Family-Friendly Resorts in Hawaii: All-Inclusive or Not

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

Four Seasons

Hawaii is one of the top 10 destinations for family vacations in the United States, according to the U.S. News and World Report's annual ranking of Best Vacations, but it is rare to see a resort offering traditional all-inclusive pricing that includes room fee, meals, drinks, kids' clubs, and all-you-can-do activities.

The closest thing to a classic all-inclusive resort in Hawaii is Travaasa Hana on Maui, but it is not particularly family-friendly. However, what's relatively common is semi-inclusive, or "Hawaiian-style all-inclusive," pricing. This typically is a package that includes one meal, your accommodations, and perhaps an experience provided by the resort such as a dinner cruise or luau.

The rationale for most resorts only offering limited packages and charging extra for meals, activities, and experiences is that Hawaii is a relatively safe place for travelers and there are plenty of places to see and things to do outside the resort itself. For this reason, you may want to look at cheap activities elsewhere on the islands of Hawaii before booking expensive ones at your resort.

Additionally, rather than booking your stay an all-inclusive resort that doesn't have a lot of attractions for children, you may want to choose a kid-friendly resort with an array of amenities and activities and consider visiting when the crowds are thin and prices are low. Typically, this means April, May, September, and October, excluding holiday times such as Easter, Labor Day, and other long weekends.

The Most-Inclusive Resorts in Hawaii

While it is easy to find resorts that offer many complimentary activities, it's not common to find resorts that bundle meals into the rate. So with the understanding that these are not all-inclusive resorts in the true sense, these Hawaiian properties come closer than most by occasionally offering Hawaiian-inclusive or all-inclusive packages.

  • Ka'anapali Beach Hotel: Located on Maui, Ka'anapali often offers a four-night "Best of the Beach" package that includes not only lodging but a rental car; daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner for two; and some off-site excursions. Ka'anapali Beach Hotel also offers various complimentary Hawaiian activities such as lei-making and hula performances.
  • Royal Lahaina Resort: Also located on Maui, the property boasts an isolated beach, nightly luau, three pools, and a nice tennis program. Royal Lahaina Resort sometimes offers an all-inclusive package that includes a breakfast buffet, lunch, and a three-course dinner daily, plus $40 beverage credit per room.
  • Four Seasons Resort Hualalai: Located on the Big Island, the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai often offers packages that include at least one meal (usually breakfast) as well as several activities, access to a complimentary "Kids for All Seasons" program, and complimentary meals for kids under age 5 at Pahu i’a Restaurant.
  • Royal Kona Resort: Also located on the Big Island, Royal Kona often offers two packages for guests staying at least five nights that include a room and breakfast, plus additional perks such as a dinner luau, sunset cruise, or rental car. Royal Kona Resort offers fewer activities for children and more geared toward couples and singles on vacation.
  • Aulani Resort and Spa: This Disney attraction on Oahu's North Shore offers discounted rates and personalized packages which includes access to a water park and kid's club, pool parties, and live entertainment like visits from Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Aulani Resort and Spa is particularly cheap when school is in session but winter the busy tourist season hasn't yet started.

Why Hawaii Resorts Aren't Truly All-Inclusive

There are historic reasons why Mexico and the Caribbean are brimming with all-inclusive resorts, and conversely, there are some good reasons why all-inclusive resorts never really caught on in Hawaii. Most all-inclusive resorts are set up with the expectation that guests will spend the vast majority of their time on the property, which doesn't necessarily make sense in Hawaii.

Because many resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean are located in what may be considered dangerous, many guests to these destinations essentially stay put within the confines of the property because safety or a lack of infrastructure may be an issue for visitors. In Hawaii, it’s generally safe to explore without worry, so there's no reason to make the resorts there feel like compounds.

Dining is another reason you might not want to pre-pay for meals at a resort in Hawaii. Unlike in Mexico and the Caribbean where travelers have concerns about how potable the water is and how safe it is to eat the local cuisine, restaurants are regulated by the United States federal government and state government of Hawaii. This means you can expect a minimum of food and water safety from any public establishment, and there are plenty of great restaurants to try on each of the islands.

Ultimately, it's best to mix up your Hawaiian vacation with a lot of exploration outside the resort. While you may not be able to pay for everything at once this way, it provides a lot more flexibility and many more experiences than you could hope to discover staying at your resort your whole Hawaiin vacation. Most visitors explore the island and consequently end up eating and playing off-property; because of this, it makes less sense to offer all-inclusive pricing in Hawaii.