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Hawaii or Puerto Rico?

Anchorage, Alaska
6 posts
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Hawaii or Puerto Rico?

Hi, so my family and I have been planning a vacation for this summer to take as a family. We have my parents, and three teenagers (including myself; ages 19, 17, 17). Currently, our top destination is Hawaii but we're still unsure of which island, or if we even want to go there rather than somewhere else, like Puerto Rico or possibly even Mexico.

We are most definitely an outdoor family, so lots of beach access, great snorkeling, hiking, and other outdoor actives like those are a must (and a relatively safe community because my mom and I both run a lot and need safe streets to be out on). My parents also prefer an area that's not super overwhelmed with people, so nothing like Honolulu (my mom has actually already ruled out Oahu for the most part).

My mom, sister, and I went to Maui in 2012 and absolutely loved it. We stayed in Kihei and spent the majority of our trip outdoors. My dad has already visited Kauai, nearly 20 years ago, but said he enjoyed it a lot, and currently Kauai is are most likely option. We were looking at staying on the North Shore in the Princeville area and everything we've read about Kauai sounds amazing. But, basically for Hawaii it's still between Kauai and The Big Island.

On the other hand, we also want to try out something different rather than just going to Hawaii. That's why we've been looking at Puerto Rico or Mexico (those are just the top two, we're relatively open to most places in the Caribbean or Central America).

So anyway, I came here to try to get more insight into our possible destinations (or places we haven't even thought of that somebody might recommend). We live in Alaska so airfare can be pretty expensive to some places, so money is a factor. We want to stay somewhere for a little less than two weeks (something like May 26-June 6). My parents are rather frugal so accommodation (we want to rent a house or condo) can't be too expensive. Our budget isn't set and stone, my parents said they'd be lenient, but since I've pretty much been left to plan our whole trip I don't want to make my parents spend more money than they need to.

Please feel free to give me any insight on the places I've listed (or even ones you might think would be a good fit for us) and ask questions if you need to!

California
Destination Expert
for Oahu
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45,092 posts
19 reviews
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1. Re: Hawaii or Puerto Rico?

Summer? Unless you are fond of humidity, I would choose Hawaii. And Hawaii would be an easier trip from Alaska. And if safety is a concern - again, I'd stick to Hawaii.

In reading your comments - it sounds like you have thought through your options well.

Understand that Oahu is mostly rural - and it might be a good choice ... to get a vacation home/condo/resort outside of Honolulu - and yet Honolulu is available for day-trips, dinners or the younger crowd.

From time to time we get questions (or we talk amongst ourselves) about whether it would be good to branch out and try places other than Hawaii. But if Hawaii works for your budget and has what you want ... why not come back?

I am assuming that you do want something tropical.

Big Island, Hawaii
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for Island of Hawaii
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2. Re: Hawaii or Puerto Rico?

I love Puerto Rico and it would be a very good choice. The snorkeling there is definitely better overall and it's generally cheaper. It definitely feels more "exotic" I suppose, and overall I prefer the food. I'm also all for trying new places and you've been to Hawaii (although Kauai and the BI are very different from Kihei!!). However I would probably avoid the Caribbean during hurricane season when you will be traveling. If you google around you'll find tons of different topics on various sites discussing the choice. Check out the PR TA forum too for a balanced perspective (if you haven't already).

As far as Kauai versus the Big Island, they are very different. The BI has the best snorkeling in the state, Kauai the poorest. The BI is immense (relatively speaking) and Kauai relatively tiny. There are few places more beautiful in the world than the north shore of Kauai, and above ground it is for many people the fantasy island, Old Hollywood Hawaii, with soaring green jagged mountains plunging down to soft sand beaches, plus the multicolored Waimea Canyon.

The Big Island is in many parts vast plains of lava rock, and has the magnificent Volcanoes National Park. You can often find yourself outnumbered by turtles on the beaches. It is the quietest and least developed of the major islands with many accessible and well preserved heiau, ancient fishponds, and historical parks. Both it and Kauai have excellent hiking, as with the beaches, the BI hiking trails will be much less busy.

