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

Aloha!

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 AirportParkingReservations.com. 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 http://www.hawaii-lisa.com/ or access it directly: http://www.hawaii-lisa.com/books/Island_Hopping.pdf

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: http://coconutroads.com/CampMalaekahana.html ******

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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 Hotels.com

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.

http://www.hawaii.gov/health/dcab/docs/TravelHawaii.pdf

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 http://www.heleonbus.org/

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…

Oahu

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 GoHawaii.com.

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:

Aloha!

Cheap Hawaii Wedding – Do It Yourself Hawaii Weddings

Your Guide to Simple, Low-Cost, and Fun Hawaii Weddings

Hi, I’m Lisa.

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

This ebooklet is an answer to all the requests from people asking for my personal advice on getting married in Hawaii and doing so without spending a fortune.


Hawaii is such a beautiful place that it makes it an ideal location for weddings. More than 10,000 couples travel here every year to get married.

The islands are just naturally romantic, and with the great weather and amazing settings, you don’t even need to rent an indoors venue. You will already be in one of world’s favorite honeymoon destinations, and family and friends able to attend will appreciate the great excuse to visit Hawaii.

I have made every effort to ensure that this information was correct when I wrote or updated it, but I do not assume any liability to any party for any loss or damage caused by any errors or omissions, regardless of how they occurred. Nothing in this book is guaranteed.

But I think you are going to be surprised when you find out how easy it is to not only get married in Hawaii but to do so within a tight budget.

Most everything in this book is my opinion, based on my preferences and resources and experiences. I hope it helps point you in the direction you most want to take based on your preferences and resources. 🙂 Aloha!

My Experience Getting Married in Hawaii & Coordinating a Wedding Here
In 1996, my husband and I got married in Kona on the Big Island. We had lived in Hilo for about a year so we knew a little bit about the islands. My husband planned the wedding with some help from a coordinator in Kailua-Kona, and we spent less than $600 on it.

The most valuable piece of information to know about getting married in Hawaii is it is legal to get married on almost any beach or public park in the islands. (There is a $20 permit required for beaches now, if you have a coordinator.)

Plus, if you get married on the West side of any island you are practically guaranteed good weather (very little rain falls on the West sides) so you may decide not to have a fallback plan. We didn’t. We just decided the weather would be nice and went for it. The weather was awesome.

We got married at 10 a.m. 10 or before or else after 5 are good times to get married – any other time may be too hot.

Our wedding costs were like this:

coordinator: $80
cake: $40
leis: $30
pastor, photographer, and videographer: about $400
(my husband rented a tux and I made my dress)
The coordinator brought the cake and the leis and found the pastor, photographer, and videographer.

cutting the cake at jameson's

We got married in Pahoehoe Park off of Alii Dr. in Kona. It was actually a wonderful experience. We had a light breeze. A praying mantis climbed up the pastor’s pant leg, climbed out on his bible, and then hopped onto my dress. That was cool. Plus, a van full of hippies stopped when they saw us walking and ran over and gave us all maile leis they had probably been making.

Afterward we walked next door to Jameson’s by the Sea Restaurant for oceanfront dining. They opened up an hour early for us and we had the ocean lanai area to ourselves. What a nice memory 🙂

Then, we drove to the airport and went off to Molokai for our honeymoon.

A few years later I coordinated my brother-in-law’s wedding in Kona also for under $200. Here’s what I did for that one.

We stayed at the then Kona Surf (now Sheraton Keauhou). We used their gardens for wedding grounds for a small fee (i was very inexpensive back then, like $80 or something). I ordered a small wedding cake from KTA (a local grocery store) and went there to pick it up before the wedding. I ordered a Haku lei (very extravagant and pricey and awesome lei) – at least $50) for the bride and a maile lei for the groom and I picked these up from the lei store.

Before the wedding we went to Hilo Hatties and got matching tropical-style clothing for them.

I found a pastor in the phone book and his fee was around $100 I think.

I took the pictures of the event and my husband took the video.

It was small, inexpensive, and perfect – and they are still married 🙂 , as am I and my husband. So that’s the secret to a long and happy marriage. Get married in Hawaii for under $1000. 🙂

The coordinator I hired is no longer in business but here’s a good one for Kona. Their packages start out very reasonably.

You could do it without a coordinator, but I wouldn’t if you don’t have reliable friends in Hawaii. It’s not worth the hassle, in my opinion. I would get a coordinator for the basics (they can help you pick a place and make sure that you have everything done that needs to be done) and then if you want to save money by getting your own leis and your own cake, etc, do that.

How to Get Married in Hawaii

Legal Requirements

(make sure nothing has changed with these -official hawaii gov site here)

While some things have changed since I got married in Hawaii and since I coordinated my brother in law’s wedding here, it is still very easy to get married in Hawaii.

Some mistakenly think that they need to get married “legally” on the mainland if they have a wedding ceremony in Hawaii, but Hawaii is our 50th state and weddings here are as legal as in any of the other states.

All you will need is a marriage license, and in most cases a picture ID or Driver’s License. The marriage license costs $60, is issued on site, and there’s no waiting period before the marriage can take place.

There’s a PDF you can download with the marriage license application. You will both need to sign in the presence of the marriage license agent here in Hawaii.

If you have any questions there’s a number to call (listed on the page)

The second page of this two-page application contains the specific instructions on what you need to bring with you with your license. There is no blood test requirement. If you are under 19, you’ll need a certified copy of your birth certificate. If over 18, you may be asked for a picture ID or driver’s license. If you are under 18, you will need both parents’ or guardians’ consent or consent from the family court, and if 15, you will need these too along with approval from a family court judge. Instructions for the application and what you need to bring are very straight forward and easy to follow.

