“Friend”ly Tips on Going to Hawaii

A friend of mine from high school recently visited Hawaii for the first time, and I was curious what type of impact it would have on her as compared to other travel destinations. So please welcome Chrissy to the discussion.

I have traveled a great deal in my life, including all over the continental United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. I have done cruises, hotels, condos, resorts, campgrounds, you name it. But this past vacation we opted for Hawaii. People who have been to Hawaii kept telling me how unbelievable it is, how it will ruin you forever, blah, blah, blah. I mostly thought they were exaggerating about a really great vacation. I have been to the beach in the Pacific and Atlantic, and I really could not see how Hawaii would be so different.

Now, having spent twelve glorious days in Hawaii, I understand. Hawaii will steal your soul. I have been home for almost two weeks, and I am already plotting when I will go back. It is the first vacation since I was a kid that I actually shed a few tears when we were leaving, and I did not get that “good to be home” sense when I arrived back in Cleveland. Nope. It is not good to be home, it is good to be in Hawaii.

I strongly encourage you to add Hawaii to your bucket list and make it happen. The sooner the better. Here are some things I learned along the way in planning and going on this vacation.

Finding lodging in Hawaii can be a little overwhelming. It is almost like going to a foreign country, making it hard to know where places are in relationship to the ocean, airports, and common attractions, etc. Websites for house rentals are not as user friendly as say, going to the Carolinas. If you have never been to Hawaii, I would recommend using a travel agent.

I spent countless hours combing the internet, doing research and trying to figure out the best options and at the end of the day, I went with a travel agent.

Many credit card companies offer travel services and will let you use points towards your vacation, which is the route we went. American Express helped us choose lodging and really narrowed down our options making the planning process much less overwhelming. There is so much out there, it is hard to know what is a tourist trap and what is not, so having a person familiar with Hawaii really helped.

Oahu

We opted to spend one night on Waikiki beach as it is a popular Hawaii destination and it is close to Pearl Harbor, which was our reason for choosing Oahu as one of our islands. One night in Waikiki was really plenty for us.

CJ Oahu Beachhouse at Moana Surfrider
Dining on Oahu at the Beachhouse of Moana Surfrider

Honolulu is very commercialized and crowded. The beaches are packed from all of the resorts, there are tons of restaurants and shops, and it is almost like a beach version of New York City. Honolulu is fun to see and be a part of, but not if relaxation is your vacation purpose.

Waikiki is more about shopping, nightlife and restaurants – very fun for a little bit, but not a place I would want to stay for an extended period of time.

Pearl Harbor is grossly underrepresented online. It is shocking to me how such an important part of American history can be so poorly represented online. The National Park website gives you ticket options and allows you to make reservations, but does not tell you any information about its setup, so it is confusing to know what to buy and how much time you will need.

The Park Service can also only accept a certain amount of visitors per day, so it is possible that if you do not get your tickets in advanced, you will not get in! I tried calling the phone number given by the National Park for ticket reservation, but it rings to the mainland, and the women I spoke to had never been there, so she had zero information for me. It was frustrating. By the time we decided what we thought we wanted, the tickets were sold out – this was weeks before we even left for Hawaii, and we did not realize how quickly that would happen.

However, there are a great deal of tourist companies that get a handful of tickets each day to sell. This is what we ended up doing since the park itself was sold out. It was twice as expensive as buying directly from the park and they did not give us enough time to do everything the package included.

Essentially, what we think of as Pearl Harbor is a large oval shaped park. You walk into the middle, to your left are 2 small museum buildings (probably the size of your average Starbucks); one containing facts and information about what lead up to the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the second information about the aftermath of the attacks. Past that, is an area where they coral people taking the shuttle boat over to the USS Arizona.

The USS Arizona Memorial can only have a limited amount of people at a time and the only way to get there is by boat. You have to have a ticket and a time slot. Once you are over there, they give you roughly 15 minutes to see the ship and view the memorial inside.

On the right side of the park is the shuttle area for the USS Missouri where the peace agreement for WWII was signed and the USS Bowfin. The USS Bowfin is on site also. The whole park is fairly small, and as I said, there is a shuttle to the USS Missouri, it is at a separate location and takes about 10 minutes to get there from the USS Arizona. Our tickets included the boat over to the USS Arizona, with the audio headset tour and the USS Missouri along with a city tour of Honolulu.

