Robert H. (Bob) Jackson, Jr.
Professional Personal Travel Contact Me




  Bob's Vacation Destination Tips



Bob's Visits to Hawaii

  1. Sept, 1991 - Maui & the Big Island
  2. 1995 - Maui and Big Island
  3. Fall, 1999 - Maui, Big Island and Kauai
  4. October, 2002 - Big Island and Maui
  5. April, 2005 - Big Island and Maui

6.       August, 2007: Oahu, Big Island and Maui

7.       August, 2008: Big Island

8.       August 2009: 7 days Big Island and Maui

9.       March, 2010: Maui Grand Wailea - Room 3059) and Big Island (Hilton Waikoloa - Lagoon Tower 3330)

10.   February, 2011 - 5 nights at Grand Wailea, Maui and 9 nights at Hilton Waikoloa, Big Island

11.   February 2012 - 6 nights at Disney's Aulani on Oahu - room 1407, 8 nights at Hilton Waikoloa, Big Island - Lagoon Tower 5320

12.   February, 2013. 4 Days, Grand Wailea, Napua Tower. 4 days Disney's Aulani. 8 Days Hilton Waikoloa, Big Island, Lagoon Tower 2313, Dolphin View

13.   March, 2014 Big Island - 1 day at Marriott King Kam in Kona, 10 days Lagoon Tower 4313 at Hilton Waikoloa.

14.   Feb 2015, Big Island - 1 day at Marriott King Kam in Kona, 8 days Hilton Waikoloa Ocean Tower oceanfront 4077

15.   Feb 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.

17.   February, 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





About the State of Hawaii


I've spent many weeks in the state of Hawaii on several vacations. Here are a few tips for your next (or first) Hawaiian vacation.

Some General Tips

·         Vocabulary

o   Hawaii, 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 friends.

o   Nomenclature 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.

o   Also, you can try to sound like a local by pronouncing the state name and island name correctly: Try to say: "Ha VEYE ee".

o   Remember: Hawaiian words starting with “W”, do sound the W; otherwise the "W" is pronounced as a "V" in the Hawaiian language.

·         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.

·         Island 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 carriers:  Mokulele Airline and the even smaller IslandAir provide scheduled service via turboprop aircraft to some of the islands' airports. 

o   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”)




The 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 Route 200.

The 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 coffee.

·         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?


To rent a car or not

A 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).

On 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.



Where to stay: Choosing a Resort


There 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.


Both 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 Waikoloa.


My 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 beachfront bar/restaurant.


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.


Waikoloa 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).


In my 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.


Got a family? Consider Kolea.


The Hilton Waikoloa


Priced 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 design.


The Hilton Waikoloa resort has three separate guest buildings which, together with the entrance lobby,  form an ocean-facing semicircle connected by trams and waterways.


1.      Palace 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.


2.      The 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.


3.      The 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.

There 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 awake.

The 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.


The 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.


The Marketplace, 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 not.


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.



An 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.


Surrounding 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.

The Kohola 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 DolphinQuestDolphinQuest 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.



 If 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. 


There 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 Island

·         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

·         Get Outside

·         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.

·         Zipline 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.

·         Visit 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 torches.

·         Tip: What time is sunset in Hawaii? Or sunrise? Check out 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.

o   Roy’s Waikoloa is probably my favorite dinner venue at Kings Shops.

o   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.


Driving 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 about:


Gourmet 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.


·         Ultimate 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.


·         Village 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. often do you get to enjoy dinner in Hawaii? Splurge a little/a lot.

·         Merriman’s Restaurant, Hwy 19 & Opelo Rd, Opelo Plaza, Kamuela, HI  96743. (40 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 grandmother made rolls like this and I think of her when I dine at Canoe House.


·         Brown’s 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.


·         ‘Ulu 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.


The Island of Maui

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.

Where To Stay:

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

2.    The 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.

Where To Stay:

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. 

3.    The 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.

4.    The westernmost side of the island with a nausea-inducing winding road and tropical forest environment terminating in the small community of Hana.

You 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.

What to Do on Maui

Attend 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. ~ 4 hours.

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 road.



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).

·         Special 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?

Crash a resort: OK, it sounds radical, but its perfectly legal. The really big resorts on the island (especially the Wailea and Kaanapali complexes) have �public spaces� 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 sits.



Take a helicopter ride. As with the Big Island, I suggest Blue Hawaiian Helicopters

Visit Hana. Take a tour, don't drive it yourself unless you have a good stomach for curvy, often-one lane, roads.

Where to Eat on Maui

For Seafood:

Humuhumunukunukuapua'a (heck, just call it “Humu”) at the Grand Wailea Hotel

A "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.

For the View -

Plantation House Restaurant, 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.


The Island of Kauai

I 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.

The Marriott 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 formal pool.


I enjoyed the adjacent second level dining room at "Dukes Canoe Club", an open-air restaurant at the beach edge with great fresh seafood.

If 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



Be sure to plain a trip to Waimea Canyon - a remarkable Grand Canyon-like wilderness. 




Island of Oahu

Oahu is 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.

Attractions on Oahu

·        Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, on the Island of Oahu

o   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.

·        Pearl Harbor Memorial, near Honolulu

o   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.

o   The Arizona Memorial is a touching tribute to the start of WWII for the US. The architecturally striking USS Arizona 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.

o   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.

·        Polynesian Cultural Center, North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii

o   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.

o   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 like.

·        Bishop Museum, near Honolulu

o   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.

o   Free parking at the Museum. Its address is 1525 Bernice Street, Honolulu, HI 96817

o   The Museum’s Café is a surprisingly good place to get a tasty, reasonably priced lunch.

Lodging on Oahu

·        Moana Surfrider Hotel, on Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii

o   Iconic historic hotel directly on Waikiki beach

o   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.

o   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.

o   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 Beach, Honolulu

o   Iconic modern 22 acre hotel directly on Waikiki Beach.

o   More than 3,300 rooms in 8 high rise towers.

o   Built on the village which was the childhood home of Duke Kahanamoku, considered the father of modern surfing

o   Hosted Elvis Presley during the filming of Blue Hawaii

o   Features a private lagoon and Waikiki’s largest swimming pool.

o   Largest hotel in the Hilton Hotels chain.

o   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. 

o   Walking distance to several downtown restaurants and shopping venues, including the large Ala Moana Shopping Mall

·        Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa, Ko’olina Hawaii

o   Family friendly, Disney built and managed combination hotel and timeshare condos

o   30 minutes west of Honolulu in Ko Olina, Hawai’i

o   Opened 2011. 360 hotel rooms plus 460 time share units from hotel room sized to three bedroom units

o   Excellent man-made white sand beach area protected from heavy surf.

o   Multiple freshwater pools, water slides and a lazy river.

o   Disney 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 fellow guests