Review: Best of Hawaii 4/20/22

What a fantastic trip! Our guide, Peter, made everything run smoothly. We enjoyed every second, from touchdown in Oahu to the beautiful Fairmont Kea Lani on Maui. The food, flights, tours, and entertainment were great; there were lovely surprises like Hawaiian music and little gifts. This trip was worth every penny, and we highly recommend it. Tips: buy souvenirs in Honolulu or Maui; bring a poncho and good walking shoes; treasure every moment; if you are a birder, be prepared to add a dozen or more birds to your life list.

Comments

  • wonderfull news we leave next week may 11th (1) day early cant wait thanks for the tips

  • by the way can you recomend any restaurants not to be missed

  • I assume Tauck does about the same things each trip. We did the Hawaii tour pre-COVID. If you want to see the places Tauck took us to, go to our blog at https://www.mikeandjudytravel.com/2020-1Hawaii-01.htm

  • edited May 9

    Just arrived yesterday for this tour. Currently it's 4 AM local time, and of course I'm awake :( Weird that the stock market is already open. Imagine the hours the brokers need to work here! For my travel history, it's weird getting off a long flight and having people speak English and use USD. This is my first "domestic" Tauck tour. I've done all Exotics and European tours until now.

    Day 1 consisted of arrival and dinner at the hotel (Royal Hawaiian). Dinner was very good. The Ahi tuna sashimi appetizer reminded me of the great meal at Uri Buri in Akko. Met the TD, Peter, who started working for Tauck in 1989. I think that beats Stephen and Mark for longevity with the company, but maybe I'm wrong. It's a small group tour and there are 16 guests. Two were on my flight and I'll meet the rest after breakfast once we hit the road and visit Peral Harbor today.

    Interestingly, Peter said as of this trip, they are not requesting Covid cards. Also, he handed out a metallic water bottle (got one several years ago on another trip) and said they won't be using disposable bottles this trip.

    The Royal Hawaiian is massive, but I'm not impressed, besides the Chinese toilet seat with the control panel that I first experienced at the Beijing Waldorf.. The rooms are Holiday Inn-like. We are in rooms with balconies that face the ocean. Have a nice view of Diamondhead Crater, which I plan to hike during free tie either this afternoon or tomorrow. So far, maintenance leaves much to be desired. Upon arrival, I noted the two lamps on the night tables didn't work. Had to call twice, several hours apart, to get them fixed. Also, after dinner, had a surprise when I wanted to take a shower - there was no shower curtain! So today's maintenance issue will be getting one installed. I managed not to make too much or as mess :)

  • BKMD, we are so looking forward to Best of Hawaii in January since we had to cancel the January 2022 tour due to Covid. You mentioned Uri Buri—we were just there last week and it was amazing. . We will be concluding the IJ tour tomorrow. Thanks for the info on Best of Hawaii.

  • BKMD - I'm not surprised by your comments on the Royal Hawaiian. I think it's allure is more historical than plushness. I think it's been around since WWII or thereabouts. It does have a decent location on Waikiki.

    Will you get over to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve (snorkeling) or the Halona Blowhole while you're on Oahu? They're only about a 20-30 minute drive (11 miles) from your hotel.

  • BKMD,

    Thanks for sharing your initial impressions of this trip. We are hoping to take this tour in the near future with some New York friends and family, so I look forward to more of your experiences. I already have some questions, but I'll wait until your final summary before asking them.

    Have a great time!

  • Day 2 of the tour involved travel around the south and southeast coast of Oahu, with some scenic stops, a visit to Pearl Harbor, followed by the welcome dinner at Queen Emma's summer home (including a tour of the home) Dress was very informal with shorts and T-shirts being okayed by the TD (it was a private, catered event for the group.). Sam - we did stop at the Holana Blowhole, but the current/wind wasn't strong enough to provide much of a show besides occasional mist escaping. Still a very scenic area. The entire area reminded me of the scenery from the TV show "Lost," which was filmed on Oahu.

    The itinerary was shifted around a bit due to the Pearl Harbor lottery system and no control over what time our reservation would be. Today we're going to the Iolani Palace (an unscheduled add-on). Also on the agenda is the outrigger canoe adventure. Apparently not many of the group are adventurous, as one canoe will hold all us who will be participating :) I'll be doing the Diamondhead crater hike today during free time. Tomorrow morning we fly to the big island.

