Plan a Low Cost or Budget Vacation to Hawaii; Cheap Hawaii Vacations

Aloha, if you are looking for cheap Hawaii Vacations, let me help you out. This is the online version of my ebook How to Save Thousands of Dollars on a Hawaii Vacation! Save Money on Hotels, Flights, Food, and Fun Things to Do.

Topics in this guide


Budget-Happy Times of the Year to Vacation in Hawaii

Airline fares fluctuate daily and accommodations prices go up and down, depending on many rooms are empty, but there are two times of the year you can count on saving money on your Hawaii vacation.

These are the travel seasons known as the “low season” and shoulder season.” For Hawaii these travel season are generally…

Low season: November to mid December and January to March Shoulder season: April to May and mid September to October. Peak season (when prices are highest): June to mid September and mid December to January.

As you may have noticed the Hawaii tourism seasons follow traditional school holidays. When the kids are out for summer vacation, spring break or winter holiday, airfare and hotel prices are at their highest.

So to get the best savings, take the children out of school and vacation during a low or shoulder season. They will learn a lot! If you’re not sure about that, take a look at all the cultural activities in my other ebooks, not to mention the science – marine biology at the aquariums and on the boat tours, volcano logy and lots more. If you’re on Oahu, take them to Bishop Museum!

Besides saving you hundreds, traveling during low and shoulder seasons makes it so much easier to book rooms and activities.

Save Hundreds on Airfare

Your biggest expense after lodging is likely to be airfare. Even when flying from the West Coast, most spend around $600 per person, round trip. A family of three could easily spend close to $2,000. From the East Coast, this family would likely spend around $3,000. This chapter shows how you can save over $1,000 just on airfare alone.

Flying during low season or shoulder season is one way to save hundreds on airfare. Here are some more cost cutting strategies…

Be Flexible with your Departure and Arrival Airport

If you are vacationing on one of the Hawaiian Islands other than Oahu, you will often save by booking a flight that takes you first to Honolulu International (HNL) where you’ll transfer to an inter-island flight. Most mainland flights go here first.

Generally you will save much more booking online. And a great deal of money can be saved if you are flexible with your departure airport. If you don’t find good fares from the airport nearest you, check a few others. Then compare the savings in driving to an airport that is farther away or flying from closer to home.

When comparing these costs, check out You can not only get good parking deals here, and you can also get Park/Sleep/Fly deals where you drive to an airport, park your car, get shuttled to a nearby hotel and then shuttled to the airport in time for your flight. This kind of service can save you money and headaches if you’re not flying from a nearby airport. If you just need a one way rental car to the airport, Expedia lets you do this.

The best fares are almost always found from Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco Airport (SFO), Portland (PDX), Seattle-Tacoma (SEA), San Diego (SAN) and Las Vegas (LAS). I’ve seen roundtrip fares this past year at my favorite discount sites (I’ll show you them in a sec) as low as $250 from some of these airports.

Booking at Budget-Happy Websites

So to book your fight, here’s what I would do. Hawaii’s own airline, which scores very high in customer satisfaction, flies from the West Coast, Las Vegas and Phoenix, Arizona. They often have good deals, so if flying from one of those locations, I’d check their rates: Hawaiian Air.

I would also search the discount sites and compare. I like to search the discount sites also and compare to find the best possible deals. My favorites are Expedia, Priceline, and Hotwire.

The more flexible you can be with your dates and times, the easier it will be to find good deals. Many mistakenly believe that the farther out you book, the better savings. Well, ok, this is true in most cases. But not with Priceline or Hotwire. With these two you can get fantastic last minute deals.

To get the deep discounts with Hotwire, you can choose a general time, but the specific time of the flights and the airline carrier won’t be revealed until after you book. This is also the case when bidding at Priceline, but I find the savings well worth it. At Hotwire you can save up to 40 percent. And at Priceline, using their bidding option, you can save around 50 percent.

Before bidding at Priceline, I look at the average fares for the general time period I want to travel and bid half of that. I also check at the bidding for travel forum to get an idea of accepted and declined bids. If you’re new to Priceline, be sure to read their “New to Priceline” page.

No matter where you are searching for airfare, remember that rates fluctuate from day to day, even from hour to hour. Fortunately, many of the booking sites have flexible search options so you can quickly skim through various fares in a general time frame.

Saving with Flyer Points

Another way to save money on airfare is to use a credit card that offers points for airfare. My husband and I used this strategy and it paid for my round trip ticket from Hawaii to the mainland. We chalked up points by using our credit card for things like our auto insurance and life insurance with the credit card, and then paying the whole thing off each month with a check to the credit card company. The key is paying off that monthly balance and using a credit card that has a good interest rate and low fees.

(Frequent Flyer programs are good money savers also, but if you don’t fly enough the points won’t help with your Hawaii vacation.)

For specific tips on saving money while flying from island to island, check out my free ebooklet, Hawaii Hopping for Fun! – Visiting more than one island in Hawaii the smart way. You can download it at or access it directly:

Get the Best Deals on Accommodations

**** Note, if you really want to save money on accommodations, consider camping. My friend Cindy has a lot of experience camping in tents and in Yurts on Oahu and thinks it’s the very best way to go: ******


Basically, I use the same booking sites for our family’s hotel rooms as I do for our airfare: Priceline, Hotwire, and Expedia. I also use

While you can find nice, 3-star budget hotels and sometimes even decent 2-star ones, why not use a discount site and get a 4-star for the same price? You’ll save hundreds while having an awesome vacation!

The discount sites often place the condos alongside the hotels, so for simplicity’s sake, I’ll just say “hotel.”

Bidding on Hotels

Like with airfare, when you bid on hotels at Priceline,you must be flexible. You can designate the rating level, but the exact hotel you will be buying if you win the auction will be a surprise until you are locked into purchasing it. It works about the same way at Hotwire for their deep discounts, except you’re not bidding. Before I use Priceline’s “Name your Price” or Hotwire’s “Deeper Discounts” I search for hotels I really like, check how they are rated there, and then input that star level when I bid (or purchase at Hotwire).

Also, before bidding at Priceline, I check the going rates for other hotels in the category I’m searching. Then I bid 50% of that. If the bid is rejected, I raise it $50.

I have personally bid and got a $55 room price at the Royal Kona Resort and $120 at the Waikoloa Marriott. My friend got $110 at the Waikoloa Hilton and $85 at the Hapuna Prince. (All of these hotels are on the Big Island.) These are truly mind-blowing deals when you look at the rack rates for these hotels. Even during low season in the recession, the lowest rate a the Waikoloa is $255 and most are over $300.

Finally, here are some good sites for vacation rentals and more condos:

VRBO Vacation Rentals by Owner What I especially appreciate about this site is I can search by the specific areas on an island, using their maps.

Home Away This one lists all kinds of properties – condos, vacation rentals, B&Bs, cottages, and so on. You can search by property type as well as criteria like budget and luxury, oceanfront, etc. Another thing I like here is that you can opt to have images show on your search returns (without needing to click through).

Hawaii’s Best Bed-and-Breakfasts now also offers listings of condos and vacation rentals.

Rental Car or Public Transportation?

There are two practical ways for vacationers to get around Oahu, Maui, Kauai or the Big Island: a rental car and public transportation. Oahu has excellent bikeways, but I wouldn’t advise limiting yourself to a bike for your entire vacation. And bicycling all over Maui, Kauai or the Big Island is just plain dangerous. So we’ll look at car rentals and the various public transportation services in this chapter.

Also if you or someone you’re traveling with has a disability, check out this resource guide, published by the State of Hawaii to help those with disabilities and health conditions to get around the islands. In some cases, their tips can save a great deal of expense.

And for those in need of wheelchairs on Oahu, check out the free to rent, beach going, Landeez wheelchair at the Honolulu County site.

Renting a Car

This isn’t going to be a huge part of your vacation budget, but you can save around hundred bucks by shopping at these discount sites: Hotwire, Priceline (bid to save more, especially if close to your vacation dates) and Expedia.

I’ve consistently found the best rates at Hotwire (but do still compare). Searching on Dec. 17, 2009 for Jan 12, 2010 to Jan 19, 2010, I found: $13.95 daily or $142, weekly for a mid-size ($12.95 for a compact). Last month, searching less than two weeks out I found a compact for $8.95.

Public Transportation by Island

Unless you’re vacationing on Oahu, I recommend you get a rental car, but this section will outline the bus offerings on all four major islands.

Oahu Public Transportation

While you can find really good rates at the discount sites for rental cars, there are a couple other budget things to factor in when you rent a car: gas and parking. Waikiki must have the most expensive, difficult parking in the world.

When our entire family vacations there, we rent a car just because that’s what my husband likes to do. But when my son and I go alone, we take a shuttle to the hotel and use the bus and Waikiki trolley. And then sometimes I will rent a car for the day, just to go places that take too long to get to on the bus.

Oahu has a fantastic public transportation system, called of all things, The Bus. They’ve won several awards for America’s Best Transit System.

The Bus stops at practically every attraction on the island. I can’t think of any it doesn’t take you too except for the Pali lookout In Honolulu, a bus comes along around every 10 minutes, and outside Honolulu, they still stop regularly. I think the longest I waited was 30 minutes. So unless it’s the last bus of the day (for most routes, this is late at night), you needn’t worry about missing the bus.

You can tour the entire island for only a few dollars, or you could buy a monthly pass or a 4 day pass. A $25 four-day visitor’s pass ($10 for ages 6 to 17 and disabled, $5 for seniors).

So let’s say you have two adults and one 9-year old. That’s $120 for eight days. You can get a rental car for this amount, but when you add $10 + each day for parking, and gas at over $3 per gallon, The Bus is clearly going to save you some serious bucks. On the other hand, if there’s say four adults (none seniors), not so much.

My suggestion: add up the bus pass or fare prices for those you are traveling with and then compare to the best rental car rate you rate you fine, then estimate gas and parking (often around $10 per day at the hotels) and add.

In my opinion, The Bus works best for people staying in Waikiki or Honolulu since these are the central hubs – but a visitor staying practically anywhere on Oahu can take advantage of this. It also works well if nobody in your family likes to drive and all want to sit back and enjoy the scenery.

Now, a few logistics to consider. You cannot board with luggage. However, it’s really easy to catch a shuttle from the airport to your hotel – many hotels provide this at no charge. If they don’t, you will pay about $8 to $12 per person.

When you get to the airport, just pick up a courtesy phone at baggage claim for a shuttle or go out to the taxi flagger for a taxi. The Taxi will run you $30 to $40 to Waikiki.

If you’re going to utilize The Bus, check their site for a list of things you are allowed to bring on board – probably everything you’ll need to bring with you, unless you have a surfboard.

Waikiki Trolley This is a fun way to get around Waikiki but does cost more than The Bus. We like to ride it around at night, just for fun, but as far as buying a 4-day pass, I’d go with The Bus because it takes you all over the island and for less.

Maui Public Transportation

The Maui County funded bus system is way better than it used to be, but it’s still a far cry from Oahu’s bus. It’s commuter routes were created more with workers in mind than tourists, and to see if they go to places you want to go to and at the right times, you’ll need to download the schedule for each one separately. If you want to check them out, go to Maui County’s bus page.

The fares are good – from $1 each time you board to free, depending on the route. The commuter routes are in operation seven days a week and include: Haiku-Wailea, Makawao-Kapalua, Wailuku-Kapalua, Kihei-Kapalua and Wailuku-Kahului.

Big Island (Hawaii Island) Public Transportation

Because everything is so spread out on the Big Island, I really recommend you rent a car, unless you are going stay at a resort for the entire vacation and maybe take a day tour or two (but then the day tours are no way to save lots of money).

If you’re budget though is really tight, it is possible to see many of the island’s attractions via the bus, provided you plan extremely well. Unlike on Oahu, if you miss the bus here, chances are you are stuck.

In all fairness, the Hele On (means “to go” bus, Big Island’s County Mass Transit service, has come a long way. We now have more than one route! Actually there are 12 routes I think, and sometimes more than one bus per route.

Where can you get to on the Hele On? Many of the beaches, attractions, shopping centers and restaurants. You can even get to the Volcano National Park’s (but once dropped off at the Visitor Center, you’ll need to walk around the rest of the park, and it’s a big park.)

On a positive note the Hele On is free to use. You can check out the schedules, etc. at

If you are using the bus and are visiting Hilo Town and want to get around more efficiently within its urban area, check out the Shared Ride Taxi program at the bus page linked above. You can get door to door service for as little as $2. Not bad, considering the bus is free.

Bottom line though is unless you are really pinching pennies, I’d rent a car on all islands except Oahu.

Kauai Public Transportation

Unlike the other islands, there are many popular attractions on The Garden Isle that you cannot reach by bus, Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali trailhead for two. If you are going with a Na Pali boat tour, there might be a shuttle though. Kauai’s bus system is so small, I suggest you really do your homework on this and plan everything just right or rent a car. You can check out the routes at the Kauai County’s Transportation Agency.

And again the best deals for rental cars, in my opinion, are Hotwire, Priceline and Expedia, generally in that order.

Save Hundreds with Hawaii Vacation Packages

Now that we’ve looked at airfare, hotel and car rental deals…

While you can often get a better deal if you take the time to shop/bid for hotel, air and car separately, there are plenty of exceptions. So when you are on those discount sites, take a few more minutes to check out the vacation packages.

And of course, booking a package is more convenient – you can even include activities and dining, if you like the offerings. Personally, I prefer to leave my activity and dining options open rather than book them ahead of time. For this chapter, we’ll stick to the primary purpose of the ebooklet, which is to show you how you can save thousands on your Hawaii vacation.

Here is where I find the best deals on my vacation packages:

Note: For the best deals on vacation packages be as flexible as possible. For example, select “anytime” for flights and let them choose your car model and airline carrier.

Expedia is a vacation package leader on the Web. They are continually updating Hawaii packages, and when I can’t find a package with a hotel I want, I can almost always find it at Expedia just because they have so many! I always stop here first, check out the prices and then compare at the other sites. Another cool thing about Expedia – they are on the cutting edge of multiple destination vacations, and cutting edge is where it’s at for me.

So far, while Hawaiian Air offers multiple island packages, Expedia is the only major booking site I know of that lets you book more than one destination in a package. To date, you can include two islands.

Pleasant Holidays – They have several types of packages and lots of ways to customize (I like that!).

Hawaiian Air – As mentioned above, Hawaiian Air offers both mainland-Hawaii and inter-island “build your own package” deals. Unlike most airlines, Hawaiian Air also frequently has very competitive fares too.

Priceline – The best savings here are in the “Name your Price” option – bidding on hotels or airfare. You can’t bid on packages, but once in a while you still find a better package deal than elsewhere. Certainly worth checking.

Hotwire – As with Priceline, you’ll find the best deals closer rather than farther from your vacation dates. Still, this is a decent site for packages, and as you’ll see in my examples below can save you hundreds.

It may seem like a huge pain to do all this shopping around, but when you want to save thousands of dollars, you gotta make the effort. It’s well worth it believe me. Once it’s all booked, you get to enjoy Hawaii :-)

Vacation Package Finds

Just to give you some fresh examples, I searched today (Dec. 17 2009) for a hotel/air/car package. I entered the following criteria (just for example): Roundtrip from Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL). Two adults, one child. Departing Jan. 12 2010. Returning Jan. 19 2010. 4-star hotel. And to get better deals, I left flight times and car model open.

And these are some of the deals I found…


Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort

Hawaiian Airlines was the winner here: $2760 for the family of three. Expedia wasn’t far behind at $2786. Priceline,which doesn’t include packages in their “Name Your Price” (bidding) was the loser: $3750.

Outrigger on the Beach

Expedia wins with a $2451 package. Priceline was the priciest at $2835.

Waikiki Marriott

Priceline delivered here: $2358! Hotwire loses this one at $2756. Remember, like Priceline, Hotwire’s best discounts normally aren’t found in packages. Their “deep discount” search works best not only closer to departure but only for hotels and flights, each separately.

Turtle Bay Resort (on the North Shore)

That said – surprise. Hotwire had the hands down best rate here: $2809! Expedia wasn’t far behind with a $2826 package. These were $100 less than Pleasant Holidays and hundreds less than Hawaiian Air and Priceline.

