Resorting to Perfection

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Who Loves Ya, Keiki?

Resorting to Perfection
By Jim Gullo

Hired Hands
Ocean Voyages (800-299-4444) offers customized seven-day island-to-island all-inclusive sailing trips aboard a 50-foot sloop; you decide when to go and where to stop. Rates start at $4,995 for a family of four.

REI Adventures (800-622-2236) leads a seven-day Kauai Island Paradise trip that includes sea kayaking along the Na Pali coast, snorkeling among spinning dolphins and sea turtles, and hiking and mountain biking in the Kokee highlands. Departures are June 22-28 and August 3-9; cost is $1,195 per person; recommended minimum age is 14 (no discounts for kids).

American Wilderness Experience (800-444-0099) accepts travelers of all ages on its ten-day Land of Aloha Three Island Adventure. Highlights include hiking on Kauai along the Na Pali coast and the rim of Waimea canyon; swimming and snorkeling, plus hiking in Haleakala crater on Maui; and exploring Kilauea Iki crater and the Waipio Valley on the Big Island. Departures are June 22, July 6 and 27, and August 17; cost is $1,595 (no discounts for kids).

Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Oahu
Claim to Fame: Despite the fact that Waikiki Beach is an urbanized tourist magnet with hotels crammed onto nearly every beachfront inch, it's still paradise. Your oasis is the elegant Royal Hawaiian Hotel, a Moroccan-style, all-pink palace on the beach that dates back to 1927 and has the attentive feel of a big-city hotel, albeit one where everything is pink--rooms, towels, lobbies. In the main building, the rooms are spacious, with colonial-style furniture; in the Royal Tower, all rooms have ocean views with private lanais.

Because guests here have charging privileges at three other Sheraton hotels in Waikiki, you'll feel like you have the run of the place. Teens especially love the casual, urban ambience of Waikiki, where pedestrians stroll the sidewalks carrying surfboards, and movie theaters are just around the corner. All four hotels share the free (with lunch available for $6.50) Keiki Aloha program and Ho'okipa activity center at the Sheraton Waikiki, adjacent to the Royal, where kids 5 to 12 are taken on trips to attractions like the Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium. Kids four and under eat free with adults.

Sports On-Site: The beachboys at Aloha Beach Services, two doors down, give surfing lessons ($25 per hour) or rides on outrigger canoes ($5 per person) or catamarans ($10 per hour). The gentle, near-shore break is great for boogieboarding; rent a board for $5 a day, or buy one at any ABC Store for about $20-$40. For snorkeling, pick Dream Cruises; its 100-foot yacht comes equipped with a water slide and floating trampoline (three-and-a-half-hour cruise with lunch; adults, $60; age 4 to 17, $30; under four, free; call 808-592-5200).

Farther Afield: Rent a car and make a loop of the island, beginning with an early visit to Hanauma Bay, ten miles from Waikiki in Oahu's southeastern corner. This snorkeling magnet is mobbed by 9 a.m., so get there by eight and you'll see dinner-plate-size parrot fish and butterfly fish in waist-deep water. Keep the ocean on your right side as you drive around Koko Head to Kailua Beach Park on the windward side, where Kailua Sailboards & Kayaks (in the shopping center on Kailua Road) rents kayaks ($28 per day; doubles $39) and windsurfing rigs ($30 per day; $39 for a three-hour lesson).

Kids over seven will enjoy the relatively flat, hour-long hike just south of Laie along the muddy, ferny banks of Kaluanui Stream that takes you to Sacred Falls, a thrilling 80-foot stream tumbling through a cleft in the Koolau Mountains. Pull into the marked parking lot and take the 1.3-mile trail to the dirt path. It's another .7 miles to the falls. Be sure to drop a leaf in the water to appease the resident mo'o (legendary giant lizards who are said to live at the bottom of deep lakes and swamps) before jumping in. For tougher, guided hikes into the mountains, the Hawaii Nature Center (955-0100) and Sierra Club (538-6616) lead groups every weekend for a nominal charge.

Booking Information: Rates at the Royal run $290-$490 per night for a double or $475 for a junior garden suite. There is no charge for kids under 18 staying in the same room as their parents. Call 800-325-3535 for additional information.

Another Option: On the north shore, the Turtle Bay Hilton (ocean-view doubles, $175-$215; under 17 free with parents) is a bit worn, but is quieter than Waikiki. Call 800-445-8667 for reservations and information.

