TRANSCRIPT

Trip Coach: November 25, 2008

Sheila Beal, editor of GoVisitHawaii.com, answered your questions on Hawaii.

By , Tuesday, Nov 25, 2008, 12:34 PM

Sheila Beal: Aloha fellow Hawaii travelers. I'm Sheila Beal, the editor of Go Visit Hawaii and I'm a big Hawaii travel enthusiast! I'm excited to be here with you today because I really want to help you make the most of your Hawaii vacation. So, let's get started with answering your questions.

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Acworth, Ga.: When is the best time to book a resort, and how much lead time should I allow to begin planning my trip?

Sheila Beal: Aloha Acworth, Georgia–Let's answer your question about when is the best time to book a resort in Hawaii first. To get the best rates and fares, try to avoid holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.

Generally, you'll find the best weather combined with the best hotel rates in the months of April, May, September (after Labor Day), and October.

I should mention that with the economy being a bit topsy-turvy at the moment, that some of the typical cost patterns we normally see are thrown out the window. For example, January, February and March are typically in the high (cost) season, but I'm seeing some pretty enticing deals for those months.

As for your question about how much lead time for planning your trip, if this is your first trip, you

might want to allow two weeks to a month for your planning. Here's a link to the steps I normally take when I plan my own vacations to Hawaii.

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Arlington, Va.: My husband and I are expecting our first baby in July, and would like to take a vacation—our last alone together for awhile!—in March or April. Hawaii is high on the list of possible destinations. We're normally very active and adventurous, though I'll need to take it a bit easier than normal at that point. What Hawaii destinations and activities would you most recommend for us at this special time? (As a side note, we don't scuba dive or surf.) Many thanks!

Sheila Beal: Hi Arlington—Congratulations on expecting your first baby! Here are my thoughts on where to go for a pre-baby retreat in Hawaii in March or April:
- I think both Maui and Kauai have an abundance of great scenery and allow you to be as relaxed or as active as you want. In March and April, I'd recommend that you try to stay towards the drier, southern end of either Maui or Kauai to avoid rain.
- Ko'Olina resort area on the southwest side of Oahu might be a good fit as well. Oahu has more museums than any other island.

As far as activities beyond the excellent sight-seeing, I'm sure you'll probably want to be careful with the little one on the way. With that in mind, consider a luau, whale watching (from the shore, Maui is a particularly good island for whale watching), star gazing, and spa treatments (Hawaii has world class spas).

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Boston, Mass.: What is the best (and worst) time of day to visit the USS Arizona site?

Sheila Beal: Aloha Boston–Aim to visit the USS Arizona very soon after it opens at 7:30am to avoid crowds and reduce/prevent your waiting time. For that very reason, I'd also avoid late afternoon arrivals. The National Park Service's Web site has quite a bit of useful information about planning your visit. I do recommend that you check it out and particularly note the strict security guidelines.

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Dunellen, N.J.: My husband and I will be traveling to Hawaii for 10 days next September/October. We are in our late 20s and are more budget/adventure-oriented travelers, though we are willing to splurge on this trip a bit because it will be our five-year wedding anniversary. We plan to spend some time on the beach, but we would also like to do plenty of activities like hiking. How many islands should we try to cover, and which ones? I am leaning towards Maui, Oahu and Kauai, but I feel like that may be too much. Please advise.

Sheila Beal: Hello Dunellen, NJ–Your question is a very good one and I think you are on the right track in feeling that three islands in 10 days may be a bit much. My advice is to pick two islands to reduce your transit time and get the most out of your vacation. Now the next challenge is picking two out of the three that you've selected. That is a challenge, indeed! You can't go wrong with any of them. If you love hiking, I definitely recommend that you keep Kauai in your plans. I love hiking too, and Kauai is one of my favorites for hiking. Now the tough part is choosing between Oahu and Maui. Again, you can't go wrong. It's really a toss up. Maui is less built up than Oahu, but Oahu has quite a bit of budget friendly things to do. I suggest that you have a look at the island visitor bureaus Web sites and order their free vacation guides and see if that helps you narrow down your selection. Here are links to their sites:

Kauai Visitors Bureau
Oahu Visitors Bureau
Maui Visitors Bureau

Another tool that might help you decide is that Blue Hawaiian Helicopters has a very nice series of virtual helicopter tours online. You'll be able to virtually visit the islands and compare them and see what catches your eye. You can access all their virtual tours from here

I hope this helps. Good luck in choosing your islands. Remember that you can't make a bad choice and chances are you'll fall in love with Hawaii and return to the other islands in the future.

