Reinvigorate Your Love For The Island

September 10, 2012 by  
Filed under family activities, hotels, informative, Life in Hawaii

The rigors of a routine can certainly catch up with you. With work, family, and bills presenting challenges on a daily basis, it can be difficult to find a moment to take for yourself. Despite the stresses that add up, Oahu never loses its splendor, and while you may have grown used to it over the years of living there, it is important to take a step back and unwind for a weekend. Whether it be for Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, or just a weekend you and that special someone agree upon, Oahu is teeming with spots that are perfect for a quick getaway. Taking a deep breath, sitting on the sand, and staring out at the Pacific is the best way to reconnect with what’s important in life. Here are a few ways to make your weekend unforgettable.

Book A Hotel

Even if it’s just down the road, booking at one of the luxurious island hotels is a great way to get yourself into that carefree-mode. Whether it be one of the many Waikiki hotels, such as the Lotus Honolulu, the Windward side in Kailua, or a bed and breakfast on the North Shore, packing a bag and letting go of household responsibilities will have an immediate effect on your demeanor. There isn’t anything quite like finding your bed turned down and ordering room service!

Go On A Tourist Excursion

Some people go their entire lives without exploring some of the tourist hotspots in their hometown. While this goes against the local mentality, grabbing a bit of culture–especially some as vibrant and eccentric as that of Hawaii–can help boost your pride in your area even further. Once you set your stuff down at the hotel, pick and choose from the huge host of cultural options available to you, such as the Bishop Museum, or the Honolulu Academy of Art. Living in an area that millions visit a year, it’s important to understand and appreciate the rich history of what surrounds you.

A Genuine Adrenaline Rush

Even if you feel completely familiar with the island, there are several activities that will help define your weekend tremendously: going skydiving is one of them. With you and your loved one hurtling towards the ground, the rush that you’ll experience is unlike any other. It is sharing experiences like this that strengthen relationships–and the 360 degree views of the island are pretty nice to boot!

Living on Oahu is a joy that shouldn’t be taken for granted. If your daily routine has you missing the beauty of your surrounding environment, or you just need a weekend to take a break with someone special, make it a weekend that will keep you going for a good, long time!

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Hawaii Misconceptions

With all the publicity Hawaii receives on TV and in the movies it’s easy to get a skewed picture of what the islands are really like. Hawaii’s diversity and varied geography allow for many different experiences; even stories you’ve heard from friends may paint a skewed picture. This article looks at some common misconceptions and will hopefully give you some ideas to plan a perfect trip.

Oahu and Waikiki

Waikiki, a suburb of Honolulu, is the most popular tourist destination in Hawaii. Dozens of inexpensive hotels, the bright lights of a beautiful, active and modern city, and the allure of Waikiki Beach combine to form an intoxicating cocktail that many tourists can’t resist.

But Oahu’s real beauty is found outside Honolulu. The scenic H3 freeway cuts through razor edged volcanic ridges and takes one from the west to east side of the island, revealing miles of beautiful beaches. You won’t find hotels or condos here, rather several nice residential towns like Kailua where President Obama and his family vacation over winter holidays. Oahu’s north shore is much less developed, and out in the “country” is where one finds a few of the most famous surf breaks in the world – the Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay.

So although Waikiki wins the prize for being the most popular destination in Hawaii, it represents only a fraction of what Hawaii or even Oahu has to offer.

Crowds

Based on the popularity of Waikiki Beach one may expect the rest of Hawaii to be similarly crowded. Fortunately that’s not the case. Hawaii has over 100 great tourist beaches and on any island it’s possible to find one that’s virtually empty. This is especially true for Kauai’s north shore where you can count on many great beaches being visited by only a handful of people on weekdays. Every Hawaiian Island including Oahu can accommodate those who want to get away from big tourist crowds.

