TIckets are booked, and it is official...we are going to Hawaii! Now I need some help!
We are a family of five...we have boys, ages 14, 12, and 6. My oldest loves to surf. My second loves to body surf and make cool sand creations. My little guy likes to boogie board(as much as a six year old can), loves to play in the sand and also loves fun swimming pools(with slides and waterfalls). All boys like fun hikes And snorkling, too. Very active boys.
Two Thanksgivings ago we went to Kauai, and had an awesome time. Stayed at the Marriott beach club in Lihue, and also the Marriott Waiohai. Loved both. Hubby likes to relax on the beach. I like it all. We all had fun snorkling. We also like good food. The location in Lihue with Duke's next door was fantastic!
So, we are flying into HNL, but we are willing to island hop. We have 9 total nights together(my six year old and I actually are going five nights early, due to my older kids' track meets,and also some SWUs we had to use on American before they expired(lucky us! ).He and I will most likely stay in KoOlina those five nights before the others arrive).
Hubby and I have been to Oahu in the past. Marriott Waikiki and JW KoOlina...we had fun at both. But that was before kids. Vacation clubs seem to suit our family well now. But, think my older boys will get bored at KoOlina, since it is just the lagoons. And we will have to drive for surfing to Waikiki, which I am not crazy about. I like being able to just walk up the beach from the hotel to let the kids surf. I know our two oldest would love some time on Waikiki, but the reviews of the Marriott haven't been the greatest on tripadvisor. It was great when we were there almost 15 years ago. We were even upgraded to a beautiful suite. I am going to email them and see if we could work something out for our family. Have any of you stayed there recently? I know they just recently upgraded their lobby, which sounds beautiful, but not the rooms.
And, I would love to get over to Maui for some of our time(but not necessarily a necessity). However, the Marriott Maui Ocean Beach Club on Kaanapali isn't available using points-only the Ritz and the Wailea Marriott( which is under construction). So I am not sure. I could always look on Redweek to rent a vacation club unit. But is there surfing on Kaanapali?
Is 9 nights too little time to do two islands? Should we just stay on Oahu? Any recommendations? Help!
Thank you so much!
What a wonderful trip, lakeshore! I think that 9 nights is definitely enough time to do two islands and I highly recommend that you do. All of the other islands are wonderful, but if you have older boys who like to surf, I would recommend going to Maui. Obviously the flight over takes about 20 minutes so it doesn't eat up too much of your day at all. Maui has great surfing for your older boys and tons of great restaurants and it's just a different vibe than Oahu.
Oh Oahu, for beginner surfers I wouldn't go too far away from Waikiki for surfing. Definitely dont attempt to do Sandy Beach in Hawaii Kai or the North Shore. They could get hurt.
For the young one, Bellows beach that I mentioned in Re: Best Oahu Vacation Ever is fantastic for body boarding and boogie boarding, but not great for surfing. It is also only open to the public on the weekend, so plan accordingly.
glad to hear you'll be returning to the islands! Oahu is a great island, despite the crowds, with MUCH to do. I may be biased because I've called the island home all my life, but what can I say? I've stayed at the Marriott a few times as well, but it's been a few years. bejacob recently stayed at the Waikiki Marriott, just last year in fact. I'm sure he'll be able to fill you in on his experience there.
melissaerb is right about Sandy & North Shore. If Bellows isn't open when you want to visit, you could also visit Waimanalo Beach Park and what the locals call Sherwoods (Yelp it) in the vicinity. Remember, Waimanalo was voted number 1 beach in the nation last year! There are a bunch of beaches to the west of Ko Olina as well, some of which, like Makua, are very beautiful, BUT vehicle break-ins are very common. There's also a growing number of cruises departing from the nearby Waianae Boat Harbor that take guests out to swim with wild Hawaiian spinner dolphins.
Oahu has many hikes as well, ranging from easy to deadly. Manoa falls is a popular hike, as it's really easy, and if the conditions are right, has a waterfall at the end. A personal favorite easy hike is the Makapuu Lighthouse hike, as it has beautiful vistas of the Pacific and the Waimanalo coastline, including a couple of islets. On clear days, you can even say Molokai off in the distance, and during the season, humpback whales. The hike is completely paved all the way up too. Diamond Head is the typical one that most tourists go on, and it's easy to see why. The summit offers spectacular views of Waikiki and the Pacific. erc did this one with the entire family... even grandma! For something more difficult, the Pillbox hike in Kailua is a favorite. Parts are steep/slippery, but most of it isn't too bad. Bring headlights and get there super early in the morning for a rewarding sunrise view of the beach, ocean, and islets.
