They may share the Aloha spirit but each of Hawaii’s main islands has its own distinct personality and a stay to match. Here's our pick of the best resorts to stay at.
Lanai: the mountain stay
What Lanai lacks in size and traffic lights (there are none) it makes up for in dramatic coastal cliffs, high-end stays and opportunities for adventure. A former plantation that once produced up to 75 per cent of the world’s pineapples, Hawaii’s smallest inhabited isle is home to just over 3000 people.
Hidden away, high in the leafy hinterland, adults-only resort Sensei Lanai takes a low-key luxe approach to wellness. The property’s 96 rooms and suites evoke a sense of calm with cloud-like interior palettes and green outlooks, while in the spa, 10 private teak hales (traditional Hawaiian buildings) house Japanese soaking tubs, steam rooms and infrared saunas.
Whether your wellbeing journey includes ordering room service or swapping stories at the 16-seat communal table at Sensei by Nobu restaurant (inside a glass pavilion sitting atop a reflection pond, naturally), menus hero healthy choices such as tofu hot pot or Nobu’s iconic black cod with miso.
The island’s uncrowded hiking trails include the easy seven-kilometre red-dirt Koloiki Ridge Trail and the more challenging trek through Keahiakawelo, a lunar-like landscape strewn with boulders (otherwise only accessible by four-wheel drive or mountain bike), while Lanai's beaches and the annual humpback whale migration (November to May) are best viewed from the water.
Hawaii: the romantic getaway
Steamy jungles in the east, the snowcapped peak of the world’s tallest mountain, Mauna Kea, in the north and sun-drenched beaches along the coast. Hawaii – also called the Big Island – is all about wild nature and Kuono at Volcano, shrouded in a forest of endemic ohia trees, puts you right in the heart of it.
Five minutes from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to two lava-spewing craters (including Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on earth), the contemporary open-plan cabin has a small kitchen, ensuite and all the essential creature comforts – plus a few special extras. Beyond the 1.2-metre floor-to-ceiling windows in the living area, a gas firepit and cedar hot tub await on the private lanai (a covered, open-sided verandah).
A place of vast geographical diversity, this island rewards the adventurous: from self-driving and ziplining, stargazing and helicopter flights to snorkelling the crystalline waters off the northern Kohala Coast, where spinner dolphins, reef sharks and green sea turtles abound.
SEE ALSO: Which Island in Hawaii Should You Visit?
Kauai: the holiday home
It’s the glittering star of the archipelago and where more than 80 feature films and TV shows have been shot, including Jurassic Park and The Descendants. Yet Kauai’s charms are more than superficial. Hawaii’s oldest and northernmost island is also its greenest, home to Waimea Canyon, known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and three of the United States’ five National Tropical Gardens, including McBryde and its vast collection of native Hawaiian flora.
While there are family-friendly resorts and hotels on the South Shore, Hale Ho’Oli, a five-bedroom house that caters for up to 12 people, makes a roomy, luxurious base for reconnecting with loved ones (without treading on any toes).
Located in pretty Koloa, site of the island’s first sugar mill in 1835, the sprawling plantation-style property is framed by green lawns and overlooks Kukui’ula golf course and the Pacific Ocean. Spend lazy days lounging on the daybed swings in the main house or if you’re travelling with little ones, settle on an overwater sunlounger to supervise the action in the infinity pool.
Oahu: the hybrid stay
This gateway island draws a diverse crowd. Waikiki is the birthplace of surfing and the North Shore’s epic breaks lure today’s best board riders. Pearl Harbor is a national monument to World War II. Dining out spans laid-back locals like Helena’s Hawaiian Food in Honolulu and high-end Japanese such as Sushi Sasabune. And Honolulu’s Ala Moana Center, the world’s largest open-air mall, is a temple of retail therapy.
The Orchid Suite at Halekulani, a historic luxury hotel on Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach, encapsulates the best of Oahu’s many moods. Check in to enjoy all the comforts of a home away from home, including plush living spaces, a full kitchen and a spa-style bathroom with a steam shower and chromatherapy soaking pool. If one-on-one wine tastings and cooking lessons are your style, private culinary experiences are among the exclusive activities available to guests of the elegant three-room digs, along with a personal butler service.
But the suite’s real sweet spot is its Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head views – seen from the lounge room, outdoor dining area and king-sized bed – and access to hotel amenities such as a turndown service, the property’s seven restaurants and bars, plus live Hawaiian music every evening.
Maui: the ultimate kids’ resort
A whopping nine pools spread over six vast levels and connected by five water slides, plus the world’s first water elevator. Not doing it for you? There are also six waterfalls, caves, a whitewater rapids slide and a Tarzan pool with its own rope swing. Maui may be famously relaxed but the 776-room-and-villa luxury resort, Grand Wailea, knows how to have fun.
Set on 16 hectares of palm-fringed coast on Wailea Beach, the hotel’s immense 2400-square-metre watery wonderland (there’s an adults-only pool, too) is enough to distract you and the crew from ever setting foot on the sand.
Beyond the resort and from just about every vantage point on the island, the dormant volcano Haleakala dominates the skyline and is the best place to catch a blazing sunrise or pink-and-purple sunset. Below the waves surrounding the partially submerged, crescent-shaped Molokini crater, more than 250 species of vivid tropical fish flit about. And if you do conquer every pool and decide to make tracks on the beach, Maui has 50 kilometres of it, with white, black and rust-coloured sand.