Visits to Hawaii
1991 - Maui & the Big Island
- Maui and Big Island
1999 - Maui, Big Island and Kauai
2002 - Big Island and Maui
2005 - Big Island and Maui
2007: Oahu, Big Island and Maui
2008: Big Island
2009: 7 days Big Island and Maui
2010: Maui Grand Wailea - Room 3059) and Big Island (Hilton Waikoloa
- Lagoon Tower 3330)
2011 - 5 nights at Grand Wailea, Maui and 9 nights at Hilton
Waikoloa, Big Island
2012 - 6 nights at Disney's Aulani on Oahu - room 1407, 8 nights at
Hilton Waikoloa, Big Island - Lagoon Tower 5320
2013. 4 Days, Grand Wailea, Napua Tower. 4
days Disney's Aulani. 8 Days Hilton Waikoloa, Big Island, Lagoon
Tower 2313, Dolphin View
2014 Big Island - 1 day at Marriott King Kam in Kona, 10 days Lagoon
Tower 4313 at Hilton Waikoloa.
2015, Big Island - 1 day at Marriott King Kam in Kona, 8 days Hilton
Waikoloa Ocean Tower oceanfront 4077
2016, 7 days on Big Island at Hilton Waikoloa Lagoon Tower,
ocean side room 5304. 7 days on Maui at Maui Eldorado C103
16. April, 2017 – Marriott Beach Club, Kauai, 6 days. Hilton
Waikoloa, 2 nights at Volcano House in the Volcanoes National Park, 8
Days, Top floor of Lagoon Tower, Kona Pool side room 6329.
2018 – 7 nights at Aulani Resort 3 BR Villa 103 on Oahu, 8 nights at Kolea 3 BR Villa 15K on Big Island, 1 night, 11th
floor, Rainbow Tower at Hilton Hawaiian Village, Honolulu, Oahu
the State of Hawaii
many weeks in the state of Hawaii on several vacations. Here are a few
tips for your next (or first) Hawaiian vacation.
in typical original written form, is best written as “Hawai’i”, but for
ease of typing and the web’s keyword search, I’ll use the word “Hawaii”
most frequently in this document; with apologies to my Hawaiian
can be confusing. Of the several inhabited islands in the Hawaiian
Island chain, only one of them is called “Hawaiï”,
also known locally as "the Big Island". So when someone
says “I am going to Hawaii”, they could mean nearly any of several
islands in the state OR might mean the individual island by that name.
you can try to sound like a local by pronouncing the state name and
island name correctly: Try to say: "Ha VEYE ee".
Hawaiian words starting with “W”, do sound the W; otherwise the
"W" is pronounced as a "V" in the Hawaiian
Sunscreen - Hawaii is very nearly on the
equator - its daily sun is extremely dangerous in excess. Wear
sunscreen. Too, the islands of Hawaii have lots of sand and constant
breezes. Old-fashioned, oil-based suntan products can make you look
like an animated sand sculpture when blowing sand adheres to your oily
skin. I've had good success with "oil free" tanning products
and sunscreens, and the more recent spray tanning solutions.
Hopping - Many
Hawaiian vacationers staying for more than one week hop from island to
island. This makes a lot of sense, as each island has its own
distinctive character. Options for inter-island transportation have
varied over the years. A state-subsidized water ferry served Oahu and
Maui began in 2007 but shut down in 2009. With the 2008 demise of Aloha
Airlines, Hawaiian Air
became the dominant commercial airline serving the islands of Hawaii.
GO Airlines tried a competitive inter-island jet service, but shut down
in 2014 ostensibly due to the high cost of fuel. Hawaiian Airlines now
faces inter-island pricing competition from two short-distance
Airline and the even smaller IslandAir
provide scheduled service via turboprop aircraft to some of the
Important note: check the baggage limitations charges
for inter-island flights: you may find that travelling with more than
one piece of checked luggage costs less overall if you book higher
airfare types (such as First Class on Hawaiian, because Hawaiian waives
some luggage fees for First Class fares versus Coach fares).
Island Summaries – From personal travel experience
over the years, I provide tips and impressions of questionable value
for four of the Hawaiian islands: Hawaii,
Maui, Kauai and Oahu. My humble tips for each follow.
The Island of Hawaii
(also known as “the Big Island”)
actual “Island of Hawaii” is by far the largest of the Hawaiian island
chain. You can (almost) drive completely around it, but it will
take the better part of a full day at a fairly breakneck pace to do so.
A recent upgrade to a mid-island highway, Route 200 (aka Saddleback
Road), has significantly reduced travel times for east/west (aka Kona
to Hilo) traffic, but be careful to plan gas and restroom breaks -
there are no services for most of its 52 miles. Some of us may feel a
little altitude sickness, given the rapid change in elevation across
Island of Hawaii has several distinct climates, making it a very
interesting island to explore.
Hawaii's central western shore
("Kona-side" or “leeward-side” to the locals) north along the
Kohola coast is normally quite dry, making it
an ideal resort area. This area is known for its stark, dark lava
terrain. Kona (also known as Kailua-Kona) is the big city on the
island's west side. Kona gets a bit more rain and moderate temperatures
than the Kohola Coast. As you fly into the
Kona you will immediately notice the 1800's era dark lava flows on
which the Kona (airport code KOA) airport is built.
