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First holiday in Hawaii

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First holiday in Hawaii

Planning our first ever visit to Hawaii in Jan 2007. My wife & I will be there for two weeks, travelling in from New Zealand. What is a good itinerary - say one week in Oahu & one week Maui?, or some other split. Should I ignore other islands? What area should I be looking at for accommodation. Reading up on trips etc on Tripadvisor but would welcome any help.

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1. Re: First holiday in Hawaii

You read not to do more than one island a week.

We decided to do 3 islands in 15 days. 5 nights on the Big Island, 5 nights on Oahu, and 5 nights on Maui.

May be a little busy and we will lose two half days traveling to the other islands but we may never get back and certainly our girls may never be back so we are glad we are doing 3 islands. So many on here seem to recommend Kauai.

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2. Re: First holiday in Hawaii

jonners, you can do 3 islands in two weeks, but you'll have an active vacation for the most part. Where you go depends on what kinds of things do you want to do and see.

KAUA'I is called the Garden Isle for a reason; Mount Waialale in the center is the wettest spot on earth, getting about 440" of rain annually. Kaua'i is the oldest major island in the chain and boasts spectacular pali (cliffs) and knife-edged from eons of erosion. The Na Pali coast is probably one of the best-known sites in the islands. There's also Waimea Canyon on the dry side of the island, that is sometimes compared to the Grand Canyon, amazing although much smaller.

Kaua'i is probably the most laid-back of the larger islands and is certainly the least developed. There are a couple of large resorts, but most areas have a more local feel. Kaua'i is known for it's incredible array of gorgeous beaches, and for being home to a small number of endangered Monk Seals. (It also happens to be my favorite island, but here I'm tracing the chain north to south. Really. <G>)

OAHU is home to Honolulu and Waikiki Beach. The main street has scads of upscale shops. There's also Chinatown and many historical sites. Waikiki is an OK beach, but there are MANY better ones. IMHO you go to see it just because it's Waikiki.

Once out of Honolulu, Oahu becomes much more rural, especially up towards the north and east shores. In January the north shore surf should be pretty high and the surfing exciting. You'll also find lots of hikes, great beaches and scenery.

MAUI offers a real mix, part secluded and tropical, part more developed and busy. Like all the islands it has a wetter north/east side and a dryer south/west side. Hana, a tiny "town" to the east, is a place for hiking, beautiful beaches and many, many waterfalls, as well as some interesting historical sites. To the south and west are the busier areas (well, busy for Hawai'i) of Wailea, Kihei, Lahaina, Ka'anapali and more. Half of Maui is Haleakala, the dormant volcano responsible for building much of the island.

THE ISLAND OF HAWAI'I is most often referred to as the BIG ISLAND for a reason. You could take all of the other islands, arrange them on top of the Big Island, and still have room left over. Kona side has many large resorts, great snorkeling, historical and heritage sites. Across the island is Hawai'i Volcanos National Park, where Kilauea has been erupting continuously for about 20 years. If you're lucky you may even get to see live lava close up. (Not too close; the stuff is HOT!)

This is a VERY brief synopsis. If you can tell us what's on your wish list we can give you more guidance.

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3. Re: First holiday in Hawaii

atlmom, many here recommend Kaua'i because it's clearly the BEST. <VBG> (I'm not biased... noooosireebob.)

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4. Re: First holiday in Hawaii

I would rather do Kauai, Oahu, and Maui but my husband is dead set on going to Volcano National Park and going on a helicopter tour. I could care less but that is why we are leaving Kauai out.

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5. Re: First holiday in Hawaii

atlmom, you'll enjoy HVNP. IMHO, it's a REALLY neat place, and a helo tour is a great way to see what you can't see from the ground. It's also pretty neat that you go from rainforest at the top to desert down below in just a few miles. If you're lucky enough to be able to hike to live lava, it's something you'll never forget. There are lots of interesting places and short hikes around the park, and if your timing works out, do one of the ranger talks or ranger-lead walks. Talking to the park rangers can be a highlight in my book.

At the ranger station on top of Haleakala there's a relief map showing where HI sits in the pacific. I saw it on my very first trip out; until then I'd had NO idea just how isolated the islands are, and so small in the vast ocean. We're really almost smack in the middle. Pretty neat.

