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Looking for advice on vacation to Hawaii
Old 06-11-2013, 09:57 AM   #1
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Looking for advice on vacation to Hawaii

We are planning a vacation to Hawaii in November or December, and I want to get ideas or advice from the seasoned travelers on this forum who have been there before, or perhaps from someone who lives there. Neither of us has been there before.

We live in Florida, and it will be just the two of us as a couple, and we are looking go to to Hawaii for 10 days at the end of November or the beginning of December. We are looking to stay somewhere on the beach, and relax and enjoy each other's company, and also do some exploring. We do want to see some of the highlights, but we don't necessarily want to be in a huge resort or in a overly commercialized area. Based on some preliminary research, the volcano park on the big island of Hawaii looks interesting, and I've been told there are coffee plantations there? We don't necessarily have to stay at a resort, we are just looking for options, for example, maybe a smaller place would be more intimate? Maybe a bed and breakfast type place would be nice, or a smaller hotel on the beach? I would like to stay somewhere on the beach. If we have 9 days in Hawaii (excluding travel time from the mainland) how realistic is it to travel between several of the islands? Is it worthwhile to go to Honolulu? I've heard it's basically a large city, but maybe the Pearl Harbor Memorial would be worth a visit. Maybe fly in to Honolulu, spend a couple days to see the highlights, and then go to another island for relaxation and exploring?

Sorry for the rambling questions, but this trip is in the early planning stages, and I just wanted to get some ideas or input from those of you who have been there, or maybe lived there. Thanks so much.


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Old 06-11-2013, 10:24 AM   #2
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I'm a huge fan of renting vacation apartments. It's usually cheaper, per night, than a hotel.
- downside, you have to make your own bed.
- upsides: cheaper; you have a kitchen so you can linger over coffee in the morning looking out at the view; more space than a hotel room.

We rented an apartment on Kauai last trip, my sister stayed at the Marriott. We had more space for half the cost - and a FAR better view than their room. However, their pool was better.

We did the same thing on our trip to Maui. My one trip to the Big Island was a camping trip through Sierra Club - so not really the same thing.

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Old 06-11-2013, 10:35 AM   #3
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I recently visited Hawaii for the first time. I spent two weeks based in Maui, but I did fly to Honolulu, spending one night and two very full days on Oahu, where I visited friends, did sightseeing, including Pearl Harbor, the south east coast and Waikiki Beach. I'm glad I went to Oahu (and it's very easy with Hawaiian Airlines) but I personally would not choose to base a vacation in Honolulu. If I wanted to explore great cities, there are others that would be higher on my list. I loved Maui, especially the relaxed pace, friendly people, wildlife, great weather (in April) and beautiful beaches. I stayed in a reasonably priced condo close to, but not on, a beach, and I explored in my rental car. Maui has a big selection of accommodations of all types, which some of the less developed islands (e.g.Kauai) may not. If I had only had 9-10 days to spend, I would have spent all of it on Maui. I can't comment on the Big Island as I haven't visited it (yet). In my opinion, the unique charm of Hawaii is its natural beauty. Only you can decide whether to mix that with an urban diversion.
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Old 06-11-2013, 10:47 AM   #4
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From FL to HI? You will be traveling almost 5,000 miles. I suggest you break up this journey with a stop-over (Los Angeles?)
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Old 06-11-2013, 11:09 AM   #5
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+1 on Kauai, esp. the north shore area around Hanalei. Plenty of restaraunts and grocery if you need them, no big-city distractions if you are trying to avoid that.

Rentals are available in Princeville if you want swanky and predictable [golf course, etc]. Single cabin or house rentals are possible to find near swimming beaches, and the chickens wake you in the morning.
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Old 06-11-2013, 01:19 PM   #6
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Each island has its own charm. My favorite is Kauai (more green, natural, Napali coast, less crowded) followed by Oahu (sites - Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, Waikiki), Big Island (volcanic, barren, different, not your typical beach vacation), Maui (picture perfect, volcano, Hana hwy, resortish). I would try to include 2 islands.
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Old 06-11-2013, 04:21 PM   #7
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I live in Hawaii (on Oahu) and have visited three other islands (Kauai, Hawaii, and Maui) thus far with plans on visiting at least Lanai and Molokai. Niihau and Kahoolawe are more restricted. As pixelville indicated, the various islands have their own charm...but with all else being equal and if I have to spend time in just one island, I think the Big Island of Hawaii would be my choice.

