Tag Archives: Hawaii

What You Should Know Before a Beach Vacation: The Dangers Lurking

A beach vacation can be a care-free family vacation – no need to plan what you are going to do every day – you have the beautiful blue ocean right there for you.

But sometimes when we wade into a pretty new environment, we are so mesmerized with our surroundings, we can neglect cautionary facts about our location.

Did you know that according to the CDC, 4,000 people die each year in the United States from drowning? About 50-75% of them are drownings in open waters, like the ocean.

Most are preventable.

So parents – watch your kids, and take heed of these beach safety tips.

Hotel of the Week: Disney Comes to Hawaii

I know what you’re thinking. Or at least what I’m thinking. Hawaii personifies everything that Disney is not.

Don’t get me wrong – I think Disney is one of the best companies for customer service. Their theme parks and hotels are unparalleled in terms of cleanliness and catering to families. I just would have wanted to keep the “magic of Disney” away from the pristine shores of Hawaii.

Yes, I know some big hotels with water slides have sort of already tarnished the natural beauty… but Mickey with a lei on a white beach just seems wrong.

Nonetheless, it is my job to tell you that the Aulani is now open on Oahu – a grand Disney resort with 359 hotel rooms, and 460 vacation club villas. It is located on the leeward side of the island, about 17 miles west of Honolulu airport. You would need a taxi or car if you want to go into Waikiki.

The resort is actually located in a beautiful setting near lush green mountains and right on the beach… but in a sort of fabricated Disney way. I’ve never been, just for full disclosure,  and am just saying this according to the research I’ve done.

To Disney’s credit, they have put Hawaiin art all througout the resort, and tried incorporating authentic touches. Even better, it means jobs for the locals, and Disney has contributed back to the community by donating money to local schools.

The activities are of course, family friendly. There are some awesome pool play areas. But many hotels in Hawaii have similar great programs. Kids club, waterslides, more than one pool, beach activities, but at a price. Renting a beach umbrella and chairs for the day costs $20, and to rent a Stand Up Paddleboard – $30.

One thing that stood out as different to me is that they have a “teen spa.” Catering to girly-girls, it offers  a mixology bar to make perfume, and body polishes. It also has a yogurt and elixir bar, teen activities, and computer stations – which I would have left off. Can’t they go off the grid in a place like Hawaii? But teens will be teens.

It will be interesting how the hotel does – I was just on Oahu, and hotel bookings were down due to the decrease in Japanese visitors affected by the March tsunami. If you want to check it out, just go to www.resorts.disney.go.com/aulani-hawaii-resort/

Aloha and have a great weekend.

Hotel of the Week: An Unusual Combo of Chic, Elegant, and Family-Friendly

My new favorite hotel of the moment is the Kahala Resort in Hawaii on the island of Oahu. Not far from Waikiki…. but it feels like a different island itself. The Kahala is not only gorgeous, but peaceful since it is away from the hubbub of Honolulu.

The interior of the main lobby is open and airy – and the beach is picturesque…great for swimming as it doesn’t get too deep fast.

The Kahala Resort is in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Hawaii. We stayed in that neighborhood recently and could ride our bikes to the Kahala – the hotel is notorious for its Sunday brunch which attracts locals from nearby.

The kids love the dolphin quest program.. and the rays who live at the hotel. Even though other hotels I’ve seen with dolphin programs seem a little commercial, the Kahala is able to maintain its authenticity, In fact, it is far from being similar to some of the mega ornate hotels that have spouted up in Hawaii.

There are a few great restaurants – the Plumeria is high on my list even if you don’t stay at the hotel. It is what a meal in Hawaii should be – right on the beach… a very relaxed environment -kids were running around on the grass lot right near the tables… and fairly priced for a nice hotel. The Plumeria is not the highest end restaurant at the hotel, and frankly I think it is the prettiest.

Look how cute the menu and centerpieces are.  It has a kids menu too.

The hotel has a great package for families who want joining rooms – and right now is running a last minute spring deal… as well as a “4th night free” special that we’ve been seeing at a lot of other hotels.

Yes, airfare to Hawaii is costly right now – but it is to many other places too….. so if you are thinking about a summer vacation on this weekend to kick off the sunny season, the Kahala won’t disappoint. Aloha and have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend. 🙂


Get Off the Lounge Chair and into the Wild in Hawaii

Believe me, there are times when all I want to do on vacation is show up with my good book, have everything planned for me, and never ever leave the beach. But that rarely happens because I am the planner, and once I am on a trip, I want to see things. Hawaii – the ultimate lounging vacation – is no exception.

