Hawaii: Keiki in Paradise

Plenty of bargains and kids’ activities galore make Hawaii one of your best bets for selling family travel this season.

These days, smart travel selling means focusing on niches and destinations that have remained strong despite the economic downturn. That’s what makes family vacations to Hawaii a great travel option for agents and clients alike, says Steve Langley, director of marketing for Hawaii.com.

“Travel to Hawaii from the U.S. is actually doing quite well,” he explains. In the summer of this year, for example, Langley says that the destination enjoyed the same jump in tourist numbers that they usually get that time of year when kids get out of school and family vacation season takes place. “We’re seeing quite a strong turnout,” he continues. “Earlier in the year, you’d read a lot of stories about Hawaii and our hotel occupancy being down, which is true. However, much of that [downturn] is because of the Japanese market, not because of the U.S. market. The U.S. market is still quite strong to Hawaii.”

And it’s easy to see why. As U.S. travelers continue to seek budget-priced, value-added accommodations in resort destinations that are appropriate for kids, Hawaii continues to mix kid-friendly attractions with a romantic, exotic island ambiance that vacationers of all ages can enjoy. “It has everything a family’s looking for,” Langley says. “You’ve got the beach, and the nice part about it is that everything’s within a short distance. If you’re in Waikiki, everything is there that the kids would want. All the major hotels have some kind of kids program.” And it’s not just about selling more family travel, he explains—considering the kids’ point of view is embedded in Hawaiian culture. “We are very family-oriented here, therefore they’ll welcome families and children perhaps more than in other destinations. There are very few retirement homes here, because moms and dads come and live with their kids.” That respect for the family unit, Langley says, carries over into the islands’ hotels and resorts, welcoming children just as much as their paying parents or grandparents.

kids at play Of course, the local welcoming attitude is only the foundation of Hawaii’s diverse and flourishing family market. Resorts like Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu have made kids’ activities a priority, offering options above and beyond the typical kids’ club fare. Set on a serene beach at the north end of the island, the sprawling lawns here serve as playgrounds for children of all ages. At the Keiki Turtle Club, kids are treated to exploratory outings that teach them about their surroundings as they play. Nighttime sand crab hunts and reef walks put kids in touch—literally—with Hawaii’s exotic tropical environment, while crafts like lei making add a cultural component.

Older kids and teens might be “too cool” for organized kids’ club activities, but there are still plenty of exciting options waiting just outside the doors of their suite. What could be cooler, after all, than learning to surf in the destination that practically invented the sport? Local surf legend Hans Hedemann launched his own surf school after a long and successful career winning competitions around the globe. The Hans Hedemann Surf School at Turtle Bay offers free surf clinics every day at the resort’s main pool, introducing guests to the feel of the board, maneuvering and water safety—all in a 20-minute land lesson. More in-depth lessons take place in groups or in private one-on-one sessions starting at $75 pp.

Back on land, kids, teens and entire families can take advantage of Turtle Bay’s stable of horses and ponies. With trails traversing beaches and tropical forests, the rides give clients the chance to explore their natural environment in a fun and easy way. Experienced riders can sign up for private rides through the Kawela Bay trails, while kids under age 7 can opt for pony rides, led by staff members as parents take photos.

Turtle Bay’s accommodations also make vacationing easy on the parents, offering plenty of space for families coming back to rest after a fun-filled day. Suites like the 2-bedroom Pikake suite give parents and kids their own spaces, without compromising on ocean views, living space or bathroom amenities. Larger families should opt for one of Turtle Bay’s Ocean Villas, offering up to four bedrooms and separate living and dining areas, plus a full kitchen, marble decor and—essential for any family traveling with kids—a super capacity washer and dryer set right inside the villa. (That’s especially helpful for clients who plan to do a lot of horseback riding.)