** This is all my opinion on the best hotels on each island based on my own travels (I like affordability, nice pools, good beach locations, lots to do – I don’t care much about decor and maid service) plus my booking and search logs over the last 14 years.
The Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach
The Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach has one of the best locations on Waikiki Beach. It’s got a great beachside bar and a better restaurant. It is grand-looking and pleasant without being stuffy. Prices are generally lower than other hotels with comparable rooms and less-than-prime locations. Outrigger Official Site.
Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort
The Hilton Hawaiian Village is truly a fun and wonderful hotel to stay at. They do fireworks on fridays and hula shows – they have a brand new awesome waterslide at the pool (the only one in Waikiki as of 2010). They have penguins and fish ponds. It’s a great hotel and lots of fun for families or anyone. I love this hotel. Check prices at the hotel site but expedia is usually better.
#1 Best Oahu Budget Hotel:
Aston Waikiki Beachside Hotel Nice, clean, across the street from the beach. Not a lot AT the hotel, like no restaurants, but you are seriously right in the middle of Waikiki and there are restaurants all around.
this next one is actually an ad, so I wouldn’t call it a best, but the price is awesome and it’s a good hotel. It’s the Ambassador Waikiki.
#2 Best Oahu Budget Hotel: Waikiki Circle Hotel
This hotel is super close to the beach, and has great views. the rooms are small, but the view, the price and the short walking distance can make up for that.
I have seen prices as low as just under $100, but that is during the low season and by booking early.
If you are booking in summer or other high seasons you may pay closer to $200.
#3 Best Oahu Budget Hotel: Royal Grove Hotel
Clean, short walk to Waikiki Beach, friendly service, kitchens available, fantastically low prices.
The #1 Best Oahu Family Hotel is the Hilton Hawaiian Village that I talk about above.
#2 Best Oahu Family Hotel: Aston at the Waikiki Banyan
Full kitchen suites with divided rooms for an inexpensive price. A straight one block walk to Waikiki Beach will get you right behind the sea wall, perfect for small kids. On the roof of one of the floors is a nice playground, a small pool, a tiny putting green, BBQs, and a tennis court. On arrival the kids get a sand pail with beach toys and crayons, and a “Kids play and eat free” card with a booklet telling you where to use it. Walls nice and thick so sound from other rooms doesn’t carry. Parking garage is one of the cheapest in Waikiki. Resortquest Official Site
Best Maui Hotel Overall:
Whaler on Kaanapali Beach This was a hard choice, because Maui’s touristy areas are really spread out around the island, and each area offers something different – plus there are tons of luxury hotels that are just perfect in every way – but since most people can’t afford $850 a night just for the room, I went middle of the road with a hotel in a popular area that gets great reviews on a fantastic beach.
#2 Best Maui Hotel Overall
Diamond Resorts Ka’anapali Beach Club This all-suite resort is loaded with amenities and is surrounded by lush, tropical landscaping, and scenic views of the Pacific. The spacious timeshare accommodations are available in one- or two-bedroom units. These suites include laundry facilities, private balconies, partial or full kitchens, and separate living room and bedroom areas. Check prices on the by-owner timeshare site KaanapaliTimeshare to find rates way lower than the official resort’s site.
#3 Best Maui Hotel Overall
This hotel is highly respected as “the most hawaiian” hotel, meaning they do things authentically. People really like to stay here and it’s on a great stretch of beach.
Best Maui Budget Hotel: Punahoa Beach Apartments
Great location in Kihei with fabulous ocean views and no-frills, clean apartments for discount prices. Every unit is oceanfront with a complete kitchen. Close to grocery shopping and all of Kihei, with Kamaole Beach park a few steps away.
Best Maui Family Hotel: Hololani Resort
This is a condominum resort (not a hotel) with all large, oceanview suites with kitchens. Beach and pool are great for kids and prices are affordable. Location is a short driving distance to the craziness of Kaanapali and Lahaina.
Another Recommended Family Hotel
For families, I also like the Wailea Marriott – for the great kiddie pool structure and the water slides and fantastic location (no beach on the grounds but really nice beach right next door – short walk). official site
Best Kauai Hotel Overall:
Families and couples and singles alike enjoy this hotel. There’s a lagoon, good boogie boarding at the beach, and adults-only pool, hot tubs, a lazy river and slides. Great rooms, restaurants, and grounds. Overall a fantastic hotel in sunny and hot Poipu Beach.
Best Kauai Hotel for Families:
Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club
Located on Poipu Beach with large rooms, gorgeous grounds, and good snorkeling. Kitchens, washers and dryers, a mostly calm beach area, three pools plus a kiddie pool, barbeques, and soundproofing make this a great place to go with the kids.
Best Kauai Budget Hotel: Kapaa Sands
These are condos, so you’re not going to get a concierge desk and daily maid service, but you will get great views and a full kitchen at really low prices for every room.
A note about Princeville hotels – I haven’t mentioned any here, but there are plenty of quality hotels in Princeville. Princeville gets a bit more rain than Poipu and has a little more condos than hotels. However, it is beautiful and many people say it is their favorite place on the island.
Big Island Hotels
Best Big Island Hotel Overall: Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
This was a really hard choice. The Mauna Kea is a gorgeous hotel and it’s on arguable the best beach in all the Hawaiian Islands (plus they restrict access to it which is practically unheard of in Hawaii) with a great reputation and nearby golf and a little pool .. but there’s nothing else to do and it’s quite a far drive from Kailua-Kona. However, lots of people like it and say it’s best for relaxing. I’ll also recommend the Hilton Waikola (see below) and the Sheraton Keauhou in Kailua-Kona. Official Site
Best Big Island Family Hotel Hilton Waikoloa Hotel
At the link above I have written a big review and added pictures. My child and even myself and my husband just love to take weekend trips to this hotel – we go about 4 times a year. We love the water slides and the lagoon and the tram and the boats – it’s really nice. It can be expensive (mostly the food is expensive), and it is far to walk from one end of the grounds to the other, but it’s so beautiful and fun. To counter how expensive the food is we usually bring or buy cereal and fruit for breakfast and eat dinner at the King’s shops – they have a Subway and a few other places that are healthy and reasonable and good.
some of these reviews are poor, and I really don’t understand it. They are about poor service (I’ve never encountered poor service here, and would never count on it to make or break my vacation like some of these people apparently did) and cold swimming pool water ( ?? the pools are HUGE, you can’t expect them to be heated – and I’ve never found the water to be cold) and too much walking (exercise is *good* for you) and having to wait for trams and boats to get to the lobby (get walking 🙂 – the walk from rooms to lobby is paved with $7 million of artwork on one side and spectacular ocean views on the other).
Best Budget-Inexpensive Hotel on the Big Island: Kona Billfisher
Close to town, full kitchens, ocean and mountain views. Nice place for good prices.
The best hotel in Hilo would have to be the Hilo Hawaiian. Great location, and well taken care of. Definitely spend most of your vacation on the Kona side though ;). Hilo tends to be humid and rainy with not as many things to do, and the beaches are not what you’ll be expecting from Hawaii.