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Hawaii Tips from Readers

This Monday I published a post Big Island and Oahu Hotel Points Options and asked readers for feedback. Well, I feel the comments deserve their own post, so here we go:

From reader Nancy:

“For people with kids traveling to Hawaii, I just have to put in a recommendation for Disney’s Aulani. Seriously, this resort is awesome! It’s located in the Ko Olina area on the west side of Oahu (next door to the Marriott Ko Olina you mention above). The Ko Olina area has a total different vibe from Waikiki–much less populated, the beaches are less crowded, etc. Aulani includes free childcare at the kids’ club and has a lot of entertainment that is included (a Hawaiian show that’s like a luau without the food, hula lessons, Hawaiian storytelling at the fire pit at night, etc).

The pools are spectacular–lazy river, infinity pools and hot tubs, kids play pool, two big water slides, etc. And the Disney characters! But the “Disney” part of the hotel is not overpowering. As far as paying for it with points, you could use Barclaycard points, Capital One points or Citi Thankyou points. Even if you stay there just 2 nights out of your trip–totally worth the cost in my opinion.”

I agree that  this resort warrants a mention. Make sure to read her post with the review of the property. It really does look amazing. I’m not showing it to my daughter, no way! The begging will suck the life out of me. The rate at this property starts  at $450 and can be as much as $750 per night during holidays. Obviously, that’s a lot of money. But if you have your heart set on it, consider staying just a  few nights like Nancy suggested.

This hobby can knock off a good portion of the cost if you get a card like Capital One Venture Rewards or Barclaycard Arrival Plus for both spouses. Read about them in my page of best sign-up bonuses. While I’m cheap, it doesn’t meant you have to be. If you really want to stay at Aulani, Aulani is what you should go for. Check their main page for special discounts and rates.

From reader Paul:

“I have been to both islands in recent years. We really enjoyed the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort. The kids really loved the beach. It had the right size waves, sort of like a wave pool. We also stayed at the Marriott near Disney. It was very nice, but the kids missed having any waves since it was all protected. Depends on what you are looking for.

We used VRBO to get places to stay on the Big Island and that worked great for us. There were 7 of us on that trip so hotels wouldn’t have worked as good. If you just want beaches, Oahu is very nice. But we preferred the Big Island for the diversity. If you go there, I think you should spend some nights by the volcano and some on the Hilo side to explore different parts of Hawaii. Each part of the island is so different and has so many things to see.

My biggest recommendation is to get the guidebook app for the Andrew Doughty book and probably also the book. Best guidebook I’ve ever used. The app would say what things there were to eat or do based on our current location. We found some great activities and places to eat as we drove around the island. We didn’t get the app until part way into the trip and we regretted not having it sooner. Get the app!!!!

One thing the app helped us find was this restaurant:  http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g60872-d1013279-r218514001-Jackie_Rey_s_Ohana_Grill-Kailua_Kona_Island_of_Hawaii_Hawaii.html. We loved it. If you are nearby, definitely go there.”

And here is some feedback from Erik who unbeknownst to himself has contributed a guest post for my blog. Erik, keep them coming! I’m having  a hard time creating decent content and could use your help. After reading his comment, I’ve decided to someday visit Big Island. I think you will too, check it out:

We’ve been to Hawaii a few times and visited Oahu, Big Island, and Maui. The Big Island is our family’s favorite because there are so many different things to do – it has something like 11 different microclimates. Maui is our second best, and Oahu is 3rd. On the Big Island, besides the beaches, you can visit coffee plantations, go horseback riding in the Wapio valley, hike and see ancient petroglyphs, take a kayak tour down the Kohala ditch (this just reopened 6 months ago – see http://fluminkohala.com/), view the many scenic points of interest (vistas, waterfalls, etc.) along the north road between Waikoloa and Hilo (be sure to stop at Tex drive-in for some of the best malasada pastries that you will ever have).