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Burnet, Tex.: My husband and I are planning to visit Hawaii in April 2009 and are looking for an escorted land tour. The only one I have found on line is Perillo Tours. Is there another company there operating land tours?

Sheila Beal: Hi Burnet, Texas - Here are some companys that offer guided tours:

Roberts Hawaii

Polynesian Adventures

Discover Hawaii Tours

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Mount Prospect, Ill.: We are planning a trip to Hawaii next fall. My most difficult decision is what island--the Big Island, or Maui? Also, Resort or smaller hotel/condo development? Thanks

Sheila Beal: Aloha Mount Prospect–I can completely relate to the difficult task of deciding which island to visit. Even as many times as I have been to Hawaii, I still have trouble deciding among all the good choices. You can make a bad decision between Maui and the Big Island. They both have great scenery and activities to offer. Here's what I especially like about both:
Big Island
- The active lava flow is here and if you are lucky enough to see it flowing at night, it is absolutely spectacular. Bear in mind that there are no guarantees that the lava will still be flowing next fall.
- The Big Island has more diversity of terrain and climates.
- You can practically have two different vacations here on the same island. For first time visitors to the Big Island, I recommend at least couple of nights stay in Hilo or Volcano for exploring the lava activity and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Then, I recommend another 4 or more days on the Kohala Coast.

Maui
- The road to Hana is quite possibly the most beautiful drive in the world.
- Catching sunrise from the top of Haleakala (10,000 feet above sea level) is really a memorable experience.

As far as where to stay, I quite like the Waikoloa Beach Resort on the Big Island. The resort has a couple of hotels, several condo communities, golf courses, shops and restaurants all within walking distance. On Maui, the Kaanapali Beach Resort is similar, but with more hotels. If you decide on Kaanapali, I recommend staying towards the central or northern end of the resort where the beach is wider. Kapalua resort area is quite nice on Maui and a bit more quiet. The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua is out of my vacation budget, but I have stayed in the Kapalau condos which are more economical, plus some give you resort benefits including the use of the beautiful Ritz-Carlton Kapalua cascading pool.

I hope these thoughts help in your decision making. You'll enjoy Hawaii no matter which island you choose!

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Chicago, Ill.: I am traveling to Hawaii for the first time in February. During my week-long trip, would you suggest staying and exploring one island or trying to see two or three?

Sheila Beal: Aloha Chicago–I'm sure Hawaii will come as a welcomed warm respite from Chicago's cold weather in February! If you are going for a week, I recommend you just choose one island. There are two main reasons for this advice. First, there is more than enough to see and do on each island to fill a week. (Note: Lanai and Molokai might be slight exceptions to this rule depending on how active you like to be on vacation.) The other reason is that you lose quite a bit of time in packing, checking out of the hotel, flying or taking a ferry to another island, and checking into another hotel, which can quickly eat quite a chunk out of your valuable vacation time.

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Chicago, Ill.: Which island is the least touristy?

Sheila Beal: Molokai is the least touristy, in fact, there's only one hotel on the entire island. If I had to choose the least touristy of the others, I'd choose Kauai.

One aspect I really like about Hawaii in general, is that you can go sight-seeing and on hikes and sometimes feel like you have the the place all to yourself.

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Leavenworth, Kans.: Where is the cheapest place (from the mainland) to fly to Hawaii? Which airlines give the best deals?

Sheila Beal: Hello Leavenworth, Kansas–The cheapest fares I generally see are from Los Angeles (LAX). In fact, at the moment, Hawaiian Airlines has a deal for $223 round-trip plus taxes and fees from LAX to HNL (Honolulu).

Sometimes there are airfare wars that defy logic. For example last summer there was a fare ware on and for a brief period of time, you could get round-trip tickets for under $300 from Charlotte, NC.

