So, you and yours have decided on Hawaii as the destination for your next adventure together. An excellent choice, but - where should you stay?
Browsing Hawaiian resorts can be an oddly frustrating experience. Every island looks incredible. Virtually every resort option looks like a different flavor of the same awesome. One (or two) can end up feeling caught between enthusiasm and uncertainty, perhaps even with a dash of suspicion.
Finding the best resort is hard. It can seem hard to know what makes a particular resort “the best.” But by any reasonable definition, the “best” resort should be the one that most accommodates your ability to get what you want out of your trip.
Different couples want different experiences. Different resorts cater to different experiences; but they also vary in terms of their capability to, and reputation for, facilitating distinctively world-class experiences in general. Consider this your island-by-island guide to the cream of the crop, from which you can hopefully identify your own ideal stay.
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Oahu: Seeking the Iconic Experience
In general, the island of Oahu is the place to go for the iconic Hawaiian vacation experience - arguably, Honolulu’s Waikiki in particular.
If you’re the traveler who visits the opera house when in Sydney, the Eiffel Tower when in Paris, the Taj Mahal in Agra, and so on, The Royal Hawaiian in Waikiki is still the ultimate choice when in Hawaii. This historic luxury hotel is nearing its 100th birthday and it is still the most coveted location in Hawaii’s most popular beach-front neighborhood.
Legends spanning decades tell of the unparalleled luxury to be found here. Gorgeous suites. Stunning views. Sitting right in the heart of Waikiki with countless restaurants and attractions all nearby. If you were to script a movie and send two characters on a quintessential vacation to Hawaii, you’d have them stay at The Royal Hawaiian.
The Island of Hawaii: Seeking a Big Experience
The aptly-nicknamed Big Island is almost 10 times bigger than the next biggest Hawaiian island. One of the key features this provides is space. Do you want to stay in a massive resort, with pools, lagoons, waterslides, tons of restaurants, and tons of amazing in-resort activities in every direction?
If so, stay in the Hilton in Waikoloa Village. This is a gorgeous, top-rated resort that you could literally spend your entire vacation without leaving if you so wish. At 62 acres, this is actually one of the largest hotels in the world - and like the island upon which it can be found, “big” is something of a running theme. There is a 175-foot water slide. There is a 25,000 square foot spa. You can attend luaus, swim with dolphins, play golf, visit museums, and more - all without leaving the resort.
The Hilton in Waikoloa Village is often divisively described as being almost more like a theme park than a regular resort. For some, this is a disqualification; but for many others, it is hugely appealing. This Big Island destination is definitely the top spot for couples looking for an immense and immersive place to stay.
Kauai: Seeking an Intimate Oasis
Kauai is the smallest, least visited, and (many would argue) most beautiful of the 4 main Hawaiian Islands. For many couples, this makes it the ideal destination. It’s quieter, it’s easier to find privacy, and its condensed yet vast range of natural wonders is one of the planet’s most spectacular.
The island’s best-rated resort for couples by far is The Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort in Kapaa. This resort sits right on Poipu Beach and boasts a number of enticing features, including an infinity pool, an oceanfront bar, and, of course, unforgettable views. It is also in a stellar location for visiting other attractions on the island; for example, the resort provides easy access to nearby Wailua Falls.
If natural beauty in a more intimate setting is what you're after, look no further.
Maui: Seeking the Ultimate Experience
Let’s say you’re not particularly drawn to the world-famous, but you’re not thrilled by the idea of the smallest, least-visited either; and you’re not the type to roam around a Disneyland-sized resort all vacation long. These unique calling cards are great, but let’s say what you want is, quite simply, the ultimate resort experience. What is the place that most couples say is the best?
Excitingly, this question has an alarmingly clear answer. The highest-rated couples resort in the whole state and the self-proclaimed most Hawaiian hotel in Hawaii, the Kaanapali Beach Hotel is widely considered to be the Michael Jordan of romantic getaways.
Nestled on the shores of one of the world’s loveliest beaches, visitors are blessed with just about every activity one’s heart could desire, from helicopter tours, to snorkeling, to hula lessons. Restaurants on site get particularly rave reviews, as do the newly renovated premium rooms, the pictures of which speak for themselves. But alas, unlike other resorts on the list, what makes this place so special isn’t necessarily so easy to point to directly. It’s not the biggest, it’s not the most famous, and it is neither the least nor most visited; but it is, on balance, quite possibly the best overall.
So much of what makes a vacation unforgettable is in the intangibles. When the sun was setting, the calm waves were rushing over your toes, the smell of food pulling from a short distance, the perfectly-mixed cocktail in hand, and you and your partner exchanged that wordless, knowing, triumphant glance…how did you feel?
A propensity for inspiring such indescribable moments is probably why this award-swarmed hotel is voted Maui’s best year after year. If your heart can’t help but trust the couples of the world who now turn to you and say “you just have to experience it for yourself,” then experience the Kaanapali Beach Hotel.
Whether you’re a couple seeking the iconic, the grand, the intimate, or the all-around “most Hawaiian,” there is an island and a resort waiting for you. We hope you found this to be an illuminating starting place. Mahalo and best of luck!