During our trip to Hawaii, we chose to island hop between two because of the accessibility and cost. Flights were cheap to fly one way between and we were able to get a return out from Maui to the mainland at the same price it would have cost to fly home from arrival point of Honolulu.
So with that, we decided to spend a handful of our days visiting the third most populated Hawaiian island and home to some of the most beautiful sights. We only spent 4 of our 10 days here and though it felt like the right amount of time for us, we highly recommend a few more to fully take in all Maui has to offer.
Planning a trip to Hawaii and don't know where to start? Here's our suggested itinerary for a perfect week in paradise - based off things we did, and how we would have planned it for things we didn't get to do!
Day 1 - Day at the Beach & Luau
Follow our lead and do what we did on arrival! It's tested and true!
After a day of traveling, it's best to readjust and use a day for some R&R. We also loved it because it gives us a chance to use the amenities of the resort we're staying at.
Your first day in Maui would be best spent relaxing poolside, visiting its beach, using hotel amenities and the like. Save up all that energy for the rest of your trip. This is what you came for, isn't it?!
That down time will also help you gear up for a luau, which we hands down say is a must do. Old Lahaina Luau came HIGHLY recommended but is also high in demand. We lucked out and got seats at it! How? We got waitlisted for two months and then once in Hawaii got a call about an opening, so we took it! It couldn't have worked out better. Just in case, we booked a back up choice (fully refundable) and advise you do the same too! Bur start looking early!
Old Lahaina Luau was amazing - from arrival where you are greeted by ukulele being played and fresh flowers being handed out. Once you're checked in and in your respective line, you’re led in and presented to a host who will give everyone in your party fresh flower leis and Mai Tai for the adults (and juice for kids). You are led to your table where you are provided an explanation of the evening, pointed in the direction of activities (and the bar), and then given time to settle in. We went straight for the entertainment and learned how to hula, taught about Hawaiian instruments & their significance, and then played yard games where tattoos were won! Drinks were served unlimited and while we sipped and waited for the show, we were also given the chance to see the pig being dug from the ground.
At that point we were ushered to our seats and introduced to our server. We were booked a traditional table, which if in good shape to be seated on the floor, we say take! You're at the closest spot to the stage for prime view and also given a unique way to enjoy the meal. Our table was on the end of the half circle as well, which gave the kids a chance to run around nearby. The buffet was explained to us, once again all-you-can-eat and we were one of the first allowed to be served, as we had "prime seats". A live band and dancers entertained while we ate as part of the pre-show entertainment, but you already felt immersed in it all. The show started soon after the sun set and we watched with dessert and coffee, served at the table.
And the show itself? It was absolutely fantastic! It went through the story of Hawaii in dance and introduced to us the different cultures and stories that make up its history. Our kids loved it too, completely engaged in all of it, and participating when they could (in their own form of dance). The whole experience was about 3 hours long but felt like it could have gone on all night - it was fixating and didn't feel overdone at any point. If you have an opportunity to do a luau, do it, but if you had one to do, we would hands down choose Old Lahaina Luau all over again!
Day 2 - South Maui
Take your second day on the island to sleep in again, especially after the feast you just had at your luau. Use today to explore South Maui, lined with resorts followed by million dollar homes.
The true show down here though is getting to the furthest point to see the lava fields. What an experience to drive through the rough roads and see molten rock lining either side. The end of the drive will bring you to Hoapili Trail. Park a little farther from the ocean as the tides will surprise, but jump out of the car, take a hike and explore! The waves here are massive & impressive and everything you thought Hawaii would be! It is sure to not disappoint.
On the way back up, make a stop at Makena Beach. The waters are great for snorkeling on top of being picturesque. Grab a picnic lunch from a local food truck and spend the rest of the day at the beach.
If you're feeling like one more stop of local flair before leaving the area, visit Maui Brewing Company for some delicious (try anything garnished with pienapple)!
Day 3 - Haleakala & Central Maui
If Haleakala isn't on your list of things to do, then look it up and put it on there. The dormant volcano is home to the most beautiful spot on earth for a sunrise. But you have to work to get there.
First of all, you NEED a ticket to get to the mountain that early in the morning; you can reserve your car pass for a $1 fee on the National Parks website up to 2 months in advance. If you checked and they are sold out, check again 2 days before at 4pm HST as they will release more tickets. After that, do not show up as you will not get in without a reservation.
