Do you have a question about planning a family vacation? Ask Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, the family vacations correspondent at Tripsavvy.com.
Question: My husband and I love the ease of an all-inclusive resort and would love to find one in Hawaii. I've been trying to find one that's family-friendly but have come up with nothing. What am I missing? Can you recommend one? —Catherine T. from Bend, OR
Suzanne says: You've gone in search of the Hawaiian Holy Grail.
In the 50th state, it is rare to see a resort offer traditional all-inclusive pricing that includes room, all meals, drinks, kids clubs, and a raft load of activities. To my knowledge, the closest thing to a classic all-inclusive resort in Hawaii is Travaasa Hana on Maui, and it is not particularly family-friendly.
What's relatively common is semi-inclusive, or "Hawaiian-style all-inclusive," pricing. This typically is a package (often with a minimum stay) that includes accommodations, one meal, and perhaps an experience (such as a dinner cruise or luau) and/or a rental car. The rationale is that Hawaii is a safe place and travelers generally spend a significant amount of time exploring outside the resort.
Rather than an all-inclusive resort, 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 holiday weekends.
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 on Maui 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. There are also various complimentary Hawaiian activities such as lei-making and hula performances.
Check rates at Ka'anapali Beach Hotel
- Royal Lahaina Resort on Maui boasts an isolated beach, nightly luau, three pools, and a nice tennis program. The property sometimes offers an all-inclusive package that includes a breakfast buffet, lunch, and a three-course dinner daily, plus $40 beverage credit per room.
Check rates at Royal Lahaina Resort
- Four Seasons Resort Hualalai on the Big Island often offers several packages that include at least one meal, usually breakfast, as well as a raft of activities, a complimentary Kids for All Seasons children's program, and complimentary meals for kids under age 5 at Pahu i’a Restaurant.
Check rates at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
- Royal Kona Resort, also on the Big Island, often offers two packages for guests staying at least five nights that include room and breakfast, plus additional perks such as a dinner luau, sunset cruise, or rental car.
Check rates at Royal Kona Resort
Why You May Not Want an All-Inclusive Resort in Hawaii
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 property, which doesn't necessarily make sense in Hawaii.
- Safety. Many resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean have the feel of a compound, where guests pretty much stay put within the confines 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.
- Wide array of restaurants. While visitors may have some concern for water and food safety in some tropical destinations, restaurants are regulated in Hawaii. You really don’t need to worry about eating or drinking in Hawaiian restaurants.
- Exploring outside the resort. You don't visit the Hawaii and stay cooped up at your resort. 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.
Looking for family vacation advice? Here’s how to ask Suzanne your question.