Edited: 18 January 2014, 20:23
Minnesota
Destination Expert
for Maui
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12,516 posts
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3. Re: Hawaii or Puerto Rico?

I personally would choose Hawaii for you. Shorter flight and has a lot of what you want. Puerto Rico is not the greatest for snorkeling...actually kind of dangerous in areas and you have to take a tour by boat out to other islands for the best snorkeling. Also, most buildings, even out of the city have barred windows and doors on the first level at least. Although we felt safe, it didn't leave me with the safest feeling and I'm not sure it would be good to take off and run on your own. I liked it and it kind of reminded me of Hawaii, but I prefer Hawaii.

The north shore of Kauai is awesome. Still not the best snorkeling, but it is enjoyable. I think you need to decide first where you are going then people can help with accommodation choices.

pzp
Kauai, Hawaii
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for Kauai, Kapaa
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4. Re: Hawaii or Puerto Rico?

While I love PR, it's likely to be miserably hot and humid in the summer. And you really need to have a little Spanish to manage outside of tourist areas. And it can be a little sketchy in places. Kaua`i is really different than Maui; you'd have a completely new experience. You might want to think about a cottage somewhere like Anini Beach or in Hanalei. Princeville is a planned community. Nice enough, but you could be almost anywhere except for the view. Admittedly, the snorkeling is not great here, although it's still fun, but Kaua`i has some of the most spectacular scenery in the islands, notably the north shore, Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali coast. In many ways it's geared towards outdoor activities, which I think you'd like.

Princeville, Hawaii
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5. Re: Hawaii or Puerto Rico?

Having been to the Caribbean in the summer, I would choose Hawaii. As others have said, it is hot. It's also hurricane season. The North Shore is great in the summer and if you rent a cottage on Hanalei or 'Anini, your family will love you.

6. Re: Hawaii or Puerto Rico?

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Oklahoma City...
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for Oklahoma, Grove
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7. Re: Hawaii or Puerto Rico?

It is hurricane season during the summer in Puerto Rico, too. Also, Puerto Rico has no see ums, so when you are on the beach at sunset getting bitten by these little critters you'll wish you'd chosen Hawaii. I prefer the snorkeling on the Big Island to PR any day. Venture out of the resort and it can be quite sketchy. For snorkeling, hiking and other outdoor activities, the Big Island has more and better options. Plan on 10 days at least, with 75% on the west side for your snorkeling and water activities and 25% on the east side for volcano hikes and amazing vistas.

Big Island, Hawaii
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8. Re: Hawaii or Puerto Rico?

It seems like from some of the replies people have only been to very limited spots in PR, especially with regard to snorkeling. Vieques and Culebra are two great options (I worked on Vieques for a few months while I was getting dive master training before going to Honduras) but even the mainland PR beats snorkeling in Hawaii any day IMO, because of the abundance of the soft corals and bright colors as well as the overall health of the reefs. It's kind of like if you've only been to Kauai that wouldn't be a good basis on which to make a statement about snorkeling "in Hawaii" in general.

Having said that, I still think Hawaii is the best choice in summer.

Kona
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9. Re: Hawaii or Puerto Rico?

As others have said because it's summer, Hawaii would probably be the preferred destination. The flights will also probably be less - there are some pretty good deals from Alaska these days.

But if you were going in winter, I'd encourage you to go to Puerto Rico! Having a Puerto Rican husband and lots of family members there no doubt colors my opinion, but I've come to LOVE it there. The food is awesome and much cheaper than Hawaii - and there are so many festivals going on all the time, it's never hard to find a good party :-) The countryside is gorgeous and many of the beaches almost completely deserted except on weekends.

Ditto Shea's comment on the snorkeling - there is some excellent snorkeling to be had indeed!

Edited: 19 January 2014, 00:04
10. Re: Hawaii or Puerto Rico?

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