Maui, Hawaii

Category: Travel

Maui for Christmas

Christmas is the busiest time of year here, with many visitors choosing to come to Maui for Christmas.

Here are some tips when planning your Christmas vacation.

Book your condo early.

Did you know, three of our five condos are already booked for Christmas next year? Don’t despair – many condos on Maui still available for December 2020. However, the planners plan, and in order to have good selection to choose from, start the process about 9-12 months in advance. DO check the cancellation policy and do purchase trip cancellation insurance.

Book your rental car early.

Seriously? Yes. Car rental agencies on Maui always run out of cars late December/early January. This is despite the fact that they ship in extra cars (you can often see them lined up in fields near the airport). Do not plan on ‘just getting a rental at the airport’ this time of year as you may end up out of luck. This happened to our Palms at Wailea guests a number of Christmases ago.

Rental car rates do fluctuate wildly throughout the year. Book something now and then check back regularly to see if you can get a better price (see this blog post for details. It’s from 2015 but the principles still apply).

Line up your flights.

I’m not sure when the best time to buy flights is as we never travel over Christmas. However, from what I’ve been told, airlines usually release seats about 300-330 days in advance. I have seen airlines have seat sales closer to peak times (though I don’t remember noticing Christmas seat sales). I often shake my head thinking there is no way people will find a hotel or condo last minute to match up with the good airline prices. You could take your chances and wait and see if there are last minute deals and hope you can line them up with your condo rental (condo rental dates are typically inflexible), but personally I’d not leave my flights up to chance. You could end up with a beautiful rental and very expensive last-minute flights to get to it.

Then, sit back, enjoy knowing you will be on Maui for Christmas next year, and enjoy this Christmas!

It’s a little different….

When we first moved to Maui over nine years ago, we were prepared for different. After all, Maui for Christmas is just going to be different from ‘freezing rain and cold for Christmas’ which we always had on the West Coast. I remember being in awe of poinsettias planted in outdoor flower beds. And palm tree trunks wrapped in Christmas lights. And a distinct lack of Christmas lights on homes (power is expensive at 35 c/kwh so many just don’t decorate with lights). And having to run our air-conditioning at Christmas.

I’ve gotten used to the lack of a white Christmas. In fact, I love sitting on our lanai for our traditional Christmas Eve pupus (appetizers), with the railing wrapped with Christmas lights.

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New Car Rental Facility at OGG

It’s finally time – time to unveil the new car rental facility at Kahului Airport (OGG) here on Maui! Work began 3 years ago in April 2016 and according to the Maui News article construction is now complete. The new facility is scheduled to open May 15th. It’s been a long time coming.

Most airports I’ve traveled to have those handy car rental facilities that you walk to directly from the terminal. Currently here on Maui you catch a shuttle which then takes you to an off-site rental car location – it’s just a short 2 minute drive at most. It’s been fine. But on the off chance you can’t get the car you want at your agency, you then have to walk a ways to the next car rental company to see if they have one.

The new car rental facility is very lovely looking. Honestly, they have added some neat Hawaiian features to the building, I think it looks great. But the best part about the new facility are the two old-style sugar cane train trams that take you from the arrivals area to the new rental car facility. The old sugar cane plantation days may have come and gone here on Maui, but it’s a neat nod to the island’s history. I’ve also seen an old-style clock at the rental car terminal. I just may need to check it out next time I pick up friends/family from the airport.

By the way, no, you don’t have to take the tram. If you’re going to departures, it’s not that far a walk – just across the street. And you could just walk from arrivals too. In fact, after the long flight, it may feel great to get out and stretch a bit. Depending on the time of day, sleepy kids and amount of luggage you have with you.

Kahului car rental
the new ‘sugar cane train’-style tram cars (photo taken in September 2018)

Maui’s sugar cane history

Sugar Cane plays a significant role in Maui’s history since it’s commercial introduction to the island in 1848. Several sugar cane plantations and mills popped up around the island. Owners brought in workers from China, Japan, Puerto Rico, Korea, the Philippines, Portugal, Russia and Scandinavia. It was a hard life, but these people settled, started families and their descendants make up a significant portion of the island’s population today. Check out the Maui Sugar Museum across from the last remaining (now abandoned) Sugar Factory in Kahului. The last sugar cane crop was harvested in December 2016.

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Canada’s new marijuana laws and the United States

Effective October 17th, 2018 marijuana will be legal in Canada. I haven’t paid much attention to this news story as neither Sig nor I are interested in drugs. It’s been over 8 years since we left Canada moving to Hawaii – and so while we peripherally monitor Canadian news, a lot of it doesn’t necessarily affect us.

However, if you live in Canada, please be aware that while numerous states within the US have legalized cannabis, it is still very much a federal offense to be in possession of or use cannabis. There could be serious consequences at the border.

Also note, marijuana is NOT legal in the State of Hawaii. We do have medical marijuana permits, but you need a permit specifically from the State of Hawaii to use medical marijuana here (out of state, and out of country are not accepted).