One of the best weapons for finding cheap airfare is to sign up for custom e-mail alerts from sites like
Kayak.com, Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, Orbitz.com, etc. Some airlines will also offer e-mail alerts, too.

Good luck in finding an excellent fare to Hawaii!

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Ann Arbor, Mich.: We'll be traveling to the Big Island over the last week in December, staying in Kapoho (near Hilo). Will restaurants be open then? If so, are there any family-oriented restaurants (we'll be 7 people, from age 6 to mid-60s) that you would recommend? Anything good to do for New Year's Eve in Hilo? Thank you!

Sheila Beal: Hi Ann Arbor–You are wise to wonder about restaurants being open around the Holidays. Most restaurants in hotels will be open, others will be hit or miss. If you have a particular restaurant in mind, do call them in advance. For breakfast and brunch, Ken's House of Pancakes advertises to be open 365 days per year.

As far as anything special to do for New Year's Eve, I checked with the helpful Big Island Visitors Bureau and they aren't aware of special event (like fireworks) for the evening. One activity that I might suggest is to go see some of nature's fireworks, e.g., the active lava flow into the ocean near Kalapana. It's not a very difficult or far hike to see the lava flow and it is roped off so that you don't get too close to danger. I called the folks who manage the lava viewing site to see if the viewing point would be open for the holidays. They said that baring any wind issues, they do plan to keep the lava viewing point open every day. You do need to be prepared, so see my tips for watching the lava flow.

Enjoy your holiday time in Kapoho!

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Richmond, Va.: We are doing a 7 day cruise of the Hawaiin Islands with several other couples all in our 50-60's with no children. We will be there in September 2009. None of us have ever been there before. What are the must do's? We will be in the usual places that the cruise ships stop.

Sheila Beal: Hi Richmond–I like to direct people to what makes each island special and to the most beautiful scenery. For example, I don't want people to miss Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Parks on Kauai or the amazing Waipio Valley on the Big Island. I actually wrote a series of articles on what I would see and do with only one day on each of the islands. You can access each of the articles from this post The good news is that with the exception of renting a car, the scenery is free!

Enjoy your cruise of Hawaii!

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Denver, Colo.: My mom loved Maui, and I would like to spread her ashes there. Are there laws which regulate this? And where would be a good place to let her loose?

Sheila Beal: Aloha Denver, Colorado–I'm sorry for your loss. Maui is a lovely resting place. Here's what I found on this Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Web site

Q: Is scattering of ashes on land permitted?

A: Generally speaking, no environmental permit is required for scattering of cremated ashes on land, sea or from the air from the Department of Health, but this should be done discreetly and some distance away from the general public. Ashes may not be dispersed within a state forest reserve or watershed area, nor on state or federal property. Scattering on private property should be done with permission of the owner. For information call the Department of Health, Current Registration Section, at 808-586-4540.

If you don't know where your mother's favorite places were, then perhaps a lovely beach would be a good scattering point. DT Fleming Beach in Kapalua is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I would advise that you call the Department of Health phone number listed above to double check that that location would be acceptable.

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Houston, Tex.: How far in advance should I book a hotel room for Waikiki Beach to get the best deal if I am traveling in late May? How far in advance do the hotels start discounting rooms? Thanks.

Sheila Beal: Hello Houston–That's a very good question. With our economy as it is today, there's not an absolute answer. I do keep a close eye on hotel deals. At the moment, I'm not seeing many special deals beyond March 2009. If I had to guess for when the deals for May are going to start to be advertised, I'd guess those would start popping up around January. May does tend to be in the low season of prices, so I bet you'll be able to get an excellent deal.

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Burlington, N.J.: We are planning on visiting Hawaii in October of 09. What Island/Islands would you recommend visiting? (There will be 4 of us all 63 years old. Probably be our only trip there. Planning on 9 or 10 days.

Sheila Beal: Aloha Burlington, N.J.–First off, you might want to consider a cruise so that you will get to see the highlights of all the islands a week. You could spend the extra two or three days on Oahu where your cruise will most likely start and stop.