Derby, UK
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6. Re: First holiday in Hawaii


I'd definately choose a week on Kauai over a week on Maui. It's the least commercialised of the main islands and breathtakingly beautiful. It's just how I'd imagined the Hawaiian islands would be.


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7. Re: First holiday in Hawaii

I haven't been to Oahu so I can't speak to that, but you'll have plenty of things to do in Maui for 7 days. We were there for 8 nights in July and every day was packed with activities. I LOVED it, it was so much fun!

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8. Re: First holiday in Hawaii


I would stay for 3-4 nights on Oahu. Stay in Waikiki. Take tours, see shows, eat at nice restaurants, there are several in & around Waikiki so you won't have to go far.

You absolutely MUST visit the Big Island. Stay in Kona, NOT Hilo, and spend at least 5 nights there.

The last Island could be Kauai if you like to just relax and do nothing on schedule. If, however, you want a bit more of an entertaining atmosphere, then try Maui.

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9. Re: First holiday in Hawaii

On second thought, and after reading atlmom2's suggestions, I think atlmom2 is right.

Make the main focus of your visit two islands, The Big Island and Kauai. Use Oahu as a rest stop coming and going, say 1-2 nights when you first arrive, and 1-2 nights just before you leave.

That way you still get to see a little of Oahu.

Saint Cloud...
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10. Re: First holiday in Hawaii

Spend at least a week on Oahu. More to see and do there than any other island. Maui or Big Island for the rest of the time.

List of things to do on Oahu

These are some hints/suggestions for things to do and see on Oahu. Many of the websites listed are good for all islands.

Arizona Memorial: (free) get there early, preferably by 8am. Opens at 7:30am. If you get there after 10am the lines can get long and you may spend 1-2 hours in line. Battleship USS Missouri and Submarine USS Bowfin are in the same area. These are about $15 each so you can go or skip them. Look for coupons in brochures for two for one. You can take pictures of them from Arizona Visitors Center and the Arizona tour ferry. Go on the lawn behind the Visitor's Center (Circle of Remembrance) for great pictures. You can also walk around the Bowfin Memorial area for free without taking the tour. Its worth the time. The Swap Meet is only a couple blocks from here at Aloha Stadium.

Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC): www.polynesia.com General Admission about $50 or the luau buffet package ($80). The evening 'Horizon' show is the best Polynesian show in all of Hawaii. It comes with all ticket price options. The higher priced ticket packages get the better seating for 'Horizons'. Also the earlier you get there, the better the seating is for 'Horizons'. The Ali'i Luau Show that is part of the luau package is also a good Polynesian show. IMAX, Canoe Pageant, Samoa and Tonga villages and Canoe ride are the best other attractions (these are included with any type ticket). Plan on this as an all day event. Get there by 1pm (earlier if possible), leave around 9:30pm. When I take visitors, I try to keep on this schedule: IMAX 1:30, Canoe Pageant 2:30, Samoa 3:00, Tonga 4:00, Canoe Ride around 4:30, regular buffet or Ali'i luau buffet 5pm and 'Horizons' at 7:30. The other villages are nice also, but there is not enough time for all of them. You will have time to do some shopping or looking around between the buffet or luau and 'Horizons'. Closed on Sundays. You can go back for free for two days. Check with PCC employees for instructions before leaving the Center if you want the extra days.

Coupon in Entertainment Book to save $36.

Diamond Head Summit: Drive right into the crater and hike to the top. ($5 per carload or $1 each if you walk into the crater). I prefer to drive in. Awesome 360 degree view from the summit. Best time is around 8am or around 4pm. In between it can get hot walking to the top. Takes about 1 - 1 1/2 hours roundtrip.

Punchbowl (National Cemetery of the Pacific): (free) While you are there, drive to the overlook area. Short walk to the summit that overlooks the entire city. If you have time, take the Mt. Tantalus/Round Top drive through a rain forest. Stop at the Puu Ualakaa State Wayside about 2/3 of the way to the top of the mountain. It has an awesome view of the city from Waikiki to Pearl Harbor. Punchbowl is near the bottom of Mt. Tantalus.

