Tourism, which has been in Hawaii since Captain James Cook sailed into its waters in 1778, really became an industry in 1959 when Hawaii became a state and jet travel became available to the masses. In the 48 years since then, tourism has had a few up and down bumps, but generally it has grown steadily upward. Then in 2007 the industry faced a new wrinkle: visitors are choosing other accommodation options besides hotels: they are flocking to condominiums, condotels (a condominium unit with private owners, run as a hotel), time shares, cruise ship cabins, vacation home rentals and bed and breakfasts. Even though tourism remained flat in 2007 (about 7.5 million visitors, the same as 2006), hotel occupancy took a nose dive because these "alternative" accommodations have started drawing visitors away from hotels.
What does that mean for you the visitor? First it means you have other options besides staying in a hotel. Second, there are starting to be deals from hotels. Already nearly every accommodation in Hawaii has internet rates (much lower than published rack rates). If occupancy is lagging, hotels can slash their rates over night. And these are rates that really need slashing - in the past five years, hotels and condominiums have steadily increased their rates 10-15% a year --- every year! After 5 years, rates are 40-60% what they were just five years ago. It is impossible to find an oceanfront hotel room facing Waikiki Beach under $400-$500. Resort areas on Maui and the Big Island have ocean front rooms from $500 up.
This means you are in the bargaining seat. Refuse to accept rack rates, check the internet rates and then get on the phone and bargain, bargain, bargain. Don't take no for an answer, let the hotel know that you will go to its competitor next door for a better deal, or tell it that you'll book an entire condo for nearly the same price (with full kitchen). And tell 'em Frommer's sent you!
Planning Your Trip
Aloha Airlines announced on Sunday, March 30, 2008, that it would cease operations the following day, Monday, March 31, 2008. If you've purchased tickets to fly on Aloha after this date, you can refer to the Aloha website for an FAQ about the company's closure and how it affects you.
Starting in March 2008, Hawaiian Airlines (tel. 800/367-5320, www.hawaiianair.com) will begin flying from Manila to Honolulu. Hawaiian Airline officials said the flight to the Philippines will be the first of their plans for expansion into Asia over the next few years. Currently Hawaiian also has flights to Sydney, Australia, Papeete, Tahiti and Pango Pango, Samoa.
Where to Stay
After two years of work and a renovation budget of $10 million, Hawaii's first art-themed hotel, the Wyland Waikiki Hotel (300 Royal Hawaiian Ave. at Kuhio Ave.; tel. 866/346-4679; www.wylandwaikiki.com) opened in Waikiki. The 405 room hotel, located in three buildings, is filled with the paintings, photographs and sculptures of marine life artist Wyland. The property features a lounge overlooking one of two pools, a library, a "chill" room where guests can relax, read or watch TV, and a complimentary business center. The rooms in the boutique hotel offer pillowtop beds, 26" flat-screen plasma TVs, iPod compatible alarm clocks, and high speed internet access.
Where to Dine
Ocean Club, a restaurant-night club, which has been a staple at Restaurant Row for 10 years will close in September 2007. Management said they are currently in negotiations for another location and hop to re-open in 2008. The Dixie Grill (404 Ward Ave.; tel. 808/596-8359) is currently closed for renovations and owner Ed Wary said he is thinking about switching from the current barbeque cuisine to Mexican, when the restaurant re-opens later in 2007.
The latest branch of Chef Nobu Matsuhisa's "new style" Japanese restaurant has opened in Waikiki as Nobu Waikiki, in the Waikiki Parc Hotel (2233 Helumoa Rd. at Lewers St.; tel. 808/237-6999; www.noburestaurants.com). Once again this international celebrity chef has brought his innovative Japanese cuisine chain (15 worldwide) to a town known for outstanding Asian restaurants. His innovative dishes range from lobster wasabi served in the shell to a seafood ceviche in a pyramid with scallops, shrimp and fish..As with the rest of his restaurants, this unique dining experience is pricey, with entrees ranging from $32-$45.
Diners either love or hate the recently opened restaurant Stage on the second floor of the Honolulu Design Center (1250 Kapiolani Blvd. at Piikoi St.; tel. 808/237-5429). Stage looks at the dining experience as a theatrical experience, where the "stage" is set in black and white. The star is Chef Jon Matsubara, formerly of Alan Wong's, Roy's and on the Big Island, CanoeHouse, and his new cuisine is like nothing you have ever experienced. The Chef does not put mere lemon slices on his grilled Hawaiian escolar ($26); instead he has cubes of Meyer lemon gelee. Bring plenty of cash, entrees are $26-$42.
