Tuesday, December 22, 2009


If Kauai follows Oahu on your vacation schedule get ready for a shock! Landing in Kauai gives the feeling of going back in time. Small airport, uniformed employees covered in flowers. Right away you feel the humidity on your skin and you know you are in Oahu no more. This is a good thing. If you pride yourself in being "on" all the time you will have a rude awakening because Kauai is a place to relax. No one is in a hurry, the locals are moving in slow motion and they don't really know what hurry means. If you are from New York or Los Angeles you may as well give in because you are in a new time zone, Hawaii time. The sooner you acquiesce, the sooner you will experience the euphoria that will keep you reminiscing long after the the pictures have been downloaded to Facebook and the last tweet on the subject has been sent.

Kauai is not called the Garden Isle for nothing. Once you throw your bags in the rental car and drive out of the airport you will see that the entire island is blanketed in a green carpet. Concrete pokes through here and there to remind you that this is America. There are two main vacation areas with a few towns in between offering less touristy accomodations. Princeville is on the rainy side of the island and because of that you may want to save this destination for late spring through early fall. But if you like the rain and the fresh scent of Hibiscus blowing past you while you read a book on the balcony then by all means stay here. The most famous resort is the Princeville resort. It is a wonderful 5 star resort located above Hanalei Bay. Lots of famous people have been spotted here on vacation or as guests attending a wedding. Don't be surprised if you spot someone here. If you want to get away and be pampered luxuriously you couldn't do better than the St. Regis Princeville Resort. If you are looking to stay in the Hanalei Bay area but you want something a little more laid back or are traveling with family why not stay at the Hanalei Bay Resort. They not only offer hotel rooms but a wide range of condo choices. Still in the magnificent Hanalei Bay area.

I know that some of us are sun worshippers and need more sun, all the time. If this is you then Poipu is the place for you. Poipu is located on the sunny side of the island. All of the islands have a rainy side and a sunny side. This doesn't mean that you won't get rain in Poipu, you will, but it will be limited. There are a lot of hotel choices here but if you are looking for luxury, look no farther than the Grand Hyatt Kauai. This is not your typical business Hyatt. This hotel will make you forget your troubles (or your kids!). Whether you are looking for golf or spa or lounging around the pool you can do it here and because it's in Poipu you have lots of options for other activities. I really like the Poipu Shopping Village. Great shops with great places to eat as well. My favorite drink is a Blue Hawaiian and Keoki's is only 1 of 2 places where I will get it. This restaurant has great food and atmosphere and always casual. Whether you are sick of cooking in your condo or ready for something other than what is offered at your hotel you can't go wrong. Marriott also has one of their timeshare properties located in Kauai. The Waiohai Beach Club is fantastic. You don't have to be an owner to stay here and the great thing about Marriott is you NEVER feel pressured to buy. But the units and the property are great for groups or families. If you are looking for more condo choices here are some that I really like. The Kiahuna Plantation is a great property on the beach but they also offer lots a garden views at a lower price because the property is so huge. It is built spread out over a very large area with bungalow style buildings and since this is Kauai nothing is taller than a palm tree. You will not feel overwhelmed by this property as it is very inviting. Whalers Cove is a hidden gem in my opinion. It's a small condo property with individually owned units but you can rent from the management company. They are large units with oceanview or ocean front units with huge balconys and beautiful appointments. Although this property is not on the beach, it is oceanfront with only a rock wall separating you from the ocean. If you are a snorkeler then you will have instant access to the water. If you are travelling with small children they may be bored if they are looking for lots to do, but this is Kauai after all there isn't to much of that anyway.