Manoa Falls Hike, Oahu

On my recent trip that I have written about in the past couple weeks, I took a family hike along a trail that is totally enjoyable and lush. I have taken the Manoa Falls hike a couple times now, and it really is an easy outing if you are staying on Oahu. If you don’t stay on Oahu, don’t worry, there are plenty of good hikes on other islands, and plenty of guide books to tell you where.

But what makes Manoa Falls special is that it is fabulous for kids – it is easy enough, yet the path is also interesting to hold their attention. It is about a 1 1/2 mile hike round trip… and the reward is a pretty waterfall.

Along the way you go through enormous bamboo forests….

and a rain forest that resembles Jurassic Park.

There are also bridges and other natural structures along the path that the kids find fun.

The other thing I like about Manoa is that if you aren’t with kids, you can extend the hike with a pretty strenuous and steep detour to the left once you reach the  falls.  If you go on that path it will take you another good hour higher. Although the lower portion of the hike  – to the falls – is plenty aerobic, this second portion will have you comatose. Good comatose, however, because when I hiked it on another trip with my girlfriends,  we rewarded ourselves with the best burgers in Oahu – The Counter in Kahala.

Overall, it is a couple hour outing, and longer if you do the extended hike. It is a great way to spend time with your kids- lots of time for good conversations – and pointing out some of the beauty of nature. We saw some brilliantly colored birds… as well as a friendly chicken 🙂

It is an easy drive from Waikiki… there is a parking lot right there for $5, and you can buy water at the cafe about 100 yards from the parking lot. Better yet – bring water on your own. Don’t leave valuables in your car – there have been some reported problems with thieves. Remember to wear comfortable walking shoes with good traction – it can be slippery on parts of the trail because it is so moist.

I have been on some equally beautiful hikes on Maui as well… If you motivate to get off the lounge chair, there are some good resources to help you plan a hike on your next trip to the islands:

“The Hiker’s Guide to Oahu”…..by Stuart M. Ball Jr.  and “The Hiker’s Guide to th e Hawaiian Islands” by the same author…also “Day HIkes in Hawaii,” by Robert Stone

Happy Trails….

Sun Bathing…Surfing…Snorkeling..and Snuba: One Week in Hawaii off the Resort.

It is SO easy to go to Hawaii and just chill. Completely relax on the beach, or by the pool. But… don’t ya sometimes want a little more action? I discovered that you can have balance – relax, AND do something out of the ordinary.. even when you bring the kids.

During the next week or two, my posts will reveal some fun things to do with (or without) your kids on the island of Oahu. Oahu is MUCH more than Waikiki (thank goodness.) You can spend a week there and never even visit Waikiki and still see beautiful beaches. No offense to those who love Waikiki – it just has become overrun with tourists and very very commercial.

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu with Diamond Head in background

One of my very favorite things to do in Hawaii, and you can do this on most Hawaiian islands, is to take a surf lesson if you aren’t already a skilled wave rider. There are a few different groups who teach – some are stationed right on the beach of Waikiki. But it is always best to try and reserve a lesson in advance with a phone call because lessons do fill up. I have used Ty Gurney Surf School twice now and had a blast. They make standing up on the board seem so easy, and are patient, encouraging teachers…plus just a plain fun bunch of guys. www.tygurneysurfschool.com

You first get an instruction on dry land of where to lay on your board when you paddle, how you stand up, and where you put your feet. move . Then it’s time to paddle out.

The lesson comes with a surfboard… Beginners get a long board, with a soft top like the one above.  TIP: You WILL feel sore the next day. It is quite a work out, even though you don’t realize it because you are having too much fun.

Since the waves break pretty far out off the Waikiki shore, you gotta paddle  a while.  The guys had to tow me at one point so we could actually catch some waves before my one hour lesson ended. It is truly amazing to see how these guys pulled me out – me, laying on my board, with one instructor laying on his board right ahead of me, so I am looking a the bottom of  his feet.  His toes are securely wedged onto my board, pulling me – with the sheer strength of his toes!! Seriously – even when we went through waves head on to get out farther, his toes still stayed attached to my board!!

Once we got far enough out, the instructors helped me read the waves. In my experience Waikiki is a great place to learn because the waves aren’t too big, and they come in rapid sets. Once the boys decided the wave was a good one, I had to face the shore and paddle. The most valuable thing the instructors do is give you a little push at that point so you can “catch” the rhythm of that wave… then standing up on the board is “all you.”

