By: Trena Holloway, Senior Travel Consultant, CTA
Aloha From Hawaii
Our Adventures started with booking flights from Dallas Fort Worth to Honolulu non stop on the American Dream line. With many options we chose these flights because they offered Business Class within the US, and not only because of the lay down flat seat option but in business class you get perks! They also offered Premium and Economy just like going to Europe.
Did someone mention perks? We sure did! A few of them like 2 free checked bags or how about the 1st class Priority Lines and boarding. Breeze right past that long line. The best Perk of all is the access to the Admirals Lounge only for Business class passengers. We where super happy to have access to this lounge.
Up the elevator we went with an effortless check in, greeted by a huge smile and a wonderful glass of Champagne with fresh squeezed orange juice. Yum! This is how we like to start our vacation. The lounge area opens up in front of you with a beautiful full buffet of sandwiches, salads, breakfast options, and a juice bar with full top shelf cocktail bar. TV ,relaxation rooms with lay down large leather chairs, work out rooms with private showers. A wonderful well appointed lounge to just sit and relax watching the planes to unwind before your flight.
Once on board, American Airlines did not disappoint with the full entertainment lay down pods. Personal entertainment handheld systems control lights and sound the TV and seat functions. Get comfortable with the pillow and blanket they have waiting in every seat in business class. Full dining experience with an appetizer and salad full course meal service that is completed with a sundae of your choice. Did you forget your eye mask or socks on flight? How about a Toothbrush or Toothpaste to freshen up before you land? Don’t worry they have you covered with your personal goodies bag. They have thought of everything from earplugs, floss, earphones, eye masks and socks . A first class flying experience. Arrive fully rested and ready to go.
Arriving in Honolulu was a breeze and off to baggage claim we went, and then we took the train to the rental car counter. A bit of advice at airports, take the extra time to get everything into the system, join the club with the car rental agency you chose, do the online check in so you can go straight to your car because the first time we did not do that and wasted hours, and who wants to wait hours when you are on vacation!! Not Us!
Taking the drive from the Airport we stopped at Pearl Harbor which is very close to the airport. It is one of the main attractions on Oahu. Driving onward through the Harbor area of the Island, we could see the the Norwegian Cruise. “Pride of America” which is the only U.S Flagged ship that sails year round from Honolulu to the islands. Fun!
Where to Stay?
With so many options of hotel styles on Waikiki you can find most any type of hotel, condo or vacation rentals here. I recommend doing at least 2 nights here so you can visit some of the highlights of the island. You can rent a car and journey freely or you can join an excursion or you can book an escorted tour with companies like Globus, Trafalgar and many other operators that give you that Island hopping experience and free time to go exploring.
With tons of oceanfront and ocean view properties in Waikiki we chose the Honolulu Hilton Hawaiian Village resort. This resort was very big and It sprawls out over 22 acres of prime beach gorgeous landscaped areas. Koi ponds with turtles wander the grounds, We visited the shops, grabbed a Starbucks in the morning and walked through the park next door. Even though we did not use the the resorts pools, water slides or go into the Saltwater Lagoon, it was definitely a multi generational hotel with beach front dining.
The beach activities did not disappoint. You can snorkel and get the gear to go all from the hotel. They have concierge desks in the Lobby to assist you in scheduling any activity you could ever want. The Hotel has its own pier right from the beachfront for any on water activity you would want to join. Grab a bicycle and pedal down the front streets. Hit the fitness center, or just lounge by the pool in a gorgeous cabana. This Hotel has been featured in many TV shows thru the years and is used by many Tour companies even the King himself “Elvis” has famously stayed at the Hawaiian Hilton Village.
While we opted to do our own thing, we visited the Dole Plantation for the best pineapple soft serve ice cream and rode the Pineapple Express, visited the pineapple fields during each of their growing stages. This is on the north side of the island, which is less touristy. We drove along the coast and enjoyed the breathtaking views. The North Side has a laid back country feel away from the city. Down the road is the macadamia farm, which offers fresh macadamia nuts and coffee stocked with snacks of all kinds. It was so delicious! Stay hydrated and try drinking fresh coconut water along the way. As you keep venturing down the coast make sure you visit the Polynesian center. It has a wonderful Luau and you get to learn about the history of Hawaii and the Hawaiian people while eating wonderful food and drinks of the island.
