Vacation in Hawaii

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Vacation in Hawaii

Post by jay22 »

Wife and I are planning a vacation to Hawaii in November. We'll be going for 4-5 days and flying from CA. Any recommendations on which islands we should go to, or should we stick to just one for that duration? I personally want to go to Maui, but my wife thinks going to Oahu will be a better use of time.

We both are in our early 30s, and we will be travelling with a 1 yr old; primarily want to go there just to unwind, and enjoy the natural, scenic beauty.

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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by rongos »

If you like peace and quiet, sitting on the beach with few distractions, enjoying paradise at a relaxing pace, don't go to Oahu.

If you like crowds, shopping, eating, restaurants, local food, night life, go to Oahu.
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by jabberwockOG »

Maui is way more family oriented island but most kids you see there are old enough to swim. We always did car trip vacations until our kids were old enough to not potentially scream for an entire 5.5 hour plane ride.
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by PugetSoundguy »

We went to Kauai with a one-year-old (and a second on the way) and had a wonderful time. Very mellow and laid back, not crowded at all. We splurged on an oceanfront condo and saved money by stocking up at the island Costco and cooking our own meals. It was perfect.
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by phr »

we are going in mid october. what i figured out in planning is that its insanely complicated because of the differences between the islands (good news is its hard to make a bad decision :D ). It all depends on what you want to do. We decided on the big island because we like beaches but also intend on doing multiple hikes, seeing the volcano, etc. Most travel advice i read recommended one island and against island hopping. For a 4-5 day trip, you will have plenty to do no matter what island you decide on.

I used TripAdvisor forums a lot in making decisions for the trip ... awaii.html
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by lthenderson »

I'm heading to Kauai in January and started a post about things to do there. You might read though it to see if any of those things interest you.

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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by navyasw02 »

I live in Oahu. If you only have a few days spend only your first and last in Oahu and spend the middle days on the big island. Oahu has Pearl Harbor, Lani Kai, North Shore, Hawaii Kai, all of which can be done in a day or split into 2 half days. I spent 3 days/2 nights on the Big Island and felt rushed and didn't get to see everything I wanted to. Definitely recommend hiking the crater, going to volcanoes national park, black sand beach, go to Mauna Kea at night to see the stars, do a dolphin swim, and try to do the green sand beach if time allows.
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by AlohaBill »

Hi jay,
Since my wife is from Oahu, we go to Hawaii quite a bit. We also live in Sac Town. May I suggest that you fly from Sacramento on Hawaiian Airlines. It is nonstop to Oahu. The plane is a wide body 767 with 2-3-2 seating which I think is the most comfortable seating; far better than Alaska air 3-3 737. The flight is about 5 hours going and 4&a half hours coming back. Go to Hawaiian Air's website and look at their vacation packages. For example, I put in a vacation for you with three nights in Maui and two nights in Waikiki staying at the Ritz Carlton and the Kahala with a car for $4330! You don't have to stay at those 5 star hotels. I think a short trip like yours would be better all in Maui. Waikiki is very crowded and full of homeless people. If you stay at the Kahala, you won't be in Waikiki. Also, you could stay at Disney's Aulani hotel on the Eva side of Oahu. Anyway, the only bad thing about a Hawaii trip is coming back! Cheers!
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by renue74 »

I was an Army brat, lived in Oahu as a kid, got married on the North Shore in 1999 and recently took my 2 boys (11 and 13) there for spring break this year.

Everybody is right, Oahu is super busy. Traffic can be difficult (but not very bad) and Wakiki is a tourist haven. But, just like anywhere else, you can pick and choose and be happy. I typically try to do two "main" things per day with our kids on vacation. (1 in the AM, 1 in the PM).

