaii was my favorite travel experience EVER and it's unlikely to be topped any time soon. We did all sorts of stuff, from the super touristy beaches and a luau (I was her "excuse") to stuff like art museums and locals-only hikes (that I couldn't even begin to describe how or where?!) My favorite day was when we drove around the island, frequently stopping for food like shave-ice and corn-on-a-stick and jumping out to look at beaches. I was surprised at how accessible everything was, like how we could drive around the circumference of Oahu in just a day and there were tons of places to just pull off. I would recommend renting a car and driving around the island (but not a convertible though as apparently only tourists do that as locals know it's gonna rain a lot!) My friend would second the Costco advice above: we filled up on gas, ate lunch, and even got a bunch of edible souvenirs there.

As you drive around, I'd just frequently ask locals for advice, like "where do they recommend we stop for dinner" and the like. I know there's a complex relationship between locals and haoles -- understandably so -- but if you come across as genuine and open as you do here, I'm sure people will be glad to help you as best they can. People here have great tips and I am convinced that practically any trip to Hawaii would be great with a good attitude, at least to Oahu because I can't speak to the other islands. ;-)
posted by smorgasbord at 5:27 PM on July 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you're going to just go straight to a condo and do beaching and relaxing until you go home, there are places on Oahu where you could stay, but if you want to ride around to hikes and see some sights, I don't really recommend staying on Oahu. There are certainly sights to see there, but the traffic and increased density of people really took away from the experience for me as compared to Kauai (the only other island I visited, but I'm sure this applies to all the other islands which are less populous). And getting stuck in traffic with small kids in the car sucks. I used VRBO to get a place when I went there and it worked out fine for me. Important to check for good reviews.

I would only add that the hiking I saw/took part in on Kauai did not seem like it would be amenable to bringing a 4 and 1.5 year old. There is a lot of really challenging hiking there. It was a beautiful place and if you want to go there, I think you should, but you might want to just stick to walking on beaches, or at least make sure that the hikes you are headed for are actually easy ones and not cliffside steepness or through muddy jungle with a lot of obstacles.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:55 PM on July 23, 2014

Looks like kathryn nailed it above. Some people like to rent SUVs so they can get to more of the beaches, but we usually just go with a regular car.

We are Big Island + VRBO people. We like the Big Island because we like the vibe of Captain Cook/Kealakekua Bay and have friends there, but there are better beaches elsewhere. There is good hiking on all the islands. We like VRBO because you can zero in on what you want - cute but rustic shack by the beach? Luxury condo? All kinds of properties on there.

We also liked the Hawaii Revealed books. Lots of not-trespassing-but-off-the-beaten path places. I've also had good luck with Yelp for restaurant reviews, finding grocery stores, etc.

Costco is essential, but we've also had good luck with local farmers markets and local grocery stores. Produce can be expensive, but it's usually good quality, and sometimes the places you rent have fruit trees. Local groceries often have poke, which is good if you like poke.
posted by troyer at 10:04 PM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

You've gotten good advice, I have a few comments. Just because locals don't rent convertibles doesn't mean they aren't a lot of fun. The rental cars are not only pricey, but we rented from 4 different locations (on a cruise) and they were also in pretty lousy condition. Which may not be a bad thing considering some of the roads.

Kayak and snorkel at Captain Cook was certainly one of the highlights, but I have heard that it's been restricted so I would check. If I had to pick just one island, it would be Maui. Haleakala may not be snow-capped, but it's still over 10K feet! And you've got the Road to Hana, with it's family-run honor-system fruit stands, so you can EAT ALL THE BANANAS.

The only thing that truly surprised me about Hawaii was how dangerous it was. The guidebook's recommended snorkel spots, depending on waves and tides, can leave you bleeding from being slammed into a pointy rock. Especially with kids it's worth double checking on wave forecasts, because while it's generally true that the leeward side is calmer, that's not always true.
posted by wnissen at 10:02 AM on July 24, 2014

Best answer: We've been to Hawaii many times, pre and post kids. We've camped all over the big island (walked up to lava which was just freaking exquisite!), we've stayed at the ultra posh Wailea Four Seasons. There are all kinds of experiences to be had depending on what you are interested in. These days, we have two kids, and far less time, and a bit more money. In fact, Hawaii is our go to vacation because it requires little imagination and planning and we have a hard a time planning something that really feels like a "get away" with the time demands of two cranky kids and two 60 hour a week careers. That said, it's not ridiculously expensive.