The best snorkeling on Oahu is at Hanauma Bay, near the Makapuu lighthouse trail. It gets VERY crowded, so go early, but beware of the tides. If the tide is coming back in, the visibility underwater may drop. Better snorkeling may be had at Molokini crater on Maui (requires a boat tour) or Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island (as bejacob can vouch for). Black Rock in Kaanapali on Maui has great snorkeling too.
On Oahu, there's other outdoor activities too. Kualoa Ranch has horseback riding, ATV tours, and even a movie tour showing you were various movies like Jurassic Park were filmed on property. The Hawaiian Railway Society in Ewa (not far from Ko Olina) offers rides every Sunday on the historic Oahu Railway mainline. Of course up towards the North Shore, there's the Dole Plantation, and across the street from the famous Waimea Bay, is Waimea Falls park. Marriott does have a property up on the North Shore in the town of Laie near the Polynesia Cultural Center too. It's a CY and it's not on the beach, but would be a great base of operations for exploring the area.
Of the neighbor islands, Maui is my favorite, though the Big Island is just about equal now in my book. I'm not a fan of the Wailea Beach Marriott, as I had a negative experience there. I do love the CY Kahului Airport, but it's a traditional CY location and not anywhere near a beach. If visiting Maui and not staying at the MVC or Ritz, I'd recommend staying with Hilton, Hyatt, or Starwood instead. Maui has a lot to offer in terms of outdoor activities, but shopping and dining a little more limited than Oahu. Dining is definitely getting MUCH stronger though. It's also a bit more expensive than Oahu overall. But you can do sunrise on Haleakala, hiking within Haleakala, visit Surfing Goat Dairy for a tour and cheese sampling, visit a variety of distilleries/breweries/vineyard, traverse the infamous Road to Hana with it's plethora of waterfalls/black sand beach and even a 1.8 mile hike at the end to a beautiful waterfall, a hike down to a blowhole and heart shaped rock past Kapalua, visit Ali'i Kula Lavender for some serenity, get your blood pumping with a bunch of ziplines, snorkeling at Molokini, etc.
The Big Island has, of course, Volcanoes National Park where you can see an active volcano, tons of hiking within the park including the ability to see ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs (0.75 mile hike), tons of black sand and even green sand beaches, the southern most point of any state in the US, sunset/stargazing atop Mauna Kea (the tallest mountain on earth measured from its base on the ocean floor), Volcano Winery, a bunch of coffee farms, there's a seahorse farm (reservations required), a mushroom farm (reservations required), a tea farm (open to the public only a couple days a year, gift shop requires reservations but is open all year), and my favorite zipline in the state: Skyline Eco Adventure Akaka Falls.
Nine days might be a bit tight to visit two islands, but it all depends on what you want to do. The Big island is HUGE, and the 3 days I spent there recently weren't anywhere near enough. I would have preferred more time... the large distances you have to travel to see everything definitely adds to the time you need there. Maui is do-able in a few days, but you might feel rushed.
Take a look at my blog for more info: Hawaii & Beyond! and do let me know if you want any specific info, tips, opinions, etc. Always happy to help!!
Thanks for the shout out kharada46. As he mentioned, I was in Hawaii last September and stayed at the Waikiki Beach Marriott for a couple nights. Loved it, though for a longer time, I'd choose Ko Olina if possible. Being in the middle of everything Waikiki is great, but the best part of my trip was on the Big Island where things are a bit slower placed.
Here are links to my write up on the trip from last September.
As for your trip, 9 days is probably enough for 2 islands. Trying to do more than that will mean saving some things for a future visit. I'd pick the Big Island over Maui, especially since finding the best place to use points appears challenging. You could certainly fill the entire time on Oahu.
After Ko Olina, spend a few days in Waikiki then head to the Big Island. If you want to be in the middle of town, try the King Kamehameha Courtyard. It's a great base of operation. Or if you prefer a bit more quiet, try the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. You can read my comments in Mauna Kea Beach Hotel - Autograph property par excellence. A guided tour up Mauna Kea for star watching should be on everyone's bucket list. So should a visit to the Volcanoes.