Where to Shop
DFS Group's Waikiki Galleria, on the corner of Kalakaua and Royal Hawaiian Avenues, is spending $45 million to upgrade its shopping area. The plans call for enlarging its six-year old collection of shops (which currently resembles a street scene from the boat days of Waikiki in the art deco 1920s) into a 180,000-square foot shopping complex dubbed Waikiki Luxury Walk, which will consist of a lane of two-story luxury shops focusing on high end brands like Emporio, Armani, Pucci, Coach, Chloe, Marc Jacobs, Dior, and others.
ATA Airlines (tel. 800/I-FLY-ATA; www.ata.com) now flies direct from Oakland to Kona.
Where to Stay
The Hilton Waikoloa Village (tel. 800/445-8667,; www.hiltonwaikoloavillage.com) has spent $90 million in renovations to the 62 acre property; $21 million of that was spent upgrading the 1,241 guest rooms. The rooms have been totally renovated with new carpet, paint, furniture, bathroom fixtures, drapes, 27-inch flat screen TVs, and the Serta Perfect Sleeper bed designed especially for Hilton. Other improvements include expanding the lobby by 3,000 square feet, improvements to the 25,000 square foot Kohala Sports Club & Spa, and refinishing and re-tiling the one-acre Kona pool, the Kohala River Pool and the Ocean Pool.
Where to Dine
Edelweiss, an institution in Waimea, on the Big Island for nearly three decades, will be closing in November. Nasturtium Café (79Â?7491-B Mamalahoa Hwy., Hwy. 11, Kainaliu) unfortunately has closed. The toast of Hilo, Restaurant Kaikodo, 60 Keawe St., Hilo, also has closed.
Rapanui, which took over the location of the former Seibu Restaurant (Banyan Court Mall, 75-5695 Alii Dr., Kailua-Kona; tel. 808/329-0511), features the cuisine of New Zealand ("island food for island people") with fresh fish, vegetarian dishes and tropical desserts. Entrees $10-$17.
The Holuakoa Gardens and Café (76-5901 Mamalahoa Hwy, Holualoa; tel. 808/322-2233), recently opened for breakfast and lunch during the week, and brunch during the weekends. The menu, where brunch entrees range for $8.50-$16, features local organic food, with on-site baked breads and pastries. Even the take-out containers are 100% compostable.
What to See & Do
The Mauna Kea Golf Course is closed for comprehensive upgrading. Also closed are the clubhouse and 19th Hole Restaurant for renovations. All three are expected to be reopened by the end of 2008. Golf course architect Rees Jones, sone of Robert Trent Jones, Sr., the course's original designer, will oversee the improvements to the course.
After 35 years, the Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site (62-3601 Kawaihae Rd, Kawaihae; tel. 808/882-7218), finally got a permanent Visitors Center. The Center, which has a series of interpretative exhibits and displays, is located at the entrance of the Heiau (temple), which was built by Kamehameha I from 1790 to 1791. Admission is free.
See waterfalls up close and personal with the Big Island's newest ocean activity, Hilo Ocean Adventures, a coastal tour on a 25 foot speedy rigid aluminum inflatable vessel. The 3-hour adventure leaves from the Wailoa River Boat Ramp and follows the coastline to Laupahoehoe. Depending on recent rain, there can be up to 50 waterfalls along the 20-mile tour. During the winter, Hilo Ocean Adventures offers a special 2-hour whale watching trip off shore. The costs are $89 for the 3-hour waterfall trip and $39 for the 2-hour whale watching. For more information: tel. 808/756-4100 or www.hilooceanadventures.com.
For the adventure you never forget, tour the 3-acre seahorse farm of Ocean Rider (Hawaii's Natural Energy Lab, Kailua-Kona; tel. 808/329-6840; www.seahorse.com). During the hour-long tour you will get to "shake hands with a pregnant male," hold these tiny, fairy-like creatures, feed them and learn more about seahorses and how they are facing extinction. The unique experience is very moving and perfect for kids. Tours Mon-Fri, 10 am, noon and 2 pm. Reservations fill up fast, book before to go. Cost: $35 adults, and $25 kids 4-7 years.