Next, pack appropriately. Yes, you're going to Hawaii so bathing suits and shorts galore, but that will not help you at Haleakala. You're 10,000 feet up at Maui's highest point and it gets really cold here. It was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit when we were there, but it was said to get in negative temperatures too with random weather conditions. So come prepared! We had flown into Seattle so had pants and sweaters from our stop there, but also packed lined rain jacket (that came in good use in Washington State as well). If you're still fearing cold, nothing some towels and a comforter from your hotel room can't help! And pack ahead, because once you're up here, you really don't have another option to layer.
Finally, you have to get up early. Like really early. For us, it was 2:30am to leave our hotel in Lahaina by 3am and be at the base of Haleakala by about 4am. There you will pay an entrance fee of $25 per car and have to show your reservation; keep your receipt though as it will get you into Haleakala State Park again (and you will go again). We got to the top around 5:15am and with just enough time to spare before the sunrise. The drive was incredible with every star in the sky showing off and then the painted sky starting to light against the dark night. We recommend skipping the crowd literally crowding around the guard rails near the ranger station and make the short hike up to the peak, about a quarter of a mile. Yes, its a little strain this early, and this cold, and with this much less oxygen. But with the small group gathered up there in comparison, its so worth it! This is absolutely one of those moments you won't ever forget.
While you're up here too, make it a point to get your kids their Junior Ranger badges. Not familiar with the program? Certain National Parks around the US offer booklets and activities for kids to complete while visiting the parks. Once complete, find a ranger, review your activities and receive an official badge after a swearing in ceremony. It has definitely been a hit for the kids during our trips and a fun activity to find while we're visiting the parks around our nation!
Once you finish you're visit and make your way down, make a stop at Alii Kula Lavender Farm. Check out the incredible views of Maui's coast you get from this quaint location and check out the gardens and aromatic surroundings. You'll also be lucky to see hang gliders landing nearby. This stop was definitely a welcomed detour to stretch our leg before making the rest of the trek down.
Once you're back at ground level, make your way around Central Maui. Your goal is to get to Iao Valley State Park to see Iao Needle. This historic spot is where King Kamehameha defeated Maui's army to bring the Hawaiian islands together. Up for more hiking while you're in the area? Take the Waihee Ridge Trail for mountain views and lots of green.
After the big morning you've had, it should definitely be rewarded with some relaxation. The island of Maui definitely has a slower vibe than Honolulu did, so take full advantage of your time here and take this time to relax before your next big day ahead!
Day 4 - Road to Hana
This is why you took another afternoon off. Because today is another big day of exploring through one of the most magnificent highways you'll ever get to drive. But be warned, Hana is not for the faint of stomach or heart!
You should once again start early to make sure you hit all the stops (or as many as you care to see). We made it the city of Paia at 630 to start our journey to Hana. Our arrival time was met with no traffic, albeit a little too early as some of our stops were closed. So we decided to skirt through with the final destination of the Pools at 'O'heo (Seven Sacred Pools) as our goal.
Along the way you'll have several stops you can make, so its recommended to download an audio guide to help map your trip. We instead chose to read up on recommendations and use the Roadtrippers app to map out stops. Some of the highlights include:
A little further in and you’re finally at the Pools of ‘O’heo. Here you're going to want to show your receipt from Haleakala again, because since its the same state park, your entry yesterday paid for your visit today too (total of 3 consecutive days). Park, take a look around and get ready to make your way toward 'O'heo Gulch for some of the most incredible views you'll get all trip. The hike is 4-miles round trip and though it sounds tedious, it is worth it. You will get a walk through a bamboo forest like nothing you've seen before and you will end up at a breathtakingly massive waterfall. Just pack lots of water and make sure your hike gets you enough time to get back, as you want to leave Hana before sunset (it took us about 2 hours of our trip just to stop here).
You're going to make your way back through Hana the same way you came in, unless you feel adventurous and want to leave south. Most car rentals companies do not make concessions for you driving there though, as the roads are unpaved and conditions can be treacherous (so heed this warning before you go). For us, we wanted to take the ride back a little slower and take the sights. And Hana definitely had a different light to it with the sun setting on the opposite side of the mountain. It made the drive back so serene and special since we had a different appreciation for it after seeing it all.