Now that you have your accomodations booked, it's time to plan some activities. If you are planning on planting yourself by the pool or on the beach then you can stop reading here, but if you want to do something then here are a few things I think you should put on your list. Waimea Canyon is also known as the "Little Grand Canyon" and it is definitely worth your time to see. You can hike or take a helicopter ride or just take a short walk to the observation areas. There isn't much food in the park so if you plan to stay awhile you may want to pack a lunch. Spouting Horn is also a great spot. Just a short drive from your Poipu hotel is a popular blow hole that is fed by the Pacific. It's absolutely beautiful. There are local vendors here selling their wares and a few picnic tables and the all-important bathroom. Since the road in Kauai does not go all the way around, the only way to see the Napali coast is by hiking or by boat. There are several tour operators offering choices between zodiac rafts, catemarans or boat tours; check with your concierge. Make sure you stop by my favorite soap and candle shop: Island Soap and Candle Works in Old Koloa Town. The aroma will draw you in long before you step through the door. Ask about shipping your purchases home and save on the baggage charge! Very nearby is Lamperts Ice Cream and it is oh so good. Fresh waffle cones and many ice cream choices, including local flavors, will almost guarantee that after your candle purchase you will have your lips wrapped around some wonderful sweet indulgence. There are many local shops located here as well. Last but not least is the Kauai Coffee Company where you can take part in coffee tasting, a walking tour and of course shopping. They will also ship your purchases home.

The most important thing you should come away from Kauai with is lots of rest and peace of mind and body. If you don't come away with at least that then you did it wrong and you need to start all over. Although you won't find all of the nightlife of Oahu or even Maui you will find that Kauai has it's own special offerings that will draw you to the Garden Isle over and over again. Aloha!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Maui - The Magic Isle

Maui, ahhhh my favorite island of them all. Maui offers visitors a little of everything on one island. Where Oahu has lots of night life and Kauai offers the quite solitude, Maui offers both. When you land in Maui you feel like you are on an island. It's a small airport with warm tropical breezes that will meet you as soon as you step off the plane.

Before you get on the plane you have a lot of decisions to make. This is a large island and when you book a hotel you must choose the right part of the island. So, what questions do you ask? What time of the year are you travelling? How much or little action do you want around you? What type of experience are you looking for? The two basic areas in Maui are Kaanapali and Wailea. Wailea is the quieter side of the island and it also will typically have the most sun and least wind in the winter. The hotels tend to have less floors giving you more of an island feel. Kaanapali has lots of action. It boasts a beautiful white sand beach with restaurants, water activities and shopping galore. While you will need a car for both sides of the island, Kaanapali will will require less driving.

Once you choose an area as your base now you must choose a hotel. I've had a lot of fun on both sides of the island and there are some fantastic hotels to stay in. In Kaanapali I would recommend, Hyatt, Marriott or Westin if you are travelling with children because they have fantastic kids clubs and pool areas. They also have timeshare units which may sound like a deterrent but if you can avoid the salesmen it will give you the spaciousness of a condo with the activities and services of a hotel. Looking for a condo property only? The Kaanapali Alii is on Kaanapali beach and if you don't mind not being in the main area then check out the Embassy Suites.

Travelling without children? Sheraton has a beautiful property on Kaanapali beach. Located at Black Rock, this hotel gives you more privacy then those further down the beach. What do all of these hotels (except the Embassy Suites) have in common? Golf! Nearby and world class Golf.

Activities abound in this area. At your hotel or nearby you can arrange for Snorkeling or Surfing equipment and/or lessons. Lahaina has lots and lots of shopping and restaurants, so many you won't be able to eat at them all. My favorite activity of all is Trilogy! Trilogy is a company which provides tours such as snorkeling to Molokini or Dinner cruises but my absolute favorite is the cruise to Lanai. This tour takes you out on their catamaran all day. You start in the morning with fresh, hot, Cinnamon buns, fruit and coffee. You cruise to Lanai and sometimes you see dolphins and you will have time for pictures then when you arrive in Lanai you will choose whether to take the short tour of the town (the town is so small!) or go straight to the beach. All your snorkeling equipment is provided and the beach is at a cove which is home to dolphins so many times the dolphins will approach you (please do not approach the dolphins). Lunch is prepared there for you and it is soooo good! There is just something about eating freshly cooked food outdoors. Then at the end of the day you are on your way back to Maui. Make sure to save room for the ice cream! This was a highlight of a recent trip I took with 3 of my close friends. We all turned 40 the year we went and we needed to somehow make this milestone paletable. So we spent 4 nights at the Grand Wailea and took a daytrip to Lanai with Trilogy. It was well worth the money!! We look forward to turning 45!!