We had 5 hours to do this and it was not even close to enough time. Even though the park is very small, there is a great deal of information to take in. Visiting Pearl Harbor is very emotional and somber, much more than I had anticipated, given I was not even alive until some 30 years after the fact. However, it is not an experience like the one you read about in history class or saw in the movie.

CJ Oahu Pearl Harbor
Moving Experience of Pearl Harbor

I was moved to tears many times and could easily have spent all 5 hours just at the two small museums. The USS Missouri could also be 5 hours by itself. It is a huge ship with a lot to see. I would recommend the tours offered on site, as it is a ship rich in history and you miss a lot if you do not have a guide.

We did not get to spend enough time at Pearl Harbor, and I would go back to both locations. Essentially, if you are going there, book your tickets as soon as possible and get the two-day passport offered by the National Park. It is your best option to see everything, and you will certainly need both days. I felt like we got cheated in this aspect as we barely had time to scratch the surface of the information offered.

Maui

In addition to one day in Oahu, we opted to stay on Maui for the remainder of the vacation. We were told that Maui was the most laid back island, and not overly commercialized, which was why we chose it as our primary location.

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Maui Coastline

There is so much to do on Maui, you could easily entertain your family just staying on that island for 12 days or more. Maui also has an “island life” feel about it. Everyone was extremely nice and easy going. It was not too crowded, but there was still a lot to do and see.

CJ Maui Mama's Fish House
Path to Mama’s Fish House

We wanted this to be a relaxing trip, so we did not want to spend a ton of time at airports hopping from one island to the next. Though the airports in Hawaii are small, they are standard airports and you will spend the usual amount of time going through security, baggage claim, etc.

CJ Maui 3
Maui Sands

We stayed in a condo as opposed to a hotel, which was really nice. Very quiet, a private beach and with having a kitchen – we did not have to eat out every meal. Food, be it from restaurants or the grocery store, is very expensive on Hawaii. We were definitely able to save a good amount of money by grocery shopping and cooking our own meals. The grocery store is still considerably more expensive than the Midwest, however there is a Costco on Maui, and the prices there are more consistent with what we are used to. Even though we had to buy larger portions, some things were still a better deal. The leftover, unopened food we had, we donated to the Maui Food Bank. All of the fire stations collect for the Food Bank, so it was an easy stop to make on our way to the airport.

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Maui Hiking to Waterfalls
CJ Maui Twin Falls
Maui Twin Falls

Maui is rich in history and culture. You can walk the shops of Lahaina and see the banyan trees and historic courthouse, hike the trails to the Twin Falls, drive up Haleakala, take the road to Hana, stop at Mama’s Fish House and so much more just on that island. It will be an experience unlike any you have ever had, and while it may seem nearly impossible to think about going now, once you’ve gone, it will seem impossible not to go back.

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See our Pearl Harbor post for additional information about the area.

Source: InACents

$10 Per Night Ala Moana Hotel (Honolulu, Hawaii)

The Ala Moana Hotel is running a flash sale tomorrow (March 18), offering guests the chance to purchase a room for only $10/night.

Here’s the deal:

– $10 per room, per night, single/double occupancy*
– 40 nights to choose: April 1 – May 10, 2014
– Only 20 rooms per night available
– Waikiki Tower Ocean View rooms
– 3-nights minimum, 5 nights maximum
– Reservation guaranteed with a valid credit card
– No refunds for changes or cancellations
– Web booking only, no phone calls

Fortunately, kids under 18 are free accompanying the parents; however, additional guests beyond the first two guests per room incur an additional fee of $50 per person.

The sale starts on Tuesday at 10:00 AM HST, which equates to 4:00 PM EST for those keeping track. Good luck to those trying to get rooms.

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Source: The Flight Deal

1977 Hawaiian Airlines Map-Guide Book

I was recently going through old photo albums and documents of my grandparents and great grandparents and discovered quite a bit about the influences on my life, even before I was born. Just like the extensive travel background of my family on my mom’s side, I learned that my Italian great grandparents traveled the world quite extensively while their age would allow.