The northern shore, this island’s
geologically oldest section, is best known for dramatic – but often
difficult to access - cliffs with lush vegetation and waterfalls into
the Pacific. It is at a higher elevation than most of the other
coastlines, though not as high as the center of the island. This
section of the island contains most of the livestock farming on this
island. Most notably, the Parker Ranch (2nd largest range in
the US by acreage) is in this part of the island is usually significantly
cooler than the rest of the island.
The eastern side - also known as the
"windward side", with Hilo as its major city (airport code:
ITO), has a predominately rainforest climate, along with one of two
main access routes to the volcanic southwest side of the island,
dominated by Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The southern coast of the Island of
Hawaii is volcanically active, with its Kilauea volcano regularly
pouring molten lava across forests, roadways and into the ocean. The
southeastern part of the island, south of Kona, is home to a boutique
coffee bean growing industry, proudly producing the famously strong Kona
The center of the island contains two
massive volcanos, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Mauna Kea, a dormant
volcano, rises to 13,800 feet above sea level and hosts some of the
world’s largest optical observatories on its sometimes
snowy peak. Yes, snowy peak. Mauna Kea’s summit supports an
alpine ecology, and likely once hosted glaciers during the ice age. Who’da thunk?
rent a car or not
rental car can be an expensive luxury, especially in the Hawaiian
islands where gas is significantly more than mainland prices and cars
have to be brought in on ships (meaning the car rentals are generally
more expensive than the mainland). However, as a single guy, I covet my
mobility-enabled independence. I have always rented a car on the
islands (I am particularly fond of convertibles, although their
Hawaiian Island rates have skyrocketed in recent years).
the Big Island, if you are staying for only 3 or 4 days and plan to
spend nearly of that time at your resort, you could easily (and
probably more economically) take an airport shuttle to most resort
hotels. The larger hotels have on-site rental car desks if you need to
get out and about for just a day or two.
to stay: Choosing a Resort
are several beautiful resorts on the Kohola
Coast. Mauna Kea, financed by the Rockefellers, was Hawaii
Island's first modern resort. Built in 1965, it set the architectural
trend for many other Hawaiian hotels. Fairmont Hotel's Orchid in the
Mauna Lani resort was built on historic land
belonging to a descendent of Hawaiian King Kamehameha's army. The jawdroppingly expensive Four Seasons Hualalai - sold to its most recent investor group
for more than $1.4 million dollars (US) per guest room - offers one of Kohola Coast's best sand beaches and top notch service.
of my personal recommendations are in the Waikoloa Beach Resort, about
18 miles from the Kona airport.
My recommendation for singles or couples: the Hilton
recommendation for families: Kolea
Vacation Rentals through Waikoloa
Vacation Rental Management
Kolea Vacation Rentals is a gated low-rise luxury
condominium complex in the Waikoloa Beach area, within walking distance
of King and Queen Shops and the Hilton Waikoloa. Built in phases
starting in 2003, this property is a high end series of private houses
and condominiums in a gated community. The complex features a Beach
Club with a much-too-small infinity pool, a really nice hot tub with
views of the beach, and a charming kids’ sandy bottom pool with
waterfall. Chaise lounges and a small workout facility are also part of
the beach club. Just a few feet away from the Beach Club, across a
historic ancient Hawaiian fish pond used by Hawaiian royalty, is a
beautiful beach. Anaeho’omalu Beach (know as “A-Bay” to the locals) is the real draw
here: a white sand crescent beach with a swim and surfing area as well
as boating activities. Shared with the adjacent Marriott, the beach has
a healthy activities desk and various equipment rentals. And a short
walk down the beach yields Lava Lava, a
Kolea has several nice houses, some of
which are available for rental, but the most economical rentals are
their Villas, featuring several two and three bedroom single-level floorplans.
These are not your typical condo rentals – Kolea
villas feature a folding glass wall in each living area leading to a
covered lanai with a full stainless steel outdoor kitchen. The spacious
interior features a second gourmet kitchen, beautiful African mahogany trim,
full laundry room, a large living/dining area and a luxury master
bathroom. Each unit has Wifi and full cable
TV in the Living room and each bedroom. When these villas are
available, they sell from between $750,000 and $1.8 million US.
Vacation Rental Management seems
to rent the majority of Kolea’s available
rental units, as I’ve not found a wider range of Kolea
rentals anywhere else. Waikoloa
Vacation Rental Management does a great job, in my experience. Their
rentals have a concierge available by phone (ours stopped by the first evening
to check on us). The rental included access to the Koela
Beach Club (described above), a discount card with several useful dining
discounts, and most important to me: a Hilton Waikoloa Village access
card to pools and towel services, discounted spa access, and charging privileges
at the Hilton Waikoloa. They even provide a card for free self parking at the Hilton (which usually costs $35/day).
mind, Koela offers the best of everything for
a family: a spacious, luxury condo whose price is competitive with two or
of the Hilton’s nicer rooms with much more space to spread out, full
laundry room, and all the benefits of the Hilton’s public spaces.
family? Consider Kolea.
in the midrange of Big Island resorts, the Hilton Waikoloa gives
meaning to the term “fantasy destination resort”. Completed in 1988 and
originally managed as a Hyatt resort, it shows some signs of aging, but
remains a unique destination and is reasonably well maintained. The
most expensive hotel investment in Hawaii when it was built, its
developer went on to build other landmark Hawaii hotels on Maui and
Kauai. It set the standard for pool design and integration of public
art collections that continues to dominate high-end Hawaiian resort
Hilton Waikoloa resort has three separate guest buildings which,
together with the entrance lobby, form an ocean-facing semicircle
connected by trams and waterways.
