Half-price Honeymoons in Hulaland

Using resorts that insiders cherish, you can enjoy that famous nuptial interlude in a better Hawaiian setting, yet for far less than others pay--for as little, in fact, as under $100 a day

By Jeanette Foster, Thursday, Jul 15, 2004, 12:00 AM

The cost of a Hawaiian honeymoon can be something fierce, and the cost of a so-called "honeymoon package" can be even worse. Created by mass volume marketers, people with calculators for hearts, they often include none of the elements for which you've traveled to Hawaii--the dreamy, palm-fringed lagoons, the quiet settings in which an ocean breeze is the only sound, the soft murmur of aloha music in the distance.

Rejecting their cookie-cutter wares in favor of the more intimate and often little-known hotels, you can enjoy the most memorable stay of your life for a lodging cost that starts at well under $100 a day per room.

From many years of viewing and inspecting Hawaiian resorts, I've selected 15 exciting resort properties that fall into three low-price categories: five charging under $100 a night for a double room, five more charging under $125 a night for the same, and a final five charging under $150 a night. (Included in that last grouping is one hotel charging $155 a night, but it includes a car in the deal; moreover, it will reduce the price to $125 a night if one of you is a member of AAA.) My picks, you'll want to know, are not only easy on your wallet, but feature such amenities as sweet smelling, exotic gardens, swimming pools (half are located right on the ocean), panoramic views, and other Hawaiian memories that will linger in your mind long after your tan has faded.

Once you pick the property that suits you, plan to spend at least seven nights there; most of them will grant a ten percent discount if you do, and you will have more time to enjoy the island without the hassle of packing/unpacking and checking-in/checking-out. Don't even think about flying from one island to another unless you are staying in Hawaii for more than seven days; otherwise your honeymoon will be spent in not-so-much-fun airport terminals. Finally, although you obviously won't be scheduling your wedding and honeymoon to match the short Hawaii "low season" (Apr 1 to Memorial Day and again from Labor Day to Dec 15), you'll generally pay even less for both your airfare and room if you travel at that time.

Except in the case of seven resorts where breakfast is included in the price, the rates I quote do not include meals. And now, with limits of either $100, $125 or $150 per room per night, here are Hawaii's "secret bargain resorts" for memorable honeymoons:

Resorts charging less than $100 a night per couple

Kona Tiki Hotel, 75-5968 Aln Dr., Kailua-Kona, Big Island, tel. 808/329-1425, fax 808/327-9402. Oceanside boutique hotel of 15 rooms. Rates $59 double, or $79 double with kitchenette (including continental breakfast).

This is the Hawaii honeymoon spot of your dreams: located right on the water, yet away from the more urban area of downtown Kailua-Kona, and surrounded by landscaped gardens; it serves up a big free breakfast in the sunshine every morning and a pool and lounge area oceanside. The tropically decorated rooms all have queen beds, ceiling fans, mini-fridges, and balconies overlooking the ocean. Although it's called a hotel, this small, family-run operation is more like a large B&B, with lots of aloha and plenty of friendly conversation around the pool at the morning breakfast buffet. There are no TV or phones in the rooms, but there's a pay phone in the lobby. If a kitchenette is available, grab it; you'll save you a bundle in food costs. This is one of Hawaii's best travel bargains-book early.

Hawaiiana Hotel, 260 Beach Walk, Waikiki, tel. 800/367-5122 or 808/923-3811, fax 808/926-5728, hawaiianahotelatwaikiki.com. A small hotel of 93 rooms with kitchenettes. Rates: $95-$105, weekly discounts ($420-$480/week).

For honeymooners seeking the spirit of old Hawaii, this low-rise boutique hotel, just a block from the famous Waikiki Beach and tucked away on a small side street, is a perfect choice. Lush tropical flowers and a carved tiki greet you at the entrance, a welcoming glass of ice-cold pineapple juice is served at check-in, and every morning, complimentary Kona coffee awaits you poolside. The concrete hollow-tiled rooms feature a kitchenette (small refrigerator, microwave, toaster oven, and coffeemaker), two beds (a double and a single or a queen plus sofa bed), TV, phone, and a view of the gardens and two swimming pools. Hawaiian entertainment is featured every week and the hotel is within walking distance of Waikiki shopping, restaurants, and nightlife.