Cost

Hawaii caters to everyone including those on a tight budget. The best vacation value can be found in vacation rentals which allow for the possibility of inexpensive home cooked meals. Even on Maui, sometimes referred to as the playground of the wealthy, you’ll find condo rentals on the beach for less than $100/night at complexes like at Waiohuli Beach Hale, or from $150/night at places like Poipu Sands on Kauai.

Car rental prices fluctuate depending on demand. Rates of $30/day are common. Given how much there is to see and explore renting a car is highly recommended. Only Oahu has a good public transportation system.

Visitor Destination Areas

Hawaii has strict zoning regulations and it’s illegal to offer vacation rentals in many areas without the proper permits (permits are hard to get). Unfortunately this means you can’t rent an apartment or home in any residential area you want, particularly areas that are less touristy.

Fortunately several resort areas offer a nice selection of rentals including homes, condos and cottages and some resorts have a mix of residents and vacationers, particularly on Kauai which has a nice selection of condos.

Weather

Hawaii arguably has the best climate in the world. Winter time highs average about 78 degrees (25 Celsius), summer time highs around 86 (30 Celsius). Consistent winds prevent suffocating heat from ever taking hold. The ocean is always warm enough to swim in.

As wonderful as Hawaii’s weather is, from the perspective of a tourist who’s visiting for a week and expects the best, the weather can be frustrating. The same winds that make Hawaii one of the premier windsurfing destinations can also create unpleasant beach conditions, especially on east facing shores. Although the Pacific Ocean around Hawaii doesn’t see much rainfall, the topography of each island creates its own weather system, collecting and bunching up clouds. The result is a huge difference in weather in very short distances. For example, the wettest recorded spot on earth is on Kauai, but only 20 miles away it’s very dry, almost desert like.

The bottom line, residents of Hawaii are extremely lucky, but vacationers going for short trips need to plan winter vacations more carefully, selecting the driest region of an island to get the best possible weather.

Scenery

Whatever you imagine Hawaii to contain in terms of scenery, you’re probably right. What other region of the world contains such a variety of landscapes stuffed into such a small land mass? Jungles, forests, canyons, jagged cliffs, meadows, deserts, baron fields of lava rock, red dirt, palm fringed beaches, snow capped mountains, volcanic craters, moonscapes, and waterfalls. No wonder so many movies are filmed in Hawaii.

To see the contrasting scenes you have to leave the comfort of your resort and do some driving. For example, flying into Maui you’re not going to see any evidence of lush tropical scenery. But drive the road to Hana on the south east coast and you’ll be treated to waterfalls and a million shades of green.

Volcano

If you’ve seen anything on TV about Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island your impression of this area will be completely skewed. TV programs show a portion of the volcano up close at times when it’s spewing lava. Normally the volcano is simmering out of sight in a remote area of the park, and lava flow is below ground except where it enters the ocean.

Volcanoes National Park is an amazing area that should be visited. There are miles of hikes and interesting geology to explore. Just don’t go expecting to see lava. You may get lucky, but if you really want to see flowing lava you’ll need to take an air tour.

Sharks

Traveling to Hawaii is probably the least stressful vacation you can take. You don’t have to worry about terrible weather, tropical diseases, crime, or contaminated food. Perhaps because there’s so little to worry about, some people start fixating on Shark attacks. There are sharks in Hawaii, but attacks are rarer than other beach destinations. Hawaii averages about 3 attacks per year making the odds of an attack more than 1 in a million. Instead of worrying about sharks, worry about dangerous ocean conditions. About 50 people drown every year in Hawaii.

Length of Stay

The islands of Hawaii are relatively small. Maui is 727 square miles, while Kauai and Oahu are less than 600. As such many people try to see several islands in one short trip. That’s a mistake because each island has so many attractions to explore, and although only separated by a half an hour plane ride, the reality of modern day airport travel means that jumping islands wastes a full day.

So although it’s technically possible to see all the islands in a couple weeks, the experience won’t be as deep or meaningful. The rule of thumb is to budget at least one week per island, if you’re a goal oriented sight seeing type. Feel free to spend several weeks on one island – you won’t regret it.