After much debate Hawaii decided not to legalize gay marriages (so far 2011); however, many coordinators and officiates will help with the ceremony as well as vow renewals and other non-legally binding but meaningful events.

If you’re from a country outside of the United States, chances are they will recognize a United States wedding, and if an Apostil is required, you can get a copy of the license from the State of Hawaii for $1.

Contact information for marriage license agents, along with the marriage license application and everything else you need to know about getting a Hawaii marriage license is on or linked to from this page

The State will mail a certified copy of the marriage certificate to the address you provide on your marriage license application. Many of the wedding packages and coordinators offer personalized copies.

The Ceremony

Before choosing a wedding coordinator or officiate, consider the type of wedding you want. Do you want a traditional ceremony? Or a Hawaiian ceremony? A blend of the two or something unique? Just as with getting married anywhere else in the United States, it’s all up to you and your fiance.

Many like to include both traditional and Hawaiian elements. This may be religious or non-religious. Often in this type of wedding the officiate will speak of the beauty of Hawaii – its waters, mountains and flowers, plus how they symbolize your love and marriage.

Sometimes the ceremony will be announced with the blowing of a conch shell, and there will be a lei exchange between bride and groom. The officiate will talk about the lei and how it encircles in never ending love. The wedding will be completed with the exchange of rings and vows and of course the kiss.

Here are a couple of examples:

http://www.asimplyelegantwedding.com/traditional_hawaii_wedding.htm
http://www.hawaiiwedding.com/hawaiian.html

Just as with mainland weddings, if you want to write your own vows check with the officiate before hiring. Most will be happy to accommodate.

The Wedding Coordinator

I used a wedding coordinator and my advice is unless you have friends or family in Hawaii you trust to help you, then the money is well worth it. Find one you connect with and follow the coordinators advice – they will know what area blows too much sand, or which minister is the most personable. Often the wedding coordinator is also a marriage license agent.

Likely the coordinator will offer various wedding packages. Choose one you can afford. Most offer packages in varying increments from about $250 to thousands. Ours cost about $80 but that was in 1996. Since we purchased our own leis and cake and all, we just used the coordinator for help finding the minister, photographer and videographer. You can probably do the same today for about $150.

Another advantage, depending on where you want to have your wedding, is that some of the state’s places of historical significance that rent facilities, such as Iolani Palace require a wedding coordinator set things up.

To find a coordinator, I would search online along with the name of the island and maybe also the region or city (Kona’s a long way from Hilo). If you want to marry on the beach, check for coordinators that specialize in beach weddings on the sand. Some will prefer parks near the ocean to avoid the beach permit (more on this later), so do read their sites and ask.

Packages start around $200 for a minister, maybe two leis and some consultation. The most basic packages that include photography will often start at around $500 and will include about an hour’s worth of photography and around a dozen 4×6 prints.

You’re paying mostly for the photographer. I think the photography and videography are worth the extra money, but I would advise avoiding those second or third tier packages that add hundreds for two leis and a bottle of champagne because you can get these things yourself for far less.

Packages with video are found in higher price ranges. This coordinator offers fairly decent prices and this will give you an idea of what to look for:

You can also see what various packages offer by going to the state’s official tourism site’s wedding section These are mostly expensive, but there are some deals.

Many of the packages include something like “processing marriage license,” which seems silly to me since you and your fiance are the ones who must fill it out and then go to the agent to sign there. The lowest price ones are usually selling this service, the marriage performer and a little help finding locations. If you don’t know the area and don’t have someone here to help, again, it’s the consultation that will be of the most value.

The Wedding Performer (Officiate)

As mentioned above, the wedding coordinator will help you find someone to perform the wedding. If you aren’t using a coordinator, you can find an officiate in various ways. One is to ask the marriage license agent for recommendations but do so on the phone – don’t wait till you get here.

Another place to look for marriage performers is to search online. If you wish to have an officiate with a specific religion perform your wedding ceremony, search online for places of worship on the island you wish to be married. Be sure that your marriage performer is licensed by the State of Hawaii.

Also good to know – your officiate will likely be a very good source of information, so if you don’t have a wedding coordinator or others in Hawaii to help, don’t be shy about asking the officiate for suggestions on free and low-cost locations, photographers, etc.

Plan on spending around $100 for the marriage performer.

If you want to marry right on the beach, your officiate may add on to the price the cost of the beach permit fee ($20 minimum and 10 cents per square foot).

The Wedding Photography

The photographs will likely be the most spendy part of your wedding, and if you have video, even more so, but you’ll have them forever as visual memories of your special day. Unless you have a good photographer among your friends or in your family, plan to spend $500 upwards, depending on if your getting video too and and how many prints you want, if you want the DVD with the unedited photos, etc.

The wedding coordinator can arrange for or make recommendations. If you are coordinating, you’ll find several photographers and videographers online. You might also add “budget” or “affordable” to your search terms. If you first find a wedding performer (officiate), ask for recommendations.

Look at the photo galleries, comments and prices, and then call or email the ones on your short list. Ask them questions like what type of wedding photography they specialize in or most enjoy and see if this rings a bell for you. For example, some specialize in fun and spontaneous wedding photos, while others are more formal and traditional. Some do mostly beach weddings, while others church weddings.

Where to Get Married in Hawaii

Oahu is the easiest island for getting married on a dime. Just about everything costs less on Oahu than the outer islands (except groceries in Waikiki!). Oahu also has more venues for weddings. Possibly on the downside, Oahu has lots of people at the beaches and parks.

