Category Archives: Hawaii

Spotlight on Hawaii’s Big Island

One of the six major islands in the chain, the island of Hawaii is nicknamed “Big Island” for good reason.  It is formed from five separate shield volcanoes, three of which are still active.   And at twice the size of all other Hawaiian islands combined, there’s no shortage of things to do.  It is here that you’ll find rainforest, snow-capped mountain tops, black and green sand beaches, orchid farms, a world-class telescope atop Mauna Kea, and an enduring Aloha Spirit.

 Most flights arrive in Kona, which is also where most of the resorts and hotels are located.  You’ll definitely want a car rental for the duration of your stay, and exploring on your own is easy and rewarding.  Must-sees include a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, and a recommended splurge is a tour by helicopter.  In the winter months, you can also whale watch.
Big Island is a great destination for couples as well as families, and for outdoor adventure seekers who are looking for a variety of activities.
Where to Stay
The majority of the resorts and condo properties are located in Kailua-Kona or nearby Kohala Coast.  There are a few accommodations in the Hilo area which is closer to the Volcanoes National Park but also on the side of the island that receives more rainfall.  Here are my two top picks:

 

Hilton Waikoloa Village - this resort is a destination unto itself.  Three unique towers set on beautiful Kohala Coast.  Lots of activities onsite, including golf, a lagoon perfect for kayaking, tennis, and the only interactive dolphin program on the island.  Rated 4 1/2 stars.

The Fairmont Orchid Resort – A luxury oceanfront retreat set on 32 acres along the Kohala Coast. Beautiful private lagoon beach and pampering treatments at the Spa Without Walls.  Hike through the largest petroglyph field in the Pacific.  The perfect setting for a honeymoon.  Rated 5 stars.

NEW!  American offers nonstop service from DFW to Kona for a limited time through summer 2017, so now is a great time to head to the Big Island.

Happy travels! ~Cindy Grant, Expert Family Travel.  Contact us at 972-625-6200 to plan your next vacation.  Serving the Dallas Texas metro area & clients across the US/Canada.

Krazy about Kauai

This summer (or fall), discover the captivating Hawaiian island of Kaua’i.  This is a great destination to explore nature’s wonders:  hike a waterfall, kayak along the Napali coast, take in the majesty of the soaring cliffs and valleys accessible only by helicopter tour.  Nature here is truly a departure from your “Every Day”!

 

If you are not quite the adventure aficionado, no worries.  This slice of paradise location is also perfectly suited for lazy days around the pool, exploring the quaint shops in town, or enjoying a shaved ice while people watching.

 

Allow at least 6 days for your Kauai vacation (with a redeye flight on the return).  Have over 9 days for your vacation?  Kaua’i combines well with a stay on Maui, Oahu, or the Big Island.  Kauai is great for a honeymoon or family reunion.

 

Where to stay

  • Grand Hyatt Kaua’i Resort – recent renovations have made this great resort even better.  The best pool on the island.  Ideal for couples and families.
  • St. Regis Princeville Resort – a refined resort with amazing vistas.  Perfect for the honeymoon or Dream Trip.
  • Koa Kea Hotel & Resort – a quiet, upscale boutique hotel for those looking to escape.
  • Aqua Kaua’i Beach Resort – a light, bright choice that’s easy on the wallet.

What to do

  • Snorkel catamaran cruise
  • Helicopter tour Napali Coast (a must-see)
  • Kayak (river or ocean)
  • Zip line (8 companies to choose from)
  • Scuba dive (beginner to advanced)
  • Waterfall hike (on your own or with a guide)
  • Spa treatments (ahhhhh)
  • Luau (cliché, but darned good fun!)
  • Golf (like a champ)

Poipu Bay Championship Golf Course

 

Not to miss

Roy Yamaguchi (of the infamous Roy’s Restaurant) has recently opened Eating House 1849 on Kauai’s south shore.  If you are a foodie this Hawaiian Fusion is a must.

A South Pacific Primer

Can’t decide where to go this year?  Should you return to one of your favorite resorts or is it time to check a new destination off your bucket list?  Here’s a short list of South Pacific destinations to generate some new ideas.

