My kids gather behind my husband and me as we hover over my Macbook Air, clicking through photos of Hawaii hotels on the computer. “I want to see the picture of the pool, mommy,” my 5-year-old says. My 10-year-old chimes in: “Wow! Look at that cool water slide!” This is how the planning of many of our Hawaii vacations start.

When choosing a hotel in the Hawaiian Islands, especially on Maui and Oahu, we start with the quest for the hotel with the best pool. While we certainly have our favorites, our criteria for choosing Hawaii hotels have evolved as our kids have grown. When our kids were babies, our first priority was to find a pool with a baby beach, shade, and shallow water (as well as poolside drinks for mom and dad). Today, now that our kids are swimmers, unique pool features such as a lazy river, fun water slides, and spray parks are important factors in deciding where to stay. It is no surprise that many of the Hawaiian resorts that have the best resort kids clubs in Hawaii also have some of the best pools. Here are three of our favorite hotel pools to consider for your next Hawaii family vacation:  

The Grand Wailea, Maui

For years, The Grand Wailea has been our favorite hotel on Maui because of the property’s expansive water playground. On our numerous visits with family and friends, we have spent countless hours splashing, sliding, and soaking away the days in the resort’s Canyon Activity Pool, which includes nine pools on six levels, connected by kid-friendly waterfall slides that empty into a lazy river. The Grand Wailea pool also has a rope swing, one of the best sand-bottom baby beaches, caves to explore, a jacuzzi that my kids like to call the “volcano hot tub,” the world’s first water elevator, two large water slides, and a swim up bar. A word of caution: A stay at the Grand Wailea for the pool alone will spoil you for other comparable Hawaiian resorts.

Photo courtesy of The Grand Wailea

The Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa, Maui

When our kids were babies and toddlers, we loved the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa on Maui for the killer sunset views and the property’s Keiki Lagoon, which caters to families with younger kids. The Keiki Lagoon was a perfect home base to set up our baby sun tent, sink chairs in the sand, and watch our girls toddle around sand island, play in the fountains, and explore the toddler-friendly (read: not scary at all) water slide and rope bridge. My husband and I enjoyed the convenience of poolside service—after enough drinks he got the courage to plunge down the 150-foot, enclosed lava tube water slide. Because the pool is so close to the hotel rooms, we took turns bringing our daughters up for afternoon nap time. For a little adult break, take a swim under the waterfall to a hidden lounge in the cave to sip a cool Lava Flow and unwind.

Viewfinder Tip: If you are planning to hang out poolside with younger children, be sure to bring your own sunshade, in case the spots near umbrellas or cabanas are unavailable.

Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu

Families looking for a bit of pool magic will find it at Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa, located in the Ko Olina resort area on Oahu. At Aulani, the pools of the expansive water park of Waikolohe Valley take center stage for an epic Hawaiian resort experience. Waikolohe means “mischievous water,” and there are countless ways your little troublemakers can cool off in the warm Hawaiian sunshine there. Over the course of one wonderful day, we snorkeled amid the schools of tropical fish in Rainbow Reef (the only private snorkeling lagoon on Oahu), took a fast ride down the Tubestone Curl water slide, and splashed in the toddler-friendly Keiki Cove. At night, our family’s favorite activities were to watch the sunset from Ka Maka Landing and float down the on-site lazy river (it’s called the Waikolohe Stream) as a family.

With resort attractions such as these three, your biggest challenge on your next Hawaii family vacation might be getting your kids out of the pool and on to the beach.  

What are some of your family’s favorite resort pools?