However, even Oahu has its secret beaches (like the hidden cove in walking distance from Turtle Bay) and Oahu also has venues you can rent for good prices. Actually when you are getting married in an outdoors location such as at the beach or in a park, you are saving hundreds or thousands right there, no matter which of the Hawaiian Islands you choose for your wedding.

Hotel Weddings

Many of the hotels offer wedding packages, but these can be extremely expensive. I would go with an alternative location, and then if you can afford it, save the romantic hotel or resort for your honeymoon (I’ll list some of my favorites in the honeymoon section). You can check with them to see about fees for using their grounds only, but even for just the right to take wedding pictures (with your own photographer), it’s going to cost a few hundred.

When I coordinated by brother in law’s wedding we were able to use the Kona Surf (now Sheraton Keahou Resort & Spa) grounds for $80, but this was over a decade ago and the hotel has changed ownership and undergone renovations.

The Sheraton Keauhou’s lowest cost venue rentals now $500 (sunset cliffs and the small chapel overlooking the sea), and their lowest cost package is $750 (coordinator, officiate, location, lei and a solo musician). Sunset weddings, as at many venues, are extra – in this case, $250 more.

One of the best hotels to get married out these days is also on the Big Island: King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. This is one of the Top 10 – and really the only low cost one – in Destination Weddings and Honeymoons article “Hawaii Weddings on Any Budget.” And their luau is both a a local and visitor favorite on the Big Island $70 per adult, making a great place for a wedding with guests. The King Kam’s wedding packages start at $500 like most of the lower cost wedding packages do. The location here though is what makes this budget wedding special. The grounds are lovely and include the beach overlooking Kailua Bay, the gardens and the sacred grounds once occupied by King Kamehameha himself.

Honestly though, this hotel is starting to show it’s age. The grounds are awesome, but unless they start renovating rooms, you might want to stay elsewhere and just use their accommodations for the wedding itself.

The best value hotel wedding packages in Hawaii start around $500, but quickly jump to a thousand and upwards for very few extras. The basic packages usually include something like this: the officiate, wedding coordinator, location (of course) and two leis. If you really want that particular location, this makes sense, otherwise it doesn’t really when you consider you’ll like pay about about half that for these things and the location could be free or nominal. The photography usually at least doubles the prices of these basic packages, and it will likely be your biggest expense package or no, but a very important item.

You might want to just call though and check with the hotels you like and see what it would cost to hold the ceremony on their grounds and be allowed to take pictures. Alternatively, if you have a beach wedding directly in front of hotel’s landscape, you’ve got the nice background for free.

As for the low cost and free venues…

You can marry on the beach for free. There are also parks and waterfalls that you can use as settings for your ceremony, free of charge.

Tying the Knot on the Beach

Beach Wedding Rules

Perhaps you have heard you need a permit to marry on the beach in Hawaii. You actually don’t, but the vendors now do. As of August 1, 2008, the State of Hawaii requires all commercial service providers to carry a a Right-of-Entry (ROE) Permit. So anyone making a profit from your wedding, such as the officiate, wedding coordinator, musician, must get the permit and give copies to their staff serving at your wedding.

This only applies when the wedding is on the actual sand. It has to do with commercial vendors operating on Hawaii’s free, public beaches.
If you’ll notice, in my pictures, we got married in front of, but not on a beach at Pahoehoe Park in Kona. And it was still perfectly lovely.

Again, the wedding couple does not need a permit nor are they responsible for getting this for the service providers. And don’t worry…Hawaii will not not interrupt your wedding if one of the service providers doesn’t have their permit – they may later fine them but Hawaii will not interfere with your wedding. Hawaii loves weddings (and the visitors they bring to the islands)!

Your officiate and other service providers may add on to the fee the cost of the permit, but unless you need lots of space, this shouldn’t be much. Each service provider is charged .10 cents per square foot with a $20 minimum.

There are some restrictions that the new law brings that you should know about if you don’t have a coordinator to handle it. Alcohol is not allowed. Neither are receptions (although many beaches have pavilions and grassy parks you can use). Two hours is the maximum time allowed. Weddings on the beach aren’t allowed to place chairs (except for elderly, disabled and others who need to sit for health reasons).

Arches and other structures and decorations cannot be used, although you can have loose flowers. For example a petal path can be created with loose flowers and leis can be used for decorative purposes, but vases of flowers could not be set up to mark the path. Acoustic but not amplified music is allowed. I’m not sure if a CD player would count as “amplified” music, but your wedding coordinator or officiate should know.

The permit application lists all of the rules.

Finding the Best Location for your Beach Wedding

To make finding a quiet spot on a beach easier, avoid weekends, major holidays and the high tourism seasons of summer, Christmas vacation and spring break.
You might also want to take a look at Hawaii’s school vacation schedule, although when the parents are at work, you won’t see a great deal of extra people at the beach except maybe more teens who want to catch waves or hang with friends. Hawaii has a year-round school year, with vacations split up throughout. You can get the school’s vacation schedule at the DOE site here.

To make this easier though, just check with your coordinator, officiate or if you have friends or family here that know the beaches. You can find quiet beaches on every island. Usually they are more out of the way. Or if you go during the quieter times as mentioned above, and you don’t go to the busiest beaches, like Waikiki, you can likely find a quiet spot on your beach.

While many of the parks do rent pavilions, keep in mind that alcohol is not allowed at state and county parks. If you want to serve champagne or have an open bar at your reception, there are other venues that will accommodate.

If you do want to look into a pavilion, check the Hawaii State Parks site or the county parks site for your wedding destination island.

