The Drums of Hawaii
First stop for us was Maui, which we were told is the only Island in Hawaii to be named after a God. The story goes that the land was dragged up out of the sea, and then Maui lifted the skies so that man could walk on the land.
We stayed at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel for two nights, which offered really spacious rooms with a tasteful Hawaiian plantation style decor. Think dark green leafy patterns and dark furniture. Their bedding is a little out of date, still using bedspreads, but the beds are comfortable. They have a Tiki bar and restaurant onsite and have just started a Luau on Mondays, which we didn’t get to see. If you want to get out of the resort, you can walk along the beach to the Westin for a drink, or spend some hard earned dough at the Whaler shops. Be aware that everything closes a lot earlier in Maui though, particularly on Sundays.
The Hyatt Regency Maui is a traditional resort style property, with lots of pool areas. Definitely can be recommended for families of all ages, and couples too, and even groups of friends. On the day we visited, they had a local dj performing by the pool, which gave it a really funky, young vibe. They have no schedule for this, it’s just a surprise if you get it. The pool is large, and free form, with lots of fun features for kids, and a grotto bar hidden under some of the rock work – apparently this is a favourite with the Aussies!
The Drums of the Pacific Luau at the Hyatt Regency Maui was our dinner stop for the evening, and although the presenter is cheesy in the most amazing way (can I hear Alooooooooooooooooo-ha!), it is a great first taste of the polynesian cultures, with hula’s from Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, and Tahiti – all with the stories attached explained. Then the guys come out and do Samoan fire-knife dances, Maori hakas, and unearth the pig from the earth oven. VIP seats are closest to the stage and are invited to the buffet first, with premium seats just behind. The standard seats are at the back, but raised up so they can still see the stage. Very family friendly, and good fun, with all food and drinks (including alcohol) included.
The highlight on Maui was definitely the Molokini Morning Snorkel. They visit two snorkel sites, one in the crater, and one just of the shore of Maui, to give you the best chance of seeing fish, turtles, and mermaids if you don’t have your contacts in! The staff on board put on a light breakfast, provide wetsuit shirts if you get cold ($10 rental), and boyancy aids like belts and noodles for the less confident swimmers. You can also pay extra on board to participate in scuba (only for certified divers), and SNUBA which was something new to us. SNUBA is very similar to scuba, but instead of having a water tank on your back, it floats above you in a little raft. You don’t need a dive qualification to do SNUBA. They have a professional photographer/videographer on board, and you can purchase a cd of his photos, or rent an underwater digital camera/go pro from him for the duration of the cruise. Once you are chugging back towards the harbour, the crew produce a huge burger feast, and serve soft drinks and liquor from their bar – all included in the price.
The Andaz was a very chilled, luxurious hotel, definitely most suited to couples, or groups wanting a spa holiday. Their spa is amazing: all designed around an apothecary feel, with drawers and jars full of ingredients, which they use to customise scrubs, facials etc for your treatment. Every treatment starts with a consultation about what you want to achieve from your treatment (refresh, relax, pain relief etc), and then they design you a treatment around this and what scents you enjoy. Plus the nail bar has full ocean views! This feeling of simple luxury is continued outside with three cascading infinity pools, ending in a lagoon pool just a hop and a skip from the beach. Great cocktails and tapas at their poolside bar – tried and tested!
The Fairmont Kea Lani is large and mediterranean in its styling, with outdoor cafes, and awnings, and white balconies. The cove they face onto is usually only accessed by locals, so it’s as close to a private beach as you can get in Hawaii. The hotel is all suite/villa, they don’t have any standard hotel rooms. Guests have access to a number of facilities, including an award winning spa. Some of the villas have private pools, and everything is very generously proportioned.
The following day, we went zip-lining down Haleakala. It is pretty, and definitely a good option for families with young/ tween children. It is scenic, but they have regenerated the forests in Hawaii using fast growing trees from around the world – and this area is populated with gum trees! So it is a lot like home. The guide did mention that they have another zipline on Kauai, which sounded more scenic, and a little more exciting.