Partying

Unlike Mexico, the Caribbean or Florida, Hawaii doesn’t have a reputation as a party destination even during spring break. Most tourists are families, couples, and honeymooners. The time zone difference (PST – 3 hours, but no daylight savings) results in earlier bed times for most people including residents who sometimes have to sync up with mainland businesses. Lahaina on Maui does offer some after-hours entertainment but only Honolulu has any significant night life.

Surfing

Hawaii has the most famous surf breaks in the world. Perhaps you’d like to see crazed surfers tackle Waimea Bay, the Banzai Pipeline, or Jaws. Or maybe you’re thinking of taking up surfing yourself, or at least, doing some righteous boogie boarding.

Before getting stoked about the surfing possibilities, there a few points to keep in mind. First, surf breaks are seasonal. The biggest breaks reach over 30ft in winter months, but struggle to top 2ft mid summer. And a number of beaches, especially on Maui, are situated such that they’re never really subject to any sizeable surf, even for boogie boarding. Finally, the best surf breaks are rarely suitable for novice surfers.

So if you’re considering a surfing or wave watching vacation you’ll want to research surf breaks and locations and time your trip. Kauai and Oahu have the best surf breaks for beginners although Maui does have several very mellow breaks. Spring is generally a good time for surfing with greater odds for nice sized waves that aren’t overwhelming.

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Raw Nature, Raw Power- Be A Responsible Citizen of Hawaii

September 9, 2012 by  
Filed under columns, informative, Life in Hawaii

In Hawaii, we pride ourselves with living off the grid. Being an island community, the notion is not far-fetched, yet the idea of us living independently of the mainland is one that requires a bit more imagination. Not to mention, complete denial of the fact that we are not a self-sufficient state.

As islanders, we like to romanticize our position in the world and overlook our dependence on pretty much everyone else for energy, machinery and many foods in favor of celebrating our local goods and beauty. Additionally, we rely on tourism as a major chunk of our economy. Hawaii’s abundance of stunningly beautiful raw nature, myriad species of plants, flowers birds and fish – not to mention our unique culture –give us this leverage, and a nature-focused lifestyle to boot. But our focus now should be on creating a plan to preserve our environment by turning to green initiatives. Conscious consumption and living in the form of seeking renewable energy sources, reducing our waste and growing and purchasing locally should all be a point of pride as significant as our geographic status.

Many businesses and residents are already on board. Dozens of farmers’ markets serve as an incubator for local business, supporting a network of organic farms and artisans.  Most markets are moving towards becoming zero waste facilities, employing sustainable practices like compostable packaging and utensils and many Waikiki hotels such as the Modern Honolulu are on their way to becoming green certified, and there is an increasing push towards implementing renewable energy. The islands may be small, but we must do all we can to control our greenhouse gas emissions to preserve them.

As islands in the middle of the Pacific, Hawaii is particularly vulnerable to the effects of global climate changes. To protect Hawaii’s environment and reduce our impact on global warming, renewable energy sources are needed. Over 90 percent of Hawaii’s energy comes from burning imported fossil fuels, most of which is used for air or automobile travel. Since us islanders need to get off the rock every now and again, we are well-versed in understanding the need for travel, but that doesn’t mean we can get complacent about it. We ask, what can we do to reduce our impact whilst at home? A significant change would be making electrical vehicles or major ground transportation and reducing car trips altogether.

Unlike the continental U.S. states, Hawaii does not have access to fuel sources such as natural gas or large rivers to produce hydropower, but it does have the ability to harness the power of the sun, wind, ocean and geothermal power. Diversifying Hawaii’s mix of energy sources by using more locally produced renewable energy to produce electricity – especially for transportation – is the best way to help us less dependent on fossil fuels.

Small changes like biking, walking or taking public transportation yield big impacts. Besides, getting out of the car is the best way to experience Hawaii! Acting locally contributes to a cleaner, more self-sufficient Hawaii.

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