Winter Travel Guide 1996
Whether pitching a tent or booking a palace, an important consideration in choosing your lodging is access to outdoor sports. Stay in or near the mountains, and you'll be close to hiking trails. Stay oceanside, and the question becomes whether to keep to the sunny southwestern sides of the islands, or to head for the beautiful (but wet!) rainforest-edged beaches to the north and east. The beauty of Hawaii, of course, is that it almost doesn't matter where you stay; the islands are small enough that a two-hour scenic drive is usually enough to get you from one side to another, so you'll never truly be stuck anywhere (unless you choose to be). Following is an island-by-island guide to some of our favorite choices in lodging.
Better yet, head to the posh Kahala neighborhood on the outer fringe of Waikiki and check into the Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hawaii (formerly the Kahala Hilton), a plush 370-room beachfront hotel that has its own flotilla of kayaks and catamarans. Bring a gold card--room rates run high (doubles, $260-$650; 800-367-2525).
Best camping on Oahu is at Malaekahana State Recreation Area, a crescent beach bordered by palm and ironwood trees on Oahu's windward coast. Pitch a tent for $4.50 per person per night, or rent a tent cabin ($35) or a cabin with kitchen and bath ($66; 293-1736). Just offshore is Goat Island, a coral islet that is protected as a bird sanctuary and reachable by wading or swimming.
THE BIG ISLAND
Kona Village Resort (doubles, $395-$710; 800-367-5290), styled like a Polynesian village and located in an ancient fishing village, has great diving reefs and centuries-old Hawaiian trails nearby. Every cottage is a thatch-roofed hale designed in the traditional architectural styles of Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, New Zealand, or Fiji. The price includes all meals plus use of kayaks, sailboats, outrigger canoes, snorkeling equipment, and fishing gear.
Pitch your tent at Spencer Beach Park, at the northwest end of the island, on the white-sand beach where you can swim, snorkel, and fish. Or rent one of the A-frame shelters at Hapuna Beach State Park on the Kohala coast north of Kona, one of the state's prettiest parks--it's set on a half-mile-long beach with easy access to water sports. Camping is $1 per night with a county permit (961-8311); A-frames are $20 per night (974-6200).
Farther south in the Kihei-Wailea area, where the sand stretches for miles and the sun shines more reliably than anywhere else, Nona Lani Cottages has units complete with lanai and kitchen (one-bedroom units, $60-$80; 800-733-2688). Situated across the road from the beach, they're snug and tastefully decorated.
For matchless scenic beauty, Maui's windward shore offers Waianapanapa State Park near Hana, where you can set up camp (free) on a grass-covered bluff overlooking the ocean, or rent one of 12 cabins ($45) about 300 yards from the beach. Call 984-8109 for camping permits and cabin reservations (reserve a year in advance--they're popular).
Up in the mountains above the desertlike Waimea Can- yon, cabins at the Kokee Lodge (starting at $35; reserve four to six months in advance; 335-6061) come with a kitchen, wood-burning stove, and rustic furnishings.
Campers should head to the far west, where Polihale State Park has a 300-foot-wide beach that extends for more than two miles. State camping permits are free; call 274-3444.
The luxurious Lodge at Koele (doubles, $295-$350; 800-321-4666), with impressive gardens and fine cuisine, offers free shuttle service to the beach to offset its up-island locale amid the cool highlands. Its sister property, the oceanfront Manele Bay Hotel (doubles, $250-$495; 800-321-4666), has an intriguing Asian-Mediterranean decor and a lovely crescent of sandy beach.
There's only one campground on Lanai: Hulopoe Beach Park features a lava terrace with outstanding tidepools just down the hill from its six campsites ($5 per camper per day; 565-8200).
Campers head to nearby Papohaku Beach, a 2.5-mile-long swath of sand on the island's west end that's popular with bodysurfers and shell collectors ($3 per adult, 50 for kids 17 and under per day; call 553-3204)
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