The Breakers, 250 Beach Walk, Waikiki, tel. 800/426-0494 or 808/923-3181, fax 808/923-7174, breakers-hawaii.com. 64 rooms. Rates: $94-$100.

One of Waikiki's best kept secrets is this two-story hotel, just a short three-minute walk from Waikiki Beach. The six-building property centers around a pool and tropical garden blooming with scarlet red and sunrise-yellow hibiscus. The slightly oversized rooms are all air-conditioned and feature shoji doors, wooden jalousie windows, a balcony, and kitchenettes with two-burner stove, toaster, and fridge plus an iron, safe, TV, and phone. The poolside bar and grill serves cocktails and lunch on weekdays.

Aston Coconut Plaza, 450 Lewers St., Waikiki, tel. 800/92-ASTON or 808/923-8828, fax 808/923-3473, aston-hotels.com. 80 rooms. Rates: $75-$110, including a free continental breakfast for two.

Facing the Ala Wai canal and lush, green mountains, this small hotel offers honeymooners airy, island-style rooms, free breakfast, and lots of privacy at an affordable price. Recently renovated, the rooms have a tropical plantation atmosphere, with terra-cotta tile, rattan furniture, private balconies, TV, phones, ceramic-tile bathtubs, and daily maid service. The majority of the rooms have kitchenettes with small refrigerators, microwave, countertop two-burner stove, coffeemaker, and cooking utensils. Most of the rooms have views of the Ala Wai Canal and the mountains, but if you prefer quiet, ask for a cityview room. There's also a tiny outdoor pool with a sundeck, and our only caveat is that the beach is four long blocks (about a 10-15 minute walk) away.

Hotel Coral Reef, 1516 Kuhio Hwy., Kapaa, Kauai, tel. 800/843-4659 or 808/822-7705, hshawaii.com/vacplanner/kvp/clients/coral/index.html. Small 24-room hotel. Rates: $59-$65 per double, including continental breakfast for two.

Care to spend your honeymoon on Kauai in a romantic location with swaying palm trees and a white sand beach, yet in a reasonably priced property whose costs permit you to enjoy a full week's stay? This is the place. One of Hawaii's best travel bargains, this economical hotel, nestled in Kapaa, along the Coconut Coast, sits on one of the island's best swimming and snorkeling beaches and is within walking distance of restaurants, shopping, and activities. Both buildings have comfortable rooms for your honeymoon, especially in the oceanfront building ($79 for a two-room suite and $89 for oceanfront) with sliding glass doors that step out on to the grassy lawn that leads to the beach.

Resorts charging less than $125 a night per couple

Royal Kuhio, 2240 Kuhio Ave., Waikiki, contact Paradise Mgmt., 50 S. Beretania St., Suite C207, Honolulu, HI 96813, tel. 808/538-7145, fax 808/533-7149. A high-rise condominium of 389 units. Rates: $125, occasionally $150 double for one-bedroom units.

For honeymooners wanting more space (a separate bedroom), cooking options (a full-sized kitchen) and other apartment amenities (private balcony, TV, phone), this is one of the best budget deals in Waikiki. All the units in this high-rise condo are privately owned, and Paradise Management seems to have selected the best units for rental at the best prices. The complex has a pool, exercise room, sauna, self-service laundromat, sundeck, billiards, basketball court, shuffleboard, even a putting green. It's a short, ten-minute, two-block walk to Waikiki Beach, and within walking distance of restaurants, shopping, and activities. Also, it's one of the few places in Waikiki where parking is free.

Kona Magic Sands, 77-6452 Alii Dr., Kailua-Kona, Big Island, reservations c/o Hawaii Resort Management, P.O. Box 39, Kailua-Kona, HI 96745, tel. 800/622-5348 or 808/329-3333, fax 808/326-4137, konahawaii.com. Condominium with 37 units. Rates: $95 low season, $125 high season.

