The 9 Best Resorts in Hawaii and Why They'll Get You Swooning

Posted Where to Stay by Trevor Cohen on June 17, 2014

It’s time to dust off that old Hawaiian shirt. I know it’s there, hanging next to the denim vest and cowboy hat that you bought for some western party five years ago. But now you’re reading this blog on Hawaii. And to really enjoy it, you should probably be wearing flower print.

I’ve hiked the Napali trail, I’ve done the road to Hana, and I’ve summited Mauna Kea, but this isn’t a guide to backcountry treks. This is my countdown of the cushiest Hawaiian resorts.

Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club

There’s something so romantic about watching the sunset over the ocean. The clouds light up in fiery red as you watch the sun disappear slowly, sinking from a circle into a tiny smudged glow, and then, as soon as it fades, you notice the first stars.

I’m sure you’ve heard the romantic sunset pitch before. It’s sexy. It begs you to swoon. It’s orange. It’s cliché.

What you really care about is where you are and who you’re with. If you’re on some secluded beach alone, you soon realize you’ll have to hike 3 miles back to your car in the dark. If you’re beside people you love with dinner, entertainment, and a bed close by…well now I’m swooning!   

That’s Marriott’s Ko Olina in a nutshell. This resort looks out onto the Pacific to the west on the less crowded side of Oahu. It has a beach around a crescent shaped lagoon, four pools, restaurants, a Polynesian dinner show, and access to the Ko Olina Golf Club and Marina, as well as the spa at the adjacent JW Marriott Ihilani.

Hawaii Beach Resort

Hilton Grand Vacations Club Kings' Land Resort

Have you ever tried to lose your golf ball in a field of lava rocks? Trust me, it’s not easy. The tiny white ball sticks out in the black plains, like a St. Bernard in a tutu.

On the Big Island, King’s Land Resort is home to two distinct 18-hole golf courses: the Kings Course and the Beach Course. The resort is set on 112 acres of tropical gardens, in the middle of an ancient lava flow that once ran from the snowcapped peak of Mauna Kea down to the Pacific. It has a clubhouse, spa, and a pool decorated in you guessed it, lava rocks.

Hawaii Golf

Marriott's Waiohai Beach Club

Of course it’s nice to sit in front of the waves with a mai tai or a tall glass of pineapple juice. But, nothing makes relaxation so sweet, as a day in the rainforests of Kauai.

Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club is located on Poipu Beach, a short drive from various jungle trails. You can take a boat ride up the Wailua River to a lava rock grotto covered with tropical ferns that hang from the ceiling like green chandeliers. Meanwhile, Hawaiian musicians play traditional songs in the background. Back at the resort you can take ukulele lessons yourself, and relax at the pool or on the beach.

Kauai Beach Resort

Marriott's Maui Ocean Club

Humpback whales travel 5,000 miles every year from the Gulf of Alaska to the warm waters off west Maui. And you don’t even have to get up off the beach chair to watch them. But, if you’d like to see the ridges on every barnacle, you can hop on a boat from the nearby town of Lahaina.

Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club is on Ka’anapali Beach. It has a kid-friendly pool with waterfalls, slides, hot tubs, and grottos. You can eat lunch at the Napili Pool Bar or dine at Longboards for fresh seafood. It’s also worth it to escape the resort for one day and visit the restaurants, shopping, and nightlife in the historic town of Lahaina.

Hawaii Whale Watching

Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas

Have you ever slept comfortably in the rainforest? You might picture bug noises and hot sticky nights. Let that image fade. Now imagine plush beds where “one feels as if you’re sleeping on a cloud,” light A/C, and nothing but the sound of the ocean.

Near the sea and the jungled canyons of Kauai’s Napali Coast, Westin Princeville is the full resort experience with four pools, three spas, and a steam room and sauna. There’s also a kid’s night “in” activity program, so couples can enjoy a romantic dinner at either of the resort’s two restaurants.

Kauai Napali Coast

Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villas

What makes Maui’s Ka’anapali Beach so special? It’s not just the golden sands. I’d say it’s the resort. Westin Ka’anapali has a magnificent pool with a pirate ship for kids to play on, a sumptuous 10,000 square-foot Heavenly Spa, dozens of resort activities including craft making, a kids program, and yoga. Hungry for the sweet, savory of Hawaiian food? You have three restaurants to choose from. Or save some money and pick up food at the marketplace to cook yourself.

Westin Ka'anapali Resort

Hilton Grand Vacations Club at The Grand Waikikian

You’re that couple vigorously paddling an outrigger canoe with big smiles. Back on the beach you look into your lover’s eyes, entranced, while kids make perfectly symmetrical sand castles. You’re stuck in a vintage travel poster on Waikiki Beach and you don’t want to escape. Hilton’s Grand Waikikian is a swanky high rise on Hawaii’s most iconic beach, where you get to have your cake and eat it too: nostalgia and a beautiful experience in the present.

Waikiki Beach Poster

Ka'anapali Beach Club

I do love a good Luau, because I’m a sucker for all that cultural stuff. Well, as long as the food lives up to the entertainment. There’s nothing like the juicy taste of a whole pig, roasted underground in the traditional fashion, eaten by tiki light. Ka’anapali Beach Club puts on an evening Luau in front of the beach. They also have ukulele lessons, and kids get to take part in the nightly tiki-torch ceremony.

Hawaii Laua

Hilton Grand Vacations Club (HGVC) at Hilton Hawaiian Village

And now it’s time for the granddaddy of all Hawaiian resorts. Drum roll...Hilton’s Hawaiian Village showcases six swimming pools, a 5,000 square foot waterpark, Mandara Spa, Holistica Hawaiian Health Center, dozens of supervised kid’s activities, restaurants, shops, and more. And by more, I mean nightly fireworks, hula lessons, lei making, snorkel, scuba, and of course everything in Honolulu, including Pearl Harbor, gourmet dining, parades, live music, and so on. But, don’t forget catch your breath with a walk on the beach.

Hilton Hawaii