I suppose at this point you are ready to settle down in Kaanapali but.....Wailea has it's own special features. In fact Wailea is my favorite spot. Why? Because it doesn't seem as crowded and it has great weather even when it's raining in Kaanapali. Plus my favorite hotel in all of Hawaii is the Grand Wailea. I have stayed here with and without children and it's just as special either way. The Grand Wailea has one of the, if not the best spa on the island and maybe all the islands. I just love it! The pool is second to none; not only does it offer 3 slides but also a water elevator. Yes, a water elevator. I don't think that I can properly describe how wonderful this hotel is, plus they have a new section with 2 and 3 bedroom units with fully equiped kitchens and full access to the hotels activities. This is not the only hotel in Wailea but it is my favorite. The next one on my list and if you are looking for a smaller hotel this may be the best one for you. The Kea Lani. This hotel is actually all suites and very luxurious. If you are celebrating a special occasion with your special person this is the spot. They also have 2 and 3 bedroom villas right at the beach and each unit has it's own bbq and plunge pool. Need something more economical? Marriott Wailea is the spot. The beach is next door but a great place to snorkel. It's a beautiful hotel with a relaxed atmosphere.

Ready for more activities? Well there is one more in the Kaanapali area that is good for everyone. The Old Lahaina Luau. This is the more authentic luau in all of the islands and it's well worth the money if you are looking for a great luau. Close to Wailea is the Maui Downhill. This is a good one for early risers. The van will pick you up in the early morning and take you up to the top of Haleakala where you may or not see the most beautiful sunrise of your life but whether or not you can see it you will head down the mountain on a mountain bike (with wide seats) then depending on what package you chose you may have breakfast at the end. You should be back to your hotel by 11 am or so, just in time for a siesta on the beach! Make sure to get a picnic lunch and take a day trip to Hana. Take your tennis or hiking shoes and bathing suit and get ready for a fun day on the road. There are plenty of waterfalls and other places of interest along the way. Make sure to be safe when pulling over for pictures.

Maui has so much to offer that you could return over and over and still feel like it's the 1st time. Remember the rule, don't feel like you have to do everything at once. Choose your favorite activity, enjoy your hotel offerings and if you don't have time do it next trip.

Well until next time, travel safe and travel often.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Oahu - The Gathering Place

Oahu is probably the most visited isle with Maui being a close second. Why? Because it's so easy to get a flight there, it's cheaper than flying to the outer islands and most of the specials you see in the newspaper or on TV are priced for Oahu. Not to mention that most Travel Agents don't know the difference from one island to another unless they have been there or done their homework. The Oahu that most people see is as I call it "L. A. with Palm Trees". They land in a huge airport, get their bags and if they have paid for it they get a traditional lei greeting if not they get nothing (leaving most disappointed!). Then they go outside to a maze of cars, buses, taxi's and car rentals. As they leave the airport they see crowded streets, freeways and the occasional traffic jam. This may leave some asking, did I even leave home? Oh yes, how do you know? Because there is no snow and everyone has a tan! But there is more to Oahu than this!

I have a cute story about peoples perception of Hawaii. When I was 19 my parents celebrated their 25th anniversary and my gift to them was a trip to Hawaii. As a poor 19 year old I had saved for a year every dime I made to pay for this week long vacation to Paradise and I had done my homework. I sent them to Kauai (The Garden Isle) because I knew it was what they would enjoy most. It was my mothers dream and Kauai was what she dreamed of. Now my dad never wanted to go, because his idea of Hawaii was what he saw on Hawaii five-O. Which was exactly what I described above!

Well the day arrived and I had a party at the house for them, all their friends were there and some family. They all knew about the surprise and I had even arranged for my dad to have the week off. I then packaged the tickets and hotel arrangements in a huge box, because my mom just knew I was getting her a microwave (we didn't have one). Well, they couldn't believe what the gift was. But my dad was thinking, oh no Hawaii! I bet the theme song to Hawaii Five-O was playing in his head with a picture of Jack Lord in all his glory and perfect hair standing there. What a sight! He played it off though because his little girl had saved so dilligently to send them to Paradise! Well skip to a month later when they are in Hawaii, I get a call from my dad who said "you need to get a 2nd job so we can stay here!" Why, because not all of Hawaii is what you see on Magnum P.I. when he's in Chinatown! Even on Oahu where big business is situated you can find absolutly beautiful areas to destress, have a 2nd honeymoon or have a much needed girls week! So what is the key?