If a cruise doesn't appeal to you, With 9 or 10 days, I'd recommend you select no more than two islands to visit. I know it's challenging to select the islands, but rest assured, they are all fantastic and have things that make them special and unique. (Though I've been to them all several times, I still don't have a favorite!) To reduce the amount of time you spend traveling from one island to the other, you may want to choose Oahu and an outer island. The reason being is that the Honolulu airport (HNL) is the hub for the vast majority of inter-island travel. To help you narrow down the best island for you, order the free
travel guides from the island visitors bureau and take a virtual helicopter tour on BlueHawaiian.com

Kauai Visitors Bureau
Oahu Visitors Bureau
Maui Visitors Bureau
Hawaii's Big Island Visitors Bureau

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Bedford, Tex.: I know there are tons of wedding planning info for the Hawaiian islands on the web. However, we are in the planning stages of designing a wedding trip to one of the islands to include a ceremony then stay for a week to honeymoon. Our guests will be attending then vacationing themselves for the week after the service as well. As someone who knows the area well, can you please advise of a place or island/area that would be a your suggestion for a great location? We are hoping to marry in a beautiful ocean side site or in a romantic tropical church. The options are overwhelming and it is our first trip to the islands. Any relevant suggestions and/or wedding planners that you would trust to recommend if you were planning such an event? Thanks—I am at my wits end and the opportunity to ask an expert was just too good to pass up. I appreciate any advice you may have! Sharon

Sheila Beal: Aloha Sharon - How exciting to be planning a wedding in Hawaii! I can understand how overwhelming the plans can be. The good news is that many Hawaii resorts offer on-site weddings and can plan the entire day for you.

As far as suggestions for a great location, oh my, there's tons and tons of great places in Hawaii! As I read your question, one place came to mind right away. That's Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore of Oahu. They have a lovely open air "chapel" that's located right along the shoreline with a sunset view. Oahu is one of the easiest islands to get to because the airport in Honolulu (HNL) is a major hub. So that would make traveling a bit easier for you and your guests. As far as other ideas, the Kauai Marriott has lovely outdoor wedding grounds. There's a quaint church in Kapalua in Maui, that comes to mind, too.

Perhaps this post will offer some helpful tips about planning a wedding in Hawaii. In that post, you'll find a link to a useful Budget Travel destination wedding planning guide. Feel free to ask more questions in the comments of that post.

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Seattle, Wash.: I have a major birthday (60) coming up in July, 2009. I wanted to rent a house on Oahu for me and my 8 to 10 closet friends. I am particularly interested in the North Shore. Do you have any ideas of how to find houses? Also, none of my friends have ever been to Oahu. Suggestions for activities and adventures would be helpful.

Thanks,
Lisa

Sheila Beal: Hi Lisa–Happy upcoming birthday! When I look for a vacation rental, I normally start with VRBO.com (Vacation Rental By Owner) I've generally found the best rates that way. Just a couple of words of advice, do carefully vet the rental homes that you are considering. I ask the owners a lot of questions and must see lots photos before I feel comfortable to rent from that person. If possible try to pay with a credit card for added protection.

One high-end recommendation from Wendy Perrin (a trusted source from Concierge.com),is HawaiiHideaways.com.

As far as activities and adventures: Here are my suggestions for budget-friendly Oahu activities

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Haleyville, Ala.: My wife and I want to travel to Maui for a couple of weeks beginning on April 20th, 2009. We would either fly from Huntsville, Ala. or Nashville, Tenn. Right now, flights from these two places are extremely high. Any chance the cost of airfare may come down for our desired time of travel? Thanks for any advice.

Sheila Beal: Hello Haleyville, Alabama–I sure wish I knew the exact answer to your question, but unfortunately, there's no way to predict that, particularly in our present economy. Here's a couple of thoughts for you:

- Sign up for custom e-mail alerts from your desired departure cities on Web sites like Kayak.com, Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, Orbitz.com, etc. Airlines also offer offer this type of free alert service.
- Orbitz.com has a guarantee that if you purchase a flight and someone else purchases the exact flights for less, they'll automatically refund you the difference.

I hope you find a great airfare bargain!

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Denver, Colo.: I'm wondering if cabs, gas, groceries and fast food restaurants are generally priced the same in Hawaii as they are in the western states? I'm planning to travel to Hawaii in 2010.

Sheila Beal: Hi Denver–In general, groceries, gas, and fast food does cost a little more in Hawaii as compared to the U.S. Mainland, but not outrageously so. Public transport on buses is quite reasonable, though.