  • Hawaii - generally experienced one island at a time, staying 5 to 8 nights.  If you have 8 or more nights, a two island hopper might work for you.  Staying in Waikiki (Oahu) means you can skip a car rental.  But staying on Oahu’s North Shore or on the other islands (Maui, Big Island, Kauai) a car rental is definitely recommended.  No passport is required, driving is easy, and the islands lend themselves to exploring on your own.  Ideal for couples, families, reunions, and small groups. A little over 5 hours from LAX to Oahu.
  • Tahiti/French Polynesia -  everyone should visit Tahiti (and especially Bora Bora) at least once in a lifetime.  There is nothing quite like an overwater bungalow in the lagoon facing Mt. Otemanu.  High season goes from June through October, pricing higher than Low season November through May.  You may need to stay your first night in Papeete before continuing on to your island destination.  Typically experienced as a 1 to 3-island itinerary, staying 5 to 10 nights.  Moorea is a less expensive alternative, or can pair nicely with Bora Bora for a 2-island itinerary.  Lesser-known islands make for a great first escape or for a return visit.  While families are welcomed in many resorts, most travellers are honeymooners, couples, and adult divers. Flight time from Papeete is 8 1/2 hours.
  • Fiji - known for friendly faces and beautiful beaches.  A 10 hour flight from LAX.  Typical itinerary is for 7 nights for one island, or 9 to 12 nights for two islands.  Depending on air schedule, an overnight in Nadi may be necessary.  This is a divers paradise as well as a perfect spot for a honeymoon.  Fiji is also family friendly.  Only one resort offers overwater bungalows, and they are expensive and sell out quickly.  Typical accommodations are beachfront bures (bungalows).
  • Australia – best experienced as part of an escorted tour, or an independent multi destination itinerary. Allow 2 weeks minimum. Don’t forget, seasons are reversed.
  • New Zealand – Visit either North Island or South Island if you have less than 2 weeks for travel. Or combine both islands if you can go 2-3 weeks or longer. An escorted tour makes things easy and efficient, or try a self-drive itinerary if you are independent.
  • Cook Islands – for the “been there, done that” crowd. Cook Islands offer a sleepy, laid back version of Tahiti and Fiji. No luxury-level hotels and flight schedules are a bit more challenging (compared to other destinations).
  • Cruise – rather experience the South Pacific by ship? NCL offers a one-week Hawaii cruise. Paul Gauguin offers 7 day and longer French Polynesia cruises. And multiple cruise lines offer the South Pacific on special itineraries on select days. Just ask!

Happy travels!  Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel (located in Frisco/The Colony in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex, Texas).  Contact at 972-625-6200 or cindy@expertfamilytravel.com

 

The basics on Hawaii

If you are thinking of a beachy destination that’s perfect year-round complete with swaying palm trees, friendly locals, and the scent of plumeria in the air, let me suggest one of the islands of Hawaii. The hard part, of course, is deciding which island to visit.

  • Oahu is the island where you’ll find the majority of Hawaii’s population (in Honolulu), world famous Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor, and the Polynesian Cultural Center.  This island is a great choice for folks looking for nightlife and shopping, and for those who prefer not to need a car rental on their trip.  There are some great hotels and resorts in all quality categories, so this can be a great choice, too, for those on a budget.
  • Maui embodies all things “Hawaiian” and is my top pick for first time couples and families to Hawaii.  Hotels, resorts, and condo properties run the range from economy to luxury.  You’ll want a car rental here.
  • Kauai is a bit more rugged and sleepy than Maui.  This is a good choice for active couples, active families with teens, and also for couples who really just want to relax the entire time of their trip.  Accommodations range from economy to luxury (hotel and condo).  Car rental strongly recommended.
  • Hawaii (aka “Big Island”) is home of the active volcano, and Volcano National Park.  It is also the largest island, with a diverse range of climates.  Because the island is so large and the active volcano is on the other side of the island from the hotel area, a car rental is a must.  Hotels and condos range from economy to luxury, with the best resort beaches located at the luxury resorts.
  • Lanai – a very sleepy, quiet island.  Great for the couple who really just want to get away, and for the couple who have travelled to Hawaii before.  Luxury accommodations only.
  • Multiple islands – if you have at least 8 nights to spend in Hawaii, you can consider a two island hopper stay.  Or, perhaps a 7 night Hawaii cruise (you’ll want to arrive the night before for ease of travel and comfort).  And there are escorted tour options for those of you who would like to maximize their time, with 3 and 4 island itineraries.

The Hawaiian Islands are about 5 hours’ flight from Los Angeles, and do not require a passport.  Driving is easy enough, and all islands lend themselves to lots of exploring and things to do.  Hawaii is perfect for honeymoon couples, young families, and extended groups in a range of sizes and ages.  There are no all-inclusive resorts in Hawaii, though sometimes the hotels are offering a breakfast-included rate.  Just be sure and ask about your options when booking your Hawaii package.

If scuba is on your bucket list…

Whether you are a seasoned, advanced scuba diver or a newbie looking to try it out for the first time, a dive vacation can be a great option for your next getaway.

