Trip Coach: October 30, 2007

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

Sheila Beal: Aloha Budget Travel Readers! My name is Sheila Beal and I'm excited to be with you today to answer your questions about Hawaii. So, let's get started.

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Winston Salem, N.C.: We will be on Kaui Christmas Day (arriving by cruise ship 8:00 AM -5:00 PM ) with 4 kids (15-20 yrs) and no plans. We are open to anything. Any ideas?

Sheila Beal: As you are probably aware, some restaurants and activites are closed for Christmas day, but Kauai has beautiful scenery that is never closed. So, my suggestion would be to rent a car and explore the Waimea Canyon and Kokee and State Parks. You'll find maps and tips here. I quickly checked with just one rental car company (Dollar Rental Car) and they are open on Christmas Day and they do offer shuttle service from the cruise ship dock to their rental office. You might want to check prices and services with Thrifty and some other major rental agencies as well.

After you see those State Parks, drive down to Poipu Beach and see the blow hole, Spouting Horn. There are several resorts in the Poipu area (Hyatt and Sheraton) where you could pop in for lunch. Resort restaurants will be open on Christmas.

If you have extra time, then see a couple of famous waterfalls on the East side. Wailua Falls is my favorite. It's located on the East side of the island near Lihue. (Take Kuhio Hwy (56) to Maalo Road (583)). Another pretty East side waterfall is Opaekaa Falls, located off Kuamoo Road near Wailua.

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Temple Hills, Md.: My husband and I will be celebrating our 10th anniversary next year and we are going to Hawaii from May 2 to May 18. I've booked a one week resort stay and a seven day Hawaiian cruise (we are trying to get the most out of our time in Hawaii). In order to complete everything I need airline reservations, a one night hotel stay (the check out date for the hotel and the sail date for cruise did not overlap), and a car rental from May 2 to May 11. I've been checking all of the resources that I know of, but I was wondering if I can get the car, hotel, and air as a package or is there a cheaper solution? Most of the things I've seen require that I book more than one night for the hotel in order to get cheap airfare or a cheap rental car. I do not want to cancel the resort or cruise, because I got a very good price. Thank you for any help you have for me.

Sheila Beal: That's an interesting scenario. I think you are probably going to have to book some of your travel in separate transactions. For airline reservation, my suggestion would be to check with Kayak.com which is a travel search engine which searches all the airlines as well as the sites like Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, etc for the best prices. After you've shopped around online, it might be worthwhile to contact a travel agency to see if they can come up with something less expensive. Happy Anniversary!

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Corpus Christi, Tex.: My husband and I are planning our first trip to Hawaii for mid April 2008. We are thinking of staying 1-2 nights in Oahu and then 4 nights in Maui and Kauai. Are there any sites that sell all inclusive packages of air, hotel and car rental as well as air between the islands. Or is it best to price these items individually. I am familiar with doing my own reservations via the internet but would be intrested in a one stop shopping to handle the many details of this type of trip. Any suggestions?

Sheila Beal: As you have probably already discovered, the major internet travel sites aren't really equipped for handling multiple destinations in one package. With Kayak.com you can package all your airfare together. Kayak.com will find the lowest price airfare across all the major airlines and travel websites. You are able to enter multiple destinations including all the inter-island flight needs as well as the flights to and from the Mainland. That will only cover the air portion though. You could then book car and hotel together by island.

Since Expedia.com allows you to have two destinations, another idea would be to skip the night or two on Oahu and add those nights onto Maui or Kauai. There is really so much to see and do on all the islands that you really wouldn't run out of things on Maui or Kauai.

From Kauai or Maui, you can take a day trip over to Oahu. Inter-island air is fairly reasonable at the moment (less than $80 roundtrip.) Alternatively, there are plenty of organized packaged tours you can take to see Oahu.

A final suggestion would be to get a free quote from a travel agent. Sometimes they are able to get better packaged deals on the multi-island itineraries.

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St. Simons Island, Ga.: Does Hawaii have a more-affordable off-season? If so, when is it, and why is it the off-season?

Sheila Beal: Yes, Hawaii does have more affordable off-seasons. You can generally find the best rates at around these times:

- May
- September (after Labor Day)
- October
- November (except for around Thanksgiving)
- December 1st though about the 20th.