    And I did get my shower curtain yesterday :)

  • BKMD - In addition to the outrigger canoe ride, catamaran rides from Waikiki are very enjoyable/relaxing - sipping your favorite drink and enjoying the scenery (if you have additional free time). How long (time, not distance) is your Diamondhead crater hike?

    Once you leave Honolulu, everything else in the state is an order of magnitude more laid back. I think you'll enjoy it more, being the outdoorsman that you are.

  • we are also doing the diamond head crater hike on may 12th we had to go online and make a reservation with the time slot that we will be arriving and pay with credit card only 5 bucks per person.its a new rule begining may 12th

  • Just back from the outrigger canoe ride. It was fun. Only 4 of us in the group chose to do it. We spent about 30 minutes in the water and caught 2 waves. For anyone on the fence about doing it, it's pretty tame. You have to be able to maneuver in and out of the boat in shallow water, and paddle per instructions given. Easy peasy.

    Today, after visiting Iolani Palace, we were free for the rest of the day. I Ubered to the Diamondhead carter and did the hike. It took about 45 minutes up and 30 minutes down. It is probably a little easier than The Monastery at Petra. A number of switchbacks with fewer steps. The trail is somewhat narrow with just enough room for one up and one down, and also somewhat irregular in spots. The toughest thing about it is there's no shade (except in the tunnel), and it's hot and humid. I started about 11 AM. It would be ideal to do it earlier, but there's no time available to do that. So far, each day, breakfast has started at 6 AM and we leave on the bus at 7:30 AM.

    Sam - We have a catamaran ride scheduled in a few days (day 5) on the big island. We fly there tomorrow morning.

  • BKMD - I'm sure you were about to mention it ( :D ), but there are lots of fabulous golf courses in the area of the Fairmont. They aren't cheap, but since you're on vacation I think they're worth playing. The golf courses wander through the lava fields and have amazing views of the mountains, ocean, and some spectacular homes.

  • Picking up at the middle of Day 5 on the big island:
    Around 4 PM we headed out on a catamaran cruise along the coast. We sailed until sunset and then returned. _Nice, relaxing ride with hors d'oeuvres and drinks. Prior to that, I snorkeled at the resort.

    Day 6 we went to Kona, first to visit the painted church. Not my cup of tea, but it wasn't a long visit. So, as opposed to this trip being an ABC tour, its a OBC (one) tour. :) From there, we went to a living history museum, showing life n a coffee farm in the early 20th century, followed by a place for a sample of Kona coffee. Maybe I'm just not a coffee connoisseur (I don't like Starbucks, FWIW), but in my opinion, Kona coffee is no better than standard supermarket coffee and not worth 10x the price.

    Day 7 - we flew to Kauai for a two night stay at the massive Grand Hyatt. Arrived just a little while ago, so can't comment much, but it appears to be a very nice place. Before arriving at the hotel, we toured Allerton Gardens. They filmed parts of Jurassic Park there..

    Tomorrow, day 8, is a day at leisure and and another optional helicopter tour (this one shorter and cheaper). I'm not doing this one. I plan to do a 4 mile hike in the morning - the Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail.

  • BKMD
    May 14
    Day 7 - . . . . Before arriving at the hotel, we toured Allerton Gardens. They filmed parts of Jurassic Park there..

    Tree roots and a lot of CGI :D

  • Yup, AlanS, that's it. As a joke, the place has some (plastic) "dinosaur eggs" at the base of that tree.

  • Day 8 was a free day on Kauai. I didn't do the optional helicopter ride, as I did the significantly longer one on the big island. In the morning, I hiked the Maha'ulepu Heritage trail (plus some). The trail conveniently starts near the beach at the hotel and goes east. The named trail goes for about 2 miles, but you can keep on going, which I did for about another two miles., so did about 8 miles total. You can also do a shorter hike, as it's an out and back trail, so you can turn around at any time. Very scenic, walking in sand, gravel, dirt, and grass. There was a wide variety of terrain including the edge of several cliffs (which could be avoided) overlooking the ocean, a golf course, through small trees and shrubs (area cleared for trail), and farm with some horses, etc. I started at 7: 30 AM to beat the heat and learned there is no beating the heat in Hawaii :) Even though it was in the 70s, the humidity was high and the sun was beating down. To punish myself further a few hours later, I tooled around the area on a bike, gotten from the bell desk (no charge).

