Hawaii 101: Our island paradise

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Balmy breezes, spectacular sunsets, friendly people and breathtaking beauty - Hawaii is your perfect vacation paradise!

The islands of Hawaii have long been considered our little piece of heaven and a wildly popular vacation destination. Here in Arizona, we're lucky - with a variety of flights right out of Sky Harbor, getting there is a piece of cake.

But what part of paradise is right for you? The four most popular islands are each so different! Sure you'll see lots of green trees and brightly colored flowers on each, but depending on your destination, you'll also see miles of barren lava flow, charming and historic villages as well as a variety of museums and monuments.

Let's take a peek at Oahu, Maui, Kauai and The Big Island so you can pick the place that's right for you!

OAHU - Many people’s first glimpse of Hawaii. Home to the largest city in the state, Honolulu, as well as some of its finest museums, Oahu is probably best known for glittering Waikiki.

Home to world-class hotels, restaurants and fantastic shopping - including the beautifully renovated and updated Royal Hawaiian Center, the fashionable Beach Walk retail and restaurant complex along with the ever-popular International Marketplace - Waikiki hums with activity.

But don't let that be the only part of the island you see. Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head and the Polynesian Cultural Center are very popular. My personal favorite part of Oahu? The lovely North Shore! Rent a car for a day and drive all over this beautiful island!

A vacation on Oahu will be full of excitement!

MAUI - Laid back and lovely, Maui is my personal favorite. Wailea, Ka'anapali, Kapalua - these famous resort areas are home to some of the world's most beautiful resorts and gorgeous sandy beaches. The island is also home to lots of comfortable condos, allowing you a great deal of flexibility in your accommodations.

You'll definitely want a car here - Maui's activities are spread across the entire island. Want to do something different every day? Great! Want to do nothing but lie on a gorgeous beach all day? You can do that, too. Bicycling down a volcano, two fun zip line courses, shopping in historic Lahaina Town, world-class golf, snorkeling in a lovely cove (I saw 32 varieties of fish on my last visit - no kidding!) - you can be as busy or laid back as you care to be.

KAUAI - Considered by many to be the most beautiful of the islands, "pristine" is the best word to describe this lovely place. Lush, tropical rain forests compete for your attention with dramatic canyons and coastline.

You won't find a great deal of night life here, but you'll have lots of opportunities to explore, hike and kayak during the day. Don't miss Hawaii's "Grand Canyon," the beautiful Waimea Canyon. Poipu Beach is consistently voted one of the prettiest beaches in the world - and I can vouch for that.

There are several truly beautiful resorts here, plus a variety of clean and comfortable accommodations. There isn't much in between, although there are a variety of condos.

Kauai is the "Hollywood" of Hawaii, having been featured in many famous films, including Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark and South Pacific.

THE BIG ISLAND - Larger than all the other islands combined, The Big Island of Hawaii is a study in contrasts - lush, tropical forests with beautiful waterfalls on one side and starkly dramatic lava beds on the other.

The bustling city of Hilo sits on one side of The Big Island and the charming, quirky little town of Kailua-Kona on the other. Most of the bigger resorts are near Kailua-Kona or carved out of the lava beds along the dramatic Kohala Coast north of town. The landscape here is dominated by mountains, particularly the twin peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

The resorts on Hawaii are beautiful and very spread out - which isn't necessarily bad, but it does mean you'd better like where you're staying because you're at least a 30 minute drive, and often more, from the nearest town.

Golf, spas, beach - The Big Island is a great place to relax and soak up the sun!

Another great way to enjoy Hawaii is an island-hopping cruise. Norwegian Cruise Line has a ship doing seven day itineraries visiting Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island. Other cruise lines also offer Hawaii, but usually in conjunction with multiple days at sea as they cruise to and/or from the mainland.

By land or sea, Hawaii is a great place for your next vacation!

And now on to the fun stuff:

Check out Oahu for a great rate!

The rates below include round trip air from Phoenix, six nights hotel and airport transfers. Valid for midweek travel, the rates are available for selected January and February departures.

Ohana East
From $689.00 per person, double occupancy
A block and a half from a great stretch of beach, you're also walking distance to tons of shopping and restaurants!

Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel - Ocean View room!
From $929.00 per person, double occupancy
Rights across the street from the beach, you're right down the street from the International Marketplace!

The Inside Passage is on sale!

Seven night cruises round trip from Seattle are offering some of the best rates I've seen for Alaska!

If you can travel in May, Inside Staterooms start at $549.00 per person for this beautiful seven night cruise, and the "outside upgraded to balcony" sale is still available, too! You'll find balcony rates starting at $949.00 per person! Amazing!

Travel in June is great, too! The weather is warmer and the days are longer, offering lots of excursion opportunities. Inside cabins start at $699.00 per person for June departures, and balcony staterooms begin at $1299.00 per person. These are outstanding rates for June in Alaska!

If you want to travel June 6 to June 13, you can sail with my group and have shipboard credit added to your account. Check out the itinerary at www.travelationonline.com and sail with us!

October 8 - October 17

Save the dates! I'm in the process of finalizing rates for an air/sea combo for this amazing itinerary!

Sailing from Barcelona, this cruise has port calls offering access to the famous French region of Provence along with the glittering towns of Nice and Monaco of the French Riviera. You'll have stops in Italy near Florence/Pisa (or my favorite - the Cinque Terre!), Rome and Capri or the Amalfi Coast. We'll also spend an additional day in Barcelona upon our return!

Keep an eye on this space for rates and lots more information!

Start off the New Year with a great vacation! Give us a call at 602-252-1140, or 888-751-2032 if you're outside the Metro Phoenix area codes of 602, 480 and 623. You can also reach me directly via e-mail at rosanne@travelationonline.com. I look forward to hearing from you!