I adore Hawaii. Just the feel of the warm, moist air caressing my skin as I exit the plane makes me smile. As a rule, I recommend beach vacations for travelers with pain. Lying on the sand, listening to the surf pound rhythmically while I read or just kick back is remarkably restorative. But then again, there’s so much wonderful stuff to do on the Hawaiian islands that it can be a little bit too easy to take on too many activities and let a pain flare creep up. Which is what I did on my recent trip to Kauai and Oahu. Oops.
Here’s how to do better than I did, Part 1.
Getting to Hawaii
It’s a long flight from the Lower 48 to Hawaii, no matter how you slice it. From California, it takes about 5 and a half hours; from the East Coast it’s more like 11 hours, often with multiple layovers. You’ll also find a number of flights to Hawaii from Australia and Japan. I get an aisle seat for easier access to the bathrooms, and bring my own food so I’ll have a decent meal.
Expect to be tired coming off the plane, and to spend at least a day resting on the island before you dive into a bunch of activities.
Staying on the Hawaiian Islands
Certainly there are a zillion options for lodgings on the four major islands–Oahu, Maui, Kaua’i, and the Big Island.
The cheapest way to do Hawaii is to camp on the beaches and in the state parks. Many of these are free or very inexpensive. But you get what you pay for, and even in a tropical climate I can’t hack tent camping. I could rent an RV in some locations, but that nixes the financial savings I’d get by camping.
The other lodgings options include motels, hotels, condos, timeshares, and rental homes.
When I’m in Hawaii, I prefer to rent a condo. In a condo, I can cook my own meals for much of my trip, thus saving some serious money. (Plus I get to enjoy local island produce…more on that later.) Condos on Hawaii tend to be larger than motel rooms, which makes it easy to rent beach toys and snorkel gear, spread out, and really settle in for the duration of the vacation.
I hunt up condos on the web. Here are a couple of sites that offer Hawaiian condos for rent:
I look first at location–both for the sake of ocean views and beach access, and for reasonable convenience to restaurants, shops, and grocery stores. Then I check out the amenities. Most every rental and timeshare condo has a fully equipped kitchen–not a lot of worry there. But I really like having an in-unit washer/dryer–I can pack less and avoid lugging laundry around. Lanai chaise lounges mean I can lounge outdoors, which is part of the point of going to Hawaii in the first place. And then there are all the usual needs–ground floor or working elevator, short walk from the parking lot to my unit, air conditioning in the bedroom, comfortable bathroom, a barbecue on the lanai.
In my opinion, timeshare condos are fabulous things for my friends to own. On Kaua’i, I stayed in a friend’s timeshare condo at The Point at Poipu. While the two-bedroom condo was enormous and the decor modern and shiny, I didn’t love it. I prefer non-timeshare condo complexes that let residents and renters do things like grill and hang laundry on their lanais. The Point did have the advantage of a glorious location at the southern tip of Kaua’i, but then, the Poipu area is rich with condo complexes and luxury resorts.
From a hidden disability perspective, I can’t find fault with a nice timeshare condo. RCI, Worldmark, and the other major timeshare organizations make sure that their facilities are clean, spacious, and comfortable. With a fully equipped kitchen, I could cook my own food. A/C and ceiling fans made climate control a breeze. (Ha ha.) Mattresses were comfortable, linens sparkling clean, and the towels changed twice each week. (That’s a nice timeshare bonus–most condos I’ve rented on Hawaii don’t offer maid service during the rental period.)
Cheap motels cluster around the major resort towns on the major islands. Of course, “cheap” is a relative term. In Hawaii, expect to pay $100-$150 per night for a small clean room with cute decor, rock-hard mattresses, and a view of the air conditioning unit on the next building over. For anything remotely resembling an ocean view, you’ll shell out at least $150–more than that during high season.
If you’ve got excess cash you’re just dying to blow, Hawaii’s got no shortage of fabulous high-end resorts. Maui’s leeward coast has a particularly high concentration of luxury hotels, including a particularly swank Four Seasons. You’ll get all the service you can stomach, plus plush beds, A/C, amazing swimming pools, on-site shops, top end restaurants, room service, and concierge assistance with activities reservations.
I’ve never rented a beach house on a Hawaiian isle–those tend to run too pricey for me, and I’ve never needed more space than a condo can provide. Many of the vacation rental web sites deal in houses as well as condos. If anyone’s got a particular recommendation or warn-away, please comment here!
Next up, Hawaii With Pain Part 2: Island Fun and Relaxation Abound