Instead of a Hawaiian resort, a Hawaiian cruise
Welcome to the enticing land of the familiar (U.S. dollars), the exotic (black-sand beaches), the languorous (poolside napping!)—and the unavoidably expensive. Rather than settling in at a waterslide-stocked resort, or schlepping from island to island on your own, book a weeklong cruise with NCL America (866/234-7350; ncl.com; adults $679, kids $249), the sole company to offer Hawaii-only voyages. On an all-inclusive sail, you’ll shell out far less—and get to explore the four biggest islands (Oahu, Hawaii, Maui, and Kauai), without having to muster all the logistics yourself. Between biking outings in Volcanoes National Park and surfing lessons on Poipu Beach, you can hit the on-board spa, gym, and driving range—but you won’t get swallowed up by the casino, because there isn’t one. Meanwhile, your kids will be dashing off to the basketball court, hot tubs, Waikiki Beach Pool, and keiki-only smoothie bar. The ship glides right by Kauai’s stunning Na Pali Coast and its 1,000-foot corrugated cliffs (otherwise inaccessible except via an overnight hike). And no fireworks display quite compares to the nighttime drama of a torrid river of electric-red lava oozing down Hilo’s slopes until it disappears with a hiss! into the sea. The kids are likely to be so charged they might just fire off postcards to the grandparents—unless, of course, they’re already along for the ride.
St. Lucia For East Coasters, the island is a lot closer than Hawaii, and offers the dramatic twin peaks of the Pitons, a rain forest, and a drive-in volcano. Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa (cbayresort.com; family of four from $680, all-inclusive), on Savannes Bay, is loaded with family pools and water playgrounds.
Weeklong Trip: $5,000
Seven-day car rental: $209
Weeklong Trip: $2,300
Seven-day car rental: Not Provided