TIP: You  have more time than you would think to stand up – don’t be impatient and rush it.

Once you get it, it is exhilarating and addictive. And that’s good… because Ty Gurney offers you a surf photographer to document your little adventure. James of 83 East Productions was fun and never got in my way (smart guy avoiding the rookie) – so much so that I didn’t think he was even taking photos of me. If you can afford it, I would buy the video/photo package if you take the lesson. Even if you have someone on shore taking pictures, they would never be as close up as these, for example. He shoots video too!! Super fun.

You GOTTA check out the surfing bulldog on his YouTube page. I wish I could embed it here. www.youtube.com/83eastproductions

Incorporating lessons would make a great girls trip… or a gift for someone’s special birthday. It’s never too late to try something new. There are kids lessons too! Yes, your kids should be strong swimmers.

TIP: What to wear:

–The heaviest sunscreen you can find, then layer it with make up. You can get really scorched and not realize it while you are out there for a while.

–Rash guard is appropriately named. Wear one.  The friction of your body against the board every time you move on it causes an annoying rash – feels kinda like a rug burn. If you have a wetsuit, that would be the ultimate protection.

–Beware of your feet too… I know it is only best to wear surf booties in cold water, but I thrashed my toes from the friction of transitioning from laying on my board, to sliding my feet into standing position.

Most important tip: Have fun! Everyone learns at a different pace so don’t expect to stand up your first wave. Remember, we all take our spills so hang in there 🙂

Living High End on the Down Low… Renting a Luxury Home

I admit. I was always a fan of staying in a hotel over renting a house. You moms can relate – no cooking or cleaning – can you say maid service and coffee in the lobby?

BUT I am now a convert. There are many advantages to renting a house for a family vacation.  More people in the high end market are doing so these days and the trend is catching on. You get a high end place.. but are potentially saving money.

For example, I stay at a friend’s home in Hawaii -and have seen more of Oahu than if I were staying in a cushy hotel right in Waikiki. Staying in a home encourages you to explore – get out of the commercial area, and uproot yourself from the pool. It is so easy to just never leave a resort.

Here is what I found to be the pros:

1) You generally get a lot more for your money – Sometimes the cost of a large house for one week matches the cost of one night at a five star hotel.

Check out these amazing Hawaiian rentals below – in the upscale Kahala neighborhood …unfortunately, you have to go to the sites to see the properties – but they are spectacular!



You can get a house that sleeps 10 for $1300 a week – just 2 1/2 blocks from the beach, and 10 minutes form Waikiki.  If you have multiple children, and get a suite or two rooms, your nice hotel total could be $1300 a NIGHT. If you share a large house with relatives or another family, your bill comes down even farther.

2) The experience is much more immersing. Living like  a local… and like I said, getting out beyond the commercial and touristy areas with souvenir shops and fast food.

In the Kahala neighborhood of Oahu, there are gorgeous homes, and the beach right there.

Most likely you will have a car or will rent one so you can get around.

3) You can spread out at the house more… with more privacy.

4) Sometimes the houses come with luxurious perks: pool,


surfboard, boogie boards, snorkeling gear,

a yard to yourself…

washing machines, and other things that you can’t get at a hotel.

5) It is cheaper on your food budget. Breakfast at home is easy with the kids… and way cheaper than eating in a hotel. Lunch too.

And it gives you more time to relax – you can sit and read a book during the time you would have spent waiting for your server to bring you your meal.

6) Finally, the last time I spoke with my house rental sources, they told me that the rental market is soft – lots of inventory even in places that typically rent out long before summer due to the economy. That means there are more opportunities for last minute rentals…. and finding a house in an area that is hard to usually find an availability. (Still waiting to confirm that is true and will update this.)

Here are some house rental sites:




In a place like Oahu, I would highly recommend it = there is so much to do on this island..having a home base is a nice thing to return to. Go for it. The world is your oyster.

Kahala Sunset

Should You Go To Hawaii? And Hotel Update – Closures to Last Longer

While Hawaii is facing tens of millions of dollars of damage from the recent tsunami, the Aloha State is also predicting a drop in tourism -The Japanese make up a bulk of Hawaii’s tourism, and many have already canceled trips. Not to sound cold, but I doubt if any of those poor people are thinking of planning a tropical vacation right now.

So it might be a time for you to consider a trip to the islands – the governor is pushing for more marketing, and you’ll probably be seeing hotel room price drops and specials since there will most likely be a bigger supply with the absence of Japanese tourists.