Day 5 - Paia & Haleakala Sunset
If you didn't get the chance to check out the town of Paia, make your way back today. This "North Shore" town has the same vibe as that in Oahu and is definitely worth a laid back visit. Spend the day checking out the local's beaches or shopping through downtown. After you've worked up an appetite, stop at Paia Fish Market for lunch (the fish tacos were great) and then top off with shave ice dessert at Ululani's Shave Ice. Make your shave ice a Snow Cap (mixed with sweetened condensed milk) and with Li Hing Mui. The combination was amazing!
Once you finish and if you're up for one more adventure head back up Haleakala. Since you have more daylight hours on your hands, spend the day exploring and finding hikes through this national park. Your goal though is to make it to the summit for the sunset. If you missed out on getting sunrise tickets or you just want more, we've heard that sunset is just as beautiful (with the moon rising in the east). For us though, had we had the time we would've definitely gone back to see this spectacle, especially since we had the park admission and would've loved the once-in-a-lifetime experience ... again!
Day 6 - Western Maui Beaches
Hit the beach!
What a perfect way to top your stay than to spend more time visiting all that Maui is known for, especially after all the exploring you've done.
Start with breakfast at Aloha Mixed Plate - the outdoor restaurant is only made more beautiful by the accents of Molokai and Lanai in the distance. The drinks are picture perfect (accented in fresh flowers) and the food is equally delish. Try the Loco Moco for a traditional Hawaiian dish!
Nakalele Blowhole should be your first stop after, take the hike to the blowhole though the journey will be more impressive than the destination. The famed heart shaped rock is also found here, so have fun looking for it on your hike down. And take in the beauty of this location.
Next up, spend time visiting some of west Maui's beaches - each gorgeous in their own right! Our favorites were:
While in Napili, make a stop for lunch at the famed restaurant The Gazebo. Limited in seating with a breakfast line hours long, this is a great lunch stop right before it closes at two in the afternoon. Order the fried rice, but only half portion to split. The size was generous enough to serve 2!
Visit Whaler's Village or Lahaina Center for shopping once you've finished your day on the west coast.
However you plan it, Maui is a place to find more of a mix of laidback fun! There was less of a rush to get things done and more to see the middle of the action. Hawaii is definitely a world all it’s own!
We started dreaming up this trip 10 years ago when we were newlyweds and couldn't quite make it to the Aloha State. It came true just a few months ago when we stumbled on some flights deals that were reasonably priced to work with our school break. We quickly jumped on the opportunity and made the decision to visit two islands on this trip, since we wanted a taste of adventure - so we started with Oahu!
Home to Honolulu and famed Waikiki Beach, a trip to Hawaii isn't complete without visiting the most populated island. There's so much to do, it's hard even to say where to start! But you do need a least a whole week to see it all. And we say this after having tried to visit in 6 short days.
Planning a trip to Hawaii and need a road map? Here's our suggested itinerary for a perfect week in paradise - based off things we did, and how we would have planned it for things we didn't get to do!
Day 1 - Day at the Beach
This is what you came for, isn't it? Time for R&R and adventure. What's more perfect that using your arrival day to get some rest & relaxation. It'll also give you a mix of fun on the beach and a chance for you to slowly adjust to the new time zone (without wearing yourself out all in one shot)!
This is also perfect if you decide to book one of those once in a lifetime resorts, like Disney's Aulani or Hilton Hawaiian Village. We detailed our time at both and how we felt it was worth staying put on property for Aulani to take in all the amenities (and get your money's worth). So if you have a day to spare in your itinerary and you want to option to visit a resort that is otherwise too costly, a one night stay is the perfect way to get the best of both worlds!
Day 2 - North Shore
Visit famed North Shore to hit up a few spots for their renowned attraction - the beaches. Though be warned, if you're scouting out colossal waves (even to just look), you're not going to find them over the summer. The waters are calm here seasonally, so you'd be better off visiting over the winter to see surfers hanging ten on some legendary surf.
If you're looking for more than just a spectator sport, and you come when the tide is calm, get up-close and personal with their wildlife! Shark's Cove is a great beach off Highway 83 with tide pools and plenty of reason to snorkel to see schools of reef fish. Laniakea Beach is home to sea turtles, where you can get near (10 feet to be exact) and see these giant beauties in their home. And then head a little further north to Turtle Bay, where you can find accessible parking, great beach access and perfect conditions to do some more snorkeling! This beach is also perfect for little ones to enjoy while the big ones explore.
And a visit to the North Shore isn't complete without a reason to eat! Skip a restaurant though and stop at the food truck park - we had Garlic Shrimp at the famed Giovanni's Shrimp Truck and it was as good as they said it would be! Just be prepared to dine with jungle fowl, as they eagerly await any scraps that fall from picnic tables (or even join you at the table). We opted to eat in the car.