By far the best snorkeling was on the Big Island both at Kealakekua Bay and right off the beach at the Mauna Kea. Surfing can be found in many places, not just Waikiki, though that's a good place to try it (didn't do it this last trip, but I did in 2004). I don't recall seeing too much of it at Kaanapali, but I'm sure it was available.
Really there are no wrong answers. Wherever you go will be great. Read up on what kharada46 has posted on his blog and check out my trip. Perhaps you'll find some ideas you want to explore.
I'm looking at returning to Hawaii in about a year with stops on Oahu and Kauai. I have no doubt others will post some suggestions. Good luck with the planning and let us know what you decide to do.
For some high-quality info on a few outdoor activities around Hawaii (mostly on Oahu), check out this site: http://www.unrealhawaii.com/
Such a wonderful wealth of information everyone! Thank you! I am sorry I haven't gotten back to you. I have been reading your replies, and right after I read Melissaerb's reply(thank you soooo much!) suggesting Maui, I came across a great deal on interval international for a 2 bedroom at the new Hyatt Residence Club on Kaanapali. It was a better price than than the Maui Marriott Ocean Club, which I was hoping to get into(prices were too high on Marriott site, and no points available, so I was looking on Redweek). And it has a washer and dryer in the unit, and a full kitchen, which the Marriott rentals I was looking at didn't, so I am excited! Another draw was that it shares privileges with the Hyatt Regency, as it shares their grounds, so there will be plenty for all of us to do(my guys are happy to hear that there is a shave ice vendor on site at the Hyatt!). It will be our first time at a nonMarriott vacation club, so it will be interesting to experience. We have always been loyal to Marriott, so it is a little strange. But, I am just thankful to have the much needed space. I couldn't find anything comparable on Oahu, either, as KoOlina doesn't have the body surfing and surfing my big guys want.
So, here are our plans so far...
1. Five nights, just me and my sweet six year old ...I think we are going to stay at KoOlina, however, after reading bejacob's review(I just loved your trip and the pictures!!! Felt like I was right there on every island with you and your pretty! I am looking forward to a lava flow and Mai Tai! And getting back to Hawaii someday to go to the big island and also spend more time on Oahu) of the Marriott Waikiki, we might stay there instead, so we can have more to do...now I am thinking 5 nights in KoOlina might be too long. It might be more fun to be in Waikiki and go to the zoo, Manoa Falls, and get out and explore. But I know my little guy would like it. So, not sure.
2. Then my hubby and 2 older sons come and we will all stay one night in Waikiki at the Marriott, before heading over to Maui the next day.
3. One week at the Hyatt Residence Club
4. Last night in Maui at the Grand Wailea, so kids can enjoy the Tarzan swing and fun pools.
Then, big guys return home, and little guy and I have one more night at the Marriott Waikiki Before we head home. I can't wait!!!
Kharada, I thank you for all of your information, too. I have read your fantastic blog a couple of times the past few months(it reminds me of when hubby and I used to travel all over before kids). Very sweet and sooo informative! Love all of your pictures, too.
I know I don't post or reply much anymore...but I still try to catch up, especially before planning a trip, reading posts and blogs late at night. I remember your talking about a loco moto(or something like that!)...my guys are going to be all over that! Yum!
Thanks is again to melissa, bejacob, and Kharada!
If anyone has anything else they would like to suggest, please feel free. I just love insiders!
Happy travels to all,
lakeshore, sounds like great plans so far! I was hoping you would consider the Grand Wailea! I LOVED playing in their pool as a kid. They've got tons of slides, an interesting white water rapid slide *it would suck me under until I got used to it), and one of the only (if not the only) water elevator in the world! Of course that's in addition to the Tarzan rope you mentioned.
On your Oahu hotel choice, Ko Olina is great, but it's isolated. You definitely MUST rent a car, as everything will be a drive. There is the Sunday train nearby, an electric go-cart racing facility nearby, and some nice beaches. Disney's Aulani is a great attraction there, but of course, you can only use the facilities if you're a guest. Waikiki, on the other hand, is in the middle of tons of shopping, dining, and as you mentioned the zoo, Manoa Falls, and aquarium. Diamond Head is a short bus ride or drive away too, as are the Honolulu Farmers Market at Blaisdell Center, the KCC Farmers Market, and a bunch of other things to do and see.
