Hawaii’s Making Waves with Fresh Family Focus

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Storytelling at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Oahu.
Storytelling at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Oahu.

From soft adventure to education that’s downright fun, Hawaii’s multigenerational appeal makes it a dream destination for families seeking fresh approaches to balancing action with education.

“Families are continuing to venture beyond the pool—and beach for that matter—to enjoy the variety and diversity of experiences found on each island,” says Robyn Basso, senior director of travel industry partnerships, Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB). “Thus, we’re seeing Hawaii’s properties and attractions step up to offer authentic experiences that often include an educational element ideal for families.”

Basso notes that ocean activities are weaving culture and conservation into their programs. “Kids will enjoy getting up-close and personal with marine life at the Maui Ocean Center or with Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment program on Maui.” The former has bolstered its culture-centric activities with Moolelo storytelling, traditional Hawaiian games, lauhala weaving and live music.

“Saving money is music to the ears of most parents, so fall is a great time to visit the islands,” says Marilyn Clark, Hawaii master specialist and travel advisor with Lighthouse Travel. “There are less visitors, which means no crowds, lower airfares, better prices
on accommodations, and value-adds such as room upgrades, free breakfasts and discounted activities.”

Upbeat Oahu
Oahu is soaring on the zipline scene with a trio of buzz-generating options:

  •  New kid on the block Coral Crater Adventure Park debuts this fall with 35 acres of zipline courses, climbing/rappelling wall, 50-ft. tandem giant swing and off-road treks.
  •  Kualoa Ranch chimes in with a 3-hour Treetop Canopy Zipline tour where the 20-minute ride to the first line meanders amid sets starring in “Jurassic World,” “Jurassic Park,” “50 First Dates,” “Godzilla,” “LOST” and “Hawaii Five-0.”
  •  Nick Thompson, owner of CLIMB Works Keana Farms, describes his 3-hour guided zipline tour as both entertaining and educational. “We include interactive stations especially for our younger participants where they can crack and eat macadamia nuts, and learn to pronounce Hawaiian words,” he says. “We want everyone to leave with a greater knowledge and respect for the land and the people of Hawaii.”

“The recent addition of Lucky Cat [exhibit] is a great way for families to engage in an experience unique to Honolulu, while also having the chance to receive complimentary resort amenities,” says Jon Conching, Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa’s director of sales, marketing and events.
A Sunshine on Sale package provides the
fourth night free with daily breakfast through Aug. 10, 2017.

Hina the surfing dog comes along for the ride during SUP lessons at the 850-acre Turtle Bay Resort. Through Dec. 21, 2016, a Stay Longer Save More plan provides 20-30 percent savings on 4- to 6-night stays.

“Our goal at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa is to provide families with immersive experiences rooted in Hawaiian culture and delivered through a unique style of Disney storytelling,” says general manager Kimberly Agas. Bookings made by Sept. 26 for 4- or 5-night stays through Dec. 19, 2016 receive a 25-30 percent discount.

Outrigger Resorts adds a splash of family fun with its OZONE Eco Adventure package at Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort and Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort. Perks include a buy-one-get-one-free Snorkel Eco-Adventure Sail tour, two Waikiki Aquarium admissions and generous welcome gifts. Through Dec. 31, 2017, nightly rates start at $239.

Maui’s Magic
Long lauded for its stellar golf, Maui courses are now swinging toward family affairs. Wailea Golf Club lures with colorful kids’ tees, new Kids Play Free after 3 p.m. promo and Family Fun greens fees through Dec. 18, 2016. Through Dec. 19, 2016, Kapalua Golf’s Family Golf packages welcome free junior play with each paying adult after 2:30 p.m., plus complimentary instruction when taking a lesson with a paying adult. Kaanapali Golf takes it outside the box with nine holes of FootGolf play that combines soccer with golf.

Welcoming families since 1963, Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa says aloha with Ohana Suites (family suites) featuring two double beds, deluxe pull-down wall bed, spacious living area, and double sink bathroom with separate shower and tub. “We’ve created special offerings just for families, like our nightly beachside s’mores and Maui Ocean Center Hawaiian Marine Life Hale where keiki [children] learn about the array of marine life found right out front of our resort,” says general manager Tetsuji Yamazaki.

It’s hard to outshine the nine pools, waterslides, waterfalls and caves of the Wailea Canyon Activity pool at Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort. However, the resort’s 20,000-sq.-ft. The Rock/Camp Grande gives it a shot. Kids dive into cultural activities, table games and exclusive fishpipe rotating barrel where a 90-second ride compares to tackling a mile-long waterslide.

The Colors of Kauai
“I always suggest that my family clients plan a day trip to Waimea Canyon and then hit the Hanapepe Friday Night Art Walk,” says Neal Miller, Hawaii master specialist and owner of Neal Miller Travel Company. “It’s like stepping back in time. You can mingle with shop owners and artists, and eat at food trucks to really enjoy the flavor of Kauai.”

For natural highs, families flock to Kauai’s three National Tropical Botanical Gardens and Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge to ogle spinner dolphins, Hawaiian monk seals, native Hawaiian coastal plants and the endangered nene—Hawaii’s state bird.

With all the bells and whistles families covet, the 602-room Grand Hyatt Kauai engages with its Camp Hyatt for kids 3-12, 1.5-acre saltwater swimming lagoons and flurry of daily activities. Through Jan. 20, 2017, Sunshine On Sale delivers every fifth night free plus breakfast buffet for two at Ilima Terrace.

Through Dec. 25, 2016, The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas lets families that book a Deluxe Island View 1-bedroom villa from $550 nightly add a connecting studio villa for $135. The deal sleeping eight requires a minimum 3-night stay.

Hawaii Island’s Pure Heaven
Preservation rules along Hawaiian Legacy’s 3-hour Grand Tour. “Our treks provide a unique off-road land adventure to see koa trees that serve as home to endangered wildlife and protective canopy for a variety of tropical forest plants,” says Jeffrey Dunster, CEO of Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods.

Also dedicated to sustainable tourism practices, KapohoKine Adventures ups the adrenaline with eight tandem lines along tours operated by its Zipline Through Paradise partner. KapohoKine’s new Lava Expedition leads die-hard hikers to top lava-viewing sites near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Family-owned Fair Wind Cruises goes budget-friendly on Kealakekua Bay snorkel cruises with discounted rates for children and free cruising for toddlers under four.

The iconic Mauna Kea Beach Hotel has relaunched Keiki Club Adventures, offering kids 5-12 fully supervised fun via activities reflecting daily themes. Adventures include shell hunting, hiking to ancient lava tubes, visiting fishponds and treasure hunting at Kaunaoa Bay.

Contact Information
Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa: resorts.disney.go.com/aulani-hawaii-resort
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa: kauai.grand.hyatt.com
Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort: grandwailea.com
Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau: hvcb.org
Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa: waikiki.regency.hyatt.com
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel: princeresortshawaii.com/mauna-kea-beach-hotel
Outrigger Resorts: outrigger.com
Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa: sheraton-maui.com
Turtle Bay Resort: turtlebayresort.com
The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas: westinprinceville.com


UNIQUE EVENTS
Marilyn Clark, Hawaii master specialist and travel advisor with Lighthouse Travel recommends agents refer to the HVCB’s calendar of events for other unique experiences. “Family fun and festivals go hand in hand, and Hawaii has festivals year-round. They celebrate everything!” Among her favorites are the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival (Nov. 4-13), Made in Maui County Festival (Nov. 5) and Kauai’s Annual Coconut Festival (Oct. 1-2). You’ll find a calendar of events on the same website.