Hawaii Map Mania

Over the last few months Bing and Google have introduced amazing new features to their maps. First, Google’s street view has finally arrived on Oahu. Now you can explore Oahu like never before. This is particularly important for the vacation rental industry because it allows people to explore vacation rental neighborhoods. Here’s an example – dreamy Lanikai:

View Larger Map

Google street view is also available on Maui. The coverage is not as comprehensive as Oahu but it allows one to explore and get a great feel for areas like Wailea and Kihei. Unfortunately Kaanapali resort is not covered yet.

Bing maps has introduced an amazing bird’s eye views to its Waikiki map which allows one to explore the area from the sky. HawaiiGaga.com utilizes these bird’s eye view images for our Waikiki condo guides. For example take a look at our Colony Surf condo page. Note how you can move and spin the map around!

How to Book a Vacation Rental

For some time now we’ve wanted to write a guide for people who are new to the process of renting vacation homes. Fortunately we discovered Terry Gronenthal who publishes The Vacationers Guide to Vacation Rentals. Terry long ago discovered the benefits of staying in a vacation rental over a hotel and has put a tremendous amount of effort into writing about the subject. His guide covers everything you need to know about the rental process.

Some excellent advice Terry gives is to write reviews about your experience after your trip. There are three reasons for doing this. First, as a way of rewarding a quality rental. Second, to help out fellow vacationers. But finally, as Terry recommends in the guide, when you go on vacation again and approach an owner to make an inquiry, you can tell them “We’ve used vacation rentals in the past and you can see one of my reviews here.” Quality owners love guests who are savvy enough to write online reviews because it helps build the reputation of their rental. Likewise, an owner who cuts corners will be put on notice that you mean business.

Mahaulepu Beach and Trail

We’ve finally added Mahaulepu beach and trail information to HawaiiGaga.com. This is a beautiful undeveloped area in Poipu, and a highlight of the region. Because access is confusing, not too many Poipu vacationers visit this area. If you’re in good health the best way to experience Mahaulepu is with a hike from Shipwreck beach across Mahaulepu trail to Mahaulepu beach. It’s at least a half day excursion that involves about 2.5 hours of hiking (both ways). You’ll also want to relax and perhaps get wet at the beach, which will be another hour. So pack a lunch, and make sure you have good shoes and a hat. You can also drive to Mahaulepu beach. The dirt road just past the Hyatt will take you there. Two roads will get you to the beach, but avoid the shorter dirt road that takes you past CJM country stables as it’s a terrible road that will get your car stuck. The longer road gets you to the middle of the beach in a roundabout kind of way.

Mahaulepu Beach
Mahaulepu Beach

The Hawaii Trivia Challenge

If you like Hawaii Trivia, you may enjoy our Hawaii Trivia Challenge. 95 Hawaii trivia questions to test your Hawaii knowledge and discover some interesting facts about the islands. We’ve been told the questions are pretty difficult, but you should have some fun going through them.

Wolphin in Hawaii
What is a wolphin? Take the trivia challenge to find out (image courtesy of Mark Interrante)

For more Hawaii trivia pick up the book Hawaii Trivia by Ed Cassidy, which contains at least 1000 Hawaii trivia questions.

Oahu’s Bishop Museum

If you’ve taken our quiz that helps people discover the best hawaiian island based on vacationing preferences, you may have noticed that all else being equal, we recommend Oahu for first time visitors. A big reason for that recommendation is all the historic and cultural sightseeing Oahu offers visitors. From Pearl Harbor and the US Army Museum to Iolani Palace, Queen Emma’s Summer Palace, Byodo-In Temple, and the remains of several Heiau (Hawaiian temples). Oahu also has the magnificent Bishop Museum, the largest museum in the state, and containing one of the largest natural history specimen collections in the world.

Bishop Museum
Bishop Museum

Bishop Museum features 5 main exhibit halls. The recently renovated Hawaiian Hall spans 3 floors and takes visitors “on a journey through the different realms of Hawaii.” Here you will learn about key moments in history, Hawaii’s kings, the fascinating area of Hawaiian mythology, and also learn about the connection that Hawaiian’s have with the ocean, land and nature.

Bishop Museum Dinosaur's Unearthed

The 2 story Polynesian Hall focuses on Hawaii’s Polynesian roots, while the Science Adventure center teaches about Hawaii’s unique geology and environment. Two other exhibits honor Hawaii’s Monarchy and athletes.

Bishop Museum also has rotating exhibits. On Display through January 3, 2010 is Dinosaurs Unearthed featuring life sized robotic dinosaurs, sure to be a huge hit with kids. In fact, many of the Museum’s exhibits have interactive components which children tend to find especially enjoyable.

It’s unfortunate that so many visitors to Oahu miss out on the best the island has to offer. Whether it’s the fabulous beaches of the east and north shores, or wonderful cultural experiences like Bishop Museum. Remember, you can’t spend the entire day out in the sun. And if you’ve taken your kids out of school to go on vacation (an excellent strategy to save money), taking them to Bishop Museum will surely make up for a lost week of lessons!

Bishop Museum is open Wednesday to Monday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Aerial Photos added to HawaiiGaga.com

We’re very pleased to announce that HawaiiGaga.com has partnered with Hawaiian Images Photography and Video to bring you aerial photos of Hawaii’s beaches, attractions, and condo resorts.