These are the least crowded times, mainly because children are in school and it's not bitterly cold on the US Mainland. The optimal times for visiting Hawaii for best prices, least crowds, and the least amount of rain are late April, May, September, and October.

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San Francisco, Calif.: Dear Sheila, I'll be visiting Honolulu during Thanksgiving week with my elderly mother and 11 year old niece. We're staying at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki. We'll be visiting family most of the time, but I wonder if you could suggest some activities that would peak the interest of an 11 year old? Mahalo, Sandy

Sheila Beal: Aloha Sandy. Here are some ideas for you to consider.
- There's the free Friday night Polynesian dance and music show followed by fireworks display at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Kids aged 5 to 12 can participate in the parade that leads to the show. You can find more information about it here.
- The Bishop Museum in Honolulu has something for everyone with many exhibits plus planetarium shows. You can take a look at their daily schedule here. (It is open over Thanksgiving.)
- If you have an entire day available, then consider going to the Polynesian Cultural Center which appeals to kids just as much as adults. Plan to get there when it opens to explore all the Polynesian villages, go to one of their luaus, and onto the evening show. Their evening show is the best I've seen. If you don't want to drive from Waikiki, you can arrange your transportation with the Polynesian Cultural Center Note that the center is closed on Thanksgiving Day and on all Sundays.

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Oceanside, Calif.: We are going to spend a week on Maui at our time share on Jan. 3. If possible, we would like to come over to Oahu early and spend New Year's Eve. Do you have any ideas for what to do for New Year's Eve? We are in our 60's and enjoy dancing and having fun.

Sheila Beal: It sounds like you might enjoy an evening dinner/dancing cruise from Honolulu. You would be able to watch the fireworks from the ship. From the cruise ship, it's pretty to see the fireworks reflecting off the water. The Star of Honolulu is one company that I know offers that.

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Palm Desert, Calif.: What is your suggestion for a great New Year's Eve in Hawaii?

Sheila Beal: Honolulu has a great fireworks display on New Years Eve. The city also has a very active club scene, if that's of interest. Many of the resorts and restaurants typically have special dinners, bands or shows for celebrating the night. For example, the Hilton Hawaiian Village has KC and the Sunshine Band playing for the evening. I've not seen many announcements for this New Year's special events, yet. I will post them on GoVisitHawaii.com as I see them.

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Lafayette, Ind.: My parents are 70 and 80, and not in the habit of indulging themselves. But my mother is just recovering from major surgery, and needs something to look forward to. I'm encouraging her to fulfill a lifelong dream and plan a trip to Hawaii.

Here are a couple of hurdles:

1. They're well off, but frugal. They aren't adverse to spending money when they need to, but wouldn't want to buy a lot of things they dont need. Comfy beds and good service are important; a cocktail lounge and club scene aren't. At the same time, I think an all-inclusive package may encourage them to try more things.

2. My father hates to fly. Would it be better for them to sail to Hawaii, or to endure the long flight there to maximize time at the destination? I also don't think he'll admit that he'd like to make the trip, but he'll probably enjoy it once he goes.

I envision a few days' stay at some sort of resort, followed by some touring around the islands - maybe a cruise? They both like to read, and I'm sure my father would be interested in historical and natural sites. World War II ended right after he joined the Navy, so I know he'd like to visit Pearl Harbor and other appropriate places. My mother will want to see palm trees and pretty beaches, and probably some of the things mentioned in James Michener's book.

Some activities would be good - adventurous, maybe, but not strenuous. They're both in good health (or will be by the time they travel), and I know my father would enjoy the trip more if he'd have regular access to a tennis court. He's also very outgoing, and would be happy chatting with people of all ages. My mother is a little more reserved, so a friendly staff would help her get out and have fun, but I think she'd also like some time to just relax and enjoy herself. She doesn't relax much.

Travel dates would be very flexible - any time after the New Year. I expect they'd like to spend two weeks, more or less.

Thanks so much for any advice you can offer!

Sheila Beal: You've presented a very interesting question. As far as flights versus a cruise from the Mainland to Hawaii, my thoughts are go ahead and fly all the way into Hawaii. My rationale is why pay the pricy cost of a cruise for all the days at sea? If they would be flying from Indiana, bear in mind that there are a several direct flights from Chicago to Hawaii which makes it easier.