South of Hilo, there is an amazing place to go snorkeling called the Kapoho tide pools – super clear water, lots of aquatic life, and great fun for the family (our kids were 4 and 2 when we last visited). Of course, there are many interesting things to do/places to explore at Volcanoes National Park, but people make the mistake of trying to visit as a day trip from Kona. It is a 2+ hour drive one-way, depending on traffic. Best to book a few nights at a vacation rental or B&B in Volcano or somewhere nearby.

People with US military affiliation should check out the Kilauea Military Camp resort that is inside the park. West of Volcano, there is the black sand beach where you can likely view sea turtles, a green sand beach and the southernmost point in the USA. You can also visit the summit of Mauna Kea for stargazing and snow (!) at certain times of the year, but it is not recommended for people under age 16 due to the physical effects of the 14000 feet altitude.

As far as hotels on the Big Island…I have stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa and the Hilton Grand Vacation Club about a mile north of the hotel (tip: fill out the “I’m interested” form at the HGVC web site and you will likely get a timeshare preview offer within a few months – ours was a crazy good deal for 6 nights on the Big Island). The Hilton hotel is a full-fledged resort that is very nice with it’s own self-contained lagoon where it is not uncommon to see sea turtles swimming around in addition to various fish. They also had some activities like hula lessons and lei making that my kids really enjoyed. I would definitely stay there again.

The Marriott Waikoloa has a nice beach – it is great for little kids because the water is very shallow for about 100 feet and then you get into deep water where there can be good snorkeling if the water is calm. BTW, all of the beaches in Hawaii are technically publicly accessible but the public access parking lots can sometimes have limited capacity during peak times of the year. If you have an abundant amount of Marriott points, I would seriously consider stretching for the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, which is an exclusive luxury property that has joined Marriott’s Autograph collection.

It is 40K points per night, but many consider it’s secluded beach to be the best beach on the whole island. While the beach is publicly accessible, there are only something like 15-20 parking spots and these passes are distributed by the security guard at the entrance to the hotel on a first come-first served basis. If there are no passes available, they will not let you in. So in practical terms, this means that the beach is mostly private to hotel guests with a small amount of public visitors.

Hapuna Beach state park is immediately south of that beach on the other side of the rocks and it is also great – fortunately there is ample parking. Final tip…have dinner at the Lava Lava Beach Club one night around sunset (make reservations). It is a bit pricey but the food is good and atmosphere is totally worth it.

Maui – if you want to just hang out at great beaches, do some snorkeling/surfing, and take some scenic drives (like road to Hana or to view the sunrise on Haleakala)…this is your place. We love the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas (a timeshare property) and the nearby Westin hotel is also very good.

Oahu – I think everyone should visit Oahu once, to see Pearl Harbor, climb Diamond Head, go see the banzai pipeline on the north shore, snorkel in Hanauma Bay and do the luau at the Polynesian cultural center. But…Honolulu is a big city with the associated problems. The traffic is regularly rated one of the worst in the US. The famed Waikiki beach is a disappointment – so narrow and crowded when compared to other beaches in Hawaii. The area where most of the hotels are located feels very overdeveloped.

One of the things that I love about Kona (Big Island) and Lahaina (Maui) is the laid-back, small-town “everyone knows everyone” atmosphere. You don’t really get that vibe in Honolulu. Of the hotels, the Hilton Hawaiian Village is nice. It is a huge resort but this actually works in its favor due to the location which is separated from the other hotels on the Waikiki strip. Next door to the Hilton is the Hale Koa, which can be a good deal for those with US military affiliation.

 We like to visit 2 islands on a trip. For example, fly into Maui, spend several days, then take an inter-island flight to Kona or Hilo, spend some more time, then fly home from Kona. Try to go for more than a week, ideally 10 days or more if you are coming from the Eastern or Central time zones. That gives you enough time to get over the jet lag and really RELAX (which is hopefully why you are going to Hawaii?). Also, rental car rates are usually cheaper when booking 5 days or more on each island. Inter-island flights are pretty cheap when booked in advance, around $100 one-way.

