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utahtea Jan 13th, 2012 12:25 PM

Hawaii - First Time - HELP!
I don't even know where to start! DH and I and have been to all the other 49 states in the US and it's time we visit Hawaii. I've read many Hawaii posts her on the forums but I get so lost.

When is the best time to go for least crowds but best weather? We can go pretty much any time of the year but I was hoping to go soon, like sometime between Feb - May of this year. I'd like to do between 2 - 3 weeks. I doubt I'll get DH to fly there again. LOL We are coming from California if that makes any difference.

Which Islands? Keep in mind we want to see scenery and don't want to shop, see big cities or eat at fancy restaurants. Want to see active volcano, waterfalls and beautiful secluded beaches. We like hiking and can do up to 5 miles round trip. Our favorite destinations in the US are National Parks.

If you were going for the first time, which Islands would you pick and why? What are your favorites and why?

Where to stay? I'd rather have a little cottage on the beach instead of a high rise resort. Want to keep this in the mid range of costs. Has anyone booked though Costco? They have some nice packages but have no experience booking though them.

How easy is it to jump between Islands? DH hates to fly but I think I can get him to do one island hop. Are there other ways to get from one island to the other? Ferry?

Thanks in advance,


montereybob Jan 13th, 2012 12:58 PM

Sorry, no ferries. Flying between islands is the only option. For the most beautiful lush tropical scenery I would recommend Kauai. For the second best, Maui. For the most spectacular volcanic island, the Big Island (Hawaii). Feb thru May is a great time to go for less crowds as long as you avoid spring break. For excellent listings of natural sights and adventures I would highly recommend the the travel guides for each island written by Doughty.

Placename Jan 13th, 2012 01:00 PM

The general rule is one week per island. Interisland flights start at about $100 per flight, so add that into the budget. The only ferries are from Maui to Lanai and Maui to Molokai.

Maui, Hawaii (The Big Island) and Kauai come to mind as choices that fit your request. You shouldn't have any problem finding open jaw flights from California. You need to rent a car on each of those islands.

search the website to find out about National Parks or Monuments. The big parks are Haleakala National Park on Maui and Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park on Kauai.

The cheapest time of year is late September to mid-November and the two weeks after Thanksgiving, but before Christmas. The weather can still be hot in Sept and October. March and April can be spring break times and be busy with families. The weather is lovely then. Dec-April are best for whale watching.

Little cottages on beaches are the expensive properties. You really need to start serious searching now if this trip is in 2012. Costo puts you in hotels and condos.

Take a look at www.tripadvisor. com to see more and get a better idea of how to organize your plans. It really helps to plan based on the number of nights you stay, not the number of days, and to give an accomodation budget in $$, not in general terms. I'd just guess that mid-range is about $200-$250.


Placename Jan 13th, 2012 01:04 PM

The Wizard Publications books are not well liked in Hawaii because they give advice that advocates tresspassing on private property, opening gates and driving on roads marked "Private" and otherwise intruding on local residents' privacy. They are also very cagey about promoting really dangerous areas without giving a realistic explanation of the hazards.

DebitNM Jan 13th, 2012 01:06 PM

If you are going to do more than one island, consider flying into one, interisland to second and then [depending on which island] fly home from the second one.

Our first trip we did 5 on Maui, 3 on Hawaii and then 5 on Oahu. We really liked Hawaii a lot and had the least amount of time on it, so we are going back next month for 11 days. We will spend 3 nights in Hilo and the remainder in Kona. Found a nice, reasonably priced condo in Hilo and will stay at King Kam [now a courtyard] in Kona.

Alaska Air has a sale going on now, we are flying RT from San Jose [SJC] to Kona for $298 a person and the flight is a direct, non-stop.

Hope this helps a bit.

MichelleY Jan 13th, 2012 01:09 PM

You may get a little better airfare deal after the high season, which is now. I have never been in May, but it would probably be great. Now thur March, the whales are vacationing in the islands.

If you want volcano, then go for the Big Island(Hawaii), spend a week. With two more weeks or so, go to Kauai and eventhough Oahu has the big city, there is still alot of historical value. Stay 3 nights to see the sites. Plus you do not have to stay in Honolulu if you want to avoid the city.

