A trip to Hawaii is a bucket list item for many. I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel to Hawaii several times. occasionally this was just for personal or business travel in my 30s, but more recently, my journeys have been related to my travel writing.
Yes, I am aware of how spoiled I am. My deal is something of a business secret, but compensation for travel and my time writing is a part of the puzzle.
Video by Denny and Nikki
Day One Travel & Arrival
Travel to the islands of Hawaii stars for almost everyone with one heck of a flight. Going to the islands, the trip is about 13 hours and the travel back is 15 or more. Your time on the planes (often several thanks to connecting flights) is more than you would wish on your worst enemy if they do not like air travel.
I am not against flights, but as a big guy, I often have to go deep into my pockets or draw on airline points to upgrade to first class just for the seat size and legroom on longer flights. While I like being able to get things off just about any shelf anywhere, I do, at times, miss being a smaller guy. Traveling on flights is one of those times.
These days a first-class ticket is more than double a coach fair. However, if you save your points and use credit cards well, you can earn first-class seats and upgrades fairly fast. On this flight, I was able to upgrade myself for the flight to and from Hawaii at no cost, with everything covering me in first class except the last 5 hours back from LAX on the return trip.
My flight came to LIH airport. The airport is about a 28-mile drive from the resort and at island speed, that would be about a 40-minute drive.
I arrived at the airport just before 4 PM so as I arrived at the resort it was check-in time already and I checked right in without any issue at all.
My room was a giant 1-bedroom villa at 1,700 sq ft. The resort also offers deluxe 2-bedroom villas that are over 2,000 sq ft. On my last two trips, I traveled by myself since the trip was last minute and offered less than 1 week’s notice. On this trip, I had a friend of mine we had a recent trip to Fort Lauderdale together. It was such fun when this trip became an assignment and opportunity; I offered the trip to my friend.
- Cable TV
- Coffee Maker
- Iron/Ironing Board
Then the resort itself offers all of these options.
- Concierge Services
- BBQ Grills
- Business Center/Fax
- Fitness Room
- Game Room
- Hot Tub
- Tennis Court
- Internet Access
- Kid’s Activities
- Putting Green
- Laundry Facilities
- Swimming Pool (Outdoor)
- Sunbathing Area
- On-Site Security
- Children’s Pool (Outdoor)
- Live Entertainment
Since the room was taken care of, the only major expense up front was the flight and my friend had a ton of points available for a flight since she used to travel a great deal with her prior job. Just 3 years ago, she took an early out option from her employer where she was a corporate trainer for a major corporation. Her flight, even first class, was free for her altogether.
We moved our bags to the villa and were impressed at our first look at the villa. My friend knew I was not a multi-millionaire but this resort and villa were impressive. Checking in here and seeing the villas, you felt like a high roller checking in gratis to a casino. Again, the size of these villas was huge. I have a duplex that I used to live in and now rent out that was 600 square feet smaller than this villa.
The kitchen, bedroom, and living room areas were all very roomy and nice-sized. In Hawaii, they call balconies or patios, lanais. The name here seemed to have more meaning because it was huge and wrapped on the whole side of the villa in wonderful wood and outdoor space.
When you have traveled for almost a full day, you want to nap. Even once you find the place, you are magical, a nap is still in order. While we were both hungry, sleep took precedence. Even though we were close, I chose to nap outside of the room with the TV on low, and let my friend take the bed for her nap. I have trouble taking naps even when I am tired when the sun is still up. I thought she would have a better chance of resting if I stayed out of the room until we woke to go to dinner.
I love everything Tiki or Polynesian, so when we both woke after a short hour-long nap we refreshed and went to a local spot called TikiNiki for dinner and drinks.
Our meal and drinks were amazing. I love the Tiki drinks so much that I let my friend drive back to the resort, even though we were within walking distance. I was feeling no pain and had only slept maybe 30-40 minutes. I had a few really good drinks and just did not want to do anything stupid, being tired and buzzed.
Day Two starts at Sunrise
The nice thing about the arrival day is that even if you nap, you are still able to sleep well your first night because you feel worn out. Before bedtime, we decided to set out alarms on our phones to get up before sunrise and watch it from our Lanai. Then we would eat a light breakfast here at the villa and head out to get an early start on our day.
A Guided Island Tour
I had booked a tour that I had really enjoyed when I traveled here the last time. I wanted my friend to enjoy it with me.
The tour was a private tour with a driver and just us. I do not mind group tours but I have to admit that I was feeling a little romantic based on our last trip together, so I was making a little extra effort on this trip. While I do not want my friend to get the wrong idea. I do want us both to have a great time and create lifelong memories.