While on the Big Island, we stayed in Volcanoes National Park at the Kilauea Military Camp, (we flew into Hilo) but you have to be affiliated with DoD to stay there if I am not mistaken. Driving from Volcanoes National Park to Kailua-Kona takes 2.5 - 3 hours which is considerably long here in Hawaii. I would suggest you check out the coffee plantations on the Kona side of the island, the Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park, Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, South Point and Green Sand Beach, and Captain Cook's Monument for snorkeling. On the Hilo side, there are numerous waterfalls to see, Rainbow Falls, Akaka Falls, and Pe'epe'e Falls to name a few. I wasn't able to explore the northern side of the Big Island but I read that it's quite rural and pretty up there. Wasn't able to scale Mauna Kea nor Mauna Loa either but intend to do so in other trips.

I would suggest a short trip to Oahu to check out Pearl Harbor...well worth it in my opinion. Might as well check out the USS Missouri while there and since Waikiki is relatively close to the airport, might as well check that out too. Note that you would need to be at Pearl Harbor fairly early to get tickets for that day's tours. If you know someone who is in the military living locally, you might be able to schedule (in advance) an Admiral's Barge tour where you would be given a personalized tour of Ford Island and USS Arizona Memorial.

Having been to both Kauai and Maui, if you can only visit one of the two, I would suggest Maui. If you have time, gotta check out Haleakala National Park, Lahaina Town, Paia, Kula (Alii Lavender Farm) and The Road to Hana (set aside time to check out The Seven Sacred Pools, Waimoku Falls, Red Sand Beach, Hamoa Beach - my wife's favorite beach on Maui). For the trip to Hana, we prefer driving there, though the 40+ miles actually took close to 3 hours to cover...thanks to over 47 one lane bridges, multiple stops to admire the breathtaking views and the sheer cliffs you are driving mere inches from. You have to start out early on that drive to Hana to maximize your time seeing the sights. We stayed in a condo in Lahaina we found thru AirBnB, or you could also try VRBO.

I hope this helps...and have fun! Don't over-schedule activities that would take away from you enjoying your vacation in paradise.
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Old 06-11-2013, 05:38 PM   #8
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Ditto on the suggestion of visiting Pearl Harbor, the Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri. Maui is my choice for a base to venture out from. The road to Hana is interesting, but takes a full day to enjoy. If you go to Hana, seek out Charles Lindbergh's grave.
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Old 06-12-2013, 02:24 AM   #9
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I took advice from Nords before our first trip to Hawaii and we rented a little house on one of the lagoons at Kapoho on the Big Island. BEST VACATION EVER! We did a lot of other stuff on that trip, too, but the Kapoho house and the lagoon experience (swimming in naturally heated pools with sea turtles and an abundance of tropical fish) is the thing the family still talks about. We plan to go back some time with other family members.

This is the house we stayed in -- it was a little small, but fine for our family of 4:

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Old 06-14-2013, 08:22 AM   #10
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I would fly directly into one island, maybe Kona in Hawaii. Enjoy that island and then maybe fly to another one that you can fly directly out of back to home. You "loose" a good part of the inter island fly day just packing up, getting your flight, getting a new rental car, etc.

BTW, VRBO has listings of vacation rentals. I've never used them but would consider it next time. We liked Kaanapali and the Whalers Village but would not stay at the hotel we've previously stayed at because time has moved on and that hotel gets poor reviews now. Check out TripAdvisor at least just to verify your selection.
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Old 06-21-2013, 12:01 PM   #11
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My wife and I have been to Hawaii twice. The first trip we spent 2 plus days on Maui, then spent a week on Kauai. Our second trip, we took our 4 adult daughters and spent a week on Kauai, renewing our vows while we were there. Love both of those islands. Our next trip, we intend to spend more time on Maui. As suggested above, I would recommend visiting a second island on your trip. Each one is different. By the way, your trip will be at a great time, the humpback whales should be visiting.
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Old 08-19-2013, 10:05 PM   #12
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Been to Big Island four times, averaging ten days per trip, been to Maui once. Maui costs more and has many beautiful sandy beaches. Big Island has many places where the ocean beats on lava cliffs, and those are labelled as beach parks.