A pavilion next to the beach is a good idea to have for a back up should the weather turn bad. If it’s first come first serve basis, don’t plan your wedding on a busy day, like those mentioned above, if you have someone who can arrive early in the morning to set up the decorations, all the better. Again, this is where a coordinator can come in handy. Some parks will be more suitable to your special day than others, and your coordinator can help with this.

Sunset Weddings

Many couples to exchange vows with the sunset as a romantic backdrop. Along with early morning, evening when the sun is setting is another of the more quiet times at the beaches. Choose a leeward (west) side location for the perfect, sun setting over the horizon views, and depending on the beach, south (Waikiki) and north (North Shore’s Sunset Beach) offer some of Hawaii’s most awesome and romantic sunsets. Silhouetted palm trees add lots to the photos.

The view of the sunset will change slightly from day to day, as will the sunset time. If you’re reeealy into sunsets and want the perfect angle, here’s a sunset calculator.

If you are not sure which island you want to get married on, see my other free eBooklets

Hawaii Wedding Weather

Basically the windward (east) sides of the islands are lush and tropical but get lots of rain, while the leeward (west) sides are hot, dry and sunny. Most rain on the
windward side falls at night and in the morning, but sometimes it can rain for weeks straight. Most showers on the leeward side fall in the late afternoon on the upland slopes. If you marry on the leeward side and the weather reports look good you might not even need a back up location. My husband I didn’t use one.

Other Places to Marry in Hawaii on a Dime

Tying the Knot at a State Park

Hawaii State Parks include some of the most beautiful and romantic locations in the islands. Akaka Falls in one of them. Here you can get married in front of a 400 foot waterfall amidst lush tropical gardens on the windward side of the Big Island. There’s always a chance of rain here, but you just need to two volunteers to hold umbrellas 🙂

If you want to get married at a state park, note that you must send in your permit application at least 45 days before the requested date of use.

You can find lists of parks by island here

The permit information is listed here

This is also where you can apply for a group permit to use a pavilion at the state parks that require this.

Tying the Knot at a National Park in Hawaii

Are you and your betrothed outdoorsy types who are looking for a unique wedding location? If there will be no more than 25 people, you can get married in one of Hawaii’s national parks. To preserve the natural and cultural grounds and atmosphere, there are restrictions; for example, only acoustical music if any (depends on the location).

Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park – Big Island
Also known as the Place of Refuge, this is a lovely and peaceful park with a lagoon, ancient royal fish ponds and a replica of an ancient Hawaiian village. There
are picnic tables near the ocean. You will need to apply for a permit for your wedding here. They also require permits for group picnicking (over 25).
For information on the permit (I think it’s $50), use the contact info here

Haleakala (House of the Sun) National Park – Maui

As the National Park description reads – “Haleakala volcano is a marriage of light and stone, clouds and forest…” It’s a very unusual place and an unusual place for a wedding, but if if you love it here, it may be just right for your wedding. There’s much majesty and splendor here, and the serenity is quite profound. If you’re both adventurous types, instead of riding off in the limo to your honeymoon, take the downhill bike ride here!

Permits are $100 for Haleakala weddings. Here’s the permit info

Hawaii Volcano National Park – Big Island

Getting married on an active volcano – now there’s an opportunity for some powerful symbols. Ceremonies may be held anywhere that is easily accessible with the exception of Halema’uma’u Crater and the hula platform near the Kilauea Visitor Center.

Most couples choose overlooks with a view into Kilauea Caldera or Kilauea Iki Crater, or the pretty, forested areas filled with bird song like Kipukapuaulu. Start your honeymoon with a helicopter tour of the fiery lava or a hike (free) out to see the lava flow to the ocean !

Caution: Have a backup plan because since Halemaumau’s recent eruptions the sulfur dioxide levels have on occasion increased to the point that the park had to close. You can see the changing levels here.

There is a non-refundable $50 application fee for the wedding permit. Park entrance fees also apply.

Tying the Knot at a Garden

Honolulu Botanical Gardens There are five sites in all, each with lovely settings for weddings (ceremonies and photography only, not receptions). The tropical plant collections are home to many rare and endangered plants from around the world. The use of music, chairs and table is decided on a case by case basis. Permits need to be filed at least three weeks in advance. Your photographer/videographer may also need a permit.

Up to five parties (weddings, commercial photography shoots, etc.) are allowed to use a park at one time, and this is on a first come first serve basis, meaning you might have to wait for your turn. On the other hand the gardens are amazing.
Foster Botanical Gardens is located in Honolulu and gets the most visitors, but you’re practically guaranteed sunny, nice weather.

Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden is located in Kaneohe on the Windward side and is very quiet, gets far less visitors than Foster but you do need to be prepared for rain showers, and due to the moisture more mosquitoes. You can read about all five of the gardens in detail here.

Note that while Lili`uokalani Botanical Garden has waterfalls, they are a popular lunch spot with those working in the nearby businesses.

This page provides permit information

Waimea Valley Gardens

Home to Waimea Falls on Oahu’s North Shore, this is what used to be an adventure park and then later was run by the Audubon Society. The park is a cultural and serene place of great beauty now run by a non profit organization. They have facilities for receptions and you can get married here by a waterfall or
in one of their other awesome settings. I don’t know if you can still swim under the waterfalls. If after viewing their site, you are interested, use the contact information there to inquire about fees.

There are many public and private gardens on all of the islands with awesome sites for weddings. Some have wonderful photography settings like gazebos, waterfalls and lily ponds, and many have covered areas you can use if it rains. You’ll find these by searching online for wedding locations on your destination island. Or ask your wedding coordinator, officiate or photographer for recommendations.

