Hawaiian Holiday

Renewed interest in this island paradise makes for an attractive and affordable vacation

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Warm, tropical trade winds; rich, turquoise-blue seas; soft, sandy beaches and the fragrant scent of colorful hibiscus all call, “Aloha.”

If a Hawaiian holiday has been on your “dream vacation” list, there’s no better time to take a trip. Most of us think this archipelago in the middle of the Pacific is out of our range–in distance, time and money. But Hawaii can be a value-added vacation, if you know where to look.

Actually, the state of Hawaii is made up of six islands. The most developed and popular among tourists are Oahu and Maui. Kauai and the “Big Island” of Hawaii are sparking more interest, while Molokai and Lanai are still bucolic local nests. Each island has its own unique geography and attraction, but most tourists think of Oahu’s main city of Honolulu and its famous Waikiki Beach first.

The most expensivre part of your trip will probably be getting there. Honolulu is about 13.5 hours from New York and about 5.5 hours from San Francisco. Eight years ago, a round-trip coach ticket Cost around $500. Today, it’s up to $640 with a 21-day advance purchase. Most major airlines have vacation packages that include hotel, often with one or two nights free. The average hotel cost per night is $116, but there’s also a good mix of condominiums and timeshare properties on the island. “People are assuming that because you go farther, you’ll spend more, but that’s not necessarily true,” says Janet Clarke, executive director at Waikiki Oahu Visitors Association.

Large, mostly luxury hotels like the Sheraton Waikiki (808-922-4422/800782-9488) are located along the beachfront, with spectacular views and breezes. Staying one or two blocks over can be the difference between beachfront, ocean or city view, while still having a deluxe room. Most hotels offer packages with amenities targeted to three categories: honeymooners, families and senior citizens. Many start at four days/three nights for under $650. They also have free or nominal fee children’s programs.

Getting around Oahu is easy and can be inexpensive. TheBus, the city’s public transportation, costs only $1 for adults (free transfers) and 50 cents for children and seniors. Even though it’ll probably take you all day, TheBus goes completely around the island. In addition, there’s also the Waikiki Trolley, which travels the beach area and downtown Honolulu while giving a guided tour of sights and shopping along the way. An allday pass costs $17 for adults and $5 for children two through 11. Shuttle buses run from the airport to most Waikiki hotels for about $6 per person, while taxis cost about $20.

There are tons of things to do in Hawaii–including hopping an interisland flight for under $100 round-trip–from watersports to golf to tennis and sightseeing. Rent a car and drive the scenic and fragrant H2/Kamehameha Highway, which circles the pineapple fields around to the northside of Oahu. Stop by the Dole Plantation (not to be confused with the Dole Cannery now a shopping center) to get an idea of how pineapple is harvested and a sample of juice

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