I do think you are on the right track with a cruise possibly combined with a resort stay. They could pick up a cruise in Honolulu which would be great for seeing the highlights of the major islands in a short amount of time. I believe that you truly "experience" Hawaii by staying on shore for a few nights or more. As far as a resort goes, here is some food for thought.

- Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore of Oahu, has the beautiful beach with palm trees that your mother would like and tennis that your father would like, plus in my opinion, it is fairly well priced resort for its location and views. It's a four-star hotel. Though it is far away from all the hustle and bustle of Waikiki, the restaurants there are really good and the resort really is nicely self contained. They can go horseback riding, take short hikes, take a helicopter tour all from the resort. The Polynesian Cultural Center is about 15 to 20 minutes away and has a phenomenal Polynesian evening show.
- Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with all the points that Michener refers to in Hawaii. If I'm not mistaken, I believe Michener did write about the road to Hana which is on Maui. This road is arguably one of the most scenic drives in America. Hana is rather remote and the main hotel there is very expensive. It is easy to drive the road to Hana and back in a day from the main resort areas of West and South Maui. Kaanapali Beach makes a nice base to stay in Maui. There's a good three-star hotel that has been recognized as being Maui's most Hawaiian hotel. It is Kaanapali Beach Hotel They provide many free Hawaiian cultural activities and they often offer some enticing package deals on their website which would suit your parent's frugal desires. I don't believe the hotel has tennis on site, though there are courts nearby at the Lahaina Civic Center that are open to the public. There are five courts there and it would only be a five minute drive, if that. I do hope you can convince your parents to go, especially since it's your mother's lifelong dream.

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Gig Harbor, Wash.: My sisters and I are taking a trip to Maui in February, and we will definitely be on a budget. We are staying in Lahaina, and will not have a car (unless we rent one for a day or two). With our budget and limited transportation in mind, can you prioritize a list of the best things to do? We will be there a week (from Friday to Friday). Thank you! Cynthia

Sheila Beal: I do advise that you rent a car for a day or two if your budget allows. There are some rental car agencies in Lahaina. Hertz and Enterprise are two that I know of. One of my readers recently shared that Enterprise does offer 50% off complete weekend rentals, so that would be worth you investigating.

With a car, you can go to Haleakala for sunrise plus some other sight-seeing on one day. Then on another day, drive the road to Hana. Note that the road to Hana and back is will take all day and you should start in the morning so that you won't be driving the curvy road from Hana in the dark. Though you will be paying for the cost of the car, the free scenery is worth it.

Pick the free guides and coupon books at the airport. You may find so good 2 for 1 coupons and other deals to save you money. The good news is that you will be at a prime viewing spot during the peak of humpback whale season. You can watch for whales from the shore at no charge, of course. You can pick up a free self-guided walking tour of Lahaina town from at the 1834 Baldwin Home in Lahaina.

For a list of my top budget friendly picks in Maui, see this article. Maui does have a bus system, so you could consider using that on the days that you won't have a car. Here is the link to route map and schedule.

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Dacula Ga.: Can you recommend budget accomodations in Honolulu?

Sheila Beal: Take a look at Aqua Aloha Surf, Hawaiian King, and Ilima Hotel. They are all within short walking distance of Waikiki beach and have good reputations. Another place to consider is the new Wyland Waikiki which has recently been offering some great rates. The Ohana Islander Waikiki has a special rate through March 31st of $99 per night, but some of their amenities are closed due to renovations. If you have any association with the military, then look into the Hale Koa.

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Westmont, Ill.: I visited four of the Hawaiian Islands, via Tauk Trips, 35 years ago and they were lovely and quiet but the itinerary was a constant go, go, go. I understand that that is not the case now. If my husband, age 80, and I went to Oahu in order to see Pearl Harbor, could we still sightsee on the island without a lot of traffic? Do you recommend taking the local bus or booking a day trip once we got there? Also, to save money, are there any hotels on the beach or across the street from the beach that would be considered affordable? My husband can't walk very far due to arthritis so I would like to be close or on the beach so he could enjoy the scenery. I would appreciate any information you could give me. Thanks, Jackie

Sheila Beal: Aloha Jackie. I'm fairly certain that you will find that Waikiki has changed significantly since your last trip. The traffic around Honolulu and Waikiki are much like any big city. Once you get outside of that area, you won't find many, if any, traffic issues.