Maui – Wailea Beach Marriott Resort

Pleasant Holidays had a waaay better price: $3433 for the family of three package. Expedia and Hotwire: $4076 and $4147.

Kauai – Marriott Kauai Resort

Priceline had the best deal here at $3283. Pleasant Holiday’s price wasn’t quite as pleasant: $3716.

Big Island (Hawaii Island) – Hilton Waikoloa

Priceline offered a really mind blowing deal at $2583! That’s only $123 per night, including air and rental car for my all time favorite Hawaii hotel :-) The total vacation when you add food and activities would be thousands less than a typical Hawaii vacation. Pleasant Holidays bombed at $3726.

So this gives you an idea of the type of prices you can get from package deals that include along with air and car, an amazing luxury hotel/resort (in my opinion).

Still, while you’re on these sites, also look at the hotels, air and car individually. At Priceline use that forum I mentioned earlier to check winning bids. I add these up to see if a package can beat the grand total. You can search for other star ratings too; it just so happens that our family favorites are all 4-star so that was my search criteria.

Saving Money on Fun Things to Do in Hawaii

Hawaii has lots of things to do that don’t cost anything or that cost very little. Take the beaches for example. All have free access to the public (except Hanauma Bay’s nominal fee). It costs nothing to enjoy the beaches, people watch, body surf, swim, relax…

Many of the cultural activities like the festivals are also free. To save big time opt for the more authentic choices. For example, Bishop Museum on Oahu is awesome. My family and I could spend all day in there because it’s that interesting and fun. And the entry fees here are far less than say the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Oahu has the lowest cost activities. Just by vacationing on Oahu instead of one of the other islands, you can save lots.

And here is a list of activities and places to see that are free or low-cost:

Historical/Cultural Places & Events – Each island has lots of places where you can learn about events that have made Hawaii what it is today from heiau (ancient temples) and Iolani Palace to Pearl Harbor (USS Arizona and USS Missouri memorials). And there’s almost always some sort of festival or another in Hawaii. Events are listed at

Outdoors Recreation – Swimming, surfing, hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, sunset cruises, dolphin and whale watching, strolling through botanical gardens and hiking can be done on all the islands.

On Oahu, watch the surfing championships on Oahu’s North Shore, take the kids to the Honolulu zoo and Waikiki Aquarium. On Kauai, hike the first (fairly easy) first two miles of the Na Pali Trail and/or checkout Waimea Canyon (Grand Canyon of the Pacific). On Maui, drive the Road to Hana. On the Big Island, visit Volcano National Park.

A&E – Hawaiian music and hula are easy to enjoy for free or the cost of a drink or two in places like Waikiki. On all of the islands, music and hula are performed at many of the parks, shopping centers and resorts’ public areas. If you’re into the visual arts, there are mesmerizing galleries and cool crafts shows on all the islands too.

The Hawaii Entertainment Book Activities Savings

One way I love to save money on activities is with the Hawaii Entertainment Book. If you decide to vacation on the Oahu or Maui, I recommend you get this because there are dozens of activities you can save money on with this coupon book. However, it’s not of too much use on Kauai or the Big Island generally. There are some coupons though. Check out my review where I list them. Using the book on Oahu or Maui for a week or two can save hundreds on activities.

The Go Oahu Card for Active Oahu Vacationers

I like the Go Oahu card available just for Oahu. I have bought it and used it. It is ONLY good for very active travelers though. The way I recommend you to use it is to get it for a portion of your vacation – like if your vacation is a 7 day vacation, get the 3 or 5 day card and do three or more activities on those days you use it, and do your relaxing (lounge around on the beach or snorkel or shop or hike) on days that you are not using it. Here’s my full review on it.

In my experience, it saves you money if you are doing 2-3 activities per day.

Take the Bite out of Hawaii’s Food Expenses

It’s really easy to save money on food in Hawaii if you don’t mind packing sandwiches for your outings and making use of a kitchenette for part of the vacation. Hawaii has a Safeway too, so you can make use of your Safeway card if you have one. Foodland is a good Hawaii based supermarket chain for saving money, and they will give you their discount card.

Some of Hawaii’s food cost 50% more than on the mainland, especially dairy (over $6 for a gallon of milk) and convenience foods like boxed cereals ($7 for a regular size box of Honey Nut Crunch). But the stores have sales on all of these items, and again, you can often save with your Safeway card, Foodland’s Makai card. You can also bring items like cereal and favorite snacks from home, and then use the empty luggage space on the way back for souvenirs.

Then to save money on dining out (you can’t go on vacation and prepare all of your own meals) I like to use the Hawaii Entertainment Book.

As mentioned in the “Activities” chapter, the coupon book works best for Oahu or Maui and can easily save you hundreds in food and activities.

On Oahu alone, there are at least $1000 worth of dining out savings! Pretty cool. See the available coupons here.

You can also save a lot also by eating local style. No poi required. Take the plate lunch for example. This is quite filling and normally costs about $7. Plate lunch wagons and take out restaurants offer many variations, but normally it includes a meat, such as teriyaki beef, one scoop of macaroni salad, and two scoops white rice. Many, like L&L Barbecue offers healthy substitutes, along with traditional fare.

Another way to eat more local style and save money is by shopping at the grower’s markets for island produce, cheeses and meats and fish. Hawaii has many grower’s markets. Kapiolani on Oahu is very popular and good. These are also great places to find souvenirs and gifts to bring home.

Save on Souvenirs

This is really easy if you shop like you would at home to save money. Walmart and Kmart have big souvenir sections, so if you go there and buy all your souvenirs you could save lots of money and time.

Then there are some of the Hawaii based venues where you can save on souvenirs. Hilo Hatties is one. They have really cute low-cost trinkets, plush toys and such. For clothing though, you’ll find Hawaiian wear at lower costs at the big box discount stores. Ross’ is also in Hawaii, and depending on the season, you can find lots of Hawaii tank tops and such here.

Oahu’s International Marketplace and Aloha Swap Meet still have good buys. And that’s about it. Really you can leave Hawaii with sacks full of fun and really nice souvenirs without spending the hundreds or thousands that the typical tourist family spends on shopping!

In Conclusion

Well, that’s a wrap. I think if you follow my tips, you and your family will save thousands on your Hawaii vacation. Remember to check my other free guides for more details on the individual islands. And have a fun vacation! Leave me a comment if you want to share any stories or ask any questions:


First Time to Hawaii Vacations the Easy and Fun Way

March 22, 2010 by · 12 Comments
Filed under: Big Island, Hawaii - general, Kauai, Maui, Oahu, Vacation Planning 

So you are going to Hawaii for the first time! How exciting! You are going to have such a wonderful time. This is the online version of my ebook First Time Hawaii Vacations the Easy and Fun Way – How to Get to Hawaii, Where to Stay, and What to Do.

Topics in this guide


So you’re planning your first vacation to Hawaii…how exciting!
Before we get started, here are some Fast Facts about Hawaii.

  • Hawaii has two offiicial languages: English and Hawaiian, but English is primarily spoken. In casual conversation, Pidgin English is spoken among locals. The staff at hotels and most restaurants and activities all speak standard English to visitors (other than “aloha” and “mahalo.”)
  • Hawaii is our 50th state and is also known as “The Aloha State.”
  • The currency here is the U.S. dollar, major credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, and there are lots of ATMs. Many businesses also accept traveler’s checks. If you’re a U.S. citizen, you won’t need a passport to visit Hawaii.
  • The average year-round, daytime temperature throughout the islands is 75˚to 88˚ F, with the Leeward (west) side of each island being on the warmer end of this range. Hawaii has but two seasons: summer and winter. Summer is from May to October and winter is from November through April. The only difference between the two seasons – winter is just a few degrees cooler and has more rain. Temperatures in Hawaii rarely drop more than 5 degrees at night. Upland temperatures are cooler, and there’s even snow on some of Hawaii’s mountain peaks, like the Big Island’s Mauna Kea in winter.
  • The Hawaiian Islands are all volcanic in origin and Hawaii is the youngest and most remote island chain on Earth.
  • Broadband Internet service is available at many hotels and Internet cafes.
  • Dress is casual and summery. For resorts and upscale restaurants, wear dressy casual.
  • Beautiful beaches can be found on each island. All beaches are free to use (except for Hanauma Bay Marine Preserve on Oahu). Water temperature averages around 74˚but gets closer to 80° on the Leeward (west) sides during Hawaii’s summer months.
  • Hawaii’s winter is whale watching season on all islands.
  • The time zone is Hawaiian Standard (GMT-10 hours), which is two hours behind Pacific Standard Time. When dawn is breaking here at about 6 a.m., it’s already 8 a.m in California. During Daylight Savings Time, which Hawaii doesn’t have, the islands are three hours behind the West Coast. Hawaii is five hours behind Eastern Standard Time.
  • All of the islands have beautiful beaches, nice hotels, wonderful restaurants (American, island and ethnic cuisine), and fun activities including snorkeling over coral reefs, dolphin and whale watching, golf, shopping, cultural events, sunset sails and more.

If you haven’t yet decided which island you will visit, this ebooklet will help you choose. First we’ll talk about how to get to Hawaii, then where to stay once you get here, and finally what to do when you’re here.

How to Get to Hawaii

Since the Hawaiian Islands are located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (2500 miles from Los Angeles) you will need to fly to get here – even if you take a Hawaiian cruise, you will be flying to Hawaii first.

Here are the international airports in Hawaii – these all serve direct flights from the mainland: Honolulu International Airport on Oahu; Kahului Airport on Maui, Lihue Airport on Kauai, and on the Big Island: Kona International Airport at Kehaole and Hilo International Airport (Hilo sometimes has and sometimes does not have direct flights).

Booking Flights and Packages

Chances are when you book your flight or vacation package you will be placed on a flight to Honolulu International where you will transfer to an inter-island flight. Most visitors to Hawaii enter through Honolulu. These reservations are taken care of for you when you book your flight to your destination island(s). All of the United States’ major domestic carriers and 16 international carriers fly to Oahu.

You will almost always find the best fares during the Hawaii tourism industry’s low season: when kids are traditionally in school. In 2009, these fares hovered around $350 from the West Coast and around $700 from the East Coast during low season. During the summer and around the major holidays, fares tend to double.

So to book your fight, here’s what I would do. Hawaii’s own airline, which scores very high in customer satisfaction, flies from the West Coast, Las Vegas and Phoenix, Arizona. They often have good deals, so if flying from one of those locations, I’d check their rates: Hawaiian Air. I would also search the discount sites and compare. My favorites are Expedia, Priceline and Hotwire. Pleasant Holidays often also has good deals.

Booking your airline seats online saves you money. And the more flexible you can be with your dates and times, the easier it will be to find good deals. With the exception of Hotwire, you’ll get the best price breaks at least 2 weeks out, and with Hotwire you’ll do best booking within 2
weeks or less.

Speaking of Hotwire, you can get their regular low rates while specifying your hotel, airline/flight time and car model, but to get the deep discounts, you need to go with general times on flights, star rating on hotels, size of car, etc. And then after you purchase, Hotwire can give you the specifics. This has to do with agreements they have with their vendors.

The same sort of thing applies to bidding at Priceline – Whether booking a flight, hotel or car, you will be given general information but not the exact carrier, hotel name or car make/model. Before I place my bid there, I check the going rates for other hotels, flights, cars in the category I’m searching. Then I bid 50% of that.

The Priceline website will have a ticker of recently accepted rates in the area you are searching for that is helpful. And the bidding for travel forum is a big help too because here, people can post their accepted and decline bids. So that gives you an idea of how much to bid. If you’ve never bid at Priceline, be sure to read their “New to Priceline” page.

Sometimes you may want to book interisland flights separately, especially if you’re island hopping and find better deals this way. You can check prices with the following airlines:

Hawaiian Air, Go! and Mokulele airlines are pretty much equal in price (mostly around $60 one way in 2009), but with any given airline, fares can fluctuate widely from day to day and with the time of day.

Island Air is another choice if you don’t mind turboprop planes. These fly lower, offering better views. They fly into most of the islands’ major airports.

Again, you’ll get the best rates by booking online and being flexible with dates and times.

You can generally save more by shopping for your airfare separately from your hotel and car, but sometimes an air/hotel/car package deal is the better value. After you check airfares at discount sites like Expedia, Priceline and Hotwire, and at Hawaiian Air, (if applicable to your departure airport) click on their “vacation packages” tabs and compare.


Hawaiian cruises don’t depart from the mainland. That would be just too much time at sea and with inclement weather. The main port for Hawaii’s cruise ships is located in Honolulu, so if you decide to take a cruise, you’ll be flying there. You can find these cruises by searching at the discount sites like Expedia, Priceline and Hotwire.

If you want to take a cruise, but you don’t want to spend your entire vacation cruising from island to island and taking day tours, you could start or end your vacation by staying at a hotel on Oahu or on the island that interests you most, which brings us to the next chapter…

Where to Stay in Hawaii

Hawaii has seven inhabited islands: Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Hawaii Island (more so known as the Big Island) are the major ones. Molokai and Lanai are small, very rural and mostly visited via Maui’s ferries. Tiny Ni’ihau off Kauai is privately owned and only a few tours (highly supervised) are allowed. We’ll be focusing on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island.

Which Island?

It can be hard to choose! To help you decide, here’s an overview of each island with its major highlights.

Oahu – The Gathering Place

Oahu, the most visited of the Hawaiian Islands, is home to the state capital and the well developed city of Honolulu with its Waikiki Beach. Pearl Harbor and Diamond Head are here too. So is the famous North Shore with the world championship surfing contests. Oahu has more easily accessible beaches than any of the other islands, and the multitude of attractions, cultural shows, nightclubs, events, activities and people makes Oahu a good bet if you want to do a lot and enjoy the high energy of crowds. If you want a quiet moment or scenic beauty, Oahu also has some nice beaches and waterfall hikes away from it all.

Maui – The Valley Isle

The second most popular island with visitors is well-known for its beautiful beaches, “Heavenly Hana Highway” and Lahaina Town. Maui’s beaches are one of the reasons this island is so often voted among or as the best in the world. Maui has more swimmer-friendly beaches than any of the other islands. Lahaina Harbor is most famous for its whale watching cruises. While the Humpbacks hang out around all of the Hawaiian Islands from December through April, they favor Maui and are easy to see here even from the highway with binoculars. Maui is also famous for its dormant and quite huge and scenic Haleakala Crater and the amazing sunrises up there, and it is second only to Oahu in arts & entertainment.

Kauai – The Garden Isle

The oldest of the inhabited islands, Kauai offers the most scenic wonders including the deeply sculpted, towering cliffs of the Na Pali Coast and the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon. Kauai’s scenery is featured in many movies and television shows – South Pacific, Blue Hawaii (Coco Palms scenes), Gilligan’s Island, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lilo and Stich, and about 95 more. Kauai also has more white sand beaches than the other islands. The Garden Isle is the smallest of the four main Hawaiian Islands (only 550 square miles) and there is one main road, so to stay out of gridlock, you need to avoid before and after work traffic. Other than this, it is easy to get away from the crowds on beautiful Kauai. If you’re looking for mostly outdoors fun and a laid back atmosphere, Kauai just might be the perfect island for you.

Hawaii Island (Big Island) – Volcano Isle

Hawaii Island is larger than all of the other inhabited Hawaiian Islands put together, so to avoid confusion with its namesake, the state of Hawaii, it is called the Big Island. While each of the main Hawaiian Islands is quite diverse, the Big Island has 11 of the 13 world’s climate zones (it’s only missing the arctic and sahara).

The Big Island is best known for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park with its active Kilauea Volcano. When conditions are right you can see the lava from a land viewing site, and the rest of the time there’s almost always viewing by helicopter or boat. It is the youngest of the islands and the volcano continues to create new land. This is why the Big Island has so many black sand beaches. Other famous attractions include Mauna Kea, the world’s tallest mountain (counting from beneath the sea to its snow capped peak) with the largest telescopes in the world, a green sand beach, Kona’s world class deep sea fishing and the famous Kohala resorts.

Where on the Island?

Climate – Leeward & Windward

Each island has a Leeward and Windward side. In Hawaii, the prevailing winds blow east to west (trade winds), and the mountain ranges prevent the Leeward sides (that face west) from getting the full results of these winds. So the Leeward sides are sunny and dry, while the Windward sides get more rain, are lusher and a bit cooler. Along with the Leeward side, the southern ends of the islands are also sunny and dry. Conversely, the northern ends are greener and slightly cooler.