    On day 9, we had an early start and flew to Maui. Directly from the airport, we did some sightseeing (Iao valley), then arrived in Lahaina for a 3 hour stop. It's a cutesy town (old whaling town), reminiscent of a New England coastal town in architecture. During these 3 hours, lunch was on our own (more on our own meals on this tour than any other I've taken), and browsing the shops. Personally, I thought it was 2 hours too long. How many art galleries and T shirt shops do you need to see? Now at the hotel (Andaz, a substitution for the Fairmont) and included dinner is in about an hour

    More in a few days.

  • BKMD, As a fit solo traveler with plenty of travel experience, do you think you could have taken this trip independently instead of a tour so you could chose your own itineraries?
    I’ve been to Hawaii twice, once some twenty odd years ago for our silver wedding when we spent about ten days in Kauai and toured all over that island, we loved it, just so far away for people who live on the east coast of the US like us when the Caribbean is so near. And the other time, also quite a while ago when I tagged along with my husband at a conference in Waikiki. The huge conference hotel was a big disappointment. Where one would expect beautiful grounds, it was instead full of high end shopping stores. The beach did not appeal because of the lack of shade. I toured around on my own to all the sites apart from Pearl Harbor which we visited together on his free day. I flew home and he went on to Japan back then. I would like to visit again some day but feel it is one place I don’t need Tauck to take me. On reflection, would you agree?

  • British - I did the tour because I did this trip solo and it was my first time in Hawaii. I have no problem doing the free time activities on my own, but prefer the group experience for touring, meals, etc. I did this trip as a reintroduction to travel (though I spent about a week in NYC 2-3 months ago). I didn't want to hassle with Covid testing and potential quarantine. First international trip is in 5-6 months.

  • BKMD,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. I am enjoying reading about them.

    I prefer small group tours for many reasons but after reading the day-to-day itinerary, I am wondering if it is worth the added expense being that there appears to be so much free time. If we were back in normal times, would you still take this tour as a small group (maximum of 24) or would you settle for the large group (36-38)? Thanks for your thoughts.

    I was hoping to hear about the Fairmont hotel. Did they tell you why you couldn't stay there?

    Thanks, again. Keep your posts coming!

  • kfnknfzk - I've never done a small group tour before. I don't have a problem with the large group tour and, IMO, don't think it's worth the extra expense. The only reason I did it is I booked this trip last minute, about 2 months ago. It was the only date available before the hotter, summer season. It was still cheaper than the 2023 large group tour.

    I asked the TD about the hotel switch. He said it's because this date was a late add-on date for Tauck, as the Hawaii tours filled up.

    Today, day 10 was a free day. I did a 5 hour rainforest/waterfall hike with hikemaui.com (thanks Nancy Cohen for the recommendation). It was a fun day and not difficult.

  • Thanks, BKMD, for your feedback.

  • There were some clouds below us. Temp was about 80 at the base and in the id 50s and a little windy at the top (9K+ feet). The cool, thin air was refreshing and made me think, yes, it's time to return to Colorado :)

    The farewell dinner is in a few hours. I leave the hotel for the airport tomorrow, early afternoon, so I plan to take advantage of my final morning with some snorkeling and kayaking at the resort. This will be my final post in this thread, unless someone has questions for me.

  • BKMD,

    After you return home please offer comments on the hotel food and any restaurants you might have enjoyed. Thanks. Travel safely.

  • Have a few hours to kill before airport shuttle, so might as well respond now. Snorkeled this morning. Was planning to ocean kayak, too, but it was cancelled due to choppy water.

    Hotel meals were very good, overall. There were buffets for breakfast (with a menu option). I had fish just about every meal. On the road lunches were so-so. At the Royal Hawaiian, they included several coupons for free drinks and appetizers at the bar, and the ahi tuna was excellent. Not much else to say about the food.

  • kfnknfzk

    We twice enjoyed the food (and sunset) at Browns at the Fairmont Orchid on the Big Island, Try the filet and lobster combo.

  • TravelGuy,

    Sounds great! Thanks.

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