And I finally learnt how to pronounce Haleakala properly! Halay-A-kala, you need to emphasise the middle ‘a’, and run the ‘kala’ together quickly.
Next we headed out to Waikiki – this is where the nightlife is, and I think we fell a little in love with Duke’s, which is in the Outrigger, in the centre of the main strip backing onto the beach. It’s named after Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, whom the Hawaiian’s claim as the father of international surfing. There is a statue of him in the beach park down the road.
We stayed at the Waikiki Beach Marriott, which is built over two towers, and is a rather confusing property when you first arrive. But they have lots of brilliant touch screens around the hotel, to help you figure out where you are, and where you are trying to get to! The hotel buffet dinner is amazing, with different themes each night, and a live pasta station that is just the shiz! Family rooms are amazingly big, with 2 x Queens, and 2 x singles, plus some have a sofa bed as well.
Renovations at the Hilton Hawaiian Village aren’t as heinous as all the communications would have you believe. You can’t hear them at all, and if you are in an ocean view room in Tapa or Diamond Head towers (the two closest to the build site), then you can’t see it at all. The Rainbow tower was my favourite – it had the best views and is easily identifiable from anywhere in the resort, by the huge rainbow running down the side. This resort is perfect for families who want to be entertained, and not have to leave the resort. Lots of pools, jewellery making, kids clubs, 90 retail outlets, heaps of restaurants too. A point to note on the restaurants though: not all are managed by Hilton, so some can’t do room charges.
Next on the agenda was the Modern which was beautiful and edgy, and very chilled. No loud noises or rushing staff here! The overall vibe is very beachy and chilled, and they have beautiful peekaboo bathrooms in the rooms. One bedroom suites can interconnect with the double/double rooms on request, to make excellent living spaces for large families. Note that this resort is not designed for young children. The beach is just a couple of minutes walk away, and just opposite the hotel is the marina – the main street for Waikiki shops and entertainment is further away, however Ala Moana shopping centre here is closer. Top tip: for taxis to Ala Moana, tell your client to walk up off the main road, to avoid having to go all around the one way system, which runs from the Modern towards the Marriott.
Our last activity, was the Hike and Bike, which took us on a 2 hour walk up into the forests at the back of the Moana valley – just a couple of mile from central Waikiki. It’s an unusual walk, with lots of non-native trees, and even passing through a bamboo forest for a while, in search of a waterfall. It’s very wet, and isn’t for people with mobility issues, but doesn’t require any base level of fitness. The highlight of this tour is actually when you hook up with your mountain bike, at the top of the hill, for a leisurely coast down through the sunlight on a paved road, with a lunch stop at a beautiful lookout, with all of Waikiki and Diamond Head laid out in the sun below. It’s quite a niche product, but a good option for a client who can only shop for so long!
The Disney Aualani was the biggest surprise for us, it is a new concept, built without a theme park in the area, and was more serene than we were expecting. They have a teens spa, and an i-pad based game which children can play, leading them on an adventure around the resort. The game aims to teach them about Hawaiian culture, and allows them to activate different features in the waterpark when they come within range. Kids club is all included in the room rate. They have huge pools facilities here, with one third of the resort given over to water.
Disney touches are light here, with hidden Mickeys in the wallpaper and carpets, and character appearances only at breakfast each day, and after the twice weekly cultural shows, when they all come out for a Hawaiian ‘dance party’. I particularly enjoyed the Disney music in the lifts, which has been translated into Hawaiian!
Last stop on our itinerary was Turtle Bay Resort which has finished it’s interior renovations to reveal beautiful, relaxing, beachy rooms in blue and white, with generous bathrooms, and views over the rooftop gardens and ocean. There is two pools here, one of which has a waterslide and a small waterfall feature. They are currently updating one of the restaurants, which will be renamed, but the grill, and Surf Bar are both open, as is poolside service. We went for a swim off the rocky beach here and found ourselves swimming with turtles just feet from us. These guys have lots of options for active families, with surf lessons, golf and treks operated out of their own stables all available. For guests who want to self cater (staying in cottages or villas), there is a supermarket just down the road.
Written by L’chelle Garland