View Full Version : Help! Planning frist ever Hawaiian trip
08-14-2010, 07:04 PM
I very briefly searched through this forum on anything related to Hawaii - it's going to take me some time to read through all the threads (I'm anal so I'm reading any traveling tips as well). It's a little bit overwhelming for someone who's never been there before as I do not know where to start. Could you Hawaii experts please just help me start off in the right direction?
I'm hoping there's enough time to plan for a mid-late Oct/early Nov trip for DH, DD (5), DS (3) and I, MIL & FIL, plus my parents. The grandparents are flexible - they understand and will help watch the kids. Of course I'm not going to dump the kids on them the entire trip and would like to find them/all of us something to do together as well. Both sets of grandparents have been to Hawaii before on their own - I forgot which island(s) - but they were definitely not doing/lodging at kids friendly activities/places. I'm looking at about a week worth of time (give take a day or two). We are the quiet kind of people. My kids can play on the beach for a long time just digging and finding little things here and there to collect. I'd much prefer something less commercialized and not touristy.
1) First things first - Which island would you recommend? I'm not greedy - I just want to do one this trip. Based on my limited reading, Kauai sounds like a good choice. FIL and DH probably want to golf. But I can't imagine that to be hard to arrange on any island?
2) When I was researching on Disneyland info, BBB threads pointed me to many DL-specific discussion forums. Then off I went to read those on my own. Are there any good/helpful discussion forums that you could recommend on traveling to Hawaii?
Any suggestions/tips will be much appreciated. I'm brand new to this so I can't even think of what I need to ask right now. I will need to research on lodging but I figured I need to decide on an island first.
08-14-2010, 07:42 PM
Kauai is probably the least commercial of the Hawaiian islands. But, it is too quiet for many people. I would strongly suggest you do some research before booking there.
Don't get me wrong, we love it on Kauai, have been many times & were married there. But its not for everyone. My best friend much prefers Maui, for example.
08-14-2010, 07:46 PM
I've only been to Oahu and loved it. It probably has the most amenities/activities for everyone.
08-14-2010, 08:06 PM
I've heard that Maui is a great choice for young families! not as sleepy as Kauai but not as busy and commercial as Oahu.
08-14-2010, 08:38 PM
We've only been to Oahu and Maui, but I highly recommend Maui. Oahu reminded me of California too much (it's more urban than I had anticipated and there are TONS of tourists). Maui is beautiful and seems much less crowded and more island-like. Yet at the same time, it also has great restaurants, golf courses, white sand beaches, etc.
I'm not sure what your budget is, but we rented condos when we went, which gave us a home base to cook some meals (food is more expensive on an island!).
I don't know of any website resources to recommend, but have a great time!
08-15-2010, 06:13 AM
I will consider Maui too. And will probably rent a condo/private house.
08-15-2010, 06:42 AM
Ever since our travel agent told us about this place when we were picking a place for our honeymoon, we've always had it on the list of family trip options. Ka'anapali Beach Hotel (http://www.kbhmaui.com/Main/Home/Home.aspx). She said that families love it. Looks like TripAdvisor (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotels-g29220-Maui_Hawaii-Hotels.html) rates it highly too. I'm not one for the private condo/home route unless someone else is doing some cooking. I feel like I never get a break that way.
08-15-2010, 12:05 PM
I agree that you probably want to stay away from Oahu if you want something more quiet. We are quiet folks, too.
I prefer Kauai over Maui, I think it's more lovely. I would go back there in a heartbeat.
Although the top of Haleakala (sp?) on Maui is spectacular if you get it on a clear day. Kaanapali is great, a really long good beach with many hotels and restaurants, but it is also touristy and commercial IMO - although nothing like waikiki - Kaanapali is quite nice. Frankly it's pretty good for families who just want to hang out, can also be expensive depending on where you stay.
Kauai has incredible scenery, lush and quiet out of the way beaches. Very scerene. Waimea canyon is incredible on a clear-ish day, absolutely stunning, lifetime experience. :love-retry: What I don't know about is family-friendly lodging there, though I imagine any agent can let you know.
You'd probably need to drive a lot to get to the lovelies in Kauai that I'm thinking of. But I imagine it would be also easy to find a nice home-base beach with family friendly lodging. There is quite a bit to see in Maui, too, again, Haleakala is so awesome, great golfing on Maui (not sure about Kauai), neat little drives on both. I'm not sure which I would choose with a 5 and 3 year old. I guess it would depend on how tired I am. I might go to Kaanapali on Maui and just chill, or do Kauai if I had a lot of help, just really loved it there.
08-15-2010, 12:17 PM
I've done them all (except Maui- too many honeymoon couples for this single mom!) and I must say the Big Island is by far my favorite.
