Hawaii. Oh my beloved Hawaii. Where do I even begin to tell you about our amazing family vacay in Hawaii?
I once read that when you visit Hawaii it either touches you deep inside your soul and calls to you, or you move on untouched. For me, there was a deep love affair from the minute I first touched down there 20 years ago. I am a summer, beach and surfer girl through and through and Hawaii is every kind of perfect to me. Since then, not only have I lived there and been back to visit over a dozen times, but my husband and children have fallen equally in love with it.
And what's not to love - beautiful beaches with the bluest water you've ever seen, amazing shopping, sensational food, sunshine that warms you right to your core and such friendly positive people. Hawaii is our Happy place with a capital H!
There are six main islands in the Hawaiian Island chain. Honolulu is the main city on the Island of Oahu, also known as "The Gathering Place". The famous Waikiki Beach, where most travellers base themselves to at least begin with, is in the heart of Honolulu.
There are two airlines that fly direct to Honolulu from Auckland - Air New Zealand and Hawaiian Airlines. The flight is between 8 and 9 hours each way. Both fly at different times so you'll need to see what suits you best. There are benefits to both services - We flew Air New Zealand this trip who have a night flight from Auckland to Honolulu and a day flight return. Maisie slept most of the night flight (with her feet on a really understanding lady next to her - thank you so much who ever you were) but poor Maddie couldn't get comfortable and only slept 2 or 3 hours. She was a complete shambles the next day and walked in to two glass ranch sliders. If we fly a night flight with Air New Zealand again I am going to pay the extra $150 per person and book the Sky Couches. It would be money well spent not to see her in that state again. The night flight arrives at Honolulu around 7.30am (the previous day) which I loved because you're not wasting time in transit and your first day in Hawaii is a full day.
Alternately, Hawaiian Airlines currently have a day flight from Auckland to Honolulu and night flight return. A day flight to Honolulu arrives late at night which means the benefit of a full nights sleep in a bed at your accommodation so you can wake up refreshed to tackle your first full day on holiday. Hawaiian Airlines also give you twice the luggage allowance of Air New Zealand and the shopping in Hawaii is aaaaamazing so that is a definite plus! But more on that soon...
I prefer the seating configuration on the Air New Zealand planes being 3-3-3. The Air New Zealand flights are generally always heavily booked on the way to Honolulu but on almost every return flight I have ever been on there have been empty seats and its not uncommon to have three seats to yourself. In terms of price, if you're booking direct online, Hawaiian Airlines is only just slightly cheaper than Air New Zealand. So it's up to you to weigh up which airline will suit you and your family best.
Before leaving for Hawaii, I recommend booking a shuttle bus to collect you at the airport to take you to your hotel or condo. We booked Roberts Hawaii who offered a competitive return shuttle service to and from your accommodation and who guarantee five or less drop offs along the way. There are shuttle buses that you can pick up on arrival at the airport but after a long flight (especially with kids!) I think it's best to know someone is waiting for you. Due to heightened airport security, there aren't any taxi's waiting on arrival like there used to be, although I believe airport staff outside the arrivals gate can call one in for you. It's about a 20-25 minute drive in to Waikiki from the airport. You can also book Roberts to do all other sorts of transport and tours around the island but more on that later.
When looking to book your accommodation in Hawaii, you'll have the choice of hotels (which is most likely where you'll stay if you're travelling on a package deal), condominiums or backpackers.
Apart from three occasions we have always chosen to book and stay in a condo. They are generally located within the hotels anyway but have private owners and are looked after by property managers rather than hotel staff. Generally, you'll have use of all of the hotel facilities such as the pool but not the hotel staff services such as the porter, maid services etc. Instead, private cleaners will come in around once a week to change your sheets and towels, vacuum and clean the bathrooms. If you have any problems then just call the property manager and they will deal with it on your behalf. Condos are much more economical, especially if you're planning an extended stay.
The other clincher for me is that most hotels don't have kitchens or offer very limited kitchen facilities (a kettle and a microwave) however condos have either a kitchenette or full kitchen which is a must for me on so many levels, especially travelling with children! Hawaii can be expensive to eat out, especially if you are forced to eat out three meals a day due to a lack of kitchen in your room. Hawaii is also very hot and personally we find we don't eat as much or as often so being able to prepare your own food is fantastic.
You'll come across two main types of condos when booking - a studio condo where the living room and bedroom are in the same room plus a kitchenette. This is ideal for a couple and what we always booked before the kids joined us. And a one bedroom apartment condo which is where the bedroom is a separate room plus you have a full kitchen. Generally, the couch pulls out to a double sofa bed and the room sleeps four people really comfortably. For any more people than this you'll need to look for a two bedroom apartment condo which are a little harder to find but are available.
We've stayed in condos all over Waikiki but we generally stick to the Diamond Head end (the right end of the map above) of Waikiki as it's the end we've always stayed at and feels familiar but there are plenty of condos available all over Waikiki. We saw some really great studios down the Hilton end of Waikiki (left side of the map) for hire too. This time we booked our condo at the Waikiki Banyan where we've never stayed before and it was fantastic! Really well set up for families with a great pool, playground and large bbq area on top of their parking garage. It was our home away from home and will become our regular accommodation from now on. Feel free to message me if you would like any particular info on the room we stayed in.
There are a number of reputable condo rental services available on Google to book through or have a look at Air B&B as well. The rates will vary by view - an ocean view is more expensive than a city view but there is always something interesting to look at regardless. If you're not looking at the beach then you have Diamond Head, the rainforest in the hills or city - and there are some pretty interesting going ons to look at there I tell you! Just remember that really, no matter where you stay in Waikiki, you're never far from the beach. We were only one block back. It took a minute (probably less but we were on Hawaiian time and scuffing slowly along) to get to the main beach.
Most people spend a few days in Waikiki before heading off to stay on the other side of Oahu or going off to explore another island. We have family on Hawaii (the Big Island) but didn't make it over to see them this time. So the next blog post or two will be about things to see and do in and around Waikiki and greater Oahu. But I can assure you that even if you stay for 2-3 weeks like we did, you won't even scratch the surface of things of what Oahu has to offer!
Any questions? Please ask. I'll be happy to help x