Choosing the Right Hotel in Hawaii

When looking to book a vacation in the Hawaiian Islands, you’ll be pleasantly pleased at the huge selection of hotels available in the state. From urban-styled hotels in downtown Honolulu to ultra-exclusive, secluded getaway retreats in Lanai, hotels come in so many sizes, styles, prices, and locations that it can make the prospective vacationer’s head spin. There are, however, a few key guidelines that can help you select just the right property for you.
First off, finding a hotel that fits your interests and your budget should be the first consideration when searching for a hotel in Hawaii. Obviously, every vacationer has a different travel budget, so what is defined as “affordable” will depend on the size of your vacation budget. For those who have no budget restrictions, searching only the five-star hotels will greatly reduce the number of possibilities. Hawaii has some of the most fabulous five-star hotels on the planet!  For those who are looking to save some money, however, finding the best value for your money is key.  Therefore, try to find a four-star hotel that has special package deals if at all possible. While these properties may not be as fancy or as new as the five-star hotels, they can often provide a comfortable stay with many nice amenities.
Of course, location is also a huge factor in selecting your hotel, especially in Hawaii. In a case of a lower-priced four-star hotel or condo, check to see exactly where it is located. If you wish to be right on the beach, you may have to pay a higher price. Many of the less expensive hotels, particularly in Honolulu are close to the beach but not located right on it.  Hawaiian beaches all have public access so if you are not opposed to walking a block or two to get to the beach, then a less expensive hotel or condo might be the right choice for you. You may also be able to get special package deals that might make it just as inexpensive to stay at one of the nicer hotels right on the beach if you check around.  With the downturn in the economy, this is an especially good time to get great deals on your Hawaiian travel.
Comfort and service is the final consideration. Even if you’ve found a hotel that is located where you want to be and seems like a good value, make sure it provides the amenities that you want.  Condos can often be a good alternative to hotel stays since many provide the ability to prepare meals in the room. They can also be a good choice if you have a large family or many people in your party. Restaurant meals in Hawaii are rather expensive and can quickly eat into a budget. Be prepared that even fast-food will cost more in the Islands than it does on the mainland. If you don’t plan on spending a lot of time in your room, perhaps you can settle for a hotel off the beaten path or a condo which can accommodate more people at a lower cost.  In any case, careful planning and budgeting can allow you to spend your money doing other exciting things while on your stay in Hawaii.

How Checking the Forecast Yields a Better Hawaiian Vacation

Most people who are planning a vacation to the Hawaiian Islands for the first time rarely think to consult the weather forecast before taking off for their great Hawaiian destination. After all, Hawaii is a tropical paradise and we all know that means hot sun, balmy temperatures and cool ocean breezes with only an occasional tropical shower.

This is definitely a misconception, however, as the Hawaiian islands are home to more variable weather patterns that you can imagine. While the overall temperature of the island chain is remarkably stable, with summer highs in the upper 80s F, (around 31 degrees C), and winter highs in the low to mid 70s (around 28 degrees C), these temperatures only apply to the lower lying coastal areas of most islands. If you plan to only sit by the pool or ocean side, you probably won’t need to pack warm clothing. However, some of the most gorgeous scenery on many of the islands lies above 2,000 feet so if you plan on exploring the higher altitudes of each island, be sure to pack sturdy shoes, long pants and even a jacket. In winter, some of the higher elevations such as Mauna Kea’s Observatory on the Big Island or Haleakala on the island of Maui can have snow on the ground and be quite bitterly cold.
Although the Hawaiian islands benefit from warm trade winds that keep them considerably less humid than other tropical island locations, the Hawaiian islands are susceptible to heavy rainfall during certain times of the year. Mt Waialeale on the island of Kauai, for example, is known as the “rainiest place on earth.”  This mountain area gets a staggering 460 inches (28 ft. 4 in., or 11.7 m) of rain annually. By checking the weather forecast before you travel you can make sure that you bring rain gear and/or an umbrella before venturing out to visit the various points on the island. While showers often are brief, they can be intense while they last. The cooling showers, especially mid-summer showers, often bring relief from the tropical afternoon heat so most Hawaiians welcome them. Another well-known fact about the weather in the islands is that weather patterns are often localized.  Don’t like the weather where you are?  Move to a different part of the island and you may well find a totally different weather pattern altogether.