Regal Weddings

‘Iolani Palace

For a fairy tale wedding, consider getting married at the only royal palace in the United States. Iolani Palace in Honolulu has sites on its beautiful grounds for weddings and receptions. Since the palace is considered a sacred place and a historical gem, there are restrictions and policies that need to be followed. After exchanging vows in one of the Palace’s gardens, you can have a reception in the private open-air courtyard of the historic ‘Iolani Palace Barracks, a coral block structure of limestone with crenelated parapets and towers.

If you wish to marry here, you will need to apply for a permit from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. Permits usually take about two weeks to process.

Receptions require a non refundable $250 deposit, and a wedding professional such as a wedding coordinator must submit the application. Permission for professional photography such as wedding pictures and other special events on the Palace grounds should be obtained through the State Parks Office (808) 587-0300.

Queen Emma Summer Palace

Located just a couple of miles from Honolulu in the lush, Nu’uanu Valley, this was the summer retreat of Queen Emma (1836-1885), wife of one of Hawaii’s favorite kings, King Kamehameha IV, Alexander Liholiho (1834-1863). The lovely palace

(Victorian summer home) and grounds are preserved by the Daughters of Hawai`i in a charming Hawaiian-Victorian setting.

Rental of the separate and less regal Emmalani Hale reception room starts at $100 for less than 25 guests. A $200 security deposit is refundable. For less than 50 guests tables and chairs and parking (valet not required) are available. The open air reception room is over 1,000 square feet and has a kitchen. Weddings are more spendy – $400 for use of the Palace’s Terrace. Admission to the museum palace for everyone is included.

What to Wear for your Hawaii Wedding?

If you will be getting married outside or in a venue without air conditioning, keep in mind Hawaii’s weather is usually warm and humid except in the evening or early morning or higher elevations. The tradewinds help a lot with the humidity, but still a tuxedo might be very uncomfortable. Same goes for a dress made with heavy materials. While the wedding ceremony itself isn’t long, the photo shoot could run an hour to two. You want those pictures to reflect your happiness with smiles not grimaces!

If you do want to rent a tux, there are places you can do that in Hawaii. Check with your coordinator or do an online search.

The Bride’s Attire

Getting married right on the beach with feet in the sand calls for a few special considerations but also opens the door to some really fun options – going barefoot, for example. (I was barefoot)

It can get quite breezy on the beach, no matter what side of the island. With this in mind, it’s probably best to avoid full skirts. A slightly flared dress, if long, is pretty much wind-proof, or if you have the figure for it, something slinky. Short and tea-length dresses, long sundresses, and strapless and halter top gowns are all classic beach wedding attire. Hawaiian sundresses with white on white Hawaiian floral print can be very pretty as well as elegant.

Some brides even wear bikini tops with a sarong tied around as a skirt, although I’d like something a bit more special for my wedding that is fun and memorable for others.

Airy lightweight fabrics and cotton are best. Think cool and relaxed, yet sexy and beautiful. And if you want something fancier than barefoot, consider barefoot sandals.

Here are some examples of dresses for beach weddings

A very formal looking gown with a long train might look out of place on the beach but could be very fitting in a garden sitting or at an Iolani Palace wedding. Some though like going all out with the tux and Cinderella wedding gown on the beach – the contrast is rather fun, and Hawaii doesn’t have much of a fashion police force.
For a Hawaiian wedding dress that is both formal and yet fitting for any wedding location, check out the holoku. This goes back to Victorian times in Hawaii but has many modern variations.

The holoku is a long fitted dress that flares at the bottom. It’s slightly shorter in the front and has a fishtail or short train. It’s what Maile wore when she married Elvis’ character in Blue Hawaii. The holoku can be floral print or elegant white, as tropical or formal as you like.

To save money on a formal gown, check out eBay. At last check today, I saw traditional wedding gowns starting at $200. You can also save money on formal gowns by looking at prom dresses. My sister-in-law got a beautiful white dress for $50 off ebay last year.

The Groom’s Attire

As mentioned above a tux might be uncomfortable at an outdoor or open air venue in Hawaii’s warm and humid climate. Still many do rent tuxes here and wear them for the short ceremony. My husband did – he was fine (if I do say so myself 😉 lol). Places in Hawaii to rent tuxes can be found online or through your coordinator.
The Hawaiian tradition for the groom is a white shirt with maile lei. A lightweight white jacket with maile lei and black slacks looks very elegant and nicely complements a bride wearing a more formal gown.

Many men wear tan slacks and a white shirt or tasteful aloha shirt (Hawaiian print, usually floral) or tan dress shorts. I think the slacks go better with full length wedding gowns and the dressy casual shorts (resort wear) work better when the bride is wearing something more casual, like a sun dress.

Men can go barefoot in the sand too (don’t forget the pedicure!). I like this look much better than flip flops with slacks.

Matching Attire
Another option is to wear matching aloha wear and leis, like my brother in law and his bride did. Hilo Hatties is a good place to find matching shirts and dresses.

And don’t worry, this isn’t tacky. My Hawaiian friend and her local groom did this for her second wedding. They had the whole family (two kids also) in matching outfits. They all looked very nice.

If you are looking for more trendy and don’t mind the additional expence, Macy’s in Hawaii carries very nice Hawaiian lines, including Reyn Spooner and Kahala, two of the trendier aloha wear designers.

Head Adornments and Lei

If you wear a veil on the beach (many don’t) or anywhere that it could get breezy, insert small weights at the bottom to keep the tail from flying and pin it down well to your hair. Some Hawaiian wedding dress sites have veils with silk orchids, but for a more real Hawaiian look, wear a haku lei or a flower/cluster of tropical flowers in your hair.

