Where to stay in Hawaii is a difficult decision, that depends a lot on your budget and personal preferences. We've stayed at a number of the expensive, upscale resorts, but have also stayed in more basic hotels, condos, and bed and breakfasts. We've often found pretty good rates through packages or simply deals at the hotels themselves shown on their web sites.
The following is a summary of the different areas on each island that we've stayed at, highlighting places we've stayed at (often more than once) and enjoyed. This is by no means a complete list of your choices.
Northwest side of the island, with about a half dozen upscale resorts spread along a 20-30 mile stretch. Very dry, desert-like area, surrounded by black lava.
- Mauna Lani Bay Hotel. Our favorite resort in all of Hawaii, and great for younger children. Salt water fish and turtles swimming through pools in and near the lobby. Big pool, sheltered beach, and lots to see and do on the resort.
- Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Another great hotel, that set the standard along the Kohala Coast. One of the great beaches of the world. The hotel just reopened, after having been closed for a couple years due to earthquake damage.
- Mauna Lani Point condos. Large, upscale condos in the Mauna Lani resort. Good value. They're nearby and have access to a nice snorkeling beach (the "Beach Club Beach"), and are about a 10-15 minute from the hotel beach if you want. You don't officially get to use the lounge chairs at the hotel beach, but if you behave yourself and its not too crowded, no one will say anything. (In the interests of full disclosure, we own a unit in this development.)
- My brother has stayed at the Fairmont Orchid,also located in the Mauna Lani resort. He comments that while it is not quite as nice as the Mauna Lani Bay, it is often cheaper due to special deals worth checking out.
As discussed in the Big Island page, staying in Volcano makes it easy to get an early start in the park. There's a hotel in the park, but it seems over-priced. There are a number of B&B's and small hotels in Volcano that are probably better choices.
- My Island Bed and Breakfast. We've stayed here twice, once in the older main house and the second time in a modern 3 bedroom house about a mile away. Very friendly owners.
Hilo doesn't have any resorts, but has a number of small and mid-size hotels, as well as some B&Bs. You're not going to spend much time in the hotels here, so you don't need luxury. We've stayed at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel and at Uncle Billy's Hilo Bay Hotel, both of which were fine.
Southern part of the island, tends to be dryer and sunnier than the other parts of the island, and has good beaches. We've only stayed in condos here, including Outrigger Kiahuna Plantation and a privately owned condo in the Kuhio Shores condo.
Princeville is a resort complex on the north shore, with great golf. You need to drive to get to any beaches, though. We've stayed at the Pali Ke Kua condos, which had a great view of the coastline.
A number of older hotels and condos line the eastern shore of Kauai. Not many good beaches, but good golf at Kauai Lagoons. Fairly central area, so good spot for sightseeing.
Big resort complex on the northwest corner of the island. Good beaches, great golf, but tends to get more rain and is a long drive from anywhere else on the island. We stayed at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua, which was nice, but seemed just like a big hotel.
Newer resort complex on the southwest part of the island. Great beaches, good golf, and usually pretty sunny. Easy to get to Kihei for groceries and cheap restaurants.
- Wailea Beach Villas. We've stayed twice in the Elua village, but there are several others. Very large and pleasant condos. We splurged for an oceanfront condo in March, which gave us great views of whales from our lanai.
- Grand Wailea Resort. Resort hotel with huge pool complex, kids (of all ages) have fun.
First and oldest resort area in Maui, with several major hotels and lots of condos. We've stayed here or nearby a couple times, but there are better choices.
There are two very different resorts on Lanai, currently operated by Four Seasons, and they offer a free shuttle for the 20 minute ride between them (just make sure you keep an eye on the clock so you don't miss the shuttle).
- Lodge at Koele. A unique hotel, with marvelous rooms, common areas, and grounds. Middle of the island, cool and misty; a nice contrast from most of the other resorts in Hawaii. Well-maintained18-hole miniature golf course. Beach is twenty minutes away at Manele Bay.
- Manele Bay Hotel. A very nice resort hotel located on a wonderful beach.
Busy and cosmopolitan. Best place to do your souvenir shopping. Hotels and condos of all prices and sizes, including some famous upscale hotels. We prefer to save our money for the other islands, so we have tended to avoid these (unless we can use frequent flyer miles). If you're planning to rent a car while in Waikiki, then pay attention to where your hotel is. Driving around Waikiki can be problematic, so its nice to have a place that allows you to avoid the bulk of the traffic.
- Marriott Waikiki. A pretty nice hotel just across from the beach. Compared to several other places, this one is pretty easy to get into and out of.
- Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel. Several blocks from the beach (easily walkable) and from Kapiolani Park, this hotel is a good value and has nice rooms. (This hotel has gone through a number of owners - including Outrigger and Radisson.)
- Hilton Hawaiian Village. A big hotel, right on the west end of the beach.
- Ilikai Hotel. A little further west of the Hilton. No real beach (you can walk over to the Hilton), but fairly easy to get into and out of.