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Exploring Hawaii - Hawaii Vacation Trip Advisor

"...We are looking for an affordable getaway during the last week in June due to unexpected vacation time. (We already have 5 nights in Aruba planned for April and 2 weeks in Hawaii in August)..."
"...We're looking to travel sometime during June-August for a 2 week vacation. We originally were thinking Hawaii but it's so expensive. We like 4 star resorts on a 2 star budget:) Are there options that might work for us? We are looking for any information about cheap hawaii vacation, hawaii vacation packages etc...We will be bringing our 11 yr. old son. We love a great pool but aren't crazy about a completely kid packed resort. Any referrals would be appreciated! We'll be traveling from Northern California. Thanks!"

Exploring Hawaii
     The islands of Hawaii are a dream destination for many travelers, and a cruise that incorporates all four of the states beautiful islands could be just the ticket for your vacation plans. Each island has its own beauty and charm and is not the same as the others. From Big Island to Maui, to Oahu, to Kauai, there is something different and special about each local flavor. The best way to get a real taste of Hawaii, is to try the sample platter.
   The islands of HAWAII , with their volcanoes , palm-fringed beaches , verdant valleys , glorious rainbows and awesome cliffs , hold some of the most spectacularly beautiful scenery on earth. However, despite their isolation, two thousand miles out in the Pacific, they belong very definitely to the United States. If you expect your South Seas idyll to be completely unspoiled, forget it; the fantasy of a dream holiday in Paradise remains firmly rooted in the creature comforts of home. With seven million tourists per year, including honeymooners from all over the world, frequent fliers cashing in their mileage, and almost two million Japanese, the islands can seem like a gigantic theme park.
Big Island of Hawaii Handbook: Including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the Kona Coast, and Waip'io Valley

Big Island of Hawaii Handbook: Including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the Kona Coast, and Waip'io Valley

   Honolulu , by far the largest city of the fiftieth state, and with its resort annex of Waikiki also the main tourist center, is on Oahu . The biggest island, Hawaii itself, is known as the Big Island in a vain attempt to avoid confusion. Maui and Kauai also attract mass tourism, while smaller Molokai remains far quieter. All the islands share a similar topography and climate . Ocean winds from the northeast shed their rain on the windward coast, keeping it wet and green; the southwest, leeward (or "Kona") coasts can be almost barren, and so make ideal locations for big resorts. While temperatures remain consistent throughout the year at between 70F and 85F, rainfall is heaviest from December to March. That is nonetheless the most popular time to visit, enabling mid- to upper-range hotels to add a premium of at least $30 per night to their standard room rates. A visit to Hawaii doesn't have to cost a fortune, however; there are plenty of budget facilities if you know where to look. The one major expense you really can't avoid, except possibly on Oahu, is car rental - rates are very reasonable, but gas is pricey.

Exploring Hawaii

 Big Island

   The Big Island of Hawaii is well named - it could hold all the other islands put together, with room to spare. The entire island has the population of a medium-sized town, with 150,000 people (half what it was in Captain Cook's day) and a low level of tourism compared to Oahu or Maui; despite its fair share of restaurants, bars and so on, this is basically a rural community. The development that will surely come may put an end to that, but for the moment there are sleepy old towns all over the island, unchanged for a century. The few resorts are in the least beautiful areas, built on the barren lava flows of the Kona coast to catch maximum sunshine.

   The Big Island is, in fact, growing, its southern shore inching ever further out to sea, thanks to the Kilauea volcano, which has destroyed roads and even towns, and spews out pristine beaches of jet-black sand. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park , which includes Mauna Loa as well as Kilauea (though not Mauna Kea , which is further north and higher than either at 13,796ft), is absolutely compelling; you can explore steaming craters and cinder cones, venture into the rainforest, and at times approach within feet of the eruption itself. The summits of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea have the clearest air on earth - and astronomical observatories to take advantage of it - but down below, when the tradewinds drop, the island is prone to a choking sulphurous haze known as " vog ."

   As befits the birthplace and base of King Kamehameha , more of the ancient Hawaii survives on the Big Island than anywhere else in the islands. Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park preserves a "place of refuge" for kapu -breakers and defeated warriors, and there are further temples north along the Kohala coast, while Waipio Valley , where Kamehameha spent his youth, remains as lush and green as ever.