  • Cozumel – located just off Mexico’s Yucatan coast, the island of Cozumel lets you experience world famous Palancar Reef with drift dives of all experience levels.  Graet snorkeling opportunities as well.  Accommodations range from economy to upscale, but with no true luxury resorts on the island.  All-inclusive options available.
  • Grand Caymans – located in the Caribbean, and easy striking distance from the US.  Known for great wall diving as well as wreck dives.  A total of 365 dive sites covering all experience levels.  Incredible visibility and beach quality, too.  Accommodations from economy to luxury.  A few all-inclusive options, but most hotels & resorts with no or limited meal plans.
  • Bonaire – if you are an advanced diver and are going with a dive buddy, this is a great choice.  Located in the Caribbean and part of the ABC Islands (south, close to Venezuela).  Simple two and three star accommodations along with a pickup truck rental and you are good to go.  Many DIY beach dives for the independent-minded.
  • Belize – Famous for Ambergris Cay and the Great Blue Hole.  Dive options more suited for the intermediate and advanced diver.  Try “Shark Ray Alley” for a highlight of your trip.  Fly into Belize City, with regional flight service to San Pedro.  Accommodations range from simple, 2 stars to upscale.  Nothing here is all-inclusive.
  • Galapagos – for the true dive enthusiast, a Galapagos live onboard dive ship experience to see whales, sharks, and other marine wildlife.  Strong currents in the area means you should be a good swimmer and advanced diver.
  • Fiji – dive a little, dive a lot.  Fiji is gorgeous above the water as well as below.  This destination is perfect for honeymooners and families.  Those in the travel party who are not divers can find plenty to keep them content back at the resort.  Dive opportunities for all levels.  Accommodations range from 3 star moderate to 5 star luxury.  Meal plans available.
  • Australia – Great Barrier Reef is the ultimate in diving experience.  Allow a minimum of 2 weeks to enjoy your diving, plus add some land sightseeing to round out your stay.  Live onboard ships or dive-centric resorts.  Accommodations range from 2 star economy to 5 star luxury.
  • Rangiroa, French Polynesia – this atoll island is known for their huge lagoon teeming with tropical fish and clear waters.  The most awesome experience here, though is “shooting the pass.”  Ride the tide at Tiputa or Avatoru Pass, and see rays, reef sharks, tuna, barracuda, and maybe even hammerhead sharks.  You can experience this either by diving or by snorkeling.  Stay at Kia Ora Resort, which is upscale to luxury.  Breakfast & dinner meal plan included.

Happy travels!  Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel (located in Frisco/The Colony in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex, Texas).  Contact at 972-625-6200 or cindy@expertfamilytravel.com.

Where to go next!

This month I thought I’d give you a nice, glossy overview of my top vacation destinations.

 

Dive Fiji for your next vacation

Mexico

For the best bang for the buck, Mexico reigns supreme.  You can opt for an all-inclusive resort, with your meals and drinks included.  Great pools, beach, and onsite activities to keep you well entertained, along with off-site day excursions.  On the go or relaxed, it’s your choice!

  • Cancun – Hotel Zone is lively and active.  This is a great choice for adult friend trips and for couples who love night life.
  • Riviera Maya (Playa del Carmen).  A great mix of adult only and family friendly all-inclusives.  And the range of moderate to luxury resorts means a resort that fits your style and budget.
  • Los Cabos.  Set on the tip of the Baja Peninsula on the Pacific side, where the desert meets the sea.  Great for couples, families, and friend getaways.
  • Puerto Vallarta.  On beautiful Banderas Bay.  Combine some resort time with exploring downtown and some excursions such as zip line and you’ve got yourself a great vacation.​

Caribbean

A wide range of island experiences with gorgeous beaches and fun cultural explorations​.

  • Jamaica.  Home of the popular all-inclusive Sandals, Couples, and Beaches Resorts.  You’ll also find other all-inclusive resorts here as well as some boutique resorts.
  • Punta Cana.  This growing resort destination is located on Dominican Republic, and has become a primary player in the all-inclusive market.  Family friendly and adults only options, in a wide range of style and budgets
  • Other islands.  Not everyone is looking for the mega resort.  If you prefer a quiet, small resort maybe Barbados or Turks and Caicos is your style.

Tahiti

Okay, so who doesn’t have Bora Bora on their bucket list?  This can be your once-in-a-lifetime milestone trip.  I do have clients who make Tahiti a regular vacation destination.  It is such a treat!  Imagine an overwater bungalow with pristine blue waters.  The epitome of relaxation.  Suited best for couples, but families enjoy this destination too.