I would recommend flying Hawaiian since they have the best schedule reliability. I haven’t checked lately, but the 35K signup bonus for the Hawaiian Airlines credit card is normally enough for 4 one-way inter-island award tickets that have been easy to book in my experience. Bonus tip: if you are flying Alaska Air from LAX to Hawaii and have lounge access due to Alaska MVP/airline partner status, Priority Pass, etc., the Alaska Airlines Board Room in terminal 6 has a kids lounge inside the main lounge.

It is a really nice feature that I’d like to see in more lounges. We’ve spent a few hours there during layovers and enjoyed the pancakes-on-demand machine, fruit, snacks, and drinks (soft and alcoholic). Kids liked the books, toys, and DVDs. I believe that some Delta and AA flights still use terminal 6.

I plan to visit Kauai on a future trip since we have points that we can use at the Westin Princeville ORV”

With comments like these, who needs to come up with new content? On Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard: the offer is listed in my secondary page of credit card bonuses (here is a non-affiliate link). Reportedly, when you create a frequent flyer account with Hawaiian (for free), you should get a targeted offer of 50K miles. Definitely do that. One-way flights between islands start at 7,500 miles, so you can potentially get 6 tickets (almost seven) from just one bonus. That’s a pretty good deal.

Read this post on Mile Cards on other decent uses  as well as a trick to get 50K miles bonus offer to come up for you (once again, YMMV). Speaking of Hawaiian program, right now Amex Membership Rewards  is running a 25% bonus on transfers. See this post on DoC for more.

A huge thanks to everyone who takes the time to comment on my little ole’ blog! 

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

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4 thoughts on “Hawaii Tips from Readers

  1. We have not been to Aulani but judging by all the marketing materials that Disney constantly sends to me, it is very appealing. My gut tells me that from a pure equivalent lodging perspective, I can probably do better cost-wise and luxury-wise. However, Disney always takes it up a notch (or two) in the family-friendly department and general overall theming which could be worth it at the right price. I have heard that renting Disney Vacation Club points via sites like http://www.dvcrequest.com is one way to reduce the costs. Another way is buying Disney gift cards at a discount (i.e. 5% off with Target Redcard or more % off during gift card sales at other retailers – don’t forget to stack with shopping portals and/or your favorite rewards card when possible) and then loading those cards into a Disney Vacation Savings account (which Disney will apparently add “bonus money” to a few days before you check-in). Discounts are also available for those with military affiliation. Just google Disney travel hacking and you will probably find more than enough information about the various angles. One page that has good info about Aulani discounts is http://www.mousesavers.com/other-disney-vacations/disneys-hawaiian-resort-aulani-a-disney-resort-spa . Maybe one day we will go.

    Paul mentioned apps…I’ll throw another one out there. If you are taking one of the scenic drives on Oahu, Maui, or the Big Island, check out the apps from http://www.gypsyguide.com. It is an audio driving tour that uses the GPS in your phone to say something when you reach a certain location, which is nice to give some context to the scenery that you might be viewing (or alert you to some nearby hidden gem that is off the main road). We used it on Maui during our last trip and it was a lot of fun. Try to get a rental car that has Bluetooth so you can pair your phone and have the audio run through the car’s speakers. Don’t forget your car charger! Using GPS (whether for simple navigation or with the driving tour app) tends to drain the battery quicker on most phone models.

    • @Erik Thanks for all the additional tips! I really appreciate the info on Gypsyguide. Never heard of it, learn something new every day due to this blog.
      As far as Aulani resort goes, it looks extremely nice. My kids would go nuts for it, no question. That said, I’m too cheap to splurge on something like that. In all likelihood, I would either go through VRBO or try to get hotel certs from a sign-up bonus. It doesn’t mean that other folks should be like me. If someone is coming to Hawaii for what is likely to be their only time and absolutely is dying to stay in Aulani, I think they should go for it. It’s better to spend a little more and get what you really want.
      I’m not an expert on hacking Disney, but I’m sure there are ways to save money on this resort. You’ve mentioned buying gift cards, and I know some get those with Ink Plus from office supply stores. Of course, there are other discounts as well. I’m sure if you plan it right and go during off-season, you’ll knock off a good chunk of the cost. I hope you make it there someday. I would love to hear your thoughts if you do.

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