The part of the question that grabbed me here is the ages of your children and that's what I wanted to address. It's not a vacation if you are schlepping kids and their accoutrements around every morning. Trust me, if you can afford it, you want a condo with a washer and dryer, with a nice pool, and a beach right there, so if it turns out you never leave the complex you haven't wasted a vacation. First off your kids will be wide awake at 4 am and sound asleep at 7 pm and they'll be super miserable if they don't have a comfortable place to nap at mid day. If you don't deal with those facts, you're gonna have a bad time. Second, many tours will not take kids this age -- this includes snorkeling catamarans, helicopter rides, the ever popular Haleakala bike ride. Your activities are going to be limited to swimming, driving around, and maybe some short hikes. The good news is, the only thing your kids will want to do is swim and run around the beach. And it's a really great place for parents to sit around all week with a fruity drink watching the kids play.

I don't think it really matters which island you go to, except I would avoid Oahu, or at least Honolulu which simply put is San Jose surrounded by water, congested and boring. Yeah, there's cultural attractions, and good restaurants, and night life, but your kids don't give a shit. The big island always seems very rural and pastoral to me, generally drier and less of the tropical jungle people expect of Hawaii (though there are still pockets of this). You're also more likely to find yourself surrounded by locals on the big island, eating plate lunches and watching families have barbecues at the beach. But that also exists on Kauai and Maui too.

I think all of the islands, including the big island, are small enough to explore from a single base, especially if exploration with kids means driving around, getting out for a short walk and snapping some pictures. Unless you know you want to spend a lot of time for instance in Hana or Hilo (this is not common), I would suggest picking the accommodation that is best suited to your needs and then figure out what kind of trips you are up for after wards.

I would rent the smallest (cheapest) car that will fit your family and luggage. I've never not been upgraded after arriving and you won't spend that much time in the car to warrant spending more on this.

This is where we stayed the last time we went to Hawaii when our kids were 1.5 and 3.5, and it's likely where we will go the next several times. Its on the Kaanapali coast of Maui. Large comfortable units with views, huge pool with waterslide and wandering river, a very nice swim able beach, there was one of the ubiquitous Duke's restaurants (Hawaii's equivalent of Chili's really) on the premises which was just fine if we didn't want to cook, washer/dryers in the units, everything you need. It's in an area that's not totally overdeveloped, there were grocery stores, fruit stands, public parks, and farmers markets nearby. If you are flexible in your times, they have specials all the time. There is really nothing about it that isn't perfect for a Hawaii vacation with small kids.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:08 AM on July 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

Seconding the Hawaii Revealed books, which are available at the Hawaiian Costcos at a discount. They are also available as smartphone apps with built-in interactive maps, which are great for finding your favourited sites, restaurants, etc. and showing you where you are in relation with the GPS tracking.
posted by praiseb at 11:51 AM on July 27, 2014

Great info above.

You probably won't do this as a 1st timer but if you choose to visit more than one island (which is fun but can also be a pain), you'll need to book a multi city trip; if doing 2 islands, ideally you'd fly into your first island, fly Hawaiian Airlines inter-island, and fly home from your second island, etc. And spend at least 5 nights per island, even more nights on the Big Island.

Island "hopping" is a misnomer nowadays as it requires the same TSA security procedures as any other travel within the USA and can be pricey ($85pp for plane tickets). Check out is typically 11am and check in is typically 3pm, too, wasting some time in the middle of the day. You probably won't do it this time around but many people fall in love with Hawaii and start planning another trip as soon as they get back home. :)

Also note that you cannot transport fresh fruits/vegetables/flowers/etc. between Hawaii and the Mainland (with a few exceptions like pineapples). You will also need to go through an agricultural checkpoint on your way home, so allot some time for that. TSA can also be very slow in Hawaii at peak travel times (but at least the Maui airport has sometimes live music at security for some reason). Many redeye flights back to the Mainland all depart in the evening, often around the same time.

Agree that you should definitely book your rental car (via the aforementioned DHCR or Costco) as soon as you know your dates. You can always cancel later (don't choose the prepaid option).

I was surprised at how accessible everything was, like how we could drive around the circumference of Oahu in just a day and there were tons of places to just pull off.

Note, while you can easily DIY a "circle" tour of Oahu, this isn't possible on Kauai (the highway does not go all the way around the island so there is no connection between the north side and the west side) or Maui (major highways will route through Kahului, there's no connection between Hana and South Maui, and driving certain rough routes will void your rental car contract).