Hanauma Bay: Snorkel. Its for any age. You can rent snorkeling equipment there or some places in Waikiki or bring your own. Closed on Tuesdays. Try to get there as early as possible. If you drive, the parking lot gets filled up by 9:00 or 10:00. ($1 for parking, $5 for each person). You can reserve snorkel tours with several companies. They provide equipment, transportation, etc. They seem to have better equipment than the park does. You can also take the city bus. But the first city bus doesn't leave Waikiki until 8:30 am. Website:


Byodo-In-Temple (Valley of the Temples): $2 each. Just past Kaneohe. Haiku Gardens in Kaneohe is close by.

Chinaman's Hat: (free) Kualoa Regional Park is just past Byodo-In-Temple. Nice for pictures, picnic, swimming. Also nearby is Macadamia Nut Farm Outlet just before Kualoa Regional Park. Kualoa Ranch is across the street.

Swap Meet: You can buy almost any souvenirs here much cheaper than anywhere else. All items are new. Vendors wrap around the stadium twice. Located at Aloha Stadium near Arizona Memorial. Open Wed, Sat, Sun.

Hilo Hattie's: Nice place to shop. Higher prices than swap meet, but not too much more on many items. Has good selection of clothing, candies and souvenirs. Check brochures for coupons. Can take free Hilo Hattie's shuttle from Waikiki.

Ala Moana Beach Park: (free) Nice beach. Great sunset location in the winter. Walk all the way out to the end of Magic Island. Great view of Waikiki, Diamond Head, Ala Wai Boat Harbor (shown in opening scene of Gilligan's Island).

Hike to Manoa Falls: $5 for parking at Treetops. One mile one way. Short hike through a rain forest. Also small bamboo forest there. Treetops restaurant there (at the previous Paradise Park site) has a good Chinese buffet. Lyon Arboretum is nearby. It is a nice botanical garden. You can park there and walk a short distance to Manoa Falls trail.

Hike to Makapuu Point Lighthouse: (free) Great view from here. Easy one mile hike. In winter months (mid-November to mid-April) it's great for whale watching.

Other Hiking on Oahu:

http://www.hawaiitrails.org/ (good for all islands)




North Shore Beaches: Haleiwa, Banzai Pipeline (Ehukai Beach), Waimea Beach, Sunset Beach, Shark's Cove (Pupukea) &Laniakea Beach. Laniakea Beach has sea turtles. Other nice stops for pictures in the area. Can be huge waves in winter. Good snorkeling at Shark's Cove in the summer. Laniakea Beach is located about 1/2 way between Waimea Bay and Haleiwa.

Other beaches: There are close to 100 beaches on Oahu. Besides North Shore and Waikiki beaches these are some of the better ones: Makaha Beach (west shore), Waimanalo Beach, Waimanalo Bay Recreation Area, Lanikai Beach, Sandy Beach, Hanauma Bay and Kailua Beach (east/Windward side), Ala Moana Beach Park (south shore). All public beaches are free except Haunama Bay.

Dole Pineapple Plantation: On H-2 just past Wahiawa. Can visit on the way to or back from the North Shore. Nice gift shop to browse, but expensive. Go behind the center for pineapple exhibits, gardens and carp feeding pond.

Kualoa Ranch: Several movies have been set here: (Jurassic Park, Mighty Joe Young and others), ATV rides, horseback riding, tours. Located across from Kualoa Regional Park.

Waikiki: Beaches, shopping, dining, nightclubs, shows, some museums. Wide range in dining prices. $3-4 breakfasts, $6-10 lunch buffets, $20-$25 fine dining and anywhere in between. Best Waikiki shows: Creation: A Polynesian Journey, John Hirokawa's Magic of Polynesia, Society of Seven, Blue Hawaii (Elvis impersonator), many more to chose from. Many Waikiki shows offer cocktail show along with the dinner show. They seat you after everyone else has eaten. Regular price of shows around $40-$60. Cocktail show about $25-$35. There are several other short free hula shows and other demonstrations in Waikiki daily. Check the brochures for location, days and times. Check brochures &Entertainment Book for coupons for shows/dining/shopping, etc.

