Family lodging in Hawaii

Getting to Hawaii isn’t cheap but can be surprising reasonable if you shop carefully and are flexible on travel dates. Scott has shared a number of great ideas on how to figure out this part of the Hawaii trip.  However, once you are there you can spend a small fortune on housing, especially if you are travelling with a family and need more than one hotel room.

Our idea for this blog was driven more by the dilemma of finding family lodging in Hawaii   than anything else. So, we want to share our thoughts on housing and how you can minimize the expense and maximize the vacation experience.

As this site is directed to LDS families, it will come as no surprise we are recommending Laie as your “base camp” while in Hawaii. We have found that for a family on a budget Oahu Island makes the most sense. Honolulu and Waikiki (cities on Oahu) aren’t our favorite places (we only do Honolulu for the historic sites and shopping portions of our trip), but Oahu usually means the cheapest airfare as you avoid the additional cost of outer island travel, amazing historical sites (Pearl Harbor, Punchbowl, Waikiki, Diamond Head, Bishop Museum, and others), and some great festivals, sporting events, shows,
etc. It is out on the North Shore of Oahu were we want to be with our family. The North Shore beaches are amazing and, if you know the right ones, often uncrowded. We love the Polynesian Cultural Center and can easily spend a full day there, if not two. Brigham Young University-Hawaii has interesting events going on that occupy our evenings and cater to our children as well. In addition, you have the Laie Temple, amazing hikes that range from easy to challenging, and world class golf at Turtle Bay or the
standard public course at Kahuku (very reasonably priced and yet fantastic views and location).

So, if we have convinced you to consider Laie, then you will naturally wonder about where to stay. The closest hotel to Laie is Turtle Bay Resort. This is an amazing property, one of the finest resorts in Hawaii,and yes, it is expensive. Other than Turtle Bay Resort, there are very few options for lodging until you back in Waikiki. Therefore, we suggest a “Vacation Rental” as not only an alternative to a hotel…but BETTER than a hotel. Vacation Rentals are often the smartest choice for a family. Instead of kids
sleeping all over on a hotel room floor or renting additional rooms, you can often rent a vacation home for less and have as much or more comfort than a hotel. You get the added bonus of a kitchen which can save hundreds of dollars on a families meal budget. We have attached links to several properties in the Laie area that you can consider. These have come recommended from recent vacationers. With a little snooping around you will be able to find other options as well. Please let us know about places you
find and can recommend so we can add them to this site.

A family vacation to Hawaii is truly an amazing “never to be forgotten” event. Many families don’t even consider it however due to the expense. Hopefully, this site will provide enough cost saving techniques and ideas to help you make your Hawaii trip a reality. or contact Sara Roberts at [email protected] (also 323670 and 313564) or contact Sue Keliiliki at [email protected]

Why Southwest Airlines is my new favorite airline

Southwest Airlines is by far my new favorite airline.  Yes, I know you don’t get an assigned seat, but all the positives, especially the help it provides getting to Hawaii, is worth it.  Let’s talk other positives first:

  • No Change Fee – wow, only domestic airline I know that is like this.  You can change a flight for no cost, they don’t give you back your money, but you can change to another Southwest flight at no charge (up to a year)………..that rocks, you think you might want to fly somewhere, make a reservation at the best price and you can always change it later……………
  • Bags are Free – No cost for the first and second bags you check.
  • Low Prices – Southwest flights are typically the lowest fare between most of the cities I look at.  Not always, but usually it’s one of the lower fares which also means it takes fewer points to fly for free.
  • Website – I find their website easy to use, easy to book and easy to see how many points it will take to fly.  It’s a little annoying that most “combined” airfare watch programs don’t include Southwest, but I simply make it a habit to check their website after checking a consolidator.
Now let’s talk about how Southwest can help you get to Hawaii………
  • Hawaii – No direct service to Hawaii yet, but that is certainly in the rumor mill and appears to be just a matter of time.  Even without that service Southwest flies to most of the west coast cities that then provide killer deals to Hawaii.
  • Credit Card and Frequent Flyer Points – The Southwest credit card is well worth signing up for when you get 50,000 points.  When I signed up about 6 months ago, the only requirement was a single purchase.  My son received his card just this week and his requirement is $1,000 spend in four months…………my wife is taking care of that for him  Either way, it’s well worth it when round trip SLC to San Diego flights can be as low as 16,000 points………… fact less than that.  I just checked round-trip flights from SLC to San Diego on Southwest and each way the minimum points required is 6,840 for a total of 13,680 total points for a round trip ticket to San Diego.  That means will a single credit card sign-up bonus of 50,000 will get me 3 complete round-trip tickets and almost a fourth.
  • Earning Frequent Flyer Points – They also have a myriad of ways to accumulate points as you purchase other items and services.  I need to experiment here and see which items work best, but they are constantly pushing their shopping portal with specials for accumulating points.