Especially on Maui, please do not try to drive the "backside" of Haleakala (it won't save you any time) or the backside of the West Maui Mountains (aka the Kahekili Highway, it is a twisty one-lane-for-both-directions road without guardrails).

In fact, I doubt you'll want to do the Road to Hana given the ages of your kids anyway -- it's an entire day in the car, driving to Hana and then turning around and coming back the way you came. For Haleakala and the Road to Hana, it is best to wait until they are older (and I would avoid the bike ride Haleakala due to the number of injuries).

The Hawaii Revealed series of books are excellent but flawed. Previously they had come under severe criticism for including activities in the books that trespassed on private property, sacred land, and similar. Much of that material has been removed, but the locals still do not look kindly upon the authors (hence the nickname "Hawaii Reviled"). So don't leave their books in plain sight in your car. I tend to use the e-book and smartphone app versions, anyway. Great maps, great aerial photos of condos, very handy as a quick reference guide while on the go. But, their condo and restaurant ratings should be taken with a huge grain of salt. Especially since they have a fondness for certain chains (Cold Stone, Sansei, etc.) and they keep leaving out Ululani's Shave Ice on Maui. TripAdvisor is much better for condo help; Chowhound is much better for restaurant and food shopping advice.

And the note on ocean safety is especially relevant right now since several tourists have tragically lost their lives or become seriously injured recently while on Hawaii. Never turn your back on the ocean. Watch the conditions before getting in. Read and pay attention to the signage regarding rip tides, shore breaks, etc. Avoid brown or murky water, especially after a storm, as the ocean may not be safe to go in for a few days. Don't forget Hawaii is an island chain in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The waves can be very, very strong. And not all beaches have lifeguards.

And on that note, please do use proper reef etiquette (don't stand on the coral), don't touch the turtles or the monk seals (both threatened species), don't swim with dolphins (interaction with people during the day can actually disturb their sleep), and wear reef-safe sunscreen. Fresh water swimming can also be dangerous due to leptospirosis as well as objects falling onto people's heads when they're under waterfalls.

Slarty Bartfast's condo complex (Honua Kai) is very highly rated, but I find it tends to be pretty pricey since it's new construction. The first beachfront whole ownership development on Ka'anapali Beach in 25 years! I'd check VRBO for better deals.

I also find it helpful to Google Image search for "" + "map" so I know exactly where my unit is located in a complex.

Please let us know what island you choose!

posted by kathryn at 2:39 PM on July 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

I also find it helpful to Google Image search for "condo complex name" + "map" so I know exactly where my unit is located in a complex.
posted by kathryn at 2:45 PM on July 27, 2014

Something I didn't see here, but noticed when I went to Hawaii--there is much less variance in daylight hours that close to the equator. That is, even in mid-summer, the sun goes down a lot earlier than you expect, and twilight is much briefer than back home. You know, because science. You'll find you'll need to get up early to have a full day of daytime activities.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:06 AM on July 30, 2014

As you have 2 small children I would highly recommend a cruise due to the convenience of having everything you need in walking distance on-board (food, room to nap, etc). I went with my family on a Hawaiian cruise a few years back and we thoroughly enjoyed it. You get to see more than one island (for a shorter time, admittedly) and we saw some breathtaking views of the islands that you wouldn't see on land.
posted by aceyprime at 8:32 AM on July 30, 2014

This might be more adventurous than you're up for regarding cheap eats, but my partner and I bought an entire ahi tuna from a local fisherman in Maui, and after she fileted it, ate that + farmer's market goods for almost 2 weeks. Fresh sushi/sashimi day 1 & 2, froze a good chunk of it in our condo's freezer, and had all kinds of great grilled steaks, poke, ceviche, curries, tuna salad, etc and so forth. Total price for fish = $50! Plus, a great anatomy lesson for the kiddos!
posted by ikahime at 2:53 PM on August 1, 2014

I had a good time with kids at both the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island and the Grand Hyatt Kauai on Kauai. Both are pretty self-contained and have terrific pools and a lagoon right in the resort. On Kauai, they set us up with a zodiac boat tour that was pretty fun for me with older kids. They can fix you up with lots of other off-resort activities too, or you can just hang out at the resort the whole time and soak up the moderately Disney-fied Hawaiian experience. It ain't cheap (unless you can work an occasional off-season deal), but it's super easy, and your kids will most likely love it.
posted by overleaf at 10:31 PM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

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