As you may know, HawaiiGaga.com displays panoramic photos of Hawaii’s 150 most popular beaches and tourist attractions. Panoramic photos give one an excellent idea of what a beach looks like. Now we’ve supplemented those photos with aerial images. The added perspective reveals many details about a beach. You’ll notice that many Hawaii beaches enjoy beautiful surroundings. As an example, take a look at spectacular Tunnels Beach on Kauai.

Tunnels Beach Aerial Picture

Brian Powers of Hawaiian Images Photography and Video decided to photograph the Big Island’s coastline in 2004. The project proved so popular he continued in 2007 and photographed the rest of Hawaii. Over 10,000 photographs later, and he now has nearly every inch of Hawaii’s coastline photographed. The photos are taken at about 500ft. Brian can somehow fly an airplane and take sharp photos at the same time!

The Waipio Valley

The Waipio Valley on the Big Island is one of the most important anthropological areas in Hawaii. Know as the Valley of the Kings, Waipio was the seat of royal power on the Big Island and home to 7 Heiau (temples), including Paka’Alana Heiau, one of two Big Island sanctuaries where ‘criminals’ and war enemies could go to find refuge. In Hawaiian mythology, many Gods and Demigods resided in the valley.

In 1778, approximately 2600 people lived in Waipio Valley, tending to fish ponds and farming a wide variety of crops. In times of famine, the valley could always be counted on to produce a bounty of food. The first European visitors described the area as a garden of Eden, with the valley surrounded by waterfalls including the spectacular 1200 ft Hi’ilawe Falls.

Waipio Valley

In 1819, the Kapu system (the traditional system of rules and regulations) was abolished and soon after the temples were dismantled. The valley’s population also started to decrease, and by 1854 perhaps 300-400 people remained. New diseases introduced by European contact, the growth of the port towns of Kona and Hilo, and the prominence of other towns in the now unified Hawaiian Kingdom all played a part in the decline of the valley’s population. In 1880 a small number of once indentured Portuguese and Chinese laborers settled in the valley to work on commercial rice and koi cultivation.

In 1946 a devastating tsunami hit the Big Island, and water flooded the entire valley. Following the tsunami, only 15-20 people continued to live there. Today perhaps 50 people live in the valley.

Touring Waipio Valley

Visitors are drawn to Waipio because of the scenic beauty of the area. Rental cars aren’t allowed into the valley, and so tourists have to enter via wagon rides or horse tours. An excellent and fun way to experience Waipio and Hi’ilawe Falls is with a Big Island ATV tour on the rim of the valley. RideTheRim offers 3 hour tours along the rim of the valley, taking you through ginger and eucalyptus forests with beautiful panoramic views of the valley and waterfall.

Waipio Valley Views
RideTheRim ATV Tours - Waipio Valley Views

Introducing the HawaiiGaga Google Gadget!

Nothing maintains the spirits like a daily dose of Hawaii. That’s why we’ve created a Google gadget to complement our Hawaii Google themes, called My Daily Hawaii.

What is a Google gadget? It’s simply an add-on that you attach to your Google home page. Instead of the boring and plain Google home page, you can add all sorts of gadgets to customize your Google page with extra information and tools.

What does My Daily Hawaii do?

  • Shows a new scenic picture of Hawaii every day. Can you guess the location?
  • Hawaii travel tips. There’s a lot to learn as you prepare for your next holiday.
  • Daily Hawaii trivia. Answer correctly to win super cute puppy picture prizes ™.
  • A weather forecast for the four main islands.
  • Flight alerts. Find out what others are paying for airfare from your airport to Hawaii.
  • Cool diggs. Recommendations on some very neat places to stay.
Hawaii Gaga Google Gadget with Super Cute Puppy Picture Prizes
My Daily Hawaii - The HawaiiGaga Google Gadget with Super Cute Puppy Picture Prizes

To add My Daily Hawaii to your Google home page, just click on the below button:

Add to iGoogle

Hawaii Vacation Rental Stats

We’ve just concluded a year long study of vacation rental occupancy rates. Below is an excerpt from the press release:

“Occupancy rates for Maui, Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island were 62%, 61%, 57% and 50% respectively.

State wide, September had the lowest occupancy rate at 40% while February was the busiest time of year for rentals with an 81% occupancy rate. From a regional perspective, Waikiki had the highest occupancy in the state at 66%, followed closely by Poipu, Kihei and East Oahu (Waimanalo and Kailua) at 65%. The two poorest performing regions were Kapalua with a rate of 46% and the Big Island’s Kohala coast and Puna regions, both averaging 49%.”

Why is the Big Island suffering with such low occupancy rates? As seen in our Hawaii weather page, The Kohala Coast has the best weather in Hawaii. It also has an excellent selection of vacation rentals, and plenty of good beaches. Yet the occupancy rate in region was 49% for the past year!

Makaiwa Bay, Big Island Makaiwa Bay, one of the Big Island’s nice beaches

Improvements to HawaiiGaga’s Search Features

Two new search options have been added to HawaiiGaga’s rental searches. You can now search for rentals that are oceanfront or beachfront, and also confine results to rentals that have an ocean view.

Another feature that has been added is the ability to bookmark search results pages. Over time the results may change, as rentals come and go, but the search parameters will still be valid.

Here’s an example search: Oahu’s beachfront vacation rentals