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Fairfax, Va.: My wife and I will be celebrating 30 years of wedding bliss next March. We would like to finally visit the Islands. While I am completely satisfied with the beach she loves tennis. Can you recommend a good place to stay?

Sheila Beal: Happy upcoming anniversary! With the combination that you described, the first place to come to mind is either the Mauna Kea Resort or its sister location at the Hapuna Prince. Both resorts are on the sunny Kohala Coast of the Big Island with great beaches and with a shared ocean-side tennis complex.

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Boston, Mass.: I will be traveling with my daughter, my son-in-law and my twin grandchildren aged four. The trip is planned in early March on the Island of Kauai. All of the adults are active, i.e. kayaking, hiking scuba diving. Obviously the four-year-old twins have the usual limitations of four year olds. Do you have suggestions for a family itinerary which would be out of the ordinary?

Sheila Beal: Hi Boston–Here are some suggestions that are appropriate for the whole family.
- I'd certainly not miss these "must see" Kauai ideas

- A luau would be something that the whole family would enjoy.I might suggest Gaylord's Luau Kalamaku where you can add on a train ride through tropical plantation grounds.

- A catamaran cruise of the Na Pali Coast, if you are not prone to sea sickness. (Even if you don't get sea sick, you might want to take precautions.) There are some tours that combine a snorkeling/diving trip with a Na Pali Coast boat cruise. Those are typically morning cruises, and the great thing about morning cruises is that's when the dolphins are very active, so there's a great chance you'll see dolphins.

- The humpback whales should still be around Kauai's waters in March. They are amazing creatures. If you don't see them on a catamaran cruise of the Na Pali coast, you might want to take a whale watching cruise.

- Kauai is excellent for hiking, particularly in Kokee State Park. I could suggest some hikes, but I'm not sure how far the grandchildren might be able to go. So, I recommend that you stop in at the Kokee Museum (admission is free) and describe the types of hikes you may be looking for and they will be able to suggest some trails to match the whole family's skills. You can also purchase trail maps for a nominal fee there.

- Here's a collection of other itineraries that may spur some additional ideas for you.

I hope these ideas help. Enjoy your family vacation in beautiful Kauai!

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Denver, Colo.: My husband and I will be arriving on the island of Kauai on Wed., December 3rd and will be there until the night of December 6th. We are staying at the Sheraton resort. We are interested in sailing and kayaking while we are there. Do you have any suggestions?

Sheila Beal: Hi Denver–If you aren't prone to getting sea sick, then I'd recommend a Na Pali Coast catamaran sail. The coast is gorgeous and if the water is smooth enough, it should make for a very peaceful cruise. Note that winter surf tends to be rougher than summer surf. If you do take a catamaran cruise, be on the look out for humpback whales when you're not admiring the Na Pali.

You won't be able to do any sea kayaking in December. (Late May - September have conditions suitable for kayaking the Na Pali Coast.) Kauai has some excellent rivers for kayaking. Wailua River is very pretty as is Hanalei River. Wailua River is closer to where you'll be staying, so I'd be more inclined to chose that one since you only have 3 days on Kauai. There are tour companies who will supply the kayak and perhaps lunch for you. Alternatively, depending on your skill level and ability to transport a kayak, you could rent a kayak on your own. If you choose a kayak tour provider for the Wailua River, I might suggest you look for one that also includes a short hike to Secret Falls.

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Phoenix, Ariz.: Our United Airlines flight from San Francisco arrives in Honolulu at 4 pm. Our connecting flight on Hawaiian Airlines to Kapalua, Maui departs at 4:50 pm. What is the quickest way to get from United to Hawaiian Air in this brief amount of time?

Sheila Beal: Hello Phoenix - Here is a diagram of Honolulu Airport. According to the diagram, United flights typically arrive at gates 6–11. I suggest you call Hawaiian and ask from which gate your flight to Kapalau normally departs. You'll then have an idea of where you'll be going and the quickest route. You'll find some information centers in the airport. Feel free to ask them for directions and advice. There's a train called the Wiki Wiki that is supposed to help you transport to the terminals. Personally I've never found the train to be Wiki Wiki (e.g. fast) at all. I always opt to walk over using the Wiki Wiki. Based on my experience, I'd estimate that it probably won't take you more than 15 minutes to walk to your gate. I hope your United flight arrives early, so you won't have to rush. Enjoy Maui!