No matter where you book your hotel plan on getting a car for at least a day or two. If you decide to stay on Waikiki Beach, great but get out and explore for a couple of days. You don't need a car for the rest of your stay. Take a taxi or book the shuttle service with your package and get to your hotel. There's lots of nightlife to be had and for that matter daylife too!! They have a pretty famous flea market or swapmeet in Oahu that will afford you an opportunity to pick up some pretty economical keepsakes. Although the beach is pretty covered with hotels, in Oahu the beach itself is open to the public so you don't have to pay top dollar for a beach hotel to enjoy the beach. Don't be fooled by the hotel that says they are 1, 2 or 3 blocks from the beach. Those are VERY LONG BLOCKS! If you are not in some kind of shape or used to walking you will not be happy! But if you don't mind the walk and want to save money go for it. Just remember that the cheapest package advertised is usually cheap! You get what you pay for! You may find yourself wishing for Motel 6! Do your homework before taking that cheap package. Ask what you can get for $50 or $100 more. It's probably worth it.

Now, my favorite hotel in Oahu is the Marriott Ihilani. It is not on Waikiki Beach and is actually about 30 to 45 minutes away. Now you know the 1st reason that it's my favorite. The other attraction is the location. The Ihilani is built on 1 of several man made coves. They were created in order to develop into a tourist area but the investors pulled out and only the Ihilani was left. Over the years there has been talk of several different hotels going in but until now the hotel has stood alone. Marriott recently built timeshares alongside the hotel which allows families the opportunity to relax. Recently Disney announced that they would build timeshares on one of the coves as well and it should be opening in 2011 unless there is a delay. There is also the Paradise Cove Luau located nearby. Why is that significant? Because it's probably the best in Oahu. Lots of people are bussed from their hotels in Waikiki to this popular excursion and from the Ihilani you are steps away!

The Cove offers a safety factor that you don't have on Waikiki Beach. From the early morning on you will find people of all ages snorkeling and Kayaking in the cove's calm warm water. I can just feel the gentle breeze, warm sun with Mai Tai in hand. This is the life! But if you want to be in the middle of the action, I have a few suggestions. The Hilton Hawaiian Hotel is a resort unlike any other in the area. It is comprised of several towers each offering a different price point and value. While other hotels have a concierge floor, they have an entire tower with its own pool! This is a great hotel for families, couples and singles because of the range of activities. It's on the beach, and in the middle of the action. One of my favorite restraunts is nearby, Benihana! If you like to be busy you will enjoy this location! If you are looking for upscale, I really enjoy the Halekulani. This is more than just a beautifully apponted hotel, it also offers unparalled service and amenities. If you want to be on Waikiki Beach but not so overwhelmed with the outside world, this is your hotel. It's sister property the Waikiki Parc is across the street. A very little street. It's a boutique hotel with, small but beautiful rooms. The price is significantly lower than the Halekulani but with the same service, attention to detail and many upgraded amenities. Just because I haven't mentioned a hotel, doesn't mean that it's not good, I just don't have the time, or space to talk about them all.

As for activities, there are so many I couldn't talk about them all but I will mention a couple of my favorites. I've already talked about the Paradise Cove Luau, but there is another wonderful excursion on Oahu that I stumbled upon, called Kualoa Ranch. This is a 4000 acre ranch, that offers horseback riding, ATV tours, movie set tours and also has a gun range. We had so much fun here, it was amazing. But two words of caution to you women out there. Sports Bra! When they say offroad, they mean off road. It's worth the pain though and what an awsome day for the entire family.

My other must-go is to the Dole Plantation. I was surprisingly pleased with our stop here. First of all I finally learned how to cut a pineapple properly. There is a pretty incredible maze for you and your kids to get lost in and after all when you think of Hawaii don't you think of pineapple? Today, Hawaii isn't the super pineapple producing state it once was but, just think of how happy your family and friends at home will be when you ship them their very own ripe pineapple straight from Hawaii!!