Tower is the furthest away from the oceanfront, but
has a reasonable location within the property and a certain elegance to
its high rise public spaces.
tri-ring "Ocean Tower" is furthest away from the lobby. Most
impatient guests either make the long walk or use the resort’s boat and
tram systems. Ocean Tower is also being converted into Hilton Grand
Vacations (HGV) condo/accommodations. HGV is Hilton’s timeshare
program, which also owns several other properties in the Waikoloa
complex. When that conversion completes in 2018, hotel bookings in
Ocean Tower rooms will be prioritized for use by HGV members, but may
still be available for hotel-only guests.
Hilton’s Lagoon Tower is the closest to the lobby, and commands great
views of ocean and the best view of Dolphin Pool. Lagoon Tower
also offers this property's equivalent of Hilton's concierge level
service, referenced at this property as "Makai". Rooms in
this tower tend to remain the most updated and with the most amenities,
and are usually premium priced.
are no truly "ocean-front" accommodations at this resort as
none of the rooms front directly on the ocean without significant
public space between. Both Ocean Tower and Lagoon Tower have rooms with
ocean views; in these, I have often fallen asleep at night to an open
window and the sounds of nearby waves hitting the rocky Kohala
coastline. You won't spend a lot of time in the room anyway - this
resort begs you to be outside in their magnificent grounds when you are
towers connect to each other and to the separate open
air lobby either by a 1.5 mile long walkway with million dollar
museum art on exhibit, or by a futuristic looking tram, or by mahogany
canal boats (usually only running afternoons and weekends) - all
free. OK, so the locals call this place the "Hilton
Walk-A-Lot" since the property is so spread out, but it lends
itself to a feeling of diversity and encourages your exploration. Hate
to explore? Like everything laid out in predictable, compact formats?
This Hilton is definitely not for you.
Things to Do At the 65 acre Hilton Waikoloa Resort
Activities within the resort - Basically, if its tropical-themed
recreation, the Hilton Waikoloa has it.
Pools & Lagoons
This place has one of the most exotic pool systems (not pools, pool systems)
I've encountered. At each pool, you can rent hooded reclining
chairs and/or tented cabanas for a daily charge.
Kona Pool (pic on the left) is over an acre in size, with a waterfall
grotto hiding a series of inside and outside swim- up hot tubs and a
medium length water slide. A swinging bridge (nope, no jumping from the
bridge) arching over the main pool area connects two sunning porches. A
sand bottom section at the far end of the formal Kona Pool area is a
favorite of little kiddos. Mom and Dad can play right next door on a
nice sand volleyball court near the poolside bar.
a nice food-court-like snack bar open only at lunch, lets you snack
while you lounge. Watch for aggressive birdies awaiting your departure
- they absolutely want your food, whether you are finished with it or
In the middle of the
Hilton Waikoloa resort is a large salt water lagoon (pic on right), fed
directly from the ocean but not subject to the strong waves and surges
of this rocky coast. It does, however, have typical Pacific Ocean
wildlife. Green sea turtles, colorful tropical fish, and the occasional
eel can be found in this lagoon, making it heaven for the snorkel set.
This 4-acre sand bottom lagoon offers a variety of rental paddle boats
and snorkel equipment. This a much-loved area of the resort – be warned
that late arrival to its shore likely means you’ll have to fight for
seating, some of which may end up underwater at high tide. That said,
the lagoon is a very nice, safe snorkeling and salt water play area not
usually seen in the Hawaii resorts.
often-missed pool system is the Kohala Pool, an oceanside series
of beautifully landscaped pools connected by a series of gentle
waterslides. Of the three described so far, it is usually the least
crowded. Recently, resort employees have taken to calling this pool a
“lazy river”, but I think that’s not accurate. There is no water
movement sufficient to move you around the interconnected pools and you
definitely don’t see a lot of inner tubes floating in this pool. But I
get why it is otherwise hard to describe this pool.
the Kohola pool is a series of marble animal
statues representing Chinese birth years.
Just past this area is a seaside walkway with covered lounge chairs (be
sure get up early to get one of these) leading to a small point with a
marble Buddah. Along the flagstone walkway,
watch out - you might get splashed with spatter from strong ocean waves.
This is one of my favorite areas to relax and read in the mornings or
late afternoons. If you are lucky, you may find the one
or two remaining hammocks hung between palm trees, just right for a
lazy afternoon or evening nap.
A quiet adults-only (not
nude bathing, just no kids) pool is also available within the Ocean
Towers complex. This pool is often nearly empty and makes a great
escape for couples just wanting to tan and splash a bit.