Maui is also great and fun, but for you I think the Big Island and Kauai work the best.

I don't have specific places to stay, but perhaps others will help out.

montereybob Jan 13th, 2012 01:24 PM

The few controversial recommendations in Wizardpub books are FAR outweighed by the overwhelming number of excellent non-controversial helpful recommendations that they make. I have used their guides for many years and have found the majority of their recommendations to be accurate and helpful in enhancing the enjoyment of my time in the islands. Maybe the most helpful thing would be to inform people of the extremely few recommendations that result in trespassing so we could all avoid them and carry on with enjoying all the other wonderful activities that are recommended. No need to throw the baby out with the bath water. Please send us a list of what we should avoid.

montereybob Jan 13th, 2012 01:27 PM

Also, please a list of the dangers not published.

qwovadis Jan 13th, 2012 01:50 PM
My fav best weather cute B&bs erupting volcanos
lower tourist best vibe,
Direct flight LAX Kona 4 hours

Have fun!

tracys2cents Jan 13th, 2012 02:32 PM

Kauai and Volcanoes park have your name written all over them. I have a vHs tape about the park that I was about to toss if you still have a VCR. JUst send a mailing address to my board name

Consider last two wks of April/ first wk of May.

DebitNM Jan 13th, 2012 05:15 PM

I just received Hawaii The Big Island Revealed[6th edition] in the mail today. I had previously used the books for Oahu and Maui in 2006. In those older books, there was a bit of a devil may care attitude.

It seems that the authors has reeled in some of the things that locals disliked about the books.

re Trespassing "we took a lot of heat from residents who thought we were encouraging trespassing when we weren't. But the current environment doesn't permit us to do that anymore. So if you are heading to one of those places we describe and you encounter a NO TRESPASSING sign, even if you think it isn't authorized...we have to advise you to turn around and heed sign."

re liability "In past editions we have had the sad task of removing places that you can no longer visit...Because we, more than any other publication,have exposed heretofore unknown attractions, we feel the need to pass this on." and goes on to admonish the traveler to understand the inherent dangers of Nature

I guess they listened...

voyager61 Jan 13th, 2012 05:48 PM

I think Kauai is the best choice for a first trip with your parameters, but all the islands have their attractions; for example you might like some of the bed and breakfasts that have big, but distant ocean views on Maui and are a short drive to the top of Haleakela. Condos are usually the way to go in the Hawaiian islands if you want to be near the beach...cottages are much more rare...avoid President's Day week in February, which books up quickly because of some school holidays. We often book our Hawaiian accommodations 9-12 months in advance, so you may have trouble finding exactly what you want with this short time-frame. You might enjoy a rental in Hanalei (small house), based on your interests, as long as you don't mind a little sporadic liquid sunshine. I think it might be too late to find the perfect spot or spots for this winter/spring, but you might have good luck for the fall.

For sure, don't miss out on visiting Hawaii...if you have been to the other 49 states, this one will surely exceed your experiences in many of the others.

Songdoc Jan 13th, 2012 05:53 PM

"The big parks are Haleakala National Park on Maui and Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park on Kauai."

Actually, Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park is on the Big Island.

I enjoyed the Big Island very much -- and am glad I saw Volcanoes Nat'l Park. But I LOVE Kauai -- and I have very similar likes to what you described.

In Kauai, I always stay at Sealodge for gorgeous views at bargain prices. The condos are not on a beach -- but up on a bluff, overlooking beautiful coastline (I'll be there tomorrow!!!) Several agencies and private owners rent the condos--and they're all very similar, with the main difference being the location within the complex. But the photos typically give an accurate picture of the view of each particular unit.

The scenery in Kauai is breathtaking and there are lots of wonderful walks and hikes.

I have lots of Kauai trip reports and photos posted. They should help.

utahtea Jan 13th, 2012 10:53 PM

WOW & Thank you all. You've given me a base to start planning with. I'll keep you posted on what we decide.


montereybob Jan 13th, 2012 11:28 PM

Thanks to DebitNM for the update on trespassing and danger issues.

sassy_cat Jan 14th, 2012 05:25 AM

Hi Utahtea,

We're off to Maui for the first time in February (we've been to Big Island twice plus Oahu).
Big Island is 'big' and I think it takes more than a week to visit (we did 12 days the first time and 9 the second).
Polulu lookout and the hike down to the black sand beach was fun.
Waipio valley is another great hike but both these require a steep ascent.