I have heard of great things about the Hyatt Residence and think you'll be pleased! I've stayed at the Hyatt Regency long ago and loved it! As you know, there is a water slide and a rope bridge over the slide that gets some spray! The shave ice place there is one of my favorites, Maui Eats - Ululani Shave Ice, though I've found that location to be a little lower in quality than the Kahului and Kihei one.
So... Loco Moco... one of my favorite, artery clogging, food coma inducing local foods! Essentially Japanese white rice with a beef burger, an egg or two (traditionally sunny side up), and smothered in brown gravy. My favorite version comes from Big City Diner Hawaii, with locations all over Oahu. The burger is good quality, rice is cooked almost perfectly, and the gravy is nice, though I wish they'd put more!! My friend is a fan of Zippy's version... I wasn't a fan the first time I had it, but he said it got WAY better, so I've got to give it a try again. But anyway, here's a local publisher's Top 5 Loco Moco's on Oahu: http://www.frolichawaii.com/bestof/locomoco/. I'd probably stay away from the one at Alan Wong's Pineapple Room. Last time I had it, it was horribly overcooked and really off seasoned... unacceptable for a restaurant bearing the name Alan Wong.
Maui has its own crazy hybrid versions too, especially at Da Kitchen | Island Style Food Made With Aloha. They do have the traditional version, but are known for the insane ones on their menu that'll probably kill you if you finish the entire thing. Haven't tried it myself (the one below is my co-worker's), but, hey, to each their own!
Anyway, what time of year are you planning on going? Let me know if you need any help/want any persuasions
Oh my goodness, Kharada, i just looked at the menu on DaKitchen, and my big guys are going to love those Mocos!!! We might have to go there for lunch the day we arrive in Maui before we stop at Costco to stock up for the week, although I don't know how oldest son will be able to surf after eating that! Somehow 14 and 12 year olds can put away food like that and want more just hours later! Oh, to be young again! Ha!
I Am seriously considering staying in Waikiki with little one the first five nights and skipping KoOlina. Will I need a car or can we venture out on the bus to little adventures? I love KoOlina...I've only been to the JW, but it was just 3 months after I had our first baby, and all I wanted to do was sit by the pool, hit the spa, and relax! And I think we were only there 3 nights with three nights prior at the Waikiki Marriott. We were in Hawaii for our dear friend's wedding. Gosh, it is all a blur...not much sleep back then. :-) But we do remember that our strong little 3 month old rolled over for the first time at the Waikiki Marriott! Very exciting! That's what we remember about that hotel. :-) And the beautiful suite they kindly upgraded us to. As for KoOlina, I didn't leave the resort(KoOlina)the whole time, except to go to the wedding and wedding rehearsal/luau that we were on the island to celebrate. I remeber KoOlina being a beautiful oasis! The sunsets were to die for! And our room was huge with a gorgeous with amazing ocean views. I didn't even go into the lagoons when I was there...only hubby did. But they were beautiful!
But i think little guy and I might like the hustle and bustle of Waikiki. Not sure about that yet. And, it looks like we are going to be in town during the jellyfish invasion, so not sure if they hit KoOlina. it would be nice to have a fun pool in case we can't swim in the ocean. Hmmmm. I am so happy to have this "problem"...KoOlina or Waikiki!
LOL, that they do lakeshore! It's amazing how much kids can eat! Perhaps they'll sleep it off on the drive to the Hyatt Residence... Depending on traffic, it can take 30 mins to an hour-ish to get to Lahaina from Kahului.
I would highly recommend a car fro Ko Olina, as TheBus stop isn't anywhere in the resort area... you'll have to walk all the way out. I wouldn't recommend it. Plus with a car you can venture out all over the island, I'm finding, visitors don't really do, thus they leave Oahu not liking it. KoOlina is a beautiful place with wonderful sunsets, but it is isolated and more crowded. Once the JW reopens as a Four Seasons I'm sure it'll get a little more crowded... and a lot more crowded when that proposed Atlantis hotel + timeshare is built.