The North Shore of Oahu is an ideal Hawaii vacation for families

I’m a little nervous writing this post because I’m afraid I am giving away one of our favorite secrets about Hawaii…………and that is the North Shore.  The North Shore is a reference to the North side of the island of Oahu.  It is opposite side of the island from Waikiki and Honolulu, and we love it because it’s nothing like the South Shore.  There are fewer people, fewer tourist traps and it’s just beautiful.

I think many visitors believe they have to visit the islands of Kauai or Maui to experience the “real” Hawaii, but in reality I don’t think you have to leave the island of Oahu…… simply have to drive to the other side.

The North Shore is about a one hour drive from Waikiki.  It is home to the three of the most famous surf beaches for big wave surfing Waimea Bay, Pipeline and Sunset Beach.  From November to February these beaches are home to big waves and experienced surfers.

Surprisingly the North Shore does not have many hotels.  The Turtle Bay is the primary hotel on that side of the island.  Renting condos or homes on the North Shore is usually the best way to go if you wish to stay there (highly recommended).

For families the North Shore boasts, good beaches and waves (during the summer), fewer people, great hiking, Hukilau Beach, Hukilau Cafe, BYU Hawaii, the LDS Temple, the Polynesian Culture Center, snorkeling, shrimp trucks and much more.


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Sharks Cove and snorkeling

One of the most fun family activities to do in Hawaii is snorkeling.  Our favorite snorkeling location is on the North Shore at Shark’s Cove.  Yes, this is it’s name, and although Sharks Cover and snorkeling don’t sound like the go together, don’t worry you won’t be snorkeling with sharks and we don’t usually tell our younger children the name, or they won’t get in the water. Everyone knows about snorkeling at Hanamau Bay, for a fee, but this is great snorkeling and at no cost.  You have to have your own gear, but you’ll have fun and see all kinds of fish.  In all our visits to Oahu we haven’t even bothered to snorkel at Hanama Bay.


Shark’s Cove is on the famous North Shore between the big surf beaches Wamaea Bay and Pipeline and is part of the Pupukea Beach Park.  Because of it’s location on the North Shore, in the winter you can encounter large swells, but in the summer time it’s always been a great place to snorkel.

View Larger Map

Shark’s Cove is not a sandy beach so you have to be prepared to hike down to the waters edge and then leave your shoes and towels there.  On the South side are the tide pools that are fun to wade and explore.  We have found it to be a popular place, but never too busy and although there is not a lot of parking, there always seems to be space.

Hawaiian Miles Frequent Flyer Program

HawaiianMiles can help your family travel for less to Hawaii.  HawaiinMileis is Hawaiian airlines frequent flyer program.  You might think that it’s not worth signing up for because you don’t live in Hawaii and don’t ever fly the airline, but that would be short sighted.  If you plan to travel to Hawaii and if you want to travel between islands while you are there, you should join Hawaiian Miles.

 Redeeming Miles

Inter-island travel can require as few as 7,500 miles for a one-way ticket.  That means if you fly into Honolulu and then want to take a jaunt to Kauai and back you could do so for as little as 15,000 miles.  So how do you earn HawaiianMiles without flying on Hawaii Airlines?

Earning Miles

The quickest and easiest way to earn HawaiianMiles is to sign-up for two Hawaiian Airline credit cards which can net you 70,000 points alone and 140,000 if two of you do it.  Just think, 70,000 points could equal as much as four round trip island tickets.  Not bad at all.  HawaiianMiles also gives you many other ways to earn miles, including spending on the visa card, searching online and of course traveling.

Share, Transfer or Purchase

A convenient feature of HawaiianMiles is the ability to share the miles with family and friends at no cost if you have the visa card.  This allows you to pool, or combine your miles to access you awards.


70,000 – 140,000 Hawaiian Airline Points

Without too much effort you can acquire 70,000 – 140,000 Hawaiian Airline points that will help you with travel between islands once you are in Hawaii, or between mainland U.S. and Hawaii.  In our upcoming trip to Hawaii, we plan to visit both Kauai and Maui as a family of 7, so that can be expensive even between islands.  I am planning on using Avios points to get from the mainland to Hawaii and then Hawaiian Airline points to get between islands.  Each credit card is similar, but from two different banks, Bank of Hawaii and Bank of America.  I would suggest doing them both at the same time like I did.  They have similar requirements to get your 70,000 points.  I am going to have my wife apply as well for the same two cards and see if we can get 140,000 points.