Your question is probably, how long can we stay? My answer is at least 3 nights. Many use Oahu has a jumping off spot to the outer islands and some spend the entire week here. The minimum flight time from the continental U.S. is 5 hours so you obviously don't want to stay 3 nights and go home but you could add an additional 4 or more night on another island to complete your stay. Fall is the cheapest time to travel and Summer and holidays are usually the most expensive, but this year I have seen specials in every season. Take advantage of the low prices. Well that is it for this installment. Next time we will travel to Maui. Until then travel safe and travel often.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


So driving to your vacation spot is not for you? If you have nightmares about screaming kids in the back of a sweltering minivan or if you don't have the time or the energy or if you even are dreading the drive to the airport, call a shuttle and get out of the car! The obvious alternative is to fly. In times past you would call your local travel agent and tell her where you want to go and she would do all the research for you. Show up with a credit card and it's all done. Did you get the best price? Who knew? The only way you would find out is if the person sunbathing next to you mentioned that their travel agent got them this great deal! But today is a different story! Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia are all household names! Long gone, is the loyalty to a travel agent and even if you called one they wouldn't want to just book a flight for you without charging a fee. So what now?

First, which airline will you choose? The cheapest? The most advertised? The one with the name that is on your credit card earning you miles? First you should know that the best airline is the one that has a hub or that caters to the area of the world that you are traveling too. For instance, American Airlines caters to the Caribbean so most likely they have the best schedule, the most seats and the best price if you are traveling there. Are you going to or near Salt Lake City? Then Delta is your airline! Try to get a cheap seat from L.A. to Anchorage on American, it probably won't happen because they don't cater to that part of the world.

What about those cheap regional airlines, like Spirit which has flights to/from Florida and mostly east coast cities? Well, you may save some money but what happens if they have a mechanical problem or a delay? Will they be able to route you on another plane or is that the only flight for the day? What happens if you don't make it back to work at 8 am tomorrow? Now that cheap flight isn't so cheap. Think about this when you are booking the unknown airline. My family and I travelled to Hawaii on vacation one year on a charter airline booked through Pleasant Hawaii. It was very cheap, which my husband liked, but I warned him that if there was a mechanical problem we would be stuck in Hawaii. He thought it would be a dream come true. Well we flew from Maui to Oahu to take our trans-pacific flight home and then there was a mechanical problem with the plane in Oahu. The airline had no agreements with other airlines and they couldn't get another plane to us until the next day. They put us up in a decent hotel way off the beach and they gave us food vouchers for the hotels restaurant, which lacked eatable food and the next day we went home. We were prepared but most people aren't.

I always suggest using a website like http://www.kayak.com/, which will search several websites for the lowest price. Then I go to the official airline website to make sure they are not cheaper. Also watch out for extra fees. It's not a deal if you have to pay fees. Don't make a mistake with your dates or times because the airlines and some websites charge fees for changes. Some of those fees may be more than the cost of your flight, so make sure you have definite plans.

So where will you go? Our favorite vacation spot is Hawaii. In fact in a different life I worked for a Hawaii tour operator called Classic Hawaii. I travelled there for fun and for business. So here is a sample itinerary for a family of 4 travelling to Maui, my favorite island:

Day 1: Fly to Maui (west coast arrives 5 hours after departure, east coast 8 or more). Check into your hotel (Deluxe - Grand Wailea, Superior - Sheraton Kaanapali) for 7 nights.

Day 2: If you are arriving from the east coast, make sure to get as acclimated to local time as soon as possible. Check out your hotel, hang out at the pool, talk to the concierge about local not-to-miss attractions and book one today for Day 3 or 4 if you didn't do this from home.

Day 3: If you are at the Grand Wailea you may never want to leave and I'm sure your kids don't. So after spending some family time on the water elevator, break away from the festivities and go to the Spa Grande (make reservations in advance). After spending sometime in the Roman bath or taking your turn in one of the aromatic baths, your personal spa attendant will give you a complementary Honey Mango Loofah Body Polish. No your spa treatment hasn't started yet! You can then meet your significant other in the open air waiting area overlooking the pools and ocean. If you are staying at the Sheraton, the spa and pools are open to you as well but you also may want to explore the Kaanapali area with your family. Or hit the golf course while others shop. There is no shortage of things to do here.

Day 4: OK if you have an activity planned do it today if you didn't do it yesterday. If not take a drive to Hana. Have the hotel prepare a picnic lunch and get on the road early. If you are staying in Wailea you have saved yourself about an hour. Don't rush though enjoy the drive. Don't hesitate to stop and take pictures at the waterfalls, and beautiful vistas. Ask a native how to find the black "sand" beach. At the end of the road you can hike to the waterfall or on a clear day you can take a plunge in one of the seven sacred pools (not pools like at your local YMCA). Then head back home.