If your dream honeymoon is to stay directly on the oceanfront and be lulled to sleep by the rolling surf, yet your budget calls for more frugal accommodations, this is the place for you. These older studio units may not be luxurious or large, but they are unusually cozy, consisting of one long, narrow room with a small kitchen at one end and a breathtaking view of the ocean at the other, with a living room/bedroom combo in between. Other pluses include: oceanfront pool, an excellent seafood restaurant (Jameson's by the Sea) on the ground floor of the complex, and two beach parks on either side of the property.

Kaleialoha, 3785 Lower Honoapnlani Rd., Honokowai, Maui, tel. 800/222-8688 or 808/669-8197, fax 808/669-2502, mauicondosoceanfront.com. Small condominium with 26 one-bedroom units. Rates: $105-$115, a ten percent reduction given for stays of seven days or more from Apr 30 to Dec 15.

North of Lahaina, in a small quiet community of Honokowai, lies this oceanfront budget condo, recently upgraded, with new paint, bedspreads, and drapes in each unit. The island-style one-bedroom units feature an ocean view and fully equipped kitchens, with everything from dishwashers to washers and dryers; some units of this low-cost property even have air-conditioning. The complex has a heated pool, and there's very safe ocean swimming just off the rock wall (no sandy beach). Restaurants and shops are in the neighborhood and Lahaina is just a ten-minute drive away.

Napili Sunset, 46 Hui Dr., in Lahaina, Maui, tel. 800/447-9229 or 808/669-8083, fax 808/669-2730, napilisunset.com. 42 condominium units. Rates: $105 studio low season, $120 high (check Web site for specials).

Honeymooners: these plain two-story structures may not look like much from the outside, but looks can be deceiving. Overlooking one of Maui's finest beaches, these clean, older, but well-maintained units offer a great location, bargain prices, and very efficient accommodations. The studio units are all located in a building off the beach and a few steps up a slight hill; centered around a swimming pool, they're good-sized, with complete kitchens (including a dishwasher), a sofa bed, a queen Murphy bed, extra large bathrooms, balconies, ceiling fans, and daily maid service. Just a five-minute drive to the activities at Kapalua Resort or a 15-minute drive to Lahaina.

Noelani Condominium Resort, 4095-L Lower Honoapnlani Rd., Lahaina, Maui, tel. 800/367-6030 or 808/669-8374, fax 808/669-7904, noelani-condo-resort.com. 45 unit condominium. Rates are $107/studio low season, $127 high, and include continental breakfast on first morning (check Web site for specials).

This first-class oceanfront condo is a deal. Located north of Lahaina (about a 10-15-minute drive), this top-notch property has received AAA's three-diamond designation. All units are beautifully decorated and have full kitchens, entertainment centers, and spectacular views (watch for spinner dolphins and turtles in the summer and humpback whales in winter). There are two freshwater swimming pools (one heated for night swimming) and an oceanfront Jacuzzi. Guests are invited to a continental breakfast orientation on their first day and weekly mai tai parties at night. Next door is a sandy cove beach park, great for swimming and snorkeling.

Resorts charging less than $150 a night per couple

The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel, 2863 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki, tel. 800/356-8264 or 808/923-1555, fax 808/922-9404, kaimana.com. Small oceanfront hotel with 125 units. Rates: $140-$184.

This boutique property presents a different face of Waikiki: a quiet, isolated stretch of white sand beach at the foot of Diamond Head, with Kapiolani Park just across the street, about a mile from the hubbub of Waikiki, and thus far enough away for lovers to nestle in peace and quiet. Most of the budget rooms are small but tastefully decorated in pale pastels with balconies providing ocean and park views. Because the hotel overlooks Kapiolani Park, honeymooners will have easy access to all the activities there, plus kayaking and snorkeling at the beach. The airy lobby opens onto the alfresco Hau Tree Lanai, a charming beachfront restaurant with adjoining Sunset Lanai Bar.

Manoa Valley Inn, 2001 Vancouver Dr., Honolulu, tel. 808/947-6019, fax 808/946-6168, manoa-valleyinn.com. Tiny eight room hotel. Rates: $99 with shared bath, and $140-$150 double with private bath, ten percent discount for seven nights. Parking is free as are local phone calls and Continental breakfast is included.