If you'd rather not drive, Waikiki Beach makes an excellent option because many tour companies will pick you up at your hotel. You can get a shuttle from the airport to your hotel in Waikiki and never have to rent a car. You will find an abundance of hotels on Waikiki Beach. Here are some budget accommodations I'd recommend you look into in the Waikiki area:

- New Otani Kaimana Beach (this one is on the beach at a quiet end of Waikiki)
- ResortQuest Waikiki Circle (across the street from Waikiki with good central location that is near Kuhio Beach Park where you can watch the free evening torch lighting and hula show.)
- Holiday Inn Waikiki (short walk to the beach)
Taking TheBus is definitely an inexpensive way to see the island, but the downside is that you would have to walk from the bus stops to see the beaches, parks, etc. So, I'd recommend booking with a tour company to minimize walking, plus you get the benefit of the guides on a tour that you wouldn't have on the bus.

One other idea for seeing Oahu is to split up your stay into a few nights in Waikiki and a few nights on the North Shore. You would find two completely different experiences on the same island. The North Shore is very quiet and relaxing in comparison to Waikiki. Turtle Bay Resort is a well priced resort on the North Shore. All the rooms there have an ocean view. If you were to do this, I'd recommend you get a rental car, preferably from the airport so you wouldn't have to drive in Honolulu to get to the resort.

Be sure to shop around at online travel sites like Expedia.com, Orbitz.com, Travelocity.com etc. Also check reviews at TripAdvisor.com. I hope this helps.

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Eudora, Kans.: Our family is planning a trip from Kansas to Hawaii and the Island of Kauai for a week beginning July 31, 2008. There were be 6 families with a total of 17 people ranging from 6mos to 50. Because of the young families going, they are on tight budgets and we are looking for fun things to do that are low to no cost.

Sheila Beal: You don't have to spend a bundle of money to have a wonderful vacation in Kauai. The beautiful scenery that you will find is free. Don't miss these budget friendly ideas:

- See Kokee and Waimea Canyon State Parks
- See Wailua Waterfalls
- Here are the rest of my best budget friendly ideas to do on Kauai
- Here is another good resource from the Kauai Visitors Bureau: Kauai on a Shoestring Budget

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Clifton Park, N.Y.: I'm going on the Norweign Pride of Aloha in March 2008, and has overnight stays in Maui and Kauai. Are there any hotels that you can buy a day pass to use the hotel?

Sheila Beal: I am not aware of any hotel that offers day passes. I believe that they don't offer them because of liability issues.

There are several beach parks that have picnic, shower and restroom facilities. On Kauai, I'd recommend Poipu Beach as the water should be relatively calm in March and you less likely to contend with rain there. You can also walk to restaurants. You can find some more information and reviews on the beach here

On Maui, consider D.T. Fleming Beach Park in Kapalua. It's one of my favorites. There aren't many restaurants there, though except for the very nice and soon to be newly renovated, Ritz Carlton. There is a small grocery store that you can walk to from the beach.

Always check for the most updated beach safety conditions at Hawaii Ocean and Beach Safety. That's a very useful website that will allow you to explore the beaches across Hawaii.

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McLean, Va.: What is the cheapest time to fly to Hawaii? Can you get air packages that will take you around 4 islands for a few days on each either with Aloha or Hawaiian?

Sheila Beal: You will generally find the cheapest times to go to Hawaii are in the months of May, September, October, November (except for around Thanksgiving), December until the week before Christmas. Two online tools to help you find the best airfare deals are Kayak.com and FareCast.com. Kayak will allow you to check for the best airfare for going to multiple islands/destinations on a single trip. FareCast.com will give you an idea of the fare forecast. Another idea for saving money on inter-island airfare is to sign for sale alerts with go! Airlines, Aloha, and Hawaiian.