Next head over to Haleiwa and visit the strip of shops and restaurants in this little town. If you're craving something sweet, finish off lunch with dessert at Matsumoto Shave Ice in North Shore Marketplace - claimed to be the best on the island and certainly with a reasonable price to match!
If you want to shop a little while you're up here, stop by Kahuku Farms for farm tours and local treats!
Day 3 - Windward Side
If you're up for it, get up early enough to go chase a sunrise on the eastern shore. We weren't able to, but from the day time views, we can promise it won't disappoint.
We did spend our time here driving through the sacred Valley of the Temples to get to the Byodo-In Temple. A beautiful Buddhist temple, it was the furthest point through the valley, situated at the base of a mountain. It was peaceful and serene, and a little way to introduce the Eastern culture that influences these islands to the kids.
Afterwards, make time for some hikes - there's several here worth noting. Lanikai Pillbox Hike is a little more strenuous and made for the adventurous, but gives you gorgeous views of Lanikai Beach and the surrounding areas. If you want to keep it a little tamer, the paved Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail will take you to some fabulous views in an easier hike. Celebrate either hike with a dip in nearby Waimanalo Beach afterwards!
If hiking is not your thing but you're looking for adventure, visit Kualoa Ranch for a few different experiences - you can take an ATV tour through this reserve, trail through on horseback or get aerial view of it while you zipline through. If neither of the above is your speed, you can tour this movie set by bus - and see where the Jurassic Park movies came to life!
If you want to take in more culture while you're on the east coast of the island, make plans to spend a day at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Here you can learn about all the island nations that make up the cultural background of Hawaiians. It is recommended to spend a day touring, as each island has a different village full of activities to participate in. And if you're in it for the long haul, they even offer a luau in the evening (with booking) - for a chance to experience all you have learned through dance!
Day 4 - Pearl Harbor & Diamond Head
Next up, spend a day visiting two icons in Honolulu - Diamond Head & Pearl Harbor.
Wake up early to make the hike up Diamond Head - you'll get a chance to beat the crowds and the heat. The hike up is easy but long, about a mile from base to top, but you get some fantastic views of Honolulu and mountains of Oahu. Before or after your hike, treat yourself to a pineapple smoothie at the starting point - courtesy of Dole Plantation. Served in a pineapple, it tastes as good as it looks and is definitely works the price after the work you put in!
Afterwards, make your way to Pearl Harbor to pay tribute to the lives lost on that infamous day. Reservations are needed to get in, so visit the National Park Services site before you travel to book a time slot! If you rather not make plans and wait, day of tickets can be available, but they're handed out in time increments and based on availability. It is free to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, but there is a small reservation fee made to secure your ticket online before visiting.
Both of these activities shouldn't take up a day, so while you're in the area, stop by Aloha Stadium for their Swap and Meet. Here you can find a place to buy deeply discounted souvenirs and from local artisans. It is not open daily though, so make plans to come on a Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday until 3pm!
... and if you still have time to spare, then revisit an area to finish up anything you didn’t get to do!
Day 5 - Dole Plantation & Waimea Valley
Visit these two gems heading back up towards the North Shore - except devote your day to just seeing these two. You can choose how you want to plan out your day, but you'll have to face crowds either way.
The Dole Plantation opens up daily at 930 and gives you a chance to visit home to their famed pineapples. Take a tour of the farm via train, tour the gardens on a walk, or try out the pineapple shaped maze - all individually priced for admission. Once you've worked up an appetite, visit the grill for a bite to eat before heading out to the rest of your day.
A little further north and you've reached Waimea Valley, a sanctuary of beautiful botanical gardens and exotic animals, accented by Waimea Fall. Your admission here allows you to walk through this peaceful site and take in Hawaiian flora segmented by locale; you'll likely run into the peacocks or wild birds that call this home while you're touring. Once you've reached the end, about a half a mile walk, you're at Waimea Falls. You're welcome and encouraged to take a dip, but not get too close because of its intensity. We skipped as we had days of rain which caused the falls to be even rougher, but it was a site to see!
If you're looking for more to fill your day here, make a stop at Green World Coffee Farm on your way back, visit Wahiawā Botantical Garden or reclaim any part of the island you need a little more time!
Day 6 - Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay
You want the spot to snorkel while also focusing on conservation? Visit Hanauma Bay!