DW and I like where the molten lava runs into the ocean (see YouTube), miles from the national park where the lava originates. For safety, that area is closed to the public. The guards aren't there in the wee hours of the morning which coincides with normal wake up time stateside, so we go then. Our first visit there was with a tour at that time of day. We wave at the gov't vehicles that we meet as we drive away from there at 7:00 a.m. local time. Boat tours after dark would be the safer way to view the same place.

Kona is touristy, Hilo is a blue collar town with a breakwater-protected bay, and a string of beach parks east of the city center where lava has created reef-like sheltered swimming areas.

The flowers and vegetation are special everywhere, and the local fruit from the Sat. and Weds. Hilo Farmer's Market is great. The local food is often accompanied with white rice either plain or with brown gravy from a dry mix, and macaroni salad with a dressing based on imitation mayonnaise. Instead, we eat Asian food at almost every meal there.

Our favorite multi-night place is a residential duplex (Kohala Guest House) on a side road that ends at KeoKea Beach Park, east of Hawi, in the north Kohala area. From there, the main road (#270) ends at Pololu Valley Lookout that looks north to the Waipio lookout. Both of those lookouts are often shown on monthly calendars due to their black sand beaches. From the Waipio lookout, it is a somewhat long, steep hike to the water while Pololu is much, much shorter but the trail is muddy. Tour buses can't turn around at the Pololu Lookout but it can feel crowded with car traffic.

Read at the Arnott's Hostel website, regardless of whether you stay there. The warning about reserving your car as soon as you make your flight reservation is accurate. When we didn't, we had a $95 per day, standard rental car from Hertz. Arnott's deluxe private rooms, each with a private 3/4 bath, but with a shared kitchen, in a house across the street from the hostel, are fine with us.

The generic hotel rooms at the Manago Hotel in Captain Cook, are good values compared to the nearby Kona area.

We were surprised at the amount of time that we spent driving on Big Island. The roads are two lane and crowded. If your time is limited, do not bother with driving around the whole island. We had a similar experience on the road to Hana on Maui, due to accidents that blocked that road for hours. Paradise is crowded, sometimes with bus loads when a cruise ship is docked in Kona or Hilo, so we prefer the much quieter, lesser known attractions that require more walking for access.
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Old 08-19-2013, 11:33 PM   #13
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My favorite islands in order are:

The Big Island

We have visited Maui the most and usually rent a condo in Kihei. It is on the drier, less touristy side of the island. We like condos because we have our own kitchen. We usually make our own breakfast and maybe a picnic lunch, then eat out at night.

I didn't care for the Big Island so much. I don't think we would stay there again, maybe just take a day trip to see Volcanoes National Park which we have done a couple of time while staying on other islands.

Usually I've seen the best package prices for Oahu.

There is a nice blend of beaches, snorkeling, tourist attractions, parks and restaurants on Maui to keep busy for two weeks. We used to wonder if we lived there how long it would take us to get bored, if ever, because two week vacations always seemed like two weeks of paradise.
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Old 08-20-2013, 12:31 AM   #14
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I have lived here since 1980 and just about every response is correct.....I have found from all the individuals I try to help before they make any plans that there is a much easier way to decide where you want to vacation here if you first decide what it is you want to do. If you enjoy lounging on beautiful, different beaches don't go to the Big Island, try Maui, Kauai or Oahu. If you like night life go to Maui or Oahu. I always ask my friends what they want to do in Hawaii before they make any reservations, it is so much easier to match an Island to your interests rather than the other way around. As an aside, Molokai is the best way to see what Hawaii looked like a hundred years ago, IMHO, and it is beautiful if, once again, that is what you are looking for on your vacation. Living in Hawaii, when I want to go on vacation, I go to Molokai.
Aloha Nui Loa!!!!
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Old 08-20-2013, 06:40 PM   #15
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+1 on Kimo's advice. Each Island offers different options for different activities, but you can find a place to relax on all of them. I like to use when I travel to Hawaii. I've always had good luck finding a privately owned rental and saving $$$ vs going through a travel agency.
You say you want to be on a beach. That limits you to a private condo or big resort. But there are some vacation rental single family houses, but cost big $$$ around Nov-Dec. Like stated earlier, North shore Kauai is great! Poipu on South shore of Kauai would be Sunnier in Nov-Dec though. But mostly resorts on the beaches there.
Only 9 days to be there, I would just stay on one Island for entire vacation. It takes up a whole day to change Islands even though the flight isn't very long. The Big Island requires a lot of driving between sights, something to consider. Kauai or Maui would be my #1 choice for your first visit. Kauai has a nice coffee plantation to visit too. Free samples of all of their coffee flavors. Lots of fun! Enjoy your trip!
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Old 08-20-2013, 08:36 PM   #16
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Kimo or others:

On Maui, are there some nice walks besides the obvious beach walks? I'm thinking of ways to get out into nature without doing too physically demanding hikes (staying under 2 to 5 miles) or somewhat scary (sheer dropoffs near trail) things.

We've been there a few times and as I recall did the drive to Haleakala. Enjoyed it a lot but the hike down into the volcano looked dry and daunting so did not go there. We went to Iao Needle (spelling?) and walked around a bit on the paths. Did some snorkeling there and took a nice cruise off of Kanapali beach which included snorkeling in a protected cove with some dolphins visiting us.
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Old 08-20-2013, 08:41 PM   #17
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Believe it or not, Hawaii has a lot of hiking paths on all Islands. I have seen many books on all the paths available. If there is a book store near you to actually look at the book I would try there, otherwise you can usually peek at a few pages from the books at Amazon.

You were correct on all counts for your memories of Maui.....
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Old 08-20-2013, 09:50 PM   #18
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OK Kimo, you motivated me to check out the library and then maybe Amazon. Thanks!
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Old 08-21-2013, 05:49 AM   #19
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Just back from another trip to Hawaii ... this was a business trip with some vacation days added.

Some folks like to stay in big hotels and others like to stay in smaller places. We have done both. I prefer to be able to walk down to the beach in the morning without crossing a road at all. And that beach must have great snorkeling.

I have stayed at Elua Village twice now on Maui (google it) and highly recommend it. Just walk out in the morning with your gear and snorkel with the turtles and sharks. You can grocery shop and make breakfasts or grill on your lanai ... or go out to eat every night and have leftovers for lunch. With washer/dryer in the condo, no need for more than a single day's worth of clothes. Comes with daily maid service, too.

Also stayed on Waikiki beach in big hotels. Quite a bit different. If you like a crowded international tourist area and imported sand with no way to eat in your room, but impeccable service, this is a place for you.

Trips to other islands are easy. I booked a one-day excursion from the Sheraton Waikiki on Oahu to Volcano National Park on Hawaii, so was picked up from my hotel, driven to airport, flew to the Big Island, picked up, and driven around the park, back to the airport, fly to Oahu, and driven back to the hotel.

Does anybody have other recommendations for nice small places to stay right on the beach with a great snorkeling reef just off your lanai?
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Old 08-21-2013, 08:11 AM   #20
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JustCurious, don't know if you have booked your trip, but thought I would add my Hawaiian nickel's worth (a Hawaiian nickel is what DW and I call a pop can alongside the road as it can be exchanged for $.05 State deposit.) I live on Oahu. We visited the Islands a dozen times before we moved, including Kauai, Maui, and Big Island. My favorite by far is Oahu. While it's true that Oahu is more "spoiled" than the other islands, I can show you beaches on Oahu that are virtually deserted (especially during the week). I know eating places that are the equivalent of "neighborhood bar and grill" or mom/pop eateries. So, if you are willing to do some research and have just a bit of the adventurous spirit, Oahu is "enough island" to keep you busy for 9 days - and then you don't have to invest the better part of a day transferring islands. Nor will you have as much driving to do AND you don't actually have to have a car if you are willing to "enjoy" riding THE BUS (google THE BUS Oahu).

My favorite guide series to the islands is Oahu Revealed O

The same group publishes similar guides to the other islands as well, IIRC.

IMO the ONE thing everyone should do in the Islands is visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial. It is FREE, so don't pay anyone to take you there (if you don't have a car, you can take THE BUS). BUT, get there early to get the FREE pass out to the actual memorial (shuttle boat is by the US NAVY). As someone mentioned, you might as well do the USS Missouri (and also the USS Bowfin submarine) They both cost money.

PM me if you have questions.

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