Anyway... the hardest decision you'll have to make is convenience and action, or the serenity of KoOlina along with it's isolation. Box jellyfish will usually be everywhere during the influx, though you can watch the local news, Home - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL, for updates. Both Ko Olina and Waikiki are semi-sheltered beaches, but they are carried by the currents and the waves, so it's likely that at least some will make it over the barriers. Best thing to do is to simply stay out of the water during that time.
You know, it's funny your life is tied to those properties in that way! The wife and I are tied to the two properties as well. We got engaged at the Waikiki Beach Marriott during a staycation. We frequented there to play tourist and because the wife's favorite restaurant, http://www.sanseihawaii.com/, is located there. We were also married at the JW, so losing the property was especially painful for us, but life goes on right?
If you don't want to have to rent a car, I highly suggest staying in Waikiki. But either way you go, I think a car would be a good thing to have if your down for a little exploration. I'm sure the little one would enjoy the many things Oahu has to offer
kharada46 is the absolute authority on all things Hawaii, he is a very trustworthy and valuable source of information.
As far as Maui is concerned, he is right. The MVCI and Ritz are good, but if not available, skip the Wailea Marriott. I haven't personally stayed at the Wailea Marriott but I have heard more mediocre reviews than good ones. For my money, on Maui, nothing beats the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel. I know I am supposed to be totally brand loyal but truthfully, that property is awesome. The hotel itself is old but very clean. The grounds and pool area are meticulously maintained. I know you planned on spending points, but as far as room rates go, they are very reasonable. The property is right next to Black Rock, so there is tons to see. Snorkeling is awesome there. You can get paddle board lessons, you can go on sails with Trilogy that leave right from the beach, you name it. Maui is a fantastic island and you can do as much or as little as you like. I have been four times and each time I never want to leave.
Ks77, always a great trip when you don't want to leave! Thanks for your tip on KBH. It is in a fantastic location. We will have to consider it for another time. I just couldn't pass up the nearly brand new Hyatt Residences. I am sure we will be spending some time on the beach by KBH, though!
IAHFLYR, are the sunset sails choppy? My little guy got really sick on a boat trip out to Tortuga Island when we were in Costa Rica a couple of years ago. Poor little guy! Don't want a repeat of that! But it was a super choppy ride. A nice, easy sunset sail sounds beautiful! And so convenient leaving from Kaanapali!
I haven't been to the other islands, but spent a week at the Waikoloa Beach resort on the Big Island. We had a great experience and would have been happy to have had more time there.
First of all, the property did a nice status upgrade for our room with a great view and we were very happy with all they had going including lua and orientation about activities available. We rented an SUV and loved exploring all the quirks of this very diverse and interesting place. We did everything from hiking waterfall trails and lava tubes to a helicopter tour and night time snorkeling with mantas...amazing! We also spent a few nights at Volcano National Park, a very unique experience and beautiful.
MGoes2, the Waikoloa is a beautiful property. I haven't been there, but I steered my sister there a few years ago when they were on the big island. They loved it, too! We will have to save it for another trip. In a couple of years I would like to get over and spend some time exploring Oahu with the family, and then take 10 days or so to explore the big island, and also get some R&R there, too. All that you did sounds amazing! Lava tubes, volcano, night time snorkling...Wow! I want our little one to be old enough to remember it all when we go. Next time! ;-) Glad you were able to experience it all!
we spent the Christmas and New Years at the Waikoloa property, we did a point and paid a most amount for the upgrade to a larger corner room. While the bathroom is a bit small, and the property is in need a bit of a refresh, it is still a lovely place and has great pools and a beach. Has only one full serve restaurant, but it's across the street from the Kinds Market and Queens Market which has many dining options. We went to Volcano National Park (Get there early in the day!) and the Thurston Lava Tube, the black sand beach where the turtles nest, we went for a whale watch and submarine tour and did lots of other things (Macadamia nut farm, coffee farm, etc.). We rented a car at the airport but there is an on site enterprise car rental agency (reserve in advance during busy times to avoid the sold out situation). The resort fee ($30/day) covers parking so if you do rent a car, at least there isn't an extra fee for that! The people at the hotel (FD, Housekeeping, Pool, Restaurant were all very friendly and welcoming. My kids (11 and 13) had a great time and we are going back for Christmas 2015 (rez already made!). All in, if you do go to the big Island, this is a fine hotel, not luxurious, but very suitable for a visit and enjoying all of the big island.