This is what we did:

• Day on Wakiki beach (yes...touristy and the beach/sand/waves were "ok" according the kids. Nice "views" for dad.)
• Hiked Diamond Head (fairly easy hike. get there early. great views at the top)
• Snorkeled in Hanauma Bay (kids and I loved that. Huge fish, great experience....been there many times as a kid as well)
• Pearl Harbor (a good 2-3 hour tour)
• Eat shave ice at Matsumoto in Haleiwa on the North Shore (touristy, but good)
• Took surfing lessons on the North Shore (kids loved that..and I did too)
• Found some really nice, quiet beaches (Kailua Beach Park was excellent. Sand was perfect, no crowds, just perfect)
• Visited the Byodo Temple
• Snorkeled in Kuilima Cove (near Turtle Resort...OK, but busy)

We stayed for 6 days...and rented a car. Although we stayed in Wakiki, we tried to get out of Honolulu most of the days. There are quiet places to be found.

With a 1 year old, finding a full service resort might be better. A place where you can walk out of the room and hit the beach or pool.

I've never been to Maui or Kaui, but I know they are more laid back.
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by MrNewEngland »

I just spent about three weeks in Hawaii. I have a friend that lives in Oahu so I spent almost all my time there staying with him and his wife. I cannot say enough good things about that island. It was absolutely gorgeous. Pictures don't do it justice, the mountains were magnificent and the water was blue and clear. There was plenty to do. I only made it to Wakiki one afternoon. I spent almost every day either diving or hiking (often both).
Diamond Head was worth doing - it was an easy hike with cool views and an old fort to look into. As someone said it gets very busy. The day we did the hike it was raining and there were still several people there. Since we were going snorkeling we didn't care about the rain.

There's another hike called Mañana Trail fairly close to Honolulu that is far better but much more strenuous. You hike mainly down a long trail to a waterfall and a rope swing. We swam around at the bottom of the trail for a long time and that made the hike back up pretty exhausting. Totally worth it though. We saw a wild hog on the hike.

On the windward side of Oahu (eastern side) there are a couple islands called the mokes that are bird sanctuaries. You can rent kayaks and paddle out there and explore or swim. That was a great day and worth doing.

The North Shore is where the big waves and surfing competitions are during the winter. Other times of the year the waves aren't bad. It's a beautiful area with a couple neat little towns. Go to an area called Sharks Cove and bring snorkel gear. The cove has great snorkeling and you can access it from the shore. I went there several times. One day while walking out I got a little close to a big sea lion (I didn't notice it at first and it kids freaked me out). If you're on the north shore I'd recommend a breakfast place called Kono's.

Out west there really isn't that much... it more of a desert and therefore not as green or pretty. However there was one place I went to a few times called Electric Beach. There's a place you can snorkel off the shore right in front of a power plant. It can be a little rough getting past the breakers but it's calm once you're past that. There's lots to see out there in the water. There's a huge pipe (8-10 feet in diameter) out at the bottom that is where the cooling water from the plant is discharged. Marine life love this warm water and even cooler than that is if you can swim down along side it and swim in front of it the discharge water will propel you forcefully. If you're a strong swimmer you can go about a mile out and there's a good chance you'll see dolphins.

In that same area there are plenty of excurtions to take boats out to swim with the dolphins if you don't want to swim out that far. You'll also probably see lots of sea turtles.

Pearl Harbor is definitely worth doing. Great exhibits, great museums, and just really well organized. Don't pay for a tour from an outside vendor. It's a free museum/exhibit and really well run. You won't miss anything and the tours you buy online are a big rip-off imo. I didn't do one and don't regret it.

Byodo-in temple want really worth it for me. It was recommended by a couple people but I was really disappointed. The setting and campus was beautiful but everything on that island is. It's an old looking temple built in front of the mountains. The thing is... it's not old. It's just a replica of an old temple built in the 60's. Time could be spent better elsewhere.

One thing to research is Stairway to Heaven. Cool history that I won't go into here. I saw it and was in awe - pictures don't convey how scary it looks. Even if I was in good enough shape to do it I wouldn't be able to because of the steepness and height of it (I'd be too freaked out). You aren't allowed up there but people do it anyway. I was told a section was ruined during a storm but my friend said that's a lie made up to keep people off of it.

