Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Travelling to Hawaii (with kids!)


Earlier this year, we did a family trip to Hawaii with my parents and we all had a wonderful time together. Hawaii is very family friendly and great for large families of all ages.

All of Hawaii's beaches are free!
Every single beach in Hawaii is free, even if it's attached to a fancy hotel. All the beaches have a mandatory public entrance so that everyone can enjoy it. That way, you can totally chill out at the Four Seasons beach...without paying the price point. Most beaches have parking lots nearby, so they are easily accessible.

If you're on a budget, don't stay in a resort
Most of the resorts in Hawaii are over $250 a night, which really adds up after a week. The unfortunate thing about staying in a resort is that you're more likely to eat their crappy food, which is wildly overpriced ($20 for a burger - and limited vegetarian options). Plus, resorts will be infested with the type of tourists that never step foot outside the resort. If you have the money, stay at a resort for convenience; but if you don't, you can easily find a condo rental for $100-$150 and you'd save a lot of money making your own food, while still enjoying everything Hawaii has to offer like the free beaches. If your condo is part of a hotel property, you might even get to use the hotel amenities. If you're traveling in a large family, it's better to stay in a condo. If you're traveling as a couple, stay in a resort.

Don't pack too much
Chances are you might wear one or two things. You will basically be living in your bathing suits and flip flops. Hawaiian style is very casual and laid-back. I saw people buying groceries wearing their bathing suits!

But bring snacks on the airplane...
We are lucky because Vancouver has a direct flight to Hawaii (5 hours long) however the airplanes are so cheap nowadays that they don't even provide you with a meal. If it was the same flight on the East coast, they would provide a dinner, but nooooo, all we were offered was lousy sodas and peanuts. When you're traveling with a child, this is a big problem. Pack a lunchbox for them with a full meal because they will get hungry...and also pack one for yourself! (But just say it's for your child!)

It makes for a beautiful road trip.
If you get a chance to, drive around and explore - you can even rent a car for just a day. The Hawaiian landscape is so beautiful, and it's nice to explore a locality outside of the resorts. There are wonderful farmer's markets and small boutiques scattered around the islands.

The fruits and sushi are amazing.
The food is not that great - most places are hit and miss. However, the fish is amazing. The selection of fresh fruits are delicious. And the best food we had was Japanese food - not surprising since Hawaii has a huge Japanese population.

Hawaii is racially diverse and has lots of mixed families.
Yay! It was great to be around families just like us...finally it felt like we fit in perfectly! Many families are multi-ethnic and it is celebrated there. Being a mixed family in Hawaii didn't feel like something strange.

If you need ____, you can buy it there
Hawaii is American, so they are readily stocked with a plethora of the exact same American products that you would be able to find in mainland North America. You will even find a better selection of sunscreen, swimwear and beach accessories.

It gets dark early, and the sun rises early
All throughout the year, no matter what season, the sun rises very early and it sets quite early too. This is totally different than Canada because in the Summer, it will stay bright until 10pm. The time change is only a few hours from the West Coast, but you can feel jet lagged from the difference in sunrise/sunset timings.

Take in the scenery
There is something so calming about being in Hawaii. Whether it be listening to the waves, the palm trees rustling, or basking in the sunshine - when you're in touch with nature, on an island - you pick up those good Hawaiian vibes.

Why not Island hop?
So, you've come all the way to Hawaii...why not make it even better by spending several days on a few different islands? If you have time, I would try to spend 5 days per island. Each island has a completely different feel to it - for example, the Big Island is more volcanic and spiritual. Maui has the best beaches; and Oahu is the state capitol; Lanai is the most quiet.

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What about you guys? Have you ever been to Hawaii?
What tips and tricks can you add?

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2 comments

  1. (pt 1/2) Great tips. I went to Hawaii too, once to Maui and once to Kauai - but both were over 10-15 years ago so I can't remember too many specifics. We went as per a vacation option offered by my parents’ company, so we stayed at a big resort-hotel both times; so I don’t know much about the condo experience. But I will say that I had a great time, both times. I remember Maui (for some reason I can’t remember Kauai that well) being pretty commercialized, but high quality. We stayed at the Grand Wailea resort, which was upscale and I remember being fairly dazzled by how beautiful it was. Out past the main hotel lobby was a fountain-filled courtyard leading to the beach, and it had swimming pools all around. That particular vacation I remember because I had buddied up with a couple of guys I had met who were my age (middle school at the time), and one day we were swimming in a pool there and suddenly we see Steve Young (hall of fame NFL quarterback) there with his family! We took a quick picture with him and couldn’t stop talking about it afterwards lol.