Main Areas for Hotels & Condos

Oahu – The best place to stay in my opinion is Waikiki. This could be that being from Hilo where that’s not a lot to do, I really appreciate the high energy and offerings of Waikiki. This is the major hotel area of Oahu also. The weather’s almost always perfect, and if you don’t plan on leaving Waikiki much, you don’t even need a car. If you more interested in the North Shore, there’s the Turtle Bay Resort and lots of nice condos and vacation rentals.

Maui – One of my favorite areas to stay on Maui is at Kaanapali, just a few minutes north of Lahaina. Here luxury hotels line a long stretch of golden sand beaches on Maui’s upper Leeward side. South of Lahaina, Kihei offers lots of choices in condos as well as pretty, white sand beaches. Kihei is also quite crowded. Some of the best bed and breakfasts are found in upcountry Maui, which is very picturesque with its rolling green hills, flower and produce farms and awesome views of the coast. Hana isn’t a place to go to for hotels, but it’s a beautiful drive.

Kauai – The Garden Isle has three major places to stay: Princeville, which is secluded on the lush and incredibly beautiful North Shore near the Na Pali; Poipu on the beach lined sunny and arid South Shore, close to Waimea Canyon; and the Coconut Coast on the Windward side with its coconut lined roads, golden sand beaches, and the popular Coconut Marketplace.

Big Island – The Kona and Kohala areas on the Leeward side are where you’ll find the most and best hotels. Kona has more budget hotels and condos than Kohala, and Kohala as the most awesome luxury resorts, including the Four Seasons and the Waikoloa Hilton. Both of these areas have mostly sunny days. Kohala is the driest area on the island and has the best beach on the island, Hapuna Beach. Kona beaches are small pockets of sand and rock, but Kona has the most things to do on the island. Hilo on the Windward side is closer to the volcano and has beautiful gardens, but it’s lacking in hotel choices (my favorites are listed in the Big Island guide).

Which Hotel

Once you’ve decided on the island you want to visit and what part of the island you’d like to stay on, you can search for accomodations in these areas. Types of accomodations you can easily find include hotels, resorts, condos, vacation rentals and B&Bs.

Here are some good sites for conducting vacation rental and condo searches:

VRBO Vacation Rentals by Owner What I especially appreciate about this site is I can search by the specific areas on an island, using their maps.

Home Away This one lists all kinds of properties – condos, vacation rentals, B&Bs, cottages, and so on. You can search by property type as well as criteria like budget and luxury, oceanfront, etc. Another thing I like here is that you can opt to have images show on your search returns (without needing to click through).

You’ll also find condos at the air/hotel/car discount sites like Expedia, Priceline and Hotwire. And you can find B&B’s as well as condos at

Besides browsing the results at these sites, you can search by specific hotel or property if you know what to look for. For the best properites I have found in Hawaii and organized into categories, like “best for families,” “most romantic,” and so forth, check my ebooklet guide to the island you want to visit. If you haven’t done so yet, you can download them (these are free also) from my Hawaii Guide Books page.

Another way to search for hotel deals is to start with a hotel brand that sounds really good to you. And then check both the hotel chain’s site for deals and enter it into the search at the discount sites to compare.

My favorite hotels in Hawaii almost all happen to be part of chains. On the Big Island: it’s the Hilton Waikoloa. On Oahu: the Waikiki Hyatt, the Hilton Hawaiian Village and for family/budget: the Waikiki Banyan. On Maui, it’s the Wailea Marriott, and on Kauai, the Kauai Beach Resort and the Grand Hyatt.

Hawaii’s Most Popular Brand Name Hotels

Note:(Don’t pay rack rates – use this list to look for specials and when searching the discount sites):

Outrigger Hotels, This classic Hawaiian chain has both hotels and condos on Oahu and the Big Island, and it has condos on Maui and Kauai. Voted by Travel & Leisure magazine to be among the top family-friendly hotels in the United States. Budget to luxury.

Hilton Hotels and Resorts, grand and luxurious. The Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island with its Dolphin Quest program is my favorite hotel of all time. And there’s two on Oahu.

Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, The Hyatts are also quite grand – large pools, expansive beaches, and big price tags. There’s one on Oahu, one on Kauai, and one on Maui.

Seaside Hotels, These are all close to the ocean, and *very* inexpensive. Of course, you will give up some amenities, but if you are looking for cheap on Maui, Kauai and/or the Big Island, you’ve found it.

Aston Hotels, These range from budget to luxury and are on Oahu, Maui, Kauai on the Big Island. Be aware that some of the Astons in Waikiki are just barely still in Waikiki – but these are still only about four blocks from the beach, and can save you big money.

Marriott Hotels and Resorts, These are all luxury hotels. There are three on Oahu, two on Kauai, one on the Big Island, and one on Maui.

What to Do in Hawaii

No matter which island you visit, you can expect to find many interesting and fun things to do. Here are activities popular on all the islands, followed by activities specific to each island.

Historical Sites & Cultural Events

History – Hawaii is steeped in history and legend from when centuries ago the first Hawaiians landed their canoes at South Point on the Big Island, to Captain Cook’s discovery of the islands and later the formation of the Hawaiia Kingdom by King Kamemehameha, the missionary era, the overthrowing of the Hawaiian monarchy, Hawaii’s statehood and Pearl Harbor. Each island has historical sites and tours that give insight into the many events that make Hawaii what it is today from heiau (ancient temples) to Iolani Palace on Oahu.

Cultural Events – Traditionally the Hawaiian people love festivals and so does the state of Hawaii. The most popular and significant of these events are the state-side Aloha Festivals and the Big Island’s Merrie Monarch Hula Competition and Festival. You’ll find events listed by island at, the State’s official website.

More Fun – The following activities are popular on all four of the main islands: surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, golf, deep sea fishing, horseback riding, sunset cruises, dolphin and whale watching, cultural/historical tours, relaxing on a beach, going to luau and last but not least sight seeing. You’ll also find Hawaiian music everywhere (lots of free concerts), nightclubs, fantastic restaurants, craft festivals, great shops and lots more to do.

Most Awesome Things to Do on Each Island

Note: See the individual guides (again free at for lots more recommendations – this is just to give you an introduction.

If you decide to vacation on the Oahu or Maui, I recommend you get the Hawaii Entertainment book. However, if you will just be on Kauai or the Big Island, it won’t be much good for you.

You also might be interested in the Go Oahu card if you are staying on Oahu.

Oahu – As mentioned previously, Oahu has tons to do! For starters there’s the Bishop Museum and Iolani Palace for those interested in Hawaiian culture and history. Also there’s Pearl Harbor (USS Arizona and USS Missouri memorials), the Polynesian Cultural Center, Wild Side Specialty Tours (swim with dolphins), learning to surf at Waikiki, watching the pros surf 20 foot waves on the North Shore, taking a sunset Waikiki sail, snorkeling at Hanauma Bay Marine Preserve, kayaking at Kailua Bay, hiking Diamond Head and strolling through gorgeous botanical gardens. And also just walking around Waikiki and taking the trolley at night is good fun!

Maui – Drive the Hana Highway and stop along the way to hike into waterfalls, taking the downhill bike ride from Haleakala (woohoo!). Better yet, take the downhill bike ride after catching the sunrise at the crater! More awesome things to do: stroll through historical Lahaina, attend the really fantastic Old Lahaina Luau, watch the whales, watch the kids play in the fantasy pool at the Grand Wailea Marriot, take a snorkel tour at Molokini Crater, take the short ferry ride to Molokai or Lanai… On Molokai, ride a mule to the Kalaupapa Peninsula. On Lanai, scuba dive n the cathedrals or four wheel up the Munro Trail. Back on Maui, explore the Iao Needle area and its Kepaniwai Park and Heritage Gardens. Save time for Maui’s beaches!

Kauai – Enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Na Pali from a boat, helicopter or hiking trail. Take a look at Waimea Canyon, the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Play at Poipu Beach with the kids. Go snorkeling at Ke`e. Take the cheesy but fun and scenic Smith Family boat ride up the Wailuku river to the Fern Grotto, a natural amphitheater where the “Hawaiian Wedding Song” is performed. Dozens of movies have been filmed amidst Kauai’s stunning scenery, so the Hawaii Movie Tours are pretty popular. And if you’ve always wanted to learn how to stand up paddle (a combination of surfing and paddling) you can learn on the calm waters of the Wailuku River.

Big Island – Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the number one Big Island attraction and one on my favorites list too. It’s got history, culture, a science museum, an active volcano and wonderful hiking. Outside the park, watch lava flow into the sea from the Kalapana viewing area or from a helicopter or boat. Go to a green sand beach. Check out the turtles at Punalu`u Black Sand Beach. In Hilo view lovely botanical gardens and drive up the Hamakua Coast, stopping at Akaka Falls State Park to view the 400-foot falls. Head on to Waimea and the sprawling Parker Ranch. In Kohala, enjoy two of the world’s most beautiful beaches: Hapuna and the Mauna Kea Beach, and check out the dolphins at the Waikoloa Hilton. In Kona, take a snorkeling cruise at Kealakekua Bay and have a world-class deep sea fishing adventure.

In Conclusion

Now that you have an overview of what to expect on your Hawaii vacation, remember to check my other free guides for more details on each island and specialty topics like “Saving Thousands on your Hawaii Vacation” and “Island Hopping.”
And have a fun vacation!



Hawaii; How to Get From One Island to Another


(short answer: take an inter-island flight. I recommend Hawaiian airlines. There are no boats between the islands except for between maui and lanai and maui and molokai. for long answer, see below).

So you’re planning a vacation to Hawaii that will take you to more than one island – good decision. I’m really excited for you!

island hopping cover If you already know exactly what islands you want to visit, this is the perfect guide for you because it provides the “How.” This is the online version of my ebook Hawaii Hopping for Fun! Visiting More than One Island in Hawaii the Smart Way

If you haven’t yet decided on your destination islands, you can learn more about each island and saving money on them by reading my free guides to Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island.

Topics in this guide

Brief info about each island: Oahu (Waikiki island) has the most things to do, Kauai is known for its amazing scenery and endless, pristine white sand beaches, Maui has the Hana Highway and the best whale watching, and the Big Island is most known for its active volcano and its Kohala resorts.

The two tiny islands of Molokai and Lanai are quiet, mostly rural and have their own treasures – Molokai is best known for its mule rides to Kalaupapa and Lanai for its excellent diving. These two islands are typically visited for day or overnight tours via boat excursions from nearby Maui.

All of the Hawaiian Islands have wonderful beaches and climate. Most visited in order: Oahu, Maui, Big Island, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai.

How to Visit the Other Hawaiian Islands Overview

There are many ways to visit more than one island:

  • Book each leg of your journey yourself: airline reservations from mainland from island to island, lodging, car rentals, and activities.
  • Book a hotel/air/car vacation package.
  • Book only air/car through a discount site, and reserve your accommodations with the hotel itself or a timeshare, etc.
  • Use one or more of the above methods and then a tour company for day or overnight island tours.
  • Use the services of a travel agency company to book everything from air to activities.
  • Stay on Oahu and spend part of your vacation on a 7-day Island to Island Cruise out of Honolulu.
  • Combine some of the above into a package that you create.

Lots of choices! To help you plan the best Hawaiian vacation ever, I’ve broken all this down into the following chapters.

Remember when planning your island hopping that it takes time to pack, unpack, and wait at airports (the flights themselves are pretty short – most around 30 minutes). I don’t like to recommend more than one island for every 5 to 7 days in Hawaii, because that is too much packing and being at airports for my taste within that time period.

I do outline some options in this guide for those who can’t/don’t want to spend this long on a given island. Either way…The bottom line is if you make your priority having plenty time to relax and enjoy your vacation (rather than checking off a “things to see and do list” as fast as you can), you can make this your best Hawaii vacation ever!

I frequently do the research and the math, and normally, on a Hawaii vacation you save money when booking a package that includes your flight, car, and hotel compared to booking each of these separately.

But sometimes for various reasons it works out better to book separately. You may want to customize more. Some own a timeshare on one island or want to stay at places that the packages don’t include. Or you could just end up finding better deals through specials offered by the hotels, airline (most likely Hawaiian), etc.

So we’ll start by looking at the individual booking options and then move on
to tours and packages.

Booking Your Flight, Hotel and Car Independently

Booking your Flight – General Information

Which Airports are Best?

Oahu – Easy. There’s one major airport: Honolulu International HNL.

Maui – For flying directly from the mainland, there’s one choice: Kahului (OGG). You can also island hop to Kahului. This is located in Central Maui and is just a few minutes from the beginning of the Hana Highway. It’s about an hour Lahaina and Kaanapali. Kapalua (JHM) is located near Lahaina and Kaanapali, is closer to Kihei and serves inter-island flights. If you’re planning on visiting various areas of Maui, go with the best airfare prices, otherwise take into account time and gas.

Big Island – Whether just island hopping here or flying direct from the mainland you have two choices: Kona Keahole International Airport (KOA) and Hilo International (ITO). If the Volcano National Park is the epicenter of your Big Island visit, know that Hilo’s much closer (about 45 minutes opposed to 2 1/2 hours from KOA).

Airfare Prices

Generally, you’ll get the best fares for times when the kids are in school: from the West Coast around $350 and East Coast around $700. Prices almost double in the summer and around the major holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and spring break.

With the exception of Hotwire, you’ll get the best price breaks at least 2 weeks out, and with Hotwire you’ll do best booking within 2 weeks or less.

You’ll almost never save buying directly from the airlines, except for Hawaiian Air. They serve several West Coast airports, as well as Phoenix Arizona and Las Vegas. They also have inter-island services and often have special deals.

If you’re staying on Oahu for part of your vacation, you will usually save by making this the destination for your mainland flight, although increasingly there are very good fares to be found to and from Maui. Flying direct to the Big Island and Kauai often costs the same as if you flew to Oahu and then took an inter-island flight.

Booking Your Island Hopping Flights

When you book your own inter-island flights, you can choose from major airlines, Hawaiian Air (I recommend Hawaiian) and Go!, as well as Mokulele (now a partner of Go!) and airlines with smaller planes.

Hawaiian Air and Go! airlines are pretty much equal in prices. Their fares have been running around $60 one way when you book online. Hawaiian Air has a more user friendly site (I think), and they do consistently earn high marks for their customer service. My general opinion about these two is to book with whichever one is most convenient for you (but I do like Hawaiian a bit more).

Keep in mind that fares can fluctuate widely with the time of day. For example, searching Hawaiian Air for Dec. 3, 2009, Honolulu to Hilo, I found $58 one way fares for early morning, late morning and some afternoon and evening, while a few of the other flights in the afternoon, evening and around 8 a.m. were $104 one way. Big difference there! Seats generally cost less during the times of day that local commuters are least likely to travel.

Inter-island fares don’t go up as much around holidays as mainland fares – unless you’re traveling on the holiday or the day before or after. For example, searching for fares on Dec. 21, 2009 for Honolulu to Kahului, Maui at Go! Airlines, I found several $64 ones, but fares for Dec. 24, 2009, except for two in the evening were $84 to $220. Note, when using Go! In order to get varying times and their fares, you need to check “flexible dates.”

Mokulele which entered a partnership with Go! in October provides a more user-friendly site. Here you can search by date and get varying hours, like at Hawaiian. Checking fares for the same day and flight from Honolulu to Maui on Mokulele, fares varied from $58 to $79, and morning flights were still available (searching on Nov. 20) for December 24 at $58.

When you’re island hopping you don’t necessarily need a round-trip ticket, and none of these three airlines require that for these one-way prices.

Island Air has a fleet of 37-seat turboprop planes. I flew with them to Molokai and the plane was *small* and the views are awesome because they fly lower than the jets used by Go!, Hawaiian and Mokulele. Island Air has an outstanding reputation for reliability and safety, and their fares are comparable. The only drawbacks I see are that they don’t fly into Hilo and they don’t have as many flights.

Checking fares from Honolulu to Kona for Dec. 21, 2009 (the same day I checked for Hawaiian Air above), the search returned a 1 p.m. flight for $64, which is about where their regular fares generally start and is the same as some of those for the Dec. 21 HNL to Hilo Hawaiian Air flight. That was the only flight with empty seats. Island Air compared well to the others for holidays, with a morning and afternoon Christmas Eve day flight, each at $64. Like its competitors, Island Air offers specials from time to time.

