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Waikiki, the prime location choice for travelers to Oahu, was once dominated by large expensive hotels and budget bare-bones ones. But in recent years, several boutique chains have been upgrading the older, small properties – meaning travelers can enjoy more personal service as well as good value so long as they’re willing to pass up some frills like the spa, room service, or a lobby bar. If you appreciate a good boutique but don’t want to break the bank, consider these properties on your next visit. (Only one of them charges a resort fee — and all offer free wifi.)
The Hawaiian islands aren’t just about luaus, mai tais, and surfing. Each year they get more inventive with special festivals that showcase their signature brand of food and entertainment. Of course, any visit to Hawaii is brag-worthy, but if your visit coincides with one of these festivals, that’s even more hu’i hu’i (cool).
O’ahu has a calendar that’s full of festivals and celebrations, from the Honolulu Festival in spring to the Aloha Festivals in fall. Kamehameha Day on June 11 is one of the most colorful and elaborate of the island’s celebrations, and it offers the opportunity to delve into the history and culture of the Hawaiian islands. Read more
Barcelona has its Sagrada Familia. Sydney has its white-hooded Opera House. And other places? Well, they’ve got steps – lots and lots of them. As the examples illustrate below, epic staircases aren’t just a way to reach higher ground. They can be major attractions unto themselves. From the fabled Ha’iku Ladder in Hawaii, to Norway’s never-ending Flørli Steps, these jaw-dropping ascents aren’t for the faint of heart. But once you get to the top, we think you’ll agree the views more than make up for the effort. Read more
Honolulu isn’t all beaches and paper umbrella-adorned cocktails. There’s a fresh and youthful creative movement happening in the city, too. Here’s where to get a taste of it: Read more
When on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu, you just have to get outdoors. But if sunning yourself on a beach all day isn’t challenging enough, you can choose from the many hiking trails across the island, which are suitable for all fitness levels – and free.
Manoa Falls Trail
This 0.8-mile hike through lush rainforest is easygoing and shaded, but often very muddy. (Flip-flops are not a good idea.) The trail begins by crossing over a footbridge and a small stream, then makes a gradual incline, ending at a viewing area set back from the base of the 100-foot (and, honestly, rather underwhelming) waterfall. More than the falls themselves, this hike is most notable for the flora you walk through: bamboo, huge banyan trees, and colorful flowers. Parking costs $5, or you can get the #5 bus from Ala Moana.
Between the killer waves, unbeatable seafood, and lush landscapes, the amazing islands of Hawaii manage to captivate pretty much every traveler who visits. If you’re considering a repeat visit of your own, now’s the time to start planning – each May, a tiny tourism lull between the end of winter and the start of busy summer means a significant drop in hotel rates. Our advice? Snap up one of these eight great deals, catering to a range of budgets, while you still can: Read more
With Hawaiian Airlines adding to its list of routes, such as the recent launch of its New York to Auckland service, chances are increasing that you might find yourself in Honolulu with some time to kill. Even if you can’t take advantage of the airline’s free stopover policy, you can still make the most of a short layover with our suggestions. Read more
Even if you hold an annual pass to your local aquarium, it’s hard not to be awestruck by the sight of a slick-backed whale gliding through its natural habitat. The supersize creatures have fascinated travelers and scientists alike for eons, and the whale watching industry has benefitted greatly from all the intrigue.
Part of the mystique is the continual game of hide-and-seek whales play with us, their observers. Much like the Northern Lights, spotting a whale requires you to be in the right place at the right time. If you’re looking to spot a pod on your next trip, here are a few places where you stand a better-than-average chance at getting splashed. Read more
Think New York City has a lock on the most expensive hotels in America, or glitzy South Beach? Think again. The highest hotel rates in the U.S. are actually in Hawaii. So far in 2013, guests have spent an average of $233 per night for a hotel room in Hawaii – that’s an increase of $27 over the previous year! With airfare costs on the rise, this can make for a spendy island getaway. But not all Hawaii hotels cost a fortune. Here are some money-saving tips so you can enjoy the luau (or the whale watch, or six hours of lazying in the sun with a view of Diamond Head in the distance) without worrying about how you’ll pay for it: Read more
In many parts of the world, temperatures are starting to slide in a bitter direction. The calling of Old Man Winter is growing tougher to ignore, and the yearning to escape to warmer weather is very, very real. It’s probably about time you rewarded yourself with a trip to Hawaii…or perhaps somewhere even more exotic.