Great food, great fruit, great sushi. Lots of other hikes but none worth mentioning, a Google search will help you find plenty. Oahu was seriously my favorite place I have ever been (surpassing the Florida Keys that still have a special place in my heart).

One last thing: I spent one night on Hawaii (the big island) and wish I had more time. I wanted to get out to the big park to see the lava but didn't have time. I was going to take a helicopter tour but it was cancelled. My biggest impression of that island was how it contrasted with Oahu - it wasn't nearly as pretty. It was more of a desert island and much of it is covered in old solidified lava.

With that said I had a great experience on the big island. I went out on an excursion to do some night diving and saw manta rays up close. There are snorkelers up top with lights and scuba divers at the bottom with lights. The lights attract plankton and that attracts the manta rays. It really was an amazing thing to do and normally I stay the eff out of the water at night.

I'm sure I'm missing a bunch of stuff. Even though I was out there for three weeks I packed a ton of stuff in during that time. I'll definitely go back and I'll check out the other islands. Good luck and have fun.
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by ruralavalon »

In my opinion pick one island for the entire 4-5 days. Don't let travel between islands consume any of your limited time. Renting an ocean front condo is a good idea. This view is from West Maui looking toward Molokai -------->

My preference would be Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island in that order, and would lean toward a location you can get to with a direct flight. There will be great scenery, and plenty to do on any of those islands.
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by jay22 »

Great suggestions here! Thank you so much.

We will most probably end up going to Maui. Looking forward to it already!
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by zztr87 »

Maui is a excellent choice! We live in CA too and we've been going to the islands a couple of times an year for the last dozen or so years. Yes, we love it that much out there. When my daughter was little, we tended to prefer Maui as well. Now that she's a teenager, we mix it up although Maui is still our preferred destination. When your life is being driven by a toddler, you want the flexibility to adapt your day to suit the mood and the needs of the little one. You don't want things like office commute traffic stressing you out on your vacation. At the same time, you want to experience Hawaii at it's best. We'd look for resorts with easy in-and-out parking, ocean-front beach locations, great pools and kid-friendly activities on site, and short walking/driving distance to shopping, dining and other attractions. A place like Westin Maui ( on the famous Kaanapali beach usually worked well for us. There is a range of hotels on Kaanapali to choose from. For a visitor, there are at least three obvious areas in Maui to stay: the west side (Kaanapali/Kaapalua/Lahaina), the upscale south side (Wailea), or the slightly modest and central Kihei. We love Kaanapali! It is not as "crazy" as Waikiki, nor is it as laid-back as Kaui. In fact, it's just perfect! The beach itself isn't the white sand and turquoise waters you'd see on Oahu's Lanikai/Kailua. Instead, it's deep blue, a bit of salt-and-pepper type, quite swimmable, and beautiful in its own right. There's also good snorkeling right on the beach at Black Rock. You're also right next to Whaler's village and you can spend a lot of leisurely time shopping/dining in that area without having to get into the car. You'll be within 10 mins of Lahaina, a town that is great for evening dinners and strolls. In terms of activities, in general, whatever you can do on Oahu, you can generally also do on Maui too. The island that's the most different is the Big Island, and that's because of the volcanoes. The others are more similar than not. I'm sure Google will give you a good list of things to do. Since you have a 1-year old, you'd probably want to abbreviate the Road to Hana though. It's a long windy drive that may have to wait until your child is grown up.

Wishing you much Aloha in Hawaii!

PS: Maui can get windy and cool. It's called the windy isle for a reason. Oahu/Waikiki is a tad warmer. Sometimes the wind on Maui surprises people but we love it as it comes.
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by fizxman »

I've been to Hawaii twice for work. The first time we spent a little over week on the Big Island and a 4 days on Oahu. On the Big Island we mostly stayed close to the resort in Waikoloa but we did take a van tour of the island which included Volcano National Park. In Oahu we stayed in Honolulu near Waikiki Beach. We rented a car and went to Pearl Harbor, Dole Plantation, North Shore and Diamond Head.