When booking your flights with any of these airlines, you will save by booking online.

Booking Your Mainland – Hawaii Flight

If you’re flying from the West Coast you will often find the best deals with Hawaiian Air. I just checked and found some December $259 roundtrip fares for LAX – HNL. Since they fly inter-island too, you could book all your flights with them if the price and times are right.

I like to search the discount sites also and compare to find the best possible deals. My favorites are Expedia, Priceline, and Hotwire. This year, I’ve seen fares as low as $250 – roundtrip. Remember the best deals at Hotwire are found within a couple weeks of departure, just the opposite of the other sites. My free island guides go into a lot more detail on mainland flights.

Booking Your Rental Cars

Again I like to search at Expedia, Priceline, and Hotwire.

When I bid on rental cars (or anything) at Priceline I usually start at about 50% of the normal low rates for that time of year. That could mean bidding at $8 to $15 per day.

Sometimes you’ll find a good deal with the actual car rental company because they often run specials. All of the major car rentals are in Hawaii and can quickly be found online.

Booking Your Hotel

Booking Your Hotels through Discount Sites

Shopping for travel reservations through Expedia, Priceline, and Hotwire is a fantastic way to save money on hotels! I detail this in my free island guides and include in these the best deals I found for specific hotels and condos.

Hotel Chains

Usually a chain’s hotels will be pretty consistent in their offerings, and you will only need to deal with one company for all your island accommodations.

You can often find good deals when the hotels are most hurting for visitors. Here are a few to get you started:

Outrigger Hotels, This classic Hawaiian chain has both hotels and condos on Oahu and the Big Island, and it has condos on Maui and Kauai. Check for specials like “4th night free.”

Hilton Hotels and Resorts, grand and luxurious. The Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island is my favorite hotel of all time. And there’s two have two on Oahu.

Seaside Hotels, These are all close to the ocean, and *very* inexpensive. Of course, you will give up some amenities, but if you are looking for cheap on Maui, Kauai and/or the Big Island, you’ve found it.

Aston Hotels, These range from budget to luxury and are on Oahu, Maui, Kauai on the Big Island. Be aware that some of the Astons in Waikiki are just barely still in Waikiki – but these are still only about 4 blocks from the beach, and can save you big money.

Note that many of the Hawaii hotels offer room/car and even room/car/flight packages, but do compare to see if the deal is really a good one.

Island Hopping Fun By Boat

Inter-Island Cruising

Honolulu is the main port for Hawaii cruises. A popular and lower cost one is the 7-day “Pride of Aloha” offered by Norwegian Cruise Line. Check the discount booking sites too. The lowest fares I found today were in January: about $600 for inside cabins and $700 for ocean view. I found these prices at the NCL site, Hotwire and Expedia. Bidding on Priceline, you might even do better.

While taking a cruise doesn’t follow my “no less than 5 days per island” preference, the advantage here is that you’re not packing and unpacking and waiting at airports with each new island you visit. You stay in the same room and go on day trip tours. The drawback may be (considering on your preferences) that you spend more time at sea than on the islands. Too see more of the islands, I recommend spending the rest of your vacation on a favorite island or two – even more convenient if Oahu is one of them!

Tip – If you’re not into the tour/activity add-ons offered by the cruise, check out one of tour companies listed later or tour coordinators like Shore Trips.

Maui Cruises

Because Maui is so close to its sister islands of Molokai and Lanai (all one county too), you can easily find one-day and overnight cruises. Many of these are specialized: snorkeling, scuba diving, whale watching and fishing are all very popular. You can find these by searching online, but they are too small to be offered through the large discount sites.

From Maui – Molokai and Lanai Ferries

Lahaina Cruises has ferries to Molokai, Monday through Saturday. It’s about 90 minutes to Molokai on their Maui Princess, a 100-ft yacht, and depending on which cruise you take you’ll arrive around 7 or 9 a.m. The ships back to Maui depart at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., so you’ll have an entire day on Molokai. You only have to check in about 15 minutes ahead of time. So what do you do when you get off the boat? Well Lahaina Cruises offers rental car packages, but these are pretty spendy at $207 for driver, $90 each additional adult and $45 for each child, and they also offer guided tours ($207 per adult and $144 per child).

Otherwise, one way it’s about $52 per adult and $26.20 per child.

If you want to save money, you could book a car yourself (or four-wheel)and if you wanted to stay overnight, a hotel, and then plan your own activities (maybe one of those famous Molokai mule rides). The Molokai Visitors Association site can help with all this.

The Maui – Lanai ferry operates seven days a week with five departure times from Lahaina Harbor, and it takes about 45 minutes. Rates are one way $30 per adult and $20 per child. They also offer a variety of packages. Lanai is most popular with scuba divers and hunters. For more information about Lanai and possible day adventures, here’s their official visitors site.

And here’s my portal page to my Molokai and Lanai reviews and articles.

Best Tours for Island Hoppers

While I do recommend staying at least 5 days on each island you visit, if you really want to make more island hops than this allows, there are day-tour providers that will book your flight, pick you up at the airport, whisk you off for the tour and get you back on time for your return flight. Many also offer the same service only for overnight tours in which they also book your hotel. Generally, you will spend more this way then booking your own flight and activities with smaller businesses.

For example, Polynesian Adventures is offering a one-day Big Island Volcano tour on the Big Island for $252 per adult. If you booked your own inter-island flight, you’d spend about $130 air fare, and about $30 for a one-day rental car (without the weekly rate discount), plus gas, but you’d not be paying extra for each person in the car. I found one for $25 at Expedia when checking for a return time late enough to allow for after dark lava viewing.

So in this case the tour prices don’t really justify themselves, not if you’re just looking for lower cost. However, sometimes you do find good deals with these tour companies. I’ve often seen activities such as luau for less than at the venue. And if you want to relax and let the tour guide take care of everything (and the departure time works for you – some leave reeealy early as in pre-dawn), this may be the way to go for those short island hops.

The following tour companies can arrange your tour/activities, air, car (if you’re staying longer and want to do some of your own exploring) and hotel if you’re staying overnight.

  • Roberts Hawaii, One of the biggest and oldest tour companies in the islands offering day tours and overnighters to Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island. Check out their “island hopping” tours, like the Hana one (not everyone wants to drive that road!).
  • Polynesian Adventure Tours, Another large tour company, offering two different tours on each of the outer islands, plus options from each of the outer islands to another island. Check their “One Day Fly Away Tours’ and their “Overnighter Packagers.

Best Island-Hopping Package Deals

As with individually booked hotels, air and car rentals, it pays to be flexible. If for example, the search has an option under times of day for “anytime,” selecting this can make a huge difference in prices you see.

Hawaiian Air has inter-island “build your own package” deals. After clicking on “vacation packages” scroll down to the bottom of the form where it has an “options” link. Just to check current deals and offer you an example, I built one for two persons that included 7 nights in Waikiki and 5 in Kona on the Big Island. The search returned the Hilton Hawaiian Village for Waikiki and my favorite hotel, the Waikoloa Hilton, for Kona (It’s on the Kohala Coast just above Kona).

The total was $2167 per person (including tax). There are links under the hotel room rate charts to click for alternative hotels. So I tried the newly renovated, 3-star Waikiki Aqua Wave and kept the Waikoloa on the Big Island. This brought my grand total down to $1798 per person (taxes included) for the 2 week island hopping vacation, including all air fare, hotels and rental cars. They also offer activities to add if you wish, such as a volcano helicopter tour for $211, but I found a special at the Blue Hawaiian site for $183 (They’ve been featured in National Geographic and have an excellent safety record).

Be sure to select “multiple destinations” for these island-hopping packages and after you add your last destination click to add “return flight” information, inserting your mainland airport so that it makes it a round trip.

Panda searching with the same dates, general locations and the two adults as at Hawaiian, I was offered a $1784 package; however the hotels were both 2-star only and one of the two was in Hilo, about a 2-hour drive from the Kona airport.

So, underneath each hotel, there’s a link to view alternatives. While it reads “view others in Hilo” it did return several for Kona. I upgraded to the 3 1/2 star Outrigger Keahou Beach Resort in Kona and to the Outrigger’s Ohana Waikiki West on Oahu. Grand total: $2079 per person (taxes included), so almost $300 more than the Hawaiian package and no Waikoloa Hilton or any 4-star hotels offered this time for that matter . Do compare though because prices change with dates your checking.

Pleasant Holidays – On the good side, they have lots of customizing options. For example, next to each hotel there are alternative hotels and the savings or increased spending for each one is listed and you can click through to detailed descriptions. This all makes comparing and customizing your package easier. A major drawback though is they don’t have an “anytime” search option, and if a flight time isn’t available, they don’t give alternatives.

You have to guess, changing your search each time. The site was very slow and kept crashing my Firefox. After several attempts, I lost patience.

Expedia – So far, this is the only major discount site I know of that lets you book more than one destination in a package. They allow two. For the best deals, select “anytime” for flights. This isn’t the default. So comparing to what I found with Hawaiian Air and Panda packages, Expedia gave me a 3-star hotel in Waikiki and the 4-star Waikoloa Hilton on the Big Island Expedia with air and cars for the grand total: $3870 per person (taxes included). So, you’re paying more for the good hotels and you’re getting the good hotels.

The Complete Big Island Vacation Guide

big island cover Aloha! So you are planning a vacation to the Big Island – you are going to have such fun! This is the complete Big Island vacation guide, which is the online version of my ebook Plan Your Best Vacation to the Big Island of Hawaii Ever! Where to Stay and What to Do on the Big Island.

Topics in this guide


So you’re planning a vacation to the Big Island (Hawaii Island) –

Congratulations! You are going to have SUCH FUN! First, you’ll be flying in to either Kona International Airport at Keahole (KOA) or Hilo International Airport (ITO). You may find a direct flight, but if not, your airline will probably schedule your connecting flight from Honolulu for you.

If you have to do it yourself, you can do so with either Hawaiian Airlines or Go! Airlines

Also check out Hawaiian for great rates to Hawaii.

My Favorites on The Big Island

My favorite area:

Tough one on this really big island, but I’ll say the Kohala Coast. This has two of my favorite beaches, Hapuna and the Mauna Kea Beach, and it’s also got my favorite resort, the Hilton Waikoloa – a beautiful and fun place to visit whether you stay there or not!

My favorite hotel:

This is easy – the Hilton Waikoloa. They’ve got Dolphin Quest, a great program for learning about dolphins – and if you want to spend the bucks, close encounters with them 🙂 The rooms are very nice, the pools with their slides and waterfalls are fantastic, there are several restaurants and lounges, tons to do, and you can ride around the place on the Disneyland-like free tram and boat shuttles. Also, they have a pretty lagoon and a cool art collection displayed around the pools, walkways and gardens.

My favorite luau:

Island Breeze. This is held on the historical royal grounds at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. The pre-luau activities begin when the royal court paddles in from Kailua Bay and the conch shell is blow. You can learn fun Hawaiian crafts and get a Hawaiian “tattoo.” The show features various dances of Polynesia, including hula of course, and concludes with the Samoan fire dance. The menu is traditional Hawaiian featuring the underground baked pig, fresh catch of the day and chicken.

My favorite activity:

Really hard to choose just one, but I’ve narrowed it down to the Fair Wind Snorkel Cruise at Kealakekua Bay (where I got to swim with dolphins!) and the lava flow view hike when the lava’s pouring over the cliff into the sea. For up to the minute lava updates, call the Kalapana Lava Viewing Hotline at (808) 961-8093 or the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park at (808) 985-6000.

For more general lava updates see here

Best Weather on the Big Island

Like all of Hawaii, the Big Island offers exceptionally good weather, especially on the west side.

Hawaii has two seasons: summer (May through October) and winter (November through April), and the temperatures change very little between these two seasons. Average daytime temperatures at sea level in the summer are 85°F and in the winter, 78°F. When the sun goes down temperatures at sea level rarely drop more than 5 to 10 degrees.

The weather does change quite a lot from region to region (the island has all but two of the world’s eco-climates), especially when you travel upland. Bring a sweater if you go up to Volcano. You can even find snow here in the winter at the top of Mauna Kea!

Like all of the Hawaiian Islands, the Windward side (here, that is the Hilo and Puna side) gets most of the rain. Hilo is the rainiest city on Earth in fact. The Windward side is very lush and tropical, and most of the rain falls at night and early morning, although sometimes in the winter the rain will fall for days on end. The Leeward side (Kona and Kohala) is usually sunny at sea level, and when it rains, it is usually in the late afternoon. Kohala is desert like in its dryness, which makes for lots of sunny beach days!

The ocean waters here aren’t too cold either. Surface temperatures average 74° to 77°F in the winter and 78° to 83°F, with the warmer temperatures found on the Kohala Coast – at Hapuna, you’ll feel like you are in a heated swimming pool.

Best Hotels on the Big Island

These are the best hotels in all of Hawaii Island, in my opinion.

If you consistently find higher prices than what I have found, maybe prices are up due to high season or some other reason. You find the best fares during the off-peak season, late September through the first week of June. And exception to this is fares go up around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, as well the days closely surrounding them and Spring Break.

You may find lower prices by bidding at Priceline and using This is all detailed below the tables. All listed prices are based on double occupancy. If you find lower prices than I’ve listed here, don’t question it, just book it!

Best Overall and Beachfront Hotels on the Big Island

Note that all with the exception of the Chalet Kilauea are beach front.

  • Chalet Kilauea featuring the Inn at Volcano, At website: $107 for a room at the deluxe Inn at Volcano. Less for some of the other properties.
  • Fairmont Orchid, $199 at Expedia.
  • Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka’upulehu, $495 at Expedia.
  • Hilton Waikoloa, $189 at Expedia.
  • Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, $296 at Expedia.
  • Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, $274 at Expedia.

Best Family Hotels on the Big Island

  • Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, $274 at Expedia.
  • Sheraton Keauhou, $159 at Expedia.

Best Budget-Priced Hotels on the Big Island

Many of the following hotels don’t list with Expedia and Priceline. If you call them directly for reservations, be sure to ask “Do you have any discounts that could bring my rate down?” You could get a “Yes” and a better rate off the bat.

I also highly recommend bidding on Priceline. Many of these smaller operations do not sell rooms to Priceline, and so if you are bidding on Priceline you will normally get something like a resort or a 2 to 4 star hotel. Remember, you can’t pick your hotel if you bid, just your desired star level.

You’ll have the most luck with getting low bids accepted on Priceline when the hotels are hurting for visitors, but try anytime. You could really get some good deals.

Most of the following are condos and include full kitchens, private washer/dryer, pool and barbecue. The “Best Prices” are based on Expedia, Priceline (lowest prices without bidding) and the hotel’s site.

  • Hale Kona Kai, $140 at website, $10 extra per person after first two.
  • Kona Isle, $99 (2009) and many rent 5 nights get two free specials for 2010 with rates starting at $105.
  • Sea Village, $96 for 1 bedroom, $112 for 2 bedrooms at Expedia.
  • Dolphin Bay Hotel, $99 (one queen bed), $149 (one bedroom) and more options. Weekly rates discussed on request.
  • Hilton Waikoloa, $189 at Expedia.
  • Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort, $159 at Expedia.
  • Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, $296 at Expedia.
  • Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, $274 at Expedia.
  • Fairmont Orchid, $199 at Expedia.

Best Hotels for Romance and Weddings on the Big Island

  • Hilton Waikoloa, $189 at Expedia.
  • Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort, $159 at Expedia.
  • Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, $296 at Expedia.
  • Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, $274 at Expedia.
  • Fairmont Orchid, $199 at Expedia.

Bidding on Hawaii Travel at Priceline and Shopping at Deep Discount Sites, Expedia and Hotwire

Shopping for travel reservations through Expedia, Priceline, and Hotwire is a great way to save money on hotels and sometimes even flights to Hawaii. You can often get even better prices than ones in the charts. I have personally bid and got $55 at the Royal Kona Resort and $120 at the Waikoloa Marriott. My friend got $110 at the Waikoloa Hilton and $85 at the Hapuna Prince. (All of these hotels are on the Big Island.) And I know someone who bid and received a round trip flight from San Francisco to Honolulu for $250. These are good deals!