For those already planning a jaunt to the 50th state, or those who have had it on their bucket list for many years now, there’s a little-known secret that could enable you to make that dream trip even more spectacular. Island lovers the world over have fawned over the gems tucked away in French Polynesia, but Tahiti is undoubtedly one of the most remote locales in the world. Getting there is not only trying, but incredibly expensive. If you’ve done even casual research on flying there, you’ve most likely turned away in disgust after seeing how high the fares were when connecting through LAX. Read more
Guests of the Polynesian Cultural Center on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, can sit back, relax, and enjoy a meal and a show — but before that, they can participate in any of the Center’s “Go Native” activities, the newest of which is outrigger canoe paddling. Outriggers, once the preferred way to get around, are now popularly raced with clubs around the world. At the Polynesian Cultural Center, an experienced paddler and guide will lead four-person outriggers (available from noon to 5:30, Monday-Saturday) through the center’s lagoon, so even those new to canoes can experience firsthand Hawaii’s state team sport.
After much hype and anticipation, Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa opened today in grand Hawaiian style. Part of the Ko Olina Resort complex, comprising two other hotels – including a JW Marriott – in pristine Oahu, the world-class beachfront resort boasts ocean views, tropical gardens and turquoise lagoons. The spirit of the Aulani people resonates throughout the resort, reflected in the colorful artwork and intricate Hawaiian architecture. Its trademark Disney family entertainment and recreation, featuring an adventure trail, golf course, pool parties, and character meet and greets, make for a fun-filled getaway with the kids.
The resort offers 359 rooms – including 16 suites – starting from $399 per night, as well as 460 Disney Vacation Club villas. You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to dining, with four restaurants showcasing the finest local cuisine, and among its first-rate amenities there is an 18,000-square-foot spa and fitness center in case you overeat!
Bookings can be made from September 4th onwards. For more information , visit the resort’s website: resorts.disney.go.com/aulani-hawaii-resort.
For general trip-planning information, see our Oahu Travel Guide.
Hawaii’s first and only boutique hotel chain, Aqua, marks its 10th anniversary this August, and to celebrate its passage into double-digits, the brand is selling the first night of four-night stays (or longer) for just $10. Choose from 16 properties across Kauai, Maui, Molokai, and Oahu, including 12 destinations within one mile of the famed Waikiki Beach. Book by August 31 for travel August 11 through December 22.
THE VALUE: Room rates start at $89/night, which amounts to a $79 savings the first night of your stay; with the discount, the average room rate for a four-night stay is $69.50.
THE CATCH: You must stay at least four nights to receive the discount.
THE DETAILS: Click here to book Aqua’s 10th Birthday Package.
WE’VE GOT MORE: See our Hawaii Travel Guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, packages, and more travel deals.
Many cities offer all-inclusive discount passes on sightseeing, but what if you just want to see a handful of attractions? Do you really need the pricey pass? Introducing Go Select, a new service from Smart Destinations that allows travelers to pick and choose which sights they most want to visit – with savings of up to 36 percent off regular admission.
Go Select is currently offered in Boston, Chicago, New York City, Oahu, San Diego, and San Francisco, with Los Angeles and Seattle coming soon. All the top attractions are included, from New York’s Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty Ferry to Chicago’s Field Museum and Navy Pier to the San Diego Zoo and Legoland California. The more attractions you add to a pass, the more money you save.
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