Hawaii Travel Tips

Here are ten travel tips for your next Hawaii vacation:

  • Renting a car is a must. There’s too much to see and do.
  • Look toward the NE to see what the weather will be like for the next hour. The trade winds blow consistently from this direction.
  • Check the surf report before you head to the beaches or ocean so you know what to expect.
  • Don’t swim in fresh water (streams, rivers, ponds). They are contaminated with Leptospirosis.
  • If you plan on renting a surf board, make sure you can fit in on the roof of your rental car (where is the radio antenna?)
  • Coral is living organism. Don’t touch or damage the coral. They also have a lot of bacteria on them, so be careful not to get scratched.
  • Invest in good snorkel equipment. Bad equipment can ruin the experience.
  • Big waves hit the north shores in the winter, and south shores in the summer. This may affect your snorkeling plans.
  • The sting from a blue bottle (portuguese man of war) can be very painful. If you see them on the beach it’s a sign to stay out of the water.
  • Surf swap meets are a great place to buy equipment.
  • Consider buying an inexpensive camera for the kids so they can capture the vacation from their perspective.

For a 110 more travel tips, try our free Hawaii Google gadget. It’s a fun tool that you place on your Google home page and has all sorts of Hawaii related stuff.

Hideaways Beach Path

Hideaways Beach is one of Princeville’s hidden gems. This hard to find little beach is located directly below the Puu Pua condos. There’s a path next to Puu Poa’s tennis courts that leads down to the beach. In the summer time Hideaways beach offers good snorkeling when the ocean is calm. There’s also a reef surf break just off the beach. Reef breaks aren’t good for beginners, but more experienced surfers sometimes come here when the prospects elsewhere aren’t great.

Despite being such a charismatic beach, Hideaways doesn’t see too many visitors. There are two reasons for this. First, the public parking facility servicing the beach only holds 9 cars. Second, the path down to the beach is steep. Children over the age of 4 will manage, but smaller will need to be carried. Those with mobility problems may also find the path daunting.

The following video shows the beach, and all the sections of the short path. You’ll notice there are some rusty but functional railings.

Nihi Kai Villas, Poipu

Nihi Kai Villas in Poipu are a favorite choice for people who want to be within walking distance to Poipu Beach Park. Even closer is Brennecke Beach, about a 2 minute walk from the ocean side entrance to the Villas. Brennecke is actually connected to Poipu beach park.

Lovely grounds, tennis courts, a nice swimming pool.. Well we could go on an explain how nice they are. Instead take a look at the following video to see for yourself. This video features the lovely Nihi Kai 833, possibly commanding the best view at Nihi Kai. Click on the video to watch it in high definition.

Cheap Hawaii Car Rentals

Just like flights to Hawaii, car rental prices fluctuate dramatically. The average price of an economy sized car is in the $30/per day range during regular season. When the supply is low, typically high season times, the price goes into the high $40 range. The highest we’ve seen is $100/day! That was when the car companies, seeing a huge down turn in tourism, shipped off their inventories. Demand was higher than expected, and prices went up to the extreme. On the other hand, prices in the teens are possible.

Despite assurances otherwise, car rental company web sites do not offer the best deals. Dollar rental car is the prime example.

Dollar Rental Car Guarantee

Dollar has this logo placed at the top of their web site. Isn’t it reassuring? Read the details and you’ll see there are a dozen exceptions, including:

  • Does not apply to discounts, coupons, upgrade offers
  • Does not apply to pre-negotiated rates
  • Does not apply to promotional rates
  • Does not apply to member rates such as government, AAA, corporate etc.
  • Does not apply to rates found on auction sites, or sites that don’t publish the name of the rental company.

And so on..

Dollar acknowledges that web sites with pre-negotiated rates, auction sites, and sites that don’t publish a brand have the lowest rates. So that’s where you should go to find the best deal.

One of the best “auction” style web sites is Priceline.com. On priceline, you bid on a car by saying how much you want to pay. If priceline accepts the bid, your credit card is charged immediately and they tell you what company you got. If the bid is not accepted, you have to wait a day to place a new bid, or change the type of car you want to rent to bid again immediately.

