Resorts in Hawaii are, naturally, built on beaches, and you can tell a lot about the quality of the hotel from the nature of the beach: The large hotel chainsMarriott, Hilton, Sheratonare often clustered together in convenient locations and on beaches that can absorb large numbers of guests and are convenient for families and meeting groups. The higher-end brands, such as Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, and Fairmont, have scouted out more isolated settings to enhance the aura of exclusivity and pampering. But Hawaii's most alluring places to stay are even more remote: the surfer-chic Turtle Bay on Oahu, the retro-glam Kona Village on the Big Island, Lanai's English-manor style Lodge at Koele, and the vintage Hawaiian Hotel Hana-Maui. For longer stays, private villa rentals can actually work out to be a better value, especially for families and groups; firms such as Pure Maui and Pure Kauai make arrangements, including booking your choice of staff. Other value-oriented Hawaii hotels can be some distance from the beach. But what these smaller hotels and B&Bs lack in location, they compensate for with local color and character.
One more important word about location: If you're staying on a larger islandsuch as Maui, Oahu, or the Big Islandit's best to know which area of the island you'll be spending most of your time in: It can take upward of two hours to drive between towns. Location is less of an issue on Kauai, Lanai, and Molokai, which you can usually circumnavigate in less than two hours.