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Southborough, Mass.: My 18 year-old son and I are going to Kauai for Christmas! We both love the ocean and marine life. We are staying near Lihue. We would love to see dolphins, whales and sea turtles. We are both certified SCUBA divers, but not looking to make that the emphasis of our trip. I really don't know how to narrow down the activities to just 8 days. It seems like a lot of the adventure type things are along the Napali coast (kayak/boats to grottos, dolphin sighting, etc). Should we be going to that end of the island every day? I probably need a car, right? Is it a long/difficult drive from Lihue to Napali coast or Waimaea canyon? We would like to do something "different" as a special way to remember this vacation... any ideas? Thanks

Sheila Beal: I do advise you get a rental car during your stay. Since the airport is in Lihue, you might have an opportunity to minimize the number of days that you rent a car if your accommodation has shuttles to the airport. Lihue is a good central location and it is pretty easy to get to the North Shore (less than hour away) and to the Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Parks (about an hour away). You really won't mind the drive because there is pretty scenery everywhere in Kauai.

There are lots of great scuba companies in Kauai. As you are going to Kauai in the winter, you're likely to go to the South shore areas where the water will be calmer. You are more likely to see whales from the South shore.
As far as kayaking goes, you can kayak the Hanalei River any time of year, but you won't be able to kayak the Na Pali Coast due to rough winter seas. (The Na Pali kayaking season is from around May - September.)
You'll find zip-lining and tubing activities on Kauai that have gained popularity. There are also some neat horseback riding tours you can take in Princeville.

As far as doing something "different" to remember the trip, I'd recommend you take a look at the great hikes in Kokee State Park. There is a wonderful hike into Waimea Canyon that is just amazing. It's called the Canyon Trail. It is less than four miles roundtrip. Another special thing you could do is take a helicopter tour.
I understand how overwhelming it can be to narrow down the activities. You may helpful to review my top picks for Kauai.

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Washington, D.C.: My boyfriend and I are going to the Big Island from December 29 through January 5. Is there something on the Big Island that you think is a must see or must do that is frequently overlooked by tourists?

Sheila Beal: Here are my top picks of places to see and things to do on the Big Island. I think you will find several of the suggested spots to be rather uncrowded with tourists. To be a bit more specific, I think the hikes in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are often overlooked. South Point and the olive green sand beach is another often overlooked site mainly because it is not near an area where tourists stay. There is a sea horse farm in Kailua-Kona that's not well known.

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Santa Monica, Calif.: My wife and I will be cruising in Hawaii beginning on December 1st, with stops in Hilo and Kona (big island), Kahului (Maui) and Nawiliwili (Kauai). Can I do better by passing on the cruise line tours and pick up tours as we disembark? What about car rentals?

Sheila Beal: Good question. The tour companies offer quite a bit of convenience and they operate their schedules to coincide with the cruise ships' schedules. The advantage of taking packaged tours is that it will save you the time of determining where you are going to go and how you will navigate there and still meet the cruise schedule. The downside of taking the packaged tours is that you're sharing your experience with a bus load of people.

You can definitely save money by renting a car and touring on your own. Depending on the island and rental car company you select, they may pick you up from the harbor. Dollar has a presence on all the islands and in most cases will provide a shuttle from the cruise harbor to the car rental location. (I know this is the case on Kauai.) Thrifty is another company to check. So, I recommend that you call around and check the procedure and rates

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Toronto, Canada: Hi Sheila, We have been to Hawaii 5 times and loved it each trip. We are about to retire and would love to spend Jan and Feb there. We realize the rents are very high but do you have any suggestions for minimizing the cost re accomodations and car rentals on the islands Maui, Kaui and Big Island. Thanks.

Sheila Beal: I find that staying in a condo the best way for minimizing accommodation costs. Seeing that you are going to be on the islands for weeks at a time, a condo may suit you the best. You can also minimize food costs by being able to cook meals in your condo. Having a washer and dryer in a condo is another plus. As far as cars go, you can compare prices from Kayak.com and other major online travel sites. Another idea to investigate is that often times, car rental companies offer special weekend rates. If you can get by with not needing or wanting a car during weekdays, you could opt for renting a car at the weekends to get the cheaper weekend rates.