Kauai is beautiful but very quiet and very few restaurants. Unless you golf and/or just want to hang out at the beach I wold recommend against it. (Seriously, you can get better beaches in Cali or FL and the flights will be cheaper.)
Ohau doesn't sound like what you are looking for but don't discount the North Shore. They have some lovely tranquil spots in that area.
The Big Island has it all- the volcano to go see, an amazing observatory if you are into educational things, great surfing, tons of restraunts and still lots of pure nature. Please give it a look. Hilo is less commercial but Kona has the Wikilola Village, which although touristy, is great fun for kids. I call it the Hawaiian Disneyland. Clearly, touristy but stil a wonderful trip.
08-15-2010, 12:39 PM
I agree with the pp that Kauai is very quiet, and doesn't have a lot of restaurants. I guess it depends on how "quiet" you want it. I like that it's sleepy. The lack of restaurant variety does bug me, actually - I had forgotten that.
I have not been to the big island, but the pp's post makes me wish I had gone! It does sounds pretty darn nice.
08-15-2010, 12:51 PM
Wow, thank you so much for all the great suggestions. I'm going to start with reading on the places you mentioned.
A couple of quick questions...
1) Am I correct to assume if I want to reserve a private rental place I'd better do it early, but if I chose hotels I might be able to find late minute deals?
2) Flights into Maui and the Big Island are always cheaper than those into Kauai? Oakland would be the closest airport to me, if that makes a difference.
08-15-2010, 07:15 PM
I haven't booked with this site but talked back and forth with an agent when we were considering a trip to Hawaii. I recommended it to a friend and she booked with them, got a great price and thanked me! The agent told me the Wailea Beach Marriott is a great hotel for families with toddlers cause they have a mini waterpark pool. The Whaler on Kaanapali is also a good option since they are condos with kitchenettes and it's next to whalers village.
VRBO is also a good place to look for homes/condos to rent.
08-15-2010, 11:19 PM
We just came back from Oahu. We rented a 3 br condo through vrbo.com. We stayed in Ko'olina. We got the nice quite resort next to great beaches with man made lagoons. The small waves were perfect for the kiddies and me, the nervous mom. It is also next to a gof course.
We love Maui, too. But the food is much cheaper in Oahu. It was also a plus to have a full kitchen with a washer/dryer. If you decide on Oahu, I can give you more info on the places that we enjoyed and look forward to returning too!
08-16-2010, 02:09 AM
I would go to Maui for a good mix of things to do, great beaches, etc. Without kids for just a romantic trip or trip where you aren't trying to maximize the sunshine, then I would go to Kaui. But Maui is great for kids and grandparents alike. Houses are pretty expensive if right on the beach and we like to be right on the beach. But there are many great condos right on the beach on Maui. I love the book Maui Revealed. They have a web site too and have reviews of condos, etc. on their web site. They do books for the other islands, we've used Big Island Revealed too. Reviews tend to be good and spot on, better than the big brand books.
08-16-2010, 05:11 AM
When my DH and I went we rented a small cottage on Anini Beach in Kauai. If I went back think kids I would rent a house there for a week and then spend a couple of days on Oahu. Anini beach has a small park with parking at the end, which can get crowed by Kauai standars, but if you went a house you can walk across the road, down a path and onto great beaches. The advantage of Anini beach is that it has a reef, so kids can actually swim there, which they can't every where, and it's very residential.
08-17-2010, 03:58 PM
Kauai was my favorite of the islands I visited, hands down. I have been twice. I don't think it is sleepy at all! We stayed at the Hyatt in Poipu Beach. There were tons of great restaurants!
08-17-2010, 04:59 PM
We are the quiet kind of people. My kids can play on the beach for a long time just digging and finding little things here and there to collect. I'd much prefer something less commercialized and not touristy.
Then Kauai sounds perfect for you! Lush gorgeous scenery, pretty beaches, quieter, less touristy island. Second choice would be Maui. Big Island is nice too but different feel--more volcanic/dry (unless you go to the Hilo side). I've been to the each with a toddler and I liked Kauai the best in terms of appealing to young children. Maui has a lot to do too. Big Island, not so much for kids to do and very long drives. Oahu doesn't feel as "different" to me--too bustling/urban. But there is a lot to do there too.
I'd recommend getting a condo for sure--with kids it's great to be able to have food in the fridge and a kitchen so they can eat whenever they get hungry and you're not forced to go out to a restaurant or order room service (eating out with toddlers can be challenging). I'd look into "condo resorts" which have pools, restaurants, housekeeping etc. just like hotels, but still have the kitchen & laundry in each unit just like condos. A private house or condo is nice for big families, but doesn't have the resort amenities/great pool facilities so maybe doesn't feel as much like a "vacation."