Fiji

Beautiful.  Exotic.  Friendly.  If you’ve got at least a week, Fiji might just be the fit for you.  This is a great location for scuba and snorkeling.

 

Hawaii

I recommend a minimum stay of 5 nights in Hawaii, though 7 nights is better.  Pick from Oahu, Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island.  Or, if you have more time for your vacation, a two island combination might work best for you.  Polynesian paradise without the need for a passport.  On Oahu you don’t need a rental car.  On the other islands, renting a car is recommended, but driving on the islands is very easy and stress free.  Hotels range from economy to luxury.  And it is easy to explore on your own.

 

Walt Disney World (Orlando)

A “must see” for families, but Walt Disney World can also be a great vacation for adults.  A few days in a Disney Deluxe Resort, top notch dining reservations, and some awesome park time can make for a fun, romantic getaway. I recommend staying in one of Disney’s Resorts, and these range from the Value to Moderate to Deluxe properties.  Or, opt for a cabin for your family, complete with kitchens.

 

 

 

 

Western Europe

Trade in your flip flops for some good walking shoes for your next vacation to Europe.  These vacations are divided into two categories:

  • Escorted Tours.  The easiest way to see your favorite country, or multiple countries.  You are traveling in a group with a guide, and all the driving and planning is taken care of for you.
  • Independent Tours.  For the free spirited who prefer to go on their own.  We can put together a single city package, a rail package, or a self drive — all depending on your itinerary and personal preferences

Costa Rica

Recent resort growth in Costa Rica has been in the all-inclusive market, along the Guanacaste area on the Pacific coast.  There are now several moderate, upscale, and luxury options for families and couples.  Or, if you prefer a more adventurous itinerary, we can set up a multiple itinerary tour (either with a group or independent) for some volcano, rainforest, and beach time.

 

Cruises

We offer cruises in many regions across the globe in categories from moderate to luxury.  Cruising can offer an easy itinerary option if you want to see multiple countries without having to move from hotel room to hotel room.  Plus the ship is sometimes a destination in itself.  Cruising is also a great option for family reunions and large friend groups.

Flip flops in the winter

Christmas and New Years are behind us, the decorations are put away.  Now what the next two or three months will be is cold weather, bleak skies, and slippery walkways.

So, no wonder mid January through mid March is the time to escape the cold weather and head to the tropics.  If you are entertaining the idea of getting away for a week (or even a weekend), here are some suggestions:

-Cancun Mexico — offering all-inclusive resorts in the moderate to luxury range.  This destination is more suited for adults, but there are still some family friendly options in the Hotel Zone for all price points.  If you haven’t been to Cancun in the last decade, the biggest changes are the addition of some top-of-the-line luxury resorts.

-Riviera Maya Mexico — still reigns my favorite destination in terms of the quality of the resorts and the best “bang for the buck” in the upscale and luxury all-inclusive market.  There are resorts here that range the size ranges (from tiny boutique to huge mega-campus).  Plus, you can’t beat the flight times from the US.

-US Virgin Islands — a great tropical choice if you don’t have time time or energy to get your passports before heading south.  Resorts here range from 3 to 5 stars, mostly without meal plans.  Anticipate needing one connection with your flights each way, so a longer (4 nights or more) stay is best suited.

-Disney Cruise Lines — now with four ships instead of two, your options are double!  Winter itineraries depart from Port Canaveral (Orlando), Miami, and Galveston (Texas).   If you can travel during a week that schools are normally in session, pricing is pretty good.  Spring Break and Easter dates are pretty full (and pricey).

-Tahiti — this is actually Tahiti’s low season and their summer.  So if Bora Bora is on your bucket list, maybe this is the year you get to go!  If you are looking to travel within the next 3 months, having some flexibility on travel dates, island, and resort will help (since space does book up early, especially with the overwater bungalows in the 5 star resorts).  This is an ideal second honeymoon suggestion.

-Hawaii — A little bit of luau, plumeria in the air, and beachfront walks can do wonders to alleviate the winter doldrums.  Maui is a great “first visit” choice, but you’ll need to rent a car.  If you want to avoid driving, Oahu is your best option.  Kauai is a little more adventurous (and by that, I mean more outdoorsy stuff to do).  Big Island is where you get to see the active volcano.   Stick to one island, unless you have at least 8 days to vacation.

Cabo, Mexico — Cabo is quite popular in the winter.  The weather is milder (in the summer, it can get hot), and this is the season for whale watching.  Cabo is also known for golfing and nightlife.   New on the scene are some great 4 and 5 star all-inclusive resorts.  I’m personally staying at the Secrets Marquis Los Cabos later this month — I can’t wait!  A great choice for adults wanting a little luxury and  to replenishment, and there are also some great family friendly choices.