The tour we chose (I chose) was a full-day tour that circled the island and allowed you to see almost every major spot in a single day. You are in a private car (in our case) or a bus and taken to a full list of amazing locations. This service offers many other tours and options. Our trip or tour was a more special request. I wanted to do the normal tour, but do it privately and spend a little more time in two locations.
For our tour, we would normally need to meet the company at a local shopping mart lot, but I had booked things as a special option, which I asked for pick up at our resort and a modified schedule. I had booked this after a few emails back and forth with the agency owner that books these tours. They were able to encourage a driver who was supposed to be off today to work out a private tour, and I made a note to myself to tip very well if the driver did a great job.
The tour provider offers drinks and snacks, then gives you the option to stop and one of several locations to stop and choose your meal and purchase it separately if you want lunch. I have arranged for the driver to take us to lunch at a local spot of his/her choice if they would also allow me to purchase their lunch while we are there.
Now if you are not up for trying to book your own private tour or even the group tours here are great and how I enjoyed things the last time I was here. For about $200 per person plus a tip, you get a full day’s entertainment and transportation. Your journey here on this island is much more a connection with nature than anything else.
On Kauai, the island feels much more connected to nature. Which is the Hawaiian Islands are saying something. But here you have mountains, amazing waterfalls, and great beaches and the island does not feel overdeveloped. It seems if anything timeless and connected with mother nature.
Waimea Canyon, better known as The Grand Canyon of the Pacific by many, was one of the stops today and this 14-mile-long canyon is at points up to 3,600 ft deep. This is amazing if you think that the deepest underwater trench in the world is thought to be only a few hundred feet deeper. It also means that the depth here reaches over 1 half a mile from the bottom to its top or peak.
Waipoo Falls, an 800-foot cascading waterfall, was yet another step on our tour. It required a bit of a hike from where we needed to park, but it was most certainly worth it. The hike takes you to the top of the falls for an amazing view down from that 800 ft height.
Spouting Horn, a blowhole on Kauai’s south shore was another amazing stop with a powerful view of nature.
After a full day of touring the island and much of the magic, we were brought back to the resort, and I was happy I paid extra for that because I was tired on our return. I think the hiking did me in a little. So, I showered and then crashed for a nap before dinner. Not a long nap, just what I now call machine time thanks to my portable CPAP.
Refreshed it was time for tonight’s dinner.
Luau Dinner & Show
I had booked us as guests at the Smith Family Garden Luau, which many consider to be the best Luau on the island. For over 50 years, this family business has been providing the full luau experience with a great meals and entertainment for over 35 years. The dinner and show are $125 per person but well worth it if you love Polynesian food and culture.
The food here is plentiful and offers a wide variety of favorites. It also includes many drinks. With the food, drinks, music, and setting, this is a great experience and one to consider as a main event for a day on your vacation.
Day Three Rum and Sun Fun
After starting the day with breakfast in the room, we wanted to check out the local beaches. One of the most impressive beaches is Hanalei Bay. This beach is just amazing. I have been to beaches all over the world that are considered the best, including others in Hawaii, and I can say this is one of the best you will see. One of the things that makes it special is how it is untouched. It feels undeveloped and as if it is from a time capsule from 50 years ago. The time before the beach hotels and giant condos ruled the world.
Koloa Rum Company
After the beach, we went to the Koloa Rum Co. for a tour and tasting. Located in Kilohana Plantation in Lihue, the company store here not only offers a look at their process but a tasting room and some fine spirits. The tasting room hours are from 10 AM-4 PM most days. While at the store, we picked up some of their premade drinks by the bottle to take back to our villa tonight. I figured if I was going to be on a plane and leaving tomorrow, I wanted to live it up tonight. Also, the rum here was great.
This amazing plantation offers a glimpse into the early days of Hawaii when larger-scale plantations became a core ingredient of financial success in the 1800s. While here, take the train around the plantation and learn more about the various crops and history of the plantations on the islands.
This reminded me of the Dole plantation and the train ride. I enjoyed it very much. For tourists, the ticket for the train ride and tour is almost $20 per person, but it is a unique experience and worth the expense.
After our train ride, we enjoyed lunch at the plantation house and the meal and the Coconut Cooler drinks we shared. we are both great. The deserts here were out of this world and something not to miss. We had two and shared them after the meal.
Right at the plantation, they also have safaris that they offer that are heavy on adult beverages with local rum and fresh ingredients right here on the plantation. It includes ample drinks and a 2-hour guided jeep tour of the plantation. With many stops, each with something fun to drink and more access to the plantation.
This was about a half day of fun here at the plantation. We were both happy that we chose to spend much of our day here, having fun the entire time. Now it was time to head back to the resort for a few more cocktails in our room and sit on the Lanai. Then in the morning back to the airport to start the 15 hours of flight time home.
If you too want to have days like we just had done it by booking with TZort.