Oh, and don’t forget car rentals. You can get great deals on car rentals by bidding.

The only issue with bidding for hotels is that you won’t know what hotel you get until you are locked in to paying for it. You just specify a certain star level or class of hotel.

And the only issue with bidding for flights is that you won’t be able to specify an exact time, but they do tell you it will be sometime between x morning hour and x evening hour, so not too bad. I have a friend who got a round trip flight Los Angeles to Honolulu for $179 through Hotwire.

At Hotwire you can get their regular low rates while specifying your hotel, airline/flight time and car model, but to give you the deep discounts Hotwire gets from their partners that they’re not allowed to publicize, you won’t know the names until after you reserve. As mentioned above though, you can choose general times, star rating on hotels, size of car, etc.

So How Should I Bid on Hawaii Travel?


I like to decide on a hotel I like, then find out what its star level is. Then on Priceline, I go directly to naming my own price, and during the process Priceline will tell you what the average price is for that star level. I then bid half of that.

The Priceline website will have a ticker of recently accepted rates in the area you are searching for that is helpful.

An awesome resource is the bidding for travel forum. If you scroll down on the home page you’ll see three Hawaii forums, based on which islands you are planning to visit. People bid, and then come here and post their accepted and rejected rates.

I have heard that the posted “median retail prices” at Priceline are sometimes inaccurate. I don’t worry about this in Hawaii because I am so familiar with what the hotels cost here. You, however, may want to check prices on the website of a few hotels that are the same star level as you want. You can then try to bid 50% of that.

Rental Cars –

$15 a day is generally a good place to start, and check the recent winning bids on Priceline.

Flights –

I like to bid 50% of whatever the going rate is and then bid up in $50 increments if that is refused.

Most Fun, Must-Do, Activities and Things to Do on the Big Island

This is my personal favorites list of the most exciting and fun things to do on the Big Island:

  • Atlantis Submarine Kona,Featured on National Geographic. The Big Island’s tour takes you down to visit underwater gardens of coral teeming with schools of tropical fish. You may also see manta rays and sharks.
  • Take the Fair Wind Snorkel Cruise at Kealakekua Bay. This is a must-do, in my opinion. You will snorkel in a pristine marine preserve and if you in the morning, chances are you will see dolphins. They also offer whale watch cruises.
  • Play with and pet a dolphin at Dolphin Quest. You do not need to be staying at the Waikoloa Hilton to enjoy this wonderful (and educational) experience, but slots fill up fast so sign up as early as you can. They book up to a year in advance.
  • See Waipio Valley from Horseback, Combine fun horseback riding with a tour of this legendary and beautiful valley. You might even see some of the wild horse herd!

My Favorite Inexpensive/Free Activities on the Big Island

  • View the Lava! When it’s flowing into the sea, you can, from the Kalapana Viewing area, safely view the red hot molten lava pouring over the cliffs. The view point is about 1/2 mile away from the lava, so binoculars or a camera with good telephoto for optimal viewing. This is best viewed at night so also bring a flashlight (and good walking shoes!). For lava updates, call the Kalapana Lava Viewing Hotline at (808) 961-8093 or the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park at (808) 985-6000.
  • If you aren’t staying at the Hilton Waikoloan, you can still tour the hotel and see the dolphins. Just park nearby, walk in through the gate and start looking around. People come in for just the restaurants and dolphin quest all the time.
  • Explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, This is the island’s main attraction, and there’s lots to do and see up here – steaming craters, a walk-through lave tube cave, rainforests and moonscapes, a volcanic science and cultural museum, the famous Kilauea Lodge, a fantastic visitor’s center, lots of hiking trails and more. Most of the National Park activities are wheelchair accessible. It can get chilly up here so bring a sweater. Warm up at the lodge’s lounge with hot cocoa while you look out at the now active Halema`uma`u crater (spewing ash and steam but occasionally lava) and enjoy the big lava rock, fireplace (grab a free brochure on its history).
  • Kayak Kealakekua Bay,Take a guided kayak tour to the pristine marine preserve and snorkel the coral reefs. Ocean Safari Kayak Adventures offers “Early Riser Dolphin Quest Tours.” Or check out the sea caves of Keauhou Bay.
  • Visit Rainbow Falls in Hilo, For the best chance of seeing a rainbow over the 80-foot falls, go early when the sun and morning mist make their magic.
  • Puakō Petroglyph Archeological Preserve, This contains over 3,000 pertroglyphs. It’s a short hike from Mauna Lani Resort, which also has some to view. Non-guests can also access via the resort and pick up a map and brochure.
  • Akaka Falls State Park, On the Hamakua Coast (the Big Island’s answer to Maui’s Hana Highway), this includes a very pretty hike through lush gardens and over a stream with the famous 400-foot waterfall waiting for you at the end. Because it’s a big visitor attraction with an unguarded parking lot, don’t leave valuables in your car.
  • Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Also located near Hilo on the Hamakua Coast, this well maintained nature preserve is a must see if you’re into flowers and walking paths that meander among waterfalls and provide sweeping ocean vistas. Over 2,000 species including orchids (Hilo is the “orchid capital” of the world.
  • Parker Ranch, One of the largest and most historical ranches in the United States, Parker is home to the paniolo, the Hawaiian cowboy, and has a variety of visitors attractions including their Historic Homes Tour.
  • Hulilee Palace, Large, elegant museum in Kailua-Kona that was once the vacation home of King David Kalakaua (the Merrie Monarch), Queen Liliuokalani and other Hawaiian royalty.

Best Big Island Beaches

Many visitors who don’t leave Kona are disappointed in the small pockets of sand they find there. A good deal of the island’s coast is is rocky. The “Volcano Island” being so much newer than its neighbor islands doesn’t have as many of the kind of beaches you’d expect from Hawaii. Why? Beaches and their sand are made by hundreds of thousands of years of ocean surf pounding against shells, coral and rock. The Big Island is the youngest of the islands, so beaches haven’t had that much time to develop. Many parts of the coast is younger than 1,000 years old, while Kilauea Volcano still adds hundreds of acres of new land a year. The Big Island has many other incredible attributes that more than make up for this lack of beaches, but hey, we have a few really nice beaches too, including ones that make national and world wide “Best Beach” lists!

Don’t hit all of these unless you are really into beaches. Just pick a few and take your time.

Note: In Hawaii, all beaches are public. Anywhere that there is water, there must be public access to the shoreline. If you are in a residential neighborhood and want to check out the beach, just look for the blue signs that say “shoreline access” and follow the path, even if it’s directly between two houses. Sometimes, though, residential beaches do not have restrooms or showers.

Don’t worry about directions too much. You can see the ocean from almost everywhere, and there are signs designating the beaches. Here’s a link to Google’s Big Island Map. And here’s the Hawaii Ocean Safety Map.

The surf conditions in Hawaii somewhat follow the seasons. During Hawaii’s summer (May – October), surf from the south occasionally has high surf conditions. During Hawaii’s winter, surf from the north has higher surf.

Hapuna (Kohala) – About 30 miles north of Kona on Highway 19 just before the Hapuna Prince Hotel.

Papakolea Beach (Green Sands Beach) – South Point, Kau – Green Sand – Take Highway 11 to Ka Lae (South Point) and drive about 12 miles to the end of the road. Then hike the 2 1/2 miles to the beach. For more details: Green Sand Beach.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach – Kau – Black Sand – South of Kona near the 63 mile marker of Highway 11 (and about 20 miles south of Volcano National Park).

Ahalanui Park (The Hot Pond) – Puna – Near Kapoho. Directions are a little complicated, and there are two popular routes. Here’s a Google map from Hilo to Ahalanui. We travel the more scenic route: Take 132 and just past the Lava Tree Park where the road forks, stay to the right. This will be Pohohiki Road. Take it all the way to the ocean where it ends at Isaac Hale Park and Pohohiki Boat Ramp. Turn left and you’re there in just a couple minutes.

Kauna’oa Beach (Mauna Kea Beach) – Kohala – Take the Mauna Kea Beach hotel turnoff from Highway 19, about 31 miles north of Kona. They may not let you in if all the spaces have filled up. Try early in the morning or later in the afternoon.

Richardson’s Ocean Park – Hilo – Black Sand – Take Kalanianaola (Hwy 120) out of Hilo, heading towards Volcano Hwy and Banyan Drive. Cross Volcano Hwy and drive on about 5 miles past the fish ponds. Look for the sign just past Leleiwi Park.

While the “Volcano Island” isn’t known for its beaches there are some beauties here, including some of the best in Hawaii and even the world. The beaches above are just a short list of my favorites, but you may find many more that strike your fancy as you drive along the Big Island’s coastline.

Best Big Island Guidebook

The Big Island Revealed is my favorite guidebook. Absolutely straight talk and real opinions from 2 people who have done everything they review. The aerial photos of the hotels are awesome for choosing a hotel. I love this guidebook.

In Conclusion

So that’s it – have a wonderful, wonderful vacation! The Big Island is an awesome place, and you really can’t go wrong here.


Hilton Waikoloa Village Hotel Questions

My husband and I have booked a 6 night stay at Hilton Waikoloa Village (end of July – over my birthday!!!).

A few questions:

1) Can we get snorkeling gear at the hotel and simply snorkel off the beach at the hotel….will we get to see much? We are just looking to see some colorful fish and a turtle would be nice! (We usually pay for a snorkeling trip on other vacations) –we also plan to enjoy watching the dolphins on site – we will likely not pay the $$$ to swim with them though!

2) We plan to rent a car for at least 1 day (if not 2). If you could only pick 2 destinations (day trips) on the big island which would they be? (Is there a rental place nearby?)

a. We would be willing to drive up to 2 (maybe 3 hours) from the hotel, enjoy nature, and would be open to moderate to light hiking if it meant we ended up somewhere worth it (waterfalls…etc)

b. We don’t want to cram too much into each day (especially if driving a far distance to and from)

c. Things that spark our interest from our research. Akaka Falls, the black beach, the volcano (especially the idea of seeing molten lava at the waters edge), Coffee Plantation Tour.

d. We see the Hilton has a Luau on site and were planning to go to that, but you mentioned another Luau on the big island as being your favorite. I am guessing we would need to rent a car to get to this. How far away is it from the Hotel and worth renting a car to go off site too? Have you been to the one at Hilton Waikoloa – how does it compare?

e. Please include any great stops for a good lunch along the way (relatively inexpensive to moderate cost)

3) Are there shuttles from Waikoloa Hilton to other area attractions and/or grocery stores (We would like to stock the room fridge with lunch snacks)?

4) What price range should we be looking at for meals at the restaurant options at the Hotel – just trying to determine budget?

5) Is there a special place that you would recommend on the Hilton Property that is relatively private and is great for viewing the sun set?

Well thank you 🙂

and how fun! wonderful! Ok …

snorkeling gear, you know, we always brought our own so I am not 100% sure about this, but it seems like a really good bet that they will have something – you will have to rent it though. The Hilton employs an onsite company called red sail sports to provide all the boats and stuff for people who want them. If rental prices seem too much you will probably be able to buy snorkels at the gift shop.

There is no real beach outside of the hotels grounds, only a lagoon with a beach inside, and snorkeling in the lagoon is pretty good. We see turtles, eels, and fish all the time. The turtles like to eat the leaves of the trees that around the lagoon between the waterfall and the steps.

Some people go out into the cove, and snorkeling is probably good there too.

For the car … well, maybe you could plan a trip to the Volcano, and hit the coffee plantation and the Black sand beach (punaluu) at the same time – they are on the way. You’ll want to check the current status of the volcano to see if it’s worth a trip the day before you plan to go – what’s going on down there changes daily.

Here’s my blog about it, but I only do general updates about once a month if nothing crazy is going on.

I think there is a budget rent a car on property at the Hilton.

The luau at the Hilton is also very good. I would just stick with it.

There is a trolley from the Hilton to the nearby Queens shops where there is a grocery store.

The hilton restaurants range from expensive to outrageous (but with really good food :). The grill by the pool may be your most inexpensive bet – $8 or so for a burger if I remember correctly.

as for the sunset walks – you can see the most awesome sunsets from anywhere on the grounds. There are a few hammocks here and there and many beach cabanas. There’s a point by the ocean tower that juts out and walking down there is good at night.

Check prices here

Have a great time! Lisa

Beach Color in Hawaii and Beaches Quality in Kona

I’m planning a trip and have read your q&a on doing so. My question that I can’t seem to figure out is, on what island/beach will I find the ocean water to be that crystal blue/green so clear that you can see through. I know it may sound silly but that’s what I’m looking for, I prefer white sandy beaches with that aqua turquoise color. I’ve done some searches on “what color is the ocean in hawaii” etc but haven’t found what I’m looking for.

I’d like to visit waterfalls, do some snorkeling, visit a volcano (not the highest priority) I’m thinking that I’ll take two weeks. I’m traveling with a friend who is providing me with free airline passes to get there, he said something about going to the big island first, then on to kona, he’ll be with me the first few days and then he’ll be leaving me on my own. I’d like a place to relax, enjoy the water, snorkel, do some sight seeing.

Ok, that crystal blue-green you are looking for, I think that comes from a play of the sunlight through the water, and only happens with very shallow, long, open beaches (meaning not coves) where the bottom is all white sand.

Hawaii is not the best place for these types of beaches, in my opinion, because of how quickly the water becomes deep almost everywhere.

You’ll be able to catch a glimpse of it when the sun is right on most any island, for example, look at the second to the last picture here on Kauanoa beach on the big island – and the last picture of Abay on the big island here – and look at the last couple pictures of Kailua beach on Oahu here – and then a pic of anini beach on Kauai here.

Now, although I have two examples on the Big Island, the Big Island will really be the hardest island to see something like this on – only beaches on the west side would even have a chance.

Here’s one more thing to kind of get you thinking. See my pictures here from a boat tour we did in the Kealakekua Bay. Notice the difference in the colors of the water in the pictures. we were in 50 to 75 foot deep, perfectly clear water, and all those pics were taken within 10 minutes and 20 feet or so of each other – to this day I don’t know why the extremem difference in the color of the water.

The beaches right in Kona are interesting, but not spectacular. The little beach to the left of the Kailua pier sometimes has the pretty green color, but it’s not a beach to hang out on – more like a tiny strip of sand that sometimes gets swallowed by the ocean when the tide is high. Kids like it.

There’s a few more beaches along Alii Drive like Magic Sands and Kahaluu, but none of them will wow you that much. Kahaluu has lots of turtles which is cool.

Many places on the west side of the Big Island, which will be up north of Kona 15-30 miles, will make you happy.
… hmm, rereading I see you are going to be at the Marriott – if so, that would possibly be the Waikoloa Beach Marriott, which is on the West side and right on Anaehoomalu Bay (or A-Bay) and you willl probably like it, especially if you can make a trip to the Hapuna beach and maybe even the Kauanaoa Beach.

anyway, have an awesome time! Lisa

The Best Hawaii Guidebooks in My Opinion; Maui, Oahu, Kauai, and Big Island

Plan Your Best Vacation to Oahu Ever - Where to Stay and What to Do On Oahu

Plan Your Best Vacation to Oahu Ever - Where to Stay and What to Do On Oahu - one of my guide books

I have an absolute favorite Hawaii GuideBook series and it is the Hawaii Revealed Series (link is to the Hawaii Revealed books at Amazon). I like these guidebooks because the author’s pull no punches. There is no vague, travel magazine-speak about nothing. The books are filled with their honest opinions based on their actual experiences. I love that. That’s what I try to do with my websites.

One of the best things about the books is the aerial pictures of the hotels, which you can see at their website. Another awesome things about their books is that the authors have actually eaten at every restaurant, done every activity, and stayed at every hotel they review. It’s 100% evident in the way they talk in the book. Not too many guidebooks can say that.

I have each of these books for each island. If I am going traveling around Hawaii, I take these books – and I’ve lived in Hawaii for 14 years. I’ve written a review for each of the individual Hawaii Revealed Guidebooks here, if you are interested.

I also like to recommend my books of course. Mine are free, only digital, and are more like mini guides or ebooklets. They are all available here: There is one for The Big Island, Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and then four general books, one about saving money, one about getting married in Hawaii, one for first timers, and one about Island Hopping.