Hyatt Regency, Kauai
Claim to Fame: As the northernmost Hawaiian island, Kauai is the first stop for the world's howling winds and crashing waves, and thus has some of the most amazing eroded landscapes on the planet.

The Hyatt Regency Kauai in Poipu on the south side is a handsome place where you'll find the best beach, spa, bar, and pool complex on the island. The water slide, river-current pool, action pool with basketball and volleyball, and hidden Jacuzzis keep kids five and up busy, and parents with smaller kids love the shallow, sand-bottomed lagoon. Classes on poi-pounding and lei-making are offered by a local hula halau (school), and Camp Hyatt Kauai ($45 per day for kids 3 to 12, including lunch), stresses history and ecology through nature treks and guided hikes of the resort's archaeological sites.

Sports On-Site: Rent snorkels and fins ($5 per day) and kayaks ($7.50 per hour) at the poolside kiosk. Free guided hikes are offered every other Monday morning to prehistoric native Hawaiian settlements alongside the property.

Farther Afield: A three-hour horseback tour with CJM Country Stables ($71; 742-6096) explores Mahaulepu, the craggy, untraveled southeastern corner of the island. Or rent bikes from Outfitters Kauai at Poipu Plaza ($20-$33 per day; 742-9667) and ride past Poipu Beach Park, which has fine snorkeling on the rocky sides, to the Spouting Horn, a startling gusher that funnels waves from an undersea lava tube into a narrow crack in the rocks. Farther west, Joshua Rudinoff of Kauai Coasters leads a morning bike ride that descends 12 miles and more than 2,500 feet along the rim of stark, red-cliffed Waimea Canyon ($65; minimum age 12; 639-2412). Nearby, at Kokee State Park, there are great hikes along trails that hug the ridge overlooking the Na Pali Coast or descend into muddy, boggy Alakai Swamp. With its 486 inches of annual rainfall, Alakai is famous as the wettest place on earth.

Paddling the Na Pali Coast on the north shore, an hour's drive from Poipu, is completely ono (great, bitchin,' wicked cool) in summer, when winter's 30-foot waves have stopped smashing into the coastline. For families with kids 16 and up, Kayak Kauai leads an all-day, 15-mile paddle ($130 per person; 826-9844) past hanging valleys, stark cliffs, and sea caves that you can paddle into. Kids under 16 can take a tour with Captain Zodiac (adults, $58-$120; $10-$20 discount for kids 4 to 12; 826-9371) that explores the coastline in rubber motorcraft. Just south of Princeville, on Anini Beach, rent windsurfers from Anini Beach Windsurfing (three-hour lessons, $65; rental, $50 per day; 826-9463).

Booking Information: Double rooms at the Hyatt Regency Kauai (800-233-1234) go for $365-$415 per night, or $485 for a Regency Club room with continental breakfast, free evening cocktails, and a dedicated concierge service.

Another Option: The Kiahuna Plantation, also in Poipu, sits on 35 oceanfront acres with manicured gardens. One-bedroom units ($175-$400) come with kitchens. Call 800-462-6262.

Kona Village, The Big Island
Claim to Fame: Great. You came all the way to the Big Island, only to find a smashed-up parking lot of jagged lava that stretches north from Keahole-Kona Airport for miles. Don't sweat it; there are wonderful resort oases hidden among the lava fields, the water is spectacularly blue and alive, and you can use up every last calorie having fun in the out-of-doors.

Your base is Kona Village, five miles north of the airport on the site of an ancient Hawaiian fishing village. Secluded and unpretentious, the Village has comfortable thatch-roof huts along a small beach, great restaurants, and only one television and VCR in the whole place. Your kids can learn how to throw fishing nets, hook carp in the resort's pond, and paint coconuts in the free Na Keiki in Paradise program (for ages 6 to 12).

Sports On-Site: Explore the bay with snorkels, kayaks, Sunfish and Laser sailboats (free to guests) from the Beach Shack, or go diving ($85 for one tank) or take a snorkel sail ($55). The hotel won't let you stray far from its shores with its gear, so you might want to rent a kayak from Ocean Safaris Kayak Tours in Kailua-Kona (singles, $30 per day; doubles, $45; 326-4699). From Kona Village paddle north for miles of unobstructed lava coastline with the best blue water and underwater formations in Hawaii. Arrange to have someone pick you up at Kiholo Bay, about eight miles up the coast, or plan for a tough return paddle into the teeth of the wind and current.