  • 20,000 bonus points with 1st purchase
  • 15,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 within 4 months
The links for both cards are:
I found the application for these cards to be simple and straightforward to complete.  I sat down and completed both applications in the same night and received immediate approval  on one and had to wait a few days on the other.  Remember these are two distinct banks that both provide points to the same Hawaiian Miles account.  I know of no quicker way to generate Hawaiian Airline points than by collecting bonus points from these two credit cards.

$384 – San Diego to Honolulu

My American Express Farewatcher notified me that fares dropped this morning from San Diego to Honolulu. It’s for September 11-18th which is difficult with children in school, but maybe you can make that work.

Fares to your watched destination(s) have changed. Book your trip today before fares increase.

San Diego to Honolulu $384 Book now to lock in your rate >>
(Round-Trip, Sep 11 – Sep 18)

Waimea Bay – Jump from the rock

Waimea Bay is a popular and famous beach on the North Shore of the island of Oahu and is home to the large waves during the winter surf season.  During the summer months the waves are a size you can play in, although they are fairly rough and break on the beach, so we usually swim beyond the break.  We visit Waimea Bay though, not for the waves and beach but rather for the rock jumping.  Without a doubt our children’s favorite thing to do at Waimea Bay is to jump from the rock.

As you enter the beach the rock to jump from is off to the left, you will likely see people already doing it.  It’s quite a safe jump while at the same time being high enough to give the children a thrill.

Plan ahead when going to Waimea Bay, it’s a popular location with limited parking, so parking can be a challenge.  We typically make it our first trip of the morning to beat the rush.  We also find that later in the day the sand can be very hot.  It’s a wide open beach without much shade so the sand gets very hot and it can be a long walk from the rock and water back to the parking lot.

On our most recent trip to Hawaii, there were dolphins swimming in the bay, which was just amazing.  Wild dolphins that seemed to enjoy the swimmers and really had no fear of being close.  We had the opportunity to swim with the dolphins and it didn’t even cost anything.  That will be forever one of our families favorite memories from Hawaii and Waimea Bay.


Oahu Lodging

Oahu lodging can be challenging, but also rewarding when you find the right location for your family.  My first few visits to Hawaii were with a sales group and a bunch of single guys.  We stayed in hotels on Waikiki, and I thought that was really the only option on Oahu.  In fact, most people that haven’t been to Hawaii or haven’t been more than a few times, might believe that.  Granted, for Oahu lodging there are a lot of hotels on Waikiki, but there are many other options to consider, especially for families.  The hotel rooms typically don’t hold more than four, they don’t like to allow or even provide rollaways and they put heavy emphasis around putting more than the approved number of people in a room.  So, with a family of five or more you are pretty much stuck with two hotel rooms no matter what you do, and no matter how good the price that usually ends up being pretty expensive.

Condos and rental homes are a great option and really your only option if you want to stay on the North Shore.  There are not many hotel choices on the North Shore, in fact Turtle Bay is about your only choice, but there are many rental homes and condos.  Choose VRBO or another rental site to find homes to rent.  We have had luck on the North Shore near Laie including renting from one of the BYU professors while they were here on the mainland.  We have also had luck trading our Marriot Timeshare from Park City to Ko’Olina.  That may be my children’s most favorite resort.  It’s somewhat on the West & South shore, away from Waikiki.  It takes 45min to drive to the North Shore but our children think it’s worth it.

Award Wallet

What are you going to do now that you have multiple credit cards and many frequent traveler accounts and award programs.  Add to that your wife and children who are signing up and now it’s a real chore to keep track of.

The first step to ensure you are maximizing your award points is using Award Wallet.  I came across Award Wallet a few months ago and it’s a time and point saver.  It connects to your travel and credit card award accounts, and helps you keep track of and manage your points in one place.  Just having all your points in one place is a benefit.  Many of the sites will let Award Wallet login automatically and keep it updated for you.  Others you will have to update manually which is a pain, but at least it’s doable.  Award Wallet provides a  dashboard that will help you manage your reward points better.

You can also connect and manage accounts for the others in your family, but wherever we travel I have my children track their points as well.  I used to lose their numbers and login inofrmation, but now I can keep it all in one place.  I have done the most traveling in our family, but I have had my wife and children sign up whenever we fly to make sure they are accumulating points.