I recommend 2 islands Big Island + Maui or Kauai but avoid President's week in Feb (20th). That's when we're going as it's school vacation time but it is busy then.
Winter is the best time to see whales though.

Don't forget your National Parks pass. I love Hawaii ((R))

DebitNM Jan 14th, 2012 06:32 AM

[Waipio Valley has a 25% grade, and one should be very careful about driving or hiking in that area.]

jamie99 Jan 14th, 2012 11:38 AM

May is lovely and rates should be lower. Fall is also nice, that is when I usually travel.

Kauai is lovely and my favorite island. No buildings by law are allowed to be taller than a coconut tree (with the exception of the Marriott in Lihue). There are two waterfalls you can just drive right up to and others you can hike to. Kauai has the gorgeous North Shore going for it and also the Waimea Canyon (often called the Grand Canyon of Hawaii). Lots of hiking and water sports, this is the island to do a helicopter tour if you wish, otherwise a good excursion is a boat tour of the Na Pali coast.

I'd go with a condo on the North Shore either of those times of year. If you are set on a cottage look into Hanalei or Anini Beach. Cottage would be more expensive than condo in many instances though.

Big Island might be interesting also, been a lot of years since I've been there and sometimes the volcano is not active so just keep that in mind, but the park is still interesting to visit. The Place of Refuge is beautiful and serene and a snorkel trip to Captain Cook I remember as a lot of fun and seeing lots of fish.

suze Jan 14th, 2012 04:43 PM

For an "active volcano" you have to go to the Big Island. For everything else you are seeking adding Kauai would fit your wish list. 2-3 weeks would be plenty for these two islands (3 weeks is better!)

pdx Jan 14th, 2012 07:38 PM

You need to put Kauai on your itinerary because it has the Shrimp Station and that's reason enough. Killer-good coconut shrimp with the best dipping sauce ever! Get the recipe for that sauce while you're there, will you?

Tomsd Jan 15th, 2012 05:26 AM

I didn't read all the posts but as one who has made numerous trips to Paradise since '77 - and we have been all over all the six main islands - we love Kauai and Big Island - although Oahu and Maui are also great.

I would suggest fly into Oahu - and stay for a few days to get your bearings, snorkel at Hanamalu Bay, drive around the island (you can do it in one day - or do the northern part/North Shore one day and the smaller - Kailua loop another day).

Then fly to Big Island - and into Hilo (probably transferring from Maui airport) - and see the beautiful Volcano (20 minutes from Hilo) and wind up over on the sunny Kona side, a lovely hour and a half drive from the Volcano area. There are some great B & B's in Volcano Village - and the Volcano Village Lodge is our favorite.

Then head over to Kauai and we love the Garden Island's north shore - at Princeville/Hanalei. Be sure to also drive down to almost always sunny Poipu and then up to the "Grand Canyon" of the Pacific.

If you want more info - feel free to email me - Tom at [email protected].

Tomsd Jan 15th, 2012 05:27 AM

BTW - as for your times - April and May are great - and there should be plenty of availability. Just google and google away and find what your want - pricewise and location.

succulent Jan 15th, 2012 06:00 AM

For little cottages on or near the beach, give Hanalei on Kauai a try. Small beach town. NO resorts in Hanalei. Moon Beach Cottage might be what you are looking for. There are lots of rentals in Hanalei.

North Shore Oahu in the Haleiwa area is a location you should look into for beach cottages as well.

I wouldn't discount Maui either. There is Haleakala National Park that includes the crater and lands on the east side in Kipahulu that offer great hiking. For staying, there is a small residential area in Makena with older oceanfront homes, that while not cheap, are a good value.

sylvia3 Jan 15th, 2012 07:58 AM

"The Wizard Publications books are not well liked in Hawaii because they give advice that advocates tresspassing on private property, opening gates and driving on roads marked "Private" and otherwise intruding on local residents' privacy. They are also very cagey about promoting really dangerous areas without giving a realistic explanation of the hazards."

The authors have taken great pains to amend those perceptions.