Farther Afield: Hawaiian Walkways (800-457-7759) leads a four- to six-mile hiking tour ($110 per person; $90 kids 12 and under) from Anaehoomalu, near the Waikoloa Resort, to the Kona Coast State Park on the Ala Kahakai Trail, a shoreline trail through petroglyph fields. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, about two-and-a-half-hours from Kona, also has eerie, venting trails and the bizarre Thurston Lava Tube. Call the eruption hotline (967-7977) to see where the lava is flowing.

Waipio Valley on the Hamakua coast is a carved-out bowl surrounded by sheer cliffs and ocean. Explore it on horseback with Na'alapa Trail Rides (two-and-a-half-hour tour, $75; kids 8 to 14, $65; 775-0419), which takes you deep into the valley for views of Hiilawe Falls and taro fields. For a killer paddling trip, Ocean Safaris Kayak Tours (326-4699) offers a new overnight excursion along the coast from Waipio Valley to Pololu Valley (starting at $450 per person for three days; minimum age ten).

Booking Information: Kona Village rates ($625 per day for two adults) include three meals daily and airport transfers. Kids' rates run $170 for 13 and up; $115 for age 6 to 12; $60 age 2 to 5; $25 for infants. Call 800-367-5290.

Another Option: In the town of Volcano, the Kilauea Lodge (two-bedroom cottage, $175 for a family of four, including breakfast; 967-7366) is a comfortable inn near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Embassy Suites, Maui
Claim to Fame: Maui gives you the choice of all-in-one-resort convenience, with the option of escaping to some remote and dazzlingly lovely corners where you can kick back in peace, away from the crowds.

In West Maui, the Kaanapali Resort is a stretch of high-rise hotels fronting a three-mile strip of manicured sand. Check out the Embassy Suites, a big, pink pyramid on the far-north side of the beach. Accommodations are one-bedroom suites equipped with kitchenettes and big-screen TVs with cable and VCR; full breakfast is included. There's a one-acre pool, a fitness center, and golf and tennis nearby. Kids 4 to 10 can enroll in the Beach Buddies Children's Program ($20 per day including lunch and a T-shirt) and learn how to count in Hawaiian, take nature walks, and go beachcombing.

Sports On-Site: Grab snorkels, seacycles, sailboards, or kayaks at the beach activities desk (charges vary) and head south inside the barrier reef. To the north are rocky coves and the rugged seaside cliffs of the Kapalua Resort.

Farther Afield: Take a 45-minute catamaran cruise from Lahaina across the Auau Channel to Club Lanai, where you can spend the day snorkeling, kayaking, or mountain biking. The $79-$89 tariff includes lunch and equipment; call 667-4000.

You can hike into the crater of Haleakala, the dormant volcano (check with the park center at 572-9306), or traverse it on horseback with Pony Express, which leads a daily 7.5-mile trip down into the crater ($120 per person; 667-2200).

Explore Maui's desolate southwestern shore on a three-hour kayak tour with South Pacific Kayaks and Outfitters ($55; 875-4848) that paddles around Puu Olai, a shoreline cinder cone, to Oneloa Beach (also known as Big Beach).

Booking Information: A one-bedroom suite at Embassy Suites runs $265-$335 per night for up to four people; call 800-669-3155.

Another Option: The Silver Cloud Upcountry Guest Ranch, on the slopes of Haleakala in Kula, is a B&B with stunning ocean views ($95-$135 per couple plus $15 per child five and up for a bunkhouse with kitchenette; call 808-878-6101).

Molokai Ranch, Molokai
Claim to Fame: If you're having trouble deciding what kind of vacation you want--a tropical beach getaway, a safari, mountain biking, horseback riding, or camping--the answer is simple: Go to Molokai. At Molokai Ranch, a 53,000-acre complex stretching from up-country ranchland to the ocean, you can have it all. Families stay in two-unit tents mounted on wooden platforms with solar-powered water and lights and self-composting toilets, or in two-person yurts right on the beach.

Sports On-Site: There are daily jeep tours of the ranch's 350-acre wildlife park where zebras, giraffes, elands, and barbary sheep roam through a landscape reminiscent of Africa's savannah. You can also take a guided horse trek; hike or bike more than 30 miles of trails; sea kayak and snorkel among green sea turtles, angelfish, and anemones; or attend a paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) rodeo.

Booking Information: Prices are $154 per adult per night, $85 for each additional person (full price in two-person yurts), including airport transfers, all meals, and one activity per day. Kayaks, surfboards, mountain bikes, and snorkel gear can be rented from the ranch's Outfitters Center. Extra cots and sleeping bags are available for an additional $30. For more information and reservations, call 800-254-8871.

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web