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Morristown, N.J.: Hi! My beau and I, both 37, will be headed to Oahu, November 17-23. I only recently discovered how fantastic snorkeling is after a trip to Jamaica and years of fear of the ocean. We would love to take a snorkeling excursion while in Hawaii. We'll be spending several days at the end of our trip (Thanksgiving and the day after) in Honolulu but the remainder of it on the North Shore. It's been difficult to find a snorkeling adventure that isn't right off of waikiki and that doesn't seem like a carnival atmosphere (slides, trampolines, etc). We're wondering if there are low-key, snorkel-focused excursions that might take us further afield for a day trip? Thanks! Leah

Sheila Beal: Hi Leah - I'm glad you've discovered the beautiful underwater world. Here are my suggestions: You might consider going to Hanauma Bay, you'll find tips and links here. Get there early to avoid crowds and a potential carnival feel. You can snorkel this bay without being on a guided tour.

Away from Honolulu and Waikiki, consider Captain Bob's Snorkel Sail that takes you on a catamaran to various reefs around Kaneohe Bay. The North Shore surf is too rough for snorkeling in the winter.

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Salt Lake City, Utah: We would like to cruise Hawaii as we have been told that is the best way to see all the islands. When is the best time of year to go and what land tours would be good on each island for a first time visitor? Our group would consist of adults, all family members.

Sheila Beal: When determining the best time to go to Hawaii, I like to consider rainfall, crowds, and prices. With that in mind, you'll find the best times to go are in May, September, October. As far as what you must see on each island, I'll try to point out what is particularly unique and spectacular on each island:

- Kauai
- See Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Parks. If you are interested in taking a helicopter tour in Hawaii, then Kauai makes a great choice.
- Maui
- The road to Hana is a drive through a rainforest that has beautiful waterfalls, beaches, and cliffs. If you have a second day in Maui and your cruise has a tour to see sunrise on Haleakala, I'd advise seeing that. One other great excursion is to take a morning cruise to snorkel at Molokini.
- Big Island
- See Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Before you go, check to see if and where there is an active lava flow. You may have to take a helicopter tour to see the active lava.
- Oahu
- See Pearl Harbor

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Houston, Tex.: My wife, son and I are going to Hawaii for the first time. We thought that the NCL ship Pride of America would be good, as it visits several islands and spends the night at several. We will also have 3 days post trip on the big island. Our trip is Feb. 9, 2008. Can you suggest not to miss items on Maui and Kauai, As well as what to do with 3 days in Honolulu? Regards, Jim

Sheila Beal: Hi Jim - Here are my suggestions for what to see on Maui and Kauai:

Maui - Take the road to Hana through the rainforest with waterfalls and beautiful coastal scenes. Other suggestions are to take a morning snorkeling cruise Molokini for some of the best snorkeling in Hawaii. Another great thing to do is see sunrise at the top of a volcanic crater, Halaeakala.
Kauai - See the Waimea Canyon. It's the "grand canyon of the Pacific." If you're considering a helicopter tour while you're in Hawaii, then Kauai is the best island for a helicopter tour. Try to arrange the tour for morning hours.

As far as what to do with 3 days in Honolulu, check out my top 10 picks of free things to do on Oahu.

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Dallas, Tex.: Where is an affordable place for a family of 5 to stay?

Sheila Beal: Consider renting a condo anywhere in Hawaii. Most 2 bedroom condos in Hawaii are set up to accommodate six people with a pull-out sofa. Condos in Hawaii are almost always cheaper than hotels, plus they give you the ability to cook some of your own meals. You can also pack lighter since you usually have access to a washer and dryer. As far as where in Hawaii, I've found that Kauai and the Big Island tend to be less expensive than Maui.

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Uniontown, Ohio: What are the must do's for our trip to Maui Dec.9-16, 2007? My husband and are seniors and can't do a lot of climbing but can walk a lot. N Roberts

Sheila Beal: Here are some ideas that don't involve strenuous climbing for you:

- Since you will be in Maui during whale season, you can watch for whales from the shore or get closer by taking a whale watching tour. - Drive the road to Hana for beautiful waterfall, cliff, and ocean scenery.
- See the Ioa Needle. Here are some tips.
- If you might be interested in snorkeling, then take a snorkeling cruise to one of the best spots in Hawaii at Molokini.
- See sunrise at the top of Haleakala. Note that you will have to go up around 20 steps air that is a bit thinner due to the elevation. You can see my tips here.
- You can pick up a free Lahaina walking tour map at 1834 Baldwin Home in Lahaina.
- The Garden of Eden is a very nice Botanical Garden that has nice trails.