The drive to this spot is absolutely gorgeous, accented by mountains and the treacherous hike of Koko Crater Railway Trail. This is not for the faint of heart, so one look at the railway lining the side of the mountain will give you a chance to decide if this hike is for you! You can also stop to see the Halona Blowhole while you're headed to the bay, a beautiful site to see nature's creation.
Hanauma Bay should be enjoyed should as a half-full day activity. If you can, arrive earlyas parking is hard to find. Also be prepared to either walk a little to the bay or patiently wait until the lot has an opening (as we lucked out and found). Once at the entrance, you pay a nominal fee to see this conservatory operational for years to come. You're assigned an entrance time to view a brief presentation about the bay - how to stay safe while using it and how to keep its inhabitants protected. There is a downward hike to the shore, so if you don't want to walk you can wait and pay for the shuttle - but the walk itself if minimal and easy.
The bay encourages you to use safe sunscreen to not damage the water with toxins while swimming, but you are welcome to otherwise go out and enjoy. You can rent equipment at the base if you did not bring your own snorkel gear, AND snorkel gear is a must while here! The abundance and beauty of fish you will see is absolutely amazing! Make a day of it here as you won't get a experience like this again!
And after you've worked up an appetite and are ready for dinner, head over to Kono's, voted best of Oahu (and to which we agree)! Have the Pork Plate Lunch with an order of P.O.G to drink - the combo was perfectly Hawaiian!
Day 7 - Honolulu & Waikiki Beach
Save the best for last! This is why you came, right? If you're not already staying on Waikiki then here's an opportunity to visit it in a little more depth.
Get up early and start your day with the Malasadas from Leonard's Bakery. If there's a line, wait in it - we promise its worth every bit of your time to have these warm deliciously fresh sugarcoated donut goodness. Spend the rest of the morning exploring downtown Waikiki and walking streets lined with shops. Visit the International Marketplace or Royal Hawaiian Center to pick up a souvenir or two, and if its around lunch, definitely stop to grab a burger from Mahaloha (we highly recommend the Loco Moco or Banzai BBQ).
Finish off your lunch with a walk down the historic trail to read up on Waikiki and get a prime view of the hotel landscape as it changes by the water. Once you're done, make your way back to famed Waikiki Beach to enjoy all its known for. If you have a chance, head to the lagoon at Hilton Hawaiian Village and enjoy a chance to relax in this manmade haven. The beaches and lagoon are all public access so feel free to utilize any of these while you're on vacation!
Looking for eats in and around Honolulu? Here's more of what we enjoyed!
... and there's so much more! Our short 6 days there did not allow us to experience it all, but we got a good portion of this done! We were also itching to see another Hawaiian island, so ventured over to Maui for a few days.
If we had a few extra days, this is how we would have written up our itinerary, and maybe added a few more days in to explore a few more treasures this island had to offer - and hope it can help to plan you trip out there too!
We had the amazing opportunity of getting to stay at these two gems in Hawaiian family fun! Both resorts are highly revered by families with little and big ones alike because of its diversity in venues, array of amenities for all ages, and the convenience that each of these mega resorts provide to cater to all.
So how did they stack up against each other and which one is better for you and yours?
Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa
Disney's Oahu based property, is everything you expect from a Disney hotel - and not just one in Hawaii. Aulani is located in Ko Olina, just west of the airport and heading into a drier, more industrial part of the island. But the resort area of Ko Olina is also home to a variety of high end properties for vacation goers looking to escape the traffic of Waikiki. And driving up to it, Aulani is everything you'd expect from Disney magic.
On arrival, you're greeted with infused waters and fresh flower leis for women, kukui nut for men and kids receive Menehune necklaces, which are the famed characters of Hawaiian folklore that "lurk" around property. While you're on property, you're welcomed "home" as Aulani does sit as part of the Disney Vacation Club portfolio - and they even have designated showrooms to showcase with anyone interested in learning more about becoming a member. For us regular guests, being welcomed home was definitely just a nice touch to make us feel even more welcome here!
The resort is very accessible with two towers connected by the main entry building, where you can find shops and the flagship restaurant offering character dining. Walking through the lobby, you can head outside to the lanai and get a full glorious view of the resort. And you'll see that once you're here, you're here - restaurants line both sides of of the property, the pools are centrally situated with the beach in the horizon, and the parking garage and main roads out of sight, so you really have no reason to head back to your car!
