62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Dr., Waimea
A perfect café on the sand, Hau Tree at the Mauna Kea has all the things you want a beachside café to have—club sandwiches and fries and ceviche. But they also know their customers, which is why they also offer smoothies and a superfood salad. No matter what you order, make sure to order dessert. The Ovaltine Froth is legendary—and exactly what kids want before they dash back into the water.
Brown’s Beach House Restaurant
1 N Kaniku Dr., Waimea
Sitting between the beach and the pool at the Fairmont Orchid Hotel is one of the loveliest settings for dinner…anywhere. And when you factor in the watermelon salad with goat’s milk feta, keiki cucumbers, and heirloom tomatoes and pumpkin gnocchi with mushrooms and black garlic cauliflower sauce, dinner becomes an occasion. But then you meet a waiter (hi, Tramaine!) who is professional and friendly and then delights the kids with spooky ghost stories from the island. Suddenly, one simple beachside dinner becomes the highlight of the vacation.
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Dr., Waimea
Few hotels enjoy the name recognition of the Mauna Kea. When it opened in the mid-1960s as part of Laurance S. Rockefeller’s hotel group, it was said to be the most expensive hotel ever built, at $15 million. Designed by architect Edward Charles Bassett, the hotel is a stunning modernist masterpiece. In the decades since it opened, it’s become an icon of Hawaii—and a $150 million renovation in the mid-2000s has helped it keep pace with the newer luxury resorts on the island. The beach here (white sand Kauna'oa) is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. Mauna Kea is also known for its golf course, which was built by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and debuted in 1964 with the Big Three (Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player). Like the hotel, Mauna Kea Golf Course underwent a thoughtful renovation that maintained all its beauty (and its challenges). For those who favor tennis, there’s an eleven-court seaside club. The restaurant to dine at here is Manta, though on Tuesdays, the hotel also puts on an excellent luau, which is a pure delight for kids. (You don't have…
The Mauna Kea Luau
62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Dr, Waimea, HI 96743
If it’s Tuesday, it’s luau night at the Mauna Kea. Will you feel like a tourist with a capital T? Of course you will. But it’s entirely worth it: The kids will lose their minds this event is so exciting. Starting at 5:30, walk down to the cliffs of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel (whether or not you’re staying there), grab dinner from the endless buffet tables, and settle in for the show. The evening’s program includes a dynamic history of the kings of Hawaii, theatrical reenactments of the islands’ legends, and plenty of hula dancing. The highlight for the kids is a toss-up between getting up on stage to learn how to hula dance and watching the fire dancers at the end of the night.
62-100 Kaunaʻoa Dr., Waimea
Just across the highway from the Mauna Kea is its sister hotel, the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort. And tucked inside the resort is Meridia, a restaurant with a heavily Mediterranean influence. Sitting on the balcony overlooking the ocean is one thing (and we’re really in favor of it), but sitting on the balcony overlooking the ocean with a plate of fritto misto or crudo or caprese in front of you takes it up a level. The vibe is easy and pleasant, the food is fresh and delicious, and the sunset is sublime. It’s one of those rare formal dining experiences that kids wholeheartedly endorse.
Mauna Lani Beach Club canoe tour
68-1400 Mauna Lani Dr., Waimea
The Mauna Lani Beach Club is an Auberge Resort property, which is to say it’s incredibly luxurious and beautiful. And if you come with kids, you’ll want to head straight to the beach. This is where you’ll meet a young Hawaiian man named Bullet. You’ll jump into a canoe, paddle out to the ocean, and take in a view of Hawaii you can get only from the water. But Bullet is a lot more than a knowledgeable guide—he’ll free dive to the bottom to pick up baby sea urchins for the kids to hold (and then release). He’ll tell the kids about the history of the island. And perhaps most important of all, he’ll teach his guests about all the ways visitors can help the island’s sustainable initiatives.
The Fish and the Hog
64-957 Mamalahoa Hwy., Waimea
While an excellent barbecue joint might seem unlikely in Hawaii, considering the island's natural predilection for pork, as well as Waimea's reputation as a "paniolo" town (i.e. cowboy), The Fish and the Hog makes perfect sense. What's fun is that you can get pulled pork, beef brisket, and all the requisite sides (their Crackseed, Hawaiian-inspired sauce with Chinese plum is not to be missed), you can also get super fresh poke and delicious, chili dusted calamari.
65-1227 Opelo Rd., Waimea
Peter Merriman was one of the pioneers of the local food scene in Hawaii—he was at the forefront of efforts to grow vegetables in the local volcanic soils, so they could be eaten fresh (rather than after a lengthy journey on a boat). Today, he partners with local farmers to serve his three restaurants, and there’s one each on Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island. The dining room and menu are dressed up without being overly stuffy, so it’s ideal for a nicer family or group outing. Try the upcountry salad (made with kale and butter lettuce from local farms), the fresh-caught mahi mahi, and vegetarian taro cake.