The second trip we stayed on the Big Island the whole time. We spent two nights in Kona and the rest at the same resort as the first time. This time we rented a car and went sight-seeing on our own. We did a more extensive tour of Volcano National Park. We also saw Waipio Valley, Rainbow Falls, Kaumana Caves, Greenwell Farms, and various other places. However the neatest thing we did was take an airplane tour of the Big Island (Big Island Air). From the plane, you see things you'd otherwise never see. It was hands down one of the neatest things we've experienced.
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by Ducky Momo »

Considering your needs, I would go with Maui. Save Kauai and Big Island when your children are older and are more hardier ie. they can hike and snorkel with you.

Last time we went to Maui, we went with 3 year old twins, and another family that had a 7 month old and a 3 year old. We stayed at the Westin Kaanapali villas which was lovely. Anemities of a hotel in addition to a whirlpool bathtub, kitchen, and washer dryer. The beach right off the resort is really nice. We rented a car through Costco's affiliate program and it was very easy to get around.
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by chartcab3785 »

arp97 wrote:PS: Maui can get windy and cool. It's called the windy isle for a reason. Oahu/Waikiki is a tad warmer. Sometimes the wind on Maui surprises people but we love it as it comes.
Maui is known as the valley isle. But of course it definitely is windy. Though most notably on the plain between the west and east maui mountains.

Lots of other great info you shared, welcome to bogleheads!

I didn't see it mentioned-Maui Brewing Co. has opened a new facility just up the hill from Kihei. The tour and tasting room is reasonably enjoyable, though perhaps not great options for those with children. :sharebeer
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by zztr87 »

Maui is known as the valley isle. But of course it definitely is windy. Though most notably on the plain between the west and east maui mountains.
Oh you're right, I just looked it up. Don't know where I got that phrase but I've been calling it the windy isle for years :-) Oops.

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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by jay22 »

Thank you once again for all the suggestions. I like the suggestion of getting a oceanfront resort; we're looking into it. Can you suggest a few things we could do in Maui while we're there with the 1 yr old? I guess hiking, helicopter tours etc would not be feasible.
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by United2008 »

Maui - Kaanapali beach. I highly recommend the Honua Kai resort, which is one of the newer ocean front condo complexes. You can rent studio through 3 bedroom units on VRBO very reasonably. If you haven't traveled with the one year old much, you will definitely appreciate the extra space that a 1 bedroom unit gives you vs a standard hotel room.

There also is a Duke's restaurant on the property, with live music in the evenings. We have taken our kids there every year since they were 6 months old and they have always loved it. Even at 6 months the kids love splashing around in the pool and your 1 year old should enjoy the kids pool, which has a fake beach/sand area.

Re other activities, there is hiking on Maui if you're willing to backpack the 1 year old. Otherwise I think you will find plenty to do at and around the resort.

Don't sweat the flying with little ones - there will be lots of kids on the flight all making a ruckus. It's no big deal. Bring them something to play with to entertain them. Maybe a new small toy and book? If you can swing it, buy the kid a seat for the extra space (vs lap child).
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by dashtadj »

One word: Lanai. The best island in my opinion, albeit expensive, but worth it. With only 4-5 days this would be plenty of time to enjoy the quiet wonderful island, and you can easily ferry there from Maui (which you could stay a night in Maui too for the more typical 'Hawaii Tourist Experience')
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by Gemini »

Great thread.

I am headed to a conference in Maui for one week, but have some free time before and looking to get in a few days earlier. We are coming in from the east coast - should we go to a different island before or just spend the two weeks in Maui? Maybe a week in another island? Any suggestions welcome. We were thinking of using a travel agent, but this seems straightforward
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by oldcomputerguy »

PugetSoundguy wrote:We went to Kauai with a one-year-old (and a second on the way) and had a wonderful time. Very mellow and laid back, not crowded at all. We splurged on an oceanfront condo and saved money by stocking up at the island Costco and cooking our own meals. It was perfect.
+1 for Kauai for the scenery.
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by sci fi »

I'm from the Big Island and I swim often at Hapuna in the morning. If you're looking into an ocean front resort you could consider the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel. Hapuna can get crowded during the midday but around sunrise and sunset there's lots of solitude. It's about a 45 minute drive away from Kona town. Kona also has resorts and some beaches but the best one on the Big Island is Hapuna. The Hilo side has beaches also but they are rockier and more secluded and harder to find.