We booked an entry level room - garden pool view and were granted a low floor request we made. This was perfect because we ended up being situated right by the lazy river. And with a separate patio entrance that led out to the pool area, we enjoyed our easy accessibility to the fun at this resort, especially since we were going to be spending ALL of our time here!
When we booked our trip to Hawaii, we knew we'd want to stay a few days at Aulani on our pursuit of visiting as many Disney properties worldwide! The per night cost became a matter of how much time we spent here, because we didn't want to lose any time away, but rather enjoy what we paid for. Disney's price is steep in comparison to other properties in Hawaii, especially if you plan to spend most of your time exploring the island. But when you compare the cost of Aulani to other Disney resorts, you'll see that their Hawaiian sister hotel is priced no higher than staying at some of the premier Disney properties all over the world.
So what does the price include, outside of room?
The price does not include:
Other things to note:
Hilton Hawaiian Village
Location, location, location!
I think the one thing that could sell this place alone is location. Not only is it centrally located in Honolulu but it also is quite honestly the only resort on Waikiki with prime beach access. This is where you want to stay if you want to be in the hustle and bustle of the city of Honolulu, but not on busy Waikiki itself. The resort is closer to the marina, but from the beach you have postcard views of Diamond Head in the distance.
On arrival, you drive through the Rainbow Bazaar, a small through street with a marketplace of shops and restaurants on either side. You pull up to the open air lobby building where you can leave the car on idle while you get yourself checked in. They aren't greeting you with the leis like Disney did on arrival, but the guest service was just as superb. Once checked in, you're given a full map of the property, which is lined by 8 towers, 5 pools, and various shops and restaurants (even beyond the Bazaar). Like Aluani, parking is not include - you have the option of valet for $52/daily or self park at $45/daily. If you opt to self park, the garage is back at the entrance to the Bazaar and once you're situated, you do have in/out privileges.
The resort feels and is massive! And is only matched with the number of people you see everywhere. It's definitely a different vibe than the "quieter" Aulani as there is a lot of movement here - but it only makes you want to get in on the action. The lobby really is the central point to the resort, but there isn't a spot that grants you an overall view of the resort. Each tower is like a world in itself, each with its own pool, bar, restaurant - but best of all, you have full access to the whole village while you're here! Beyond the Rainbow Tower, you will find the strip of beach that is designed for Hilton guests - though the chairs do come at an extra cost to rent for the day. Also good to note, all beaches are public and aren't just limited to hotel guests (same goes for Aulani). Next to the beach is the manmade lagoon for someone wanting the feel of the ocean but with the calmness of a pool - this is also home to water activities like paddle boarding and paddle boat rentals.
We booked a room without a particular request here, but they upgraded us to a high floor and view of the water. This was a nice change of pace since there really isn't a ground floor room option, and with the sheer magnitude of this resort, I'm not sure I'd want to be so close to the noise. Our room was generous in size, larger than Disney's with room to spare - but the bathroom could have used more square footage to make it easier for a family to utilize!
For this leg of the trip in Hawaii, we wanted to book a place that we could come back to and enjoy but also not feel burdened leaving for the price, as we wanted to see the rest of the island! The price point here made that comfortable to do. We considered other options but all lacked the proximity to the beach we wanted - so we fell for the idea that this was a great resort for the family to relax at after a busy day out. And it really is - there's so much to do & was a great place to wind down at after full days! And on top of that, its in Honolulu - so if your list of things to do include checking off spots on Waikiki, you're right here! Leave the car behind and go for a walk to discover what the city has to offer - that's what we did!
So what does the price include, outside of room?
The price does not include:
Other things to note:
Which One’s for You?
We wanted to start our vacation on a lighter more relaxing note to catch up with the time change, so we enjoyed all we could out of Aulani. But we definitely would not have stayed here if we were leaving to go sightseeing - unless we were DVC members or got an unbelievable price per night. We enjoyed two nights to settle in and get some R&R before our adventure started. It is also not conveniently located to much on the island beyond the North Shore. You may avoid the traffic of Honolulu (which was not that bad), but you would be driving a little farther because of where it is situated. Stay here if you plan to stay PUT here. And if you're even toying with the idea of staying here, do it for at least a few days of your trip. It's definitely a place to visit and you won't regret it - we loved our times to unwind with Disney magic before we visited the beauty of Hawaii!