I do have a second favorite paper book, and that is the Hawaii Trailblazer Books . I have personally spoken with the authors. They are nice people and they write solid books with good information. If you are an active person who likes to hike, swim, snorkel, and surf (or take lessons), these books are a good choice for you.

I’d love to know your favorites or which books you have bought and like the best. Leave me a comment. thanks!

Kona to Hilo Bus Schedule

I will be visiting Hawaii later this month and will be travelling to the Big Island. I have two nights accommodation booked in Kona and then two nights in Hilo. I very much want to experience everything that both towns have to offer including diving with the Manta Rays and seeing active lava flow. I will be travelling on my own and I have heard that car hire in Hawaii is very expensive when you take all the extras into consideration. I was thinking of taking the bus from Kona to Hilo but I am not sure where I would need to catch it from. I will be staying at the Keauhou Beach Resort, would appreciate your advice on what would be the best option.

Hi Robyn, the hele on bus schedule is here: – as you can see, the bus stops at the Sheraton Keauhou at 6:20 am, every day but sunday. The Sheraton Keauhou is just down the road from the Keauhou beach resort – maybe 15 minutes or so walk. If I were you, as soon as you check in, I would tell the front desk your plans to take the bus and see what they suggest – maybe they could even call the sheraton keauhou and find out exactly where the bus picks up at over there.

Hilo and Kona and Honolulu Cruise Port of Call Help

I’ve come across your website while researching our trip (boyfriend and I). We are planning a cruise in September and wanted to know how accessible shuttle services are from the ports.

1. Hilo cruise ports to Akaka falls. Should we take a taxi or is there a shuttle, what are the costs?
2. Honolulu port to HNL international airport. We want to be at the airport by 630-7am, how much would a taxi cost, I see that the airport is fairly close by.
3. In Kona we plan to follow your advice and visit Kahaluu Beach, is this difficult to get to? How much would a jet ski/ boat be?

We were just wondering how close attractions are from the ports, and what to expect if we took cabs or if public transit was easy/reliable (we don’t want to miss our departure at each ports).

Honolulu port to the airport would be about $20 to $30.

Hilo to Akaka falls, you probably will need to take a taxi, although sometimes shuttles are offered. You may have to wait till your are on the ship or even till you get off at port to know about the shuttle. Taxi is $3.20 a mile, so it could cost you $64 one way. Many times the taxis are vans, so if you could fit three couples in a van you could split it three ways.

In Kona, Kahaluu Beach is around the 5 mm, while the cruise ship is around the 0 mm, so that will be much more reasonable by taxi. – less than $20 one way.

Jet ski is $100 something for the hour but it’s just on a circular track. To rent a boat is going to be $370+ for a half day. Renting a scooter or bikes is easy too and not too much money.

Each port is different, and each port will have a different amount of resources trying to help you see what you want to see. Hilo and Kona are generally the hardest to figure out because the island is so big and in Hilo not as many tourists come in, so there’s not as many companies catering to them.

Don’t worry, I’m sure it will all come together nicely for you and you’ll have a great time 🙂 Lisa

Where to Rent Camping Equipment In Hawaii; Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Kauai, or Big Island

Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii
Image by Jeff Kubina via Flickr

I am coming to Hawaii in Feb 2010 and would like to do some camping. Can you tell me if there are places on Molokai, Maui or the Big Island that rent camping equipment?

** update 2011, there are now some places to rent camping equipment – check the comments below this text for multiple links.

Sorry, but there really is no where to rent camping equipment on any of the islands. You’ll need to bring it or buy it when you get here – on Maui or the Big Island – molokai and Kauai will have the least buying options. Oahu will have the most buying options.

You may be able to rent camping stoves or larger things of that nature, but you will be limited on where you can use such a thing. No one rents tents or sleeping bags that I know of.

New rental places and stores do open up all the time though, so if anyone knows of anything or has a rental company website, please leave a comment. 🙂 thanks!

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Hawaii; Should I Visit One Island or Two or More?

Hi Lisa
i happened upon your site while doing research on Hawaii vacations..
here is my dilemna…my husband and two daughters (13 & 16) will be coming to Hawaii in July. I am trying to book a nice vacation and at the same time trying to control costs…
Since this is a once in a lifetime trip for us I am trying to decide if we should do 2 islands or just enjoy one. We want to have some down time to relax and some time to explore. I am definetly staying on the big island. By staying on just one island will we get to see all Hawaii has to offer?

You didn’t say how long your trip will be. I like to recommend no more than one island for every 5-7 days in Hawaii, for just that reason. Relaxing is important. Packing and unpacking and flying and renting a car all over again is not relaxing, typically.

The other islands are quite different than the Big Island, but the Big Island definitely has something to offer for everyone, and it’s the only island with the volcano and an awesome black sand beach (punaluu) and it’s best beaches (Hapuna and Mauna Kea) can rival the best anywhere in the islands.

I don’t think you will be missing out on anything by staying on the Big Island, unless someone else in your party has their heart set on something specific like Pearl Harbor. There is always the option of a day trip too – meaning you could just fly over for a day and fly back that evening, but that could the priciest way to island hop if you go with a predestined tour.

So, don’t worry if you just stay on the Big Island. Others may tell you that you were missing something, but I don’t think you will be.

Aloha, Lisa

Big Island MWR Army and Air Force Facilities

I stumbled upon your site while Googling military vacations on the Big Island of Hawaii. I am familiar with the military beaches and cottages on Oahu as I lived there for several years. I’ve also been to the one at Kiluea (she means Kilauea Military Camp or KMC) on the Big Island.

I have received an invitation to the Big Island in January. However, the location is unfamiliar to me. There is supposed to be cottages and/or tent camping on the BI at Bellows AFB. Is there such a place? I know Bellows on Oahu very well. Can you please tell me what military beaches/accommodations are available on the Big Island? I searched for it on the net, but came up empty. My friend may have her info wrong!

As far as I know there is no Bellows on the Big Island. There is a Bradshaw Army Airfield on Saddle road, and nearby there is Mauna Kea State park, where you can do tent camping or cottage camping. That is probably what she is thinking of. KMC is the only other Military MWR facility I know of on the Big Island, and there are no military beaches. There is not currently a large military presence on the Big Island. good luck! Have fun! Lisa

8 Free Hawaii Guide Books

I have written a Hawaii Guide Book as a gift to you! Actually, I’ve written 8 Hawaii guide books and they are all free to help you plan your trips. There’s one for each major island and then 4 special topics.

Available Now

Plan Your Best Vacation to Oahu Ever - Where to Stay and What to Do On Oahu

Plan Your Best Vacation to Oahu Ever - Where to Stay and What to Do On Oahu

Download the Oahu book here – right click the link and download the book to your computer, or read it at the online version, The Complete Oahu Vacation Guide. They are a little different but not too much.

This guide book describes Oahu areas, what hotels are best for budget trips, romantic trips, best overall beach locations, and best family hotels. I also talk about the best beaches I like and my favorite activities. Or, see the online version here The Complete Oahu Vacation Guide

Plan your Best Vacation to Kauai Ever! Where to Stay and What to Do in Kauai

Plan your Best Vacation to Kauai Ever! Where to Stay and What to Do in Kauai

Download the Kauai book here – right click the link and download the book to your computer.

This guide book outlines all my favorite things about Kauai, plus what hotels are best for budget trips, romantic trips, best overall beach locations, and best family hotels. Or see the online version here,The Complete Kauai Vacation Guide

Plan Your Best Vacation to Maui Ever! Where to Stay and What to Do on Maui

Plan Your Best Vacation to Maui Ever! Where to Stay and What to Do on Maui

Download the Maui book here – right click the link and download the book to your computer.

This guide book outlines all my favorite things about Maui, plus what hotels are best for budget trips, romantic trips, best overall beach locations, and best family hotels. Or see the online version here: The Complete Maui Vacation Guide

Plan your Best Vacation to the Big Island of Hawaii Ever - Where to Stay and What to Do on the Big Island

Plan your Best Vacation to the Big Island of Hawaii Ever - Where to Stay and What to Do on the Big Island

Download the Big Island book here – right click the link and download the book to your computer.

This guide book outlines all my favorite things about the Big Island, plus my favorite family, beach-front, and budget hotels. Or, see the online version here: The Complete Big Island Vacation Guide

Hawaii Hopping for Fun! Visiting More than One Island in Hawaii the Smart Way

Hawaii Hopping for Fun! Visiting More than One Island in Hawaii the Smart Way

Get the Hawaii Hopping For Fun; Visiting More than One Island In Hawaii The Smart Way Book here to discover all the ways there are to get around between the Hawaii Islands. Inter-Island Hawaii Travel explained in depth! Or see the online version How to Get from One Hawaii Island to Another

First Time Hawaii Vacations the Easy and Fun Way; How to Get to Hawaii, Where to Stay, and What to Do

First Time Hawaii Vacations the Easy and Fun Way; How to Get to Hawaii, Where to Stay, and What to Do

Get the First Time Hawaii Vacations Ebook Here Right click and choose save target as. So, if you’ve never been to Hawaii before, get out your pen and take notes. This book will give you a basic overview of Hawaii, and tell you the popular and best places to stay and what to do on each island, where to fly into, and where to look for packages. Get an idea of what sounds good to you and then follow it up. Or see the online version First Time to Hawaii Guide

How to Save Thousands of Dollars on a Hawaii Vacation! Saving Money on Hotels, Flights, Food, and Fun things to Do.

How to Save Thousands of Dollars on a Hawaii Vacation! Saving Money on Hotels, Flights, Food, and Fun things to Do.

Save Thousands on a Hawaii Vacation! right click and choose save target as. Dozens of strategies and website recommendations to save you money. Spend less on the flight and have more for the fun stuff!
Or, see the online version here Cheap Hawaii Vacation Guide

How to Get Married in Hawaii On a Dime! Simple, fun, and low-cost Hawaii Weddings

How to Get Married in Hawaii On a Dime! Simple, fun, and low-cost Hawaii Weddings

How to Get Married in Hawaii on a Dime – I recount my experiences with getting married in Hawaii and coordinating a wedding in Hawaii, plus I talk about what you need to get married in Hawaii, and cool places to do it. Congratulations, by the way! Or, see the online version here: Cheap Hawaii Wedding Guide

Turtle Watching and Marine Biology in Hawaii

Hey, just found your website because i was watching one of your videos on youtube, i’m a 17 year old biology and geography student from england and i’m hoping to become a marine biologist who specialises in sea turtles. and i want to come to hawaii in summer 2010, to get some great diving experiance, and to see alot of sea turtles and other marine life in their natural habitats. it seems like you know alot about hawaii, and you seem better then all my local travel reps and i was wondering which island would be best to stay at? where are sea turtles most common? and what good marine experiances are out there? your help would really help me to achieve my lifetime ambition thanks

I know there are marine biology programs at our local colleges here – have you contacted anyone at UH Hilo or UH Manoa?

Well, there are turtles on every island and you can see them easily anywhere in Hawaii – really. go down to the beach and there they are – just about any beach with rocks around somewhere. I think I will suggest the Big Island for you though, because the big island has many opportunites to see many turtles. There’s a little pool to the left of Onekehakaha beach where they come in to sleep at night and I’ve seen 12 or more at a time there. You can almost always see them at punaluu and kahaluu beaches.

Look into the big island – Hilo or Kona, I think it’s what you are looking for. Aloha! Lisa

i have just contacted both colleges that you told me about and i’m waiting for a reply id love to move over to hawaii and go to university their. but i dont quite understand how my qualifications will transfer into credits. i was wondering if their are any conservation scemes i can book myself on for the summer of 2010? preferably sea turtle ones. and if you know any good diving schools where i can get a qualification in diving? thankyou, been a great help. Aloha !

you’re welcome!

why don’t you look into positions at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I know they have summer intern positions and they have seasonal openings. I also have heard that they sometimes hike out into the backcountry and camp on the beach to protect the turtles that come in to lay their eggs.

As for diving schools, there are tons. I wouldn’t look into this until you get here since you don’t know exactly where you’ll be.

Is Camping Safe in Hawaii? Is Campground Safety an Issue?

June 26, 2009 by · 6 Comments
Filed under: Big Island, Camping, Kauai, Maui 

We are seriously considering coming to Hawaii in late Oct/Early Nov and would like to camp to stretch our money, but are reading alot of contradictory info on forums etc about campgrounds being unsafe and unwelcoming to tourists. The islands we are planning to visit are Kauai and Maui and, only if money allows, the Big Island.

We would really love the experience of enjoying the staying amidst the natural beauty of Hawaii, but want to feel safe and have at least basic amenities. We are a mature couple who enjoy occasional, seasonal camping, so not interested in a grotty backpacker experience.

Could you let me know your opinion on whether we should pursue camping on these islands, or stick with budget accom options.

You know, this really has not ever been my experience. I am not a tourist but myself and my whole family are caucasian (so we are frequently mistaken as tourists) and we travel a lot and I have NEVER, ever been accosted or even really given ‘stink-eye’. I know it happens, and I know there are occasional bad experiences, but I think that may have more to do with the behavior of the visitors.

I did witness an event once where a group of teenage girls and their teachers or mothers were surrounding a sea turtle and touching it in a shallow beach area. Not a good thing – turtles should not be touched.

Well, a family of native hawaiians went off on them in a big way. Lots of yelling. Bad experience. But nothing they weren’t almost asking for with their treatment of this animal the Hawaiians consider sacred.

So, I wouldn’t worry about it. Honestly. Maui and Kauai are great, safe islands. Just be respectful of the land and the animals and you should be fine in my opinion.

Have fun! Lisa

Kona-Kohala Remote and Secret Beaches, Big Island Hawaii

I will be traveling to the West side of the Big Island slightly north of Kona this coming January. Do you recommend any remote less crowded beaches to go too?

I have hiked from Hwy 19 to a couple of secluded beaches off of the beaten path. Is this safe to do?

It is 100% safe to do., in my opinion. People do it all the time. There is very little person on person crime here.

You could go to Maumae Beach through the Mauna Kea Beach hotel. The entrance station guard will give you a map. It’s a beautiful beach. There is Kiholo Bay and Beach 69 or Waialea Beach. the trailhead is by the 71 mile marker. Also try Makalawena, which you walk to from a trail at Kona Coast state Park. about 20 minutes.

Have a great time!

Beach 69 Video

Kailua-Kona Cruise Port of Call Things to Do – Activities

July 11, 2008 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Big Island, Big Island Activities, Vacation Planning 

We will be arriving by cruise ship and won’t have a car. I was wondering if there is a nice black beach close by to the pier at Kailua-Kona. And if you can give any other suggestions of things to do and see while we are there for the day.

The closest black sand beach to Kailua-Kona is Punaluu, and it’s over an hours drive. If you will be stopping in Hilo you will be able to easily bike or take a taxi to Richardson’s Beach- it’s less than 2 miles down the road from the Hilo Pier.

In Kailua Kona, I would go to Kahaluu Beach, decent snorkeling and lots of turtles – it’s 5 miles down Alii Drive. You can take a taxi or a shuttle. You could walk around Kailua town. There are shops and restaurants. If you just wanted to get in the water there is a tiny beach right there where the cruise tenders drop you off. Right there at the pier they various boats and jet skis and tours – some of the glassbottom boats are pretty inexpensive for an hour.

SuperCharge your Big Island of Hawaii Vacation Planning; Hawaii Big Island Revealed Review

If you are planning a trip to the Big Island I highly recommend you get the book Hawaii the Big Island Revealed

I have lived in Hawaii for well over a decade, I’ve done just about every activity and hike I care to do, and I still refer to this book when someone asks me something I’m not sure about or just don’t know. I have each one they wrote. I don’t know who the authors are personally, but I have talked with many businesses and hear how they have been ‘shopped’ by the authors.

The authors don’t put their pictures on the book and they don’t talk about who they are. When they go to research an activity or hotel they don’t try to get a free room or good service, they try to be treated like anybody else so they can give honest, accurate reports on just about everything there is to do on every island. They are even funny. And they are, really, brutally honest. If something is a dump they call it a dump. If something really rung their bells, you can tell.

The book is broken down well in categories like Activities and Adventures and Beaches and also by location. The index is very thorough. There are lots of spectacular pictures and area maps and complete driving directions. AND, maybe best of all, they provide aerial pictures of the hotels showing how close (or not) the hotel is to the ocean and which building is which (so you can request what building you want to have a room in).