The on-site Kohala Spa
is worth a visit if for no other reason than the wonderful Coco Mango
Essence shower gels and shampoo they use here. If you are lucky,
they'll have samples of this wonderful stuff in your room - if not, buy
a little from the Spa gift shop. These uniquely scented shower products
capture the sense of a late afternoon breeze along the Kohala coast.
Spa has grown on me over the years. It isn't as elegant as, say Maui’s
Grand Wailea Spa. But it offers a nice range of services and is rarely
ever crowded - at least on the men's side. And the men's side is as
large square foot-wise as the women's side, a rarity for spas where
most spas cater to - and build for - their primarily female clients.
The men's side has a very clean, modern locker room with dry and wet
saunas, enclosed outdoor clothing-optional hot tub made from large
volcanic rocks, and high end Kohler showers with rain shower heads and
body sprays. Very nice.
Wedged between the Kona
pool and the lagoon are several huge salt water pools containing
trained Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins that are maintained through
a program managed by DolphinQuest. DolphinQuest
is a private company donating a portion of its revenues to marine
education, conservation and research.
Guests at the resort may walk by the pool (24 hours a day) and watch
them surface with a huffing sound and frequently jump out of the water
in their characteristic powerful arch.
there are children or teenagers in your party (or adults who SHOULD be
teenagers) then beg, threaten, or buy your way into a “Dolphin
Encounter”. You can call up to twelve months ahead and reserve a time
for your kids; adults take last priority but generally can get slots in
the early fall (Sept & October). This is not some uncontrolled
dolphin ride (in fact, you are not allowed to sit on or ride the
dolphins). However, it is fairly serious edutainment. Even if you don’t
purchase your own encounter, you can get a schedule of times when the
schools run and then sit at the Lagoon
Grill beside the dolphin lagoon and watch other guests interact
with these amazing mammals.
are several versions of “Dolphin Encounters”, including
programs for kids as young as 2 with accompanying adult. Kids must
be at least 5; teenagers 13 and older are probably the best students
and get the most out of it. But I have seen grandmothers participate
and have a great time. Group reservations are available.
Things to Do on the Big
Flying Tours -
Hawaii is one of the few places in the world where you really MUST fly
over the landscape to understand the majesty of the place. On the Big
Island, I suggest Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. From the west
side of the island (conveniently near the Hilton Waikoloa), I'd suggest
the three hour tour covering the volcanoes, a rest stop, and a
breathtaking tour over the unpopulated north coast into the valleys of
towering waterfalls. Pricey, but memorable. Similar trips are available
by some competitive helicopter companies.
Listen to Local Music -
Hawaii has its own distinct musical flavor, so tune it in on your radio
as you drive around. On the Big Island, I like to listen to 99.1fm (kona/west side) or 100.3 fm
(hilo/east side). Or if you are back on the
mainland and want a taste of Hawaiian tunes, take your web browser to kaparadio.com
Hike - I
highly recommend a guided nature adventure from Hawaii
Forest And Trail. This outfit is one of Hawaii's "green
companies" arranging environmental tours that promote ecological
awareness and often pay private landowners to maintain private property
without commercial development. I took their Valley Waterfall hike and
was not only impressed with the highly qualified tour guide (a marine
biologist), but with the whole planned trip. Custom built 4 wheel drive
vans delivered us to the edge of a cow pasture for a walk up a shady path
to a 500 foot tall waterfall you can walk behind. The company provided us
with nice raingear, walking sticks, and water bottles. We returned to a
healthy fruit and fresh baked goods snack before returning to the hotel.
through a rainforest - Hawaii Forest and Trail also operates
a great Zipline (Kohola Zipline)
safely getting you through a subtropical tree canopy with some of the
best guides I've experienced.
an active volcano- Of course, you can't miss the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park,
home of Kilauea - the world's most active volcano - while on the Big
Island. If you are staying at the Hilton on the Kohala Coast, the
National Park makes a great full day trip whether you take a tour or
drive there yourself.
Stargaze - A
great event - with or without the kids - is to visit the Mauna Kea Observatories.
The world's largest observatory park sits on the world's tallest (as
measured from its start on the seafloor) mountain, Mauna Kea, right here
on the Big Island.
Hit the Water - Hawaii
has lots of local water sport provisioners. Most hotels contract with
outfits like Ocean Sports Waikoloa so you can get a leg
up and book reservations early if you check out their web sites. Snorkel,
SCUBA and "snuba" (a sort of snorkeling-on-a-leash)
are popular throughout Hawaii. The clear water and abundance of marine
life (including neon tropical fish and the occasional menacing Moray Eel)
make underwater viewing a must-do anywhere in Hawaii.
Where to Eat on the Big Island
In or Near the Hilton Waikoloa
Plan to be at dinner at sunset at the
Hilton Waikoloa's Kamuela Provision Company (KPC) at
the Hilton Waikoloa. Make reservations for 30 to 60 minutes before
sunset. Then either arrive early and ask to sit on the oceanfront
patio/lanai facing the sunset OR ask the day before if they have a
guaranteed Ali’I seating option to guarantee
that view. The view and gentle prevailing breeze
is unforgettable. Just before sunset on weekends, a young man dressed as
an Hawaiian warrior comes to the terrace, blows a conch shell, and begins
his tiki torch lighting run (literally) through
the property. After dinner, take your own slow seaside walk through the
middle of the property under the dancing lights of tiki
Tip: What time is sunset in Hawaii? Or
sunrise? Check out www.sunrisesunset.com and select
Honolulu, Hawaii for a current chart.