The island of Kauai is not the only island known for rain showers, however. Each of the Hawaiian islands has its own very specific weather patterns and micro climates. When it is sunny in Oahu, it can be windy or even pouring down rain on the Hilo side of the Big Island. While you might not expect to see snow-capped mountains in the tropics that is exactly what you are likely to see on mountain tops such as Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea or Haleakala Summit in the winter. Even hurricanes, while rarer in this area of the Pacific than in the Atlantic are known to have hit Hawaii and caused damage especially during an El Nino year.

What Kind of Climate and Weather Does Hawaii Have?

Just as the scenery of Hawaii can be varied, so too can the climate of the Hawaiian Islands vary from place to place.  Keeping in mind that many of the islands have desert, tropical rain forests as well as tundra regions, it is no surprise that the weather varies drastically depending on the topography. To best enjoy your vacation, you must understand some facts about the climate and weather patterns of the Hawaiian Islands so that you pack wisely.
At sea level, the island chain enjoys a fairly consistent temperature of between 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (23 to 29 degrees Celsius) all year long. Despite this fairly warm and consistent coastal temperature, averages temperatures do decrease with altitude. Hawaii has the longest coastline in the United States but over 50% of the state has an elevation of over 2,000 feet. In fact, 10% of the land mass rises to an elevation of over 7,000 feet. While you may not think of snowfall in the tropics, Hawaii does get snowfall on many of the higher mountains throughout the winter and spring months.  It is common to find higher elevations, such as the Big Island’s largest mountain, Mauna Kea, sporting a pristine, white, snow crest from late fall into spring. Depending on where you are going and what you may be doing, you may need warm clothes in addition to that bathing suit during your stay in Hawaii. If you intend to visit any of the higher elevations, packing long slacks and a jacket may be in order.
The islands enjoy the benefit of warm trade winds which blow from NE to ENE during much of the winter months. These winds bring cooler breezes from the north which often causes some precipitation in the islands. At other times of the year, these winds, known as “Kona winds” can flow in a southerly direction and bring hot, balmy air to the islands. Each island has a leeward side and also a windward side. The leeward side of the island is the part that faces South or West. This side of the island is generally hot, dry and sunny most of the time. Many of the best beaches and resorts are located on the leeward side of each island since sun worshipers and bathers can easily take advantage of these conditions.
The windward side of each island is the portion that faces North or East. The windward side often gets more precipitation due to the flow of the Kona winds. As a result of this increased rainfall, the windward side of each island offers a lush, green, tropical rain forest environment. When you visit the windward side of each island, you will find that it is more likely to be moderate, overcast and damp.  If you intend to spend time visiting the windward side of any of the islands, packing an umbrella and a light sweater for damper conditions is a must. Despite these generalities, weather patterns on the island are very localized so if you don’t like the weather where you are, drive to another part of the island and you will more than likely find a different weather pattern waiting for you.
Interior lowland areas, such as are found on Oahu and on Maui can have the characteristics of both the leeward and windward lowland areas.  The interior lowland areas, especially those found on Oahu, can receive intense afternoon showers as a result of the heating of the land during the day. The benefit of the rapid and intense rain showers is an overall cooling of the mugginess that often precedes these showers. As a result, most people welcome the brief but intense showers that occur on these islands.  Taking time to look at the weather patterns for the major areas that you will be visiting will help you pack appropriately and be prepared for the types of activities available to you in the area. While you can always purchase needed items at local stores that you may have forgotten, remember that everything in Hawaiian stores has to be shipped in from outside the islands. As a result, it is often easier – and much cheaper – to plan well and bring the items you need with you for your Hawaiian vacation rather than try to buy them once you arrive in Hawaii.