Again, I have NOT researched this, but highly recommend you do well in advance of crossing the border into the US (and coming to Hawaii). Even though now legal in Canada, using marijuana (in Canada or the US) could have serious consequences (including denial of entry) at the border. What a bummer to find out enroute to your vacation!

Here is an interesting and informative article by the LA Times.

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Kahului Airport Car Rental Construction

A few weeks ago I was at Kahului Airport to pick up friends from their mainland trip. If you’ve had to park at the airport in the past year and a half, you will know it’s been a bit of a gong show. Parking has been cut up to 50% percent during the construction of the new car rental facility. Parking has always been a bit tight, but it’s been extreme with people creatively parking where they shouldn’t, making the parking lot even tighter than it should be. The past few weeks it has eased up, as the airport has re-opened former parking spots. Thank goodness!

What are they doing exactly?

The car rental facilities at Kahului Airport have always been off-site, with arriving would-be-renters having to catch car rental company specific shuttle buses to get to their rental counters/car pick up locations. In April 2017 construction began on a new joint car rental facility along the airport road just before you get to the terminal. There will be a solar-powered monorail line with carts that continuously run to and from the terminal, shuttling passengers back and forth. Cool, right? We can’t wait for it to be completed!

Kahului car rentalTwo weeks ago when I was at the airport I got a good shot of one of the new monorail cars which is already parked on the monorail line. Very cool. Unfortunately I have not been able to take a picture (yet) of the new car rental facility – there is just no place to pull over safely and take a picture. But it is looking really good.

From what I can find online, this project isn’t set to complete until next May, so you’ll have to wait to actually check it all out. But I for one am glad that there is an end in sight for this Kahului Airport construction project.

Flight Tracker Apps

By the way, if you are meeting someone at the airport and wondering where their flight is at, or wondering where that plane overhead is going, there are neat flight tracker apps available. I like Flightradar24 on my iPhone (I have the free version with ads). You can search by flight route, or look at certain spots on the global map. It is really cool. Check it out – what flights are tracking to your location right now?

Kahului Airport
this was our friends’ arriving flight – showing their flight route. Click on any of the airplanes or even helicopters for more information about them.

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June 2-9 Cancellation Special!

I just had a call from a guest who needs to cancel his June 2-9, 2017 booking at our beautiful Maui Kamaole I-103 condo!

Maui Kamaole
Welcome to Maui Kamaole I-103

How about a Maui getaway? We just renovated this condo this past fall. It is an over-sized one bedroom, two bathroom condo. California king bed in the bedroom and a queen Murphy bed (the kind that hides in the cabinet) in the over-sized living. No need to sleep on a pull-out couch!

Sleeps 4 guests.

$160/night plus $135 cleaning and 13.417% tax. Minimum stay is 4 nights.

Call 808-281-7934 to book, or send me an email!

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Active Volcano Tour on Big Island

I know, this is a Maui blog, but sometimes people ask – where do you go on vacation? This weekend I took my kids to Big Island (the Island of Hawai’i) to see its active volcano Kilauea from a helicopter! What an adventure!

Hawaii’s volcanic history

The Hawaiian Islands have been created by the movement of the Pacific (tectonic) plate over a hot spot in the crust where lava erupted and formed volcanoes/islands. Of the inhabited islands, Ni’ihau is the oldest volcano remnant, then followed by Kauai, Oahu and Maui Nui (Molokai, Lanai, Maui and Kaho’olawe). Big Island is comprised of five volcanoes – Mauna Kea is the tallest (13,796 feet) and is considered dormant. It is home to the world’s largest observatory. Mauna Loa (13,678 feet) is still considered active, with its most recent eruption in 1984, streaming towards (but not reaching) Hilo. Check out this schematic which explains it well.

active volcano
Creation of the Hawaiian Islands

The active volcano

Kilauea is Big Island’s newest (above ground) volcano. It holds the distinction of being the world’s most active volcano, with non-stop activity for the past 33 years. That’s right – there has been something going on here for the past 33 years. Sometimes active lava flow, sometimes just rumblings. For the past year it has had an active lava flow, ‘gently’ making its way down and reaching the ocean.

We booked the Circle of Fire helicopter tour with Blue Hawaiian. Seeing the volcano from the air was amazing. We started by checking out Rainbow Falls (in Hilo), then flew up along the most recent lava flow from Mauna Loa (from 1984) to Kilauea crater where we saw plenty of steam and some red hot lava!

active volcano
Birdseye view of Kilauea crater (with a flash of orange lava)

Then off to the Pu’u O’o vent where we saw more lava and from where currently lava is flowing (under a black crust) to the ocean, creating new land as it goes.

 

active volcano
Lava meets the sea where the steam rises) – you can see newly formed landmass in the ocean

Blue Hawaiian’s staff in Hilo was very professional, the helicopter clean and in good condition. I would very much recommend them. In fact, this is my second Blue Hawaiian tour – check my blog about my West Maui Mountains and Molokai helicopter tour with them.

