Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuesdays Travels: Hawaii

Ah...Paradise! If you had asked me about Hawaii a few years ago, I would have told you all about how much I hated it. When I was about 8 my parents took us there, and I spent the whole week with a fever, either in bed or in a cold bath (to try to lower the fever).  I blamed Hawaii and it's heat for the sickness and swore never to go there. When Wes suggested it as a honeymoon option I shot it down right away!

Well, about 3 1/2 years ago during medical school, Wes had an awesome opportunity to do a rotation on the Big Island for a month, and at the end of that month, he was interviewing for a residency in Honolulu. At the time our son Army was only a few months old. I was not going to go, but Wes convinced me to meet him there (in Hawaii) for the last week. I dropped the older kids off with their grandparents in Utah and baby A and I headed out on our long flight to The big island of Hawaii, then with Wes on to Oahu.  And boy did I change my mind about Hawaii. It is paradise after all!! I cannot wait to go back sometime!

I will try to always use the following categories in my Tuesdays Travels series, and to read my overview of money saving travel trips, read this post:

  • General Information
  • Getting there 
  • Accommodations 
  • Transportation 
  • Food
  • Attractions and activities
  • Shopping
General Information

Hawaii is made up of many islands, but 8 main ones: Niʻihau, Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, Kahoʻolawe, Maui, and Hawaiʻi. Of those islands, I have only ever been to O'ahu & Hawai'i.  The largest Island is Hawai'i which is why it is often called The Big Island.  I think the most popular islands to visit are O'ahu, Maui, Kauaʻi & Hawai'i, though I hear all are amazingly beautiful.  The biggest cities are Honolulu on O'ahu, Hilo on the big Island, and Lahaina on Maui.

Hawaii has a very interesting history and background and there are many interesting beliefs about the land and how it came to be.  If you go to The Big Island, go to the 'Imiloa Astronomy Center and watch the show. It gives a very interesting take on Hawaii and is a non-traditional Planetarium show. Other than to suggest that, I am not going to go into more about Hawaii's history or land.

Hawaii's off-seasons are usually April-June and September-November. If you travel in the off season, everything tends to be cheaper!

And while we are talking discounts, can I bring up a couple great discount ideas. The first (and my favorite-I think this is a GREAT idea), is to purchase the Hawaii Entertainment book. If you go here you can actually get this year's book for only $15 right now, but be aware that they expire in November. Please see this post about a way to possibly get this free or close to free.

The other discount is a card called the Oahu card or the Maui Card. Of course which one you need depends on which island you are visiting. One of my mom's best friends moved to Oahu about a year ago, and she told mom about this card. I just looked at the cards using the links above, and at first glance, they look pretty pricey, but look through the site and see how it can save you money. Worth looking into as you plan your trip.

Getting There

As Hawaii is made of islands, there are really only 2 ways to get there, air or sea.  Wes and I were just reading about a cruise that goes from Seattle to Hawaii or from Vancouver to Hawaii, and we will consider that next time we travel, but it is pretty pricey. 

I think flying will be your best bet to get to Hawaii.  Here are a few things to remember when booking your flight.  First and foremost, make sure to follow my advice from the Tuesdays Travels: Overview post, and start looking early, plan ahead, and check out multiple sites to find the best deals.  When Wes and I were going to Hawaii, Wes was flying out of Omaha and I was going later and flying out of Salt Lake City.  We found that it made a big difference in price where we were flying from.  At one point, we realized it would have been cheaper for us to fly to LA, San Francisco, or Seattle, THEN fly out to Hawaii from there.  In fact, I ended up doing just that with my baby. We bought a flight to San Francisco, then a flight from there to Hilo, Hawaii, and it was cheaper than booking from Salt Lake City to Hilo, Hawaii.

I do not know where the cheap flights are right now, but be willing to do some research and see if you can get a better deal by flying out of a different airport.

Also, Hawaiian flights go on sale often because it is such a popular destination, so start watching for airfares early! One website I LOVE and somehow forgot to mention in my overview is Trip Advisor. It is actually probably my favorite place to search for flights because you can search there and it will search the other travel sites as well, then it will let you set up to have travel/airfare alerts emailed to you for when that trip gets cheaper.  It will watch the airfares for you and send you air watch alerts.  If you go here you can see where I searched for fares from Omaha to Hilo and on the left side it has a button called "get fare alerts".  Once I click on that and set it up, they will send me air watch alerts for when that price drops/changes. I LOVE that!! Cheapest flights come right to my email! It is awesome, and you can do it for any fare you want to!


I do not have much new to say here. I just searched the travel websites for the best hotels when we went there. I actually did not get a hotel in Hilo as my husband had housing provided for his rotation, and we stayed there (heaven!). 

In Honolulu, I used Expedia and got a GREAT deal. We ended up on the shore of Waikiki in a really nice hotel (with a small fridge) for a very reasonable price (reasonable for Hawaii-I think it was about $70/night).  But we did have to pay for parking because we had rented a car. So again-beware of the parking costs if you rent a car!

Please check the area of your hotel before you book and make sure you get a good deal for a quality product-no need to stay in a scary seedy motel just so save money. Do your homework about the hotel and the location and make sure you are ok with it before you book. If you are booking on a site where you cannot pick the exact hotel to get the best deal, make sure you pick a "star" rating level and area you are comfortable with.

When searching for a hotel, look for condos or hotels with at least a fridge if not a whole kitchen.  It can save tons in Hawaii to have a place to store and warm up your own food!