    But the days itself were great, packed with activity. Usually in the morning it was first down to the buffet for a continental breakfast, and then off to do things like spa, squash, tennis, etc. My favorite was definitely snorkeling and then whale watching. My mom wouldn’t let me train for scuba, but a group of maybe 15 of us took a little boat out to a reef 30 mins away and did some great snorkeling. Another day we took another boat and saw humpback whales- that was amazing, they were breaching high off in the distance, and some swam pretty close. Nights were always nice, because there was invariably some party going on near the grounds. Since I was just in middle school I couldn’t go to all of them, but I did for some, and I danced away with my friends- great times. There were all sorts of girls there, from mainlanders to vacationers, so for a puberty-stricken kid it was something of a small heaven at the time haha. But I never talked to any girl or did anything romantic, I didn’t know how, and was too shy!

    I remember the company had reserved one particular night for a special luau near the beach front. They had hired traditional Hawaiian-dancers (what I call, the ‘hip-shakers!’) – first some ladies who did a slow and serene dance, followed by men who performed an amazing ritual dance with fire-sticks, and then we had a great roasted dinner; it was wonderful, really a magical night. Other nights, we would usually eat in our hotel room (I remember once ordering a Hawaiian pizza, with pineapple topping, which I didn’t really care for!) or venture beyond the resort grounds to eat at a local restaurant. I can’t remember what we ate, but I do remember the seafood was wonderful. I mentioned it was pretty commercialized; there was all sorts of brand-name shops you could go to, like Tommy Bahama, Ralph Lauren, etc; all within a slight driving distance away. My mom really enjoyed those!

    I only went those two times, but my parents have gone back several more times since then (to different islands), and they love it.

    ....

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  2. (pt 2/2) More recently, we also went to a British Virgin Island (called Peter Island), which I found to be a remarkably different experience than Hawaii. Whereas Hawaii definitely had a Polynesian and relaxed flavor to it, the BVI seemed much more traditionally ‘western’ or Afro/Creole, so there wasn’t as big a cultural difference. Also, whereas the Hawaiian islands we went to were very commercialized and ‘built-upon,’ the BVI we went to was totally the opposite- we stayed in a medium-sized bungalow (not a big resort) - it was almost remote and had hardly any extravaganzas, but had a luxurious feel to it anyway- it was like a true ‘getaway’ island. Even when we stopped at St. Thomas (the gateway point), I noticed that the Caribbean lacked the ‘hustle-bustle’ feel that Hawaii had; maybe that’s just where we stayed at, though. The Caribbean also tends to have the famous crystal-clear turquoise blue water and secluded white beaches you see in motivational posters (lol), which I didn’t see too much in Hawaii (although, the Hawaiian beaches are stunning in their own right). Once you get to St. Thomas, the main method of transportation is by speedboat, usually going from island to island in 30-40 minutes. Some of the islands are small enough to where you can just stop by a beach-side restaurant for lunch, and then hop onto another island for something else, which is what a lot of people do. There is very much an inter-island connectedness which makes boat-traveling much more fluid (it helps if you have a guide, though!) We did a lot of similar activities as we did in Hawaii, whale watching, snorkeling, etc. But this time, we didn’t go in a huge group – we just went by ourselves and with one other family- so it was much more relaxed and not rushing from one activity to the next. In mornings after breakfast, we could decide to hang by the beach the whole day, or maybe go to the gym, or just take a tour to the other side of the island. It really felt like we had the whole place to ourselves! It was spectacular going to the top of the island all alone with loved ones, then watching the Sunset against a purple-sky backdrop while having a vista viewpoint of many islands and oceans for miles away – it was heavenly. Such a different experience than our Hawaiian one, where part of the fun was experiencing this grand island with many others. A secluded Bahamian trip is something else altogether, a different type of reward. I’d highly recommend it for a romantic couple’s ‘getaway;’ vacation- though it’s still great for young children.

    So I found both Hawaii and the Virgin Islands to be equally wonderful, though different in vacation flavor. Of course, my experiences were only limited to the islands we went, so I’m sure there are some secluded Hawaiian places and more commercialized Caribbean ones. But either one is great – just be sure to do research and know what type of vacation you really want to have. As long as you can keep yourself safe (some of the Caribbean places aren’t) and know what you’re doing, those trips will stay in your memory forever.

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