Get the book, you will not regret it. Hawaii the Big Island Revealed

Big Island Secrets and Remote Nature Activities

I’m travelling to the Big Island in a week, staying in Koana. On your advise, I’m sticking to one island for my first visit. I’m not the late night party type, and enjoy the nature side of the land. The Big Island sounded more like me. I want to see the volcano, attend a Luau, go to the green, and black beach (Jeep already reserved), and I’m looking at the ATV (Riding the Rim) ride. I like the remote, out of the norm for tourist places. I was reading about the lava tubes that are filled with fresh water. Sounded incredible. With what I have described, please offer some advise, and maybe a few secrets about the Big Island.

well, your trip sounds like one I would love. 🙂 the green sand beach is awesome – if you keep driving past the beach you’ll find all sorts of neat nooks and crannies and coves. We used to go camping down there a lot.

I haven’t done the riding the rim tour but it looks like fun – if you wanted to drop me a line and let me know how you liked it I would love that.

How about a manta ray night dive or snorkel? I haven’t done this but people rave about it.

Or renting a boat: we just did this and really had a good time. If you don’t rent a boat you should consider a boat tour to Kealakekua Bay or renting a kayak and going out in the bay. The snorkeling is amazing and frequently you see large dolphin pods.

You know, I don’t know what’s a secret and what’s not anymore so I found a page that professes to tell secrets 🙂 it all looks good to me. 🙂

If you really like nature you should head up to saddle road or even the mauna kea visitor center on a clear night: – the expanse of stars practically on top of you is amazing. Like nothing I’ve ever seen anywhere else. When I drive over the saddle at night I always have to stop and take it in for a bit.

As for the lava tubes filled with fresh water – I’ve never heard of that. Where are they? – this vacationer wrote back and sent me a link – it’s Queens Bath at Kiholo Bay. According to Hawaii the Big Island Revealed there are several of these around the island (anyplace that is a good place to bathe ends up being called Queens’ Bath).
I know you are going to have an AWESOME time!

Kailua-Kona Airport Taxis and Shuttles – Cost and Availability

June 10, 2008 by · 6 Comments
Filed under: Big Island, Hawaii - general, Vacation Planning 

Our flight arrives in Kona after all the car rental companies are closed (I was told they all close at 10:00 p.m.)

My questions is – would it be best to take a cab from the airport to Keauhou – if so, roughly what wouild be the cost? Should it be reserved in advance? I’m concerned because 300+ people may be looking for transportation to their hotels as they cannot pick up ther rental cars that evening.

Any information on the best way to get to our condo would be appreciated.

I called a couple of taxi companies, and the airport to Keauhou will cost $36 to $39. It doesn’t seem like they take advanced reservations but one company gave me a number of the closest company to the airport if you find yourself unable to get a cab – she said call 329-1977 Mel’s Taxi and they’ll come right down. I can understand your concern, but if the taxi companies know the flight is coming in and they know the car rental companies are closed I am sure they’ll all be ready and waiting.

You also could reserve with speedishuttle– their phone message says they operate every day of the year, from the first flight in the morning to the last flight in the evening.

Have a wonderful vacation! Lisa

Oahu Day Trip – One or Two Days on Oahu

I am planning to be in Kona, Hawaii from May 17 to May 24 and would like to take in some
of the sights on Ohau such as Pearl harbor and the Cultural Center. Any ideas on the best
way to do this? I know each of these are at least a day in themselves. Maybe 2 trips or
an overnight stay to catch both? What might you suggest?

I would do an overnight stay in Oahu – otherwise you eat up too much of your day on the airplane, getting the car, etc. Plus that way you get to enjoy Oahu a bit – it really is very pretty. Have a great time!

Horseback Riding on the Hilo Side of the Big Island

March 1, 2008 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Big Island, Big Island Activities 

If you are a visitor to the Big Island or a resident and are looking for lessons or trail rides here, consider contacting my friend Sharon at Volcano Paradise Ranch. She teaches kids and adults, she does trail rides and arena training, she takes care of beginners and advanced riders and everything in between. Her ranch is located in Kurtistown, which is halfway up towards the Volcano, about 20 minutes from Hilo.

As far as I can find, this is the only place close to Hilo currently offering any sort of rides or lessons. The second closest places would be Dahana Ranch in Waimea or Waipio Valley Horseback rides – which are both an hour drive from Hilo.

Big Island Itinerary


  • Fri PM leave Oakland 3:30pm
    EVE arrive Hilo 7:05; drive to Honaka’a
    Hotel Hotel Honaka’a
  • Sat AM Mamane Bakery; HAWAIIAN MACADAMIA PLANTATION, INC., Waipi’o Valley; drive down Valley Rd, Kahuahine Falls & Waiulili Falls
    PM take Rt 19 west to Kawaihae; Pu’ukohola Heiau; Hapuna Beach swimming and snorkeling; Malama Petrograph Trail
    EVE check in at hotel and relax (die) or go to ukulele entertainers, Kings Shops at the Waikoloa Resort. Call (808) 886-8811
    Hotel Kona Seaside Hotel
  • Sun AM Hulihe’e Palace; Mokuaikauna Church; Cloud Forest
    PM Kahalu’u Beach, snorkeling
    EVE open
    Hotel Kona Seaside Hotel
  • Mon AM snorkeling/whalewatching
    PM open
    EVE open
    Hotel Kona Seaside Hotel
  • Tues AM Keauhou Sea Cave Adventure (kayaking/snorkeling)
    PM open
    EVE open
    Hotel Kona Seaside Hotel
  • Wed AM check out; Captain Cook; Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden; Holualoa Kona Coffee Company tour; Ho’okena, Green Sand Beach; Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
    PM continue drive to Volcanos National Park
    EVE open
    Hotel Volcano Cabins
  • Thurs AM Visitor Center, Jagger Museum, Crater Rim Drive, walk Devastation Trail and Thurston Lava Tube walk
    PM Chain of Craters Road
    EVE picnic lunch at End of Chain of Craters Road
    Hotel Volcano Cabins
  • Fri AM check out, leave park 5:30am, depart Hilo Airport 8:30am
    PM arrive Chicago
  • is this reasonable? I’m I getting at the good stuff or did I miss alot?

    It looks good to me – let me talk about a few things here:

    To drive down in Waipio Valley you need a four wheel drive. It’s not an easy drive. Have you found directions to the falls? Doing all this plus swimming at Hapuna beach will be quite a packed day.

    You’ll need a 4 wheel drive to get to the green sand beach too unless you plan on hiking a couple of miles each way.

    Don’t stress if you aren’t at the Hilo airport 2 hours before you fly out. ATA is the only airlines that goes to the mainland from Hilo. We just flew that flight to Oakland last week. We left our house at 7 am, got there at 7:15, and had NO problems. There were no lines – nothing. That’s just how the Hilo airport is usually. I’m not saying to plan to get there with only 1 hour and 15 minutes to spare like we did, but don’t stress about it.

    I think you covered about as much as possible in the time you have. Cool.

    Have fun! Lisa

    Flight departure to Kona, Big Island of Hawaii


    Flight departure to Kona, Big Island of Hawaii

  • Drive: for 3 to 4hrs to the Town of Volcano (See map) and stop at supermarket for groceries for the Bungalow
  • Check-in: Kate’s Bungalow Address: 19-4039 Hapu Ln, Volcano Ph: (877) 967-7990
  • Evening: At leisure (Pack lunches for tomorrow’s Volcano National Park excursion)
  • Tuesday

  • Morning: Hawaii Volcano National Park
  • Visit: The Visitor Center and obtain information about Volcano and the latest info and location of lava flow also ask about directions in and around the park. (There are two scenic drives with a wealth of volcano views An 11-mile drive, called Crater Rim, passes by many rising steam vents)
  • Visit: Steam Sulphur Banks Vents, Kilauea Overlook, Jaggar Museum, Halemaumau Crater, Devastation Trail (45min hike)
  • Afternoon: Thurston Lava Tube (20min hike), Kilauea Iki Overlook, Kilauea Iki Trail (Little Kilauea), Hilina Pali Overlook, Holei Sea Arch (end of road where lava flowed)
  • Evening: Return to see the lava flow after dark, (take a flashlight, water bottle, and jacket)
  • Wednesday

  • Morning: (Check-out) Wake up early and drive to Hilo Airport (1hour drive-See map to Hilo Airport)
  • Tour: (1010hrs) Blue Hawaiian Helicopter (Circle of Fire plus Waterfalls Tour) #1963497799 Ph: (800) 786-2583
  • Afternoon/Lunch: Lunch at Kuhio Grille 111 East Puainako Street, #A106, Hilo (Located at Prince Kuhio Shopping Plaza)
  • Drive: Richardson Beach Park (walk around and take a look at the black sand beach and scenery), Rainbow Falls State Park (at the edge of Hilo town and view the falls), North to scenic drive detour at Onomea Bay along the Hamakua Coast,
  • Visit: Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens and Onomea Bay Trail (Stop at What’s Shakin Smoothie Stand near the Botanical Gardens for refreshments)
  • Drive: north to Akaka Falls State Park (Hike short trail-loop and view Kahuna Falls and Akaka Falls)
  • Drive: North to the Waipio Valley Overlook,
  • Drive: from Waimea, descending down to Kona
  • Check-in: Surf & Racquet Club Address: 78-6800 Alii Drive, Kailua-Kona Ph: (808) 331-8878
  • Evening: At Leisure
  • Morning: At Leisure
  • Afternoon/Evening: (1320hrs) Mauna Kea Summit Adventures Tour (tour pick-up: Buns in the Sun 75-5675 Palani RD) Ph: (808) 322-2366
  • regarding the Big Island – which way are you driving to Volcano? The southern route or the northern route? The southern route may be your best bet, and it should only take 2 to 2.5 hours unless you stop a lot, which you may.

    And groceries? There are no major grocery stores along the southern route. It’d be best to stop in Kona. There is one in Naalehu but it’s small with very high prices.

    There’s a lot of things to do in Kona – go to Kahaluu Beach to snorkel and see turtles. Go to the Puuhonua National Park – I think your pass from the Volcanoes National Park might get you in. Check with them. Go on the Fairwinds boat tour – go on a glass bottom boat and or the atlantis submarine.

    related: Multiple island itinerary

    Suggested Hawaii Itinerary – Plan my Trip for Me!

    January 24, 2008 by · 14 Comments
    Filed under: Big Island, Hawaii - general, Kauai, Maui, Oahu, Vacation Planning 

    If you had to recommend a two week itinerary in Hawaii, what would you recommend and why (13 full days)? Don’t give me some cop out answer like “every island has something to offer for each person”. We were thinking of visiting 2-3 islands. Which islands should I visit and for how many days.

    Ok, 13 full days – never been to Hawaii before – I would do Oahu for 4 to 5 days. On Oahu I would visit Waikiki beach, because it really is the beach that started it all even if it is completely packed with people and commercialized these days.. I would visit Pearl Harbor and maybe hike to some waterfalls. I would consider Hanauma Bay. I would check out Kailua and Lanikai beaches and the North Shore. For the rest of the trip *I* would decide which out of the following was my favorite must-see and choose my island(s) around that:

    an active volcano (big island)
    black sand beaches (big island)
    the Na Pali Coast (Kauai)
    tons of waterfalls (Kauai or Maui)
    zip line (maui and kauai)
    downhill bike adventure (maui)
    ferries to smaller islands (maui)
    rivers (kauai)
    hana and the road to hana (maui)
    mauna kea (big island)
    green sand beach (big island)
    waimea canyon (kauai)
    sport fishing (all islands, but big island – kona side is considered best)
    waipio valley (big island)

    Anything else you would want to do in Hawaii could be done on any island – so figure out what appeals to you and focus your activities around that. That is the most specific advice I will offer. 🙂 I hope you have a wonderful time! Lisa

    …. BIG TRIP for us all. Most of us do not like tons of crowds for a long time. average crowds are fine. we have planned 11 days or more. Quoted 4,500 for all inclusive flight hopper to 3 islands. Does this allow you to see the greatest of hawaii by moving about?

    Three islands is a personal choice – if you guys want to move around that much, great! Of course staying in one place is good too. The only island I sometimes really advise people to not stay on for a long time is Oahu – sometimes visitors get disenchanted with the amount of traffic and people there. Lisa

    Latest on planning is … talked to an agent that suggested a cruise to the three islands instead of flights. After thinking about it, we think it sounds easier than packing and unpacking. We would fly to Honolulu and get on a cruise ship that moves about three different islands. At least there are stay overs for more than one day.

    We have been on cruises… the frustrating part for us has been we find a place we really like however, we can’t stay any longer than the time they allow. :

    If you had say 11 days to see hawaii, knowing this could be your 1st and last trip, what would YOU do? Teens will need activity. Parents and grandma like activities such as hiking, snorkeling, ATV rides, beaches, FOOD of course. Any suggestions??

    I have a really hard time when people ask ne what would YOU do becaue I have been here for so long and have seen so much and I can’t seem to get myself back to a place of being a fresh newbie to Hawaii. 🙂

    The cool thing about a cruise is all the people are right there when you get off the boat trying to talk you into their activity – but the not so cool thing is you are stuck in this one geographical area for this finite period of time.

    I won’t say – do the cruise or don’t do the cruise. I’m sure it could be awesome, and I’m sure it could be awful 🙂

    Tour the Volcano From Maui – How to Get to the Big Island

    If I spend 10 nights in Maui is it easy to do a day trip to the big island to see the volcano or would you recommend something different. I am traveling with a 15 and 12 year old boys.

    Well, you have four options, really. The first three will take *all day*. The last one will not but will be the most expensive. If you really want to see the volcano then go for it – just realize it could be doing *nothing* when you come (it could be in a pause or all the lava could be flowing underground)

    1. arrange your own flight to hilo, rent your own car, and drive up to the national park, see as much as you can in one day, drive back and fly back to maui. Not a bad choice – probably your cheapest option. I would say it is possible to do this for $100 per person for the flight (if you book early enough to get the lowest rates on the flight) plus $35 to $60 for the rental car. Drive to the national park from Hilo will take 30 minutes. (Do NOT fly to Kona- that will take you over two hours to drive to the Volcano.) Bad thing is, the lava flow is currently (nov 07) viewable only by air so you may not get to see active lava – but you will get to see all the other stuff.
    2. Arrange your own flight to Hilo, then take a tour bus to the National Park. or arrange your own flight to Hilo or Kona, then take a small plane or helicopter flyover tour of the volcano: ,, (web booking price is $151 per person when I wrote this)
    3. Arrange a bus tour to the volcano, starting from Maui – – have all the legwork done for you by the tour company
    4. Do a flyover of the volcano from Maui:,

    have a great time!

    How to Best See the Volcano from Oahu

    Thanks 🙂 The volcano is on the Big Island, so the first thing you will need to do is get a flight to the big island – or you could look around for a tour company that would do an island tour for you, like this one.

    However, you are correct that right now the best viewing is from the air. You might just want to catch an inter-island flight to the Hilo airport and just walk over to the helicopter and small plane departures and take one of them, like Hilo Wings.

    If you do take a helicopter or small plane tour, here’s some pics of what you may see: my friend was up just last week and took these pictures.

    Now, as for the park being closed – everything is currently open except for some pretty advanced hiking trails near the current flow. The closures only lasted for a short time after the earthquakes around mid-June. There’s lot’s of interesting stuff to see and a huge crater that is easy to get to, but the flowing lava is only visible from the air right now. Check the absolute latest information with the National Park or my volcano blog.

    Have fun! Lisa

    First, what a great website! I find the information very interesting. My wife and I are planning a trip to Oahu next week and wanted to include a tour of the Volcanoes National Park. With all the current activity going on and based on their website, it appears that a good portion of the park is closed. We were really hoping to see some neat things, including lava, etc. With these developments, does it make more sense to tour from the air instead of the ground? If we still elected to tour from the ground, what is still open that would be worth seeing?

    Maui and the Big Island Day Tours from Oahu

    I have seen that I can get cheap inter-island flights via “I flygo Airlines”. I will be staying in Oahu and want to visit a few islands for a day each.

    I want to know if I visit Maui, or another island, how easy is it to get from the airport to a day tour. Is there somewhere that I can book a day tour that will pick us up from Maui airport and take us on the island ‘tour’.