Placename Jan 15th, 2012 08:10 AM

I don't like Tomsd's plan because it's got you doing four islands in your time frame, with lots of airport time.

You don't have to do everything at once. Chose two islands, and it sounds like The Big Island of Hawaii should be one of them because of your interest in Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park.

For me, just being on Hawaii and getting the chance to relax and enjoy it a huge part of the experience. I don't like trips where I have to get in a car every day to see something and check it off the list. Likewise, I don't like to pay money for activities unless it is going to be something really special. I've been going to Hawaii long enough to see stupid ideas become promoted into "must-do's" that are just created to make someone a nice living.

I don't think you are going to find any availability for the Hanalei Moon Cottage mentioned. It books up about a year in advance, as do many of the nicer Hanalei properties.

TAW Jan 15th, 2012 09:33 AM

you can also check for rentals by owner. can get reasonable rates thru them and you deal directly with the owner. Often they are flexible with their rates. I've used it many times.

sf7307 Jan 15th, 2012 09:46 AM

You hav3 2-3 weeks? Of course, the longer you have, the more islands you can visit. I would have no problem visiting 4 islands in 3 weeks, although 3 might be better. I like Tom's itinerary - possibly day or arrival plus 3 days on Oahu, day of transfer plus a week on Kauai, day of transfer play a week on Hawaii, day of departure = 21 days.

edjim Jan 15th, 2012 12:47 PM

If you have two to three weeks and you've never been to Hawaii, I think it would be really hard to leave Maui out of the rotation. Maui can be a good jumping-off point for Hawaii in general. There is a nice blend of the natural, plenty of beach/resort areas, and some interesting upcountry towns. It also has Haleakela National Park -- many people "adjust" to their jet lag by heading up to the top of the mountain at 3 a.m. Hawaii time to see the sun rise. The road to Hana is also a great trip, IMO, although some folks don't like all the drive time/twists and turns. Agree with the other posters -- you should see the Big Island (you might not want a whole week there) and I would wrap things up in Kauai, when you are more than ready for a slower pace with stunning scenery. B&Bs are a good option on Maui and Big Island. If you want to see Honolulu, Oahu, etc., you could spend the last few days there and then you would have more options for flights home.
We also like visiting in October and even November, a little less crowded, I'm told.

wtm003 Jan 15th, 2012 01:23 PM

Big Island is a must with Volcanoes Nat'l Park.

Since you are a National Park fan I think you'd really enjoy Haleakela National Park on Maui as well as the scenic Road to Hana.

Oahu is great but Honolulu is definitely not what you are looking for. During our first trip to Hawaii we left Maui early in the morning for Honolulu, rented a car to visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial and then flew home that night.

And Kauai you can't go wrong spending a week there.

utahtea Jan 20th, 2012 12:28 AM

I've been spending time studying the islands (as suggested here). I was using but let me know if there's another website that might be better. Right now I'm leaning towards the Big Island and Maui. I've read that we can take a ferry to Lanai and Malaka from Maui.

I didn't necessarily need a cottage, I just want a smaller resort/hotel verse a large resort.

I think I want to go this spring if I can manage it. It won't be till March at the earliest but was hoping for April. Does anyone know when "spring break" is? In our area the schools are usually out the week before and after Easter, but I have no idea when colleges are on break.

Thanks again for all the help.


martym Jan 20th, 2012 03:05 AM

We go often to the island of Hawaii (big island). In fact our 19th trip there is less than a month away. We have staying in a hotel/motel one night in all those trips. If you are at all interested in renting a cottage/house, here are links to some we have enjoyed.

In south Kona, this place is always spotlessly clean, has a great view of the south Kona coast and well equipped kitchen and is very inexpensive nice cottage on a very private estate, has a pool, great view of the coast, wonderful helpful caretakers

on the east side of the island--45 minutes from Volcano we usually stay at Lagoon House because I love the snorkeling lagoon behind the house but many of the other houses there have their own warm ponds--and it tends to be sunnier in Kapoho than in Volcano--the town of Pahoa is about 10 minutes away and has a nice supermarket and several restaurants. Our favorite is Paolo's Bistro--Paolo is a chef from Tuscany who makes very good Italian food (natch)--not expensive and it's BYOB.