On selected days (generally Tuesdays,
Fridays and Sundays), book yourself for the Hilton Waikoloa's Legends
of Hawaii Luau. Nice high energy show with less
"cornball" than some other local luaus, above average buffet
meal, and complimentary drinks (including fresh juices).
Nearby Kings’ Shops and adjacent Queens Marketplace
shopping centers offer several lunch and dinner dining opportunities from
Italian (Macaroni Grill) to sushi to bar-b-que (surprising popular on
this island). Both shopping areas are walking distance from the Hilton
Waikoloa, but a cheap shuttle usually also runs if you want to stay out
of the tropical sun.
Roy’s Waikoloa is
probably my favorite dinner venue at Kings Shops.
And hidden behind the center section of
Kings Shoppes is “Island Fish and Chips”, a very nice counter service
place for a cheap, quick lunch.
Distance from the Hilton Waikoloa: If you have a rental car
(or want to rent from the resort's own fleet), ask the Hilton Concierge
or check OpenTable.com
Burgers – Given that the Big Island is home to
the second largest cattle ranch in the USA, it shouldn’t surprise you
that the island has some very nice gourmet burger places. I’ve found two
that are frequented by locals and are quite good.
Burger - 74-5450 Makala
Blvd., Suite 112, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740 (40 minutes from the
Hilton Waikoloa near the Target Store in Kona) – Lunch and Dinner. Great
burgers of various sizes with an array of custom addons that might shock
a mainlander, including pickled Jalapenos, pineapple slices, and avocado.
Usually they have a fresh fish burger which I’ve found quite good.
Awesome fresh cut shoestring fries– forget the ketchup, try the house
made Aioli sauce with your fries.
Burger – 67-1185 Mamalahoa Hwy, Kamuela (also known as Waimea), Hawaii
96743 – located right smack in the middle of the town Parker Ranch built,
you know their beef has got to be good. They tend to go in and out of
stock of various entrees and ingredients, but that makes you appreciate
the freshness of everything. They usually have both beef and veal
burgers, fresh fish of some kind, and usually several very nice
vegetarian burger selections. They offer several unusual condiment choices
with their fresh cut fries, so try several.
High End Dining - Beware: none of the below
are cheap. But...how often do you get to enjoy dinner in Hawaii? Splurge
a little/a lot.
Merriman’s Restaurant, Hwy 19 & Opelo Rd, Opelo Plaza,
minutes from the Hilton Waikoloa) - Lunch
& Dinner - Gourmet dining in a cowboy town. I regularly
enjoy lunch and dinner there and both are very good, if a little pricy.
Menu is seasonal Hawaiian cuisine and focuses on locally grown and
organic. Emphasis on "fresh" was dramatically reinforced when a
large, freshly caught ono slung over the fisherman’s shoulder was whisked
through the small dining room back to the kitchen during my lunch visit a
few years back. I asked my server about it; she said the kitchen
manager frowned on deliveries during serving times, but when the
fish just won’t wait and if it’s a quality catch, he will buy it as soon
as its landed. The dining room is simple, understated. Probably seats
about 80 diners, usually packed to the gills starting at 5:30pm every
night for dinner. Dinner reservations are practically required; lunch is
usually open for walkin weekdays. Herb
garden and fountain adjacent recently turned into a gravel overflow
dining area; smell of rosemary wafts through the open windows at dusk
when light misty rains often. Take a jacket – its
much cooler in this upcountry area (called Waimea by the locals but
officially named Kamuela by the Post Office). Excellent homemade rolls.
Multiple locally grown & freshly ground coffees served in a
French-style presspot (normally served in a presspot for two diners , I mentioned I likely
couldn’t drink all that and they brought me a handsome, small presspot just right for dining alone).
Canoe House at the
Mauna Lani Bay Hotel (15 minutes from the Hilton
Waikoloa) – Dinner Only - An understated but elegant (and pricey)
beachfront restaurant featuring a seasonal, Pacific Rim menu and
delivered with excellent thoughtful, attentive service. Has both open air
and under shelter dining; unless the weather is bad, be sure to get there
early for a table in the open near the beach for sunset. And try the
rolls...my grandmother made rolls like this and I think of her when I
dine at Canoe House.
Beach House at the Fairmont Orchid (15 minutes from
the Hilton Waikoloa) – Dinner Only - An odd but very successful
combination: kid friendly (rare for Hawaii fine dining), great food, and
beachfront setting. The menu focuses on locally grown items. The outdoor dining
venue uses white tablecloths on an open air
patio fronting the Fairmont's private beach with beautiful sunset views
and, often, low key live music from an local guest performer.