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Swansea, Mass.: Where can you get a car rental for a month in Feb. without paying the outrageous prices at the airport rentals? Thanks C

Sheila Beal: Hi C from Swansea, Mass–That's a good question. I'd start with a travel search tool like Kayak.com to first see what the cheapest rates are over February. Then, you might want to call the car rental office directly on the island that you are going to visit and try to negotiate.

There are a few local rental companies in Hawaii that wouldn't show up on a travel search engine. You should check their rates as well. They are island specific companies. Since you didn't mention which island you'll be visiting, here's a trick you can use to help you find those local companies. First open a browser for maps.google.com then enter the name of the island you'll be visiting and click "search maps". Once the map of the island is displayed, you'll see a pop out box on the map pointing to the island. In that pop out box, click "search nearby". Another box will open and in the search nearby field enter something like "rental car" and you'll find results that include the locally operated companies as well as the big national companies.

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Independence, Mo.: My son lives in Maui and he is planning on getting married Aug 26, 2009 close to Lahaina. My wife and I plus daughter and husband and 4 yr old boy are planning on being there for a week 8/22/09 to 8/28/09. Is it possible to find a condo in that area for less than a $1,000.00? Or would we be better off finding a hotel/resort?

Sheila Beal: Aloha Independence - You're much more likely to find a condo for under $1,000 than hotel rooms that would accommodate four adults and a child. It may be a bit of a challenge to find a condo for less than $1000, but I think you'll come very close to it.

Staying in a condo can really help stretch your vacation budget, plus they add quite a bit more privacy and conveniences. Check out VRBO.com (Vacation Rental By Owner) Try to negotiate with the owners. Also, try to protect yourself with these tips:
- Try to pay by credit card for your own protection
- Make sure you see plenty of photos so that you know what you are getting
- Ask the owner as many questions as you can think of and don't be afraid to ask for references from recent vacation renters.

I hope you find a great bargain in Maui!

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San Diego, Calif.: We will be visiting Lana'i next February. What should we be sure not to miss? Thanks. Leonard

Sheila Beal: Hello Leonard–Lana'i in February will be excellent for whale watching, so don't miss that. You can watch from the shoreline or take a whale watching cruise. From the Four Seasons at Manele Bay, you'll find an excellent vantage point.

Don't miss the hike to Koloiki Ridge for an excellent view of the gulch and nearby islands.

Don't miss Hulopoe Beach which is great for sunbathing and if the water is calm enough, snorkeling. If you go there in the morning, there's a great chance you'll see dolphins. They love this bay. Many people get to swim with them. You'll also find Puupehe (Sweetheart Rock) in this area, so do take the short hike out to see it.

Check out my Lanai articles for more ideas.

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Winston-Salem, N.C.: Could you recommend a website that has a listing of condos to rent for the week in Oahu or Maui?

Sheila Beal: Hi Winston-Salem–VRBO.com is a site that I've used with good luck. Also, see the previous answers for Independence, MO and Seattle, WA.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: I am thinking about a helicopter tour in Kauai. What company would you recommend?

Sheila Beal: Aloha Harrisburg–Kauai is perhaps the perfect island for taking a helicopter ride. I do advise that you do your homework before you select a company. Check out safety records, seating configurations, etc. Here's all my tips for choosing a helicopter tour in Hawaii

I took a tour with Inter-Island Helicopters and I liked this company because they don't use doors. Having no doors adds a slight bit more risk, but you are well strapped in. The benefit of not having doors is that your photos will probably come out better because you won't have to contend with window reflections.

Enjoy Kauai from the air! It is spectacular!

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Cape Girardeau, Mo.: I've noticed that brochures on Hawaii show May at it's lowest fares for the year. Why is May considered the "off" season?

Sheila Beal: Hi Cape Girardeau–That's an excellent question. Let me say first that May is an ideal month to visit Hawaii because of the rates, weather, and lack of crowds. May is considered low season for these two main reasons:
- Spring has arrived on the US Mainland and the "snow birds" aren't anxious for a retreat from the bitter cold of winter.
- Children are still in school and summer vacation is just around the corner. So families aren't there on vacation.