But – with all the talk of nuclear fall out, you may want to wait and see. I don’ t mean to be an alarmist, but this is scary – Hawaii is 3850 miles from Japan. We don’t quite know what the outcome will be – and it appears the scientists on the news don’t either.

I posted an update on the tsunami’s hotel closures in Hawaii earlier this week, but that info has been updated further -Reports say two Big Island hotels will remain closed longer. No Hualalai this spring break.

BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) – The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai will reopen April 30 after a six-week closure caused by the tsunami from the recent earthquake in Japan.

The resort sustained damage from the storm surge, bringing water, sand and debris onto the grounds, mainly affecting pool areas, landscaping, a restaurant and 12 guest rooms and suites.

“We had planned on opening the resort earlier, however upon further inspection and damage assessment, we determined it best to sustain the closure until April 30,” says Robert Whitfield, general manager.

All guests with reservations prior to April 30 are being contacted by the reservations team to make alternate arrangements, which include re-booking at a later date, or staying at the resort’s sister properties on Lanai and Maui, and other Four Seasons properties around the world.

For more information and reservations, please call (800) 332-3442

To see some of the destruction first hand, here is a local news report I found:

Pray for Japan.

Hawaii Update

Four Seasons Hualalai

Just received media alert from Hawaii Tourism Bureau. There was very little damage from the tsunami…. travelers planning to visit Hawaii should continue to do so. (Yay!)

Special note: There was some impact on the Big Island:

Four Seasons Resort Hualālai will reopen March 21
Kona Village Resort is temporarily closed
Some boat charters have not resumed operations
Hulihe’e Palace is temporarily closed due to basement flooding.
City of Refuge (Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park) is closed indefinitely while National Park Service assesses damage


Remembering Pearl Harbor at the USS Arizona Memorial

If you are a World War II buff, or if you just want an educational and emotional break from lounging on the beautiful beaches of Hawaii, the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor is the ticket. Today is the 69th anniversary of the “day that lives in infamy.”

The sunken battleship is the final resting place for hundreds of American crewmen, after a Japanese attack that prompted the US to enter World War II. . A 184 foot memorial on top of the mid portion of the ship is open to the public. Make sure to allow enough time to take it all in…some say 90 minutes. And try to get there before the tour buses!

If you’d like to learn more about it, go to : http://www.pearl-harbor.com/arizona/arizona.html or http://www.nps.gov/valr/index.htm.

Another good website for info – http://gohawaii.about.com/cs/pearlharbor/a/pearl_harbor.htm.

I know it is hard to motivate your family to leave the beaches of Waikiki, but you’ll be glad you did. Remember those who fought for our freedom.

Hotel of the Week: Hawaii on Sale…

We’re seeing all kinds of hotel promotions these days, and one classic Hawaiian hotel is now offering some to check out.

The Mauna Kea on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island in Hawaii is offering all kinds of specials  – a “Kids Eat Free” deal where kids under 12 can eat for free when accompanied by their parents…and a 4th night free…and a second room with the price of one.  These specials last through September.

I love this promotion because it targets families… and the Mauna Kea is really one of the greatest hotels for families, not to mention one of the greatest overall, and has an interesting history. (But the service has gotten mixed reviews. Anyone have an opinion on this?)

Laurance Rockefeller opened the Mauna Kea in 1965. It feels like classic, “old Hawaii”…not so new-development-ish. Although, I haven’t been there since the $150 million renovation, so I hope the class and authenticity of the resort is not lost. The rooms, however charming they used to be, were badly in need of an upgrade (and enlargement!) so I am happy to see the investment went toward that.

What else is new –  a new golf clubhouse, and a renovated 18 hole course, with some stunning holes over the water.

The resort beach hasn’t changed – gentle waves lapping up on a crescent shaped beach that is a great beach for children.

What’s great is that the resort is up above on a hillside, so you have a view of that beach from the beautiful open air breakfast room. A peaceful way to start your Hawaiian mornings with the sweetest pineapple on earth and the Kona coffee.

The art hasn’t changed either. Rockefeller collected more than 1600 pieces of Pacific art to put in the hotel. I think that is what grabbed me about the hotel – the sculptures and paintings set this hotel apart for me. It feels sophisticated even though it doesn’t lose the casual beachy vibe.

If you bring the kids, and this is one trip I would, don’t miss the weekly luau. My kids were completely entertained, and it is cute when they performers call kids in the audience up to help. All this going on while you eat from an extra long and nice buffet dinner.