Here you can spend your honeymoon exactly as dignified, demanding vacationers did near the turn of the century, in a historic 1919 Carpenter-Gothic home, located near the University of Hawaii (a 5-minute drive from Waikiki Beach). A genteel ambiance pervades throughout, helped along by the Victorian decor (antique and period pieces along with old-fashioned flowered-print wallpaper) and the peace and quiet of the neighborhood. Guests gather on the verandah to play chess or other board games, or have a turn playing croquet in the backyard. The budget rooms, which all share a full bath, are just as exquisitely turned out in antiques as the more expensive rooms with private bath.

Holualoa Inn, 76-5932 Mamalahoa Hwy., Holualoa, Big Island of Hawaii, tel. 800/392-1812 or 808/324-1121, fax 808/322-2472, holualoa-inn.com Small inn with six units. Rates: $175-$225, 15 percent discount for seven nights, and rates include full breakfast and sunset pupu platter.

This Hawaiian inn, located on 40 pastoral acres in the secluded, artsy village of Holualoa, on the slope at 1,350 feet above Kailua-Kona is one of Hawaii's most romantic places for a honeymoon. Impeccably decorated suites overlook the garden Jacuzzi, pool, and coffee plantation (source of the morning brew). Great honeymoon amenities include a gas grill for a romantic dinner next to the pool, a telescope for star-gazing, and a billiard table. It's a 15-minute drive down the hill to busy Kailua-Kona and about 20 minutes to the beach, but the on-property pool is itself a compelling option and has a stunning view of the Kailua-Kona coastline.

The Plantation Inn, 174 Lahainaluna Rd., Lahaina, Maui, tel. 800/433-6815 or 808/667-9225, fax 808/667-9293, theplantationinn.com. Boutique inn with 19 units. Rates: $157-$250, ten percent discount for seven nights, including breakfast for two.

Romance is in the air at this charming Victorian-style inn (which looks like it was built at the turn of the century, but is actually 1990s vintage). Cupid couldn't have designed lovelier rooms, artfully done with period furniture, hardwood floors, stained glass, ceiling fans, and four-poster canopy beds and armoires in some rooms and brass beds and wicker in others. All come equipped with soundproofing (a plus in Lahaina), TV, VCR, fridge, private bathroom, and some have large balconies. The rooms overlook the large pool and deck. Also on the property are a spa and an excellent French restaurant (hotel guests get a discount on dinner). Gourmet breakfast is served around the pool and elegantly decorated pavilion lounge.

Maui Coast Hotel, 2259 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, Maui, tel. 800/426-0670 or 808/874-6284, fax 808/875-4731, mauicoasthotel.com. Mid-sized hotel with 265 units. Rates: $165-$195 (includes a car).

For the newly married who seek the sunny beaches of Maui, but who can't afford the expense of a Wailea beach resort, this off-the-beach mid-rise is one of the rare moderately priced hotels in the neighboring community of Kihei. Not only is this hotel centrally located, about a block from Kamaole Beach Park, but there are plenty of activities, restaurants, and shopping within walking distance. We've included this hotel, even though it's over our $150 limit, because the $175 room includes a car and the value offered is outstanding. A $2.5 million renovation of all the rooms plus the remodeled public areas (lobby, pool, restaurant, bar) has turned this once moderately priced property into a semi-luxury place for honeymooners (not the Four Seasons, but for the money a terrific deal). The rooms offer extras such as sitting areas, coffeemakers with free coffee, air-conditioning, hair-dryers, mini-fridges, safes, ceiling fans, and private balconies. There's a restaurant next door, 7 a.m.-9 p.m. room service, and a poolside bar with nightly entertainment. Additional amenities include heated pool, two Jacuzzis, and tennis courts

Should you book a honeymoon "package"?

Nearly every hotel, resort, and condominium in Hawaii, including the ones listed in this article, offers a "honeymoon package." Read the small print and do the math before you book. Generally the "honeymoon packages" do not actually save you money, and you can reproduce the amenities of those colorful, gussied-up offers yourself at a much lower cost. Most "honeymoon packages" consist of a couple of flowered leis (which you can purchase yourself for $5 each), a bottle of champagne delivered to your room (even a good vintage goes for well under $50), and perhaps a breakfast or dinner in the privacy of your room (eat in a restaurant and save the cash).