Ocean Grill and Sushi Lounge at the Four Seasons Hualalai (25 minutes from the Hilton Waikoloa) –
Dinner Only - I can't afford the room rates at the Four Seasons, but I'll
splurge on a meal on this beautiful property. Both the signature 'Ulu
Ocean Grill and the smaller, Mediterranean-focused Beach Tree have
dramatic views of the beach and its artificially lighted waves after
sunset. Service here is always impeccable. Reservations at these
particular restaurants are hard to get, apparently due to high demand and
giving priority to Four Seasons guests. Check Open Table 10-14
days before your desired dining date for availability.
I have explored 4 major areas of Maui:
1. The northwest side
of the island, comprising the resort areas of Kaanapali, Napili, and Kapalua and the former whaling
community-turned-tourist trap of Lahaina. Kaanapoli
is the featured public beach and resort, but Kapalua seems to be
developing very nicely.
In a resort hotel: The Hyatt Regency Maui
In a condo: The Mahana
- A VERY oceanfront yet secluded getaway with washer/dryer, nice
fully equipped kitchen and wonderful lanai. The complex has a
mix of both corporate and private owners. I've had nice visits using
both, but recommend booking through
southwest side of the island, comprising the locals' residential
community and moderately priced lodging of Kihei and the high-end resort
developments of Wailea and Makena. The Wailea resort is basically one
continuous ribbon of beach.
In a resort hotel: The Hilton Grande
Wailea Hotel and Spa (among the most expensive hotels in the
world, it cost over a billion dollars to build). I'm not sure its worth it to stay there, but at least visit
the hotel if you are on the island, even if you don't stay there. The
Spa in this hotel is a must-visit.
In a condo: Wailea Ekahi
or Elua Villages.
general center of the island, comprised of the north-central island
business center named Kahului (which includes the island’s primary
airport) and the lower central area of the island dominated by
agricultural concerns and the huge, dormant Haleakala volcano.
westernmost side of the island with a nausea-inducing winding road and
tropical forest environment terminating in the small community of Hana.
cannot drive completely around the island in your typical rental car (at
least legally). The southernmost coast has a poorly developed road that
rental car companies contractually require you to avoid.
to Do on Maui
a Show: Ulalena at the Maui Theater,
Lahaina, Maui. Produced
by Arra of Montreal, creators of Cirque Du
Soleil in Las Vegas,
this 90-minute show (no intermission, but drinks, popcorn and candy are
sold before the show and allowed in the theater)
is well done and energetic. Arra was
invited to create a show depicting the culture and mythology of Hawaii,
in a format that breaks away from the luaus and Polynesian reviews,
Based loosely on one year of research with native Hawaiian elders,
composers and historians, they created a powerful story of transition,
myth, reality and change. The small 25ish person cast (or at least
small by Cirque du Soleil standards) fits the rather intimate venue,
and is not of the svelte, trim, muscular variety often associated with
Cirque shows. Rather, the cast is a talented, young, largely native
Hawaiian group that performs professionally and with deep personality.
I have seen several of Cirque du Soleil’s permanent venue shows in
Vegas and Orlando, and was impressed by the charm and talent of this
small cast and the clarity and passion of the story line. Cirque’s
recent shows have sometimes lacked lucidity, sacrificing story line for
the acrobatic act being showcased. In Ulalena,
the narrator gives brief but very helpful context between acts (in
English), and the cast members make the production memorable and lively
in a performance whose sung and spoken parts are in Hawaiian.
Maui Ocean Center - strategically situated between
Lahaina and Kiehei, this attraction is
relatively new and nicely done. A series of walk-through aquariums and
displays, the Ocean Center will interest adults and especially kids. ~
Haleakala Volcano National Park. OK, Haleakala is dormant. No hot
lava gushing anywhere. But it is very unusual. At least drive to the
summit visitor center and experience the dormant moonscape-like crater
and the remarkable view of the beaches far below. Check out the rare silversword plants found only at Haleakala that
bloom once and then die. Or consider making a day of it with an
all-downhill bike experience on specially equipped bikes or horseback
ride right down into the crater. The bike ride takes about 5 hours
start to finish. Take a jacket! The temperatures at the
summit are 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the beaches below,
and it is almost always windy. Beware: the drive up the crater highway
might trigger altitude sickness or nausea from the hairpin turns in the
Spa Grande at the Grand Wailea Hotel. You may get an occasional massage or
whirlpool bath at a place you call “spa”, but you have never been to
anything like this place. Rated the #1 spa in the world several years
in a row by Conde Naste magazine, this
incredible facility on the lower floor of an equally incredible resort
hotel is worth your time. Here’s a little-known fact: if you are not
staying at the Grand Wailea Hotel (a nice but VERY expensive hotel),
you can still schedule any service in their spa. They charge a flat
extra fee for non-hotel guests, but this fee is often waived if you
select a series of treatments (a strategy I suggest).
note for guys: O.K., I know. Spas are for women, right? But HEY, you
are on vacation and don’t know anyone here anyway. Do yourself a
favor and take half a day in the Grande Spa. Their separate men’s
program and facility is excellent; the facility is huge and rarely
ever crowded (so no one will ever know… and you will never have felt
better. I suggest the hydrotherapy circuit, a massage sampler (your
choice of male or female masseuse), a foot reflexology and scalp
massage, and a men’s facial (I know, but TRY it before you write it
off). I also generally take an hour with a personal trainer and work
on some body trouble spots or schedule a few minutes with a
nutritional or back consultant. And guys, those fingernails and
toenails could use some work, too. When was the last time they saw a
real nail clipper?
a resort: OK,
it sounds radical, but its perfectly legal.