There's lots of good stuff on every island. I worked in Waikiki on Oahu for ten years. It's super busy and there can be lots of traffic but if you like city living it can be interesting. The Turtle Bay resort is also an option for an Oahu only trip as the North Shore is a lot slower paced but you can also stay a few nights in the city. The North Shore waves can pound in November which isn't great for swimming but awesome to see and there are still flat days in between winter swells where snorkeling or swimming is an option.
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by MandyT »

jay22 wrote:Thank you once again for all the suggestions. I like the suggestion of getting a oceanfront resort; we're looking into it. Can you suggest a few things we could do in Maui while we're there with the 1 yr old? I guess hiking, helicopter tours etc would not be feasible.
Just wanted to give another vote to Maui. The only time I've ever been to Hawaii was when I went to Maui for a week seven years ago--I had a fabulous time. For me, the balance between having amenities but also having beautiful scenery and not having to fight a lot of traffic was perfect. I stayed in a bed and breakfast between Lahaina and Kaanapali that had private bathrooms, air conditioning, and cable TV (which is sort of like comfort food for me--if I can watch the TNT or USA network, it feels like a slice of home).

Whichever island you choose, I think it's better to stick to one with the amount of time you have. I don't have kids so I can't really say what to do with a 1-year-old, but I wanted to mention that Maui has two Safeways and a Costco.
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by Leemiller »

If you stay close to black rock on Maui and rent snorkel gear for the week you and your spouse can take turns watching the baby and snorkeling right off the beach. We saw at least one sea turtle while snorkeling ever day we were there. You might want a beach shelter for the baby as well. Also, does your kid like the beach? My daughter hated it at that age. Did not want to sit by the sand at all. They also have pool floats for kids that age which are very nice. I like the mall/ restaurants by black rock as well, but I shop and eat at restaurants on vacation so not sure if you're planning on cooking.

We went fishing but one is really probably too young for that unless maybe you get a hotel with a babysitting service?
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by Da5id »

I've been a bunch of times. Big Island is my favorite if I have to pick one. Kauai is nicer in some ways, but I thought Volcano's National Park really stood out. And you can get the beach/resort thing on the west coast, and the lush greenery and waterfalls on the east. But really you won't go wrong with Kauai, Hawaii, or Maui. I'd personally not pick Oahu though, too developed for my taste. But assuming you fly into Honolulu you could spend a day there coming or going...
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by NMJack »

Final answer: 7 day NCL cruise. You'll see five islands, won't have to make any plans and it will be stress free. No connection, just a satisfied customer. :sharebeer
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by Shallowpockets »

From a Boglehead perspective you might want to budget for the infamous add on hotel fees you may not know about until you check out.
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by livesoft »

Leemiller wrote:If you stay close to black rock on Maui and rent snorkel gear for the week ....
No reason to rent when you can buy it at Walmart on Maui.
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by fasteddie911 »

I would suggest Maui, it is a blend of the 3 other major island (Oahu, Kauai, Big Island). It has some of the city/tourist amenities like Oahu, the lush landscape of Kauai and the barren volcano landscape of the Big Island
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by Shoe »

I lived on Oahu from 2007- 2011. During that time I traveled to every island except for Niihau. In all my travels the most useful travel resource for my wife and I turned out to be the "Hawaii Revealed" series of travel guidebooks. There are four books, one for each of the four popular islands (Kauai, Oahu, Maui and the Big Island) The books are not like the usual paid endorsement stuff you typically see in travel guides. The authors are local and provide great advice.