Where to Stay
The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua Resort (1 Ritz-Carlton Dr.; tel. 800/262-8440; www.ritzcarlton.com) currently is closed for a renovation that will change the look from English country house to Hawaiian. The current 548-room hotel will have 107 units converted to one and two Â?bedroom suites with private owners, some of which will be put back into the hotel's rental pool. The remaining 362-guest rooms will be totally gutted and redone with contemporary furnishing and a Native Hawaiian sense of place, with wood furnishing and coconut and sea shell accents and Hawaiian print artwork. The majority of the work is scheduled for completion by the December 15, 2007 re-opening.
In 2003, Starwood Hotels bought the 345-room Renaissance Wailea Resort. They decided to tear down the resort and build a 193-unit "condotel" (a condominium, owned by individuals, which also can be rented out to visitors and run as a hotel) called Baccarat Wailea. The units range from 980 square feet to 3,330 square feet with one to four bedrooms. The Renaissance Wailea won't shut down until September 2007, but when Starwood Capital Group put the units on sale in August, it sold 60 per cent of the units (100 out of 193) for an average of $5 million each. The new condotel is expected to open in 2010.
The 27-acre Royal Lahaina Resort (2780 Kekaa Dr., Kaanapali, tel. 800/22-ALOHA; www.royallahaina.net) has finished phase one of this $330 million renovation. The year-long renovation remodeled the 12-story Lahaina Kai Tower and spent some $30 million total or $90,000 for each of the 330 rooms. Upgrades include top-drawer beds, 330-thread-count Egyptian cotton linens, 32-inch flat screen TVs, complimentary high-speed internet and a iPod/MP3 compatible sound system. Further work will include construction of 125 villas, a free standing spa, pool, children's center and new restaurants.
Where to Dine
Vino Kapalua, Kapalua Village Course Golf Club House, the Italian tapas and wine bar recently closed after 4 years. After receiving accolade from restaurant reviews across the country, E&O Trading Company (Lahaina Cannery Mall, 1221 Honoapiilani Hwy.) closed after only one year.
The Four Seasons Resort Maui (3900 Wailea Alanui, Wailea, tel. 808/874-2244) debuted its new restaurant, Duo, located in the former Pacific Grill, which specializes in entrees like Keahole lobster, free-range veal chops and Kobe beef.
Chef Beverly Gannon, of Haliimaile General Store and Joe's, is consulting with the new owners of Henry Clay's Rotisserie at Hotel Lanai (tel. 808/565-4700) on the restaurant's new makeover.
Big, big construction going on in Poipu Resort area, if you are headed that way, be warned that there the number of condominium and hotel rooms currently under construction (and not counting the ones still in the planning process) will increase the number of visitor accommodation in Poipu by 25%. Kauai County has very strict guidelines for noise and dust abatement, which is vigorously enforced. Just be aware that you will be facing traffic delays, construction noise and the general problems with a lot of construction work in a small area.
Currently there are 121 new luxury ocean front hotel rooms under construction, which should be completed by spring 2008. Plus another 655 condominium units in three different projects have broken ground, with completion dates ranging from 2008 into 2009. And the county is planning a "roundabout" to replace the intersections of Poipu and Lawai Rds to help facilitate the traffic.
In the permit process, with no definite construction timetable yet, are plans for another 280 condominium units, a 64-room luxury hotel, 128 time-share or vacation rental units and an 11,000 square foot spa and fitness center. The projects currently under construction in Poipu are Ko'a Kea Hotel & Resort at Poipu Beach (2251 Poipu Rd.),121 units, opening Spring 2008; Royal Palm (Poipu Rd., next to Poipu Shopping Village), 166 condominium units, most of which are set to open in May 2008; Pili Mai at Poipu (next door to Kiahua Golf Course), 191 condominium units, opening in August 2008; Koloa Landing (Poipu and Kapili Rds.) 300 condominium units, no completion date set; and Poipu Road Roundabout, at the intersection of Poipu and Lawai Roads, which is meant to enhance traffic flow, and is scheduled for completion in late 2007. For more information, contact the Poipu Beach Resort Association, tel. 888/744-0888 or www.poipubeach.org.
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