The really big resorts on the island (especially the Wailea and
Kaanapali complexes) have ï¿½public spacesï¿½ like the lobby, shops and
garden areas that are dramatic destinations in themselves. Think of it
as a trip to a theme park where wandering around the grounds is free. At
the Kaanapoli resort, I recommend parking in
the Whaler’s Village (plan to buy something in the village to get your
three-hour parking validated for free). Walk through that (nice but
pricey) shopping area to the sidewalk along the beachfront and from it
wander through the various resort hotel spaces. The major resorts in
Kaanapali are strung together along this common sidewalk. Check out the
flamingo flock on the hill behind the Westin Maui. Find the roast pig
pit at the Maui Marriott (it might have a pig in process for the
evening luau). The lobby and grounds at the Hyatt Regency Maui are my favorite
“free destination” in Kaanapali. The grounds at the Sheraton Maui are
also very nice; check out the big black lava rock on which the hotel
a helicopter ride. As
with the Big Island, I suggest Blue
a tour, don't drive it yourself unless you have a good stomach for
curvy, often-one lane, roads.
to Eat on Maui
(heck, just call it “Humu”) at the Grand
"floating" restaurant, named after Hawaii's state fish,
this dinner-only restaurant is
a cluster of thatched-roof Polynesian huts linked by walkways trimmed
with rare ohia wood railings. The floors
are teak. And the whole complex sits atop a salt water preserve
filled with hundreds of lobster and fish. The setting is casual,
colorful and a step back in Hawaiian time. There are sculptures of
dolphins in mid-jump; a fisherman at the water's edge and his
outrigger canoe. A huge semi-circular aquarium envelopes the back of
the bar. The menu features simple, tasty preparations, reflecting the
styles and flavors of Hawaii, the South Pacific and Asia. Lobsters
and local fishes may be steamed, grilled, broiled, or sauted. Humu has been
known to allow guests to "catch" their own dinner from one
of the lobster tanks in the complex.
the View -
Kapalua, West side of Maui
808-669-6299 - Upscale breakfast/lunch/dinner place with open air
dining overlooking golf course with sweeping vistas down to the ocean.
Great sunsets. Excellent food.
Island of Kauai
first visited Kauai in Fall, 1999. Having been to the Big Island and
Maui, in previous years, I was initially disappointed by Kauai. Less
upscale than Maui and less diverse geologically than Hawaii, I was
immediately confronted with something I'd never encountered in trips to
Hawaii - a full parking lot at my Lihue-based hotel, the Marriott Kauai
Beach Club Resort. Bad start. Kauai is also famous for wild chickens,
that tend to start crowing well before dawn. Farm families will love
this… most people, less so. But it can be an endearing memory. When I
returned to Kauai in 2017, I found that the island had grown on me over
time, and now felt comfortably laid back and relaxing.
Kauai Beach Club was nice. Not overwhelming. Not even elegant. But
nice. Situated on a nice bay, I had a tower room overlooking the odd shaped
enjoyed the adjacent second level dining room at "Dukes Canoe
Club", an open-air restaurant at the beach edge with great fresh
you have more money to spend on hotels, consider the Grand Hyatt Kauai or the St. Regis Princeville Resort.
A stateside colleague and I had an unforgettable sunset dinner on the
Makana Terrace of the St. Regis (shown in the picture to the right) overlooking
the pristine bay that served as backdrop for the movie South Pacific.
What To Do on Kauai
to plain a trip to Waimea
Canyon - a remarkable Grand Canyon-like wilderness.
Island of Oahu
a bit too cosmopolitan for my taste. As the banking and commerce center
of Hawaii and the main airport for the island chain, Oahu dominates the
business and commercial life of Hawaii. However, when I invest the time
and money to go to Hawaii, I generally want to be away from the city and
throngs of people. Oahu strikes me as a very large population and much
too much city for me to relax in.
But clearly it has its vacation draws: the iconic Waikiki Beach, the
touching Arizona Memorial and Battleship Missouri at Pearl Harbor, and
the educational Polynesian Cultural Center are all great destinations.
Beach in Honolulu, on the Island of Oahu
Waikiki Beach is likely Hawaii’s most
recognized destination. Now a blend of towering high rise hotels,
shopping and dining opportunities and park-like public beaches, Waikiki
Beach works hard to remain Hawaii’s signature vacation spot. For those of
us with latent introvert tendencies, you will find relatively fewer
people on the beach at dusk and most mornings between sunrise and 9 am.
After that, daylight hours feel like a busy theme park, with people
everywhere. The crowd is energetic, multi-ethnic and multigenerational,
but surprisingly well behaved. Part of this good behavior clearly is
attributable to a very significant and visible police patrol, but there
also seems to be a culture of low key, laid back relaxation that guides
both the locals and tourists.