A beach you might want to visit since if you go to it during the week, you often will be the only people there is Kekaha Kai (formerly known as Kona Coast State Park)--it is north of the Kona airport and requires a drive on an unpaved rough road--we have gone there many times in a rental car--you just need to go slowly.

Another beach on Kona side--which is not secluded but often has few people (especially during the week) is the beach at Honokohau/Kaloko Park just north of Honokohou Harbor (and south of the airport)--in fact you can park in the parking lot on the north side of the harbor and a quick walk takes you there. There are the remains of an ancient fish trap and the ruins of a heiau at the beach.

tracys2cents Jan 20th, 2012 06:44 AM

I think many colleges break the middle two weeks of March, Aprl would actually be better. If you check airfares they might give you a clue, they will be higher on weeks that are traditionally busier.

utahtea Jan 23rd, 2012 01:26 PM

Thanks again for the new post. They are very helpful. I've just been so busy I haven't had time to really dive into the planning part of this trip. martym, thanks for the lodging advise.

I'm going to start checking prices for Mid-April. I see the airfares are better then.

Will report back when we make more decisions.

willowjane Jan 23rd, 2012 01:54 PM

All of these posts are so helpful. I have to keep adding information to my file.

Tomsd Jan 24th, 2012 02:37 PM

Yes, you can take the ferry from Lahaina to Molokai and Lanai, but once you arrive - you are one your own for transportation. You can also take snorkeling or diving tours to Lanai (and Molokai?) if you like.

BTW - getting around the islands is really pretty easy as the airports are small and you really only have to be there about half an hour early. In fact - if you want to see another island - which you can even decide to do once you are over there - you can even do it on a day trip over and back (or an overnight with a carry on day pack) - rent a car and zip around a bit for future reference. Nothing is more beautiful than the North Shore of Kauai if you decide to do a bit more exploring.

kanunu Jan 24th, 2012 07:45 PM

Sorry, I have to disagree with Tomsd on transportation on Lanai. Four Seasons runs a pretty decent shuttle service, which non-4S guests can also use, and the cost is not unreasonable. It runs to/from the hotels, to Lanai City, the golf courses and the ferry, and the schedule isn't bad, considering the relatively limited population.
Lanai and Molokai provide a real change of pace from the major islands, and if you want beautiful, secluded beaches, they have them!

utahtea Jan 25th, 2012 12:47 AM

Thanks Tomsd & kanunu,

I was thinking that the ferry ride itself might be a way to see the islands from the water. I'm not opposed to doing a boat tour.

Island hoping by air is not something DH is going to want to do :( I'm lucky to get him from the mainland to the islands! ;)


Tropics Jan 25th, 2012 08:55 AM

You may want to look into a Hawaii cruise where you'll be visiting several islands. The price may seem expensive but all meals are included, entertainment included, get to see majority of the islands without expensive airline tickets and moving to different hotels. Drawbacks is that your cabin is small compared to a hotel room, possible seasickness but you can get a patch from your doctor and it's good for the entire trip or you can take motion sickness meds; but you shouldn't have a problem. Have fun.

utahtea Jan 25th, 2012 10:36 AM


DH really wanted to do a cruise to Hawaii. Problem is the ones that start on the mainland are 15 days. That's 5 days to get there, ONLY 4 days in Hawaii, then 5 days to get back and on day in Mexico. (Something about having to go to a foreign port). There are some really good prices on this, but I want more than just 4 days in Hawaii! We like cruises, but 10 days at sea would get boring to me.

There is a 7 day cruise around the Hawaii Islands, but you still have to fly there and home. I could easily spend three weeks for the cost of the 7 days cruise. Another problem with the cruise is you have to pay for excursions to really see anything on land.


Placename Jan 25th, 2012 10:48 AM

If you have two weeks, I would chose two islands to spend 7 nights on, each. You could do a day trip to Lanai from Maui, but you may find there is enough to do without the day trip. I wouldn't try to do Lanai and Molokai if this is your first visit to Hawaii and you only have 14 nights.

The 7-day NCL cruise is another option. Yes, you will have to pay one way or another for excursions, whether you book them through the company or rent a car yourself. Personally, I don't like the idea of a cruise, as you miss so much that is the relaxing lovely time of being on the islands, including being able to walk on the beaches and be in the water most any time you want.

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