Well, transportation has some special considerations in Hawaii. One is how to travel between islands, the other is whether to rent a car on the islands. 

Lets talk about getting between islands first. I just discovered a great resource called WikiTravel and according to their very useful Hawaii page, there are Six inter-island airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, MarJet Hawaii (private jets), Mokulele Airlines, Island Air, Pacific Wings, and go! (a subsidiary of Mesa Air).

There is a possibility to charter a boat between islands, but it is not done a whole lot and is quite expensive. Generally flying is the easiest and cheapest way, and now that there are so many airline options to compete for the customers, the prices are lower than they were in the past. (I just looked up prices and it looks like you could get deals from $60-80 between islands overall for the dates in June I searched.)

As far as car rentals are concerned, I have read many places recommending you do not rent a car as gas and parking are so expensive, and there are buses to get around.  I liked having a car in Oahu. It was convenient and we loved driving around the island.  On the Big Island, we did not have a car and I felt like I was stuck relying on the doctors we knew there to get anywhere.  I wished I had a car there.  Look at your schedule of events and decide whether you really need a car.

If you do rent a car, only rent one for the days you know you will need/want to drive, and make sure to reserve your car in advance.  Plan ahead! :)  (Do I sound like a broken record yet?)


If you have read previous Tuesdays Travels posts, you know I am a proponent of buying food at grocery stores for most meals on vacation, along with planning on a few meals out. I found this great article on how to live in Hawaii, and it suggested grocery shopping at Safeway, Star Market or Foodland for food and produce, as it is the cheapest.

And I had a friend mention to me that she saves up her coupons and coupons at the grocery stores in Hawaii to save even more! Nice tip and great way to flex those couponing muscles!! Check all prices before you put anything in your cart as things you would not expect to be expensive often are in Hawaii. Really watch what you buy at the Grocery store!

If you are looking for inexpensive places to eat out in Hawaii, see this article called 5 places to eat for cheap in Hawaii" and this article called "Cheap Eats in Hawaii"

Attractions and Activities

There are literally thousands to choose from. Since I have no clue what you will be interested in, can I recommend that you find a travel guide for whichever island you are visiting, go through it and pick the things you really want to do. You cannot do it all! Pick your favorites, then start looking for discounts online, in the travel books, from other websites. Ask at your hotel for discounted deals-they often have discounts available if you ask. And when your flight lands in Hawaii, look for brochures in the airport, and in your hotel. They often include coupons or discounts!!

Here are a few lists from me.

Choose from these "Must see/do" for first timers (I will separate by island)

Obviously the beaches are must see's/do's on all the islands! Please see this list from Best Places Hawaii of the 10 best Hawaiian beaches.  It is a pretty good list and instead of retyping it, I will just refer you there!

  • Pearl Harbor
  • USS Arizona Memorial
  • Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve (good snorkeling)
  • The Polynesian Cultural center
  • Diamond Head State Park
  • North Shore
  • Waikiki Beach
  • Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden/ Waimea Falls
  • Iolani Palace
  • Turtle Bay Resort Beach (my sister LOVES it there)
  • Honolulu Zoo
  • On a Personal obsession note, I am addicted to the show "Lost" on ABC, and would LOVE to go check out the places on Oahu where it was filmed.  There is a GREAT site I found that tells (and shows) you many of the locations over at about.com. Go check it out here.
  • Hawaii Volcanos National Park
  • Mauna Kea Observatory
  • Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park
  • Rainbow Falls/ Wailuku River State Park
  • Panaewa Rainforest Zoo
  • Akaka Falls
  • Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
  • Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii in Hilo
  • Kona & Hilo
  • Haleakala National Park
  • Waimoku Falls
  • Hana Highway
  • Lahaina
  • Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge
  • Waimea Canyon
  • Na Pali Coast
  • Wailua Falls
  • Hanakapiai Falls
  • Iraivan Temple
  • Hanalei Bay
*As I have never been to Kauai or Maui, these locations came from Internet searching and friends recommendations. Please see this website of must see/do activities in Hawaii from Hawaii Guide, and this article from bestplacehawaii.com

How to get discounts on some on the attractions that cost:
  • Purchase the Hawaii Entertainment book. If you go here you can actually get this year's book for only $15 right now, but be aware that they expire in November. Please see this post about a way to possibly get this free or close to free.
  • Purchase the Oahu card or the Maui Card. Of course which one you need depends on which island you are visiting.
Free Attractions (My FAVORITE!!)

  • Diamond Head, Oahu
  • USS Arizona Memorial Tour, Oahu
  • Nuuanu Pali Lookout, Oahu
  • Many of the Beaches
  • Kalaupapa National Historical Park, Molokai
  • Ke'anae Arboretum, Maui
  • Kokee Natural History Museum, Kauai
  • Waimea Canyon, Kauai
  • International Marketplace in Waikiki
  • The Aloha Stadium Swap Meet is held Saturdays and Sundays. Aloha Stadium is located right near the USS Arizona Memorial Visitors Center This is by far my favorite place to go to shop and get souvenirs in Hawaii. It is cheap and SO Hawaii! I had a blast here!

These are just the things I have learned in my research and my own limited experience in Hawaii. I am not the definitive Hawaii expert by any means. Please feel free to add your own tips and tricks to this and feel free to ask me any questions you might have.  I will do my best to find the answers!

**The picture above was taken by Wes. It is me on the deck of our hotel on Waikiki Beach.