The haku lei is a crown of flowers and other plant materials and is gorgeous. Many of the haku leis have lots of greenery woven in but you can have one made with flowers to match your wedding colors or even white orchids. You can order these at florist shops. These take much longer to make than neck leis so they are more spendy – around $50 upwards, but a beautiful haku lei will do so much for those photos. Be sure to order in advance (many of the florists are online) or work with your wedding coordinator on this.

If you decide to instead wear loose flowers in your hair…You can find these everywhere – grower’s markets, supermarkets, florists…refrigerate and then if
you are having your hair done bring to the stylist. There are so many lovely flowers here that you will have no problem finding ones you love and that coordinate with your dress: gardenia, Tahitian gardenias, plumeria, orchids, hibiscus of varying colors, and the list goes on.


Saving Money on Airfare and Lodging for your wedding

You can find some really good fares and hotel and car rental rates by using sites like Expedia, Priceline, Hotwire and Hotels.com To learn how and to get lots more money saving tips check out my free ebooklet: How to Save Thousands on a Hawaiian Vacation

If you have guests flying over for the wedding, they can save by sharing vacation house(s) or condo(s). I also talk about these in the above ebooklet.

For my lists of favorite “Most Romantic” hotels on each island, check out my island guides.

These romantic hotels and resorts aren’t budget, but by using my Hawaii budget travel guide linked above you can learn how to find the best rates on them – I’ve often paid 2-star hotel rates for luxury hotels. You might want to spend your entire honeymoon at one or your wedding night.

Just being in Hawaii is romantic, so don’t feel bad if your budget doesn’t allow for one of these luxury hotels. If you both love camping, there’s a beautiful and secure campground on Oahu that also has yurts and beach houses: oahu camping info
Low-Cost & Free Things to do on Your Honeymoon (besides the obvious)

To save money on activities in Hawaii I use the Hawaii Entertainment Book. I recommend this coupon book for Oahu and Maui. While it has some coupons for Kauai and the Big Island, there’s not enough to make it worth your while. If
you’re going to be on Oahu or Maui, you can save hundreds on activities and dining.

Here’s a few of my romantic favorites: Go for a moonlight swim in Hanauma Bay. The famous Oahu snorkeling spot and marine preserve is open for night swims, just like the famous one in Blue Hawaii taken by Elvis’ character and Maile.
Stroll through lovely gardens (all islands). Enjoy a free torch lighting ceremony and hula show at the Hawaiian Hilton or on Prince Kuhio Beach at Waikiki.

Watch the sunset. Anywhere on the west, northwest or southwest sides of any of the Hawaiian islands.

Frolic in the Seven Sacred Pools (Oheo Gulch Pools) off Maui’s Hana Highway.
Watch the famous and inspiring Haleakala Sunrise (Maui).

Explore Maui’s Iao Needle Park and picnic by the stream.

Take a sunset sail (any island – best rates on Oahu). Paddle a two-person kayak (any island). Cozy up by the fire that never goes out at Kilauea Lodge on the Big Island’s active volcano. Take the short coastal hike under the stars to view the lava (Big Island). Be enchanted by Akaka Falls – Take the short hike and steal a kiss or two in the tropical gardens that end at the 400-foot waterfall.

Visit a summer palace of Hawaiian kings and queens and learn about their romantic history (Oahu and Big Island).

Behold Spouting Horn on Kauai. Visit the romantic and mystical North shore of Kauai – take the 2 mile hike to a secluded beach cove on the Napali Coast, snorkel holding hands at Ke’e. View the thundering twin falls of Wailua on Kauai (as shown in Fantasy Island TV series). Be serenaded with the Hawaiian Wedding Song in the Fern Grotto. (Kauai – Smith Family’s Wailua boat ride takes you there).

Enjoy an early morning breakfast picnic at Rainbow Falls, the best time of day to see the rainbow (just up the road from Hilo’s Farmers Market where you can pick up some yummy delights).

Stroll through the beautiful grounds of some of Hawaii’s most romantic resorts. Linger by a waterfall, enjoy the entertainment. (Any Island).

Food, Wedding Favors, & Gift Bags

Food

For your Honeymoon

Save something in your budget to splurge on a romantic dinner at one of Hawaii’s really nice oceanfront restaurants or luaus. It’s easy to save when you have a hotel room with a kitchenette, shop at supermarkets and growers markets and use restaurant coupons from the Hawaii Entertainment Book. Hawaii also has many family budget restaurants and the famous plate lunches found around the islands are filling and cheap.

You’ll find romantic picnics and breakfasts on your lanai (balcony or patio) save you bundles too.

Hawaii’s grower’s markets offer wonderful picnic fare including fresh island fruits, gourmet island cheeses, and delicious baked goods, as well as island grown meats and fish. Hawaii has many grower’s markets. Kapiolani on Oahu is very popular and very good.

For your Wedding

As I mentioned, I bought my brother-in-law’s wedding cake at a local supermarket’s bakery and it was lovely. All the supermarkets have bakeries. KTA’s on the Big Island is a favorite. Expect to spend around $50 for a small wedding cake.

If you’re looking for an extravagant, highly customized cake, speak with the wedding coordinator about where to best find one.

Your wedding coordinator can also arrange for catering, but again you save bundles if you and your fiance or a trusted friend or relative takes care of the menu. Again, the supermarkets will save you lots. Just order those platters with cold cuts, cheeses and such, like you do for holiday parties or have someone make those tiny sandwiches and put together nice platters. Better yet, do what we did and go to a restaurant. One of Kona’s nicest oceanfront restaurants, Jameson’s by the Sea, was in walking distance of our park wedding, so we just all walked over there.