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Washingtonville, N.Y.: Sheila, We are an older couple (55 & 64)going to Kauai next Sept. This is our first time and we're not sure whether to stay up north, stay south or go on the east side. All of these places look great! We love sunsets, exploring, and relaxing on the beach. Where would you suggest? Thanks

Sheila Beal: Hi Washingtonville–I can relate to your dilemma. I also had a difficult time deciding where to stay on Kauai. Based on the things that you mentioned that you like, I'd steer you either to the South in the Poipu area or on the North Shore near Princeville. Since you like sunsets, I'd skip the East. You can't go wrong with Poipu or Princeville. Personally, I prefer the Princeville area because of the nearby lush green mountains and I think the North Shore beaches are particularly stunning. You are more likely to encounter a brief passing shower on the North Shore, though. No matter where you choose, you can pretty easily get from one end to the other to explore and get back in the same day.

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Colorado Springs, Colo.: We are planning on visiting Hawaii in late June. It will be my parents (80's), my husband & I (58 & 62), and our children (son, daughter, & daughter-in-law 30's). We want to visit Honolulu for a few days and then rent a house on the Big Island for a week. Can we get a package with flights and a hotel in Honolulu and then rent a house and buy that flight separately? What is the best way to find a house to rent - individuals or a rental agency? Any recommendations? We want to see Pearl Harbor and the cemetary at the Puchbowl. My Dad served in the Pacific in WW II and my husband and daughter are WWII buffs. Is there any way to take public transportation or do we need to get a cab? We weren't planning on renting a car in Honolulu. We will on the Big Island. Most of us will be leaving from Denver or Colorado Springs. Our son & his wife wil leave from Portland. Thanks. Jo Anne

Sheila Beal: Aloha Jo Anne from Colorado Springs–Most of the internet travel sites aren't really designed with the amount of flexibility you need for the situation you described. To get a package price for flights and just Honolulu hotel, you'll probably need to work with a travel agency.

In some of the previous questions, I've mentioned VRBO.com as a good resource for finding vacation rentals. Please see those answers for tips.

If you don't want to rent a car in Honolulu, then you might want to consider tour companies that will pick up at or nearby your hotel and take you to the see the sites you mentioned. Since you are WWII buffs, you'll love Oahu! If you choose a tour company to take you to Punchbowl, if I'm not mistaken, I think Roberts of Hawaii is the only tour company that is allowed to stop and let the passengers walk around. Please double check that, though. Don't miss the excellent view of Honolulu from Punchbowl while you're there.

As far as public transportation, also check out Oahu's excellent bus system online at TheBus.org You can use Google Transit as well to help you navigate to the sites of your interest.

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Newland, N.C.: I'm hoping to take my Mom to Oahu for the New Year. Where's the best place to see fireworks? Thanks! Bonnie

Sheila Beal: Hi Bonnie from Newland, NC–Honolulu will have some spectacular fireworks for New Year's Eve. For certain, there will be a fantastic display from the Aloha Tower Marketplace. I've been told that there will also be fireworks from Waikiki Beach, but no details have been released, yet.

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Atlanta, Ga.: Can I get a free flight if I book with a hotel?

Sheila Beal: Hi Atlanta–Oh, how I wish that was the case! Unfortunately, I've not heard of any free flight offers from hotels. Do bear in mind that there are some excellent deals available now that make Hawaii much more affordable than it was, say, a year ago. The flight and hotel deals are particularly good if you can complete your travel to Hawaii before December 21st.

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Elmira, N.Y.: Which company on Oahu is best for snorkeling?

Sheila Beal: My advice is to check reviews of Oahu snorkeling companies at TripAdvisor.com

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Sheila Beal: Thank you for all your excellent questions. I invite you to to visit Go Visit Hawaii where you'll find more tips to help you have a great Hawaii vacation. I frequently share practical advice, unbiased reviews, and great Hawaii travel deals that catch my eye. Sign up for my free daily updates to stay in the know on Hawaii travel.

Aloha and happy travels to Hawaii!