An alternative to Priceline is to use a web site that has pre-negotiated discount rates. There are some benefits to this approach:

  1. No deposit and your credit card isn’t charged until you return the car.
  2. You can cancel at any time.
  3. The rates are still very competitive, usually much better than what the car rental company’s offer directly.
  4. They sometimes include an additional driver for free! Car rental companies typically charge an extra $10-$15/day for additional drivers!

Two great web sites to check for low pre-negotiated rates are Discount Hawaii Car Rental and Summit Pacific’s Hawaii Car Rentals.

Remember when you rent a car, you will get fined for 1) early pick up 2) early return 3) late return. The fines are ugly so be careful. Also, always get all your insurance from your local insurance company as the rental company insurance policies are expensive. Finally, use the gas option that requires you to return the car with a full tank of gas, as opposed to the option that lets you return it empty (you prepay for the tank). Drifting into the rental lot on fumes is impossible – you’ll likely have at least $15 of gas left in the tank, if not more.

Researching Kauai’s Condo Resorts

Deciding where to stay on Kauai is a very difficult decision. The north shore has the lush scenery and incredible beaches. The south side has the drier climate and more timid beaches. The east side perhaps represents a compromise since it’s centrally located. The west side is more isolated but has the most convenient access to the hiking of Waimea Canyon.

Another way to decide where to stay is to first look at what the accommodations in each area look like, and how much they cost. If you’re a visual person, the best way to do this is by looking at aerial photos of Kauai’s condo resorts

Kaha Lani Resort, Kauai
An Aerial view of Kaha Lani Resort

HawaiiGaga.com’s Kauai Condo Guide includes aerial photos so you can see what the surroundings look like. Most aerial photos are taken from the ocean, so you get the coastal perspective.

Our condo guides also include an estimate of average prices, and a subjective luxury rating. The map shows you what beaches and attractions are located nearby each resort. For many people this is very important consideration in choosing a place to stay.

Finding Cheap Airfare to Hawaii

If you’ve been using our Hawaii Google Gadget to keep an eye on airfare to Hawaii you’ll notice it also reports what airline is offering the low price:

Hawaii Airfare

The gadget actually uses Kayak.com’s flight search technology to discover those low fares. Kayak.com is an excellent web site for researching airfare, but there are many more. So how do they stack up? Recently, we took a look at airfare from Seattle to Lihue, and compared the major players:

Expedia.com – $321
Orbitz.com – $321
Kayak.com – $322
OneTravel.com – $330
CheapOAir.com – $574

Incidentally, the airfare found was with Alaska Airlines, whose own web site also quoted a price of $321.

These results are quite interesting. First, CheapOAir, a major player in the market, couldn’t find the discounted Alaska Airlines rate. As a result it found a much higher rate with a different carrier. OneTravel.com, another relatively new but big player in the market, quoted a rate that was slightly higher. Unlike the other web sites, OneTravel.com uses coupon codes to give people discounted rates. If you know about the coupon, you can get the $321 rate.

Finally, expedia, orbitz and kayak all discovered the lowest possible rate.

What differentiates these web sites is the way they search for low airfare. If you have exact dates, either expedia, orbitz or kayak will do the job. However, if you have flexible dates, kayak.com is the web site to use as it can search a range of dates, which is extremely useful.

Kona Reef Sunsets

Kona has a reputation for having the best sunsets in Hawaii. The combination of dry weather, ocean vistas, and perhaps vog scattering the sunlight make for some incredible scenes. It’s not uncommon for people to pull off to the side of the road to watch the sun go down. The Kona Reef on Alii drive is one of those lucky resorts with front row seating. Perhaps front row is an understatement. Condo D-12 at Kona Reef happily boasts that it’s situated just 23 feet from the ocean! Here’s a video slide show of D-12. You’re going to love the music, and the sunset slide!

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!

Maui’s Farmer’s Markets

Maui does’nt have as many farmers markets as the other islands, but don’t let that fool you. Maui is home to about 800 farms. Maui’s climate is perfect for growing a wide range of crops year round. The fertile slopes of Haleakala provide a wide temperature band that allow for a variety of produce to be grown. Still most of these farms are small, and Hawaii imports about 80-90% of it’s food from the mainland. Support the local economy and farmers instead of buying the imported produce that’s found in some grocery stores. The fruit and vegies will be fresher, healthier and delicious. Plus farmers markets have all sorts of treats that make them a fun activity for tourists.

View Maui Farmers Markets in a larger map

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.