Thanks for the shoutout IAHFLYR! Sorry for the late response!
jentab I'm not all that familiar with what goes on during Christmas on the other islands, but here on Oahu we have the Honolulu City Lights. You can see a larger than life Santa Clause in Hawaii attire and various other decorations, most of which were lovingly made by our county employees. There's often trolly and horse & carriage rides through the city to view the lights. There are usually other random events, such as parties and special dinners that happen around the island, too. And if you're going to be here for New Years, you can expect some fireworks and a lot of ethnic stuff becomes available. The holidays in Hawaii are pretty unique for sure.
As far as properties go, now that we have so many more options available to us, I'd consider the following for each island:
The Sheraton Waikiki, Royal Hawaiian and Westin are all in central Waikiki. They all have easy access to a majority of the shops and restaurants in the area, but they are busy. The Moana Surfrider and Royal Hawaiian are stately, historic properties. With both you can stay in either modern towers or beautifully restored historic rooms. All Starwood properties are fully renovated and feature packed. The Sheraton doesn't have it's own beach, by the way, but the other two do. The Marriott is good if you want to stay in a quieter part of Waikiki and isn't nearly as nice as the other two, but is a lot cheaper. Avoid the other Marriott/Starwood properties in Waikiki.
Other options I'd consider on the island are Turtle Bay (to really get away to the North Shore), Hilton Hawaiian Village (book an ocean front room in the Rainbow Tower or any room in the exclusive Ali'i Tower), The Kahala (a celebrity in itself), the Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina (if you can afford the steep price and want to get away to a quieter area).
I've had a negative experience with the Marriott in Wailea, so tay away. I used to LOVE the Sheraton Maui with it's well maintained property located next to good snorkeling at Black Rock. The Westins, I hear, are great. I do also like the Andaz Maui in Wailea, the Grand Wailea (Hilton), and the Hyatt Regency Maui in Kaanapali. Another favorite of mine is the Courtyard in Kahului, oddly enough, as its excellent central location is great for exploring Haleakala, Hana, etc. You're literally in the center of the island.
Kauai is interesting because all Marriotts except for one Courtyard and one FS Marriott are timeshares, whereas the Starwoods include a FS Sheraton and a Westin and St. Regis in Princeville. Princeville is on Kauai's North Shore and is somewhat isolated, while the Marriott is near Lihue. So where you stay will ultimately be determined by what you want to do. There isn't a whole lot to do on Kauai, though, besides hiking, going to the beach, and simply relaxing.
Both companies are weak on the Big Island with the best hotel likely being the Mauna Kea Beach (Autograph Collection). There's also a FS Marriott in Waikoloa, and a Courtyard and Sheraton in Kona. I liked the Courtyard in Kona... It's an interesting little property but provided great value, a good location for exploring, a beach, and a good place to sleep. The Big Island has an enormous amount to do, just plan accordingly. The Hilton Waikoloa, the Fairmont, and the Four Seasons are other great options, though all are in Waikoloa/Kona side. The only chain hotel in Hilo is a Hilton.
Hope this helps! And if you have any specific questions, especially about Oahu or Maui, hit me up! I live on Oahu and have been to Maui more than a few times the past couple of years and the Big Island once last year. I've got a bunch of blog posts outlining those trips too: Hawaii & Beyond!
Thanks for the insight kharada46. I'm a little disappointed since I just committed to Maui with plans to stay at that Marriott in Wailea. I haven't committed to the hotel yet so I guess I'll look at the other options. The RI looks pretty nice, but since you only get 5pts/$ Courtyard may be a better option (though there you get no breakfast). MVC seems to be the cheapest if you do Advance Purchase and you get 10pts/$ there, but no Platinum benefits at all so I think I'd prefer to just go to the Courtyard or RI.
I THINK I need the nights to retain my Plat status, otherwise I'd look at the SPG properties. I'll probably still look anyway, but I'll probably end up with the CY or RI.
@7 I wouldn't be too disappointed. I love Maui, and there's a lot to do on island, though I don't think there's a whole lot of festive things going on, but I could be wrong. Do consider going to Haleakala NP, Ali'i Kula Lavender, Maui Wine (reservations required for vineyard tour, but tasting doesn't need and is always free), Ocean Vodka, Surfing Goat Dairy, Nakalele Blowhole, Skyline Eco Adventures zip lining.
My favorite places to get a good meal on-island are Star Noodle (Lahaina) and Ka'ana Kitchen (Andaz Wailea). Of course you can also earn extra points via SPG Cravings by dining at the Black Rock Steak & Seafood or Teppan-Yaki Dan (both at the Sheraton), or at Pulehu an Italian Grill at the Westin Kaanapali.
Depending on how long you're staying on Maui, you could always fly over to Oahu for a day or two if your budget permits. Oahu - Maui has an enormous amount of flights daily on Hawaiian Air, from crazy early in the morning, through late night. Or you could even split your time in half if you're gonna be here for a week or more.
Ooh... the restaurants sound good. I'm actually heading there for my birthday a week or so before Christmas so I don't mind a lack of holiday festivities.
We are only staying like 5 nights so I doubt we'll try to squeeze in another island. We'll probably mostly just lounge around and relax and maybe rent a car to check out some of the natural beauty. Maybe we'll go to the Ocean Center or something as my 9yo would probably like that.
Ah, ok. All good then @7! Like I said, I love Maui, so I think you'll enjoy the island very much. I do recommend getting a car to check out some of the places I've mentioned, though. It's such a beautiful, diverse island with much to see. Too bad the Sugar Cane Train isn't back in business yet...
Oh, and be sure to check out Ululani Shave Ice (multiple locations, but they have one at the Hyatt Regency Kaanapali) for the best shave ice on Maui and one of my top 5 in the state! And forget what people say about Tasty Crust pancakes, my favorite pancakes on island are from Sam Sato's near by. Leoda's on the way to Lahaina/Kaanapali in Olowalu is a solid sandwich and pie shop, though a tad pricey. And if you can't make it to Maui Wine, just pop into a Safeway! The ones on Oahu carry their pineapple wines (ranging from sweet to dry to bubbly).
Yes! Pineapple wine! Upcountry Maui: Surfing Goat Dairy + Maui Wine + Ali'i Kula Lavender
It has a really pineapple forward nose, but they're nicely balanced wines. I'd drink the same way you'd drink a resiling, pinot grigios, or other light, fruity wine. There's nothing artificial and cloying about them; well maybe the sweet one, but they're nice. From what I hear they're made from Maui Gold pineapples that don't quite make the cut looks wise.
Good luck on those rates! Please let us know what you ultimately decide on!