Hawaii 101: Your part of 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, including daily non-stops to Oahu and Maui - and almost daily non-stops to the Big Island and Kauai - 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 beautiful blue water 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.

You'll find a variety of world-class hotels, restaurants and fantastic shopping here, including the beautifully renovated and updated Royal Hawaiian Center, the fashionable Beach Walk retail and restaurant complex and of course, the ever-popular International Marketplace. Waikiki positively hums with activity.

But don't let that be the only part of the island you see. The Iolani Palace (America's only royal palace) and Bishop Museum are all close to the resort area and rank among the island's most popular destinations.

And don't miss Pearl Harbor. Moving and informative, a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial will be a highlight of your trip.

And my favorite part of Oahu? The lovely North Shore! Rent a car for a day and see the famous surfing beaches or check out the Polynesian Cultural Center. You'll also want to check out the beautiful Pali Lookout as you explore the island.

Your Oahu vacation will be a great combination of fun and sun!

Maui - Laid back and lovely, the island of 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 (one in West Maui and the other near Kihei), 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:

Cancun fun in the sun
Great rates for one of my favorite beach resorts!

The packages include round trip air from Phoenix, six nights all-inclusive accommodations (all meals and beverages - including alcohol - and non-motorized water sports are included in the rate), airport transfers and tips! The rates are per person, based on two people traveling together. They are based on availability and are valid for travel now through mid-December.

Take a look:

RIU Caribe
Ocean View Room
$889.00 per person, double occupancy!
Great location at the top of the Hotel Zone!

RIU Cancun
Ocean View Room
$939.00 per person, double occupancy!
One of my favorite properties in the Hotel Zone!

Gran Royal Solaris Cancun
Ocean View Room
$969.00 per person, double occupancy!
Great beach at this pretty property!

Barcelo Maya Beach Resort
Run of House Room (best available view at time of check in)
$909.00 per person, double occupancy!
One of the best beaches on the Riviera Maya!

Gran Porto Real
Junior Suite
$989.00 per person, double occupancy!
Beautiful beachfront property right in Playa del Carmen!

The Royal Playa del Carmen
Royal Junior Suite
$1299.00 per person, double occupancy!
Gorgeous adults-only property, beachfront in Playa del Carmen. Also includes a "swim with dolphins" excursion! Great for honeymooners!

Go topless on Maui
I love this promotion! Jump in your convertible - included in the package - and explore my favorite island!

The package includes round trip air from Phoenix, six nights accommodation as noted and a convertible for the length of your stay. The rates are per person, based on two people traveling together, and are valid for travel September to mid-December.

Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa
Partial Ocean View - $1339.00 per person, double occupancy
Ocean View - $1389.00 per person, double occupancy
Hands down, one of my favorite resorts on Maui! Great for honeymooners or families!

Outrigger Royal Kahana
1-bedroom Ocean View Condo
$1059.00 per person, double occupancy!
Great beachfront condo property! The views are amazing!

Italy's great cities plus London
March 11 - March 22, 2011
From $2599.00 per person, double occupancy!

We're half sold! If you've been thinking about taking advantage of this terrific travel value, give me a call to hold your space!

Also - I have a lady in her 30's who is looking for a traveling companion, as well as a lady in her 60's. If you have been thinking about the trip, but didn't have anyone in particular to travel with, give me a call for more information!

This fantastic package includes round trip air from Phoenix, a fully escorted tour of Italy, with a total of four nights in Rome, two nights in Florence and two nights in Venice. Add in two nights in London as we make our way back home and you have four amazing cities in one fantastic trip!

Lots of wonderful sightseeing is included: the fabulous Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, Colosseum, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Michelangelo’s David, Romeo & Juliet’s Verona, a private transfer boat in Venice and Chianti country. You'll also have a full day in London to do as you please! Air taxes are additional - currently running $185.00 per person.

Check out the itinerary below:

Day 1 Board your overnight British Airways transatlantic flights

Day 2 Arrival in Rome, Italy
Relax in your comfortable hotel after your evening arrival in this lovely city.

Day 3 At leisure in Rome
Time to start exploring the Eternal City with your entire day free! At 6 p.m. meet your Tour Director and traveling companions for a special Welcome Dinner with wine in one of Rome’s lively restaurants. (BB,D)

Day 4 Rome
Sightseeing starts with a visit to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel (arranged next morning if closed today), world famous for Michelangelo’s ceiling paintings and The Last Judgement. Continue to monumental St. Peter’s Square and Basilica. Cross the Tiber and visit the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Then there is plenty of time for independent activities and exciting optional excursion possibilities. (BB)

Day 5 Rome / Pisa / Florence
Follow the Aurelian Way along the Tyrrhenian coast to Pisa. Here take your pictures of the amazing Leaning Tower, 180 feet high and no less than 12 feet out of the perpendicular. Then on to Florence, the splendid capital of Tuscany. (BB,D)

Day 6 Florence
Guided sightseeing includes the magnificent Cathedral, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Baptistry’s heavy bronze "Gate of Paradise," and sculpture-studded Signoria Square. To top it off, admire Michelangelo’s celebrated David in the Academy of the Fine Arts. The afternoon is free for independent sightseeing and browsing through the shops in Piazza Santa Croce. (BB)

Day 7 Florence/Verona/Venice
Journey north through the fertile Lombardian plains to Verona, medieval setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. See Juliet’s Balcony and stroll around the picturesque market square before continuing to Venice in the afternoon. (BB)

Day 8 Venice
Start morning sightseeing in style as you glide by private boat along the Giudecca Canal to meet your resident expert. Highlights of your walking tour are St. Mark’s Square and the Byzantine Basilica, lavish Doges’ Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. Also watch Venetian glass blowers fashion their delicate objects in an age-old traditional manner. Afterwards enjoy Venice at your own pace or join an optional gondola ride. (BB)

Day 9 Venice / Rome
A kaleidoscope of Italian landscapes parades past the coach windows on the way through the lush plains of the mighty River Po and across the wooded Etruscan Apennine mountain range. An exciting detour then takes you off the highway into the vine- and olive-clad Tuscan Hills which are the home of the popular Chianti wines. Tonight in Rome, an optional festive dinner may be just the way to celebrate the success of your leisurely Italian vacation. (BB)

Day 10 Depart Rome/Arrive London
After a leisurely breakfast, we transfer to the airport for our afternoon flight to London. Transfer from Heathrow to our Chelsea-area hotel. Evening at leisure to enjoy this amazing city! (BB)

Day 11 At leisure in London
A full day to enjoy London! Stroll around London's beautiful parks or take the London Underground to the Tower of London to see the crown jewels! You might consider one of London's famous double-decker bus "Hop On, Hop Off" tours, which lets you explore London at your own pace. Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, the National Gallery, Buckingham Palace - your list of places to explore is endless!

Day 12 Depart London
Our nonstop flight departs Heathrow Airport this afternoon for our early evening arrival in Phoenix.

These dates are over Spring Break for many school districts, so make it a family affair! The weather in Italy will be very mild and the crowds should be low since it's not a peak travel season.

For more information on what's included in the trip, please go to my agency site at www.travelationonline.com. Give me a call or send me an e-mail to hold your space. I hope you come with us!

Across the country or around the world, we're planning your next great vacation at TravelationOnline! 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!