Wedding Favors and Gift Bags

It’s really easy in Hawaii to find affordable wedding favors and gifts for your guests. Walmart and Kmart have big souvenir sections that have many items that would be nice for the gift bags and favors. So do Hilo Hatties and the ABC stores. You can also find cute bags in these stores too that have Hawaiian print or words on them that guests will enjoy as souvenirs. Or if you want them personalized with your names, search online.

In Conclusion

Want more information on specific islands or other advice? See my other books. Have a wonderful wedding in Hawaii – and again, congratulations and best wishes!

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

Aloha!

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.

Cruises

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 Hotels.com.

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 GoHawaii.com, 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 Lisa-Hawaii.com) 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!

Aloha,

Lisa

Hawaii; How to Get From One Island to Another


Aloha!

(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 Kauai Vacation Guide

So, you’re planning a vacation to Kauai. This is the complete Kauai Vacation Guide based on my experiences, opinions, and preferences. I hope it helps you plan your trip. It is the online version of my ebook, Plan Your Best Vacation to Kauai Ever, Where to Stay and What to Do on Kauai. If you’d rather save it to your computer and read it there, right click on the link and download it.

Topics in this guide

Aloha!

So you’re planning a vacation to Kauai –

Congratulations! You are going to have SUCH FUN! First, you’ll be flying in to Lihue (airport code LIH) and you may be able to find a direct flight from your city or at least the west coast of the U.S. Mainland into Lihue. A few airlines do this these days. 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 http://www.iflygo.com/.

Also check out Hawaiian for great rates to Hawaii.

My Favorites on Kauai

My Favorite area is either Poipu (or Koloa) or Princeville.

They both have their own charm. Princeville gets a bit more rain than Poipu, but not too much.

My favorite hotel:

Hands down, the Grand Hyatt Kauai in Koloa (near Poipu). This is one of those places that I just love. Lots to do, they’ll watch your kids or help you get married. The grounds are awesome. Nice place. $299 a night at expedia.

And, if you are military or GS and have access to them – I also *really* enjoyed the beach cabins on barking sands beach within the Navy’s Pacific missile range facility. This was in 1996 (on my honeymoon), and I haven’t stayed since, so I don’t know the current condition, but they were so fun and isolated and on the most awesome, empty beach you’ve ever seen.

Activities :

The hiking on Kauai is amazing, if you are into that kind of thing, and the Na Pali Coast boat trips are also a must-do in my opinion. Every time we have gone out on the rafts, we have seen dolphins. The rafts can’t leave from the North Shore anymore, so these days I mostly recommend so these days I mostly recommend Na Pali Catamaran.

Best Weather on Kauai

Kauai is an island full of great weather

Sure, there’s a bit more rain on Kauai than some of the other islands, but there’s never much on the south and west shores (so you can always find sun) and there’s still not a whole lot. Passing showers means 5 minutes of (warm!) rain and then 1 to 5 hours of Sun. We never give up on what we are doing for a passing shower.

Sunniest weather is in Waimea (20 rain inches per YEAR) and second sunniest is in Poipu or Koloa.

Kauai in the winter is still warmer than California much of the year, and the ocean is still 72 degrees. Oh yeah.

Best Hotels in Kauai

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

If you consistently find higher prices than what I have found, maybe prices are up due to season high season or some other reason. If you find lower, don’t question it, just book it!

Best Overall, Beach-Locations, or Luxury Hotels On Kauai

Best Family Hotels in Kauai

  • Aloha Beach Resort Kauai, $84 at priceline
  • Lae Nani, $147.00 at website, $158 at priceline
  • Hyatt Regency Kauai, $299.00 at expedia
  • Sheraton Kauai Resort, $189.00 at expedia
  • Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club, $199.00 at expedia

Best Budget-Priced Hotels on Kauai

Many of these 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.

As an example, if you visit bidding for travel you’ll see the Kauai Marriott has accepted bids around $110 to $125 in the past. Compare this with the best price I could find at $199 a night, and the savings are substantial.

Best Romantic Hotels and Hotels for Weddings On Kauai

Bidding on Hawaii Travel at Priceline and Hotwire

Bidding on Priceline and hotwire is a great way to save money on hotels and sometimes even flights to Hawaii. I have personally bid and gotten $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.

I know someone who bid and received a roundtrip 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.

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.

So How Should I Bid on Hawaii Travel?

Hotels:

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 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 Kauai

This is my list of the most exciting and fun things to do on Kauai in my opinion.

Inexpensive or Free Activities on Kauai

  • Queen’s bath – mostly cool because it looks so idyllic. Only good in the summer months when the surf is not high http://www.hawaiiweb.com/kauai/sites_to_see/QueensBath.htm
  • Check out Waimea Canyon. Looks out of place in Hawaii but is pretty darn cool to look at.
  • Hiking – the hiking on Kauai is the best in the state. If you are into hiking, you are in for a good time.

Best Ways I like to Save Money on Kauai

Bidding for travel

I like bidding at priceline for hotels and rental cars and airfare. This can save a lot of money right away.

Hawaii Entertainment Book

Normally here, I would recommend the Hawaii Entertainment book from Entertainment.com . However, if you will just be on Kauai, it won’t be much good for you. If you will be island hopping to Maui or Oahu, then think about it.

The book is typically best for Oahu, second best for Maui, and marginal for the Big Island and Kauai. I can’t recommend it for Kauai or the Big Island, really. Sigh. Wouldn’t it be nice if that changed in the near future.