My great grandparents spent some time in Hawaii from what I could gather around 1977. I found this charming 1977 Hawaiian Airlines Map-Guide Book tucked inside the photo albums.

1977 Hawaiian Air Map-Guide Front

The back side of the 1977 Hawaiian Airlines Map-Guide Book displays a short synopsis of each of the islands and reads as follows.

SEE ALL THE ISLANDS
Hawaii is a land of infinite variety and contrast. Each of the islands has its own distinct personality, and claims its own wealth of scenic and historic attractions.

While there is no denying the excitement and glamor of Waikiki, much that is best about Hawaii lies beyond the island of Oahu, of which Waikiki and Honolulu are a part. It is on the related and uncrowded Neighbor Islands that the old dreams of a tropical paradise remain real and vital.

No one can truly know the enduring charm and enchanting beauty of Hawaii without experiencing these gracious islands. There is no more pleasant, more enjoyable way to reach the Neighbor Islands that aboard a comfortable Hawaiian Air jet flight.

HAWAII…THE BIG ISLAND
It earns its name by being more that twice the size of all the other islands in the chain combined, and offers variety to match its size. Here is the incredible Hawaii Volcanos National Park…the historic City of Refuge…the spot where Captain Cook died…and the site where Hawaii’s first missionaries landed. Fields of orchids bloom beneath snow-capped mountains…jungle waterfalls plunge into the sea…Hawaiian cowboys work one of the world’s largest cattle ranches. There are superb resorts, great golf courses, some of the world’s finest deep sea fishing along the famed Kona Coast, and enough to see and do to keep you entranced for days.

KAUAI…THE GARDEN ISLAND
Conjure up your best vision of a South Sea island and you will have a pretty good idea of Kauai. From the awesome grandeur of Waimea Canyon to the serene beauty of Hanalei Valley, this is indeed a dream come true. Cruise up the Wailua River to the romantic Fern Grotto…hike where the menehunes, Hawaii’s legendary little people, performed with miracles…and take your pick of the islands wealth of unspoiled, secluded beaches. All this plus the best in resorts and recreational facilities.

MAUI…THE VALLEY ISLAND
Residents say, “Maui no ka oi.” Maui is the best, and there is good reason for their boast. Crowned by the towering 10,000 foot summit of Haleakala with its magnificent crater, and surrounded by a sun-bathed ocean, it is an island easy to become addicted to. From the dazzling resort areas of Kaanapali Beach, Kapalua, and Wailea Beach you look across gentle seat to the Islands of Lanai and Molokai. In old Lahaina Town, once Hawaii’s capitol and boisterous whaling town, you rub elbows wit history. In remote Hana you find a Hawaii where time has stood still. And you can choose from a wide variety of accommodations knowing that a great beach is nearby.

MOLOKAI…THE FRIENDLY ISLE
This is a “get-away-from-it-all” island that holds great appeal for the adventuresome spirit. Fine vacation facilities are available marking it easy to enjoy such things as a mule-back ride into Father Damien’s historic old leper settlement at Kalaupapa, browsing through the town of Kaunakakai, and exploring the scenic eastern shoreline.

LANAI…THE PINEAPPLE ISLAND
This is the smallest, least known, and least visited, of the major islands. Devoted almost exclusively to growing pineapple, its only town, Lanai City, is a model agricultural community set in the cool, pine-covered highlands. If you prefer isolated beaches, deep forests and rugged valleys to tourist resorts, Lanai is your island.

1977 Hawaiian Air Map-Guide Back

The inside of the 1977 Hawaiian Airlines Map-Guide Book opens up to reveal a beautiful map of the islands, highlighting the then DC-9 various routes between the islands.

1977 Hawaiian Air Map-Guide Inside

Interesting enough, lots has changed in Hawaii since the brochure was published in 1977. Notably, Dole stopped producing pineapple on Lanai in 1992, with 98% of the island currently under ownership by Larry Ellison (CEO of Oracle). The DC-9 airplanes that were promoted throughout the advertisement appear to have ceased operation around 2001, where they were replaced with Boeing 717s.

In 1977, Hawaiian Airlines serviced over 3,000,000 passengers. In 2013, Hawaiian Airlines reported transporting 9,935,743 passengers for the calendar year.

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Source: InACents