    I am mainly interested in Maui and the best island to see volcanos (which island would that be?)

    Thanks, Vicki (Australia)

    Hi Vicki,

    The active volcano is on the Big Island, so it appears you would most like to visit Maui and the Big Island and you would like to use Go! airlines to defray some of the cost of this.

    Several companies offer big and small bus and shuttle tours on these islands. If you are going to see a specific attraction, such as Kilauea Volcano, you will probably be able to find a company that will also shuttle you to and from the airport or just pick you up there if you book your own flight. If, however, you are going to do a “circle island tour” or just a general sightseeing tour, you may find it easiest to book your airfare through the tour company, and they may or may not (most likely not) use Go! airlines. I, by the way, have flown on all three inter-island carriers and Go! is my definite favorite at this time for the great prices and the short lines.

    So, here’s some places to look for tour booking for island and volcano tours on Maui and the Big Island:

    I hope you find one or two that you like Vicki! Have a great time! Come back and tell us how it went – I’d love to hear which ones you did and how you liked them. Aloha, Lisa

    See also: Hawaii Island Hopping

    When is the Best time to Vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii?

    January 4, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
    Filed under: Big Island, Vacation Planning 

    Shannon from Nebraska asks:

    One question, when would be the best time to visit the Big Island? My parents and I were originally going to plan on coming in October (2007), but I’m thinking June would be better; it looks like it rains a lot in the fall months.

    Hi Shannon – The Big Island is like all the Hawaiian Islands, in that it has a dry side and a rainy side and also that some times of the year and even some times of the day are rainier than others.

    If you are planning on visiting the dry side of the island, which would be most anywhere on the West side, also referred to as the Kona side or the Leeward side, then rain really isn’t an issue. I like to refer to when talking about rainfall in Hawaii because it is just so easy and accurate to compare and research using it.

    If we look at the rainfall stats for the area of Puako, which is a very dry area on the Big Island on the Kohala Coast, we see that for the last 32 years Puako has averaged less than 10 inches of rain a year, less than an inch of that in October.

    Hilo is one of the rainiest areas on the Big Island, and is on the exact opposite side of the island from Puako. Hilo rainfall stats for the last 42 years show almost 136 inches of rain a year, with March being the rainiest month at 15 inches of rain and June having the least rain with almost 7 inches of rain. October falls somewhere in the middle with 11 inches of rain average.

    My own experience of living near Hilo on the Big Island for over a decade is that March and April are the absolute rainiest times but many winter and spring days are overcast and it rains almost every night. June is the driest month but most of summer is consistently pretty and hot. If we absolutely have to have sunshine we go to the Kona side for the day.

    I hope this helps you with your decision. Have a wonderful vacation.

    Aloha, Lisa

    Ok, we have planned a trip in November and will be doing some island hopping Should we buy our inter-island tickets now or wait till we get there?

    A year ago I would have just told you to buy the tickets whenever was convenient for you, but earlier is better for being assured of the cheapest prices. These days, the answer is a bit more complicated because of the entrance of Go! Airlines into the market. Aloha and Hawaiian are being forced to meet Go’s current prices, which sometimes go as low as $19 one way. Considering Aloha and Hawaiian were charging $79 and up for one way tickets a year ago, this has got to be hard on them. It seems to me that Aloha and Hawaiian are both hoping that by maintaining their customer base Go! will eventually fail. I don’t know if the inter-island market can sustain three carriers, and I don’t want to speculate what the market will be like in November. I did check availability at the three websites and it seems that they are all already selling tickets that far out but there are lowest-fare seats available.

    Ocean Views and Access in Hawaiian Paradise Park

    November 17, 2006 by · 2 Comments
    Filed under: Big Island, Big Island Areas 

    At the bottom of Hawaiian Paradise Park, Beach Road and Paradise Ala Kai run along the ocean. There is no beach in Hawaiian Paradise Park, it is all mostly 30 foot cliffs. The views are very beautiful – sunrise especially. Sunset is on the other side of the island, so you can’t see it, but the sky and ever-present clouds are still beautiful colors at sunset.

    Here’s some ocean-related activities in Paradise Park:

    If you went down Makuu and took a right at the dead end and parked where the road stops you could see the ocean and find some tide pools but I wouldn’t get in the ocean there – the waves are too big. We sometimes go in the tidepools. If you went down Makuu and took a left at Beach Road and parked your car at the boulders where the road is closed this is a great area to take an evening or morning walk on the dirt road or past and around this whole area. I’ve been walking or riding my bike here for 10 years – I see whales and dolphins and gorgeous sunsets (you can’t see the sun, but the colors are still amazing when the winds are right). The sunrises are probably phenomenal but I don’t get up till 7:30 🙂 . You can also get to this area by going down Paradise and taking a right on Beach Road and parking anywhere.

    You also could go down Makuu and take a right on Beach Road and go in for about a 1/2 mile. You’ll see big concrete poles cemented into the ground at the head of what looks like a very long driveway, blocking any vehicle access in. You could park your car (I see people do it, but I would be uncomfortable because I would be afraid someone would break in – we ride bikes down here to avoid leaving cars at the top) and walk in. At the end of the ‘driveway’ there are fantastic tide pools big enough to swim in if the ocean is calm. One of them is over 10 feet deep and there are tons of fish in them. However, if the ocean isn’t calm this is a very dangerous place – the waves come right up over the rocks and drag you across them if you are in the way.

    About Hawaiian Paradise Park on the Big Island

    November 17, 2006 by · 6 Comments
    Filed under: Big Island, Big Island Areas 

    Hawaiian Paradise Park is a quiet, large, residential subdivision in Puna, sometimes shortened to HPP. It is located makai (ocean-side) of Highway 130 somewhere before the 3 and just past the 6 mile markers on Highway 130. The main roads of Hawaiian Paradise Park are Shower Drive, Kaloli Drive, Paradise Drive, and Makuu Drive, in that order if you are driving South (from Keaau towards Pahoa). Directly across the Highway is the subdivision of Orchidland Estates.

    Kaloli, Paradise, and Makuu all run over three miles to the ocean and are paved. Most of the crossroads are currently red cinder. The top-most crossroad is 32nd Street, and the bottom most complete road is 1st Street. The drive from the highway to the ocean is over 3 miles. The crossroads between Paradise and Makuu and Kaloli and Shower are all about 1 mile long. The HPP community association website has a gorgeous aerial picture of the entire area.

    Most of us in the park are on catchement tanks. We have phone, DSL, and electricity. Mail delivery is via post office boxes on the side of the main roads. There is no county garbage pickup (most of us drive to the transfer station and dump our trash ourselves) but some entrepreneurs pick up trash once a week for a fee. We pay $140 or so annually in fees. It’s been going up every year for 10 years by 5 or 10 dollars.

    We have no stores and no park in the subdivision. The community association is trying to get the county to put a park in right now and asking the residents for input. There is a gas station and a small grocery store and plate lunch place right across the highway. Pahoa and Keaau are both about 4.5 miles away in opposite directions. Hilo is about 17 miles away. There is only one road in and one road out of Hilo, and the traffic is starting to get crazy.

    Most lots in HPP are 1 acre. They have been zoned agricultural in the past and there are plenty of orchid farms and some people have horses or greenhouses in their back yard, but mostly the subdivision is just residential houses with really big yards.

    Other roads in HPP are Railroad, Paradise Ala Kai, H Road, K Road, Ala Heiau, and Beach Road. However, there is no beach, just cliffs and some tidepools.

    Lover’s Paradise Suite Bed and Breakfast in Hawaiian Paradise Park – Brochure

    November 14, 2006 by · 4 Comments
    Filed under: Big Island, Brochures 

    The Lover’s Paradise Suite is a rather new bed and breakfast located on Makuu Drive in Hawaiian Paradise Park, an up-an-coming, huge subdivision in Puna on the Big Island. I drive past the Suite on the way to my son’s school. I watched it being built with interest, not knowing what it would be. It’s very nice to look at, and currently surrounded by HPP jungle on all sides. I don’t think they have any neighbors right now. The pool is nice – big and well done.

    Hawaiian Paradise Park is a quiet, residential subdivision, 20 miles from Hilo, and almost 40 miles from the volcano. It is hot here, and a decent central location for Volcano, Hilo, and lower Puna attractions like Ahalanui Warm Ponds and Pahoa. The Suite is on 10th St, I believe, and that is probably about a mile straight down Makuu to the ocean, but there is no ocean access really. It’s mostly cliffs.

    other side of the brochureLover's Paradise Suite Brochure

    The brochure says the entire suite includes 4 rooms, there is a swimming pool and large pool deck and gazebo, plus a BBQ and picnic available. A lover’s package (honeymooners, anniversary couples, or others, I guess) is available. A continental breakfast is served daily, and a personalized concierge service is offered. The pool includes volleyball, basketball, and snorkel equipment.

    About a mile from where this rental is, you’ll find the ocean. Here’s some things to do at the ocean in Hawaiian Paradise Park

    Which Hawaii Island has the Least Tourists?

    November 3, 2006 by · Comments Off on Which Hawaii Island has the Least Tourists?
    Filed under: Big Island, Big Island Activities, Maui, Vacation Planning 

    Hi, I am planning the vacation for two couples and we are having a difficult time deciding which island to go to. We definitely want to avoid Oahu and are considering Maui, Kauai and the Big Island. We are looking for sandy beaches and small communities of local folk with a few restaurants. Two people really want to go to the Big Island but I have heard that the beaches are few and far between and while we may be up for an adventure 2 or 3 days of the 7 most of our time will be spent on the beach. Is this true? I am nervous that Maui may have more tourists than we are willing to handle (coming from NYC and SF). Any advice would be much appreciated.

    Well, yes, I think I would avoid Maui also. It’s a beautiful island, but most areas are pretty jam packed with other tourists. It’s following in Oahu’s footsteps. On the Big Island, the strange thing is, even though the beaches are few and far between, there is a stretch of road called the Kohala Coast that is dotted with one fantastic beach after another. Obviously the beach you’ll spend the most time at will be the one next to your hotel or rental, and if you stayed at a Kohala Coast hotel you would only have to drive 15 minutes or so in either direction to reach some of the nicest beaches in all of Hawaii like Beach 69, Kaunaoa Beach, and Hapuna Beach. There’s also A-Bay (Anaehoomalu), and Spencers Beach. However, on the Big Island, the adventures will be a far, far drive from Kohala. Also, there are no local communities really on the Kohala Coast :). There’s some Hawaiian Homelands up North of Kawaihae, and Waikoloa Village and Waimea are pretty local and nice and laid-back, but they are up the mountain and not near the beaches.

    Now Kauai is practically just one big beach, and the east side will be pretty local and laid-back with nice beaches and a short drive to anywhere.

    I don’t know, I don’t think you can go wrong with what you want if you avoid Maui and Oahu. I stayed at the Waikoloa Marriott on the Big Island last weekend (October) for a mom’s weekend out and we were practically the only people around at the pool and the shops. A lot depends on when you go too.

    The Big Island’s Kohala Coast Hotels – Expensive but Worth It

    November 3, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
    Filed under: Big Island, Big Island Hotels, Vacation Planning 

    Check Kohala Coast Hotels and Condos Prices and Availability

    On the Big Island, the Kohala Coast is the most expensive and most luxurious area available with some of the nicest beaches in all of Hawaii. The coast itself is bordered by the Queen Kaahumanu (call it the Queen K) Highway and stretches from north of Kona to Kawaihae. It’s a road blasted through miles and miles of old lava.

    Some of the hotels were lucky enough to be placed on a little green oasis in all this lava with a natural beach. Some of the hotels blasted their own ground, shipped in a beach, and planted coconut trees that were already 20 feet high and grown on the Hilo side. Regardless, it almost never rains over here, but every hotel lawn is as green as a rain forest.

    In my opinion, the best Kohala Coast Hotel is the Hilton Waikoloa Village – great for families and singles and romance and fun with waterslides, a tram, boats to take you to your room, and the dolphin quest program. This is barely a medium-snooty hotel, so if you want snootiness go to the Mauna Lani or the Fairmont or the Mauna Kea or the Four Seasons.

    Kohala Coast Hotel Reviews
    More Kohala Coast Hotel Reviews

    Now, it’s hard to find Kohala Coast Hotels on the Internet, because if you don’t know the area you don’t know what to look for. Some online sites lump all these hotels under Waikoloa, but this is misleading, because even though a group of them have Waikoloa in the name, they really are several miles from Waikoloa Town. Waikoloa Town is no where near the water, so don’t expect a beach if you are actually staying in town. Some online booking and discount sites say these hotels are in Kamuela, but Kamuela is another name for Waimea, and Waimea is even farther away than Waikoloa, so I don’t know why they do that. In truth, no one city can be said to be near every Kohala Coast hotel.

    Hawaii’s Big Earthquake on October 16th, 2006 – My Story

    October 22, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
    Filed under: Big Island 

    So, it’s not often that CNN and Fox News run a story about Hawaii all day. I’ve lived here for over a decade now and I’ve never seen the world pay attention to this state like that. Here’s what I have to say about last Sunday’s earthquake.

    My family was staying in Volcano at the Kilauea Military Camp (KMC) within the national park. We had a three bedroom cabin we were sharing with another family – good friends of ours. There were 7 of us total, 4 adults and three children. Everyone was awake already except myself and my son. The shaking started just after 7 a.m. Most of us on the Big Island are used to earthquakes – they happen a lot, but usually are small and only last a few seconds. This one was big and lasted for a long time. 45 seconds I’m told. Since none of us expected it to last long we just stayed put. No one went for doorways or anything like that. I stayed in bed, my son actually stayed asleep, and everyone else stayed where they were. I won’t do that again – next time I’m going straight for a doorway.

    My bed shook pretty good and the windows rattled in their frames. The TV slid across the counter. That was about it in Volcano. My husband came down to check on our house in Paradise Park after it and he said that a few videos fell on the floor and that was it. I wouldn’t be surprised if my earthquake-like son was really the cause of those videos being on the floor. 😉 So, here on the East side of the island not much happened. In Waimea, Hawi, and Kona, however, rock walls cracked and sinkholes shifted houses and foundations split and furniture was thrown about the room. It’s weird actually – usually we on the Hilo side get the damage from whatever is going on and Waimea, Kona, and Hawi are unaffected.

    One neat thing is, my husband saw it coming. He was looking out the front door towards where the quake was centered. He saw the trees in the distance start shaking violently and opened his mouth to say “look at those trees” when the house started to shake. So, he saw the waves ‘travel’ through the ground before they made it to us.

    Oahu lost power most of the day, while most of us on the Big Island lost power for only minutes. People on every island felt the quake – it was that big.

    So, the earthquake was not big news for most of us in East Hawaii. Even so, the National Guard was going through my neighborhood this morning, looking for people with damage to report. I guess after Katrina the government has decided to go overboard.

    We had a very violent thunderstorm on Monday night that was much worse than the earthquake, in my opinion. It lasted for 7-8 hours. We lost power for almost two days. Every telephone drop in my neighborhood was destroyed so we had no phone for almost 5 days and lots of people still have no phone. We had lightning hitting right in our yard numerous times and the thunder was so loud it literally shook the house like a 5.0 earthquake — every 30 seconds or so. It was terrifying. I got shocked when I touched my freezer, and one of my surge protectors melted. The storm seemed to have been worse near the coast and really centered right over 6th street here in HPP.

    Quake discussion at Punaweb Forum

    Storm discussion at punaweb

    Recent Big Island Earthquakes Map

    Dolphin Swim Programs in Hawaii, Oahu and Kauai and the Big Island

    Years ago I was able to swim with dolphins (in a rescue program?) in a closed lagoon at a posh resort on the Big Island, for $50 if I remember correctly. Now my wife is interested but we are not headed that way. Heading to Oahu and Kauai end of November. Do you know of any other program like that?

    On the Big Island, you probably did the Dolphin Quest at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. These days, it’s more like $200 though :). I don’t believe there is any such program on Kauai, but on Oahu, you have the Dolphin Quest at the Kahala Hotel and Resort and the Sea Life Park has a dolphin swim program too. I can’t say which would be ‘better’ but I know in the past if the dolphin gives the OK you could hold onto their fin and get a ride at Sea Life Park, which is something the Dolphin Quest does not do.