We go to Hawaii a LOT (our kids even have Hawaiian middle names and we're not Hawaiian/never lived there!), both pre and post kids. A couple times we have gone with other families, each time with another couple with a toddler (age 1-2). We shared a 2BR 2BA condo which was great so the kids could play in the living room together. In Kauai we stayed at the Outrigger Waipouli and Maui we stayed at Honua Kai Resort. They're both very similar--new and upscale furnishings, yet it was still reasonable (comparable to hotel rooms) since we split the cost with the other family. Outrigger has a "travel club" rate on their website and Honua Kai had a special rate on their website when we booked. They both have awesome pools with water slides and lazy rivers, plus they're both right on the beach (although not necessarily the best swimming beaches). I would highly recommend either place. The Waipouli is on the east side of Kauai, so a close drive to both South shore and North shore. We've also stayed at Outrigger Kiahuna Plantation in Poipu Kauai, which is also nice, but the pool is across the street and there's no AC and it's a little older. On the Big Island we've usually stayed at the Outrigger Keauhou which is right on the water next to a great snorkeling beach. It's a hotel though, and not as fancy (small plain pool, no hot tub) but a great budget hotel and free breakfast buffet.
Check out the Ultimate Guidebooks for the best info on what to do, where to stay etc.
Here's my list of kid-friendly things we did in Kauai that I posted about on an earlier thread:
Lydgate Beach on the east side is one of the best children's beaches in Kauai. There's a huge playground right next to Lydgate called Kamalani. Poipu Beach is also a nice kid's beach, with a playground next to it.
Other attractions that are fun for kids: Kilohana Plantation, you can ride a train around the farm and feed bread to the pigs. We went for the train ride and luau which was great. Na Aina Kai garden--lovely botanical garden, they give family tours and let the children pick flowers, there's a fun children's garden with a playground water play area for splashing. North shore--lovely drive, Ke'e beach is beautiful. Waimea canyon drive--stop and hike the Iliau Nature loop trail between mile markers 8 & 9, which is an easy short trail with beautiful views and fun for kids/toddlers to hike.
Places to eat: Our favorite is Eastside restaurant (in the East side, of course)--really delicious food, friendly staff, live musicians...our daughter loved dancing to the music. Hamura Saimin for noodles and lilikoi pie. Puka Dogs in Poipu for hot dogs with mango relish. Shrimp Station. Bubba Burgers. Jojo's shave ice is the best!
In Maui, fun things to do are Kaanapali Beach, Baby Beach (one in Lahaina and one in Paia), snorkeling at Black Rock, snorkel boat trip to Molokini crater (Four Winds), Haleakala crater. There's supposed to be a Maui Ocean Center aquarium too but we've never been there.
Restaurants: Hula Grill (at the beachside tables, sand under your feet), Duke's Beach House (at Honua Kai), Aloha Mixed Plate (lovely waterfront location), Star Noodles (yumm-o), Flatbread Company in Paia (great pizza-like flatbreads).
On the Big Island, Fair Wind snorkel trip to Kealakekua Bay is great fun for both adults and kids. Snorkeling/diving with mantas at night is awesome for the adults and not to be missed. The volcano is fun but a long drive...full day. Hilo is pretty but again, very long drive. There was a yummy donut place on the way (they're called malasadas) called Tex's. I don't remember the food being as great on the Big Island though unless you go to the fancy resorts which is too expensive.
Hope this helps! You'll have lots of fun wherever you go. We can't wait to go back (DS has been there twice already and he's only 5 months)!
ETA: IIRC, I think you can get flights from Oakland to Maui or Big Island, but to Kauai the only direct flights are from SFO on United. Just try searching different combos of dates & airports, maybe even consider red-eyes, to get the cheapest fares. And it's always better to book early even with hotels/condos. The downside of private condos/VRBO etc. compared to hotels/condo resorts is they are more restrictive on cancellations and usually don't have housekeeping.
ETAA: Besides Wizardpub/Ultimate Guides, Tripadvisor has lots of hotel/restaurant ratings and I think even may have online forums so that's another place to look. I found restaurants and places to stay through Tripadvisor that were great and I would never have found on my own.
08-20-2010, 04:55 PM
Thank you SO VERY MUCH for all your help! I just want to let you know that I didn't disappear - I bought the Revealed books, and have been reading various online resources you mentioned on lodging/activities suitable for our group. Sorry I'm a slightly anal planner and it takes me a long time to research something. I will come back with some detailed questions - hope you don't mind if I end up PM'ing some of you.
08-26-2010, 09:45 AM
Just thought I'd pipe in and say that I've been to Oahu, Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii (Kona) and Kona is our favorite by far! I would highly suggest Kona if you are still researching the islands. It is a lot less "resorty" than Maui and Oahu IMO. Good luck...you can't go wrong with any island though! :)
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