Best Kauai Beaches and Must-See Beaches on Kauai

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. Kauai is a small island and you can see the ocean from almost everywhere. If you can see the ocean, you can find your way.

  • Kee Beach (north shore) – Calm with good snorkeling and swimming in the summer, a famous movie filming location
  • Tunnels – Large beach with good snorkeling and deep water caverns for scuba, no facilities
  • Hideways (north shore) – Amazing beach, 10 minute hike from parking area. Secluded but accessible. No facilities. Calm in summer.
  • Anini Beach (north shore) – Huge, protective reef, easy to get there, great snorkeling and swimming
  • Moloaa Beach – Protected, beautiful cove with good swimming
  • Lydgate State Park (east shore) – Awesome for families, very protected area, nearby playground
  • Poipu Beach Park – Excellent facilities, excellent swimming and snorkeling. Great beach
    Kauai really is an island of awesome beach after awesome beach and much of the shoreline is beach around the entire island. You can‟t go wrong, so I just listed some of my favorites here.

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: http://www.hawaii-lisa.com/answers/hawaii-guide-book/. 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!

Honeymoon Campervan Vacation on Kauai or Maui?

January 2, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Kauai, Kauai Activities, Maui, Maui Activities, Vacation Planning 

We are planning our honeymoon to hawaii for around april this year for around ten days. We fly into Oahu then were planning on staying just a couple days there before heading over to Maui or possibly kuaui? Have any suggestions on which one would best suit honeymooners? We love to explore and though it might be fun to rent a campervan for a few days…and travel around the island? How long do think it would take to drive around the entire island? Also do you think it is possible to do all these three islands in ten days or should we stick to just two?

Well, I can answer this one easily 🙂 because as far as I know Kauai doesn’t have any campervan rentals available on the island.

(Update, April 2011 – Kauai now has campervan rentals!! How wonderful! So now … I could recommend either island.)

So you should go to Maui. And Maui is lovely, you will love it.

How long it will take you will depend on how often you stop and play. You could do it in a day if you just drove – of course you can’t completely circle either of these islands. On Maui, the road ends in Hana, and on Kauai, the road ends at the Na Pali Coast.

Honestly, I always recommend no more than two islands on any vacation around a week in length – otherwise there is just too much standing in airports and packing and unpacking and renting and returning for me. However, you’ll need to decide if you will kick yourself or not for just doing two islands. That’s a very personal decision.

Congrats, and have a great vacation – and check out my digital guide books to the islands
– no cost!

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

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

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

Kauai Vacation Planning Made Easy – Kauai Revealed Review

The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook – Kauai Revealed is truly a work of art when it comes to appreciating and revealing the beauty and joy awaiting you on your vacation to Kauai. There is an ultimate guidebook for each of the major islands, written by the same authors, and they are all fabulous. I have lived here for over a decade and I have each one. I don’t even go to the other side of my island without bringing my book.

Here’s some quotes from the book that will give you some idea of what kind of a guide and planner this is:

In a sense, this is not a guidebook, it’s more of a love story. We first came to Kauai as tourists and were immeidately smitten. We had no idea that a place like this could exist anywhere in the world. Now as residents, we marvel at its beauty every day.

Our objective in writing this book is to assist you in finding the bliss that can accompany a Kauai visit. We recognize the effort people go through to visit here, and our goal is to expose you to every option imaginable so you can decide what you want to see and do.

So, the book begins, after an introduction and ‘the basics’, with sights – North Shore sights: in Anahola, Kilauea, Kalihiwai, Princeville, Hanalei, and Ha’ena. Then, East Shore Sights – Wailua-Kapa’a, and Lihue. South Shore sights: Koloa, Poipu, and Kalaheo. West Shore Sights: Hanapepe, Waimea, Kekaha, Polihale, and Waimea Canyon.

The next section is Beaches, then Activities, Adventures, Island dining, and Where to Stay. This book truly encompasses virtually everything you would want to know about Kauai.

Here’s an example of the stellar – and completely unique – advice available on every single attraction they talk about:

The dunes of Polihale are famous throughout the islands. The beach averages 300 feet wide, and the dunes can get up to 100 feet hight. Walking down a dune like that can be fun; walking up is a monster. Better to walk around unless you are training for the Ironman Triathlon. Locals drive their 4WD vehicles right on to the beach. If you try it, be aware that there is no AAA on the island, and you are a LONG way from Lihue. …

So get the book: The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook – Kauai Revealed – It may be the best thing you do for your vacation!

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 🙂

Nature Hikes on Oahu and Kauai for a Short Vacation

October 5, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Hawaii - general, Kauai, Oahu, Vacation Planning 

We will be going to Kauai for 2 days and Oahu for 5 days beginning 10/13. We’d like to focus on flora–the beautiful flowers, mountains, etc. What would you recommend as the best use of limited time? We have considered a hike through Manoa Valley. We’re not adventurous hikers, but can handle a couple miles of walking. Appreciate any insights you have.

Hi! Manoa Valley is a nice place to hike. Have you seen this page on the Manoa Falls hike? There is also the Oahu Hiking Trails main page that will give you more information than you can handle on available hiking trails, along with what to expect, plus how easy and long they are.

As for limited time, I would look on the afore-mentioned page for all the hikes that are near where you will be staying. You can waste a lot of time on Oahu sitting in traffic but if you stay in one area most of that can be alleviated. Other than that, I don’t have any major recommendations.

As for Kauai, you don’t have a lot of time there. I like Waimea Canyon – a really unique place, especially in Hawaii. there’s nowhere else like it in the islands as far as I know. It’s beautiful.