Hilton Hawaiian Village felt like great place to leave and come back go to. It was a great resort, but I could not imagine spending all my days here just because of the sheer magnitude of the resort. It was a nice place to retreat to after days of fun because we were still able to take in all the amenities without feeling like we missed out, because it did lack some of the magic Disney has. And the price made it even easier to leave - since it was at half the cost of what we paid at Disney. If you want a prime place on Waikiki beach, with ground level pools and a village all its own, this is the place for you! It was a nice way to get wrapped into what Honolulu had to offer and not feel like we were missing out on any magic - because we made what we wanted out of our days when we returned!
Either way you can’t go wrong! But it’s all a matter of what you want from your time in paradise!
Still undecided? Check out our Highlights on Instagram for more information about our time at either resort!
We just got back from Hawaii, and what a trip it was!
But getting there from the east coast is a journey in itself - AND not always cheap or easy!
So we decided to make the most of the long haul and planned a trip out there that wouldn't feel like just travel - but an adventure all its own!
When we were booking our flights to Hawaii, we used the Google Flights matrix to find a price and time combination we were comfortable with. The one stipulation we had was that we wanted to book with Delta for the SkyMiles perks, like free luggage & upgrades, priority access, and the miles we'd inevitably earn. There wasn't much of a price difference between Delta and the carriers, so opted to choose loyalty over anything else. The only thing was, the only flight/price combo we liked was telling us to "Book with a Travel Agent". And knowing that an agent wasn't just going to find that deal for me (some work with air consolidators and this wasn't the case here), I decided to do little research myself.
Save with a Multi-City Ticket
If you're unable to find the ticket price you're looking for, jump over to the airline site and do a multi-city search to see what options you pull up. We ended up going over to Delta's booking system and kept finding the same round trip ticket Google Flights was showing for $200 more each! So we decided to book a multi-city flight instead, only meaning that we told Delta where our layover would be rather than having the system do it for us (and marking it up along the way).
The tickets I found had us flying from Orlando to Seattle with an 8-hour layover and then flying Seattle into Honolulu later that same day (arriving 8pm Hawaiian Standard Time). So instead of searching roundtrip form Orlando > Honolulu and then Maui > Orlando, I chose "Multi-City" and entered the same information for all legs of the trip and searched. And you know what? It gave me the same exact flight but with the prices Google Flights told me I needed an agent to book! Try this trick when booking on your own, to even customize the flights you want.
Except I wasn't comfortable with an 8-hour layover. I mean, it was long enough to leave the airport and do something but it wasn't long enough to do a lot. So I did one last search to see if there was a better option of flying out of Seattle the following day. I stumbled on a morning flight that let us leave Seattle for Honolulu at 8am, rather than try to pack it all in by 5pm that same day. The ticket price was exactly the same, but let us fly out after a day of fun and a full night of rest. So instead of having a tiring almost 24 hour travel day to Honolulu, we took a day for ourselves in Seattle!
And let me tell you, it was the best thing we could've ever done! We took a portion of what we saved and used it to pay for a hotel night in Seattle instead of a plane ticket. Did we feel like we lost time in Honolulu? Not at all! Because now instead of arriving at 8pm HST (which is 2am EST mind you) and losing that time exhausted, waiting to rent a car, getting to a hotel only to go to sleep, we "saved" by staying in Seattle! Not to mention, a hotel in Seattle is SIGNFICANTLY cheaper than a hotel in Hawaii.
Make the Most of your Time!
Anything over a 6-hour layover is technically considered a stopover, which is the time that an airline won't transfer your luggage to the next flight in your segment. This worked just fine for us as we needed our bags to get ready for the next day.
But if you don't have the option of having a place to stay, most airlines offer to hold your baggage for a small fee until you return. That way you can leave the airport to explore and make it back in time to take your next flight. Utilize that long layover to leave and explore and burn off any energy so you will actually sleep on an overnight! Since that wasn't the case for us, as we'd be gaining 6 hours after arriving at our final destination, we booked a hotel for a good night of sleep and made plans for a full day of exploring!
And if you had to hang out at the Sea-Tac Airport for a few hours, it couldn't be a better place to stay! It was fairly easy to get through (though busy, so make sure you have plenty of time for security) and had great dining and shopping options. Added bonus for the littlest ones - a play area all their own!
Where to Stay?
We chose to stay by the airport only because proximity to catch our 8am flight the next morning mattered more than prime location in the city. We booked at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Seattle Sea-Tac Airport which offered free shuttle service to & from the airport AND free breakfast - both essentials on our list since we'd have an early wake-up call! We landed in the Sea-Tac Airport, grabbed our luggage, phoned the hotel and within 15 minutes were picked up by the shuttle and dropped off at the hotel.