Harbor Memorial, near Honolulu
While maintaining its continuing role as
a key US Armed Forces base in the Pacific, Pearl Harbor is also the
reason the US became directly involved in World War II after the
December, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor's Battleship Row. Today,
that historic moment and others from World War II are remembered by the
recently dedicated WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument. The
National Monument is located about 2 miles west of the Honolulu Airport
in Pearl Harbor on the west side of Oahu. Access to the USS Arizona
Memorial is coordinated by the US National Park Service (NPS) and
consists of a shore side Visitor Center, where the tours begin, and the
floating Memorial itself, located in Pearl Harbor. The other National
Monument sites are only accessible via tours going to the Battleship
Missouri Memorial and the Pacific Aviation Museum. Tickets are available
for these sites within the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.
The Arizona Memorial is a touching
tribute to the start of WWII for the US. The architecturally striking USS
Memorial floats over the remains of the sunken battleship USS Arizona,
the final resting place for many of the 1,177 crewmen killed on December
7, 1941 when their ship was bombed by Japanese Naval Forces. A visit to
the Arizona Memorial is a solemn, stirring occasion.
The USS Missouri hosted
the signing of Japan’s unconditional surrender to the Allied Forces on
Sept. 2, 1945, ending World War II. After several other tours of duty,
"Mighty Mo" the last active US battleship, decommissioned for
the final time in 1992.
Cultural Center, North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii
Associated with the Brigham Young University
(BYU) campus immediately beside the Cultural Center, this property is a 1
hour drive from Oahu (No rental car? Cultural Center buses pickup from
all over Oahu; ask your hotel concierge). The Center is a for-profit way
of both showcasing Polynesian (not just Hawaiian) culture and providing
BYU students a way to earn money towards their college work. The Cultural
Center takes its edutainment focus seriously with language, cooking,
music and architecture integrated into the facility. There is a full day
of sightseeing in and around the Center.
One of the best ways to see the center
is to opt for a ticket package which includes a guided tour. I recommend
the Ambassador Ticket Package, which includes a guided tour by a BYU
student hitting the highlights of the Center, a nice meal (your choice of
an American style buffet with Prime Rib or a high-end luau-style buffet
with dinner show) and preferred seating to the evening show, Ha: Breath
of Life. "Ha" is a Cirque Du Soleil-style performance professionally
done in native language (mercifully with English summaries between acts).
The performers are a diverse group and a very talented team. The show
itself is well worth the cost of admission. The ticket package also
allows you to return the next day and continue walking around the Center, in case you didn't get to see everything you'd
Museum, near Honolulu
Interested in detailed history of Hawaii
and its people? Really into local architecture? Want to check out native
Hawaiian plants? Big into science or volcanoes? The Bishop Museum is the
answer for all of these in one larger-than-you-expect museum complex.
Free parking at the
Museum. Its address is 1525 Bernice Street, Honolulu, HI 96817
The Museum’s Café is a surprisingly good
place to get a tasty, reasonably priced lunch.
Surfrider Hotel, on Waikiki Beach, Honolulu,
Iconic historic hotel directly on
Completed in 1901, this hotel was the
first built on Waikiki Beach, and enjoys arguably the best stretch of
developed Hawaiian beachfront. During its long history, it has
played host to Lord Mountbatten, Amelia Earhart and Edward, Prince of
Wales to name only a few.
Renovated numerous times since its
construction, the center of the current structure, its lobby area, greets
you with a unique Old Hawaii style architecture, rocking chairs on
the front porch overlooking the business main drag on Waikiki, and a walk
thru to a terrace and small (very small) pool shaded by a giant Banyan
tree. The terrace leads directly to the ocean; the hotel is positioned in
a gentle curve of the beach allowing an extraordinary view of the Waikiki
waterfront and adjacent modern architecture high rises.
Two separate room wings connect to the
lobby area: one a low-rise Diamond wing with standard, if a bit small and
plainly decorated, hotel rooms. A more modern high rise
Tower Wing also houses a small internal restaurant with some seating
along the beach.
Hilton Hawaiian Village, on Waikiki
Iconic modern 22 acre
hotel directly on Waikiki Beach.
More than 3,300 rooms in 8 high rise
Built on the village which was the
childhood home of Duke Kahanamoku, considered
the father of modern surfing
Hosted Elvis Presley during the filming
of Blue Hawaii
Features a private lagoon and Waikiki’s
largest swimming pool.
Largest hotel in the Hilton Hotels chain.
Resort has 8 hotel room towers (the “Hawaiian
Village”) built in phases since the late 1950s, including the resort's iconic Rainbow Tower, with the world's
largest and tallest ceramic tile mosaic on its facade, an image of a
rainbow measuring 26 feet wide and 286 feet tall, which required over
16,000 individual tiles.
Walking distance to several downtown restaurants
and shopping venues, including the large Ala Moana Shopping Mall
Aulani Resort and Spa, Ko’olina Hawaii
Family friendly, Disney built and
managed combination hotel and timeshare condos
30 minutes west of Honolulu in Ko Olina, Hawai’i
Opened 2011. 360 hotel rooms plus 460
time share units from hotel room sized to three bedroom
Excellent man-made white sand beach area
protected from heavy surf.
Multiple freshwater pools, water slides
and a lazy river.
characters including Mickey and Minnie Mouse are
seen at the resort, however, unlike at other theme parks (where they act
as hosts), at Aulani they are presented as