Day 5: After that excursion you will want to rest today. Now either tonight or tomorrow you will want to go to a luau if you've never been. The best of the best is the Old Lahaina Luau. So authentic you'll want to carve out your own canoe! There are many others on the island that will say they are the best and cheaper but if you can swing the price you won't regret it.

Day 6: Today is a good day for shopping. Ask the Concierge at your hotel for any local artists that sell there wares. Some of the hotels have a day when they come in and showcase them. Make sure to go to Lahaina. If you are staying in Wailea it's a 1 hour drive on a 2 lane highway and depending on the season you may see whales and you are bound to see windsurfers. It's beautiful! From Kaanapali it's 15 minutes away. This is a quaint little town with great local restaurants and shops. It's a great way to spend an afternoon.

Day 7: Today is the day to do whatever you haven't done! Need more time at the pool, do it! Need more shopping, do it! But don't over do it. Make sure to have reservations at a special spot on the water where you can have the waiter take a family portrait with the sunset in the background. Now that's a souvenir!

Day 8: Well it's almost over and hopefully you are rested. If you live on the east coast your flight is probably later in the day so get down to the front desk if you haven't done so already and ask for a late check-out or at least a place to store your bags while you hang out at the pool. Ask if they have a shower room that you can use and remember to keep a change of clothes in your carry on bag!

Well that is the first of many itineraries in this blog. Next time I will go into detail about Hawaii. Until then travel safe and travel often!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Travel, Travel, Travel - A Guide to the Basics

My passion is travel. I love to talk about it, dream about it and do it. But with the economy how it is, you would think that it would be the last thing on my list. Well it's not. We all need an escape from reality, and now more than ever travel is important to our sanity and family unity.

It's time to rethink the traditional rules about travel. You don't need to have a 4 or 5 star hotel to enjoy your hard earned vacation. It is not better to stay home if you can't afford to travel in luxury. The goal of a vacation should be to get in touch with yourself, your family and your sanity. That can be done from whatever star hotel or ship's cabin.

So what is my suggestion to start? Write down what makes you happy. Do you enjoy the beach, mountains, wilderness, or city? Where do you feel the most relaxed? If vacationing is new to you then take it slow. Do you need to get away? When you think about that what first pops into your mind? Start there and KISS, yes, Keep It Simple Silly. How will you get there? Do you have a car to drive and can you get there in 6 hours or less? Do you have limited time or can you afford the 6 hours to and from your destination?

Driving can be a fun experience if and only if it is relaxed. Enjoy the scenery, stop along the way and arrive at your destination within 6 hours. If your vacation includes several stops then driving will allow you the versitility of stopping when you want and as long as you want. Do not drive everyday of your vacation. You will arrive home more tired then you left. If you are concerned about your vehicle then rent a car. Many rental agencies have special rates for weekends or if you reserve your car in advance. Take advantage of this, along with coupons that you can get at your auto club, Entertainment Book or other reward programs. Now is the time to use what you can to stretch your dollar.

The next thing you need to keep in mind is that you cannot see everything so don't try. In my years as a travel agent I found that most people planned their vacation as if they had a terminal illness and would never be able to return to that destination. They tried to cram as much stuff as they could in a 1 week vacation. Then they wondered why their kids were cranky and not appreciative for the week in a tropical paradise. Here is a rule of thumb. If you come home from vacation and cannot remember everything you did, not just list it but remember the details of it, you did too much. It's true that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow but I guarantee that your regrets will not be that you missed the 15th museum or beach on your vacation. So how do you avoid this mistake? Buy a guidebook for your destination or do some research on it on the internet. Then make a list of your top five stops and the top five of all the people in your household. Come together and chose 3 to 5 of those and you will be ready to go. Now here is where many people go astray, you are not going to jail if you don't see all 3 to 5 of those things. If you get to your destination and find there is something else that you or the family wants to do, like sit at the pool or spa then do that! Your list is just a guide.

You are probably asking where do we stay and what if I don't want to drive? Well stay tuned....

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