"Ono" Digs, from Campsite to Suites

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Winter Travel Guide 1996

"Ono" Digs, from Campsite to Suites

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.

Dive shops, fishing-charter companies, and other outfitters tend to cluster in Honolulu and Waikiki, so it pays to lodge yourself there despite the tourist hordes. A surprisingly peaceful Waikiki property is Hale Pua Nui (doubles, $57 per night; 808-923-9693), a trimly decorated complex with 22 studio apartments on Beach Walk, a quiet street just a block from the ocean.

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.

For ample sun, stick to the Kona coast, home to some of the world's richest marlin grounds and a filigree of coral reefs that reach from the technicolor waters of Kealakekua Bay to the cliff-rimmed cove at Keokea Beach Park. Your best bet for economical digs is the Keauhou Beach Hotel (doubles, $98-$130; 800-367-6025), a blocky, seven-story property that makes up in Hawaiiana what it lacks in architectural inspiration. There's an ancient heiau (temple) and other archaeological ruins along the waterfront, and a series of spectacular tidepools right outside your window.

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).

The Lahaina-Kaanapali region has the most hotels, restaurants, and night spots. If you like your lodging a little funky, check into the Pioneer Inn in Lahaina (doubles, $90; suites, $155-$225; 800-457-5457), a classic falsefront hotel with a sailor's saloon downstairs and a harbor full of sloops right outside the door. But be forewarned: In the evenings, the saloon rocks--loudly--with live music, so don't plan to retire early.

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).

The driest, sunniest weather on this rain-
soaked island is in the south in Poipu, where there's a great beach. Kiahuna Plantation (one-bedroom units, $155-$400; 800-462-6262) is a 35-acre oceanfront property. With lily ponds and rolling lawns, the place looks more like a country club than a condominium complex, and the units have fully equipped kitchens.

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 choices are few here, but there's some-
thing for everyone. Of the three hotels, the Hotel Lanai (doubles, $95; one cottage, $135; 800-321-4666) in Lanai City, a 1920s-era retreat, provides the best value.

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).

The Pau Hana Inn (doubles, $45-$90; 800- 423-6656) on the waterfront in Kaunakakai, the island's only town, is a good introduction to the funky, laid-back Hawaiian lifestyle. It's also near fishing-charter and dive companies. For a more resortlike setting, try the Kaluakoi Hotel and Golf Club, part of a 6,700-acre complex (doubles, $80-$115; suites, $140-$185; call 800-777-1700).

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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