Whether you opt for a day or 2 visit or spend a week, there are plenty of activities and things to do in Honolulu. I think we did it all in 2 days. One thing we learned is that all the beaches in Hawaii are alcohol free and no smoking.
Onto our favorite Island Maui. We flew Hawaiian Airlines non stop We flew to Maui in 45 minutes seamless inter Island carrier of Hawaii. We arrived in Kahlua Airport and went straight to the pick up for the car rental with our easy online check in. We chose to rent a private beachfront villa, Travel Leaders Network Villas by Distinction which is the consortium for Affordable tours has many to choose from. For our accommodations we stayed at the Kapalua Villas, a 2 story floor to ceiling full glass front villa overlooking the cliffs and Kapalua Beach. In one of the largest Hawaiian Nature Preserves. Surrounded by the protected West Maui Rain Forest and 2 Marine Sanctuaries. A gorgeous peaceful side of the Island for rest and relaxation.
With tons of Beaches that have public access. We walked down the trails to a private beach area. In the same area as the Ritz Carlton with its championship golf course with course side dining. We had brunch at its oceanfront property and it was worth every penny. It is a breathtaking Hotel from the moment you pull up onto the grounds with gorgeous views from anywhere on its 55 acre property. The 6 world class dining options are world class dining, the breakfast buffet during the week is a hidden gem, they will valet park your car for your visit. Beautifully landscaped grounds, perfect pools with luxury cabanas, the spa, the gym and many community areas to sit on a bench in the garden area or maybe by a fire pit and sip wine. A concierge is there to assist you with any sight seeing you may want to do. Then of course there are the small, quite beautiful shops. Luxury at every turn.
We explored the mountainous 1 lane roads winding around the coast with beautiful views and stops along the way to see the outstanding landscape. It was breathtaking. There are so many different areas on Maui to stay all with their own personality and flair. Driving from Kapalua you come to the next resort area which is Kanapali beach and resorts. This community has numerous first class hotels and beautiful beaches with a large outdoor shopping mall, and tons of wonderful restaurants. We visited the Sheraton
Kaanapali and it featured one of the best pools in Maui with a lazy river and wonderful Hawaiian luaus at sunset.
Other hotels include the Westin, the Kaanapali resort and more and we walked it all. It is a great place for the whole family. You don’t even have to leave the resort community, there is something for everyone, including indulgent spas, world class golfing and restaurants. Not too far down the road from Kaanapali. Lahaina is a Historic Town with original buildings turned into museums of the history of this town and port area. This is where you would board a Fishing charter or a dinner sunset cruise. The largest and oldest Banyan tree is in the heart of this city, and we sat with locals playing music in the park.
Walking the streets and visiting the shops and art Galleries with vendors and artists selling their crafts along the coast line was fun. We visited Fleetwoods on front street Mic Fleetwoods restaurant and gift shop and we had lunch on the deck with an ocean view. One of my all time favorite bands! We kept going and found another popular location for the Maui Islands for family visitors is the Wailea Area another upscale area of Maui. This area is lined with Luxury Resorts Golf Courses shops and Beaches galore. We visited the Four Seasons Resort and had a great lunch and talked to guests around the bar, and learned a lot. This hotel is full of family energy. Beautiful landscaped grounds. The pool area has a fabulous restaurant overlooking a beachfront that is perfect for snorkeling. Many famous people stay here with their families to bask in the peace and sun in the private cabana next to that perfect pool. Maui has something for everyone and is the perfect vacation destination for any age any traveler as you can customize your journey to fit any of your travel needs or wants. The Grand Wailea, the Fairmont Kea Lani, are other great options in this area that we visited.
Lastly we traveled up into Upcountry, where we met locals and way less touristy than the resort area. We traveled up to the road to Hanna another highlight of Maui. We had such a great time meeting locals and enjoying the wonderful weather in June. Good bye 100 Degree weather and hello, 75 breezy days! Whatever you decide to do on your Hawaii vacation, there is no wrong or right way, it’s your way! I could keep on and on and on.