The hotel was undergoing some work while we were there, but the front desk agent was extremely apologetic about it and even friendlier on top of that. Our room was (obviously) not ready at our 9am arrival, so they offered to hold our luggage until we returned. We had arrived before breakfast so they invited us to enjoy after check-in and before we went out exploring for the day. We used this time to plan our time there while the kids stocked up on snacks for the road!
When we arrived back later that night, the front desk agent quickly got us checked in and upgraded to a suite. Our keys were ready, our bags set aside for taking (no bell service, but carts available) and an extremely friendly agent to ensure we were set for the night. We appreciated all the extra attention and the generous upgrade offer even though we wouldn't get to use the space as it should have been - but it was a nice perk of booking through a travel planner!
The Holiday Inn Express & Suites Seattle Sea-Tac Airport is also only about a 10 minute walk from the Link Light Rail station that will take you straight into the heart of Seattle for less than $3/adult & $1.50/child (6-12) and after only 30 minutes. You board near the airport hotels at the Angle Lake Station which overlooks a beautiful Angle Lake surrounded by woods. The ride is very smooth and uneventful, and we hopped off at the Downtown Tunnels Station which put us right near the Monorail that would get us to Seattle Center.
The Seattle Center Monorail was originally constructed for the World's Fair and now still serves as a connector between the city and its more known region of Seattle Center (home to the Space Needle). And it makes for a fun ride for kids to get through the city itself in its open-air window filled cars! Worth the $2.50/adult & $1.50/child (5-12) ticket to ride this icon in the city.
Our first stop off the monorail was to the Space Needle, since that was top on the list of things to do in our less than 24 hours in Seattle. Little did we know that the Seattle Center is also home to a host of other great attractions too, including a massive playground that greets visitors on arrival.
The Seattle Center is a gathering place of entertainment, food and events in the heart of the city. This hub is not only home to the Space Needle, but also the Chihuly Garden & Glass, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center, Seattle Center Armory, Museum of Pop Culture, Pacific Science Center, and Seattle Children's Museum to name a few. Had we had more time to spare, we would have definitely used our reciprocal benefit with the Orlando Science Center at the Pacific Science Center since it allowed all of us in for free!
We let them run their hearts (and full stomachs out) as we planned out our day with the next stop down towards the harbor to check out Olympic Structure Park. The walk is a less than a mile from Seattle Center and takes you through some of the most charming neighborhoods. Olympic Structure is a free, open to the public park created by the Seattle Museum of Art and a gorgeous way to use green space right by the water. Taking in the view from here was enough to make you want to venture to the outskirts of the city and see what there is in the beyond.
We returned to take a trip up the Space Needle to get a full view of the city from above. We booked mobile tickets while the kids played, and since they were stamped with a return time, we were able to make other plans in-between. When our time came up, we simply approached the line for a quick security check and then took the spiral up to the elevators. The wait included a visual history of the Space Needle's construction and stories from its inception. Once you've loaded up the elevator, you're taken straight to the top for some breathtaking views! We unfortunately didn't have the clearest day so couldn't fully make out Mount Rainer from up high, but did get to appreciate this city in its full glory!
Once we finished our hours of playing in and around the Seattle Center, we hopped back on the monorail to its original stop and took a small walk to see Pike Place. It was on our list of things to do, but be warned, its overrun by people and traffic so made our time less than enjoyable. But we're happy enough to say we've been there, done that - and even attempted to get a drink in the original Starbucks! But no Starbucks is worth a line of that length - so we just opted for a Starbucks in Seattle instead (it counts, right?!).
We instead walked over in the direction of Pier 53, home of the Seattle Great Wheel to have a full seafood dinner at Ivar's Acres of Calms on Pier 54. The service at this beautiful restaurant on the water was fantastic, only to be topped by how great the food was! We enjoyed our last few hours in Seattle with with a dinner of chowder, scallops and freshly caught King Salmon before preparing to head back for a full night of sleep!
We would’ve loved to explore Seattle a little more but appreciate that we even got a little taste of it! Now we’re itching to go back - to see more of the actual PNW region that Seattle calls home! We’ve started imaging plans to include to hiking to Mt. Rainer, visiting waterfalls and wineries and whale watching off the shore!
Now it's only a matter of when - and what else can we pack into to visiting this incredible place!