Get to know the Neighbor Islands

By Shane Nelson
Kauai NAPALI COASTWith advance bookings to Oahu booming in 2013, some agents are taking advantage of the available accommodations and increasing number of air seats on nonstop flights to the Neighbor Islands. A brief introduction to each island follows. 

Kauai
Nickname: The Garden Isle

HVCB Kauai brand pillars:Lush, crescent-shaped beaches, endless shades of green, waterfalls, the Napali Coast, serene tropical rivers, relaxed pace, peaceful.

Insider insight: "The vision you might have in your mind of Hawaii as green and lush, with waterfalls and mountains and oceans and beaches, that's Kauai," said Paula Simpson Takamori, owner of Oahu-based Travel to Paradise. "It really is what people envision Hawaii to be."

Shane's tip: For those with limited time, Kauai's North Shore, including Hanalei Bay and the Napali Coast, are must-sees. But a comprehensive visit should also include a stay in Poipu, on the South Shore, and time at one of my favorite properties in the state, the Aston Waimea Plantation Cottages, located about 45 minutes from stunning Waimea Canyon.

Maui HALEAKALAMaui
Nickname: The Valley Isle

HVCB Maui brand pillars:Romantic, charming small towns, leisurely pace, fusion cuisine, local artisans, small adventures.

Insider insight: "Maui's incredibly diverse," said Bob Duglin, director of sales and industry relations for the National Association of Career Travel Agents. "You could go golfing in the morning, or maybe ride down Haleakala, and then visit the winery or do a farm tour or visit the Maui Ocean Center in the afternoon. And then maybe finish the day with a stroll and drinks in Lahaina."

Shane's tip: The road to Hana is a fantastic way to take in some of Maui's most spectacular natural beauty, but I'd recommend spending a couple of nights at the Travaasa Hana afterward to soak up some of the old Hawaii charm so prevalent in the community and taking time to enjoy a leisurely visit to the sacred pools at the southeastern corner of nearby Haleakala National Park.

Black sand beach HiloHawaii
Nickname: The Big Island

HVCB Big Island brand pillars:Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, star-gazing atop Mauna Kea, ancient Hawaiian culture, diverse climate regions.

Insider insight: "Everybody is intrigued by the currently erupting volcano, and for good reason, but the Big Island also has such a huge choice of excellent golf courses," said Rhonda Shumway, a Hawaii specialist at TerraMar Travel in Hemet, Calif. "Golf packages are a great thing to sell there."

Shane's tip: Hawaii definitely merits its Big Island nickname, as it is larger than all of the other Hawaiian Islands combined and getting from place to place there takes a good deal of time. You simply cannot see the Big Island in one day. A comprehensive visit should include stays on the Hilo side, closer to Volcanoes National Park, and on the west side in the Kohala Coast region or nearer to Kailua-Kona.

Lanai Challenge at Manele golf courseLanai
Nickname: The Pineapple Isle

HVCB Lanai brand pillars:Solitude, pampered, relaxed but not boring, active but not overdone.

Insider insight: "The Lanai City Grill is a really nice little restaurant with live music on Friday nights," said Linda Dancer, a Hawaii specialist working for Buford, Ga.-based Honeymoons Inc. "There are also two beautiful golf courses, and you can go horseback riding or take ATVs over the Munro Trail, and Lanai has a lot of great snorkeling and water activities."

Shane's tip: Travelers interested in Lanai but not the high-end nightly rates at the island's two Four Seasons resorts may want to consider booking a room at the Hotel Lanai, a charming 10-room property in a building that once housed Dole Pineapple executives.

Molokai Talking StoryMolokai
Nickname:The Friendly Isle

HVCB Molokai brand pillars:Quiet, open roads; "Talk story" with locals; no traffic, congestion or pollution; rich in Hawaiian culture and history.

Insider insight: "Molokai is like Hawaii must have been in the '50s," said Bob Duglin. "It's really an excellent option for people who want to learn more about Hawaii and its people in depth."

Shane's tip: There's a lot to enjoy on Molokai for the right traveler. Those looking for a lot of tourism infrastructure, shopping or great dining will, however, be disappointed. But Molokai is still a fabulous place to learn about Hawaiian culture and the aloha spirit. Mingling with the island's generous residents at the Saturday farmers market in Kaunakakai is a great place to start. And the history and natural beauty of the island's Kalaupapa peninsula are extraordinary.
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