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Rocky River, Ohio: My wife and I enjoy the natural beauty of the places we visit but we like cities, also. If we had ten days to visit Hawaii, what would be a winning combination for us?

Sheila Beal: There are so many ways to answer your question. Here's my first thoughts:

- Start out with two or three nights in Honolulu/Waikiki to see Pearl Harbor, Punchbowl, Diamond Head, the shops, etc.
- Kauai is arguably the most naturally scenic island. So, I would spend seven nights there.

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Bethlehem, Pa.: In a one day visit to Oahu what are the best sites to visit?

Sheila Beal: Pearl Harbor, Punchbowl, Waikiki Beach. You'll find links and other ideas here.

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Fort Morgan, Colo.: How do I find the cheapest airfare to Maui? When taking a family what is the best lodging deal?

Sheila Beal: Use Kayak.com to find the cheapest airfare. For taking a family, I always recommend renting a condo.

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Morro Bay, Calif.: Hi Sheila, I would like to grant my daughter's wish of spending her 16th birthday in Maui on January 25, 2008. We might bring her best friend making it the 3 of us for up to a 12-day vacation leaving for Maui January 23rd or 24th. Is there a vacation in Maui for the budget conscious?

Sheila Beal: On average, Maui is the most expensive island to visit in terms of accommodation rates. That being said, you can usually save quite a bit by staying in a condo. I've found that vacation condo rentals are less expensive than hotels and you can save more money by being able to cook some meals.

If a condo doesn't appeal, look into the is Kaanapali Beach Hotel They often have special deals that include car rental on their website.

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Sacramento, Calif.: Hi, thanks for doing the chat. Two questions: How is Hawaii in February? On Maui, what are the good volcanoes to hike up and see possible lava activity?

Sheila Beal: Hawaii is wonderful any time of year. The winter months tend to get a bit more rain, so you're more likely to encounter rain in February. Take a look at historic weather trends at Weather.com. That being said, it isn't likely that you'd encounter rain the entire time. Price-wise, February is in the high season. One aspect that's particularly wonderful about February is that it is during the peak of humpback whale season.

Maui doesn't currently have any lava activity. You'll find that on the Big Island. If you're planning a trip to Maui and really want to see lava activity, you can always take a day-trip flight over to Hilo on the Big Island. From there, you could pick up a helicopter tour and/or get a rental car to drive (30-45 minutes) to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Kilauea volcano is the active volcano there. Lava activity is very unpredictable, so check the activity locations before you go.

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Cumming, Ga.: I would like to visit Maui and the Big Island for a 12 day trip for my 10 year anniversary with my wife. I would like to spend my money on tours and not on airfare, car rentals, and hotels. I have about $3500 to spend. How would it be best to book the trip and what time of year is the cheapest because I can go any time next year.

Sheila Beal: The cheapest time of year to go would be May, September, October, November (except for around Thanksgiving, and December up until around December 20th. For your reference, the most recent average daily rates for accommodation on Maui were $265 and $199 for the Big Island. (That data is per the Hospitality Advisor's Report through Smith Travel Research.) That should give you an idea of how much to budget for the accommodations and when to know that you've found a deal. I would suggest you start with Expedia.com since it allows you to enter multiple destinations and you want to go to Maui and Big Island. Happy Anniversary!

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Kansas City, Mo.:

Does Hawaii have an "off season", when travel is less expensive, and the sights not as crowded?

Sheila Beal: Yes, it does! Those months are May, September, October, November (except for around Thanksgiving), and December 1st through around December 20th.

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Bel Alton, Md.: My husband & I are spending a week on Maui and a week on the Big Island in Feb. 2008. We have our roundtrip mainland air reservations (Baltimore to Kahului & Kona to Baltimore) already but have not yet made interisland air reservations. Would it be advisable (e.g., cheaper!) to make them now or just wait until we're there? We've been to Hawaii many times but it's been a long time since we've island hopped (usually stay a couple of weeks on one island & last year did the 7-day four island cruise which we loved).