I'm cheap and usually use local libraries for my reading materials but my wife and l found these so useful we bought all four. They led us to some of our most memorable adventures.

Check you local library for copies and use the books to narrow your destination to just one island.....more than that and you will be too rushed! is the publishers website.

For eats remember to try's the following
Ahi Poke /poʊˈkeɪ/
Ice Cream Mochi

Good luck!
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by lemonPepper »

Hi OP.
I returned from a 4 day vacation to kauai. I took this picture from a helicopter tour and I'd recommend you to find a vacation rental on this beach:
Haena Beach Park

Here are the reasons:
1. look at the amazing water color!
2. it's not too developed
3. you can see people do amazing surfing in winter
4. true hawaiian feel to this area
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by lemonPepper »

I think my recommendation may not be really valid for November when the area gets huge swells.

You may be better off staying in south side of the island or near kealia beach on east side of kauai
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by itstoomuch »

NMJack wrote:Final answer: 7 day NCL cruise. You'll see five islands, won't have to make any plans and it will be stress free. No connection, just a satisfied customer. :sharebeer
On the fantail of NCL, Pride of America, in Maui. :mrgreen: :D :sharebeer
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by cp73 »

Been many times to all the islands. You said you want to unwind and will have your 1 year old. Check out Marriott Ko Olina on Oahu. Its away from all the people in wakiki and a beautiful resort. Its at same location as Disney Aulani. Beautiful safe bays to swim in. Perfect for young children. Also beautiful pools. One of my favorite spots in all of Hawaii. Just stay at the resort and do walk around the area. Lots to nice walkways and restaurants to choose from. Also the Marriott is a timeshare so you could get a one bedroom unit with Kitchen which would make it easy for breakfast and lunches and you could even barbecue there if you want. Its a fantastic resort. Oahu will make it also easier to fly to. No switching planes in Oahu and flights are the cheapest and best selection.

Also on Oahu you can find everything all the other islands have except an active volcano. I think there is more to do than all the islands.
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by sfchris »

I just got back from Hawaii - Big island 4 days, Maui 3 days... my first time. No kids.

Now that I have this experience, and re-read this thread, I think where you go all depends on what you are looking for... eg are you a resort kind of person who isn't bothered by a crush of people, or are you a hiking and exploring, peace and quiet kind of person...?

I loved the big island.. we explored all over the island, snorkling at Two-Step near Kona, and walking over recent lava flows on the coast below Kiluea. Visiting the tide pools and botanical gardens. Hanging out with locals in Hilo.

On the other hand Kaanapali beach in Maui resortds felt to me like Las Vegas. overcrowded, crass, and touristy. I did not enjoy it. Aside from the ocean view, I felt like I could get the same experience at a Las Vegas/Disney resort. Fortunately we only visited during the daytime and actually stayed in a quiet oceanfront condo elsewhere in Lahaina.
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Re: Vacation in Hawaii

Post by SkierMom »

Trip to Hawaii with a toddler in November? Maui - Ka'anapali Beach +1.

The Hyatt, Westin and Marriott all have a presence on Ka'anapali, with fantastic pools (appropriate for the toddler set) and oceanside locations. Maui has a great little aquarium with a "hands-on" tide pool presentation wonderful for kids.

Would not reccomend O'ahu unless it is a pass-through to other islands. We like the Disney Aulani hotel in Oahu, however, if you do go in future years with additional children.

We are former residents of HI: One thing Mainlanders forget to consider when going to Hawaii is that the northern swells start to come in late November. This means any north-facing or eastern beach will have rough surf and riptides. Particularly susceptible is the northernmost Hawaiian Island, Kauai. We love Kauai, but I do not like to visit Kauai in the winter - the beautiful beaches there become almost unswimmable and the snorkeling is too cloudy.

Would reccommend a FEBRUARY Maui trip -- the humback whales breed and birth calves in the channel between Maui and Moloka'i. Our dughters loved spotting the whales from shore and on the whale watching boats that leave out of Lahina Town.

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