 

US Virgin Islands

Now, these are just a few suggestions.  There are many others…in the Caribbean, South Pacific, Central America…so just ask!

Whale watching in Maui

As they do every year, the humpbacks are back in Maui.  These beautiful creatures make their way to the warm waters of Maui from mid October through the end of May for their mating and calving season.

Maui is a great place for you to enjoy a week or so over the winter months.  Add a whale watching day excursion out of Lahaina (the ort city in Maui) for your chance to get up close and personal to these gentle giants.

In Maui, boats are allowed to come up to within 100 yards of the whales.  And oftentimes the curious whales will approach the boats, getting even closer than the 100 yards.  The peak of the whale season is in January, though you have a good chance of seeing them any time during the season.

And of course, Maui is a year-round tropical destination.  So, if you head to Hawaii in winter, you’ll still be able to enjoy bathing-suit-friendly weather, sun, and gorgeous beaches!  All I can say to that is ALOHA!

Interested in planning your next whale watching trip to Maui?  Contact me by phone or email to get the planning process started.

~Happy travels, Cindy Grant Travel Consultant at Reconnect Travel/Expert Family Travel.  972.625.6200.  Located in The Colony Texas, in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area (near Frisco, Plano, Carrollton, Lewisville).  cindy@expertfamilytravel.com

Scuba bucket list for the “Easy Does It” diver

Okay, some of us enjoy scuba diving, but so long as it isn’t overly physically challenging or dangerous.  Here’s a great list of dive spots that will give you the thrill without the chill :)

  1. Cozumel Mexico (recommended resort:  Iberostar Cozumel)
  2. Moorea Tahiti (recommended resort:  Hilton Moorea Resort)
  3. Turks and Caicos Caribbean (recommended resort:  Beaches Turks & Caicos)
  4. Nassau Bahamas (recommended resort:  Riu Palace Paradise Island)
  5. Manatee Swim, Central to South Florida
  6. Ambergris Caye, Belize (recommended resort:  Ramon’s Village)
  7. Rangiroa Tahiti (recommended resort:  Hotel Kia Ora)
  8. Maui Hawaii (recommended resort: Sheraton Maui Resort)
  9. Vanava Levu, Fiji (recommended resort:  Jean-Michael Cousteau Resort)
  10. Roatan Honduras (recommended resort:  Anthony’s Key Resort)

~Happy Travels, Cindy Grant, Reconnect Travel/Expert Family Travel 972-625-6200.  Travel agency located in the DFW area near Frisco, Plano, Carrollton, Little Elm, The Colony, Lewisville, Irving Texas.

Top Five Resorts in Maui (Hawaii)

Swaying palm trees, glorious beaches, Polynesian ambiance:  this is Maui the “Magic Isle.”  You will quickly fall in love with this tropical island for its natural beauty and charm.

Watch humpback whales in the winter.  Snorkel molokini year-round.  Enjoy the sunrise atop the Haleakala Crater.  And in the evening partake in a luau.  Maui is excellent for families as well as couples.

Here are the top five luxury resorts in Maui.  You’ll want to rent a car while staying here in order to get around and see the many sights.

  1. Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea (Wailea) –  the ultimate in luxury accommodations in Maui.  Features 376 rooms on 15 oceanfront acres.  New adult serenity pool opened June ’09.  Over 40 complimentary services and activities available for guests.  Children’s program.  Golf next door.
  2. The Fairmont Kea Lani Maui (Wailea) — Offers spacious luxury accommodations in 413 suites and 37 villas.  On 22 oceanfront acres.  Features three pools, including an adults-only pool.  Children’s program.  Golf onsite.
  3. Grand Wailea Resort and Spa (Wailea) – known for it’s amazing spa and pool areas.  Features 780 rooms on 40 beachfront acres.  Award-winning spa is 50,000 square feet and offers a variety of treatments.  Pool area is over 25,000 square feet and includes slides, waterfalls, and a lazy river.  Children’s program.  Golf onsite.
  4. The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua (Kapalua) –  laid back luxury in trendy Kapalua area.  Features a 10,000 square foot tri level pool, golf onsite, and a children’s program.
  5. Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa (Kaanapali) –  features 806 rooms on 40 acres on popular Kaanapali Beach, with one adult and one kid’s pool, and Camp Hyatt kid’s program.  Spa onsite and golf nearby.
~Cindy Grant, Travel Consultant RecommendTravel.com 972-625-6200