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West Maui in March: Book vacation package or book everything separately?

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I was in West Maui in July. I am planning to return in March 2012 for 4-5 nights. I am departing from the West Coast (US). Hotel choices would be Kaanapali Beach Hotel or The Whaler. Sheraton is getting too $$ at that time.

I have a few questions about planning and booking. I try to list them in a more sensible way. Any comment is welcome and greatly appreciated!!

1) Is the first week of March a good time for whale watching? Would I be able to see dolphins as well?

2) Should we book a Whale Watching trip to see whales/dolphins or a Lanai snorkeling trip is better because we can see both and do snorkeling too? Maybe a dolphin will swim by us while we snorkel?!

3) Should I book now (5 months out) or wait? Many airline tickets are non-refundable or have a very high change/cancellation fee, unless I opt for a Flexible ticket which could be 30-50%+ higher, esp Hawaiian air or Alaska air.

4) Book Flight+Hotel package or separately? Is the savings (about US$200-300 for 2ppl) worth the decrease in flexibility (ability to change/cancel hotel booking)?

5) Would a package deal (from airline or 3rd party sites like expedia) make it difficult to change room if we find the room undesirable after check-in?

6) Has anyone used Online Travel Service (offered on the Kaanapali Beach Hotel site and Hawaiian Airline site or other sites)? Any problem or issue with their service?

7) I am assuming construction is done by March at The Whaler.
Is booking via Hotel site better or via VRBO (private owner) for a Studio in terms of ocean view and cleanliness?
VRBO seems to have better rate but would there be any hidden fees?

8) For folks familiar with the Bay Area, is it easily doable to take a taxi from Oakland airport to SF airport in 1 hour on a Monday night?
The return flight to Oakland is at 845pm and I have an international flight at SF airport at midnight. (considering plane taxi time after landing, customs, baggage claim, walking)
Should I reroute the return to SF airport instead? The extra cost is about $250 for 2ppl.


I know I have lots of questions. I want to post all questions in one post instead of too many posts.

ANY comment on ANY of the questions is much much appreciated. THANKS!!!

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