Sheila Beal: Use Kayak.com to see what sort of deals you can get for the time you will be going. Kayak searches all the airlines. Another tool that might help is FareCast.com, which predicts airfare trends. Sign up for the e-mail fare sale alerts at iflygo.com as well as Hawaiian, and Aloha airlines, they sometimes offer fares as low as $19 one way for inter-island travel. Inter-island airfare is relatively cheap right now due to the competition. February tends to be a busy month, so my instinct is to recommend that you book earlier rather than later.

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Grass Valley, Calif.: We will be traveling to the big island the day after thanksgiving for a week. We are both 50 years old and like off the beaten path things to do. Any suggestions for the best place to snorkel, view sunsets, take good hikes, etc. Thank you, Ariana

Sheila Beal: For snorkeling, check out Honaunau Bay south of Kona. Please bear in mind that winter surf can be choppy, so please check the conditions before you dive in. While you're in that vicinity, also visit Puuhonau O Honaunau It is a wonderful place to watch sunset. Anywhere around Kona up to the Kohala coast is a great place to watch sunset.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has miles of wonderful day hikes. My favorite is Kilauea Iki Another hike that I think sounds beautiful, but I've not had the opportunity to try is at Waipio Valley. It is a guided hike on private property offered by Hawaiian Walkways. You can find an article about it here.

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Louisville, Ky.: We are planning a 2 week trip to Honolulu Oct. 16-30, 2008 there will be 4 of us, all adults. We are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversaries. Myself and my husband have been there 6 times already and really enjoy it. This is the 1st time for the other couple, so they want us to plan everything. We know that we want to spend about 1/2 of the time at the beach. What are some "different" things to do? We have already done diamond head, the Temple, Pearl Harbor, The Home of the Brave, Sea life Park, Circle island tour, China Town, Swap meet, Bishops museum, both Palace's, Aloha Tower, Whaling museum, International Market place, Dole, Pipeline, Hanauma bay, Hickham AFB, North Shore, Sandy Beach, Bellows Beach, Ala Moana beach, & Dillingham Airfield. Of course there are some of these that we will take them to, but we are in need of new things to do.. We are always looking for "new" restaurants. I always hope to have a "Pocket full of Paradise" that little bit of Aloha. I'm counting the days. Thanks for all of your Help. Marge

Sheila Beal: Hi Marge and happy anniversary! You have certainly found many of the highlights of Oahu. Just a couple of things that you've not mentioned that you might want to consider is to go out to the North Shore to walk around quaint Hale'iwa town and get a shave ice at Matsumatos there then check out some of the beautiful North Shore beaches. As far as new restaurants, there is a new Roy's at the new Waikiki Beach Walk.

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Hicksville, N.Y.: When we plan to visit Hawaii, we are looking for a inexpensive, moderately priced condo for 4 in Maui. Also-are there any tours to Hawaii who cater to seniors? I am interested in touring but a slow pace, and the ability not to awake too early in the morning. Is that possible?

Sheila Beal: Regarding a moderately priced condo on Maui, take a look some of the ResortQuest properties. ResortQuest Mahana at Kaanapali has a good reputation. I've always enjoyed staying at the Kapalua Villas in Kapalua which is a bit more quiet. As far as waking too early in the mornings, you may find with the time difference that you will be waking early anyway. I have always found this to be the case when I travel from the East coast to Hawaii.

There are an abundance of tour companies in Hawaii. I think you will find that you can rent a car and do quite a bit of touring on your own pace. All you'll need is a good guide book and a rental car and you're all set!

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Tustin, Calif.: Can you recommend any B&B spots on Oahu, North Shore? We are planning a trip next June, we are 62. We will be staying one week at Ko Lina, Marriott time share and want to spend another few days either on the North Shore or venture to Kuai. Any recommendations?

Sheila Beal: Since you would have already been on Oahu, why not venture over to beautiful Kauai? Here are some well rated Kauai B&B's for you to consider:

- Inn Paradise in Kapaa (East)
- Bamboo Jungle House in Kalaheo (South)
- Majorie's Kauai Inn in Lawai (South)

They are all inland. Be sure to check reviews and ratings on TripAdvisor.com

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Sheila Beal: Mahalo for all your great questions. I hope you have found some useful answers. I invite you to visit Go Visit Hawaii where you'll find more unbiased information to help you prepare for your Hawaii vacations. You can also sign up for our free daily update. Have a wonderful time in beautiful Hawaii. Aloha!

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