Downtown Area: Aloha Tower (take elevator to the top, nice view), Chinatown, Hawaii Maritime Center, Iolani Palace, Bishop Museum, other museums.

Botanical Gardens: Oahu has many botanical gardens. Most are free, the others charge a few bucks. Haiku Garden in Kaneohe is nice and is a nice stop if you are taking an island driving tour. Located near Byodo-In-Temple (Valley of the Temples).

Here is a nice site for gardens in the state:

http://www.hawaii.edu/sciref/botgarden.html (all islands)

Check brochures or get info on-line for others. Search: oahu botanical gardens

Other: Sea Life Park, Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki Aquarium, Children's Discovery Center dinner cruises, whale watching cruise, submarine tours, parasailing, helicopter tours, horseback riding, Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park, scuba, surfing lessons, other luau shows (Germaine's, Paradise Cove). Many other attractions, things to do. Check the brochures.

Brochures: (free) Can be found in the airport baggage claim area or at hundreds of news stands throughout Waikiki, in hotels, in stores, and at some attractions. These are excellent "things to do and see" guide books (maps, attractions, beaches, dining, night clubs, etc.). There are a lot of coupons in these for dining, shopping, etc. The best brochures are: 'This Week on Oahu', 'Oahu Gold', '101 Things Oahu', 'The BEST of Oahu'. Some of these brochures can also be found for other islands (Maui, Kauai, Big Island) unique to that island. Most of these brochures also have on-line versions.


www.thisweek.com 'This Week On Oahu' They will send up-to-date brochures for a few bucks. Also This Week Maui, Kauai, Big Island.

www.spotlighthawaii.com 'Oahu Gold' They will send up-to-date brochures for a few bucks. Also Maui Gold, Big Island Gold, Kauai Gold.

www.gohawaii.com This is the official site for Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau. They will send a free brochure.


www.visit-oahu.com Oahu Visitors Bureau, for free brochure 1-877-525-6248 (toll free)

www.hawaii.com Good site for comparing hotel locations, prices, etc.






www.honolulu.hawaii.edu/tours (driving and walking tours)

www.driveguidemagazines.com Good island maps including many detailed maps. Also good restaurant guide. Good for all islands

www.discoveringhawaii.com Free (pdf) circle island tour map. Also free (pdf) download Oahu movie location map.

www.hawaii-hotels.com Compare hotels

www.bookit.com Compare hotels



www.honoluluadvertiser.com one of two main Honolulu newspapers, has dining &entertainment guides, TGIF calendar

www.starbulletin.com one of two main Honolulu newspapers, also has dining &entertainment guides

Automobiles: Oahu is the only island that you can get around by bus. Oahu has a good bus system, but a rental vehicle gets around a lot better. Parking in Waikiki can be a problem at times. If you plan on renting a car, make sure your hotel allows parking at the hotel or in a nearby lot or garage. Get the parking pass at the hotel registration area. Probably $8-$14/day to park at the hotel. You can get city bus passes at any ABC store in Waikiki for $20 for 4 days ($40/month). Or you can pay $2.00 per trip. There are also many shuttles, tour buses and vans and trolleys that go to many places (some are free). Also 1 or 4 day Waikiki Trolley passes available.



Internet Search Engines: Use Yahoo, Google, Dogpile or any other search engine to find information on any thing else on Oahu (or other island) that may interest you. Type in: hiking hawaii, hiking oahu, bed and breakfast oahu, condominiums oahu, botanical gardens oahu, oahu hotels or any other terms that will get you information.

Hotels: Most hotels (or hotel chains) have their own 800 numbers and/or websites:




, etc. Or you can use a search engine to find the website or use the search engine's yellow pages for the phone number.

also try www.vrbo.com for more options

Entertainment Book

Entertainment books for Hawaii and many other locations can be purchased online at:


They cost around $35-$40 plus shipping or if you wait until mid-March, the price is reduced to about $25 (or less) with free shipping, $15 after mid-May. Expires November 1.

Coupons include half price tickets for John Hirokawa's Magic Show. Hundreds of other coupons for reduce price luaus, shopping, dining, movies, attractions, etc. The Hawaii book also has many mainland coupons for hotels, car rentals, Universal Studios, Sea World, etc.






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