A few thoughts…

In the past few years Big Island has torn up several hurricanes, drenching the Puna district, but tearing the hurricanes apart and shifting them away from Maui (we are so thankful). I somehow envisioned these mountains to be visually more impressive, maybe more mountainous. But it turns out, just like Haleakala, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea have gentle slopes which makes their size very deceiving (especially Mauna Loa). They are shield volcanoes, their shape has to do with the composition of the lava that flows out (see here for a better explanation).

active volcano
approaching Big Island by airplane from Maui – those mountains don’t look that impressive…

Recommendations

Initially we were only going to fly to Big Island for the day. However, someone reminded me that Hilo is on Big Island’s rainy side… what if the helicopter ride was cancelled due to weather? Yes, they will reschedule, but when flying over only for the day, you don’t have much flexibility. We opted to spend the night in Hilo which allowed us to explore the National Park on our second Big Island day. Turns out our flight day was perfect with blue skies. Day two was rainy.

Here is a short (blurry) video clip of the activity at the crater taken from the Jaggar museum outlook.

Admission to Hawaii’s national parks is $20/car with re-admission for one week. We chose to buy the 3 park annual pass for $25 which allows us to check out all three of Hawaii’s national parks (including Haleakala here on Maui).

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Winter and Christmas bookings!

winterDid you know? We still have some winter and even Christmas dates available! Yes, I know some of you have been complaining that there’s not much availability this winter. One of our longer bookings had to cancel, and that has opened the schedule up some.

Here is what we currently have available:

Maui Kamaole I-103: starting December 16-January 25. This condo is being shut down for renovations mid-August. Expect to see pictures of the kitchen and bathroom remodel by late September!

Kihei Surfside 405: from December 16-January 10. The oceanview at this condo is amazing. Upscale and romantic, this condo sleeps only two people.

Sugar Beach 104 condo: December 2-27. This budget-friendly condo is on quiet Sugar Beach in North Kihei, away from the busy throng of tourists. This is a family-friendly resort with a great ocean-front saltwater pool.

Our minimum stay requirement is 4 days. However over Christmas we do require a longer stay with absolutely no check-ins or check-outs between Christmas and New Years (this gives our cleaning lady some well-deserved time off).

Interested? Send me an inquiry or give me a call!

Please remember to book a rental car for your winter Maui trip. Rental agencies do run out of cars at Christmas.

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Westjet Sale and other ways to save!

Our Canadian guests have been taking a bit of a hit with the dollar exchange this year. However, the Canadian dollar has been moving up from its recent low of 69 cents, currently coming in at 77 cents. Yes, I know, it’s nowhere near the glory days from 2008 when we were boasting 1.15, but…

Here’s a chart of where the dollar has been the past few months – sorry, I can’t find the inverse chart. This one shows how many Canadian dollars you need to buy one US dollar.

us canada exchange

In addition to the great news of the dollar exchange rate improving, Westjet has a seat sale on – with rates from Vancouver to Kahului Maui (OGG) starting at $350 – Canadian that is, all taxes in. Perhaps that sweetens a Maui trip a little?

westjet sale
Westjet Seat sale

What are some other ways you can save? A big one is – book directly from the owner! VRBO/Homeaway recently implemented a guest service fee which ranges from 4-10% of the rental (which can amount to $90-$400/booking). Save the fee by contacting me directly through our website. Yes, you can still pay by credit card which offers you protections and gives you points.

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What’s new flying to Maui?

So what’s new flying to Maui? I’ve come across a couple newsworthy items in the past while:

Flying to Maui
Two questions: why did the rooster go to Kahului airport? And, is he pre-checked?

flying to Maui
Inter-island Hawaiian Airlines flight at HNL airport, waiting to fly to Maui

  • Air Canada (Rouge) appears to be offering direct flights from Vancouver to Maui in the summer! This is new and might explain why I was able to score flights on Westjet at a much more reasonable rate this year than in the past (gotta love competition)!
  • You can opt for smaller seats and less service (sigh)! Several US carriers are adding ‘economy minus’ or ‘basic economy’ sections to their planes – supposedly to compete better with the discount carriers? The good news is that a regular economy seat is now considered an upgrade! You are no longer sitting in ‘cattle class’. Or maybe you are. (While Delta already has this option, I don’t think they fly their planes to Kahului – yet).
  • A proposed federal law to set minimum airline seats was defeated.

I have to admit, I will not be taking airlines up on their smaller seat/less service option. At least not on flights to and from Hawaii!

What is your favorite airline to fly to Maui? My personal favorite is Hawaiian Airlines. Last year we had a great experienec with Alaska Airlines. The happy folks at Westjet make me smile, too. How about you?

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Whale Sale at Maui Oceanview Condos!

Sugar Beach palms
Lay back on that lounge chair and watch the sky!

We still have a few openings for Whale Season!

Check out these Whale Sale discounts:

Maui Kamaole I-103:

$199/night for a minimum 4 night stay March 29-April 7, 2016 plus cleaning and tax. This is a one bedroom two bathroom oceanview condo – sleeps 4.

Kihei Surfside 405 – FILLED.

$199/night for a minimum 7 night stay April 5-20, 2016 plus cleaning and tax. This is a one bedroom 1 1/2 bathroom oceanfront full oceanview condo – sleeps 2.

Check out our website for more information! We’d love to have you!

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