Cruising in Hawaii

While smaShipll cruise lines come and go, at the present time, there are 4 large cruise lines that offer cruises within the Hawaiian Islands at very reasonable rates. These are: Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess and Norwegian Cruise Lines. Currently, you can find cruise ships commonly departing from Los Angeles, San Diego, CA as well as Ensenada, Mexico and Vancouver, British Columbia and on 10, 12, 14 and even 21 night cruises.  Shorter, 7 day, inter-island cruises leaving from Honolulu are also available from several of the major cruise lines. Currently, you can get some really great deals on the longer cruises leaving from the mainland so be sure to check around for the best price on your cruise package before booking your vacation.
Each Hawaiian Island is truly unique so seeing the islands by boat can be a fun way to experience all of the charm Hawaii has to offer. Most of the major cruise lines stop or originate in Honolulu and then head off to ports of call such as Kauai, Maui, and often make stops in both Kailua-Kona and Hilo on the big island of Hawaii. While in each port of call, you can book side trips like snorkeling, hang gliding, jeep island tours and other fun activities by speaking with the cruise concierge at each port of call. The ships usually arrive in port during the early morning hours and travel back out to see late in the evening so there is plenty of time to explore the sights and sounds of each island.
When planning your Hawaiian cruise, it is important to first select the type of accommodations that you would like. Making sure that you select the right type of cabin for your trip is important since this will determine not only the price of your cruise per person, but also the level of enjoyment you get from your cruise.  On most major cruise lines, there are basically 4 or possibly 5 levels of accommodations.
If you are particularly bargain minded, the least expensive cabin type is an inside or interior cabin. Inside cabins do not have windows or portholes and tend to be rather small in size. Since the Hawaiian Islands have some of the most gorgeous scenery on earth, you will not want to miss being able to see outside as you travel from place to place. Inside cabins are good if you do not intend to stay in your cabin for any length of time. They can also be economical for older children will only go to this room to sleep but will spend most of their time in a larger, parent cabin.
The next class of cabin is an outside or ocean view room. These rooms are often a bit larger and do have a window or porthole with a view of the ocean or current port of call. These rooms make excellent choices since you are able to see what is going on with the weather and you can easily tell the time of day.
If you can afford to upgrade a bit on your room selection, a balcony stateroom is by far a great choice for a Hawaiian cruise vacation. These rooms offer a small, private balcony where you can watch the ocean or view the current port of call. Having your own private balcony, where you can sip your morning coffee or just pass the time between ports is idea. Definitely consider this option for a Hawaiian cruise if at all possible. It is definitely worth the extra money if you can possibly afford this level of room.
The most spacious and elegant accommodations on a cruise ship are suites. Depending on the cruise line, suites can vary from 200 square feet to well over 1,400 square feet. These facilities not only provide private balconies for each suite, but they also have upgraded amenities such as large sitting rooms, walk-in closets, and even upgraded bathrooms with whirlpool tubs and granite counter-tops. Some cruise lines will also offer special amenities such as expedited check in and disembarkation, concierge service, daily in room treats and other special benefits reserved only for this customer class. If you want to be pampered and really have room to stretch out on your cruise, booking a suite is the only way to go.
While the typical stateroom is designed to accommodate 2 passengers, most cruise ships have cabins that can accommodate 3-4 passengers in one room.  Be sure to ask for rooms that accommodate higher numbers of occupants since the 3rd and 4th passenger in a stateroom pays much less than the first two pay. This can be a beneficial way for a family to save money by traveling together. Since these cabins fill quickly, it is wise to book as far in advance as possible if you wish to book a room that accommodates more than 2 passengers. During the winter months, the seas can be more rough than they are during the other seasons of the year so if you travel from November to through the end of February, bring along a few sea sickness patches if you tend to get sea sick in turbulent waters.
A cruise is a wonderful way to see the sights and get a great feel for each of the Hawaiian Islands. The food and entertainment on board is excellent and you can do as much or as little as you want each day. Since you get a good feel for each of the islands, it is a good way to determine which islands you might like to return to on a future vacation.  The food is great, the ports of call are beautiful and each ship has outstanding amenities that will make your island vacation a memorable event. Cruising the Hawaiian Islands is a wonderful way to begin your special Hawaiian vacation.

Halema’uma’u Lava Lake Rising

You can see the rising lava lake within Halema’uma’u Crater as seen from the Jaggar Museum observation deck. The Crater began erupting on April 29, 2015 and is easily visible from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.