   Flights to the Big Island arrive at Hilo on the rainy east coast, or the much less genuine but inoffensive resort of Kailua (often referred to as Kona) on the west. If you don't rent a car , you may not get to the interesting sites; one bus daily links Hilo and Kailua, and organized bus tours go to specific attractions, but public transportation is all but nonexistent.

  Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
  Kona coast
  North Kohala
  Saddle Road
  Windward Hawaii



   Although no point on the tiny island of KAUAI is as much as a dozen miles from the sea, the variety of its landscapes is quite incredible. This is the oldest of the major islands, and erosion has spent that many more million years to sculpt it into fantastic shapes.   The mist-shrouded extinct volcano Mount Waialeale at its heart is the world's wettest spot, draining into a high landlocked swamp, full of unique plants and animals. Nearby is the chasm of Waimea Canyon , while the north shore holds the vertiginous green cliffs of the awe-inspiring Na Pali coast, familiar to millions from films such as Jurassic Park and South Pacific but the sole preserve of adventurous hikers . Kauai is a place to be active, on sea and land; and if you only go on one helicopter flight in your life, this is where to do it, despite recent restrictions on how low they can fly.

  East Kauai
  North Kauai
  South Kauai
  West Kauai



   The island of MAUI , the second largest in the Hawaiian chain, is Oahu's fastest-growing rival, attracting roughly a third of all visitors to the state. Some would say that things have gone too far. What were once remote, unspoiled beaches, around Kaanapali and Kihei for example, have been swamped by sprawling resorts, and Lahaina , once "whaling capital of the world," is now little more than just another tourist trap. 
   On the other hand, the crowds come to Maui for the good reason that it's still beautiful. This is probably the best equipped of all the islands for activity holidays - whale-watching, windsurfing, diving, sailing, snorkeling and cycling. Temperatures along the coast can be searing, especially at Lahaina, but it's always possible to escape to somewhere cooler. Upcountry Maui , on the slopes of the mighty Haleakala volcano, is a delight, well away from the bustle; Makawao and Paia here make good alternative hangouts, although they're short on accommodation. Finally, the waterfalls and ravines along the tortuous road out west to Hana outclass anything on Oahu.
   Promotional handouts and free newspapers advertise a wide range of tours and activities; agencies along Front Street in Lahaina can offer cut-rate deals.


Maui's best-known snorkeling and diving spot is the tiny crescent of Molokini poking above the sea, all that's left of a once-great volcano. There's no beach, or landfall of any kind, but you do see a lot of fish, including deep-water species. Countless cruises leave early each morning (to avoid the worst of the heat) from Maalea Harbor; snorkelers can pay anything from $45 to $100 for a morning trip, and from $30 for a shorter afternoon jaunt. Vessels range from the forty-passenger Blue Dolphin (tel 808/622-0075) up to the 150-seater Prince Kuhio (tel 808/242-8777).

Downhill cycle rides

   One of Maui's more unusual opportunities is to be taken by van to the top of Haleakala , watch the sun rise, and then ride a bicycle 39 miles down to Paia by the sea - without pedaling once. Serious cyclists may find the slow pace of the trip frustrating; complete novices or the unfit shouldn't try; the in-betweens will think it's great. Companies running trips for around $80 (including pickups) include Haleakala Bike Co (tel 808/572-2200) and Maui Downhill (tel 808/871-2155).

  Kahului and Wailuku
  Kihei and Wailea
  Road to Hana
  Upcountry Maui
  West Maui



   Three-quarters of Hawaii's population live on OAHU , which has monopolized the islands' trade and tourism since the first European sailors realized that Honolulu offered the safest in-shore anchorage in thousands of miles of ocean. Over eighty percent of visitors to Hawaii still arrive in Honolulu - albeit by air now, rather than by sea - and most remain for their entire vacation. Oahu effectively confines tourists to the tower-block enclave of Waikiki , just east of downtown Honolulu; there are few rooms anywhere else. In much the same way, the military are closeted away in relatively inconspicuous camps. On any one day, the numbers of military personnel and tourists on Oahu are roughly the same.
   Overcrowding and rampant development mean Oahu can't be recommended over the Neighbor Islands (as the other Hawaiian islands are known), but it can still give a real flavor of Hawaii. There are some excellent beaches , with those on the north shore a haven for surfers and campers, and the cliffs of the windward side are awesome

  North Shore Oahu
  Windward Oahu

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