Subject: Re: Hawaii
Ed:

We have visited Hawaii twice, most recently this past June 2002. In spite of development, it's exquisitely beautiful. Bring lots of film, and be ready for rainbows and sunsets that will take your breath away and linger in your memory long after you return!

You have already received many great tips about enjoying Oahu. I will just add my two cents about touring the Pearl Harbor sites. To make the most of your day, I encourage you to arrive at the USS Arizona Memorial when the visitor's center opens at 7:30a so that you can take the 8:00a tour vs. dealing with the crowds that rapidly mount and deplete the daily allotment of (free) memorial tour tickets, sometimes before noon. Note that the security prohibition against purses, backpacks, camera bags, etc. does not prevent you from taking your camera. The nearby USS Missouri is the best military ship tour we've ever experienced--the signage is great, there are lots of historic photos, they have left quite a bit of working mechanisms aboard, they allow visual inspection of nearly every part of the ship, and the audio tour makes the stem-to-stern exploration very interesting. Here's the Mighty Mo's website if you want more info: http://www.ussmissouri.com/ If you get an early start, you can complete both the Arizona and the Missouri (but not the sub USS Bowfin) by noon.

On Maui, which is our personal favorite island for the variety of fun it offers in additon to plain old good times on the beach, I recommend: (1) Haleakala, you can either drive to the summit or get there via the Haleakala Bike Company van and bike down (www.bikemaui.com), I like this company because they offer the freedom of biking down independently, at your own speed and on your own stopping/viewing/smelling the roses terms vs. biking in a shepherded group, they also offer a mid-morning option if you don't want to do the wee hours sunrise option, two foodie places I always associate with Haleakala are the world famous Komoda Bakery in Makawao (cream puffs to die for) and the restaurant with a view at the Kula Lodge in Kula; (2) the road to Hana, a must do for people who see road trips as great adventures--you can easily devote a full day to it, bring food & drinks for snacking or a picnic, wear tennies for hiking, grab a swimsuit for a brisk swim in a waterfall pool or along the beaches, rent the audio tape or have a written guide so you can discover hidden trails and falls, start with a late breakfast and shopping in Paia, and then stop a lot, when and where you please, poke around Hasagawa General Store once you get to Hana, check out the gorgeous grounds and have a meal or drink at the resort Hotel Hana-Maui at Hana Ranch (just completed a much-needed renovation by new owners), drive beyond to the seven pools, and instead of retracing your path home, continue around the southwestern tip and return via the fabulous upcountry, Tedeschi winery and protea farms; (3) parasailing in Kaanapali for a thrill; (4) a snorkeling trip to Molokai and whale watching (in season); and (5) exploring the northwest coast from Kapalua's golf resorts and upscale shops to the Nakalele Blowhole, past sleepy hills dotted with sheep and down inland to the Iao Needle/Valley. You probably already have your accommodations lined up, but I will just add that this summer, we stayed in Wailea at the Fairmont Kea Lani. I cannot rave enough about that property--every room is an impressively-large one-bedroom suite with balcony or lanai, jacuzzi bathtub and all the usual amenities and more.

The only way to truly experience what Kauai is all about is to take a helicopter ride--roughly 80% of the island is inaccessible by car! So when you stick to the car, you miss most of Kauai's amazing natural wonders (the impressive mountain crater, waterfalls, spectacular Na Pali Coast) and the incomparable aerial view of the Grand Canyon-like Waimea Canyon. There are many copter vendors. I did some advance research on safety records and other issues and went with a list of operators that were acceptable to me, then priced it around. We went up with Island Helicopters (www.islandhelicopters.com), paid $138 pp with cash and direct booking discount for the full island tour (a significant price difference vs. the going rates you'll see quoted). They are a husband & wife-owned/operated company, were pleasant to work with, their equipment was great(large window viewing for all pax), and the pilot conveyed confidence and skill flying the copter, plus gave just the right amount of info about the places we were seeing, but did not talk too much to spoil the viewing.

[The other air tour you should strongly consider is out of Maui to the Big Island because of Kilauea's current, spectaclar lava flow activity.]

Finally, a word about pricing on tours, luaus, whatever you do in Hawaii: Once you recover from the sticker shock, you'll learn it's all negotiable and you'll get a much better deal if you support the local suppliers by booking with them directly and offering to pay cash, you can even ask a supplier to match prices if you see a better deal from a competitor. The Hawaiian tourist industry is a major boondoggle for the middlemen--don't get sucked into letting a concierge, excursion supply company, or other broker make your arrangements for you. If you go through a third-party, you will often pay more, your supplier will get less, and you may be falsely told that your preferred supplier, date, time, etc. is not available, which is often true only as to what that broker has been allotted vs. what the supplier actually holds available for clients who book directly.

If you haven't tried Andrew Doughty/Harriett Friedman's Maui Revealed and The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook, see if your library stocks them and take a look.

Sorry I got carried away! HTH. Enjoy your Hawaiian travels.

Diana Ball near Houston, TX